Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Dancing Scarecrow!

I have always enjoyed the idea of a scarecrow although I have never actually made one for my garden.  
Until now, I thought this addition to our yard was a good idea since it could {hopefully} also help protect our chickens from flying predators.  
We made this fun dancing lady last May; so its been in our yard for almost a year now.  So far we haven't lost any of our chickens in the yard {although we did loose 3 last summer when they wondered into the neighboring corn field and were found by something hiding and waiting for them}.

I thought about changing her clothes to fit the season but haven't actually gotten around to it so far.
Materials Needed:  
{These are the  materials we used; use what you have and get creative to make it your own.  We didn't go buy anything special; we used what we had.}
-4 ft long fence post {we used metal posts; but you could use wood or even a couple 2 x 4's}
-6 ft long fence post
-wire {we used aluminum} 
-3 large metal or plastic coffee cans
-string mop end, for hair
-1 or 2 large shirts
-long skirt, preferably with stretchy waist
-gloves or mittens
-clothes pins or baby pins for securing clothing

Optional items the kids added:

1. I had my husband weld the 2 metal fence posts together in the angle that I wanted the arms to be.
2. Have the strongest person in the family pound the post into the ground where you want the scarecrow to be.  {You could probably also make an "X" shaped stand on the bottom, to make the scarecrow mobile and just stake it to the ground where you want it.}
3. Poke a couple holes in the coffee cans and wire them to the support posts for the head and the hips of the scarecrow.
 4. Clothe and accessorize your lady!
I found that a very stretch t-shirt works well {you need to be able to stretch it over the "arms"}.  I also used a large button/snap collared shirt, which I knotted over the hips of the scarecrow.
5. Use the wire, clothes pins or baby pins to secure the gloves to the sleeves of the shirt; and to make the dancer holding the bottom edge of her skirt.
Above you can see that the glove was pulled off from the support; I ended up wrapping a small loop of wire around where the wrists are to secure them better.
And since it is so incredibly windy here in Iowa, I also ended up wiring the had to the "head"; after about a week of finding it blown somewhere in the yard.
Enjoy make it your own!  

I think I would be really cool to have more than one dancer in the yard.  Have fun!
Note:  The clothes do fade over time.  I will probably go to a yard sale or a thrift shop this summer to replace anything we don't have on hand.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Excellent Mexican Coleslaw

This is a fantastic Mexican coleslaw!  I've made it with all kinds of beef and pork tortilla wraps; it is great as a topping for these as well as a side dish.
Our local grocery had this Asian slaw blend of cabbage, kale, carrots, snap peas and broccoli.  I used this mix for this recipe, although you could use or make any slaw vegetable mix you like.
-1 bag slaw veggies  {or substitute a small head of cabbage, 2 carrots and 1 small onions, all shredded}
-about 1/4 cup shredded or chopped onion
1/4 cup sugar
-1/2 cup vinegar
-1/2 tsp mustard powder
-2 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp ground corriander
-1/2 tsp ground cumin
-1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
-1/2 tsp ground pepper
-1/2 cup olive oil, canola or other veggie oil
Optional Additions:
-3 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley
-2 tbsp chopped cilantro
1. In a small bowl combine sugar, vinegar, mustard powder, salt, corriander, cumin, cayenne, pepper, oil  and parsley and cilantro, if using.  Mix well.
2. Add onion to slaw mix.
3. Pour dressing over slaw.
4. Mix well and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, up to 1 day before serving.
Enjoy on its own or as a fantastic topping for tacos or other festive tortilla wraps.

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Soft Pretzel Buns

These are really great for any sandwich.  I found the original recipe at Recipes For My Boys.  

You could make these in the shape of burger buns, brat/hotdog buns or even breadsticks for with soup or a saucy pasta dish.  

I made the process even easier by of course making the dough in my breadmaker!  If you don't have a breadmaker you can follow the manual directions at Recipes For My Boys.  We enjoyed these with sloppy joes; delish!

