Sourdough Bread

img_0111Sourdough is easy to make, it just requires some preparation time and a sourdough starter (which you can find out how to make here). I have mentioned sourdough before in my post A Pretzel Attempt.

Our friends (whose blog can be found here) who got us started with sourdough, gave us a recipe that works well. I have changed a few things around, so here is how I do it:

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I start by putting 4 cups water, 2 cups sourdough starter, and 8 cups whole wheat flour in a large bowl, which I then place at room temperature (or by the fireplace) for about 4 hours. This part of the process is called the “sponge.”

DCIM100GOPROG0047884.img_0088After that, in an even larger bowl, I mixed the sponge, 5 cups water, about 16 cups flour – I like to play around with different combinations of white and whole wheat flour; the more whole wheat, the healthier, the more white, the fluffier – and a couple tbsp of salt. Once this is kneaded together, I mix in either some molasses, cinnamon and raisins, or whatever I want to have the bread taste like.

DCIM100GOPROG0057970.I divide it into loaves, put them in buttered bread dishes, and let them rise overnight. The dough also works well for buns. In the morning I baked the loaves at 400° f for about 45 minutes.  Sometimes it will take longer or shorter depending on the size of the loaves.

img_0110The instructions I above will yield six regular sized loaves, so be prepared for large quantities.

Brownie Birthday Cake

img_0124I made my own birthday cake this year. I doubled this brownie recipe, and added some shredded coconut to spice it up a little. I baked it in two square pans. I then doubled this recipe for healthy chocolate avocado icing. Both of these recipes are sugar free and gluten free.

I made a cake platform out of cardboard and aluminum foil, and once the brownies finished baking I put the first one down as the first layer. I then spread some of the icing on it, and lay the second brownie on top as the top layer. I used the rest of the icing to cover up the sides and top of the cake. The result was this nice simple chocolate cake.

A Pretzel Attempt

img_0004While some friends were visiting from Thunder Bay, they gave us some of their sourdough starter and showed us how to use it. Sourdough starter is a bacterial culture (like a ginger bug) and is used to make healthy fermented bread products. You can look up all sorts of recipes on what to do with it, and you can also look up how to start one. Our starter is made from Rye flour, and I feed it a cup of Rye, and a cup of water every week to keep it going. There are other types of starters too.

Originally my sister was in charge of feeding the starter, but she moved on to some other things and passed it on to me. My first idea was to make pretzels. I found a recipe online, and prepared the dough. After following the instructions right up until I had to shape them into pretzels, I started to find that the dough was very sticky (apparently the rye starter is what made it sticky) and when I would try to make it into a shape, it just sort of morphed back into one big blob.

I was getting slightly annoyed because it wasn’t working very well, but my Mom encouraged me to try something else with the dough instead of the classic pretzel shape. So, I just cut of little lumps of dough and made bite sized pretzel nuggets, which actually turned out really well. They didn’t look very appetizing, but they tasted great.  Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures of them to post here.

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This is the pot I boiled the pretzels in.

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I made about half the dough into those, and with the other half made a couple of loaves of bread (I added a bit of maple syrup and cinnamon to make it a cinnamon loaf) which were fluffy and tasty.

img_0005It’s fun to try new stuff, even though it doesn’t always work out.  When something goes wrong, it can be easier just to give up, but when we try to improvise and make something good out of a bad situation, we can often end up with something really good, even if it wasn’t what we were expecting.

Coconut Bird Feeder

img_0103One day my Mom asked me to crack open a coconut she had gotten. I first drilled holes to pour the coconut water out, then used my hatchet to chop off the top. I scrapped all the fruit out of the the shell, then had the idea to make it into a bird feeder.

I drilled more holes in it about an inch apart, and then put a string through the bottom (similar to the way I did the Oriole Feeder) with a couple twigs attached. I filled the coconut up with suet, and hung it with our other bird feeders.

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img_0106Not long afterwards birds started showing up and eating the suet through the holes while perching on the twigs tied below.

I realized later that this would be a good feeder especially for when it is warm and you have melty suet – like mine is sometimes 🙂 – because the suet will melt down into the holes. I also recommend not including any seeds or bugs or anything bulky in the suet you use for this feeder, because it could clog up the holes.

This is a great way to make use of your coconut shells after you have eaten the fruit inside.

Moose Hide

IMG_0041.JPGI went to visit some friends who live in an area where a lot of Mennonite families live. While there, some of us went for a bike/unicycle ride. We stopped at the neighbours, who have a meat and animal processing shop, where hunters can bring deer or other animals to be made into summer sausage, hamburger, or – best of all – pepperettes!

DCIM100GOPROGOPR7451.When we walked in the door we saw a moose!

