Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Oats, glorious oats.

The title is a quote from Black Beauty by Anna Sewell. Oats are good for horses, but they're also very good for people too! Not to mention very tasty.

Awhile back, I ran out of whole wheat flour and wouldn't have a chance to get to the store for a couple days. I had plenty of all purpose flour but to me, baking with only all purpose flour in a recipe is inconceivable. Even when I make cookies or brownies I'll substitute part of the all purpose flour for whole wheat. Well, I decided I simply wouldn't bake for a couple days, not until I had some whole wheat flour. Probably not possible for me. I'm a baker, I bake. Moreover, I have a reputation for being a baker. Our friend called and asked if I could make some bread for Bible study's dinner (she was making soup). I agreed, though unsure of how I could possibly make a loaf of bread without whole wheat...Then I thought of it! Oats!

I ground the oats a bit in my food processor so that they were of the consistency of very coarse flour and I used about two cups of them in place of all purpose flour in my french baguette recipe. That night at Bible study I received more compliments on my bread than usual. I was very pleased with the outcome.

The next morning, being Saturday, I fancied pancakes for breakfast. This time, I didn't hesitate but pulled out my oats and made some delicious, hearty banana walnut oat pancakes. And that night, when for dinner I felt like making biscuits with our stew, oat biscuits was a no-brainer.

Here are my modified recipes:

This recipe is adapted from Local Breads by Daniel Leader. I have greatly simplified the directions, but if you are very into baking bread then I highly recommend this book. He goes into the science and the art of  baking bread, everything from starters to how to knead, shape and bake dozens of recipes. And there are lots of beautiful photographs as well.
The oats and beer are my additions, feel free to make them any shape you want if you don't prefer baguettes.
 Parisian Daily Bread (with oats)
1.5 c. water, room temperature
1/4 c. beer, room temperature
1 tsp. yeast
1.5 cups ground oats
2 cups all purpose flour
1.5 tsp salt

Combine water and yeast in a large bowl. Add everything else and stir until water is absorbed and a shaggy, clumpy dough is formed. Cover bowl and allow to sit for 20 minutes. Turn dough out onto a floured surface and knead for several minutes until it is a smooth elastic-y dough. Add more flour if necessary but try not to add too much. Let the dough rest for about two minutes and then knead again for a few more minutes. Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl and allow to rise about an hour. Give the dough a light turn and let rest another 45 minutes to an hour. Grease a baking sheet and sprinkle some cornmeal onto it  Turn out dough onto floured surface and divide into 3 equal parts. Shape each lump into a long baguette and place on cooking sheet. Preheat oven to 450. Allow to rise for 30-40  minutes, the baguettes will rise a bit but not quite double. Give them three slashes each and set into the oven along with a cake pan full of water, bake 15-20 minutes, or until lightly browned.

The pancake recipe is from memory, so use with care. If you're okay with tweaking recipes to make them fit your style, feel free to go for it. If you are an exact recipe person, you might not want to use this one until I have a chance to double test it. You can, of course, do whatever you want, but don't say I didn't warn you!
Oatmeal Banana Walnut Pancakes
1.5 c. all purpose flour
1 c. ground oats
1/2 c. rolled oats
1.5 tbs. baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3 tbs sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 and 3/4 c. milk
1/4 c. vegetable oil
1 tbs vinegar
2 tbs molasses
2 mashed bananas
1 egg
Combine dry ingredients in a large bowl. In another bowl, mash the bananas and add the milk, oil, vinegar, molasses and egg (tip: if you measure the oil first and then use the same utensil to measure the molasses, it will allow the sticky stuff to slide right out.) Combine wet and dry ingredients and add walnuts, stir until just combined. Add milk or flour as necessary to gain your desired pancake consistency. Cook as you would any pancake recipe. (sorry, haha, I'm getting lazy)

This recipe is straight out of Joy of Cooking, I only replaced 3/4 cups of all purpose flour with ground oats. If you prefer to use one of their other biscuit recipes, you can probably make the same substitution with good results.
Oat Biscuits
1 c. all purpose flour
3/4 c. ground oats
1 tbs. baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
4-6 tbs cold butter
3/4 c. milk
Blend dry ingredients. Cut butter into flour until the size of small peas add milk. Stir until a dough forms and then turn out onto a floured surface. Knead 8-10 times. Roll out with a rolling pin to about 1/2 to 1/4 inch thickness and cut with a biscuit cutter. Place rounds onto a greased baking sheet and bake at 450 for 12 - 15 minutes.

