Monday, June 30, 2014

Life on the Unfarm: an illustrated account

The list of things we need to accomplish here on the Unfarm this summer is slightly massive, due in part to several large projects that have been put off for the last few years (or more): paint the exterior of the house, rebuild the back deck, and fix the retaining walls that were built with the wrong material to begin with despite my insistence that said materials were - in fact - wrong. My dad insisted on building them anyway, and now they are falling over. Do you sense an "I told you so" moment? My dad, conveniently, claims to have no memory of my previous advice. Ahh, the convenience of living with ADD.

At any rate, the huge list of summer chores has had me busy outside and neglecting my blogging duties. But today you're in luck, because I managed to find some time to get this photo uploaded. 

Sadly, we are not preparing to raise a new generation of chickens. We were under the assumption that the chickens were no longer laying, in fact. Sakari is ten now and has earned her retirement. Beauty has decided that she will never lay, despite the fact that she is supposed to be a good breed for egg laying. Penny, however, has historically been a fairly reliable layer but seemed to be on an extended strike, having apparently unionized. That was until we caught her hopping out of the little coop that sits empty since none of the girls seem to have taken to it. Checking the coop to see what Penny was up to, we discovered that she had been secretly laying an egg each day and had amassed a dozen eggs in her little nest. Chickens are wily creatures - it is embarrassing to admit that they have outwitted us more than once, and will likely do so again in the (near) future.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

MORE ice cream sandwiches: lemon cookies with vanilla ice cream

I already posted a recipe for gingersnap ice cream sandwiches, but I have to admit that gingersnaps are not my favorite cookie and after making a batch of sandwiches for my dad, I felt the need to make a batch that my mom and I could enjoy. Enter: lemon cookies! The only problem was that I didn't have a good lemon cookie recipe so off to the internet I went and I managed to discover this treat on this blog:

These lemon cookie sandwiches with vanilla ice cream are delicious!

Lemon crinkles

1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 cups flour
powdered sugar for rolling

Note: If you are planning on chilling the dough you won't need to preheat the oven yet.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla, egg, lemon zest and lemon juice. Scrape the sides if needed. Stir in all the dry ingredients until combined. If desired, chill the dough for easier handling. Roll into balls about 1 1/2 to 2 inches across and then roll in the powdered sugar. Place the balls onto greased, dark baking sheets about 3 inches apart. Bake for 9-11 minutes until the bottoms just start to turn golden and the cookies start to crack. Remove from oven and let cool on the sheets for 5 minutes or until well set, and then transfer them to a rack to cool completely. 

More notes: the original recipe says to mix the dry ingredients until just combined but I mixed them well and they seemed to turn out fine. The original recipe also says to use light baking sheets but I did my batch half and half, on both light and dark sheets and the batch on the dark sheets spread out less and kept a slightly thicker, rounder shape that worked better for me.

You can find the original recipe here:

Time to make the sandwiches! Let some vanilla ice cream thaw out a bit until it is slightly softened.
Set out pieces of plastic wrap to be ready to wrap your sandwiches. Take one cookie and place it upside down. Use an ice cream scoop to scoop out a ball of the slightly softened vanilla ice cream and place it on top of the cookie. Take a second cookie and gently press down onto the ice cream, flattening out the ice cream and spreading it to the edges. If excess ice cream squeezes out of the sandwich just take a knife or your finger and smooth around the edges. Place the sandwich in the center of the plastic and tightly wrap the sandwich and then place into the freezer. Freeze for a couple hours and then enjoy. If you, like me, have trouble waiting for a couple hours for anything containing sugar, then you can also set aside one to have right away. These are delicious and well worth the little bit of work it takes to make them.

Ice cream sandwiches: gingerbread cookie with vanilla ice cream

In honor of father's day I decided to make these ice cream sandwiches because of the many things my father likes (cheese, broccoli, beets, chocolate, taffy, etc), gingersnaps and ice cream are also high on the list. So for a father's day treat I decided to combine these two loves into one delicious treat. I briefly contemplated making beet cookies with cheddar ice cream but decided I wasn't ready to be quite so adventurous. I don't think my dad was too crushed with my choice.

Yumm... It may not look perfect but I find that taste buds care about personality more than looks.

Gingersnap cookies

1 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
1 egg
1/4 cup molasses
2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger (totally optional)
Sugar for rolling dough in

Note: if you are chilling the dough, you don't need to preheat the oven yet. 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg and molasses. Stir in all the remaining ingredients until well mixed, scraping the sides if needed. At this point you may want to refrigerate the dough to make it easier to handle. Roll the dough into balls about 1 1/2 or 2 inches across. Try to keep them equal in size. Roll the balls in sugar to coat them, then place them 3 inches apart on greased dark baking sheets. Bake cookies for 9-12 minutes or until the edges are set and the tops have started cracking. Remove from the oven and let them cool on the sheets for at least 5 minutes. When they are well set, move them to racks to cool completely. 

When they are totally cool you are ready to make your sandwiches.

