We absolutely love living in Rhode Island. While the state is small, it offers incredible variety. The part of the state we live in, western Rhode Island, is filled with winding rural roads, lovely old houses, and kind, generous neighbors. While Rhode Island's great beaches often get a lot of attention, the wide open spaces and preserved land and scenery of western RI is (in our opinion) one of the most undervalued parts of this state. One of the greatest things about living in such a small state is that, from here, it's only a 25 minute ride into downtown Providence. In addition to being where I work while Aden work on the farm, Providence has a ton to offer. Being home to RISD, Brown and Johnson & Whales, there's great culture and inspiring food no matter where you turn.
One thing Providence has become famous for is its grilled pizza. The city was recently ranked second by Travel + Leisure for best pizza cities in the country. The origins of the grilled pizza are somewhat disputed, as is the best place in the city to get some. Al Forno's grilled pizza is famous, but Bob & Timmy's was the grilled pizza I was raised on. Also, I can't write about pizza without mentioning the new arrival, Providence Coal Fired Pizza, which has ruined more carb-free diets for me than I care to admit (and, full disclosure, my family owns it).
Grilled pizza is incredible. The high heat of the grill, mixed with generous oil on the dough, leaves the pizza crust slightly charred, crispy, and with an almost fried-dough like flavor. A few things are key when making a grilled pizza. First, you need to be prepared. Your dough can burn quickly if you aren't paying attention. Second, you need a large grill. Lastly, you need to keep your ingredients simple. A few fresh, tasty ingredients will need to be placed on the pizza quickly so that everything can heat fast enough before the crust starts to burn underneath. Above all, do not be intimidated by this. The dough recipe below will yield quite a few pizzas, so feel free to mess up a few times and just start over. Once you perfect the technique you'll be making these for the rest of your life, it's simply too irresistible not to!
Recipe: Grilled Pizza
- 2 C cold water
- 6 C bread flour
- 1 T active dry yeast
- 1 T salt
- 1 T sugar
- 1 T olive oil
- 1 28 oz can diced tomatoes
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 T olive oil
- 1 T sugar
- Chopped basil
- Sale & Pepper to taste
- Shredded mozzarella or fontina
- You will want to get started on your dough early, either the night before or early in the morning at the latest. In a mixing bowl, add the yeast, salt, olive oil and sugar to the cool water until the yeast re-hydrates and dissolves.
- Turn the mixer on and gradually add the flour, two cups at a time. You may need slightly less than all six cups, but the goal is to incorporate as much of the flour as possible while still having a working dough. A dough without enough flour will be very difficult to handle on the grill, but you still want something stiff and only slightly wet. If it gets too tough, add more water, and let the dough rest for a few minutes before continuing to mix.
- Allow the dough to rise, covered in your refrigerator. Placing it in large plastic grocery bags that have been doubled up (if you have clean ones) is generally most convenient.
- Make the pizza sauce by chopping the garlic and sauteing it in olive oil until the garlic just begins to brown. Add the tomatoes, chopped basil, salt, pepper and sugar, stir, and allow it to sit, covered, over low heat, for as long as possible (if you're in a rush you can cook it over high heat until the tomatoes start to break apart). We prefer a thick sauce, with chunks of diced tomato, but you can smooth it out if you'd like by mashing the tomatoes once they're cooked.
- Take the dough out about an hour before lighting your grill.
- When lighting the grill, you want it to get as hot as possible, but with the coals almost entirely to one side, so that you will have enough room to cook the pizza over both direct and indirect heat.
- Get all of your toppings ready, together with the sauce, and place them near the grill. Also, bring a generous amount of olive oil with an oil brush, and it keep it nearby. You will need something to flip the pizza (we use tongs), as well as something to push the pizza on to when its done (we use one of our cutting boards). Make sure all of this is ready beforehand!
- Divide the dough (the dough recipe will yield about six pizzas) by pulling off a small amount about the size of your fist. As you get better at making the pizzas you can move up to larger sizes, but practice with small pizzas first, keeping in mind the size of your grill.