Do you bake with oats a lot? Have you ever ground oats in a food processor to make oat "flour"? Let me know if you try any of my recipes, I'd love to hear feedback!

Also! Of great import: Tomorrow, my husband and I are departing for Key West. We'll be gone for a little over a week. I'll take many pictures and post when I get back. See you later!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Seaside Saturday

Dear me, I've been meaning to get this post up for a few days now! The past few days have been quite eventful and busy. But my weekend was wonderful; restful and relaxing as weekends frequently should be. John and I went to the seashore in Plum Island, Massachusetts. His parents own a house there and so it's one of our more frequented spots for beachtime. 
Saturday was a beautiful day. I would be lying if I said we haven't been getting a lot of rain lately. In about two weeks we've had 3 days of sunshine, two were today and yesterday. The other was Saturday-though it may not pass as a sunny day to some, it was warm and the cloud coverage was thin (though fairly evenly spread. It was not a blue-skies-day, just a sunny one). A light fog floated on the ocean and mist prickled our skin occasionally. Really lovely beach combing weather. 
The Olivia Jayne outfit
It was also good weather for a charming outfit. Inspiration for clothes (and the way they get assembled on me) comes from all sorts of places. But I think this one is particularly funny. I was inspired by a video game character. Olivia Jayne is a tiny dranei girl in World of Warcraft's newest expansion Cataclysm. I was fishing over in the area where she roams (yes, yes, I play WoW) and noticed her adorable outfit. Intrigued by the colours and general cuteness of the whole thing, I sought to put together my own "Olivia Jayne" outfit. It's reversed, colourwise, but all in all I think it's pretty good. :)

The skirt and shirt are thrift store finds, $2 each. The oyster necklace and flip-flops are beachcomb finds. The scarf is the most expensive thing about this outfit, and I'm ashamed to say  that I spent $10 dollars on it, a long, long time ago when I wasn't as thrifty and clever as I am now. 
Searching for sea glass
 We took a stroll on the beach, combing it all the way for treasures and then sat and watched the waves for awhile.

iridescent oyster shell

The fallen seagrass fence

sea grass close up


skull of some sort...

beach comb finds

foggy island

tumultuous waves

John took a nap on my lap and a close up of my flip-flop

After a short nap, John and I walked back to his parents' house where we ate dinner and cake. But on the way back, I saw and snapped this pretty picture:
The glowing Narcissus
A very lovely day, indeed.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

The Orange Dress

This is a dress I've been planning and thinking about for a while now. I was looking at my sketchbook and saw some sketch/concepts for it dated May 2009! I figured it was about time to get it done. I was mostly inspired to do so because refashion co-op had a "Dress Challenge" and I totally meant to enter. I think I may be too late, now. I believe the last day to enter a dress for it was May 21st, which ended five minutes ago.  I finished it Thursday but neglected to post it until now, sadly.

I made it out of this old green t-shirt that John didn't want anymore and this orange* floral fabric that someone used as gift wrapping for me at one point....Pay no attention to the dates, my camera a little senile at this point.

 I'm totally loving these colours. The fabric has little green leaves that really look nice with the green shirt.

 I gave it a lace up back but I think it looks a little shoddy, so I believe I'll re-do it someday. For now I'll wear it as is to the beach and other casual summery outings.

*John thinks it's more of a peach than an orange.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

What ELSE can you do with a dandelion? Dandelion Fritters.

