Thursday, August 23, 2012

hippychick is rolling in the dough

it's always a good day when fresh homemade bread is on the rise.  today is one of those days and it's all thanks my beloved sourdough starter fed and started just over a year ago, a steadfast commitment to the mastering of the loaf and an ever growing love for the baked harvest hot from the oven.

the reality is that i've not yet mastered the loaf but my efforts as of late are proving successful more often than not. i imagine that i will probably never truly master the loaf and here's why.

for me every loaf is different and should be different.  i never follow a recipe by rote. i like to use what's in the pantry. i regularly mess around with flour to grain to oatmeal ratios and i don't keep measurements.  i eye it.

i think about ingredients that will compliment one another. i look as i am mixing and kneading dough for a particular texture.  i feel for a particular weight and pliable elasticity.  i have learned through trial and error when a dough is too dry or too wet. i have learned that ingredients used at room temperature benefit the mix and the rise of the dough. i have learned that even when everything looks and feels right, the bread may still not rise as one would hope for.  i have learned not to expect any kind of regular result.

the good news is that even the less than perfect loaf often still tastes great.  it may just feel heavier or more dense than what you might have been initially going for. it's in those moments that you pat yourself on the back for coming up with some type of special peasant bread loaf that only the most down home folk will enjoy.  or you can slice it up into smaller bits, toast it to use as croutons or grind it down for use as homemade breadcrumbs.  there's always a use for it.

if it's really rough - chop it up and set it out for the birds and try, try again.

what's in a loaf?  sometimes it's a simple mix of sourdough starter, water, flour and salt.  other times it's sourdough starter, whey, salt, chia, flax, hemp, herbs, spices, lentils, seeds, and bulgar wheat with a possible addition of homemade jam, maple syrup or unsulphered black strap molasses for a bit of sweet.

for those of you who don't know, a bit of a slice in the dough as it rises actually helps the rise.  how many slices one needs or how big the slices need to be, i don't know.  i've read it helps so i do it and i do it again by eye and often at deisgnerly whim.  i'll slice sideways, diagonalways, make a square, attempt a circle or create a basket weave slice pattern prior to the rise.  there is really no rhyme or reason to it all, it's just whatever strikes me that day.

the loaves i've been baking are slow and steady risers.  i don't use commercial yeast.  i depend upon the sourdough starter for the rise power.  so what might take and hour for a commercial yeast may take two to six hours and sometimes more for a sourdough starter.  the time depends upon your ingredients, the strength of your starter, the temperature of the room, the quality and the ratio of the ingredients, if it's a light bread or a heavier seeded or fruited (raisin) bread and a whole lot of other scientific bits i am sure that i am ignorant of.



as a side note, it may be important to know that i also regularly keep a counter top, room temperature probiotic kefir yogurt culture which means that i have a steady stock of homegrown yogurt available for use.  i use the kefir yogurt for eating, i drain it in a filter for yogurt cheese, i mix it into dry oatmeal and often enjoy it with fresh berries.  it's more tart than most store bought yogurts.  it's tingles in your mouth.  it's very much alive and i find it adds a great texture and a complex flavor to my breads. the drained whey is an excellent protein source and has often proven a great bread loaf ingredient.

today's loaf is fairly simple - fairly simple to me anyway - it's a probiotic yogurt bread with grain and seed.   here is the list of ingredients.
  • sourdough starter
  • 50/50 mix of whole wheat and white flour
  • bulgar wheat
  • ground flax seed
  • chia seed
  • hemp hearts
  • kefir yogurt - a probiotic fermented yogurt
    • I make my own at home with raw milk
  • whey
    • drained from yogurt used for making yogurt cheese
  • black and white sesame seeds - sprinkled on top only
  • butter
    • just enough to slather the outside of the loaf just prior to being set into the bread pan
    • it keeps the loaf from drying out during the slow rise
these loaves are almost ready for the oven.  i bake at 400˚F for about 45 minutes.  i then check the loaf by measuring it's interior temperature.  i bake my loaf to a temperature between 180˚F -190˚F.  once out of the oven i immediately remove them from the pan and allow them to cool resting atop of the pan.

