Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Creatures in my Backyard - Toads

Now the traditional theory is that little girls don't like frogs or toads, and we have all heard the story of how Johnny stuck a frog in Susie's desk at school and scared her half to death. But not so strangely I was never like Susie. Ever since I was little I have loved going out at night and scouting the lit areas of our yard for those warty creatures called toads. I would catch one, examine it, then put it in a bucket and catch some more. When I was done and had caught all the toads in that small vicinity I could catch I would tip the bucket over and watch them fall over each other trying to be the first to get out to safety. The poor creatures. And I wasn't alone most of that time either. Our pit bull/golden retriever Bucky was my pal. I called him my toader. He followed me around and got so excited over my activities that he would join in. The unlucky toad would find itself one moment in Bucky's mouth and then spat out the next. No matter how many times we warned him he continually picked the toads up in his mouth and spent the next five minutes salivating. He never harmed them though. Sadly, my poor "Toader" is no longer with us. I try to get his daughter, Gracie, interested, or Gracie's mother Lucy, but the don't cherish the toady flavor like Bucky did.

Even now I find myself fascinated by the amphibians. Used to, when our pool was open, we would catch toad after toad in the skimmer, and then there were the frogs. They were a real trial. Shooting to and fro in their natural habitat.

What incited this blog on toads was a visit to the dogs area. We keep a light out there so we are able to see them if need be in the dark. And boy do the toads like this. They sit out there eating to their hearts content. One time I watched one of the larger toads eating a tick I had found and I thought, "Here's the solution to our tick problem." I have some videos of it actually. Some time soon I'll upload them. I found the toads like June bugs better. You'll see what I mean in the video.
Its awesome the way God made them so alike and yet so different. One toad will be dark green and brown with bulbous warts while another will have dark red skin and faint warts. To speak honestly, I haven't done a lot of reading on these amazing amphibians or I might be able to give you more scientific facts.

Another thing about them is the way they respond to human interaction. Some will remain extremely still no matter how you poke or prod only moving as a last resort. Others will jump and struggle with all their toady little might to free themselves from your grasp. One very distasteful practice that deters quite a few people from enjoying their "companionship" is their practice to urinate when afraid. Its an excellent defense for the toad but rude to the bearer. I've learned to hold them from the waist up until I'm sure they aren't going to use this defense or are finished.
My sisters don't share my joy in this pastime of catching toads but its their loss.
And no, I have never kissed one.



Sunday, July 15, 2012

Sourdough Chocolate Chip Cookies

Now before you say, "Come on, aren't you going too far?" you have to try them. The flavor isn't sour but deliciously cookie-like, and the texture is fluffy and cake-like. My family loved them. Here's the recipe:

Sourdough Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe


Ingredients: 
  • 1/4 cup Butter
  • 1/4 cup Coconut Oil or Non-Hydrogenated Palm Shortening
  • 1 cup Rapadura or Sucanat (whole sugar)
  • 1 Egg
  • 1 cup Fresh Sourdough Starter
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
  • 3 cups Flour
  • 1/4 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1/4 tsp. Baking Soda
  • 1/2 tsp. Salt
  • 1-2 cups Organic Chocolate Chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cream together butter, coconut oil/shortening and eggs.  Mix in the sourdough starter and vanilla extract.  In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients.  Mix the wet and dry ingredients (careful not to over mix!).  Incorporate the chocolate chips.  Allow the dough to rest for 15 minutes.  Shape the dough into small balls (2 tsp).  Flatten and place on a cookie sheet.  Bake for 10-15 minutes.  Makes approximately 4 dozen small cookies.

(I used coconut oil instead of palm shortening, and sucanat instead of Rapadura, and followed the recipe the rest of the way. Now I add this because I often like to make my own renditions, and I catch myself rarely following the exact recipe.)

When making cookies, I don't always use the full amount of flour the recipe calls for or I end up with rounded cookies that don't spread, ...at all. But I did with this recipe and though, as you can see in the picture below, they didn't spread much, everyone loved the cute little roundness of them.



So go ahead and give them a try, if your afraid of sourdough in your cookies, don't be, its good.




 


Friday, July 6, 2012

Our First Attempt at Sourdough Bread

In pursuit of the healthy diet, Mum has been experimenting with sourdough starter (from Cultures for Health) in order to make healthier bread. In case you don't know much about the health benefits of sourdough, let me just say that its better for the digestion as it has already broken down important nutrients that the body needs, as opposed to yeast bread that is harder on the body for many different reasons. But lets not get into the science of it just now.
Mum used an easier, less knead recipe by Serene from Above Rubies. Here's the link to the video if your interested: part one and part two.
 Here's a picture of the process:

After "kneading" it for five minutes, more or less, Mum scooped it into two glass pans. Normally we use metal bread pans but we weren't sure if baking it in metal would hurt it. They say that keeping your sourdough in metal containers or stirring it with metal spoons kills the good bacteria and we didn't want that, so until we could find out whether it hurt or not we placed them in glass ones. Mum wasn't too keen on the odd shape it gave the loaves but I liked it. Different shaped breads look more gourmet, I think. Then she covered them with a towel and left them for 7 hours.

Later we realized that the towel was not a good idea because it stuck to the bread underneath. So the towel came off and was replaced with parchment paper. Unfortunately, the bread needed more room to rise and therefore ended up dripping a little down the sides and deflating a little. On the other hand, it had risen beautifully before that and would have made a nice rounded loaf if it had had more room. Lesson learned: split it between three loaves instead of two. If you watched Serene's video you'll notice we did not get 6 loaves but two (and as I said, next time will be three). On our first try we didn't want too many so we decided to split the recipe. It worked out fine.

Then, after baking it for an hour at 350 degrees, we were able to enjoy a delicious piece if fresh, truly sour, and healthy, sourdough bread. A success! It was soft and moist except for the crunchy outer crust. Perfect! I loved the stronger flavor compared to your average yeast bread. Great for sandwiches, I'm sure.



Until next time...




~GoldenSails

Meerkat Moments

Overwhelmingly cute and too curious! I'd love to have one. My Dad always picked on the ones at the zoo by making those high pitched hawk sounds that they dread. It would be cute though, they would pick themselves up and get real stiff looking for the danger that wasn't there, while others would go into hiding. Even though they were raised in the zoo they still had their God-given instinct to protect themselves, plus they knew the sound of danger. Its amazing!