Tag Archives: photos
Apple blossoms are absolutely everywhere on our property at the moment, making massive amends for the intensely dull brownness that pervaded our landscape just a few weeks ago. May is one of the very prettiest moments where we live, and we are doing our best to simply enjoy it. An early ‘summer’ (still more than a month away officially) catapulted us outdoors with a frenzy, providing a partial excuse for my absence here recently. Mastering the art of gluten free baking and family meals being perhaps the best excuse that I have. More on our favourite gluten-free finds very soon, but in the meantime, some shots from a walk through our old (as in much neglected) orchard and woods today.
When we first considered that we might need to go gluten free as a family in the fall of 2012, I dug my heels in, hard. Well, mentally anyway. In reality, I’m deeply practical, and I knew we had to start switching gears. But it wasn’t fun to consider. Both my husband and I bake frequently – he’s the bread baker, I cover everything else and we both love to experiment – and we had developed a nice list of family favourites that were particularly heavy on spelt, an ancient wheat tolerated well by many of us, though not all. I’m a huge fan of spelt, and I think that turning my back on it is the hardest part of this change.
We’ve only been making the change in earnest for about a month and we are on a steep learning curve, along with anyone who has ever made this kind of dietary change. The whole GF thing is a bit fraught too, what with the fact that people who need to go gluten free often have other food sensitivities, and so there are issues with the gums (xanthan and guar), for example, that I had no clue about until I really starting getting in deep. Having first excitedly made friends with xanthan gum, we’re now parting ways as we look at other options, and so on…
While I have been happy experimenting with new recipes for muffins, cakes and quickbreads, not having a reliable recipe for homemade bread was really getting me down. Buying pre-made gluten free loaves is silly expensive, and just not in keeping with our family tradition of homemade bread. My husband researched GF bread recipes, and not finding anything that made us go ‘wow’, he suggested we buy Peter Reinhart’s new book on gluten-free, sugar-free baking (Reinhart being a guru of gluten-based baking and the source of many of our favourite wheat-based recipes). Still new to that book, we’re not convinced its approach is entirely right for us, although some of the reliance on nut-based flours appeals to us (we’ve both come down heavily in favour of almond flour and other nut flours, which thankfully we like and can have).
Today, after shelling out for a new spice grinder that could be dedicated to grinding seeds and nuts, my husband came home and hit the internet again. Which is when he found the recipe for the loaf pictured here. Thank you, thank you to Yammie’s Glutenfreedom for this wonderful recipe for a GF bread that actually looks, smells and tastes like real bread. My husband made only very minor changes to the recipe, but a crucial one was substituting chia seeds for the xanthan gum in the original recipe. He also completely forgot the honey, and now wonders if – for him – the loaf would be too sweet with it. Naturally he plans to make another loaf in the next day with honey to see how it compares, but tonight’s result is so good that we had to share.
Gluten-free Honey Oat Bread, ever so slightly adapted from Yammie’s Glutenfreedom Original recipe here
3 1/3 cups oat flour
2 scant tablespoons yeast
1 1/2 cups warm water
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons honey (what we left out, but plan to try next time)
1/2 cup tapioca flour (or corn starch)
1/2 cup brown rice flour (white or sweet white rice flour is suggested in the original)
2 teaspoons chia seeds (xanthan gum in the original recipe)
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
If you’re using whole oats, blend them in the food processor until they’re pretty fine (as fine as you can get them). Meanwhile combine the yeast and water and let sit for a few minutes. Add the oil, honey, starch, flour, chia seeds and oats and beat until combined. Add the salt, cinnamon, and eggs. Beat for a few minutes until fluffy. Pour into a well greased 10 inch loaf pan and allow to rise for about 45 minutes until doubled. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350ºF. Sprinkle the top of the risen loaf with some more oats or sesame seeds and cut a few slits in the top with a serrated knife. Bake for about 45 minutes. Allow to cool before cutting.
