Here’s our favorite recipe for brownies. It’s a recipe I came up with by using substitutions. The original recipe used baking chocolate and butter. One time I ran out of baking chocolate so substituted cocoa. Another time I substituted some Crisco in place of part of the butter. It turned out well so I still make it that way. A lot of people have asked me for my recipe. I’ll try to post a picture the next time I make it. Enjoy!

Brownies
Mix together the dry ingredients:
3/4 cup cocoa
1 1/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder

In small bowl beat together:
4 eggs and set aside

In a large mixing bowl add:
2 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla
3 1/2 tsp water
9 TBSP + 1 tsp melted Crisco (over medium heat, watching closely) 150 ml mark in measuring cup
1/3 cup melted butter (5 1/3 Tablespoons)
nuts if desired

Melt Crisco and butter. Blend the melted Crisco and butter with the sugar, vanilla and water.
Cool enough to add the eggs and blend well. Mix in the dry ingredients. Because of the Crisco, it will become stiffer as it cools so try to stir in the dry ingredients quickly. If it gets too stiff to stir, you can put it in a warm oven for a few minutes then stir. Spoon into a greased glass 14″ X 9″ pan. Sprinkle top with broken nuts before baking, if desired.

Bake at 325 degrees for 30-35 mins or till toothpick comes out clean. Brownies will rise then fall
when done.

Happy New Year everyone!
I read this article recently and wanted to share it with you. It was written by Pastor Ken Pierce who used to be my mother-in-law’s pastor before he relocated to Mississippi. It’s about yearning for our eternal home.
The Quiet Protest Blog

Our older hens spent last month molting so we’ve had to buy eggs for awhile. They’ve finished molting now but because of the cold weather we’ve still had to buy eggs. One of our Rhode Island Red pullets has started laying every other day, and sometimes every day. Then about a week ago, one of our older New Hampshire hens started laying again so we’ve been getting an extra large egg every other day and sometimes every day too.

It’s been bitter cold here and the chickens hate the cold. They don’t like to get their feet in the snow so they usually spend all day hanging out in the chicken house. They always have layer pellets available. My husband has been taking them hot water which freezes in a short time. In the evenings before they go up for the night, they get some chicken scratch for a treat. They rewarded us with two eggs again today. I hope they will give me enough for all my Christmas baking.

Brownie thinks she's a person!

Our seven laying hens are now 20 months old. We’ve not been getting any eggs from them for the past month. They’ve been molting and are only now starting to look presentable again. Their appetites have not been good. Because it’s hard on their bodies to make all those new feathers and produce eggs, they’ve been taking a much needed break from their egg laying. Thankfully, we have Brownie’s four pullets she hatched out in late June who are getting old enough to lay. They’re mostly Rhode Island Reds which usually start laying by 24-26 weeks. They are just over 22 weeks old now. We had a nice surprise Sunday and got our first pullet egg from them. There have been three eggs so far, one every other day probably from the same pullet. The pullets start out laying small eggs, but the eggs they produce will get bigger as they mature.

Two of my neighbors gave me roosters last summer. “Elvis” is a Rhode Island Red and the other, named “Red” is a “Red Star”. He’s a cross between a RIR and probably a White Rock. The hatcheries are secretive about the breeds they use and wouldn’t give me a straight answer so I don’t know for sure. So far, our two young roosters have been good to the hens. Our last rooster ended up in the Crock Pot after he savagely attacked Brownie last year. Brownie gets along well with both of the new roosters.

Little Dove with her Chicks

Little Dove with her Brown Chick


Our Banty, Little Dove, went broody again this fall and hatched out four more chicks. Her last batch turned out to be all roosters. Two of her present chicks are from Brownie’s eggs and two are from the New Hampshire hens. Bill built Little Dove a small chicken apartment a little bigger than a dog house so he could lock her and her babies up at night. We’ve had a few nights down into the 20’s and were glad she only has four chicks to keep warm. It has helped having a long Indian Summer too. The chicks are five weeks old in the picture. They’re six weeks old now and have most of their feathers. It’s been very cold here lately, but they’re all doing well. I love to watch them scratching around with their mother and taking dust baths.

My son Josh gave me his old digital camera so I’ve been taking lots of pictures with it. Now I can finally share some of my chicken pictures with you!

A legal source for the real Actifed in the USA!

A legal source for the real Actifed in the USA!

