baking D-I-Why Not fauna homestead

Making Miscellany: January

Is there anything more beautiful than a tea egg? Possibly… but in the moments I am gazing upon a tea egg, the answer is no. I mean look at it.

Beauty in the cracks

The first image up top is where I left the shell membrane partially intact — you can see how richly it shows the lines. But even fully removed, it’s strikingly geometrically randomly beautiful.

Low-poly egg

I use Signe Langford’s tea egg recipe from her book “Happy Hens & Fresh Eggs”. But you can find many other recipes online too. It’s essentially an egg steeped in a tea and spiced soy sauce mix, with the egg cracked just enough to let the colouring in.

In our life here we try to live closer to the seasons, which here often means “Kate is out following animal footprints in the snow again”. But while Snow Stories is a big part of any good winter, other kinds of making carry on.

Here is a little slice of the miscellanous making (like tea eggs) that add sparkle to winter’s darker days.

Bath Salts

Spring scents on snowy days

We ration how often we draw a bath here in the winter months. But it has been a mild and wet winter, and we’re not worried about the well, so a bath was on tap the other day (har har). But we were out of decadent extras to dress it up. Though a deep hot bath is a wonderful thing all on its own.

A number of years ago I adopted the habit of using “being out of X” as a prompt to try making it. Out of bread, try making bread, out of butter, try making butter, etc. So out of bath goodies… try making bath goodies!

I am as surprised as you are to find that we had everything we needed on hand. I have noticed this happen more and more often, as making projects dovetail one into the other.

I have been growing and drying flowers for a couple of years, not in ernest, but enough that I had a couple of jars already set aside for teas or destinations unknown. Apparently the destination for some of our flowers was a warm winter bath. Home grown and dried calendula, rose petals, and chamomile joined salts and oils in a homemade bath salt mix. Recipes are easy to come by — just look for a bath salts mix that takes advantage of something you might already have on hand (dried flowers, essential oils, etc). You can also make a very nice nourishing bath from oats. It all depends on what you have in your cupboards.

Nuts To That

There is no segue between a floral bath and a squirrel’s jaw bone, the next maker activity, except that both interest me, and both occupied some of my leisure maker time this January. Last year I was gifted a squirrel jaw and unattached teeth. (Some people really know me…) It was from a person who prepares skulls to use for educational purposes, and sometimes he ends up with a backlog to process. He offered it to me, when I lit up at the possiblity of trying to reassemble it: “Like a puzzle!”

This pretty little bowl was originally an incense holder, from the wonderful Art.27 in Toronto. You never know where repurposing may take you…

Though it had taken me over a year to pick it up and give it a try, it actually went incredibly quickly. Though it makes perfect sense, of course there is only one tooth that will fit in each spot. And even more so than with a puzzle, the small irregularities, the individual details, tell you exactly where each would fit. Roots that were longer or shorter, closer together or further apart.

He had actually given me more teeth than belonged to this jaw, having given me definitely the ones that fit plus any extra he had. I will set the extra aside for the squirrel tooth fairy (how cute would that coin be…).

Fresh Eggs, Fresh Pasta

Jaw reassembled, on to more maker activities. I always like to squirrel away a few extra staples here in the winter (there’s that segue…). In case of bad weather, or just the need for extra fuel on chilly days. We make most of our meals from scratch, and have replaced many of our basics with homemade recipes. Bit by bit the homemade list gets longer. It was not always like this — we used to live in a city where take-out was easier than grocery shopping, and small kitchen cupboards only held so much — but like any maker-ing, it’s all about practice, creativity, and diving in.

I don’t always make our pasta, but its a nice treat every once in awhile — especially when fresh eggs are available. Our “baby” hens have started laying, so winter eggs are on the menu!

You can find fresh pasta recipes all over the internet. My most important note here is that we don’t have a pasta machine of any kind, and it’s no problem. (I am a low-gadget gal.) I use a rolling pin and a knife to make ours, and it turns out just scrumptious!

If we made pasta frequently, I might get a roller, but if you just want to give a try, you don’t need any extra tools. I added oregano to this batch, because why not. A little nod to the green shell of the easter-egger eggs it’s made from. I made up half as noodles, and half for lasagna — for weeknight meals for just the two of us, we make little lasagnas in loaf pans.

