Blueberry Breakfast Cake

blueberry breakfast cake (640x424)The blueberries are abundant this time of the year and picking is plentiful at the local orchard. Here is a simple blueberry cake that is good for breakfast or as a snack.

Blueberry Breakfast Cake

2 cups fresh blueberries

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature

¾ cup + 2 tablespoons sugar

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ cup buttermilk

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch square baking dish with butter.
  2. In a small bowl, toss the blueberries with ¼ cup of flour; set aside. Whisk together the remaining flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.
  3. In the bowl of an electric mixer cream the butter and ¾ cup plus one tablespoon of the sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined.
  4. Add the flour mixture to the batter a little at a time, alternating with the buttermilk. Fold in the blueberries.
  5. Spread batter into greased baking dish and sprinkle batter with remaining tablespoon of sugar. Bake for 35-45 minutes, or until top is slightly golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before serving.

 

Summer Scene

gold finch (640x392) (2)I am enjoying our summer flowers and birds today. I love the summer plumage of the goldfinch and the scene as he stops by to eat some seeds from the cone flowers. (The silver/gray in the back of the photo is Dichondra (silver falls) from a hanging basket in a tree — Dichondra makes a great “spiller” for a hanging basket).

Whole Wheat Flax Seed No-Knead Bread

WW Flax No Knead resizedAnother variation of the wonderful no-knead bread. This version uses ground flax seeds and whole wheat flour to create a denser bread with a chewy crust. This recipe also uses the “quicker” version of making no-knead bread which uses warm water and more yeast to create the sponge.

Whole Wheat Flax Seed No-Knead Bread

1 ⅓ cups warm water

2 ¼ teaspoons granulated yeast

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup ground flax seeds (I used a blender to grind flax seeds)

1. Add warm water to a large bowl. Stir in yeast and let set for 4-5 minutes till mixture begins to bubble a bit and get foamy. Add remaining ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon. Stir vigorously until all flour is mixed and a shaggy dough forms. If the dough is too stiff, add a little more water.
2. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and allow to rest at room temperature for an hour.
As the dough is rising preheat oven to 450 degrees. Please cast iron pot and lid in oven to heat (I use the Lodge Combo for my no-knead bread).
3. After rising for an hour, pour dough on a large piece of parchment paper which has been sprinkled with flour. With well-floured hands form dough into a round ball. (The dough can be difficult to handle). Lightly sprinkle the dough ball with flour. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 60 minutes.
4. Remove cast iron pot from oven. Pick up ball of dough by the edges of the parchment paper and place in the hot pot. Sprinkle with more flax seeds if desired. Slash top of dough with a sharp knife. Using scissors, quickly cut the extra parchment paper and place lid on pot.
5. Return covered pot to hot oven (Be careful – the cast iron pot is heavy and very hot!).
6. Cook at 450 degrees with lid on pot for 30 minutes. Remove lid from pot and cook another 15 minutes until brown and crusty.
7. Remove from oven and remove cooked bread from the hot pot. Cool and enjoy wonderful crusty bread!

Quick Apple Molasses No-Knead Bread

molasses apple 2 (640x424)Here is another variation on the no-knead method of bread baking. This uses the “quicker” method when you do not have 12-18 hours for the sponge to sit. The apples and molasses make a dark bread which is good for a breakfast bread or to use as a snack.

Quick Apple Molasses No-Knead Bread

1 1/3 cups warm water

2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast

3 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup steel cut oats, toasted
1  teaspoon salt
1 apple, diced
1/3 cup molasses

Directions

1. Add warm water to a large bowl. Stir in yeast and sugar and let sit for 4-5 minutes till mixture begins to bubble a bit and get foamy. Add remaining ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon. Stir vigorously until the flour and other ingredients are mixed and a shaggy dough forms.
2. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and allow to rest at room temperature for an hour (It is okay if it sits longer than an hour). As the dough is rising preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place cast iron pot and lid in oven to heat (I use the Lodge Combo for my no-knead bread).
3. After rising for an hour, pour dough on a large piece of parchment paper which has been sprinkled with flour. With well-floured hands form dough into a round ball. (The dough can be difficult to handle). Gently add more flour if needed to form into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 30 minutes.
4. Remove cast iron pot from oven. Pick up ball of dough by the edges of the parchment paper and place in the hot pot. Using scissors, quickly cut the extra parchment paper and place lid on pot.
5. Return covered pot to hot oven (Be careful – the cast iron pot is heavy and very hot!).
6. Cook at 450 degrees with lid on pot for 30 minutes. Remove lid from pot and cook another 10-15 minutes until brown and crusty.
7. Remove from oven and slide the cooked bread from the hot pot. Cool and enjoy wonderful crusty bread!

molasses apple sliced (640x424)

apple molasses (640x403)

Message of Hope

Do you get depressed by the current news from the Middle East? Take a moment of list to these words of hope and song from a 10 year old Iraqi girl living in a refugee camp. Her maturity and love is amazing. Make sure you also listen to her wonderful song.