- Roll the dough out to a thin, uniform consistency, using plenty of flour. It doesn't need to be round, and it should be thick enough for you to be able to quickly lift it without the dough tearing.
- You may find it helpful to keep the dough on a piece of parchment paper. Generous oil one side of the pizza dough.
- Place the oiled side of the dough down on the grill directly over the coals. If using parchment paper, you can slowly flip the dough onto the grill by using a cutting board and gradually sliding the dough forward. Then, once the pizza is completely on the grill, simply peel the parchment paper off the top of the dough.
- While the pizza is cooking, generously oil the top of the dough. It should cook quickly, in about a minute or so. You will see the entire crust start to bubble and will be able to lift it easily with your tongs. Move the dough around as needed to ensure that the entire area is cooked (though if your grill is large enough and the coals dispersed enough, you shouldn't have to move it at all).
- Using your tongs, check to ensure that you can lift the whole pizza off the grates by running them along the dough's edges. If it lifts, flip the dough onto the uncooked oiled side and allow it to cook for thirty seconds (if it doesn't flip, you didn't use enough oil). Once you've completed this flip, congratulations! the hardest part of making a grilled pizza is over.
- Do not revel in your cooking prowess for too long. Quickly move the crust off of direct heat and start adding your toppings. Your cheese will melt a lot faster by putting it down first. Add the sauce and anything else you may be using on top of that. Close the cover and allow it to cook over indirect heat for about 7 minutes. Using your tongs, rotate it frequently, so that every side of the crust gets to cook closest to the hot coals (but, again, not over them).
- Once everything is melted and bubbly, slide the pizza off the grill, slice it and enjoy!
Number of servings (yield): 4
blast when we were visited by a reporter from the Valley Breeze. Our incubators have been flipping chicken eggs for the last 2 months, and we will have our first hatch of Ameraucana chicks for sale this weekend. Its the best time of year to hatch since the weather is perfect and you don't need to worry about providing them with heat for months as they grow. This last weekend we did some routine maintenance to our honey bee hive, and in another week or 2 it will be time to add on the second brood box! I am amazed at how fast the colony is growing and look forward to expanding to between 5 - 10 hives this time next year. I wanted to take a chance to reach out to my readers. If you have any particular recipe that is your favorite, please share it with me. I would love the chance to experiment with it, and possibly prepare it for the blog. I have already received several recipes that I am extremely excited about that are on the list to be added.
The weather has been getting warmer and we've been busy here preparing for summer. It is absolutely our favorite time of the year as pleasant, long days lead into slightly cooler nights, allowing us to work almost non-stop at building our garden and home. It's amazing to reflect on how far we've come in such a short time here. A year ago the space that our garden is in now was barely tilled, we were still waiting for our compost to develop, and we hadn't had the time to start the majority of our plants from seed. In contrast, already this spring we have finished building the bulk of our raised beds, we've planted a ton of fruit trees and berries, and all the goats have started giving birth and producing milk.
We've been planning for summer in a lot of different ways, one of which includes putting away those rich, decadent desserts we shared all winter in exchange for lighter, more season-appropriate delicacies. There is perhaps nothing so timeless and delicious as fresh strawberries and cream. Ripe, flavorful strawberries will be coming into season soon, and the timing couldn't be better. These lovely days in the northeast are perfect for long brunches, and nothing tops off a great brunch quite like this amazingly light, simple, yet incredible strawberry dessert.
One of my favorite parts about this dish are the deliciously light buttermilk biscuits. These are great any time, and we bake them often as a stand alone recipe. Here, though, they're the perfect vessel for enjoying the strawberries and cream. Slightly sweetened with honey, and soft enough to soak up the juices from the strawberries, they almost melt in your mouth while providing a sumptuous contrast to the sweet strawberries and cream and still maintaining an airy texture throughout the whole dish. Of course the strawberries themselves need almost no modification, though cooking them down with a little sugar really highlights their ripe flavor. And, finally, the home made whipped cream provides a cool, light and rich pairing, bringing everything together wonderfully.