We love living in the country but one drawback is that my husband suffers from hay fever this time of year when the ragweed is in its glory. The most effective over the counter medicine he has used is Actifed Cold and Allergy. The original formula was made with a pseudoephedrine/triprolidine combination. Unfortunately, I heard that it was taken off the market awhile ago because drug dealers were using the original formula to make crystal meth. They replaced it with another over the counter Actifed formula that doesn’t work at all for my husband.  I used to be able to buy the generic Actifed at Dollar General Store for a dollar or two.

I was happy to find a place to buy it in Canada so I ordered some from Canada Drugs first in 2010.  The second order I got was shipped from Turkey.  When I tried to order again last year,  it was no longer available at their site. I searched the web again  trying to find somewhere else to buy it and was so happy to find out that it is still available in the USA at Walgreens!  It is their generic brand called Wal-Act.  It is kept behind the counter but a prescription is not needed. I had to show them my photo ID and sign an agreement at the pharmacy in order to purchase it, but was so glad to be able to find some locally.

There are warnings for those with high blood pressure and for those with other medical problems so read up on it and be aware of the risks before taking it.

Edited to update on March 16, 2013:

The comments that follow were responses to my original post from  October 2010 after I ordered the first time from Canada Drugs.

This is something I just made for company tonight and it’s always a hit. I served it with my chicken salad and homemade rolls. It’s a lot like scalloped potatoes. It’s so easy to make and is delicious. It’s also good reheated, unlike most potato dishes. My husband likes it the best when it’s crunchy on top from reheating. Sorry I don’t have a picture to post of it because I don’t have a digital camera. If some of my fellow bloggers want to make it and post a picture here, that would be great. I scanned my slice of bread in our scanner for the last post but I won’t try it on this. I had to clean the oil off it last time. I think the cheese would be a lot messier.

6 large potatoes, sliced into rounds
1/2 cup chopped onion
Boil the onion and potatoes and drain well.

In a saucepan, heat and mix together:
2 TBSP butter
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1/2 can evaporated milk (3/4 cup)
1 and 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese cut in cubes (6 oz. = 1 1/2 cups)
salt and pepper to taste

Peel and slice the potatoes. Boil with the onion till tender. Drain. On medium heat, stir soup, milk, butter and cheese together till cheese is melted. Add drained potatoes to the sauce and pour into a glass 9 by 13 inch baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes at 325-350 degrees until the top is browned.
Serves 8.

Ready for some butter and jam

This is the easiest sourdough bread I’ve ever made. Even though making and keeping the starter sounds complicated at first, it’s really pretty easy. Most sourdoughs are made with flour and water and are thicker than pancake batter, but this one is a liquid. This light, sweet bread has become one of our favorites. It makes good rolls too.

If you don’t know someone who can give you some starter, you can try making some starter using store bought yeast. As it works, the wild yeast will (hopefully) replace the store bought yeast until you have a colony of wild yeast. It might take more than one try to catch the elusive “wild yeast” though.

To make a starter beginning with store bought yeast:

Boil water to sterilize a quart jar, lid, a measuring cup and a spoon. Punch holes in the lid of the jar. Add:
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. dry yeast
1 1/2 TBSP instant potato flakes

Leave your newly created starter at room temperature for two days then feed it again without adding any more store bought yeast. If it is active and you can see some bubbling, you can refrigerate. Each time you use your starter, feed it. I usually put it into a new sterilized jar each time I feed it.

I usually keep about two to three cups of starter in the refrigerator. I keep some boiled water in the refrigerator ready to use. Boiling the water prevents any bad bacteria from growing in the starter. I’ve had bacteria ruin some of my sourdough starters before, so I’m extra careful now. I try to use/feed mine at least every five days. You can feed/ use it sooner.

Feed 1 cup active starter with:
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
3 TBSPs potato flakes

I leave it sitting out at room temperature until it is foamy on top then I refrigerate.

You can use the starter right out of the refrigerator if you have enough made, or if you need to make extra loaves of bread you can take your starter out of the refrigerator early in the morning and feed it and leave it out all day. It should be ready to use by bedtime. When it’s ready to use it should look sludgy and will have bubbles rising to the top with a slightly fruity/alcoholic smell. I usually start making bread at night before I go to bed then make it into loaves the next morning. After about 3 hrs hours rising in the loaf pans, it’s ready to bake.

Potato Flake Sourdough Bread
Makes two large loaves
See the light whole wheat version below.

1 cup active potato flake starter (can be cold or room temperature)
1 1/2 c lukewarm water (not hot)
1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp. salt
6 TBSP oil
About 6 cups bread flour (Occident flour is the best to use if you can find it!)