10 Grain Honey Wheat Bread

10 grain bread (640x424)I love the smell of break baking and it is a great activity for a cold, snowy day. This recipe is unusual in that after the bread rises, you knead in honey. I changed to original to cook the bread in a hot cast-iron pot rather than regular bread pan and it worked great. Give it a try if you enjoy bread making too!
10 grain sliced (640x424)
10 Grain Honey Wheat Bread

½ cup 10 grain cereal (I used Bob’s Red Mill 10 Grain Hot Cereal)

½ cup warm water water

½ teaspoon yeast

1 cup whole wheat flour

1½ cup all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons sugar

½ teaspoon salt

2 eggs

¼ cup vegetable oil

½ cup honey

1/4 cup oats, approximately

  1. In a small bowl, let the cereal soak in about ½ cup cool water for 30 minutes. In another bowl, dissolve yeast in ½ cup warm water and let it sit until it starts to foam (about 10-15 minutes.)
  2. In a large mixing bowl, put flour, sugar, and salt and mix well. Using a wooden spoon, make a small well in the center of this mixture. Add the yeast, eggs, oil, and cereal to the well, and stir together until it starts to form into a bowl and becomes too difficult to mix with wooden spoon. If using stand mixer, add dough hook and knead 8 minutes. Remove from bowl and place on floured surface and knead by hand for another 10 minutes. Add small amounts of flour as needed until no longer sticky.
  3. Put a tablespoon of oil in a bowl and rub it around the entire bowl. Place the dough ball into the bowl, and flip a few times to coat in oil. Cover and let rise about 45 minutes in a warm place, or until doubled in size. (My house was not very warm and I doubled rising time).
  4. Once dough has doubled, punch the dough down and place on kneading surface again. Pour ½ cup of honey on top. The dough will be very sticky, but knead it for about five minutes, until the honey has been incorporated and it is in a nice, round ball again.
  5. Place ball on a large piece of parchment paper which has been lightly floured. Cover and let rise until doubled for about 45 minutes (or longer). While the dough is rising, preheat oven to 450 degrees and place a cast iron pot and lid in oven to heat.
  6. Once dough has doubled in size, spray lightly with water, and sprinkle with oats. Remove hot pot from oven and sit on heat-proof surface. Pick up the ball of dough by the edges of the parchment paper and place in hot pot. Quickly cut excess parchment paper and place hot lid on pot. Return to oven.
  7. With the lid on the pot, bake at 450 degrees for 30 minutes Remove the lid and continue to bake for another 10 minutes or until nicely browned.
  8. Remove from oven slide the hot bread from the pots and allow to cool. Enjoy!

10 grain honey wheat bread (640x403)

A Word from the Psalms

Psalm 67 (640x468)Hope you and your family are having a blessed day.

Watching Eagles

eagle on nest (640x368)Have you seen the bald eagle camera at Codorus State Park in Pennsylvania? It is fun to watch the eagles whether you are an adult or to share with children. Right now the nest is covered with snow and it is well  below freezing but the eagles are still on the eggs. You can see the mate bringing in food and changing off with the nesting duties. Warning – watching the eagles can get very addictive. Take a look!

Click on link  below for the live camera

http://hdontap.com/index.php/video/stream/bald-eagle-live-camhttp://

Click on link below to see them breaking free from a mound of snow.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vv6zuw9cKRM

Check back around March 21 to see if the two eggs have hatched.

Image courtesy of Pennsylvania Game Commission

Snowy Day

four birds (640x424)Here are some photographs from our snowfall yesterday. The photo above includes a white throat sparrow, dark eyed junco, goldfinch and female cardinal – four different birds all sitting on same branch in the snow. While the temperature is in the single digits today, hopefully warmer weather and spring will be here soon.

snow falling (640x424)Snow fell hard all day and we ended up with around 12 inches.

cardinal and gf 2 (640x424)The male cardinal and goldfinch in the snow.

snow 2 (640x424)

sunrise snow (640x424)Lots of snow yesterday but the sun is shining today

morning light (640x424)Have a Happy Friday!

