Monday, May 28, 2012

BREAD ON MONDAY - Using a Bread Machine

   So many people purchase a Bread Machine with great excitement and anticipation of many, delicious, homemade breads to come, only to be discouraged and disappointed when their first loaf or two doesn't turn out. They then usually give up, pack it away, and eventually give that bread machine they had had such high hopes for away or put it in a garage sale.  But . . . . . . DON'T GIVE UP!!!

There is such a variety of variables that goes into making bread, even in a bread machine.

First of all, every bread machine, from one brand to another, can be a little (or a lot) different. For even a BASIC loaf of bread, there could be a 10 to 20 minute baking variance from one brand of machine to another. The mixing times and the rise times may also greatly vary, too. As a result, recipes will need to be adjusted accordingly. For example, if you are using a recipe that was created for one machine, but the machine you are using has a shorter rise time, then you would need to add a sprinkle more yeast than the recipe calls for to account for the shortened rise time.

Even with identical brands and identical models of Bread Machines, there can be some differences. When the machines are manufactured, they try to produce them as identical as possible, but they ARE manufactured by humans and slight differences are a given. Even though the timers may be set the same, there could still be slight variations in the speed of mixing/kneading and/or in the temperature of the machine (rising temp and/or cooking temp). It may take a few loaves of bread to get the 'feel' of your machine before you turn out that perfect loaf. I have had some bread machines where the first loaf, and every loaf thereafter, turned out perfectly. But then I have also had bread machines that got very frustrating when it took 6 or 7 loaves to turn out a loaf that was 'acceptable' and a couple more to finally get it right. (chickens sure were happy, though). But once I got the 'feel' of that darned machine, it was smooth sailing.

Then there are the CRUST settings on the bread machines. One machine's DARK setting might be much darker than another's. One bread machine set to medium may be equivalent to another bread machine set on dark. One bread machine set on light might be absolutely perfect for you, while another one set to light might be way too light for you.

Your ingredients make a HUGE difference, too.  The moisture content of your ingredients not only will vary from brand to brand, but can also greatly vary from one shipment to another, or even change while it is setting in your cabinet (it can dry out or absorb moisture, depending on your weather, climate and  humidity levels in the air).  Thicker liquids (such as juices and pulp) used in your recipe may also have a great variance as to the amount of moisture in them, along with egg size. A larger egg will add more moisture than a smaller egg, and even a tablespoon of moisture can make a huge difference. I absolutely cannot express how much difference the moisture content of your ingredients can affect the outcome of your finished loaf of bread! This is a variable that is usually completely beyond your control, but completely within your control to be able to make necessary adjustments for a great finished product. Most bread still comes out pretty tasty, regardless of the resulting texture.

Because there can be so many variables to a great loaf of bread in a bread machine, recipes ARE NOT set in stone. Don't be afraid to play around with them and adjust them to what you like! Each time you make a loaf of bread, check your dough after it has mixed for a bit. Check it's appearance and give it a poke to see how it 'feels' (very carefully so as not to get your fingers in the paddle - DO NOT let kids do this!) Make sharp mental notes of this and, after a time, you will know exactly what your dough for a great loaf of bread is suppose to look and feel like so that you can make adjustments as necessary.

Make adjustments? Yes, you can make adjustments, even after all ingredients are in and it has begun mixing. On most bread machines, there is a 'bell' (okay, mine beeps) that goes off part way into the cycle to let you know it is time to add other ingredients, such as nuts, raisins, and any other things that you didn't want beat to death during the entire mixing process. All the way up to and including when this little bell goes off, you can add/adjust your ingredients. After you have learned what to watch for, if you think your dough is too dry, you can add a sprinkle more water (or liquid ingredient used). But be careful! A little bit of moisture will go a looooong way! The same holds true for your flour (dry ingredients). If your dough is looking to soft, or sticky, you can, during this same time frame, add a bit more flour (or dry ingredient). But once again, a little goes a long way. And even if it looks a bit sticky at this point, it will usually smooth out a bit after it mixes a little longer.