Knowing we can produce a loaf as tasty as this one is a great relief, and now we can continue to experiment without the urgency that we had before. You can be sure that I’ll be posting more gluten free bread recipes at some point. In the meantime, if you’re sitting on a wonderful GF bread recipe and are inclined to share, we’re all ears!
Our Delfino coffee/spice grinder, which we’re using to make small batches of nut and seed-based flours, was a great purchase.
A busy winter has turned into an equally busy spring. We’re navigating the waters of going gluten free for one family member (which means we all will, more or less), and experimenting with old favourites like chocolate chip cookies. Verdict: these were very nice, but just not the same as what we’re used to. Now there’s a shocking finding.
Not one to be left out, Reggie has food allergies of his own. No rice, if you can believe it. Or turkey. He’s taken to walking around with his food bowl when he wants to be fed (which, as he’s a Lab, is pretty much all the time).
Now that it’s getting warmer out there, the chicken coop has had a big clean-out and a fresh load of straw.
My husband also added chicken wire to the windows, which really need to be open now.
The first day out after winter for our Americaunas was quite funny. At first they all piled into the tiny open air enclosure that housed Esme when she had eight tiny chicks; at one point, all three roosters and six hens were stuffed in there like a phone booth challenge. The ground was still largely covered in icy snow, so it’s hard to blame them. As the sun warmed the ground, they got a bit more adventurous.
We’ve started some outdoor projects, including a partial rebuild of an old picnic table that still has life in it and picking up where we left off at the tree house last year. Oldest son loves getting to bring out the Dremel, which he’s using here to trim off old nails sticking out of planks from the picnic table.
My wonderful new desk/shelving unit in the kitchen is nearing completion. Still up: painting of the doors and the beadboard behind the counter top, finishing of the counter/desk surface (maple boards), blackboard paint for the magnetic notice board. Nearly there…
In the meantime, getting out for walks and even on our bikes as the weather gradually becomes more consistently spring-like is awfully nice after a long winter. I don’t have a companion picture to support this, but husband and youngest son had their last ski of the year and first bike ride of the year all on the same day.
A lone cardinal appeared at our window every morning for what seemed like weeks in late winter, insistently tapping, and then one morning he didn’t return. But spring is finally here.
The trees on the horizon bronze with sunlight in the early morning, the light much warmer than it’s been for months.
Birds lingering at the tops of trees, calling out, this one a red-winged blackbird.
Our youngest is suddenly drawn to the outdoors for extended periods on his own without warning, unwilling to come in for meals or other routine activities. It’s hard to mind, really.
We’re suddenly knee-deep in seed packets and plans for planting, instead of snow and ice. The evenings are still cool though, so the woodstove will remain busy just in the evenings for a little while yet.
And this boy is one year old, today! Happy birthday Reggie!
It’s time for another post by my youngest, PetKid, who we homeschool. He has been following a litter of labrador retriever puppies since they were born, thanks to the generosity of our dog’s breeder, the wonderful Culandubh Kennels run by Laurel Cook and Ross McLaughlin in Clayton, Ontario.
This week I will show you photos from weeks 7 and 8, which were the last two weeks of my puppy visits. Here’s a photo of me helping the vet with the puppies in week 7. In that visit I made sure that the puppies’ teeth fit together properly, checked them for puppy acne (nine of the eleven pups had acne), put rubbing alcohol on the backs of their necks before they got their injection, and learned how to tell if a boy puppy’s testicles were descending.
I also kept the puppies still while the vet did what she needed to do. One of them thought about getting off the table and playing, but I held him still. The puppies were so cute and fluffy and funny. Apart from the acne, they are all super healthy.
Last week I went for my last visit. This is because they were all going home with their new owners that week. Here are four pictures from that week. The puppies followed me around wherever I went, so when I was on one side of a tunnel they came out one at a time and then piled around me. They were very energetic and cute and took a long time to tire. By the time they were tired I was tired too!
