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Yes, I know… I haven’t been around here lately. But it’s only been a year! :)

No surprise really…face it, I’m a bad blogger! ;)

Part of the reason is that I’ve started a blog on jewelry design.

Please feel free to join me over at Gallery 13.

I’m currently taking a silversmithing class at the local art center. Here’s a bit of what I’m working on.

Black Onyx and White Agate

Carpe Diem!

-Lela

This is yet another little project that happened as a result of our families making gifts for Christmas. There are two dogs in the family – our male Shih Tzu, Chase, & our daughter’s female Bug (Pug/Boston Terrier mix), Bella.

I searched out recipes online and found a wide variety to choose from – and I find it quite comical that everyone says theirs is the best ever! Here’s the first one I tried:

Peanut Butter and Banana Dog Biscuits

(Chase wouldn’t even consider trying one of these, but Bella likes them!) 

Ingredients:

  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup mashed banana
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 cup wheat germ
  • 1 egg white, lightly beaten, for brushing tops

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F (150 degrees C). Lightly grease a baking sheet.

2 Stir together the egg, peanut butter, banana, and honey in a medium bowl; blend thoroughly. Stir in the flour and wheat germ; mix well. Turn dough onto a floured board and roll to 1/4 inch thick. Cut into desired shapes with a cookie cutter. ( I used gingerbread men, since it was for a Christmas gift.) :-) Place on a prepared baking sheet and brush tops with egg whites.

3. Bake biscuits in preheated oven until dried and golden brown –  about 30 minutes, depending on size. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.This recipe made approximately 2 dozen gingerbread men treats.

For gift giving, I placed the “gingerbread” men in a cellophane sack that had Christmas designs. Our dog, Chase, turned up his nose at them and wouldn’t even consider eating one. He’s a VERY picky eater. However, Bella likes them!

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Since Chase didn’t like the first attempt, I had to come up with a Custom Chase recipe. Purina Beggin’ Strips Bacon treats are Chase’s very favorite, so I found a recipe that I could use with bacon – and I altered it as follows:

Chase’s Second Favorite Doggie Treats

Ingredients:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 10 tablespoons melted bacon fat
  • 5 cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 pound bacon
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

Directions:

1. Fry bacon until very crisp.  Save the bacon fat.  I found that after frying 1 pound of bacon, I had exactly the 10 tablespoons of liquid fat needed for the recipe.

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a cookie sheet. (I used baking parchment paper instead.)

3. Beat eggs in a large bowl. Stir in milk, water, salt, and bacon fat until well blended. Gradually stir in flour to make a stiff dough. Crumble the bacon into very small pieces and add all to the mix. Add the shredded cheddar cheese and mix well. Roll out dough to approximately 1/4 inch thick. Cut with your dog’s favorite cookie cutter. I used a small one shaped like a bone. Place on a prepared cookie sheet.

4. Bake in preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on racks. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator.

5. This recipe made approximately 66 treats.

We keep Chase’s treats in the freezer & when he wants one, run it quickly under water, then place in the microwave for approximately 10 seconds. Chase, being the picky eater he is…turned his nose up at the treats. However, now he’s decided he can tolerate them in a treat emergency.

If you try these, I’d love to know how your dog responds.We’ll be taking some of these to Bella too, to see if she approves.

Bon Appétit to your Doggie!

“A well-trained dog will make no attempt to share your lunch. He will just make you feel so guilty that you cannot enjoy it.” -Helen Thomson

:-)

We live on a wooded ridge, and have numerous feeders & trays of seeds out for the birds. The seeds we offer include Black Oil Sunflower, Safflower, Nyjer/Niger (also incorrectly called Thistle seed), and this year we’ve added corn AND the seed cakes in the previous post. We originally added the Safflower because there were some reports that squirrels didn’t like them – These small white seeds are high in protein and fat but apparently have a bitter taste that blackbirds, starlings, grackles and squirrels generally don’t like.

This year we added the corn in shallow pans on the ground under pole feeders to see if it would deter the squirrels from going after the suet/seed cakes. In the beginning, the squirrels checked out the corn…but then went right back to the suet/seed cakes.