*of course there is always one loaf that is cut into prior to it's being fully cooled but hey, that's half of the reward.  i feel no guilt in the enjoyment of a steaming slice of freshly homemade bread.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

- the sweet and low down - peaches and runnin'

first to the sweet -  peaches

i scored a 25lb box of "over-ripe" texas peaches yesterday for $10 bucks - that's a goodie good dealio around here.  they sat in the back of the hot subaru last night.  i was gifted with the most sweet and seductive scent of those peaches upon my collecting them from the auto-mo-transport-bile this a.m.  they were ready for makin' so i just got to it.

4 quarts of peachy raisin sauce - peaches, raisins, sugar, cardamom, cinnamon, cayenne, balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar and pink sea salt - yummo!

2 large sized peachy upside down cakes - the cake was thrown together with goods hanging about the pantry shelves - peaches, white and whole wheat flour, farm fresh eggs, pure maple syrup, lemon juice, ground flax, chia seed, pink sea salt.

2 loaves of peachy raisin quick bread - nearly the same as the upside down cakes but with the peach chunks mixed into the batter and raisins added - peaches, white and whole wheat flour, farm fresh eggs, pure maple syrup, lemon juice, ground flax, chia seed, pink sea salt.

1 peachy lemon oatmeal crumble - just like it sounds.  lemon juice, oatmeal and peaches slow bakes to a soft and gooey goodness

 everything is now bakes, canned, wrapped and ready for fridge and freezer.  it will be great to pull out and enjoy some sweet summer treats long after the peach season has passed.

now to the low down -
good thing i'm back to running with all this peachy goodness around.  oh my!

well i made it through the first week of 1/2 marathon training without a hitch.  in fact, in my usual hippychick fashion, i pushed it a bit.  just ran longer a couple of days because i felt good and i could.  i'm going to keep the push going as long as i am able.  i do get sore but it's not nearly the soreness i used to experience when i first started running years ago.  amazing how the body just picks up for you.

yesterday - monday was the day off and i took it off.  i could have gone to work out, there was really nothing stopping me but i went for the lazy evening at home for a change choice.  it was nice to eat a slow and casual dinner without a schedule looming overhead.

tonight i'll hit the gym for the tuesday 3 mile pick up.  i always run better after a day off so i imagine all will go well.

in other news - it's hot here - super hot - yet i'm thankful for the fact that this summer's heat has in no way come near last year's searing months of madness.  with that i'm off to feed and water the chickenychicas.  i'm sure they'll appreciate a fresh cool drink and an afternoon nosh although many may be in dust bath rest mode.  they usually are at mids day.  cheers!

Thursday, August 9, 2012

hippychick's extended wee farmy family




it's been a good while since i have posted anything about the wee homestead and so i thought it might be a good thing to get you caught up with the who's who in and about the place.  

folks you've met and/or heard of before: 
  • termite, mr. t, tebags and as of late, butterbutt - mr. t is my 19+ year old cat.  he's a big charmer but he also loves to wap things off of counters.  we give him more leeway than anyone else because i feel he has earned his old man crabby self every now and again.  he was recently diagnosed with hyperthyroid and is thankfully doing quite well on his new meds.  his most recent habit of knocking the cover off of the butter tray and eating good bits of butter for the past few days has earned him the new name butterbutt.  i might normally be more upset about this but he is in great need of some weight gain due to his condition.  just to note - the butter now resides in the fridge away from his clever paws. 
 
mr. t comfy in his chair
  • bella, pants, pants of destruction, fluffernutter, lala - is our several years old fluffy stray kitty girl who has taken quite well to interior living.  she loves to climb to the highest heights.  she is madly in love with opera kitty, our indoor/outdoor orange handsome fellow.  when he's inside, she's right next to him and he does not seem to mind.  she used to give poor old termite a good wacking just as he was nodding off to never never land but that has since changed with the addition of miss kaylee as a buddy who is closer to her age.
bella keeping an eye on the garden goings on and squirrels and birdies and bugs and lizards
  • opera kitty, steve mcqueen - opera as noted above is our indoor/outdoor orange kitty fellow.  he's my official farm catdog.  he does not bother the chickens, he allows raccoons to pass right by and it seems he does the same with several of the mices i have seen in the garagebarn recently.  he better get on that real soon.  or maybe several of the other 3-4 kitties that hang about the place wandering in from local neighborly spaces for the abundant shade offered here.  opera is an opportunist.  he has been spending more and more of what i call "vacation days" in the home.  when it gets hot here in central texas, he opts for the air conditioned in door environment.  he's no dummy.  
opear kitty on garden patrol
  • miss kaylee - miss kaylee is a yorkie/schnauzer mix pup that we adopted in february of 2o12.  she is two and loves loves loves to play with bella/pants.  they get along great.  at first bella wanted nothing, NOTHING, to do with such an odd looking creature but now they play, sleep and often get into trouble with one another.  miss kaylee is a sweetie girl except when it comes to the bed at night - she has declared "no kitties oh the bed at night" and so it goes.  good thing there are three beds and copious comfy locals for the kitties to enjoy.  miss kaylee loves to play, enjoys morning and evening belly rubs, loves to be close to mama and daddy and really enjoys romps with other puppies at the doggie park.  miss kaylee does not like water - maybe that will shift over time. 