Drop the Beet

We belong to a Winter CSA this year, with Footstep Organics. We are loving still eating seasonal local veg well into the winter. I’ve really enjoyed how it’s led me to think of root veg completely differently than I once did (there are many stealth veggies in that lasanga up there). I can sneak lush colourful roots into a surprising number of dishes. I recently made beet and carrot muffins, but below is a more traditional warm beet soup… though you’re not wrong if you think it looks like raspberry gelato.

I also recently popped all manner of winter veg into barley buddha bowls, where they paired deliciously with an indulgent avocado and a peanut-y sauce.

Pasta Sauce and Punch Lanterns

Every two or three weeks, I make a double batch of my family’s meat spaghetti sauce. Here it is just after I decided to add in some of the dried celery leaves I saved from last year’s garden. This sauce is the ultimate comfort food, and finds many homes here. We pop it into baked squash, topped with broiled cheese. Use it as a lasagna layer, or just nom it over noodles.

Making spaghetti sauce also means freeing up tomato tins, which means… making more tin-punch lanterns!

This one did turn out beautifully, but the simpler design of the first one I made was stronger when lit. For tomato can lanterns, simple is best! I use two cans per batch of spaghetti sauce, so our house should be very well lit by springtime. 😉

Oliver, always helping.

Sumatran Street Food

My favourite surprise kitchen experiment this month is definitely homemade martabak manis (following this recipe). I went to live and work in Sumatra for a year when I was 18, and flavours of Indonesia still taste like home. I have thought of martabak manis often, but have never thought to recreate it… until now. Though it is a street food, it turned out to be a very do-able if very decadent recipe for a home kitchen! I have a lot of room to grow in making it better, but wow was it ever delicious even on the first try.

I topped ours traditionally, which is to say, with everything. Chocolate, peanuts, condensed milk, and yes, cheese. It doesn’t sound like it will work but boy-howdy does it ever.

Good Fences, Good Neighbours

Now out of the house and up the woods. Stewarding our woods means maintaining healthy boundaries. Tracks in the snow showed that we recently had a bit of accidental trespassing by a friend of a neighbour. Though we cleared it up in person when he returned the next day, we did take the opportunity to “touch up” the fence.

We are fortunate to have good neighbours on all sides, but/and we each take different approaches to managing our properties. Some allow hunting, others gather firewood. Good fences help make it possible to ensure no one is stepping on anyone else’s toes. It’s a topic for another day, but what looks like great firewood to one person might be a snag full of cavities and nests that we are deliberately preserving. So a little work on the fence to keep things clear when we’re not around.

Attaching a strand of wire to one of the new fenceposts

Sweet Sour Dough

Back at the house, bread making continues. I woke up the sourdough starter again to make myself a loaf.

She was a real beaut! And you can aaaaalmost see the design I tried to slice in before baking. Getting closer!

Ciabatta Buns

And for Neil, lover of a good sandwich/burger bun, my first go at ciabatta. We’re already nearly done our second batch. This recipe from Ahead of Thyme is a winner!

This bun was responsible for hands-down the best breakfast sandwich either of us has ever had. Local cheese, local bacon (from Haanover View Farms), local spinach, very local egg, and the last of that interloping avocado — stretched into a scrumptious aioli.

Granola Bars

Sticking with the adage of try-to-make before you buy, I baked up a fresh batch of granola bars to fuel our woods walks, or just an afternoon of programming. I was lucky enough to find this great recipe very soon after I started making granola bars a couple of years ago. I use this Ina Garten version, heavily modified based on whatever I happen to have in stock (I also skip the sugar, and go a little lighter on the honey — and they’re still delicious!)

(Half-)Scottish Teatime

A recipe I definitely did not skimp on sugar was this Apple Gingerbread from our “Scottish Teatime Recipes” book. A $5 used book score from Samson Books that has proven to be just delightful. It doesn’t look like much, but when the syrup is measured by the pound you know it is going to be sweet. I can’t handle more than a few small bites, but Neil is very pleased it is here.

So that’s a sample of our miscellany of makering so far this January. I have a sort of feeling our next chat here will be back to Snow Stories. It seems im-possum-ble that I could stay away from talking about the animals for long… Hint hint. 🙂

~ Kate