19 March 2010

Fess Up Friday: Kitchen Disaster

Every Friday, New Life on a Homestead hosts the Fess Up Friday blog event, where bloggers can "write up a short post confessing that less than perfect housekeeping secret you’ve been sweeping under the rug."  This week's focus is on kitchen disasters.

This one time (at band camp -- just kidding) I tried to make my own foccacia for panini sandwiches.  In the process, I set off the fire alarm THREE TIMES!  My poor cats (and probably poor neighbors)!  I blame it on the recipe directions the first time and on my own stupidity the second time.  Note to self: corn meal burns in the oven very easily.  I haven't attempted the recipe again; maybe it's time for a second shot.

17 March 2010


I keep sabotaging myself.  Why?  I don't know.  I stepped on the scale yesterday morning to see that I had lost 3.5 pounds.  So what did I bring home for dinner?  Pizza.  And what did I drink with that pizza?  A beer.  I also had ice cream while watching The Biggest Loser.

Please tell me I'm not the only one who does this.  How do I stop they cycle?

12 March 2010

Eating Habits

I started this week off really well with eating and exercise, but these last two days I have made some really bad eating choices.  I'm using self.com to track my eating, exercise, etc.  I've tracked my eating before by keeping my own food journal, but have never been concerned with calories.  I never realized how much (or little) I was eating!  Very insightful.  I'm not going to beat myself up over the choices I've made this week, but focus on making those sorts of decisions less often.

On a site note, I'm trying to train for a triathalon.  Since I can't run, I'm using an elliptical, unless my doctor tells me that's out, too.  Swimming is harder for me.  My normal gym doesn't have an inside pool and it's still to cold to swim outside.  Plus, it's a really dinky pool.  The university has a pool, but open swim hours aren't that convenient and I talk myself out of going there frequently.  There has to be a better solution. 

11 March 2010

Recipe: Homemade Bread Bowls and Cream of Broccoli-Cheese Soup

You know those bread bowls you can get at some restaurants that hold soup?  I've been addicted to them ever since undergrad, when one of the places in the food court started carrying them.  So I was really excited when I was able to adapt two separate recipes to make my own at home!

Pizza Dough
From: Baking Illustrated

1/2 cup warm water (about 100 degrees)
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
1 1/4 cup water, room temperature
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
4 cups (22 oz) bread flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
  1. Measure 1/2 cup warm water at about 100 degrees into a 2-cup measuring cup.  Sprinkle the yeast over the water and let it stand until swollen, about 5 minutes.  Add enough room-temperature water to equal 1 3/4 cups and then add the oil.
  2. The food processor is the easiest place to make pizza dough.  Plse the four and salt to combine them.  Then pour the liquid ingredients through the feed tube while continuing to pulse.
  3. Once the dough comes together, process it until it is smooth and elastic, about 30 seconds.
  4. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and shape it into a smooth, round ball.
  5. Place the kneaded dough in a deep oiled bowl and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap.
  6. After the dough has double in size (about 2 hours), deflate it by pressing down on it with your fist.  Divide into 4 equal portions and shape each into a smooth, round ball.
  7. Cover dough balls with a damp cloth and let relax for at least 10 minutes, but no longer than 30 minutes. 
Crispy Bread Bowls
Adapted from: The Pampered Chef Soups, Stews & Chilis
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Place dough cut-side down on baking stone and press lightly.
  2. Brush dough with olive oil.  Bake 21-23 minutes or until golden brown.
  3. To serve, slice off top of each bread round.  Carefully remove centers to form bowls.  Place on plates and ladle soup into bowls.

These freeze really nicely. Wrap leftover bread bowls in aluminum foil and store in a plastic bag in the freezer. When ready to use, pop bread bowls, still in the aluminum foil, directly onto the middle shelf of the oven until warmed through.

Cream of Broccoli-Cheese Soup
From: Better Homes & Gardens The New Cookbook

4 cups fresh or frozen chopped brocoli
1 1/2 cups chicken broth or vegetable stock
1 tbsp butter or margerine
1 tbsp all-purpose flour
1/4 tsp lemon-pepper seasoning
1/4 tsp salt
black pepper
1 cup milk, half-and-half, or light cream
1/2 cup shredded American cheese
  1. In a large saucepan cook broccoli, covered, in a large amount of boiling water for 8-10 minutes or until tender.  Drain well.  Set aside 1 cup cooked broccoli.
  2. In a food processor, combine the remaining broccoli and 3/4 cup of the broth.  Cover and process about 1 minute or until smooth.  Set aside.
  3. In same saucepan, melt butter.  Stir in flour, seasoning, salt, and a dash of black pepper.  Add milk all at once.  Cook and stir until slightly thickened and bubbly.  Cook and stir 1 minute more.
  4. Stir in the reserved cooked broccoli, shredded cheese, and remaining broth.  Cook and stir until heated through.  If necessary, stir in additional milk to reach desired consistency.  If desired, season to taste with additional salt and black pepper.
This was a huge hit and we will definitely make it again!  Here's what it looked like all put together:

05 March 2010

Creating Your Own Worm Bin

Yesterday I received the worms for my worm bin and, after charging the batteries to my husband's drill, quickly set to work preparing their new home!

I ordered 500 worms (approximately 1lb.) from Uncle Jim's Worm Farm.  They looked like this when they arrived:

Not very exicing, I know.  I decided to build my worm bin out of two 10 gallon rubbermaid tubs:

The first step was to drill 24 evenly spaced holes in the bottom of each bin using a 1/4-inch drill bit.  These holes will allow the "worm tea" to drain and the worms to move between bins.

Then, I tool a 1/16-inch drill bit to drill air holes along the top edge of each bin and across one lid.

That's pretty much it for preparing the worm bins.  Next I had to prepare bedding for the worms.  I used both paper from my shredder (i.e., old bills and credit card offers) and newspaper that was cut into 1-inch strips.  I soaked all the paper in water, wrung it out really well, then distributed it among one of the bins.  All in all, I had about an inch of shredded paper at the bottom of the bin and maybe three inches or so of newspaper on top of that.

Finally, it was time to introduce the worms to their new home!  Inside the shipping box was a cloth bag containing the worms and some of their native soil

All I had to do was dump the worms and soil out of the bag and onto the moist bedding I had prepared.  I then cut a piece of carboard to cover the bedding and moistened it before putting it on top of the worms.

All that was left to do was assemble the completed worm bin.  The bin containing the bedding and worms was nestled into the other bin.  I used four empty aluminum cans (yay for repurposing!) to prop up these two bins on the second lid, which will catch any "worm tea."  Here's what the final set-up looked like inside my laundry room:

Tonight I'll probably add my first few food scraps, burrying them in the bedding on one side of the top bin.

Do you have a composting set-up?  If so, I'd love to hear how it's going or any tips from fellow vermicomposters.

04 March 2010


The worms for my long awaited vermicomposting bin have finally arrived!  I'm in the process of finishing their bin, but both batteries for my husband's drill are dead, so I have to wait for one of them to charge before I can continue.  Pictures and further explanation will follow!

P.S.  I'm way too excited about this.