Soft Pretzels -Alton Brown’s Recipe

Mmmm, these are so delicious.

Soft Pretzel

Yesterday I made Alton Brown’s Soft Pretzel recipe, and Mark and I love them!
These are the best soft pretzels I’ve ever eaten, and I’ve eaten a lot of soft pretzels.  These are nothing like the mall or movie theater pretzels.  They have those nice cracks and a lot of flavor.
Part 1

Part 2


Place dough in oiled bowl


Cover dough


Roll to a length of 24"


Shape the Pretzel

 After bath


Into the oven





These are fun to make, but they do take some time.  You dip them into a bath of boiling water and baking soda before baking.  It makes them nice and moist. 

I used sea salt because I didn’t have “pretzel” salt on hand, and it worked great.  I kept two plain and brushed them with butter and dipped in cinnamon and sugar–very yummy!


Chicken Tractor: My Next Project

I went out to check on the chickens.   No eggs yet.

I’m very concerned about my new girls.  I tried to free range the new girls today and they refused to leave the coop.  I think they’re traumatized.  

I have an original flock of 3 pullets, and 2 newer pullets from a separate flock that I introduced about a month ago. My original flock refuses to allow the new girls to eat or even leave the roost. It’s not working for me. I think I’ll build a smaller coop and pen to let the new girls take charge of. They can all roost together, but my little hoglets are going to starve those new girls. I’m imagining a small tractor type coop like this:


Ch-ch-ch-ch Changes!

I posted this over at my LJ yesterday, but since I will be starting my work today, I thought I would share it here as well.

ABOVE:I found this antique farm cabinet in an estate sale basement.  I love to mix old with new.

I moved into my house 4 years ago, and made a lot of promises to myself about changes I wanted to make. So far, Mark and I have managed to make the kitchen more to our liking, we added a pantry, added two windows in the den, painted over the old brick, remmoved popcorn ceilings in den and kitchen,smooth walled and painted the den, installed surround sound, added raised bed vegetable gardens, built a chicken coop, installed stainless appliances, changed the fireplace front, removed unwanted shrubbery, planted raspberries, removed tons of ivy, installed a grape arbor, and re-roofed the always “soon to be” cottage.

I would liked to have completed more work in four years, but it is what it is.

I am ready to move on from the den and kitchen and into the dining room, formal living room, Master bed and bathroom, and the main bath as well. Mark usually does most of the work, because I’m rather small and not too handy in the construction department.

I’ve decided I need to make a few changes myself. I’d like to get the ball rolling, and see just what I’m capable of doing on my own.

I’ll be starting with completing the projects we started that I know I can do:

-Kitchen cabinets and trim need painted and touched up.

-Dining room needs primed and painted.

-Formal Living room, Dining room, hallway, baths, and bedrooms need new trim. Trim must be painted as well. I may not be able to apply trim on my own, but I can choose the trim and possibly paint it.

-Living room needs painting

-Drapes and rod in den–remove drape box

-Shop for supplies needed

I’m posting this list to keep myself honest.

ABOVE: More thrift and estate sale finds


ABOVE: View from dining area to formal living area

So, off I go to paint the kitchen!

Zen, Baking Bread, and a Thrift Find


After watching (and enjoying) the documentary, How to Cook Your Life featuring Zen Priest Edward Espe Brown, I couldn’t wait to buy the Tassajara Bread Book!

I found out it had been updated over the years, and I was lucky enough to find the latest edition.

I’m excited to bake some of the recipes, and since the weather is cooler this week in the Pacific Northwest, I may give it a whirl.

In case you haven’t heard of the film, here is the trailer:

Oh, and in keeping with my thrift shop nerdiness, I found this very cool retro Salton electric bread warmer, and I can hardly wait to use it.  I’ve sold a few of these on Ebay, but I have never found one that had a blue and white checkered cover.  Usually they have the God awful gold, orange, or brown colors.



This will be nice for keeping muffins, bread, and rolls warm on the buffet…

if I don’t end up selling it on Ebay.  I’m fickle 🙂

Millie’s Orange Drop Italian Cookies


Millie's Orange Italian Cookies

Mmm, these orange drop cookies are a favorite of mine!  They remind me of the Italian cookies my grandparents bought at a local Italian bakery in upstate New York.

I made them last year, and I couldn’t wait to make them again.

The recipe is from Grace Pilato’s cookbook “Cooking with Grace”, and to this day, remains my favorite Italian American cookbook.

I compare them to a cross between an orange scone, and a glazed cake donut.  If you make these, make sure you paint the glaze on to cover the cookie completely.  It will seal in the moisture of the cookie.

Millie’s Orange Drop Cookies
Biscotti all’Arancia

For the cookie dough:
1/2 c unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
3 c unbleached all-purpose flour
5 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/2 c whole milk
2 large eggs
1 Tbso grated orange zest
1 tsp orange extract (I used a good extract and added a few drops of orange liquer)

For the Frosting:
1 1/2 c confectioner’s sugar
4-5 Tbsp evaporated milk
1 tsp orange extract

Prepare oven with one rack on bottom shelf and the other on second from the top shelf.
Preheat to 350 degrees.  Line 3 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, cream butter and sugar with electric mixer.  In another bowl, sift flour with baking powder and salt; set aside.

