My Favorite Bread Recipe (including videos and photos)

I normally make this dough using a second hand bread machine. I don’t bake it with the bread machine but just use the dough setting. If you make a lot of dough, you might consider picking one up. I will buy any bread machine from a thrift store that looks clean and barely used.

For this tutorial, though, I am giving the instructions to make the dough with a stand mixer. If you did use a bread machine, you would just put all the wet ingredients in first and end with the yeast.

Also, if you wanted to make this with whole wheat flour, it substitutes just fine. You just may need a bit less flour. A lot of the time I will make this recipe with 4 cups of whole wheat and 2 cups of all purpose flour.

Don’t be afraid to add a little warm water or a little extra flour to get the dough to be the right consistency. After adjustments are made, it should be very soft and pliable. You just want it to come together well. Don’t worry if it is sticky.

Basic White Bread

This recipe makes 2 loaves.

  • 6 cups of flour
  • 1 tbsp yeast (I use either rapid rise, bread machine or active dry yeast and it never seems to affect the recipe)
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 tsp baking soda
  • 2 2/3 cups warm milk (warm to the touch, not hot)
  • 2 tbsp vinegar
  • 2 tbsp light olive oil/melted butter
  1. Sour the milk with the vinegar and set aside.
  2. Add 4 cups of flour and all of the dry ingredients to your mixer. With the paddle attachment, mix until blended.
  3. Add all of the wet ingredients to the dry and mix until incorporated. Then increase the speed to medium high and mix for a full 10 minutes.
  4. Reduce speed and slowly add 2 more cups of flour. Mix until moistened and then change to the dough hook.
  5. With the dough hook, mix for 5 minutes more.

Here’s a video I made of the previous two steps:

Oil a large bowl and set the dough inside. You’ll want to flip it over once so all the dough is oiled.

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Cover it and set it in a warm place to rise for about an hour. I turn my oven on for about 10 or 15 seconds to provide a little heat and then I set the dough inside and close the door.

After it has risen, it will more than double in size if it’s white bread. Here’s my dough after 1 hour and 15 minutes. It is a little over-risen. I would guess I let it rise for 15 minutes too much.

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Then you need to grease your loaf pans. I always use butter.

Now for the shaping! This is my favorite part. Here’s another short video showing how I shape my loaves.

Cover and let rise for about 20-30 minutes. Near the end of the rising time, preheat your oven to 350.

When your loaves are ready to bake they will be cresting the pan. Here is a photo:

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I make a shallow cut down the center of the loaf so it has a little extra room to expand in the oven while baking.

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Bake at 350 for 17 minutes. Cover with a piece of tinfoil and bake for 17 minutes more.

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Don’t slice into the loaves too soon. They need to cool a minimum of 20 minutes. Here’s a photo of what the loaf should look like inside.

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Once they are cooled, I slice them and store them in freezer bags in the freezer.

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I’ve been keeping a little secret…

All three goats are definitely pregnant. I’ve been feeling their kids move for a few weeks now. While they are eating I’ll scratch them with one hand and rest my other hand on their right side (just up from their flank) to feel their kids kick. It’s so exciting.

Piper is due February 6. She is looking kinda heavy, too.

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Nina is due on February 10th

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Also Fin, who is due on February 9th.

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Posted in Goats | 4 Comments

Morning on the Farm

Some of yesterday morning’s sights and sounds.

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Christmas, every year we take a fresh look at it.

Several years ago we quit Christmas. We stopped putting up a tree. There were very little decorations. We almost completely stopped buying gifts.

I remember the anticipation of Christmas very well from my childhood. I was completely centered on the gifts. Sitting in front of that pile of gifts was so exciting. But every single Christmas, even if I got exactly what I wanted, there was still that let down when it was all over. It was even worse if I didn’t have all my wishes come true. We never wanted our kids to experience that.

I personally am relieved every year when I find myself NOT counting down the days until Christmas. As a child I was excited for it but then later, as an adult, it was incredibly stressful.

We are not against gifts. We still give them. Our children have every single toy. They have boxes and boxes of Lego. They have games, action figures, tablets, books, remote control vehicles, air soft guns, toy swords, bow and arrows, slingshots, stuffed animals and puppies and kittens, too! But Christmas does not equal gifts to them.

