Friday, July 11, 2008

This one's for Judy!

Judy is the adventurous soul that sent my sister the information about artisan bread and the Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day cookbook. My sister sent the information to me, hoping I would figure it all out and show her the technique. Nothing easier – really!! Anyway, my sister, sister-in-law and I had a great time playing with bread (and all of us enjoyed eating it) and we almost always got a photo before the bread of the day was consumed. Almost… So, this one is for Judy, to give her some idea of what she started. I have shared this technique (and copies of the book) with the above mentioned sister and sister-in-law, along with two good friends who are off and baking. I have told co-workers about the technique and seen them hop on the bread wagon, too. It’s just too much fun not to share!!

Roasted red pepper pizza with mushrooms, herbs, and three kinds of cheese made with the basic dough.

Grissini (bread sticks) and peasant bread, made with a whole wheat enhanced version of the basic recipe.

This is the tapenade bread -- the photo is a bit blurry, but it was such a delicious bread I had to include it!! One note of caution, though. If you want any tapenade that goes into this dough left over to spread on anything, make a double batch of it.

Sun-dried tomato and Parmesan bread, made with olive oil dough.

Classic challah with poppy seeds (foreground) and dried tart cherry and toasted almond bread (background) made with the challah dough.

Roasted red pepper fougasse made with olive oil dough.

Calamata olive bread made with the basic dough.

Pan d'epi served with grilled wild trout (caught by my brother) and grilled wild asparagus (gathered by my sister and brother-in-law). Yum!

Pecan rolls made with challah dough are wonderful. These have a light honey topping in lieu of the sugary topping in the book with cinnamon and sugar swirled inside. It's a less sweet version of the classic sticky bun.

So, see what you started, Judy? Isn't it grand?

Thursday, July 3, 2008

First, the Chicken Update!

Yes, I’ve been back from vacation for a little while, but I am just now getting caught up with things and I’m finally ready to catch up with the blog! Since I have had so many requests for information about the world famous chicken, she’ll be first on my list.

I got to meet her, this famous fowl. For a while there, she had been laying an egg nearly every day and ruling the roost (or at least the cocker spaniel) with aplomb. Then, without any warning, she nearly died (again), when she caught some kind of nasty avian virus or other. My brother stayed up with her for two nights running, force feeding her water and trying to tempt her with tidbits of this and that to coax her back to health and making her get up and move around, even though she didn’t want to budge. He wasn’t about to lose her after nursing her through the whole frostbite episode!! Apparently, she was acting like a boneless collection of feathers on the rug. After a few days of tender loving care, she started to look less limp and showed a little interest in eating on her own again.

By the time I arrived, she was still being fussy about what she wanted to eat. Chicken feed was always popular, but she liked tomatoes and fresh bread much better than cheerios, apples or fish, which had been favorites. She would demand tomatoes and bread, even jumping to snatch pieces from unsuspecting hands.

She finally has a name. Evidently, when my sister-in-law and her younger brother were small, they referred to these feathered farmyard creatures as ‘Cheekens’, with long emphasis on the double ‘e’. So, in honor of childhood antics, she has been dubbed Cheeken. She does exhibit a bit of cheeky behavior, so it’s not entirely out of character!! The poor cocker spaniel gets summarily pecked for straying into Cheeken’s food arena. She may have been particularly ornery because she was still feeling a little under the weather. I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt. So, they stay on opposite sides of whoever is handing out the snacks at the moment. And I am amazed by how much a chicken can eat!

Cheeken is also very sociable, at least with humans. She follows people around and talks to them constantly. She asks to be let out or in and waits with varying degrees of patience for someone to open a door for her.

She takes her decorative duties very seriously, taking frequent dust baths to keep her feathers shining, preening vigorously and finding particularly picturesque places to pose for general admiration. In short, she is a very entertaining little chicken.

Just as I was getting ready to hop in the car and head home, Cheeken went to her little nest box to try and lay an egg. By the time I made it back to Missouri, I heard that her first efforts since the great illness were shaped badly and had thin shells, but she’s doing fine now and is back to laying an egg nearly every day.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Vacation time again!!

This little gray squirrel was lying in a patch of sunshine on the porch railing yesterday. She just seemed like the perfect illustration for announcing my absence from the helm of Stampeaz for a little while. It is hard to believe it's mid-May already!!

I am off to visit my family. We'll be doing a lot of wandering around in the woods, hunting for morel mushrooms, wildflowers, turkeys, fawns and whatever other wonders may come our way. Not only that, I get to meet the chicken!! You can be sure that there will be pictures and more updates to the chicken story when I return!