Pour milk into glass measuring cup and heat in microwave to warm (30 seconds).  Add eggs and orange rind and extract to the measuring cup and mix with a fork.  Add the milk mixture to the creamed butter-sugar-mixture and beat for one minute with mixer.

With mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture about 1/2 cup at a time until mixture is used.

Drop dough by rounded teaspoonsfuls onto parchment paper lined cookie sheets, leaving 1″ space around each cookie.

Bake the first sheet for 8 minutes on the bottom rack; then transfer it to the upper rack and continue baking for 7 minutes.  When you transfer the first sheet to the top, place a second sheet on the bottom rack, continuing to bake each sheet on the bottom rack for 8 minutes on the bottom rack and 7-8 minutes on the upper rack.  Remove the cookies from the oven as they turn golden.  Cool for 2 minutes on cookies sheets, then place on wire racks to cool completely before frosting.

To Frost:
Combine confectioner’s sugar, milk, and orange extract–stir until dissolved.
use your index finger like a paint brush to frost each cookie on all sides, including the bottoms, and set them on a rack to dry.  Be sure to cover in the glaze frosting to seal them–that way the glaze holds in the moisture.

Store in an air tight container up to one week  or freeze them in a heavy duty freezer bag for up to three months.   Try to remove as much air as possible from the freezer bag before sealing.  You may opt to frost the frozen cookies after you’ve defrosted them rather than before.

These are perfect with a cup of coffee or hot tea.  A little reminiscent of a scone–only a bit more sweet.

If you’d like to see photos of the steps–including finger glaze click below…

Continue reading

Our Life with Chickens

This morning Mark made me breakfast.  We ate eggs, smoked bacon and English muffins–complete with homemade raspberry freezer jam.  Mmmm.   I love the smell of bacon on a weekend morning.  It reminds me of camping in the mountains.  I’m so lucky that Mark likes to cook breakfast.

Afterwards I tried to coax Giovanni to join me outside to check on the chickens , but he wasn’t interested.  Gio hates to go outside.  We need Cesar Milan.

Anyhoot, Mark joined me later and tried to tame the chickens.  I made a little video…

If you join and change your viewing (under accounts) to “watch in high quality” the video will be more clear.  Just go to here: and watch after changing your viewing quality.  Or you can watch in standard quality below:

Seeking Home for Gold Laced Wyandotte Rooster

I don’t set an alarm clock.  My body is my alarm clock.  You can imagine my surprise when I was awakened by an alarm this morning.


Sean jr


Yes, good ol’ Sean Jr has come of age.  He crowed and crowed and crowed.  He doesn’t sound half bad either.  I’d been warned about the funny sounding crows, but like his namesake, he does some things right the first time.  From the moment I brought my female chicks home and my then 23 year old son picked this one up from the brooder and announced, “Hey, let’s call this one Sean Jr!” (yeah, he cursed my chick),  my husband and I have dealt with the “what ifs” for 4 1/2 months– Until now.  What if has become what is.   So, Sean Jr is seeking a home.   I know it seems rediculous to try and adopt out a rooster to a good home.  Most meat and chicken eaters would happily make a chicken dinner of him.  If he ends up in a pot, I don’t believe it will be my pot.  Not this rooster–not this time.  My real fear is that he will end up cock fight bait or something along those lines.  

Continue reading

Got Zucchini?

Me too!



Can anybody ever have too much zucchini?  Apparently so.  This is a drop in my zucchini bucket, but I’m too lazy to take an updated picture this afternoon, so suffice it to say, I have a quite a bit of zucchini.

Some ideas?

Well, the super club sized zucchini needs to be made into Italian Stuffed Zucchini.  I may have waited too long and it may be chicken feed before I get around to it. 

The smaller zucchini will  NOT be wasted.  The huge 17  incher got away from me.  It blended so well with the giant squash leaves that I never saw it until I couldn’t lift it.

I’ve made:

Cornmeal Fried Zucchini


Slice zucchini, dip in egg wash, dip in yellow cornmeal and fry in 1/4″ olive oil.  Salt with Kosher salt and enjoy!  These are addictive for my family.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread (CLICK HERE FOR RECIPE)




For the Zucchini bread:

-I changed 2 cups of sugar to- 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup brown sugar.

-I’d only add 1/2 tsp cinnamon next time

 Talk about moist and chocolately!

Mediterranean Zucchini Casserole


Before baking

I didn’t have fresh tomatoes, so I used canned.  I’m sure it’s much better with fresh garden tomatoes, but mine are moving along slowly this summer.
I also added Parmesan reggiano to the layers, and I double it.  It made for great lunches the following day.
I forgot to take a photo of it afer it baked!

 I’ve also shredded and froze as much zucchini as I can.  I will add it to soups, sauces, muffins, cakes, cookies, etc.