I do not mean to say that we have got everything figured out. Every year I think that we will plan ahead. We will have what we are going to do decided and our reasons for not participating in something clearly defined. But we don’t. Perhaps it is good not to set anything in stone.

I do want you to know that we do not go around saying everyone else is wrong. We respect the traditions of others and your reasons are your own. I am even willing to consider that there might be valuable lessons for children to have the gift frenzy and aftermath. So, far, though, the changes we have made have been positive for us.

This year, as my husband and I headed to town for doctor’s appointments and errands, I turned to him and said, “Should we do anything for Christmas?” Ideas started tumbling out of my mouth and I got excited about doing some investing. Investing in business ideas and supporting our children in paths that will lead them to valuable life lessons.

My father gave our boys a little money this past summer and told them to start a business with it. One of our ideas was that our eldest son should buy a weed whacker and hire himself out to our neighbors. With a little help from Daniel and I we can outfit him in the proper gear. For our other son, we are sorting out some kind of educational experience for him. I have checked into cooking classes, art classes, and physical education.

During my research I have also gotten wonderful lists from my boys about things they would like to learn. Our 11-year-old son, Andrew’s, list looks like this:

Andrew's List

Andrew’s List

Lucas, who is almost 9, wrote:

Lucas' List

Lucas’ List

One of our personal challenges is how far we live out of town. It would be a 30 mile drive one way to attend a class. In order to learn some of these things we have decided to purchase DVDs to watch at home. That way, we can also learn together as a family. It is exciting to think about pushing back the couch in the evenings and following along together to learn jiu jitsu.

Some other thoughts are to maybe hire a professional to teach private classes.  There are many experts out there who love their craft and are willing to teach. To make it financially feasible we could gather some other families together. I think this would work well for dance lessons, cooking, and art.

I know there are many other things I haven’t thought of. I would love to hear what you think. Perhaps you’d like to share your Christmas traditions. You may even criticize me if you’d like!

Posted in Family | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Shocker: My First Love ISN’T Chickens!

It’s dirt.

If you know me well, you might say, “Oh, of course. I knew that.”

I had forgotten this until I was cleaning out the chicken coop today. After the fresh-poopy layer there was a dry-poopy layer and under that there was beautiful sweet-smelling layer. It was completely decomposed. It was gorgeous compost.

Composting is actually one of the main reasons I got chickens in the first place. I LOVE growing things. One of my favorite things is starting seedlings and checking on them everyday until I see this:

sproutsSeedlings pushing through the soil in a little upside-down ‘u’ shape.

I especially love growing food. Growing food the way I like to grow it requires a lot of compost.

Now, my compost story actually has more history than you might first imagine. Before we moved to our acreage, we had a house in town. When we moved we already had chickens and I had been practicing the “deep litter method“. Well, I certainly wasn’t going to leave behind all that work that the hens and I had been doing. Much to my husband’s dismay, we packed up all the poopy, half-composted bedding from the chicken coop and moved it with us.

I hauled all of the finished results up to the vegetable garden area today.

If you saw me today grinning from ear to ear as I drove a quad up from our lower field with a load of chicken sh*t and you knew the backstory, you wouldn’t have thought I looked crazy at all. Even though it was 45, it was December 9th, and it was pouring rain. Most normal people would have been inside unless they had no choice. Not me. I had been waiting two years to do this.

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Things I Would Tell My Mother

I talk to my mom every few days. Since I haven’t spoken to her in a while, I’m going to use you as my pseudomom.

I got a black eye out of sheer stupidity last week. I cringe at the fact that I wasn’t wearing safety glasses. I was cutting a length of field fencing:

field fence

field fence

and was using both hands to cut through the last strand. As soon as the wire was free it sprang up and smacked me in the face. At first I just thought, oh, my gosh, I’m such an idiot for not holding it down. When blood started trickling down my face I had to go up to the house to get it cleaned up. Daniel was so mad at me. He’s a very safety-conscious guy and always wears his safety glasses. Here I was with a small puncture wound just an inch from my eye. Too close!