We really hope you enjoy these. They're very easy to make beforehand and assemble just before serving. Of course you can enjoy them year round, and even with frozen strawberries, but there's no real substitute to fresh, in-season strawberries.
Recipe: Strawberry Shortcake with Buttermilk Bisquits
- 1 lb. fresh strawberries
- 1/2 C sugar
- 2 C all-purpose flour
- 1 stick salted butter (cold)
- 3/4 C buttermilk
- 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
- 2 T baking powder
- 4 T honey
Whipped Cream Ingredients
- 1 C heavy cream
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1/2 C confectioners sugar
- Preheat over to 400 F.
- Combine flour, salt, and baking powder in a food processor with a blade.
- Chop cold butter into squares, and add to flour mixture.
- Mix in the food processor until butter is combined with flour mixture and it balls together. Refrigerate mixture for 20 minutes.
- Whisk buttermilk and honey until combined. Set aside.
- Slice strawberries unto 1/4 inch slivers. combine with sugar, mix, and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook down strawberry mixture until it thickens into a slightly runny syrup. Remove from heat.
- Remove biscuit dough from refrigerator and roll out into a rectangle. Fold it over onto itself, starting by bringing the left side over to the middle, then the right side over that as if you were folding a piece of paper to put into an envelope. Roll the dough out again, and repeat the folding 1 more time.
- Roll dough out to form a 1/2 inch rectangle. Use something cylindrical to cut circles in the dough. I like to use english muffin tins, but you could use a glass, or even a cookie cutter.
- Place dough rounds onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment, coat tops and sides with melted butter, and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
- Using a kitchen mixer with the whisk attachment, mix heavy cream, confectioners sugar, and vanilla until whipped cream is formed. Chill until ready to use.
- When strawberries and biscuits are cooled, get creative, have fun, and enjoy this delicious, melt-in-your-mouth dessert.
Number of servings (yield): 6
There is a perfectly valid reason why every spring I rapidly drop about 15 pounds. It's not just the hard work getting the garden ready for the season. I try to change my eating habits and spend more time eating home-grown, no carbohydrate meals. I am a firm believer that cutting carbs is a guaranteed way to lose weight.
While I don't necessarily give up baking my sweets, it's easy to limit the amount I choose to eat. Jon and I have been on a mission to avoid going food shopping so that we can consume all the frozen foods and canned goods left over from our harvest last year.
We aren't quite to the point yet where we can rely solely on our garden and the chickens we raised, but in another month we will have more vegetables growing than we can eat, and we are so excited about it! I was looking through the freezer an hour ago trying to find something to eat before I head out to work in the garden for a few hours.
I had a head of broccoli that was frozen and left over from the fall sitting right in front of me. I would have chosen to eat a fresh head, but we are a few weeks away from those being ready for picking.
Alas, this recipe came out delicious, and I wanted to share it here for others to enjoy. I use soy sauce in almost every stir fry dish that I prepare. It has no carbohydrates, and it goes well with almost all vegetables (and even some fruits). I added garlic for some extra zip, and tahini to bring the sauce together, replacing the need for cornstarch while giving it a nutty, earthy bite. It took 15 minutes to prepare, the majority of which were devoted to heating up the wok and pressing the garlic. We choose to press garlic as it brings out more of the flavor. Garlic presses are inexpensive and very handy.
Recipe: Garlic Broccoli Tahini Stir Fry
- 1 head fresh broccoli (blanched for 30 seconds, or 1 bag frozen)
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 T olive oil
- 2 T soy sauce
- 1 T tahini
- Heat up wok, or pan until searing hot.
- Prepare garlic if mincing, or place into press.
- Add olive oil to and allow to heat for 30 seconds.
- Add garlic, and simmer for 15 seconds.
- Add broccoli and stir to coat with oil and garlic.
- Add soy sauce and stir to coat.
- Add tahini to thicken into a sauce.