I apologize for any inconvenience my temporary absence may cause to PZ Kut addicts – I’ll be back soon, I promise! And I also promise to get working on the things that are still wonky about the new Stampeaz Web site. There are still a few glitches in the code for displaying certain things and the color scheme is in need of some major adjustment. In the meantime, everything that really has to work, does work. Phew!!

See you after Memorial Day!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Technical Difficulties...

Yes, that's me crying in frustration through the computer! As you have probably noticed, Stampeaz has been suffering from technical difficulties. The service provider that has been hosting the site has had a major meltdown and has been down for days. I can't get to my files to move them, so I have to rebuild them. To top that off, apparently he has brought up the public part of the site so that people can order things, but I can't see what they've ordered! I can't get to my Stampeaz e-mail and I have been unable to reach anyone on the support team. So, I am in the process of rebuilding and moving the site to a shiny, new location and I hope that it will all be up and running again within a few days.

I apologize for the inconvenience! I know it's frustrating -- it certainly is for me (hence the cries wafting through the ethers)! And I hope you will all bear with me as I get this sorted out.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Bread Adventures

My sister sent me a challenge -- or maybe it was more of a request. This is the same fabulous sister who helped me reorganize my whole studio, shop, and part of my home -- the organizational genius! How could I possibly refuse her anything??

A friend had sent her the base recipe from a book called
Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois and, since I'm the bread baker in the family, she wanted me to try it first and work out any kinks there might be in the recipe. Then, when we get together the next time, I can show her how to do it. She is particularly interested in trying to get a result like one of her favorite, very expensive, specialty bakery loaves.

Here is my first attempt at Pan d’Epi, as it sits restin
g, along with a standard boule. I think my dough may be too wet, or perhaps it had not aged long enough (only about 26 hours), so the shapes didn't hold quite as well as I had hoped they would. It was still a lot of fun. Here's the final feast photo -- at least part of the feast. There's a blueberry pie I just had to include in the photo, along with some lovely French wine and a large salad of mixed greens. Yum!

The bread was a huge success! As I said, the dough didn't hold the pretty shapes as well as I had hoped, but it was delicious and I do mean "was". It's all gone. So, I know this isn't the usual kind of blog material, but I just had to post some pictures so that my sister and her friend could see how everything came out.

I'll actually have some Stampeaz news to post very shortly. I have cool new stuff. :)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The Chicken Story, Part 3

I talked to my brother the other night. He said there was a celebration in progress and you will soon see why. :) First, here's a nice picture of my sister-in-law hugging the very lucky chicken! Isn't she pretty -- I mean the chicken -- my sister-in-law is pretty, too, but you can't see much of her in this photo! The chicken is very social. She doesn't mind being held and she talks quite a bit as she gently pecks at shoe laces, grommets and anything shiny that might be tasty. I'm looking forward to meeting this character the next time I head north!

Then, of course the great cause for celebration? Well, here it is:

A perfect, brown egg. :) I'm not sure who views this accomplishment with the greatest pride. The chicken's new mom looked up information about chicken frostbite on the Internet and learned that, until the comb was completely healed, the chicken would not lay an egg. Sure enough, the day before she produced this beauty, the last little bit of black icky stuff fell off the chicken's comb.

My sister visited and took lots of pictures, so I should have more shots to share before long. I can see carving inspiration coming my way! Yipee!!

Monday, March 3, 2008

The Chicken Story, Part 2

Okay, it does run in the family -- we all spoil the critters! :)

The chicken is doing well. She has become a regular part of the family. Here she is, stretched out on her side and basking by the fire again with her feet extended toward the stove. This time she is joined by Kizzie the family cocker spaniel. They had a tense moment when Kizzie was trying to be the dominant dog, but the chicken pecked her on the nose and there hasn't been any trouble since! Kizzie learned a new respect for that strange new member of the pack!!

This chicken is seriously into basking -- here she is in a lovely patch of sunlight. Do you think she has bad memories of being cold? I do! I also think that she's a perfect addition to the decor - she matches everything in the room so beautifully, and she looks like she knows it, too!

Kizzie and the chicken are both very fond of Cheerios. My sister-in-law is extremely popular, since she controls the container. However, the chicken has learned which cupboard has the Cheerios box in it and she will stand in front of the door and peck at it to make it clear that it's time for a handout!

Here's another shot of the very attentive pair, this time begging for "o"s from my brother. The chicken is a little hard to see, because she blends in so well with the chair leg. I just think this is so funny! A chicken and a dog waiting for treats, side by side!