I bought some crocuses over a month ago at Costco. I love the mixed ‘species’ kind and so I bought them even though I didn’t know where I’d put them. Well, this last Friday, I was raking the yard because it had started to snow. I noticed that the ground was not frozen yet in the old strip of flowerbed alongside the house. I decided to plant them there. I wanted some dirt to raise the bed up and grade it so it sloped away from the house. Currently it was a small depression and didn’t encourage proper drainage away from our foundation.

Our neighbors are building a second home on their property for her parents and so I went over there to ask if they had any loose dirt. I ended up with a truckload from a kind excavation worker. I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to be planting crocuses with my sons in a properly elevated flowerbed. It didn’t bother me at all that it was in the dark as it was snowing!

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We hatched out our own turkeys this spring but only have four birds that survived to adulthood. We got Royal Palm turkeys, a heritage breed that will be able to reproduce themselves.

Royal Palm hen

Royal Palm hen

We believe our four birds are all hens and so we decided to keep them for breeding next year. This left us without a turkey for Thanksgiving. I was able to get one, however, from my neighbor who raises Bourbon Reds. I just have to butcher it myself.

Bourbon Red hen

Bourbon Red hen

Our last bit of news is about the bees. I haven’t wanted to talk about them because we haven’t been very successful beekeepers. I didn’t do enough reading about them and decided to get bees a little late and missed the classes held by our bee club. As a result, we did not prevent or manage the swarming season very well. The two queens that came with our nucs each swarmed and left with half our bees. There may have been additional swarms after that as well.

I did do an inspection on June 30 which was just at the end of our swarm season.  I saw that each hive had raised a new queen but it was depressing to see so little bees in there. I didn’t check on them again until August 9th.  One hive was definitely stronger than the other but neither looked very successful.

It was warm enough this past week for me to check on the bees again. The weaker hive had died. I think there weren’t enough bees for them to keep warm during the cold snap we just had.

dead hive

dead hive

dead bees

dead bees

The other hive was ok and I gave them as many frames of capped honey that I could. I interspersed the frames full of honey with the frames of bees and left them with both deep hive boxes for the winter. I was worried it would be harder for them to stay warm with two deeps but then I decided the more honey, the better.

Well, thanks for listening, ‘mom’. Talk to you later 🙂

Posted in Bees, Growing, Happenings, Other Barnyard Birds | 1 Comment

Garlic and Goals

Lately, I have felt like I’ve been caught in a trap.  I read that it’s called the ‘tyranny of the urgent’. Each day is driven by finding the most time sensitive need and dealing with it.

I finally planted the garlic yesterday. There was already 2″ of frozen soil on the garden. On the southern side of the raised beds I was able to get my shovel through it. Once through, I pried puzzle-like pieces of crust off. I put those smooth cloves down into about an inch of loose dirt and replaced all the pieces. Then I tried to get as much loose dirt as I could into the cracks and topped the bed off with rabbit droppings mixed with a small amount of hay.

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I suffer periodically (more so in the past) from anxiety and depression. Over the past weekend I had felt myself beginning to slip down that slippery slope. However, the activity of planting the garlic out in the cold sunshine did so much to boost my mood.

When I am depressed I don’t even want to do what I normally enjoy. I want nothing. I find this interesting. I had to drag myself out there to the garden. Why wouldn’t I choose it instead of something else?

The decision of my goal is what I am interested in. The decision is where the power lies.

I don’t know if the point of this is to solve depression or just question my goals.  Why was planting the garlic on my ‘to do’ list? Why did it feel like work? It made me so happy. I felt so much better that I stayed outside and worked for two hours cleaning the yard up.

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I have many things on my ‘to do’ list. Most of them I actually want to do. But they quickly go from something I desire to do to something I’m dreading.

How can I manage this tyranny of the urgent? There are things that have to be done. If I did not plant the garlic yesterday, the last day to do so, there would be no harvest in July. I wanted a garlic harvest in July so why wasn’t I out there planting it when it was warm and the ground was not frozen? I remember having the thought float through my head, “I should plant the garlic now”. I didn’t have time to do it for some reason or another. Were they excuses? Am I just undisciplined? Gasp!