- Stir until ingredients are combined, and cover for 5 - 7 minutes until broccoli is cooked through. Add more soy sauce as needed depending on the amount of broccoli used.
- Salt (lightly), and pepper to taste.
Number of servings (yield): 1
I have struggled with a lifelong fear of bees since I was a kid. It was passed down to me by my mother who is even more afraid that I am. I remember when I was young she would run inside screaming every time a bee flew by, and I guess it rubbed off on me.
Most everyone who knows me thinks I am nuts for letting Jon talk me into starting this colony of bees, but I truly think it will help me get over my fear. We have talked about starting a hive since we met, and we happened to find the perfect spot for it right out in part of our woods.
We were lucky enough to score an amazing deal on eBay. The downside was that I had to assemble the hive myself, but 4 hours on a rainy day was perfect for the project. Do not buy used hives. It can spread diseases from prior colonies to your new one and wipe them out quickly. We are picking up our bees this weekend or next.
Jon is going to do most of the work until I am comfortable enough knowing that I will get stung and not being afraid of it. The only time these bees will sting people is when the hive is being opened, when you step on them, or when you are aggressive towards them. They are very passive, and we are so excited.
As an aside, the garden is coming along! We are doing raised beds this year to try and cut down on the weeds. We also planted 15 fruit trees on the perimeter of the garden, and hopefully in a few years we will be overloaded with our own organic fruit.
What better than a beehive to pollinate fruit and vegetable plants? As you can see from the photo, we chose to do a stain on our hive instead of painting it. We thought it looked a lot nicer than the traditional painted hives, and a few coats of polyurethane will protect it the same as an exterior paint. I hope the queen and her colony enjoy their new home as much as we do!
Spring is in full bloom, and everyone at the farm has been enjoying it. The trees are finally starting to get buds, crocuses and daffodils are starting to perk through the soil, our bees are going to be waking up, and all that snow in hidden away corners is disappearing. It's a great time of year, and everybody seems to be in a better mood because of it.
After a long winter of getting by on our preserves and frozen vegetables, we can finally start looking forward to fresh, home-grown foods again. In addition to starting our seeds, we had an excellent month for maple syrup. While we have mostly red maples on our property, which don't give as much sap as a sugar maples, I'd swear there's a distinct taste to the red maple that makes it just a little bit more delicious. More on that soon, as we try to find delicious ways to incorporate it into our meals.
A few tips when making these. Be sure to butter the jars well. the raisins and nuts tend to stick to whatever you're baking these in.
You only want to fill the jars a little higher than half way. The batter rises during baking, and you wouldn't want to leave out room for the icing!
Fresh out of the oven!
Why not garnish with a little shredded carrot, or perhaps some delicious pineapple chunks?
The first bite is always the best!
Also, don't worry about running out of frosting. The cream cheese frosting is everybody's favorite part, and there's plenty of it in this recipe. It really brings everything together, and by adding a dollop on top of the cupcake in the jar you're able to ensure that you get just the right amount with every bite! These jars are guaranteed to thrill your friends, family, and co-workers. They also freeze remarkably well. I hope you love this as much as we do. Enjoy.
Recipe: Pineapple Carrot Cake Cupcakes in a Jar
Ingredients for batter
- 2 cups sugar
- 1 1/2 cups butter, melted
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 3 eggs, room temperature
- 2 1/4 cups flour
- 2.5 tsp. cinnamon
- 1 tsp. nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp. allspice
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1 cup raisins
- 1 cup walnuts, chopped
- 1, 8oz can pineapple cubes, drained
- 3 cups grated carrots, packed into cup
Ingredients for icing
- 2, 8oz packages of cream cheese, room temp.
- 2 sticks butter, room temp.
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 4 cups powdered sugar
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
- In your mixer, combine sugar, butter, and vanilla and beat until smooth. Slowly add eggs until combined. Turn off mixer.
- In a bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, and salt. Add half of the flour mixture to the batter in your mixer. Turn on mixer and mix until combined.