It’s time for another post by my youngest, PetKid, who we homeschool. We had an amazing offer from the breeder of our dog, Reggie, for a weekly visit and lesson on the newest litter of puppies. Our dog’s breeder, the wonderful Culandubh Kennels run by Laurel Cook and Ross McLaughlin in Clayton, Ontario, raises purebred Labradors, and the latest litter are entirely chocolate labs. This post covers week four.
Look at this puppy war! It’s so cute and fluffy. This week you can see the puppies are much more hyperactive.
When I went to visit the puppies had moved downstairs to an area with a heat lamp and a separate area filled with shavings for toileting. They had three stuffies to play with, as well as me! I sat in a corner with them crawling all over me, chewing on my clothes and snuffling.
I tired them out so much two fell asleep on my lap. The rest fell asleep in other spots.
One of the puppies crashed out on a stuffed animal and another one couldn’t get to sleep and kept bothering the others. He finally went to sleep on top of one of his sisters.
They are so cute!!!!!!!!!!!!
It’s time for another posting by my youngest, PetKid, who we homeschool. We had an amazing offer from the breeder of our dog, Regimbald (also known as Reggie!), for a weekly visit and lesson on the newest litter of puppies. Our dog’s breeder, the wonderful Culandubh Kennels run by Laurel Cook and Ross McLaughlin in Clayton, Ontario, raises purebred Labradors, and the latest litter are entirely chocolate labs. This post covers weeks two and three.
The puppies were cute, big and fluffy when we went to visit them in week two. They had doubled their weight in a week. They were starting to crawl and some of them were starting to open their eyes. Week two was also their last week of tactile stimulation exercises, so we did them again for the last time.
Laurel puts coloured dots on the puppies’ heads, bums and backs so that she knows who is who. For example, our dog Reggie was ‘Blue Butt’. In the chocolate lab litter, ‘Pink Head’ eats a ton, but she was very small at the start.
Here is a picture of me and Apa, the mama of the puppies.
Apa is eating 14 or 16 cups of food every day and drinking a ton of water so she can produce enough milk for eleven puppies. It’s a big job!
In week three, the puppies weren’t getting enough milk, so Laurel had to bottle-feed some of them. She was also starting to give all of them mush. Here’s a picture of Laurel bottle-feeding one of the pups.
The puppies are getting more agile. Their mama, Apa, sleeps beside their pen and at night some of them were climbing out to get to their mum. Laurel had to put up a cardboard wall to stop them from doing this.
This week the puppies will have moved downstairs to a bigger pen and playspace.
With the thermometer reading minus 22 this morning, I knew it was going to be a cold walk with Reggie. First up was water and feed for the chickens, whose coop is visible here through a frosty pane of glass in our garage.
It’s pretty cold in that coop, but the chickens don’t seem to mind.
Walking around to the house to place more wild bird seed in the little feeder in the little wood at the back, I came across some animal tracks. We were positively buried in snow for a while here, and after a recent thaw when we lost a lot of the snow, we’re now surrounded by hard packed, crystalline stuff that doesn’t give. Our modern snow shoes, with spiky teeth, are now needed for their grip more than the buoyancy they can give us in deep snow.
Waiting patiently for me outside the chicken coop, Reggie was ready to go and get moving.
He was ready to explore when we got down to the pond.
Everything in the world here seems to be furred in ice crystals, including any plant life hovering on or around the stream leading out of the pond. The water, amazingly, was still running in the stream this morning.
We paused for a few moments to take in the sun as it came higher over the woods and the pond.
It was just as we turned to head home that I noticed our shadows cast so perfectly on the opposite bank of the stream, the angle of the sun just right.
Feeling the cold biting my hands after taking them out of my warm mitts so many times to take pictures, it was time to high tail it back across the field and up the hill to the house, pausing for just one more picture when we crossed the other stream on our way back.
We’ve been wrapped up inside for the rest of the day.
When I wrote about our Christmas treats yesterday, I promised to come back with the recipe for lavash crackers, the Armenian flatbread that my husband loves to bake (and we all love to eat!). These are a really delightful crunchy cracker covered in seeds and spices that is essentially free form and pairs well with everything from cheeses and dips to nothing at all. They would be great with any meal requiring something bready for mopping up sauces too.