I know time management is not one of my strengths. I was incredibly stressed out today after spending 2.5 hours online shopping. I didn’t even make an order. I kept going in circles researching things. I finally shut the website down in snappy frustration. “Stupid Amazon and all their “prime” rules and “pantry” rules.” I knew I was stuck in unproductive deadlock with my stubbornness 1.75 hours earlier but I felt helpless to stop at that point.

I wonder if some kind of schedule would help? I have a schedule for cleaning the house so it is not all piled on one day but I never follow it anymore. Oh, no. Are we back to the undisciplined thing again?! Arg!!

Goals and discipline. I know the answer is in there somewhere.

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Counter-top Yogurt

I am so excited to share this with you.

I recently purchased a yogurt starter from Cultures for Health. I needed something a little easier and more foolproof for making yogurt.

Previously, I would make yogurt using a little plain yogurt from the grocery store and my dehydrator. I have a drum shaped dehydrator that I rigged with cardboard walls. I put a warm glass of water with a candy thermometer in it so I could adjust the temperature dial to keep the water at 115° F. Once that was set, I put in two quart jars of pasteurized goat’s milk that had been cooled to 115° F and inoculated with my grocery store starter. Then I would incubate that for 12 hours or so.

Using plain yogurt from the grocery store doesn’t always work. Some brands of yogurt yield a better product than others. Some of them don’t work at all. I know you need to always buy the kind that is plain and says it has active bacteria but that doesn’t guarantee success. After a couple of yogurt fails, I was ready to actually spend money to make my life easier.

I had read about the Viili strain of yogurt from Finland and knew that was the one I wanted to try. It is incubated at a room temperature range that is found in the common household. I knew that would also allow me to easily always have yogurt on hand. My only concern was that I really like a tart yogurt. The description of Viili was that it was a mild yogurt.

My purchase arrived last week on Friday. I was so excited that I found time to pasteurize some milk and get it cooled and inoculated before leaving for my son’s soccer game in the morning on Saturday.

I was going to leave it out on the counter like I had planned but at the last minute I put it up in a cupboard I have above the sink that has a light in it. The light bulb is not a traditional one but rather one of those energy-efficient fluorescent ones. I thought it would provide a few extra degrees of heat because I let my house cool down to 65° F during the day.

I checked the yogurt when we got home but there appeared to be nothing happening. I found the same result the next morning. I knew it could take up to 48 hours to activate the starter so I tried not to worry. I also made myself take a temperature reading. I couldn’t imagine that the temperature wouldn’t be between 70-77° F up in that cupboard but I needed to be sure. I was surprised to find that it was only 60° F! So, out it came and on to my counter it went. If it wasn’t going to work there then I wasn’t going to do it.

I was thrilled to find a very happy and thick yogurt in the glass the next morning.

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I tasted it and was very happy with the flavor. It was plenty tart enough for me. I immediately started another batch. This one, was left out on the counter the whole time.

Once again, the next morning, thick and lovely yogurt was waiting for me. YESSSSSSSSSSS!

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So, my breakfast was granola, yogurt and a little raspberry jam. Mmmmmmmmmmm.

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So perfect 🙂

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My First Hard Apple Cider~November 2012

The following post is one I made a couple of years ago on a previous blog I had. If you are interested in homebrew, I hope you will enjoy all the details I included. If you are only mildly curious about brewing, I plan on doing another batch this year which I will post on later in a much more simplified manner.

November 14, 2012

Cider

I went to my local homebrew store which is an awesome store called Stan’s Merry Mart and purchased all the supplies I thought I’d need for $24.21.

Two glass gallon jugs ($5.47 each), 2 rubber stoppers ($1.29 each), 2 airlocks ($.79 each), 2 caps ($1.29 each), yeast ($0.99), campden tablets ($1.29 for 25) and a 2.3 feet of food grade tubing at $.49/sq ft (I should have bought a longer piece).

The first recipe and method I am trying is:
1 gallon of cider;
1 campden tablet; and a
1/2 a packet of Red Star® Pasteur Champagne yeast (I accidentally added a little more than half).

Here is my hard cider journey:

DAY 1
On Nov. 12 I pitched (it means added) the yeast. This was after waiting for 48 hours after adding the campden tablet which kills all the wild yeast, etc. I sanitized the airlock and stopper in vinegar for a few minutes and rinsed it with clean water. I don’t even know if the vinegar does a good enough job of sanitizing but that’s what I did.