Pork Roast and Apples

pork and apples resizedBoneless pork roasts make a wonderful dinner anytime of the year. Use your favorite marinade to to add extra flavor to the roast. Here is one of my favorite marinades or you can mix a combination of soy sauce, sesame oil, chopped garlic, onion and a little sugar. This recipe includes sliced apples for a great pork and apple combination.

Pork Roast and Apples

1 1/2 pound boneless pork roast (approximately)

Marinade (use you favorite or check the link above)

2 apples, sliced

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup apple cider

1 teaspoon dry mustard

1. Place pork roast in a plastic zip lock bag. Add marinade and allow to soak for 6-8 hours. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Remove roast from marinade and place in roasting pan.

2. Bake the roast for 45 minutes. In a bowl, mix together the apple slices, brown sugar, cider and dry mustard. Spoon the apples in the pan next to the roast and pour the liquid over everything. Allow to bake another 30 minutes.

3. Remove meat from oven. Place on a platter and cover with foil. Check to see if apple slices are tender and cook a little longer if necessary.

4. Mix apple slices with drippings in pan. Serve with the pork roast.

pork roast apples 3.jpg

Tumblr Anyone?

tumblr blog resizedTumblr is another blogging platform that is easy to use to post photos, videos, quotes and to share favorite websites. I am using Tumblr as another way of sharing and viewing nature photos. If you have a Tumblr account, let me know and I will follow you. I am always interesting in seeing great photos. Here is the link to my Tumblr. Take a look!

http://alookatnature.tumblr.com/

Sunrise

sunrise 2A colorful morning as we wait for another snowstorm. I am ready for butterflies, flowers and warm weather!

Winter’s Joy

red bellied BB PS (640x399)We are having a cold winter with some snow but the snow is not as deep as last winter. One of the joys of the winter is watching the birds at the feeders. Their color and constant motion add beauty to the cold winter.

bluebird pair 3 (640x373)For feeding we use five main types of food – black oil sunflower seeds, suet, mealworms, thistle (nyger) seeds, and a high quality mixed seed blend. The finches, chickadees, titmice love the sunflower seeds. The ground feeders, such as sparrows, juncos and cardinals like the mixed seeds. If you purchase mixed seeds, get a high quality mix or you will find that your birds waste most of the seed. Suet cakes are for the woodpeckers, nuthatches and a variety of other birds. We spoil our bluebirds (and will probably go bankrupt) with freeze dried mealworms. The thistle is for the finches.

bluebirdandfinch 2 (640x424)Just as important as the bird feed, is fresh water. Even if you don’t feed the birds, a supply of fresh water will draw the birds to your yard. In our area, we have to use an electric warmer in the bird bath in order to keep it ice free.

juncoThe birds also mark the changing of the season. We know winter is on the way when the dark eyed juncos and white throat sparrows appear in the yard. The arrive of spring is heralded by the Eastern phoebe with its very distinctive call and the changing of the goldfinches from their drab winter plumage back to their bright yellow feathers.

Here are some of our visitors this winter. Hope you have a bluebird day!

white throat 5 (640x424)red bellied (640x315)hairy cropped 2 (640x424)goldfinch 2 (640x377)titmouse (640x418)purple finch 2 (640x423)

chickadee BB (640x424)

pileated 2 (640x424)

cardinal PS (640x355)

Trust

flyover (640x415)Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?
 ~Matthew 6:26

birds of the air

Apple Brownies

apple brownies (640x424)

I love the small and taste of any type of baked apple goodies. This is a variation on  apple cake which is thinner like a brownie. If you want a more butterscotch flavor, substitute the two cups of dark brown sugar for the light brown and white sugar.

Apple Brownies

1 cup chopped pecans

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 cup white granulated sugar

1 cup butter, melted

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

3 cups of apples, peeled and chopped

Preparation

1. Preheat oven to 350º. Bake pecans in a single layer in a shallow pan 8 to 10 minutes or until toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through.

2. Stir together sugar and next 3 ingredients.

3. Stir together flour and next 3 ingredients; add to brown sugar mixture, and stir until blended. Stir in apples and pecans. Pour mixture into a greased and floured 13- x 9-inch pan; spread in an even layer.

4. Bake at 350º for 35 to 45 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely (about 1 hour). Cut into bars.

 

Broccoli Cheese Potato Soup

brocolli cheese soup (640x424)

Broccoli Cheese Potato Soup

5 1/2 tablespoons butter, divided

1 1/3 cups chopped carrots

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup chopped yellow onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

3 cups low-sodium chicken broth

3 1/2 cups peeled and cubed potatoes

3 cups chopped broccoli florets

1/4 tsp dried thyme

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 Tbsp all-purpose flour

3 cups milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1/3 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese

Directions

1, In a large pot over medium heat, melt 1 1/2 Tbsp of the butter. Add carrots, celery and onion and saute 3 – 4 minutes. Add garlic and saute 30 seconds longer. Stir in chicken broth, potatoes and thyme and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to medium, cover with lid and cook 15 minutes. Stir in broccoli and cook 5 minutes longer or until vegetables are tender.