Now we seem to be ahead of the squirrel problem. We’ve placed all hanging suet/seed cakes on the same pole and put a baffle under the cakes. The squirrel cannot reach them. And just today, I saw one feasting on corn under the pole.  Score: People 1  –  Squirrels 0   :-)

Last year we added heaters to two of our many birdbaths. All of the birds & squirrels appreciate the open water when the temps slide below freezing. We found the heaters at a farm supply store. Ours look almost like this one. The unit simply lays on the bottom of the bird bath & keeps water available. It never gets too hot, as the thermostat simply keeps the water from freezing. You can see when it’s on, as you’ll see steam rising from the birdbath. We’re very glad we got them. They cost around $30.00.

The list of our January Yard birds is as follows:

  • Northern Cardinal
  • Carolina Wren
  • Blue Jay
  • Northern Mockingbird
  • American Robin
  • Northern Flicker
  • Dark-eyed Junco
  • American Goldfinch
  • House Finch
  • White-throated Sparrow
  • Harris’s Sparrow
  • Carolina Chickadee
  • Tufted Titmouse
  • Mourning Dove
  • Pine Siskin
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  • Golden-crowned Kinglet
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch
  • White-breasted Nuthatch
  • Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • Eastern Bluebird
  • Brown Creeper
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker
  • Hairy Woodpecker
  • Downy Woodpecker
  • Pileated Woodpecker
  • Yellow-bellied Sapsucker
  • Sharp-shinned Hawk
  • American Crow

I’ll be adding to this list as they appear or as we recall what we left off. ;-)

FYI: Yes, I know this post was supposed to be about homemade doggie biscuits, but I wanted to get the birds in there. Next up, Homemade Doggie Treats!

Because our family decided to exchange homemade gifts this year & because we are avid birders, I decided to try my hand at making bird seed cakes. It turned out to be a great success. The basics of this recipe are lard, peanut butter & cornmeal. Other ingredients may be added as you choose. (In addition, I also tried my hand at doggie treats. Stay tuned…that will be up next in this space.)

This is the recipe I used originally – as printed in Birds & Blooms Magazine.

Bird Cupcakes

1 Cup Shortening

2 Cups Chunky Peanut Butter

Melt these together for approximately 1 minute in the microwave.

Mix in 5 cups of Cornmeal.

Fill cupcake tins and top with your choice of nuts, birdseed or dried berries. Cool in the refrigerator. To give as a gift, arrange on a plate or stack and then wrap in cellophane. (I placed several in one of my homemade baskets & put cellophane over the whole thing.) Attach a recipe card so your recipient can make more. Add a bow & you have an instant gift!

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Our birds did not take to this right away. So when I made it the second time, I made these changes & now they’ve been arguing over it. ;-)

1 cup lard

2 cups chunky peanut butter

4 cups cornmeal

2/3 C. Sunflower Seeds

2/3 C. Thistle Seeds

Melt the lard and peanut butter. Add the cornmeal & stir to mix. Add the birdseed & mix well.

Fill cupcake pans that have liners. Cool cupcakes in refrigerator or freezer. If the mixture hardens in your microwave safe bowl, it may be reheated to soften. I have also put the mixture in plastic trays that were saved from purchased suet cakes. That works quite well also.  One of the reasons for using cupcakes is that you can easily sit them around in various places on your patio or in your yard.

And as you can see, the birds now really like them – they were especially popular during our last snow storm.  :-)

So something that started out to be about making homemade gifts for family turned into a good deed for our birds. I think we’ll branch out now and try some new and different recipes.  Here’s a list of things you can use from A Home for Wild Birds.

  • Raisins or Currants
  • Dates
  • Shelled peanuts
  • Apples
  • Oranges
  • Birdseed mix
  • Black oil sunflower seeds
  • Molds to shape your creations
  • String or yarn
  • Lard, shortening or rendered suet
  • Crunchy peanut butter
  • Molasses
  • Oatmeal
  • Stale bread, breadcrumbs or crackers
  • Cornmeal or cornbread mix
  • Cream of wheat
  • Graham crackers
  • Flour (whole wheat flour preferred)

Have fun! Your birds will thank you.  :-)

Napoleon gave a common bread its name when he demanded a loaf of dark rye bread for his horse during the Prussian campaign. “Pain pour Nicole,” he ordered, which meant “Bread for Nicole,” his horse. To Germanic ears, the request sounded like “pumpernickel,” which is the term we use today for this traditional loaf.