On the back of the yeast packet it said to add the yeast to warm water but I didn’t want to dilute the cider so I poured out some of the cider and warmed it.
Then I inserted the stopper and filled the airlock with water (some use vodka but I didn’t have any) to the fill line and put that in the stopper. Then the bottle went on top of my fridge.
Here’s Day 1’s official photo:
DAY 2

In the morning I noticed bubbles coming out of the airlock. I was so excited. They weren’t very frequent but it meant that the yeast was alive and kicking!

photo taken at 8:39 am on Nov. 13, 2012.

Later that day, I started wondering if I should store the cider somewhere dark so now it lives in my son’s closet. Just in case it explodes it will go all over his stuff and not mine. 🙂 he he

On December 1st, I posted:

Progress Report

First, I need to share the single biggest mistake I’ve made so far. I did not take an initial reading of the specific gravity of the juice I started with. Without that I’m pretty sure there is no way to tell what the alcohol content of my cider is. It’s not that the reading is hard to take nor does it require expensive equipment.  You can buy a hydrometer at your local brew shop for about $10.00. It was simply a newbie mistake.

So, to get you caught up on where my cider is at now, I have three batches. The first pressing I did took two days on Nov. 9 and 10.  On Nov. 11 I put it into a 1 gallon glass jug and treated it with a campden tablet. On Nov. 12 I pitched the yeast. On November 13 I pressed another gallon of juice. For this batch I did not use a campden tablet because I wanted to see what a difference it made. For both gallons I used the champagne yeast I mentioned in a previous post. The third batch was an experimentation with wild yeast. I will post about that separately.

I did not add any sugar to anything. I just wanted pure fermented apple juice.

The following photo is Day 1 of the Untreated gallon.

Here are both the Treated and Untreated batches. On the right is the Treated on Day 3. The other is the Untreated Day 2.

The Treated one started fermenting quicker and seemed to finish quite ahead of the other. I had read that the campden tablets were really not necessary as the store-bought yeast was usually strong enough to overcome the wild yeast that is naturally present. I just wanted to see the difference. You may have noticed the color difference between the two. The Treated one was more orangey and the Untreated more brown.

Here are both batches again.  On the left is the Treated one on Day 4, and on the right is Untreated Day 3. You can see the sediment is greater on the Treated.

A closeup photo on Day 5 for the Untreated (on the right) and Day 6 for the Treated shows a layer of white sediment.  This was Nov. 17.  I tasted it and the untreated batch still tasted a little sweet and appley but I didn’t stop fermentation there because I didn’t think there’d be much point in drinking it if it didn’t have much of a kick 🙂

Here are the two batches on Nov. 21. On the right is the Treated and on the left the Untreated. I tasted them both and couldn’t tell a great deal of difference between the two. They tasted very dry, like wine. I don’t know what percent of alcohol it has but it gave me a nice buzz. It sure would have been nice if I had taken that initial reading!

Today is December 1st, 2012 and the yeast seems to be dormant. I know I need to “rack” it off its lees into a second fermentation vessel or bottle it.  This means I carefully siphon it out of the initial fermentation vessel trying to introduce as little extra oxygen as possible and leaving behind all the exhausted yeast particles and sediment in the bottom. I believe you can leave it in the initial fermentation vessel for 3 weeks. If you leave it too long it will take on “off” flavors. I just have a couple of days left until that deadline.

Here is Treated on the left on Day 20 and Untreated on Day 19.

So, I am at the point where I need to figure out how to regain that apple flavor and maybe get it carbonated. I joined the HomeBrewTalk forum so I could ask questions and post pictures to get advice. I haven’t done that yet but it is a very informative and helpful website.

The following post is from December 4, 2012

Racking Time

I racked it off its lees yesterday afternoon. I have way too much headspace to leave it for long (too much oxygen exposure).

I need to bottle it. I think I’m going to add some fresh pressed apple juice. That way the yeast will have something to eat and produce carbonation. I know I need to be careful not to make bottle bombs so I’m going to use a plastic bottle or a swing cap bottle and check it often. Once it reaches the carbonation I want, I’ll bottle pasteurize it using this method.