- With the other half of the flour mixture, add carrots, raisins, walnuts, and pineapple, and mix until flour is coating it all. Add the remainder to the mixer, and mix on low until thoroughly combined. Set aside.
- Butter insides of mason jars using a paper towel, with butter on it to cover the sides and bottom. You may need up to 20 mason jars depending on the size jars you use. (You may also use cupcake, or muffin tins for this recipe. Simply fill the tins 3/4 and be sure to butter them to prevent sticking).
- Place jars onto a sheet pan, and cook at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes, then reduce temperature to 350, and bake for another 35 minutes or longer until a knife comes out of the center clean.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool.
- In your mixer, combine cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, and vanilla extract and beat on high with a paddle attachment until smooth and combined.
- When the cupcakes are cool, spoon the frosting onto the top, and fill just enough that you will be able to put lids on the jars and close them without it overflowing.
- Serve fresh, refrigerate, or freeze.
- Do not forget to share, it's imperative!
Number of servings (yield): 12
When I was growing up we used to visit a farm in New Hampshire that was owned by friends of our family. It sat high on top of a beautiful mountain and was sprawled with hundreds of acres and rolling fields for the cows to graze.
Hidden away in the woods at the base of the mountain was a small sugar house where thousands of feet of plastic tubing carried fresh sap in from the maple trees that grew down the slope of the mountain.
It was then that I learned about making maple syrup, and although I do not have hundreds of trees tapped, I make enough syrup every year to supply our family and friends. Most people are amazed to learn that it takes over 30 gallons of sap to boil down 1 gallon of maple syrup.
The effort is very well worth it because you can't buy syrup this good in the supermarket. We were fortunate enough to have hundreds of Red Maple trees on the farm when we bought it. The majority of the trees are still another 5 years or so away from being able to safely tap them without damaging the tree, so for now we harvest as much sap as we can from the trees that surround our stream and house.
I started early this year due to the fact that the temperature during the day is above freezing, while dropping below freezing at night. The key to tapping maple trees is to pay attention to the weather. The season is usually very short, so it's best to harvest as much as you can before the nights stop freezing.
For as little as $20, anyone will access to some maple trees can take up the hobby. There are many ways to create your own taps, but due to time constraints we decided to purchase taps that we can reuse every year. We also use 5 gallon buckets with lids that have holes wide enough in the top to let the sap flow in without collecting rain and bugs. Last year we paid the price because the ants and flies got at the buckets before we could harvest the majority of it.
The taps we bought are 5/16 inch in diameter, so we used a drill bit the same size so that the tap would fit right inside without having to hammer it in. You can use larger taps but we don't want to damage our trees. We connect plastic tubing from the tap and insert it into the tops of the buckets. It usually only takes a few days to fill up a 5 gallon bucket.
Since we heat our home with wood, we usually boil down the sap in a stainless steel pan on top of our wood stove. You don't want to use anything aluminium otherwise it can carry a metallic taste into the maple syrup. For this blog post I decided to move it over to the stove top since most people won't be using a wood stove.
After collecting the sap you will want to filter it to get any pieces of wood or bark out of it and bring it to a heavy boil. It will most likely take you many hours if not all day to boil 5 gallons of sap down to where it's ready to start watching the thermometer. During the boiling process you will want to spoon off any scum that floats to the surface.
The dangerous part about making maple syrup is that when it reaches a certain point in boiling where most of the water is gone, the bubbles will become really small and it will start to raise up in your pan. If you aren't there to watch it then it will likely boil over the top of your pan and stick to your stove. A key to avoiding this is by putting a very small dash of butter into the boiling sap to keep it from boiling over.
You will want to use a candy thermometer to monitor the temperature. If you boil it too much it will burn and you won't be able to use it. I use a thermometer with a built in alarm and I keep the probe and cord in the sap during the entire boiling process. I set the alarm to 216 degrees F. The syrup is done boiling when it reaches 218 F so keep a close eye on it.
While the syrup is still hot you will want to filter it one more time. I like to use cheesecloth. We store ours in jars with lids inside the refrigerator and it keeps for a very long time. It's a very fun hobby, and it just tastes delicious. We are hoping to make enough this year to give some away but we will probably eat it all before we have the chance!