miss kaylee and papa enjoying some out of doors pub time
  • bunbun is doing very well.  he is now in a much bigger bachelor pad with ramp and hiding spots.  he is still located near the chickens as i believe he enjoys their company.  bunbun spends a little time inside with us every now and again.  he likes scratches and schooches between his bunbun ears and on the underside of his chin.  he's the softest sweetie about the place. 
once a chicken tractor, now a bunbun bachelor pad
  • the beehives are also doing well.  i have yet to get inside and harvest honey this year but the flight patterns and the populations look particularly strong.  the spring and summer rains have helped out a great deal with their health.  they frequent my wee fish pond as a water source.  it's lovely to see them setting upon the lily pads enjoying a cool drink. 
bee hives doing well
  •  the fishes are doing swimmingly.  i moved them to a shadier spot last fall as the heat of last summer proved a huge challenge to the health of all.  the lily pads are growing in nicely and they are growing bolder when i come visiting with pro biotic fishy foods. 
the water is no longer as clear as pictured here but the fishes are doing a-ok
then to the chickens: 
    i love this photo of the girlies in early morning light
  • we still have our layer girls, a good number of them and they are doing great.  i keep the girls in two flocks, each with one rooster.  declan watches over the what i call the outside girls and rooroodaddy watches over the garagebarn girls.  all is well, both roosters are sweet as pie and not rough with the girls.  if ever they are, i'm in the coop correcting behaviour immediately. 
pretty girls
  • we are the proud space sharers of a small flock of historic bastrop feral chickens.  last year we were joined by tarzan rooster and the janes (2 females).  we have witness several hatchings in the past year.  some made it some did not.  we had to live trap and relocate a number of pesky raccoons in the process of their growth.  those who have made it through are fine and well and often hang out with our layergirls.  they roam the yard and the neighborhood when they like but roost in the live oaks above our place.  it's quite nice.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

run hippychick run - day 1 & day 2 report

yes i'm training the for the austin 1/2 marathon (although secretly in my head i am training for the full marathon) and i have decided to journal the journey here at hippychick's adventure to sustainable happiness.  why?  why not really?  i am working to sustain my body and mind (lordy, i need help there) and my soul.

i am not you're typical athletic type.  i was not built to be a runner.  i may not even look like one but i am a runner or a back of the pack just keep swimminger runner.  i don't run to compete with anyone but me (most of the time - big picture - yes just against me) and i focus upon making it to and across the finish line.

why run?  well for me, it's about the only thing that helps me to really clear my head.  i'm not a slow, yoga, meditation type of relaxer person.  i need the beat the heck out of myself in order to slow the mind.  so running, which is definitely not easy for me, proves positive toward the goal.

in other news - this is my comeback.

my right ankle has been bum for 2 years now and i was looking at the possibility of surgery to fix it but decided rather to further change my diet and my exercise habits for the better.  i am currently living out my 44th year and have noticed rapid and drastic body changes inside and out.  the time is NOW it was screaming, get your act together now or get used to the achy badness.  i did not want to live with achy badness so i got back on my feets and began a slow and steady training program.

first bluefin's couch to 5k  then bluefin's transition to 10k and now hal higdon's 1/2 marathon training (although secretly in my head i am training for the full marathon).  so far so good.  there are days i crap out like any other human but i find my discipline is stronger and steadier as time goes by.

enough already - what up with the day 1 and day 2 report

day 1 - monday, rest day - walked, ran about doing errands, cleaned up around the homestead, was active but did not run.