It really isn't complicated, though. It's just that, when you purchase a bread machine, you also need to add into your initial costs a big round of ingredients for testing purposes, understand that that is part of the process for beginning to learn to use a bread machine, and don't worry about a few lost loaves. Now, I said that, at times, I had some pretty happy chickens, but I wasn't always allowed to give those 'failed' loaves to the chickens. You see, even though I sometimes got (and still do when I get a new machine) frustrated because those first few loaves weren't coming out right, my family and friends around me WOULD NOT let me toss them out!!! They said that they were still MUCH BETTER than the store bought stuff and gobbled it all up, thoroughly enjoying it!!!

Don't be afraid of your machine, take notes each time you use it for awhile (and keep them handy for future use), and by all means, don't be afraid to experiment. Don't be too hard on yourself. And don't be afraid to deviate from, or play around with, your bread recipes. It's just bread. Regardless of how it turns out, your home is still going to be filled with the scrumptious aroma of baking bread, and that alone is worth the try! Even if the end result isn't what you were trying to achieve, chances are, it is still going to be pretty darned good bread!  Stay tuned for future Bread Machine Tips.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


 Years ago, when I worked in a grade school cafeteria, the green beans we were instructed to make were TERRIBLE! Upon seeing so many of them thrown in the trash, my co-worker, C, and I decided that we would create our own green bean recipe that the kids would like.

C and I compared how we each cooked green beans for our families, then combined our recipes together to create a Seasoned Green Bean recipe that the kids at school not only liked, but came back for seconds on! Not even the juice off of the was dumped.

After I eventually left for a different job, I continued to cook the C & A Green Beans for my own little brood at home..... they would have them no other way. And I still cook them this way for even just me. Here is our recipe:

Seasoned Green Beans
  •  9 slices (thin) bacon
  • 3/4 c. chopped onions (1 medium)
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3 (14.5-oz) cans cut or French Style green beans
  • 1/4 rounded tsp black pepper (or to taste - optional)
  • 3/4 tsp. salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. granulated garlic (can also use garlic powder)
  • 1 T. butter
  • potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks (optional)
 In a large cooking pot, fry bacon until nearly crisp.
 Remove bacon, crumble and set aside. Add onions and garlic to bacon grease and saute just until onions are tender.
Add green beans, pepper, salt, granulated garlic (or powdered), butter,  and crumbled bacon.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about one hour.
If desired, add in large, raw potato chunks during the last 20 minutes of cooking; continue cooking until potatoes are tender.
Serve as a side dish with your favorite entree, or on its own with a side of Fried Cornbread. Even finicky green bean eaters will come back for more! 

Note: this is definitely a dish where any of your ingredient amounts can vary to your own taste without harming the recipe.
For my own personal tastes, I use much more fresh garlic. 
This recipe can also be easily adapted for use with Fresh Green Beans.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Bread On Monday - Blueberry Muffins

It has been a very hectic week. The flea market where I have my little shop at had it's HUGE annual Spring Fling sale this weekend. I am happy to say that it was a great success! I did not; however, get any baking done, although I have been dreaming all week of baking some fresh, hot, blueberry muffins. Since I am still just dreaming of them and haven't gotten to bake them yet, I thought I would at least share my recipe with you in case your are craving them, too, and have an hour or so free to get a batch made. Here is the recipe I came up with over the years, a recipe that has become my family's favorite!

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 T. baking powder
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  • melted butter, optional
  • cinnamon, optional
  • extra granulated sugar, optional

In medium mixing bowl, stir together flour, baking powder, sugar and salt. Set aside.  Beat together egg, oil and milk.  Add to dry ingredients and stir just until moistened.  Fold in blueberries.  Fill greased muffin tins 2/3 full with batter.  Bake in a pre-heated 400°F oven about 20 minutes or until lightly brown on top, but still moist.  Serve as is or, while warm, brush tops with melted butter and roll in granulated sugar.

Actually, our FAVORITE way is to stir a spoonful of cinnamon into half a cup to a cup of granulated sugar (amount of cinnamon is up to the personal taste), then roll the buttered muffin tops around in the cinnamon-sugar mixture.Oh, and if you like LOADS of blueberries in your muffins, it works just fine to add extras into the batter. This recipe also doubles well. I have even gotten lazy and baked it in a regular cake pan (as a quick bread) with great results.

