Making an outdoor bread table

I have wanted to build an outdoor bread table for my on-going outdoor kitchen project. I had a large stone for the top. It’s been around a fire pit for years. But I thought it would make a perfect top to a table. It’s heavy, it’s flat and it will put up with the Vermont outdoors without getting ruined. So finally I dedicated some time to figuring out what to use for a bottom to the table. I have a 150+ year-old sugar maple tree I cut down a few years back that I’ve been sawing pieces off for projects. Looking at it the other day, I decided a chunk of that old tree can be a pedestal for my table. The dimensions were right, and it’s certainly heavy enough to hold the 200 pound stone.

chainsaw art, chainsaw milling, outdoor kitchen, huge chainsaw bar, pizza oven

First, the tool. My chainsaw with a 42″ bar. This bar about doubles the weight of my saw, and it’s a bear to use. But when you’re cutting a 40″ hard maple tree, it comes in handy.

 

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This is the small end of the tree. The base is about 44 inches. Here at 10 feet up from the bottom of the tree, it’s still at two feet.

chainsaw art, milling maple, maple tree, outdoor kitchen, pizza oven, chainsaw milling

The setup. The pedestal is in place. I dragged this over with my log skidder, aka my 2001 Saab 9-5 station wagon. As you can see, my 42″ chainsaw bar throws a lot of wood chips.

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The stone is in place. This I dragged over with my garden tractor. I laid it on a sheet of plywood with holes in it to accept a logging chain. It dragged as smooth as silk. I’m saving that piece of plywood for other projects.

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A shot of the placement of the table. My pizza oven is 15 feet to the left.

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A friend came over, ironically enough so I could work on his chainsaw, and he helped me hoist the tabletop into place.

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After scrubbing my stone with an electric drill with a wire brush on it and a stiff plastic brush and soapy water, my tabletop came pretty clean. Now you can see the striations in the stone. I’m not sue what kind of stone it is. Any ideas from any geologists out there?

chainsaw art, milling maple, maple tree, outdoor kitchen, pizza oven, chainsaw milling

After a day of fooling around with this project, my table is complete. Now I’m just waiting for a warm day to put it into operation.

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Tortilla press

For years I’ve wanted to make a tortilla press. I’ve tried making tortillas without one, but it never works quite right. I saw a press in the store the other day when I was in town. It was pieces of pine board screwed together with drywall screws. It looked super simple and it looked like it would do the trick. I decided I needed to make my own. I found a couple of nice pieces of hardwood (cherry and maple) that were the perfect size. So from some wood scraps I had lying around and an old hinge I found, I made my own, brand-spanking new tortilla press.

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Phase 1: Ready for action.

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Phase 2: The squashing phase.

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Phase 3: A perfect thin, round tortilla. Ready for the spicy beef I have roasting in the oven. Ooohh baby! Bring it on.

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Here’s the beef I made. It was really easy to make. I can’t take full credit for it. I got the idea for the recipe here: http://www.afamilyfeast.com/mexican-shredded-beef/  I fooled with the recipe a little. I added fresh garlic too and I used a $5 cheap London Broil steak, and a whole small can of beef broth. I sauteed the beef, onion and garlic first, then added everything else, and put it in the oven with the cover off at 350ºF for about an hour, then 450ºF until the liquid was gone and the meat was tender.

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Phase 4: The finished product. My fresh tortillas, a little cheese, the meat and cilantro on top. Simple and delicious.

Note: Making tortillas is easy. Just buy instant masa (I use Maseca) and follow the directions on the package (2 cups of masa, 1.5 cups warm water, 1/4 tsp salt). Make the dough the consistency of Play Dough. Use a freezer bag with three sides cut off to put the dough ball in for pressing. Press dough ball between plastic and carefully peel it off and brown in medium-hot pan with oil (about 30-60 seconds per side). Enjoy!

Feeding the birds

This year we’ve had a ton of turkeys eating out of the bird feeder. Here are a couple action photos.

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Turkey roosting above my bird feeder.

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Here she is eating bird seed. It’s been a long, cold winter. I have 10-15 turkeys at my feeder all day.

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Here she is about to fall of the railing. They fall off and jump back up on all day.

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Here is a group of them scratching around for food.