Hearty Dark Rye Bread/Pumpernickel Bread

I read somewhere that Pumpernickel Bread is bread for grownups. I think that might be right. You either love the taste or deplore it. I happen to love it. It’s rich and hearty and great for sandwiches or just with cheese and your favorite glass of vino.

I used a recipe from the Betty Crocker’s 40th Anniversary Edition cookbook. It’s the first time I’ve made Dark Rye/Pumpernickel bread and I do believe it turned out just dandy. If you’re a grownup, you might enjoy it as well. ;-)

Hearty Dark Rye Bread / Pumpernickel Bread

3 pkgs active dry yeast

1.5 cups warm water (105º to 115º)

2.5 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup shreds of wheat bran cereal

1/2 cup dark molasses

1/4 cup cocoa

1 tablespoon salt

1 tablespoon caraway seed

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

2-2.5 cups dark rye flour

Cornmeal

1/4 cup cold water

1/2 teaspoon cornstarch

 

Dissolve yeast in warm water in large bowl. Add all-purpose flour, cereal, molasses, cocoa, salt, caraway seed and oil. Beat on low speed until moistened. Beat on medium speed 3 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. stir in enough rye flour to make dough easy to handle. Turn onto lightly floured surface, cover & let rest 15 minutes. Knead about 10 minutes until smooth & elastic. Place in a greased bowl and turn greased side up. Cover and let rise in warm place about an hour or until double. Grease cookie sheet & sprinkle with cornmeal. Punch dough down and divide in half. Shape each half into round, slightly flattened loaf. Place loaves in opposite corners of cookie sheet. Cover and let rise in warm place 40-50 minutes or until double.

Heat oven to 375º. Bake 30 minutes. Meanwhile head cold water and cornstarch to boiling, stirring constantly. Brush over loaves. Bake 10-15 minutes longer or until loaves sound hollow when tapped. Cool on wire racks.

Makes 2 loaves (12 slices each); 120 calories per slice. Yum. ;-)

Here are a few fun statistics and facts relating to bread and wheat, the main staple used for making bread.They were borrowed from the Our Daily Bread site.
  • It takes 9 seconds for a combine to harvest enough wheat to make about 70 loaves of bread.
  • Each American consumes, on average, 53 pounds of bread per year.
  • Assuming a sandwich was eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, it would take 168 days to eat the amount of bread produced from one bushel of wheat. A family of four could live 10 years off the bread produced by one acre of wheat.
  • One bushel of wheat will produce 73 one-pound loaves of bread.
  • Breaking bread is a universal sign of peace.
  • Farmers receive approximately 5 cents (or less) from each loaf of bread sold.
  • Bread is probably the one food eaten by people of every race, culture and religion.
  • Murphy’s Law dictates that buttered bread will always land buttered-side down.

Bon Appétit!

“The hardness of the butter is proportional to the softness of the bread.”

-Steven Wright

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not an avid cook. I like to cook. And…I like to bake stuff. It’s just that I have a few other things that I like to do more. I’m sure there are those among you who understand this conundrum. However, I’ve recently decided that I want to bake bread. Lots of bread. All kinds of bread. Okay, that’s not quite true. I want to bake all kinds of yeast bread.  It’s my Mom’s fault. She’s been baking bread & we got to help eat it when we went to see her. I mean, seriously, who can resist homemade bread?

So now I have three new bread pans & have been sorting through all sorts of bread recipes. Along the way, I’m seeing recipes for all kinds of grain breads, french breads, bread sticks, pizza dough….you name it.