-1 1/2 cups milk
-1/4 cup sugar
-4 to 4 1/2 cups flour {you could use half white and half wheat if you like}
-2 tbsp yeast
-1 1/2 tsp salt
-8 cups water
-1/2 cup baking soda
-coarse sea salt or other finishing salt
1. Warm milk either in the microwave or on the stove-top until it feels warm to touch, but not hot {between 110 and 115 degrees}.  Pour warmed milk into breadmaker pan.
2. Add sugar, salt and 4 cups flour.  Top with yeast.
3. Start breadmaker on the dough setting; checking periodically within the first 30 minutes and add more flour if the dough is sticking to the sides of the pan.  Allow cycle to run through.
4. Turn dough out onto a floured or oiled surface; shape into a rectangle and cut into 10-12 peices, depending on the size you'd like.
5. Shape each piece into the shape of bun you'd like.  {I did 10 burger buns.}
6. Place buns on a lined or greased baking sheet, cover with a clean kitchen towel or plastic wrap and allow to rise for about 30 minutes.
7. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
8. Bring 8 cups of water to a boil in a large pot.  {The larger, the better since the baking soda can make the water boil up even more.}
9. Carefully, add the baking soda and stir slightly to dissolve.
10. Place one or two buns in the boiling mixture; allow to boil for about 15 seconds.
11. Flip the bun and boil on this side for another 15 seconds.  Remove with a large slotted spoon.
12. Drain well and place back on the prepared baking sheet; sprinkle immediately with coarse salt  to ensure that the salt sticks.  
I used Maldon salt which is a finishing salt that is coarse and flaky.
13. Repeat with all other rolls.
 14. Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, until browned and hollow sounding when tapped.
 Halfway through baking...
 Finished buns...
 Cool for at least 10 minutes and enjoy!

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Ham & Potato Casserole

This is a super simple and incredibly hearty dish.  

I would compare it to my mom's awesome Cheesy Potatoes; but in the form of a main dish.  Its fantastic with a fresh side salad and fresh fruit!  Enjoy!

I found this original recipe from Taste of Home.
Ingredients for Casserole Base:
-32 oz. frozen cubed hash brown potatoes
-2 cups cubed or shredded cooked ham {I used leftover ham I'd frozen after a previous meal}
-16 oz. sour cream
-1 1/2 cups shredded cheese
-10 3/4 oz. condensed cream of chicken or cream of mushroom soup
-1/2 cup butter, melted
-1/3 cup green, white or yellow onion
-1 tsp salt
-1/2 tsp pepper

Ingredients for Topping:
-2 cups crushed cornflakes {I substituted crushed pita chips, for extra crunchy topping, you could use crackers too}
-1/4 cup melted butter

1. Combine all casserole base ingredients.
 Mix well.
2. Spread mixture evenly in a greased 9 x 13 inch baking dish.
3. Crush flakes or chips in a large bag with a rolling pin.
4. In a bowl {I used the same bowl} mix crushed flakes or chips with 1/4 cup melted butter.
5. Spread flake/chip mixture evenly over the surface of the casserole.
6. Bake, uncovered at 350 degrees for 1 hour; or cover and refrigerate until ready to bake, up to 1 day in advance.  

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Homemade Baguette

I'd never made a baguette before, this recipe was very simple with the use of my standing mixer.  And it was a big hit with my Crockpot Bacon Cheeseburger Chowder.

This recipe makes 2 loaves and was found from Sisters Cafe.
-1 1/2 cups warm water {about 110 degrees; I just use warm from the tap}
-1 1/2 tbsp or 2 pkg. yeast
-2 tsp sugar
-3 1/4 to 3 3/4 cups flour
-2 tsp salt
-melted butter  {or olive oil, will be less crisp and less salty; so you may want to add a sprinkle of salt after brushing with oil}

1. In mixer bowl gently mix water, yeast and sugar.  Allow to sit for about 5 minutes, until foamy.
2. Add salt and flour {start with 3 1/4 cups flour} to yeast mixture.  Mix with dough hook or by hand for about 5 minutes.
This is what mine looked like after 5 minutes, so I added the extra 1/2 cup of flour.
Then, I mixed with the dough hook an additional 4-5 minutes and got this beautifully smooth dough.
3. Remove dough from bowl onto a floured or oiled surface {I prefer oiled}.
4. Cut dough in half and form each half into a long flat rectangle-like shape.
5. Roll the dough from the long side, pinch seam to seal.
6. Place seam side down on a lightly greased baking sheet.  I love my Silpats!
7. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow to rise for about 30 minutes.
8. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  With a sharp knife {I used a serrated blade} gently make a cut down the length of each baguette, only about 1/4 to 1/2 inch deep.  
{The cut isn't necessary, but gives it an authentic look.}
*Optional: Pour water into a cookie sheet and place on the bottom rack of the oven.  {I forgot this part, thats why its optional, oops!}

9. Bake bread for 8 minutes.
10. Remove from oven and brush with melted butter.
11. Return to oven and bake another 8 minutes.
12. Remove from oven and brush with more melted butter.
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