day 2 - tuesday, 3 miles - i tested myself and ran each mile faster than the last - it was a good run.

i should let ya'll know, being in hotty hot hot central texas area that most of the training i'll be blogging about for the next month or so will take place on a treadmill.  there may be an occasional morning when i can get out before frying time and that will be nice but for now, it's the mill for miss hippychick-i-think-i-can-runner-lady.

day 3 is today, wednesday 2 miles - the plan is to crank it out at as fast a pace as my body will allow.  a.k.a. wednesday is speedy day!

cheers!

hippychick is running again and it feels good - most of the time

here we go folks -

monday began my official 1/2 marathon training and i'm feeling good.
i am doing this the smart way. i trained 8 weeks to reach a comfortable 5k/3.1 mile distance and another 8 weeks to train for the 10k/6.2 miles distance before stepping into the 1/2 marathon training.

the preparatory 16 weeks is not always necessary for folks but it sure makes the ride a whole lot easier and due to the fact that i was coming off a bum ankle, i wanted to be sure my body was willing to allow the greater impact.

the early prep should also help me to increase my pace from my current super comfortable 11:15 min/mile to a 10min/10:20 min/mile ideally. now that i have the base strength, i can push a bit. time will tell where i land but the training layout should give me a fighting chance toward my goals. I have run four marathons and 2 1/2 marathons in my day and strongly believe that it is really beneficial to start at ground zero training with each new run.

a few reasons why i believe the ground zero start is the way to go. slow and steady training is best because you are not only training your body but you are training your mind as well and you will come to face personal monsters along the way. as you improve and on certain days fight through, you learn to see the monsters for what they are without breaking pace or giving them much of a thought and pass on by. also the training takes time (real time) and the body will respond if you nurture it into the training. you'll hurt yourself if you try too much at once plus you have to give your feet the chance to get used to being used at impact for several focused hours. if you don't, the dogs will be barking and you'll be the only one to blame. the training does require discipline and you do have to plan for it but the pay off is HUGE!

i actually find that they payoff for training toward any goal is HUGE - be it walk 2 miles, run 5 minutes, whatever it is. the fact the you set out to do it and then did, however long it took to get there is a big deal.

I will share my week to week training if you don't mind. It helps me journal through and it might inspire you to create your own personalized goal. you'll see my good days and my bad days which keeps it real. FYI this is the very same training folks would follow when training to walk a half marathon. It is also similar to the training schedule given to folks interested in the 3 day walk events.

take it for what you wish...

this week's schedule is as follows: i have included the purpose of each day as the distance and time may change over time but the purpose of the day is steady. Good for planning within your own universe.

Monday - rest day
always a rest day - low low impact walk/swim/bike ok but no running
* I use monday to take a brief check in with the body - see where the aches are, stretch when needed and if at all possible, jump in a pool and just put around with no particular purpose other than to allow the water to gently message me. also considering making monday/friday yoga day. i prefer bikram the hot sweat it out yoga.

Tu - 3 miles
base miles - slowly increase every other week
here i test myself to see if I can increase my speed just a bit with each mile

W - 2 miles
base miles - slowly increase every other week
here i try to run at my goal pace as long as i am able

Th - 3 miles
base miles - slowly increase every other week
i make thursday my easy day - i get the miles in but at whatever pace i wish for that day

F - rest day
always a rest day - low low impact walk/swim/bike ok but no running
whatever happens on friday happens - i'm thinking yoga monday/friday might be a nice practice to begin and end the week. also the yoga keeps me food conscious. if i eat too much or eat the wrong things, the yoga feels baaaaaaaaad. if i eat properly, lighter and keep hydrated, the yoga feels great!

S - 30 minute run
run for time not for distance - this is endurance training
here i go with however i feel that day but i try to be conscious of a pace that will allow me to run the time comfortably but slightly challenged.

Su - 4 miles
Sunday is the weekly long run day - this again slowly increases as the weeks go by
the long run is my most disciplined day. i run walk the long run at a pace i hope to hold steady for the entire distance. for example, this week i plan to run 10 minutes, walk 1 minute, run 10 minutes, walk 1 minute, repeat @ a pace of 10:50 run and @ a pace of 15:00 walk. it's slower than my overall goal but i want to make sure i stay injury free and make it through. i reserve the right to pick up the pace for the last mile if all is feeling good in the world.