Variation: You can use 2 cups of whole wheat flour instead of all bread flour. It makes a delicious light whole wheat version. This is how I make it now. I like to use King Arthur Whole Wheat flour.

In a large bowl, mix together the starter, water, salt, sugar and oil, then add flour. Add enough flour so dough is not sticky. After kneading, pour a little extra oil into the bowl and turn dough to coat well with oil. Cover with a towel and rise overnight. In the morning the dough should be more than doubled. Spray bread pans with Pam. Knead dough. You want it to stick to itself but not to your hands. Brush with water if the dough will not stick to itself or add more flour if it is still too sticky. Flatten into a rectangle pressing out the big air bubbles, brushing with water if necessary so it will stick together when folded in half. Pinch the seam together than repeat. Roll it gently to shape it. Place the seam side down in loaf pan. Rise loaves 3-4 hours. Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes. I put a cookie sheet on the top shelf to keep the top from getting too brown.

As I finish off the leftovers of our dinner last night, I wonder if anybody is in need of a good, quick, stovetop mac & cheese recipe. I wouldn’t call this gourmet, since it doesn’t include chopped apples and wine or some such. But the addition of Dijon and use of a good quality block cheese pretty much raises this to the standard of side dish for a nice dinner, in my opinion. I am still a novice cook so I have hardly any truly original recipes. For this I combined a few different recipes and tested it with different cheeses to determine our favorite. The recipe comes with a 100% satisfaction guarantee: if you don’t like it, you win an all-expenses-paid trip to my house, where I will show you how to make the recipe properly, since you obviously didn’t do it right on your own. ;)

Edit: I’ve made this again and have downgraded the serving sizes. It really only serves 3 if the third person is a small child.
Stovetop Macaroni & Cheese
Serves 2 generously as an entree; 4-6 as a side
2/3 cup evaporated milk
1 tsp. Frank’s hot sauce
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp. salt plus more to taste
1/2 lb. elbow macaroni
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
8 oz. extra sharp white cheddar, preferably Cabot, shredded

1. Bring 2 qts of water to boil in a Dutch oven. Add the salt and pasta, and cook til al dente. Drain and return to pot over low heat; add the butter and stir til melted.
2. Meanwhile, whisk together the evaporated milk, Frank’s, Dijon, pepper, and a pinch of salt to taste.
3. Add the milk mixture to the pasta; let come to a simmer. Slowly add in the cheese, one large handful at a time, stirring until it is all melted. Taste and season if necessary. Serve. (I don’t think the texture suffers when it’s served leftover the way some stovetop recipes turn hard and dry.)

Except to Heaven, she is nought;
Except for angels, lone;
Except to some wide-wandering bee,
A flower superfluous blown;
Except for winds, provincial;
Except by butterflies,
Unnoticed as a single dew
That on the acre lies.
The smallest housewife in the grass,
Yet take her from the lawn,
And somebody has lost the face
That made existence home!

Emily Dickinson

We have three broody hens now. Little Dove was the first one to go broody. One day she was missing and I searched all over for her, afraid that a predator had gotten her. I finally found her in our old hay room that now serves as a storage room. I went back later and discovered a nest full of banty eggs. We made her a better nest using a barrel filled with hay and placed all her eggs in it. The next day she went back to lay her eighth egg and she stayed on the eggs. None of her eggs were fertile since we don’t have a rooster, so I got some fertile eggs from a neighbor. She is very shy around us so we were worried how we were going to replace her eggs with the fertile eggs. Bill reached out and touched her and she shot out of there like a canon. He then replaced her eggs with the fertile ones. She returned a short while later and went back to setting. She’s gotten more used to us since she’s been broody and seems to know we’re trying to help her. We put her food and water near the barrel and close it up every night with cinder blocks, a board and a refrigerator rack to keep predators out.

Little Dove takes good care of herself. She gets off her nest herself to eat and drink. Our other broody, Brownie, has to be taken off her eggs every day to eat and drink and exercise or she’ll starve herself. Since Little Dove’s hatch date is getting close, I’ve been spraying her eggs with water so the chicks won’t stick to the membrane when they hatch. I didn’t have time to spray her eggs before I went to the grocery store today so Bill did. When he lifted her off her nest she protested more than she ever had. He soon discovered the reason. In the nest was her newly hatched chick and another egg is pipping. Little Dove is finally a mother!

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