2. Meanwhile, melt remaining 4 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Stir in flour and cook, whisking constantly 1 minute. While whisking vigorously, slowly pour in milk. Cook stirring constantly until mixture begins to gently boil and thicken, stir in heavy cream. Remove from heat and once all vegetables are tender pour into the soup and stir. Remove from heat and stir in cheddar and Parmesan cheese until melted. Serve warm.

His Eye is on the Sparrow

white throat song sparrow (640x424) ps“I sing because I’m happy, I sing because I’m free,
For His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.”

~Civilla D. Martin

Oatmeal Jam Squares

jam bars (640x424)This is an easy recipe for making a quick dessert. Use your favorite jam or jelly for the filling. I had an excess of blackberry jam so that is what I used. Would also be very good with raspberry jam (my favorite!).

Oatmeal Jam Squares

1 1/4 cup quick-cooking oats

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup butter melted

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 jar (10 ounces) of jam or jelly of your choice

4 whole graham crackers, crushed

1/2 cup pecans, chopped (optional)

1 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl mix the first five ingredients. In a small bowl, mix melted butter and vanilla; add to oats mixture, stirring until crumbly. Reserve 1 cup mixture for topping.

2. Press remaining mixture onto bottom of a greased 9 inch square baking pan. Spread jam over top to within 1/2 inch of edges. Add crushed graham cracker to reserved topping; sprinkle over jam along with the chopped nuts.

3. Bake 25-30 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Cool in pan and cut into squares.

 

Cider Date Nut Quick No Knead Bread

cider date nut no knead bread (640x424)I am enjoying using the quicker version of the wonderful no-knead bread baked in cast iron at high temperature which yields a bakery style crusty bread. The “quicker” version uses more yeast and starts with warm liquid. Here is another version using apple cider for part of the liquid, dried apples, dates and nuts – great for a treat or for breakfast bread.

cider date nut sliced (640x424)Cider Date Nut Quick N0 Knead Bread

1 cup apple cider (warm but not hot)

1/2 cup warm water

2 1/4 teaspoons granulated yeast

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup whole wheat flour

2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup chopped dates

1 cup dried apples slices, chopped

1/2 cup chopped pecans

1. Add warm water and cider to a large bowl. Stir in yeast and sugar and let sit for 4-5 minutes till mixture begins to bubble a bit and get foamy. Add remaining ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon. Stir vigorously until all flour is mixed and a shaggy dough forms. If the dough is too stiff, add a little more water.
2. Cover bowl loosely with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel and allow to rest at room temperature for an hour.
As the dough is rising preheat oven to 450 degrees. Please cast iron pot and lid in oven to heat (I use the Lodge Combo for my no-knead bread).
3. After rising for an hour, place dough on a large piece of parchment paper which has been sprinkled with flour. With well-floured hands form dough into a round ball. (The dough can be difficult to handle). Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 30 – 45 minutes.
4. Remove cast iron pot from oven. Pick up ball of dough by the edges of the parchment paper and place in the hot pot. Using scissors, quickly trim the extra parchment paper and place lid on pot.
5. Return covered pot to hot oven (Be careful – the cast iron pot is heavy and very hot!).
6. Cook at 450 degrees with lid on pot for 30 minutes. Remove lid from pot and cook another 15 minutes until brown and crusty. NOTE: My first loaf was a little too dark on the bottom so you may want to reduce the cooking time with the pot covered.
7. Remove from oven and slide the cooked bread from the hot pot onto a cooling rack. Cool and enjoy wonderful crusty bread!

 

Chili Con Carne (No Beans)

chili con carne (640x424)There is nothing like chili on a cold winter night. Here is a version with no beans that is easy to make and will warm a snowy evening.

1 1/2 pounds ground beef (coarse grind)

1/2 cup green peppers, chopped

1/2 to 1 jalapeno pepper, chopped

1/2 cup onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons chili powder

1 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1 1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 can (8 ounce) tomato sauce

1 cup beef broth

1. Brown beef in a large deep pan.  Drain fat.  Add the peppers, onion and garlic and cook until tender. Add, chili powder, and cumin, stirring to coat beef.

2. Add the tomato sauce and the beef broth and bring to a boil.

3 Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 1 hour (add some water if your heat is too high and chili gets too thick). 4. Adjust seasoning and enjoy!