The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart is a much-loved tome in our kitchen, having been given to my husband by my oldest, dearest friend some years ago. It’s his bible for breadmaking and where he sources everything from ciabatta to cinnamon buns to these crackers. Actually, he occasionally makes things not beginning with the letter ‘c’ as well!
In his book, Peter Reinhart writes “Lavash, though usually called Armenian flatbread, also has Iranian roots and is now eaten throughout the Middle East and around the world. It is similar to the many other Middle Eastern and North African flatbreads known by different names, such as mankoush or mannaeesh (Lebanese), barbari (Iranian), khoubiz or khobz (Arabian), aiysh (Egyptian), kesret and mella (Tunisian), pide or pita (Turkish), and pideh (Armenian). The main difference between these breads is either how thick or thin the dough is rolled out, or the type of oven in which they are baked (or on which they are baked, as many of these breads are cooked on stones or red-hot pans with a convex surface).” He goes on to note that the key to crisp lavash is paper-thin dough, and we’ve discovered that for us the easiest way to achieve this is our pasta bike.
These crackers are always a hit with our youngest, as coming along at the key moment to help sprinkle on seeds and spices is just plain fun. We tend to favour the suggested sesame, poppy and caraway seeds, paprika, cumin and sea salt, but there is a whole world of seeds and spices out there that would be fantastic on lavash. Today, my husband rolled out his third batch of lavash in about ten days; we were out of parchment paper so he made do with some tinfoil.
Lavash Crackers from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart
Makes 1 sheet pan of crackers
1 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp instant yeast
1 tbsp honey
1 tbsp vegetable oil (we use sunflower)
1/3 to 1/2 cup water (at room temperature)
Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, kosher salt
Method (with a few notes on how we tend to do things)
1. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt, yeast, honey, oil and just enough water to bring everything together in a ball. You may not need the full 1/2 cup of water, but be prepared to use it all if it’s needed.
2. Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead for about 10 minutes or until the ingredients are evenly distributed. The dough should pass the windowpane test and register 77 to 88 degrees F (we never test for temperature!). The dough should be firmer than French bread dough but not quite as firm as bagel dough, satiny to the touch, not tacky, and supple enough to stretch when pulled. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap (we tend to use a dinner plate).
3. Ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size. (You can also retard the dough overnight in the refrigerator immediately after kneading.)
4. Mist the counter lightly with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Press the dough into a square with your hand and dust the top of the dough lightly with flour. Roll it out with a rolling pin into a paper-thin sheet about 15 by 12 inches. (Note: this is where we prefer to use our pasta bike, in order to achieve those ultra thin pieces, and we aim to produce strips that are very similar in width). You may have to stop from time to time so the gluten can relax. At these times, lift the dough from the counter and wave it a little, and then lay it back down. Cover it with a towel or plastic wrap while it relaxes. Once you’ve created your squares or strips, allow the dough to relax for five minutes. Line a sheet with parchment paper (though foil will do in a pinch). Carefully lift the sheet of dough and lay it on the parchment. If it overlaps the edge of the pan, snip off the excess with scissors (again, with our pasta bike method, this generally isn’t an issue).
5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F with the rack in the middle. Mist the top of the dough with water and sprinkle with a covering of seeds and/or spices. Be careful with the spices; a little goes a long way. If you want precut crackers, use a pizza cutter or other curving blade and cut diamonds or rectangles. You do not need to separate the pieces as they will easily break apart after baking. If you want to make shards, bake the sheet of dough without cutting it first (we love this method best).
6. Bake for 12 to 17 minutes (Reinhart suggests 15 to 20; we find that 12 is often enough, but the important thing is to watch for browning, which is the key to doneness with this recipe, and it will depend on how evenly rolled and thin your dough is).
7. When the crackers are baked, remove the pan from the oven and let them cool in the pan for about ten minutes. You can then snap them apart or break into shards and serve.