I am determined to get some baked this week. When I do, I will post a pic of them with this recipe. I hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Wild Salad

   I love fresh, green salads! Often times I can make a whole meal off of them. When my body gets in its 'craving salad mode' (and it often does), I pretty much live on salads for days... even weeks .... at a time. Usually, this means that your body is needing something that is in the salads and you should go with your craving (so long as it is healthy stuff).

The other day I got in a MAJOR salad mood, didn't have any salad fixin's here at home, the salad items in the garden aren't ready yet, and I didn't want to drive in to town just to buy salad makings, so I decided to take a stroll in my yard to see what I could throw together. The picture you see on the left was the end result of my Wild Salad walk. Drizzled with a little "juice" I had saved from a jar of marinated artichoke hearts, I had a very tasty salad for the cost of nothing.

The wild greens that are available for a fresh salad vary greatly as the seasons change. But from late winter, all the way up until the weather really begins to get hot, you can almost always find a readily available supply of fresh greens for a very tasty fresh salad. But be sure and pick only greens that have not been touched by any chemicals, such as insecticides or fertilizers. Here is what this salad included:


  • Lambsquarters (wild spinach, goosefoot)
  • Asiatic Day Flowers (blue flowers and leaves)
  • Wood Sorrel (Sheep Showers - a very lemony flavor)
  • Wild Garlic Chives (from first year wild garlic)
  • Honeysuckle flowers
  • Mulberries (wild black)
  • Redbud Tree Leaves
  • Yellow Dock Leaves
  • Perilla Mint (Shiso)
  • Plantain (the green, leafy plant, NOT the bananas)
  • Chick Weed (a little difficult to find this time of year, but I found one in the deep shade)
Wash your salad ingredients thoroughly in cool water and pat dry with toweling. Although it is important to wash the dust, dirt and possible critter pee off of your fresh greens, I did not wash the delicate flowers, as they just seemed too delicate. 

The amounts of each green used are strictly up to the individual and their taste preferences. I used very little Perilla Mint because I don't care for its licorice flavor, but a little did lend a lot to the overall flavor blend of the salad. Some people, though, might like much more of the licorice-like flavor in their salad. Make sure you pick only the young, tender leaves of your greens for your raw salad, otherwise, they might be tough and/or too strong (overpowering other items in the salad mix). 

The mulberries are actually black mulberries (as you can see by the one on the upper right), but Dave and I recently ate all the ones we could reach on my tree as we stood and chatted one evening, so we are having to wait for some more to ripen. But the reddish ones were still very good in this salad.The flavors of them, the honeysuckle and the garlic... all in the same bite .... blend especially well. 

Serve with your favorite salad dressing and a slice of homemade bread or crackers. Mmmm..... it just doesn't get much better! 

 Note: The larger Redbud lambsquarters leaves were more for decoration. The younger, more tender ones in the salad were the ones for eating. 

Monday, May 14, 2012

BREAD ON MONDAY - Sour Dough Starter

Many years ago, when my kids were small, I got started making Sour Dough French Bread. I made most of our regular bread but, since we loved garlic bread often, I still bought a lot of French bread. I finally got the courage to try making my own from scratch, beginning with the starter. We loved it so much that it became a regular staple in our home, along with many other breads that I experimented with making from that same starter.

My kids are all grown and moved out, now, so I haven't made any Sour Dough breads in a long while. But I have been thinking about it a lot lately, seems I have been craving it for some reason .... I guess deep down I have been missing it. I looked at it at the store but, besides the fact that it didn't even begin to compare to my homemade, the price was outrageous! So I have decided to brush the dust off of my old Sour Dough Starter recipe, mix up a batch, and enjoy a few loaves again. Only this time, I will have to make sure I keep a damper on the "sharing."

What do I mean by 'keeping a damper on the sharing?"  Well, besides the kids growing up and moving out, one of the biggest reasons I quit making it was that EVERYONE in the family loved it. They quickly learned when my baking days were and begged for me to bring them a loaf. First it was one, then two, then the list of bread hungry family and friends grew and grew. And of course, if I tried to make any excuses to any one of them, they would manage to somehow guilt-trip me into making them a loaf. So before you knew it, I had at least 3 batches of starter going at a time to keep up with the demand, and was having to purchase flour in VERY LARGE quantities. As you can guess, what I started out doing to have better quality and less expensive bread for my family, soon became very expensive and stressful. So I just quit making it. Now I am older, wiser, and can stand my ground a bit better. So if the list of family and friends that 'wants a loaf' of one of my Sour Dough breads shows any signs of, once again, beginning to grow, I think I will simply (and politely) remind them of my Market days and where I am set up.