It's that time again! With the Spring fast approaching we have expanded our herd of goats with these wonderful kids. We have learned so much over the last several years and keeping goats has proven to be extremely rewarding. We found a great dairy farm in Connecticut and last weekend we were able to purchase 4 girls and a little buck that we will use for breeding in the Fall. The little girl in the photo below is a sable, so naturally we named her Mable the Sable. Our little Saanen goats are named Donald and Donna Dasher. Two of the beautiful girls have yet to be named, but it's only a matter of time until something suiting comes to mind.
We got some really good news this past Tuesday about the pregnancy tests we sent in for last year's doelings. They are indeed 90 days pregnant and should kid sometime in May. We are looking forward to the fresh milk and cheese! With the addition of these goats our work on thinning the land has become much easier. Goats eat everything from poison ivy to stinging nettle; keeping our mowing work to a minimum. Last year I quickly discovered that kissing our goats on the face is bad idea, and I certainly paid the price for it when I got covered in poison ivy.
As you can see in the above photo, feeding kid goats has gotten quite a bit easier for us. We were able to rig up the bucket with tubing so that anytime they need milk during the next 7 weeks it will be ready and available for them. They are already nibbling on hay. I found bottle feeding to be fun and it gave me a special attachment with last years kids but I feel that it's better for the goats to be certain that they will be healthy and grow adequately.
We are giving them whole cows milk which can be a bit expensive but we found it priced very reasonably at our local Aldi. Along with our new goat kids, we are preparing for our honey bee hives and also getting deep into maple tree tapping. Stay tuned for my next post about how to make maple syrup and enjoy the photo below of Mable meeting chickens for the first time. :)
Living on our farm has afforded us so many ideas for recycling and saving money. We have had our fair share of power outages from severe wind storms, the worst leaving us without power for 3 days.
There are no street lights here in Foster, RI so when we do lose power it feels like we are in the stone age. Bacon is a staple in my daily routine. I could eat it for breakfast, lunch or dinner! Everyone knows that it is bad to dump oil and fat down kitchen sinks, but most people do it anyway unless they are on a septic system like us.
Not only do we recycle used glass jars from jams and sauces, we save any and all oil and fat and use it for light. I started by saving all the melted fat left over from cooking bacon in a large glass jar, and I used it as a replacement for oil or butter when needing to grease a pan. The fat started to fill the jar very quickly, and I wasn't using as much as I needed. I noticed that the bacon fat stayed solid unless it was exposed to sun or extreme heat, so I bought candle wick to try burning it for fuel.
Everybody thinks that burning bacon fat candles will cause their homes to smell like cooking bacon. Although I would love to smell bacon in my house all day, I learned quickly that burning these candles doesn't put off much of a smell at all. I had also noticed that they burn slower than when I burn wax candles, provided that the wick stays trimmed as to about 1/4 an inch from the top of the fat.
When we were slammed by Hurricane Sandy last year we weren't prepared and got stuck with no light and had no candles on hand. One of our neighbors supplied us with a kerosene lamp and some candles, so we made it through, but we have since taken strict measures to help us be prepared for when we lose power again. These candles are easy to make.
All you need is some cheap candle wick, which you can get on Amazon, some bacon fat, and some empty glass jars to store it. In the event of an emergency, you may also use Crisco for making candles. When you accumulate enough fat to make a candle, melt it in a pan. Place the wick into an empty glass jar and pour in the melted fat. Allow it to harden in a cool, dark place such as a basement or refrigerator.
One thing you do need to worry about with storing these candles is pests. We made the mistake of blowing out one of these candles in our barn and leaving in on a table at night. While our cats aren't pests, they were nice and full from the bacon fat when we found the empty jar in the morning! Make sure you use jars with lids. Keep the lids on securely and store the candles in the basement or cupboard until you need them. Wash the outsides of the jars thoroughly before storing them to keep away the mice.