animal kingdom, Farm Notes, life (on the farm)

Farm notes: So long, sweet Harriet

Generally, I’m an embracer of winter. I love the crisp cold temperatures. The excuse to layer up and snuggle under the down comforter at bedtime. But this year, it’s wearing me down early and thoughts of spring and green and warm sun on my face are creeping in.

Probably one of the most annoying winter tasks at Woodlawn is the watering of all the animals–5 gallon buckets, carried two at a time, from where they are filled in the upstairs bathtub out to the different pens in the barn and chicken coop. Some days it takes two trips to get everyone watered.  And then when you finally get everything done in the morning, you know you’ll have to do it all over again in few more hours.

But generally, we have it easy. Just a few animals. None of the sheep are lambing. We have snow, but it’s completely manageable. It’s just cold. And annoying.

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But there was a sad casualty of the winter that has me feeling especially run down this year. After one of our coldest nights, my sweet peahen Harriet didn’t make it through. I’m still confused by what caused it. She’d been nesting in the rafters in the garage, going in to eat and drink with the chickens during the day, but perhaps it was all too much for her.

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There are some animals on the farm that I grow especially attached to. And Harriet definitely fell in that category. She had a knack for checking on me, like clockwork every evening when I was in the kitchen making dinner. She’d jump up on the cellar roof and peek into my kitchen window beside the sink. Cocking her head at me to look at what I was doing inside. I’d talk to her, tap on the glass and eventually she’d jump down and make her way to the garage to roost for the night.

I was quite attached to our little routine and I’m so sad she’s gone.

She was a special one.

in my kitchen

Simple + quick: No knead, no rise pizza dough

Simple no knead, no rise pizza dough. This is great for last-minute dinner or lunch because it can be thrown together in just a few minutes.

Lunch might be one of my least favorite meals to think about. Just when I’ve finally gotten breakfast dishes done and a good groove going, I have to stop and figure out what to make for lunch. But even though I whine about it often, can I just say, among friends, that sometimes I pull off my most “fly by the seat of my pants, use whatever craziness I can find in my fridge”-inspired and delicious meals.

Sunday lunch can be particularly difficult. The car ride home from church is anything but spiritual. Hangry kids dominate the fifteen minute drive home and by the time I get back to my kitchen still strewn with breakfast mess, everyone is starving and I’m generally not in the mood to put anything remotely inspiring in front of my family.

But every once in awhile I can stave off their hungry with some crackers and hummus and buy myself a little time to put something more creative on the table.

Sunday is also my grocery-shopping day, so this means I’m often working with the bare bones of materials. When this happens, this simple pizza dough recipe is a fantastic back-up plan. Obviously, it works for dinner, too. (Like tonight, when I realize it’s 4:52pm and I have no plan? Normally, I’d reach for this dough recipe and put something together. Tonight, I’m feeling the leftover love.)

This pizza dough doesn’t require any special attention–it’s no knead, no rise and aside from a short pre-bake, it goes into the oven so quickly, it’s criminal.

My favorite way to make pizza lately, is to first cook up some bacon in my cast iron skillet. Then I remove the bacon to a paper towel, and drain off most of the drippings. In the same pan, I’ll then brown some diced onion and chopped garlic, and then finish it off with whatever greens I have in my fridge. On Sunday, I finished up some spinach and kale that was getting a little limp.

Love these ideas for pizza toppings. She rubs onion, garlic and greens like spinach or kale as the sauce for this simple dough recipe.

I rub this onion, garlic and greens mixture over the pizza crust, then top with cheese and bacon. I love a good sharp cheese, and if I had it would also have added some fresh mozzarella or ricotta. I’ve even added grilled chicken or thin slices of potato leftover from the night before.

On Friday night we had a long and wanderlust-inducing conversation with our seminarian who comes for dinner each week (and who spent 3 years in Rome before coming to Maryland) on the gastronomy of Italy. I decided to try his suggestion of cracking an egg into the middle of the pizza before baking it in the oven. Hold the phone. Stop the presses. People, you must try this. Then with some crushed pepper on top, served up with a glass of wine and the Sunday paper? Perfection, if I do say so myself.

So if you don’t have a go-to, no knead, no rise, last-minute, use it in a pinch pizza dough recipe, this one will be your new best friend. And do yourself a favor–if you must, make the traditional cheese for the kids, but crack an egg into the pizza for the adults. Delish. (Although all my kids would like to report that the egg pizza was their favorite. We’re warming them up for our dream trip to Italy.)

Simple no knead, no rise pizza dough. This is great for last-minute dinner or lunch because it can be thrown together in just a few minutes.

Simple Pizza Dough : No knead, no rise

Add 1 teaspoon of sugar to 1 cup of warm water and stir to combine. Next add 2 teaspoons of dry yeast to the water + sugar mixture and allow to proof for at least 5 minutes. (You’ll see evidence of bubbling/foaming on the surface to know that it’s working.) 

Meanwhile in the bowl of an electric mixer or food processor (with the dough blade) add 2 1/2 cups of flour, 2 tablespoons of olive oil (I use a canola + coconut oil), 1 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of sugar. Mix this together. With the mixer still running add the water + yeast mixture. Continue to mix until it pulls into a ball. Drop onto a floured surface and divide into two balls for making pizza crusts. (Confession: sometimes I give it 4 or five kneads just to smooth out the dough. But nothing hard core.) Press, stretch and flatten dough onto pizza stone or cookie sheet.  I like to spray mine with a light cooking spray or olive oil, so it won’t stick. Brush lightly with olive oil and place in preheated 400-degree oven for about 15 minutes to pre-cook the crust. Remove from the oven add toppings and return to the oven for another 15-20 minutes or until baked and browned thoroughly. Enjoy!

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