Here is the recipe for my BASIC Sour Dough Starter:


  • 2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups lukewarm water (preferably spring or filtered, not municipal tap)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. instant yeast (rapid rise yeast)

In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly stir dry yeast into flour.  Add water and beat until mixture is well blended.  Cover with clean cloth and leave in a warm, draft free place about 20 to 48 hours.  Stir 2 to 3 times during that time.  Look for it to ferment, bubble and develop a sour smell.  Then it is ready to use.  Makes about 3 cups.

To replenish starter:   add equal parts flour and water to remaining starter.  Stir and let stand a few hours (8 to 10 hours) at room temperature until it bubbles again before covering and refrigerating.  Replenish starter about every 2 weeks. If you need a larger amount of starter, simply replenish again during that time before you have used any more out of it.

But I warn you, once you get started, and you turn out your first successful loaf, you will be hooked and addicted! I will be updating this post with pictures as my starter progresses. I will also be posting great bread recipes that utilize the starter in future posts, so stay tuned!

Sunday, May 13, 2012


From all of us here at TwoFarmsOne (Dave, Anna, and Critters).... we want to wish all of you mothers out there, and all of you who lovingly filled the role of a mother (weather you are a man or woman) the most BLESSED AND HAPPIEST OF Mother's Days!!!


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Fried Potatoes & Onions with a Twist

I love Fried Potatoes and Onions. Sometimes I get in the mood for them and practically live on them for days. Although there is a lot of health benefits to them, eating them for dinner several days in a row can leave you lacking in protein and green vegetables.

This week, once again, found me in a Fried Potatoes and Onions mood, but I decided I really needed to do something to make it a more well rounded meal. As I got the potatoes to cooking, I pondered what else I could toss in with them. The following is what I came up with. No, the ingredients are not in exact measurements. Every ingredient in this recipe is easily varied according to the individual taste bud. There are no right and wrong amounts of any one ingredient. So have fun with it and enjoy... it is REALLY GOOD!

Fried Potatoes & Onions with a Twist
  • 1 small to medium onion (variety is your choice, I used a strong yellow one)
  •  a few potatoes (I used 4 russets, but I especially like to use red for frying)
  • about a quart of fresh, cleaned lambsquarters (can also use fresh or frozen spinach or other greens, such as turnip or mustard)
  • fresh farm eggs (I used 4, a ratio of about 1 per potato)
  • salt to taste (and pepper if you wish)
  • cooking oil (I used peanut oil)
 In a large skillet, add just enough cooking oil to pool a little on the bottom of the skillet. I especially like to use a good, well-seasoned iron skillet for this.

While the skillet of oil is beginning to heat up, peel the onion, wash and chop it up into the skillet into medium-sized, uniform pieces. The size and shape of the onion pieces is strictly personal choice.

Next, peel, wash and slice up the potatoes, then add them into the skillet with the onions. Give a little stir to coat the potatoes with oil and move the cooking onions around a bit. I like to use a heavy spatula for this.

Continue to 'fry' the potatoes and onions, turning over occasionally, just until the potatoes begin to have a little 'give', but are still a little firm. At this point, place the fresh greens on top of all and spread out evenly in the skillet. Loosely place a lid over all so that the greens can begin to steam and wilt.

In a few minutes, after the greens have begun to really wilt, and using your spatula, turn everything over, spreading the greens around well. Loosely return the lid and continue this process every few minutes until the potatoes and the greens are done to your desired tenderness. But just before they hit the desired tenderness, add in a little salt (and other desired seasonings) to taste, keeping in mind that the lambsquarters are naturally salty tasting.