Set out pieces of plastic wrap to be ready to wrap your sandwiches. Take one cookie and place it upside down. Use an ice cream scoop to scoop out a ball of slightly softened vanilla ice cream and place it on top of the cookie. Take a second cookie and gently press down onto the ice cream, flattening out the ice cream and spreading it to the edges. If excess ice cream squeezes out of the sandwich just take a knife or your finger and smooth around the edges. Place the sandwich in the center of the plastic and tightly wrap the sandwich and then place into the freezer. Freeze for a couple hours and then enjoy.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Life on the Unfarm: an illustrated account

Max stalks his fat mouse/cherry

Cherries: they're not just for eating - they are also for playing with, according to Maximus. 

This morning found Maximus on one of his typical haunts: the kitchen counter. Despite being told (repeatedly) that he is not actually allowed on the counter he maintains that we must be mistaken. This is, after all, the best place from which to view Rat TV (which, despite our efforts to the contrary, is still airing occasionally), and how else is a small cat such as himself to get any milk, yogurt, ice cream, butter, etc if he is not where the food is: on the counter? 

Also on the counter this morning was a colander full of fresh cherries. Max sat in front of the colander and contemplated the cherries: they were small, and dark, and had tails (aka stems.) Just like his favorite wand toy, which he has currently chewed down to a disappointingly small nub. But fate has presented him with an opportunity - here sits a bowl full what can only be fat mice. He fished one out with his paw and dropped it onto the floor. From there he hopped down and batted it all over the kitchen. He then picked it up by the tail and carried it off into the living room to continue playing amongst his many other toys. He seemed quite proud of himself, and despite his multiple transgressions (on the counter, stealing food, throwing cherries around the living room carpet) our reprimands were half-hearted at best. Can you really be mad at someone so cute? So far the verdict is "no."

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Life on the Unfarm: an illustrated account

Not all of our living happens on the Unfarm. We leave comfort of the Unfarm for visits to the vet (more often than we would like); fun outings like hikes, camping or trips to the beach; and the not-so-daily dog walks. Yes, it is true, I am at times a terrible procrastinator and don't always get around to walking the dogs every single day, although I am trying to do better. (Says every procrastinator that ever has or ever will live, probably, but I really mean it.) At any rate, when I do get around to walking I face a dilemma: do I bring Maia along and move at a pace that would have snails passing us by, or do I leave her behind with her sad little eyes watching Axel get leashed up while she stays home? Clearly neither option will do. Maia deserves to go with us, but at 18 years old it is unfair of me to expect her to keep pace with Axel who is half her age. The solution was clear: buy a stroller/trailer (it has handlebars but can also covert into a bike trailer) made for dogs that Maia can ride in. This photo is taken from the back of the trailer (she calls it her dog sled), with her sitting inside while we go for a walk. That way we can go at Axel's pace without straining Maia or leaving her out of the fun. At the end of the walk she gets to hop out and finish it alongside Axel but the rest of the time she is content to sit inside on her dog bed and enjoy the view. She seems to like it, and certainly prefers it to being left at home. I prefer it because then I don't have to suffer the horrible guilt of leaving behind such a loyal companion of so many years, and Axel still gets his exercise.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Recipe: elephant ears

I don't know about you, but I have a serious sweet tooth which makes fried bread covered in sugar almost irresistible. Unfortunately, these sugary treats are sometimes hard to come by, unless you happen to live next to a year round fairgrounds - which I don't. Fortunately, I found a recipe. My sweet tooth is happy with this discovery, my waistline is less so. Make these at your own risk.

Elephant ears

1 1/2 cups milk  (3/4 cups)
1 teaspoon salt  (1/2 teaspoon)
3/8 cups (6 tablespoons) coconut oil  (3 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons sugar  (1 tablespoon)
2 tablespoons yeast  (1 tablespoon)
4 cups flour  (2 cups)
1 quart of oil for frying

Melted butter/margarine (at least 1/4 cup)
Cinnamon sugar: mix sugar and cinnamon to achieve the desired (this amount will depend on the amount of topping you want - probably 1 cup at least for a good layer of sugar)

Put the milk, salt, sugar, and coconut oil in a small saucepan and combine over medium heat. Heat until the coconut oil melts and the sugar is dissolved. Take it off the heat and let it cool until it is about 110 degrees F. Sprinkle the yeast on top and let sit for a couple minutes before stirring in the yeast. Wait for the mixture to proof, becoming foamy. Pour the mixture into a larger bowl and stir in the flour until a dough forms. Flour a surface and knead until smooth. Cover it and let it sit for at least 30 minutes while it rises. 

In a large saucepan or heavy skillet, heat the oil to 375 degrees F. Keep an eye on the oil - you don't want to overheat it. Meanwhile, roll out small balls of dough into thin sheets. The size of the sheets will depend on the size of the pan the oil is in: the sheets need to be smaller than the pan, with room to flip them. Place the sheets, one at a time, into the oil and let cook until the underside is a light golden brown (this will not take long.) Use tongs to flip the sheet and let the other side cook. Once the sheet is cooked, put it on a plate and brush it with the melted butter and sprinkle on the cinnamon sugar. Do the same for the other side. Repeat for the rest of the dough. Best served right away.

Some notes: The amounts in parentheses are the amounts you would use for a half batch, which is what I suggest making unless you have a large number of people that are going to help you eat the results. Even with the half batch you should have help: it makes approximately 10 ears 6 to 8 inches in diameter. You can wrap extra dough and store it in the fridge for a day or two if needed. Let it warm up again when you are ready to use it. If I don't feel like melting butter I will sometimes use that spray margarine stuff, it seems to work just as well.