Lager Day

I just bottled up a lager I made. I’m waiting for another brew I have going to bottle, too. I’m going to enter one in an upcoming homebrew contest through a local brewery here in Vermont. This one is a light Pilsner, with a nice aroma of hops. I’m not sure if it’s going to be the entrant. It’s a little hoppy for how light it is. We’ll see if a few weeks in the bottle smooths it out. Also, I just switched the other brew into a secondary fermenter and it tastes fantastic. I can’t wait for the taste testing. Beer is delicious.

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A hoppy lager in the sun.

Follow the Grain Bread

In response to the one and only comment I’ve received so far on my blog, I’m posting a recipe along with this post (Thanks to Pipeline for posting my first comment through Vingle).

This is a bread recipe I came up with. I wanted a bread to fit a loaf pan and make some chock full of seed light-ish wheat bread. It’s great for toast and works great for tuna fish sandwiches. I hope someone tries this and enjoys the end product. Keep baking and enjoy! Dan.

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Cut me up and call me toast. This bread is nutty and delicious.

Follow the Grain Bread

Ingredients:
• 1 1/2 Cups Water (temp. 100ºF)
• 1 tblsp. yeast
• 2 tblsp. date sugar (1 tblsp. 1 tsp. if using sugar or maple syrup)
• 1 Cup whole wheat flour
• 2 Cups bread flour (I use King Arthur unbleached white bread flour)
Note: flour amounts could range to recipe needing about 1 extra cup. Add 1/4 at a time. to form a pretty tight dough. Start with 3 cups in mixer for at least 2-3 minutes before you add anything.
• 1 tblsp. + 1 tsp. whey powder (or could use dry milk solids)
• 2 tsp. salt
• 2 tsp. shortening
For seeds (you could make many substitutions to this):
• 1/4 cup dark flax seeds
• 1/4 cup regular flax seeds
• 1/4 cup sesame seeds
• 4 tblsp. sunflower seeds
Reserve 1/4 cup for top
Directions:
Activate yeast for 10 minutes in water with sugar. Add other ingredients and knead at speed 2 for 8 – 10 minutes. Rise one hour, punch down and form into ball, rise another hour, punch down and form into loaf pan lightly greased with cooking spray (I use Pam olive oil). Slit top with razor blade or sharp knife. Brush loaf with water and sprinkle 1/2 of remaining seeds on top (I know you have left over, you could use more. I used the rest for a snack).
Let loaf rise for one to one-and-half hours (I like to go as long as I can).
Cook at 400ºF for 25 minutes. Lower temperature in oven to 350ºF and cook for another 10 minutes (Loaf should read 200ºF in the center).
Cool loaf on rack for at least an hour. When cool, I store my loaves in used store-bought loaf bread bags. Use a good sharp bread knife and slice as you like. This bread is very good with tuna and makes killer toast. Enjoy. Dan.

Shepherd’s Pie Pizza

Today I came up with the idea of Shepherd’s Pie Pizza. After research on the internet, I realized thousands of other people have had same the idea before me, but still I embarked on the voyage and undertook the task. Check out the results.

The before picture. Crust, gravy, hamburger and sausage mix, dollops of mashed potatoes, onions and a mixture of mozzarella and colby jack cheeses.

The before picture. Crust, gravy, hamburger and sausage mix, dollops of mashed potatoes, onions and a mixture of mozzarella and colby jack cheeses.

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Out of the oven. Cooked at 425ºF for 18 minutes, then 5 minutes under the broiler. Smells delicious.

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The money shot. Not too shabby for a first try. Things to try next time: 1. Roast and spice the corn first, 2. Use either strong garlic mashed potatoes or tater tots, 3. More gravy or stronger flavored gravy, 4. Use my pizza oven, a crispier crust and top would make this pizza perfect.

Making English muffins

One of my favorite baking projects is making English muffins. They can be tricky, but I think I’ve got the technique down. Check out the proof!

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The dough for English muffins is very slack.

The dough for English muffins is very slack.

The dough set to rise. I usually go for a 3 + hour rise, the in the fridge for 2-3 days. Many punchdowns and folding of the dough later, I make the rounds.

The dough set to rise. I usually go for a 3 + hour rise, the in the fridge for 2-3 days. Many punchdowns and folding of the dough later, I make the rounds.

Voila! These are my best nooks and crannies yet.

Voila! These are my best nooks and crannies yet.