Today it was Honey Wheat Bread. Although the recipe I used was called “Simple Whole Wheat Bread.” I found it on www.allrecipes.com.  I chose it because it has 5 stars with 733 reviews. Seems like a winner, huh? But since it is made with honey, I changed its name. One thing I noticed was the the photo on that site shows the bread with something on the top…like oats? Or wheat germ? Or something. And there’s nothing in the recipe that mentions putting anything on top. The next time I make it, I’m going to put something up there…. I tried dusting two of my loaves with wheat flour, but they did little to add top texture.

Honey Wheat Bread

Ingredients:
 

  • 3 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast (If you’re measuring bulk yeast, that’s 4.5 Tsps.)
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 5 cups bread flour
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
Directions  

  1. In a large bowl, mix warm water, yeast, and 1/3 cup honey. Add 5 cups white bread flour, and stir to combine. Let set for 30 minutes, or until big and bubbly.
  2. Mix in 3 tablespoons melted butter, 1/3 cup honey, and salt. Stir in 2 cups whole wheat flour. Flour a flat surface and knead with whole wheat flour until not real sticky – just pulling away from the counter, but still sticky to touch. This may take an additional 2 to 4 cups of whole wheat flour. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to coat the surface of the dough. Cover with a dishtowel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled.
  3. Punch down, and divide into 3 loaves. Place in greased 9 x 5 inch loaf pans, and allow to rise until dough has topped the pans by one inch.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 25 to 30 minutes; do not overbake. Lightly brush the tops of loaves with 2 tablespoons melted butter or margarine when done to prevent crust from getting hard. Cool completely.

I know why this recipe had so many good reviews. I’ll be giving one myself. It’s delicious! I took one of the loaves to some neighbors. It will be great for toast and sandwiches. I’m also anxious to try it with all wheat flour. This is an easy recipe. Give it a try, but do follow the directions to the letter regarding water temperature, etc. Oh, and I used my Kitchenaid mixer with the bread hook to do the mixing – when the dough wanted to crawl out of the bowl, I turned it onto the floured board to finish kneading and prepare it for the bowl to rise.

One note: The bread is nestled in one of my recent baskets. It’s a Twin-Bottomed Egg Basket with a four point God’s Eye lashing.

And all photography was done with my beloved Nikon D300 & Nikkor 85mm 1.4D lens.

Bon Appétit!

I returned to Oklahoma Basket Supply yesterday and came home with a LOT of new supplies. I should insert here that I didn’t actually make sure that I had what I needed for any specific pattern. Ahem.

So today, I made my first Market Basket.

The market basket is quite a different animal than a rib basket. What with all that upsetting and clipping and sore fingers. However, I persevered and I’m quite pleased with the result. Now don’t get me wrong here…..there are definitely mistakes in it. I know there are. And I could easily point them out. But I won’t. That would just take all the fun out of it.

So I used a pattern….sort of.  As mentioned previously,  I didn’t have all the right sizes of reed, so I did what they do in football. I punted. I used what I had. Therein lies some of the reasons for the previously mentioned mistakes. But I digress. Because the thing I like about basket weaving is that it’s so easy to be creative and throw in your own curve balls here and there…just to keep things interesting. Besides, who wants to just copy someone else’s work?  It’s all about being creative. Right? Right. And punting too… it’s about punting.

So here we have it: My first Market Basket.

And here’s how it came about:

  1. Beautiful rolls of Natural and Smoked Reed
  2. After all the pieces are cut to size and soaked, the reeds are laid out.
  3. The weaving begins.
  4. Upsetting the reeds so weaving the sides can begin.
  5. The closeup of the handle is thrown in just because I liked the shallow depth of field on the shot. A piece of smoked reed was glued to the handle before the weaving was started.
  6. Smaller natural reed was used to form a pattern. (This varied a lot from the directions I had.)
  7. After the pattern was complete, more rows of smoked reed were added.
  8. Lashing was added to the top in forming the rim. It’s harder than it looks because it’s holding two strong pieces of thicker reed in place to form the top edge of the basket.

And there you have it. I’ll be happy to answer any questions….if I can.

Once again, I must add that the photos were taken with my Nikon D300 and the fantastic Nikkor 85mm 1.4D lens. It offers up the most amazing bokeh to any photo. I said it.

And if you’re looking for a portrait lens….it can’t be beat. You’ll find it gives you gorgeous, natural colors.