The chicken is also very talkative -- the last time I talked with my sister-in-law on the telephone, the chicken was crooning, clucking and carrying on in the background. She seemed to have a very nice little voice, but I understand that she can get quite demanding when she hears my brother get up first thing in the morning. She has very acute hearing (unlike Kizzie, who is a bit on the deaf side), so she wakes immediately and insists on being let out of her kennel to snack and snooze by the fire.

Have you noticed that the chicken doesn't have an official name yet? They're afraid that if they name her it will be all over -- they'll never be able to give her away to another flock! Of course, why would they want to do that anyway??

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Chicken Story, Part 1

A couple weeks ago, my brother saw an unidentified creature in a snowbank by the side of the road. At first, he thought it might be an eagle or large hawk. Then, he saw that it had some sort of crest on its head and wondered what on earth was stuck in that snowbank. It turns out that what he found was a lost and half alive domestic chicken It was many miles from the nearest farms, so who knows how it got there, but the weather was sub zero with a strong wind and the chicken was in a very bad way. So he stopped his truck, picked the bird up and tucked it under his coat, got back in the truck and started for home. On the way, he called his wife and told her about the chicken and asked that she have a landing spot for it when he arrived.

The poor, frozen bird had a comfy, towel-lined box all ready for it in front of the wood stove where he thawed it out and fed it a bunch of bird seeds - his wife took a pair of pliers and cracked some corn for it, too. It ate hungrily and drank water, but its feet and comb were totally frozen and there was a lot of anxiety about whether the bird would survive.

After a few days, this lucky chicken had been given gifts of high quality chicken feed from the local elevator and antibiotics by an area veterinarian. She had baths in Epsom salts, antibiotic laced water and seemed to be coming around a little bit. She began to be able to stand on one of her severely frostbitten feet and then she managed to walk a bit. She is staying in a paper lined dog crate and coming out to bask by the wood stove. The first picture is of the chicken (which we're told is a Rhode Island Red) walking up to the stove and the second picture is of her laying down on her side, extending her feet to the fire to dry them off after a bath in Epsom salts. They're not great photos, since my brother took them and sent them by cell phone, but they do tell the story -- and I love the one of her laying by the fire. She's one lucky little chicken and it looks as if my brother and his wife have a new pet!!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Into the woods...

This past weekend was just beautiful! I enjoyed several long walks, as well as doing a little bit of puttering around the yard. I also had the opportunity to test out the zoom feature of my new little camera, with the cooperation of these curious deer. It looked like a doe and her two adolescent fawns (babies from last May). What fun! I'm looking forward to trying to catch some of the birds in my area, as well as other fauna and flora. I find that my imagination simply boggles when thinking of the possibilities for carving from nature!

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Studio / Packing Room

You saw "The Lego Project" out in the garage in the previous blog installment. This is the studio/packing room that my sister helped me reorganize and reclaim while she was here. My day job schedule and the holiday hustle and bustle had caused a disaster area here and it not only got cleaned up, it got a complete make-over! My sister is wonderful!!

We moved the packing table along with lots of supplies and the PZ Kut prep cart, went flea market shopping and found new storage systems (some with great folk art paintings on them!).
We also moved a huge shelving unit that was a ratted mess and I had to go through everything and organize it (or throw it away!). I now have a much more open and pleasant work area to stamp invoices, pack orders and even stamp into the occasional PLB!! On the table, there are stamped invoices ready and waiting to be taken to the storage area and have me pull the items people want from inventory.

Of particular note, of course, is the AQ calendar on the wall in the upper right-hand corner of the photo. :)

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Lego Project

Did you think I had forgotten the blog? Not a chance! I just got swamped with work and holiday happenings. Now, I'm back and raring to go!!

Of course, I had to go buy a little digital camera, in order to share pictures of life at Stampeaz. I finally took the time to sit down and read a little about what the camera can do. So, what is this photo and why did I take it? This is what my sister dubbed "The Lego Project". I use recycled materials almost exclusively when packaging orders (the main exception being the USPS boxes and envelopes, themselves). A good friend who installs computer hardware and systems for the state of Missouri saved the packaging for a major printer upgrade and brought it by for me to recycle. We just took it out of his car and tossed it into the garage, since it was cold, and it sat there in a huge jumble, taking up most of one side of the garage.

While my sister was visiting, she got up one morning and started stacking. The pieces fit together amazingly well and stack all the way to the garage ceiling with surprising stability! When the second installment was dropped off, I immediately added to the "Lego" pile and the resulting tower just made me grin. It seemed like an appropriately silly way to start blogging again and really does provide an accurate window into the workings of Stampeaz! I wonder how long it will take me to use this!! Stay tuned...