 Just as everything appears done to your liking, before you turn the heat off, break the eggs and drop them in on top of all (can pre-scramble the eggs if desired, but not necessary). Break the yokes and let the eggs begin to cook. Gently stir and fold everything in the skillet a few times as you allow the eggs to cook. They will cook very quickly!  Remove from heat and serve immediately, adding more salt if desired. Serve as is or topped with salsa, ketchup or Sweet Vidalia Onion salad dressing. An added side dish of fruit also goes great with it and helps to further balance out the meal. Not only is this meal highly nutritious, but ultra thrifty as well. I think that next time, I am going to try also adding in some fresh sliced mushrooms as I add in the greens. Enjoy!

Monday, May 7, 2012

BREAD ON MONDAY - Lambsquarters Bread

Call it what you want.... Goosefoot, Goose Foot, Lambsquarters, Lambs Quarters, Wild Spinach, Pig Weed, Fat Hen, Poor Man's Spinach, and the list goes on and on. But whatever you want to call it, I call it DELICIOUS!!! It is one of the most versatile and nutritious vegetables that I know of. And I am thankful that I have been so very blessed to have it growing so abundantly on my front acre, so in the coming months, you will probably be seeing lots of recipes making good use of this wonderful green veggie.

This time I used it to make a great loaf of bread in my bread machine. It came out so good that I want to share it with you. Although I did write down how I did it as I went (in case it came out good and I wanted to make it again), I will warn you, all measurements are approximate. Although most are exact (as I used) in this recipe, I usually cook on the "dab of this, dash of that" method. Add in to the mix, there are many factors that can vary from batch to batch...such as - moisture content of your flour, amount of liquid in your soft ingredients, age of your yeast, type of sugar used, room temperature, atmospheric conditions, and the list goes on. So if it doesn't work out as well as you would like the first time, don't give up... try again, making adjustments accordingly! A bread recipe may come out somewhat differently from one person to the next, but all results are usually very good.

WILD SPINACH BREAD - For the Bread Machine

   3/4 cup wild spinach puree (fresh lambsquarter cooked tender, then pureed in a food processor)
   3/4 cup warm (not hot) filtered or spring water
   4 tsp. sunflower oil
   1 tsp. natural, unprocessed salt (I used Pink Himalayan)
   1 1/2 tsp. evaporated cane juice (granulated)
   3 1/2 cups bread flour (approximately)
   1 3/4 tsp instant yeast

Make sure the paddle is securely in place in the bucket of your bread machine. Nothing is much more upsetting on a loaf of bread machine bread than to anxiously have anticipated that finished loaf of bread, only to learn that you had forgotten to put the paddle in!

In the bottom of your bread machine bucket, place the spinach puree, warm water, sunflower oil, salt, and sugar (evaporated cane juice). Give it all a little mix. It doesn't have to be very thorough.

Add in the flour, making sure it spreads out to cover the liquid ingredients.

Make a small well in the flour and add in the yeast. Secure the bucket of ingredients into your bread machine, set it to White Bread - Medium Crust - and turn on according to your Bread Machine instructions.

After your bread dough has mixed for a few minutes, check it for proper moisture content. While you still have plenty of mixing time, decide if the dough texture is 'just right' or if it is too stiff (needs a sprinkle more water) or too soft (needs a sprinkle more flour). But KEEP YOUR FINGERS OUT OF THE RUNNING BREAD MACHINE!

When the cycle has completed and your bread is done, carefully remove (Carefully, it will be hot!) and lightly brush the entire outside of the loaf with melted butter. (I cheat and simply rub the stick of butter around all over the loaf. If the bread is hot, the butter melts as you rub it around over the bread.)  Let cool just a few minutes for easier slicing. Serve warm or slice cold for sandwiches. Would also make good croutons for salads.

This bread provides a great nutritional punch. It may also be a great way to get your kids to eat their veggies! For me, it made absolutely wonderful Grilled Cheese Sandwiches! I do hope you enjoy!

NOTE: Spinach or other greens can be used in place of the lambsquarters/wild spinach. It is measured AFTER it is pureed.
Also, this bread recipe is NOT restricted to just a bread machine. It works just as well mixed and kneaded by hand, then baked in your oven, as you would an average loaf of bread.  We loved this bread so much, I plan to put up small packages of cooked Lambsquarters in the freezer so that I can make it throughout the cold winter months to go with hot soups.