Later we came back to watch them skin it. They threw the legs (from the knee down) on the floor, and when I asked what they did with them, they said they throw them out because there’s not really much meat to salvage off them. I asked if I could have them and they said sure. One of my friends (whose name is Elijah) took two legs, and I took the other two. My other friend (whose name is Scout) asked if he could have the whole hide (which they where also going to get rid of because it was not in great condition) but his mom only let him have a couple pieces.

Back at my friends’ house I skinned the two legs and put the skins in a plastic bag to take home. When I went home I looked up how to tan hides and found this video which was very helpful. I then worked on tanning them. Once I finished I called my friends to ask how their moose hides had gone. Elijah, who had gotten the other two legs had only ended up skinning one of them but the one he had skinned worked out fine. My friend Scout (who had gotten a large piece of the hide) left his Moose hide out in the sun, and sadly a sudden ice storm swept through and ruined it.

Fortunately the tanning of my Moose skins went well, and I look forward to trying to make something out of them.IMG_0038.JPG

Suet

a54dfe19-6b07-41d0-9502-f7369b4f78ca_zpsudjli1ckSuet is a great thing to have on your backyard bird feeder, and may attract other birds like woodpeckers that might not come for normal birdseed.  Suet is also really good for birds (especially during winter) because it contains necessary fat and protein that help keep them warm.075be846-92a4-420b-af1b-35eb77f18303_zps4mfzgpxu

You can buy bird feeders with a cage for suet at your local hardware or farm store.  For suet itself, you can buy it, or you can make it yourself, which is more fun.  Here’s how I made mine:

I scraped bacon grease (lard is also good) out of a pan and added about half that amount of peanut butter (any kind is good, crunchy or smooth).  I then added enough birdseed to make it pretty thick.

I then spread it about an inch or two thick in a plastic container with saran wrap and placed in the freezer.  2c5de620-1442-4c2a-b7d6-e751cac8cf32_zps7vr2lsgoOnce frozen, I chopped into chunks that would fit in my bird feeder.d26b409f-b322-4f71-a344-ee7a081a991c_zpsluluv5ti

I put a couple pieces out on the feeder and put the rest back in the freezer for later.

I found that my suet seemed to melt when in warm weather so I only put it out when it gets cold.  I did find this website with a recipe for “no-melt suet,” which I tried, but the suet has a different texture than what I usually make.  Feel free to experiment around.  There is definitely no right-or-wrong way to do it.

It’s fun to see what different kinds of birds will show up for different types of food.  Now it’s time to sit back with your binoculars and watch!

Rootbeer

DSCN1032.JPGKnowing how to make rootbeer from stuff you can find in your backyard is a great skill for anyone, and is something you can pass on to others once you know how.  It’s also a great way to make a healthy alternative to sugar filled store-bought pop, plus you can have the satisfaction of knowing you made it yourself.

I didn’t know how to make rootbeer until a friend from Thunder Bay showed me.  Depending on where you live you can put all sorts of different things in.  Here’s how my friend and I made it:

We started by foraging for Burdock and Dandelion roots.  When we had a little pail full of roots, we then went to a Cherry Tree and got a handful of bark.  We also picked several stalks of fresh Mint (on later batches I have used dried mint, but probably either dried or fresh is fine) and a few bunches of Fennel seeds.  After that we scrubbed the roots clean and pealed the skin off the Burdock.  We diced all the roots up as well as a hunk of ginger which we chopped into fine pieces.

We filled our biggest pot about halfway and set it to boil.  Once it was boiling we dumped everything in as well as about ¼ cup Molasses, and a few teaspoons of cinnamon, coriander, turmeric, and ground cloves.  We let this simmer for a while, maybe 5 or 6 hours.  The longer you leave it the stronger it’ll get.

Once it had cooled we strained out the roots, leaves and bark, and added several tablespoons of Ginger Bug, about ½ cup Honey, a dash of Vanilla extract, and maybe 10 drops of pure wintergreen essential oil (depending how strong your brand of oil is).  We left that to sit at room temperature (in a non-metal bowl with a towel over top – a metal bowl may effect the taste) for about 24 hours, and then poured it through a strainer (to take out the ginger bug) into airtight plastic bottles, where we left it for another 24 hours at room temperature.  After that it was ready to drink and we stored it in the fridge.

Homemade rootbeer does not contain alcohol, but it might if you leave it for a longer time.  It also gets very bubbly so I recommend opening it over the sink or outside.

I have made rootbeer with other plants and roots while visiting friends, and you can experiment around with the edible food in your area if you want.  It would also be a good idea to look up what are some plants that grow in your area that would go well in rootbeer.  Have lots of fun trying different stuff out!