Yep! Dandelion fritters. I can't take credit for this idea or the recipe. I saw it first and followed the recipe from the Learning Herbs website. They have all kinds of cool information on herbalism and natural medicine, and I enjoy browsing the site every now and then. I followed the recipe they have there with slight tweaks of adding a bit of salt to the batter, and using a half all purpose and half whole wheat combo for the flour. (They don't specify any kind of flour, so I'm thinking it's cooks choice in this matter.) I didn't count, but I made quite a few fritters and still had a bit of batter left after I used up all my dandelions. This little bit of batter went a pretty long way; I'm guessing I made somewhere around 30.
Here's the recipe:
Dandelion Fritters
1 egg
1 cup milk
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
a basket full of freshly picked wide open dandelion blossoms
cooking oil

In a medium skillet heat an inch or so of oil. Mix up the batter well and dip dandelions petal-down, holding the green part, swirl it a bit to get it covered in batter and place in heated oil. Once in starts browning, flip it over and let the underside get cooked. Transfer to paper-towels to drain. You can cook several at once, just make sure you keep an eye on the ones that went in first to prevent burning.

I served a few dandelion fritters along side my dandelion leaf pesto (I thought they were kind of cute, like meatball-replacers) but the rest of them we ate with a honey-mustard dipping sauce, which I think suited them better. They were really quite tasty: tender with a slight sweetness that was set off by the bitter stem/sepal part. John and I ate all the ones I made and were quite satisfied at the end. I had been a little worried that the meal wasn't going to be substantial enough but we both came away pretty full.

This would make a great afternoon snack, and didn't require any more effort than your average fried style recipe, excepting the the gathering part...Which was actually very fun. I bet kids would get a kick out of this!

Monday, May 16, 2011

What can you do with a dandelion? Dandelion Pesto.

Dandelions, as I've said before, are amazing. The whole plant really. Beyond their simple joyful colour and the happiness blowing their seeds can bring, they also can be food and medicine. Tea made from the leaves and roots is detoxifying, and liver-cleansing. Tea made from the flowers can cure a headache. If you gather the leaves before the blossoms bloom, they make a tasty addition to salad (you can still eat the leaves after they blossom, they'll just be more bitter.)

I happen to actually enjoy the bitterness of dandelion leaves (which is also very good for digestion) and collected about 2 cups worth from around my neighbourhood and made dandelion pesto with them. It was rather good, though I may have gone a little extreme with the garlic. Here's my basic recipe:

Dandelion Pesto
 2 cups loosely packed dandelion leaves
2 or 3 garlic cloves (I think I ended up using 5 - too much!)
a handful of walnuts
1/3 cup olive oil (approximately)
salt to taste
a dash of honey
a splash of balsamic-vinegar
 Add all ingredients to a food processor or blender and blend until relatively smooth. Taste, add more oil if it seems to thick to you, more honey if it's too bitter, more salt if you think it needs it, more garlic if you're crazy...
Serve over pasta. Enjoy!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Dandelion update

Well, it's dandelion season and I've been all of a flutter gathering them and making all sorts of delicious things; from ice cream to pesto. Dandelions are one of the most amazing and useful herbs I've ever met. They really don't get the respect they deserve. I think I'm going to do a little series this coming week on the many things you can do with dandelions, leaves and blossoms. I know the roots are packed with all kinds of good stuff too but I haven't actually done anything with those yet.

Anyway, the weather is blissful and I can't keep my mind on a thing except that I want to be outside. Reading, eating, sleeping, sewing....anything I can do outside these days I try to. I also have some really good refashion bits to update, but since I'm not on my computer I can nary do a thing because I haven't got any photos on here.

I'll get my computer back up and running soon and be on top of this blog again. Right now, I need to go and bask in a grassy meadow while I eat and finish reading The Iron Thorn by Caitlin Kitteredge. It has a great storyline. So fascinating and original that I can forgive the sloppy writing and poor character development....Plus, it's steampunk and that in itself is enthralling.
Anyone else out there a fan of steampunk?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Fair are the meadows, fair are the woodlands...