I found a great website yesterday for measurements and advice for one gallon batches. I’ve found that most recipes and advice is for five gallon batches.

I tasted each brew again, too. I can’t tell the difference between the two. Both are very dry and a little harsh. I’ve read that they’ll mellow with age and the apple flavors will come forward somewhat. I plan on keeping a little “pure” (not add any juice to it) to see how I like it in a few months.

I did try an unfiltered cider that just had some honey added. It’s called Honey Crisp by Crispin. It was very good. Maybe I should do a little with honey, too.

December 7, 2012

Bottling

I finally got this cider into bottles. I decided to “backsweeten“. I did keep some pure but in the other bottles I experimented with honey (just to taste) and fresh local pressed cider from Orondo Cider Works ($5 for a half-gallon). It has no preservatives and is just UV treated.

The hardest part about bottling was swirling the cider carefully to mix the honey but not to splash it and introduce oxygen.

My plan is to open them every day to check how well they are carbing up. This will happen because the yeast will activate with the addition of sugar and produce carbon dioxide. At the point that I like them I can bottle pasteurize them to stop the yeast.

Here’s a photo showing how much hard cider I filled them with before adding the juice.

From left to right: campden treated still cider (nothing added), no campden still cider, honey sweetened and honey sweetened (both of the last ones also were from the “no campden” batch).

Here’s a close up of the two still ciders. On the left is the one from the batch treated with campden tablets. I just wanted to see if I could taste a difference or not.

I am going to check with the people on Home Brew Talk to see what they think about bottle pasteurizing in these bottles.

I’m actually really relieved to have this bottled up. I think it was worrying me having so much headspace after I had first racked it.

December 12, 2012

Pasteurizing

Last night I opened one of my 32 ounce bottles and had to hold the cap on lightly to keep it from overflowing. I put it in the fridge to stop the yeast from multiplying and today I am pasteurizing it.
It had some sediment on the bottom so I racked it off into two 16 ounce bottles.I think this was a good thing to do for two reasons. First, racking it off will prevent any flavor change that the cider will take on from sitting on its lees. I did it because the amount of sediment was pretty thick (about a 1/4″ or so). I had used fresh pressed apple juice to back sweeten it and this particular bottle got the last of the jug which had sediment in the bottom. It was the bottle thatcarbed up the fastest, too. So, I think it had quite a bit of natural yeast in that was activated as well. The second reason, was that the bottle from the fridge was cold and I thought it might break if I put it in the 190 degree water. I warmed up the two 16 ounce bottles with hot water before racking the cold cider into them.Below is a photo of the cider in the 32 ounce bottle (in the foreground) before I racked it off.

I am also running a test on how long it takes the 32 ounce bottle to reach 140 F. I had read this post on HomeBrewTalk which advises this.

I have three bottles in my pressure canner right now. I am only using the pressure canner because it provides a cautionary measure against bottle bombs. I took out the pressure dial so steam can escape. It also gives me a little porthole to view the thermometer in the 32 ounce bottle I have in there. The other two bottles are the 16 ounce ones with the cider.

None of my other bottles of cider are carbonated enough yet. There are two more bottles that I back sweetened with fresh cider and three with honey.

So, I just checked the temp and it has been 7 min. It is up to 178 now. Shoot, I missed the 140 mark. Sorry, now I don’t have results to share on how long it took to get there.

I think I will wait the remaining three minutes before I take the bottles out. (10 minutes is the recommended time by Pappers of the HomeBrewTalk forum whose method I am following.)

Now the bottles are out and I checked the temp of the 32 ounce bottle again. It is holding at 178.

Here’s the finished product.

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Rabbit

We ate rabbit for the first time last night.  We, all four of us (two 36 year olds, a 10 year old boy and an 8 year old boy) LOVED it.  It was incredibly tender and juicy.

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We’ve been raising rabbits since February and I actually have a couple in the freezer already but we haven’t tried it yet. The rabbits were actually on the list. The list of things to cut out to make things a little simpler around here. Then we ate the wabbit. The wabbit was yummy! I think we keep wabbits for a little longer!

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