Today is misty, damp and cool. Serenity fills the air alongside birdsong and chipmunk chirps. Bursts of spring rain start and stop; a gift from the low cloudy skies.
While in the woods this morning I felt overcome by the beauty and peace this spring has wrought so far. It inspired me to sing and what better place to do so than in the woods where no one but a few woodland animals can hear you?

I felt transcendental; singing as I tramped through damp leaves and admired ferns and fiddleheads, buds and blooms, leaves and laurels. The song that foremost came to my mind was the hymn Fairest Lord Jesus. The second verse in particular, though all the words to that song are sublime and the tune is glorious.

If you don't know it, here is a rather nice arrangement of it being played on the piano. And the lyrics are beneath, strewn among the many photographs I took today.*

1 Fairest Lord Jesus, Ruler of all nature,
Son of God and Son of Man!

Thee will I cherish, thee will I honor,
Thou, my soul's glory, joy, and crown.

 2 Fair are the meadows, fair are the woodlands,
Robed in the blooming garb of spring:
Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer,
Who makes the woeful heart to sing.
3 Fair is the sunshine, fair is the moonlight,
And all the twinkling, starry host:

 Jesus shines brighter, Jesus shines purer
Than all the angels heav'n can boast

  4-Beautiful Saviour! Lord of the nations!
Son of God and Son of Man!

 Glory and honor, praise, adoration,
Now and for evermore be thine.

I was a bit disappointed that as I sang, no cutesy woodland creatures came to dance and play around me. Maybe next time, eh?

For now, a cup of tea is called for on this drizzly day.

**I took all of these this morning, despite what some of the dates say. The dating thing on my camera is wonky sometimes and half way through it started acting up. Whatever, haha.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Refashion Magic

This past week I made an amazing skirt...Out of an old pair of pants. It may be my best refashion project yet!
Springy, stretchy knit dance pants

It started when I got my amazing turquoise and brown striped socks for my birthday. I have a plethora of shirts and blouses that matched the turquoise stripe, but as I searched my closets I realised...I had no brown skirts! This must be remedied, thought I. I grabbed up a brown pair of pants. They were the stretchy, swingy, wide legged dance style pants. The kind that almost look like a skirt if you keep your legs close together as you wear them.

I hardly ever wore these pants; they were too short for my style, and slightly too large for my waist anyway. I thought about simply cutting the inseam apart and resewing it together skirt style but I didn't like that idea. It would be too long and the material wasn't right for a long skirt. It would make a nice knee length skirt, I thought.

Recently, I found a skirt at the thrift store that has since become my favourite skirt. It's made of the stretchy, springy nylon stuff, is an aqua green colour and has a floaty, uneven, wavy hemline. It looks like a fairy skirt. I, then knew, as I looked at my brown pants, exactly what style skirt I'd try to make.

I pose with my teapots
I cut the inseam and then cut uneven waves off the bottom of each pant leg. (I regret now that I did not take pictures of this part.) It looked good but not good enough. Just the pants, cut, cropped and resewn as a skirt didn't seem right. Not wide enough, not flared enough. It hung limply. It needed some gores. I snipped up the side of each leg and used the cut off pant legs to be large triangle style gores. I sewed them all together and voila! A really lovely skirt.
A spin shot

 It has flare and bounce and goes really well with my socks. Turns out, it also goes really well with one of my other best refashion garments: A blue striped bodice-vest I made out of an old button up collar shirt.

The lace up back on my refashioned bodice
This kind of outfit makes you feel magical. And it's perfect for Spring and Summer.

Update 5/2/11 5:30pm: While browsing one of my favourite refashion sites Refashion Co-op, I noticed they have a refashion "dress challenge" Which sounds totally awesome! And I think I'm going to try and make a dress for it. I don't get to refashioning as often as I like, but I love it and I would love to have motivation to do it more often (as if I need more clothes, haha) so I'm thinking of joining the co-op. We'll see! In the meantime, you should check out their site as it's mega cool and pretty inspiring!
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