It's been a busy time at the homestead, with preparations for Christmas, ongoing volunteer work, kids' activities and much much more (including my full-time job), but I always love an excuse to bake. This time, it was for my eldest son's school holiday ...

Recipe: Cinnamon Coffee Cake Chocolate Chip Muffins

It’s been a busy time at the homestead, with preparations for Christmas, ongoing volunteer work, kids’ activities and much much more (including my full-time job), but I always love an excuse to bake. This time, it was for my eldest son’s school holiday party, taking place today.

My son requested something cinnamon-y, while my husband requested chocolate chips (which he went out and bought so… fair enough), so I dug through my latest favorite baking cookbook — Duff Bakes. I wasn’t familiar with the author’s work (though I had heard of the Ace of Cakes Food Network show), but picked this up when the ebook form was on sale at Amazon. Since then, I’ve tried a couple of recipes and they have both been big hits with the family. No wonder his baked goods are so popular. Duh. (Last on the planet to figure this out, I know.)

While there wasn’t a cinnamon-y muffin recipe — which is what I had signed up to bring — there was a cinnamon coffee cake recipe, and it explained how to change up the recipe (really just cooking time) for cupcakes. It didn’t include chocolate chips, though, so I just made one batch without chocolate chips and then added them into the batter before spooning it out into the second muffin tin.

So, now, without further ado…

Cinnamon Coffee Cake Chocolate Chip Muffins

based on a recipe by Duff Goldberg

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Yield: 12 muffins

Cooking spray
2 sticks butter, softened
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons orange flower water
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch of kosher salt
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups creme fraiche
4 extra large eggs
1/4 cup ground cinnamon
10 oz chocolate chips
For the Streusel:
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup lightly packed brown sugar
1 stick butter, softened
1 tbsp vanilla extract
Pinch of ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Tiny pinch of ground cloves
1 cup all-purpose flour


You can make the streusel ahead of time if you’d like. Just mix all of the ingredients together and use a spoon (or your hands, or a pastry cutter) to cut the butter into the dry ingredients until it’s like a crumbly powder.

Preheat the oven to 350. Line the muffin pan with liners or grease with cooking spray.

With a hand or stand mixer, cream the butter, 1 cup of granulated sugar and the brown sugar. Add the vanilla and orange flower water and beat for 30 more seconds. Scrape the sides of the bowl.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the baking powder, salt and flour. Gradually add half the flour mixture to the butter mixture, then half the cream fraiche and 2 of the eggs. Then the rest of the flour and then the rest of the creme fraiche and eggs.

Mix until combined.

If you’re going to add the chocolate chips now’s the time. Gently fold them into the batter. We used dark chocolate morsels and they were a great fit.

Fill each muffin container halfway with batter, spooning it in.

In a small bowl, mix together the remaining 1/4 cup of granulated sugar, the cinnamon and 1/4 cup water. Using a plastic knife or chopstick, cut a zig-zag pattern in the batter, then pour the cinnamon mixture on top. Spoon in the rest of the batter to cover.

Sprinkle the streusel on top and bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Muffins are done when a toothpick inserted into the thickest part of the muffin comes out dry.

The post Recipe: Cinnamon Coffee Cake Chocolate Chip Muffins appeared first on Free Range.


Bringing Our Baby Goats Home

dulcie-in-crateAfter two frustrating delays, we were afraid to even believe we’d ever get our baby goats. But it’s been a whirlwind week full of lots of bleating and, finally, first-hand experience.

We had to drive 1 1/2 hours on the dreaded Interstate to meet the breeder in the parking lot of a farm and ranch store. Of course, we were running late, as I was trying to squeeze too much in and attended our property owners’ association’s annual members meeting — where I planned to advocate for laying hens in keeping with my big campaign. I had to duck out before it was finished (who knew it would go 2 hours+?), handing off my survey print-outs and post-it notes to an ally.

Turning to the matter at hand, I drove near the quite high speed limit the whole way, fingers gripping the steering wheel as I managed the ever-changing lanes being shaped by construction crews. To give you a sense of this experience, keep in mind that the reduced speed limit in the frequent construction sections was 60 mph. All along the way, I glanced in the rear-view mirror regularly, constantly fearful that the dog kennels we’d strapped in would fly off and cause a multi-car collision.

When we finally arrived and found the truck carrying our precious cargo, the transition was swift, as the breeder and her family members seemed eager to be on their way — understandable since we were running late, after all. And there we were — responsible for two new baby goats, which turned out to be much smaller than I’d expected. The feeling was not unlike leaving the hospital with a new baby in a car seat, where you halfway want to ask the nurses if they’re certain they want to let you leave with this tiny creature — because you have absolutely no idea what you’re doing.


We relaxed much more on the way home and Google Maps even helped me find a much more pleasant route home, which got us off the dreaded Interstate much more quickly.

Still feeling like we had no clue, my youngest son and I wrangled the little beasts into their newly-constructed pen. At first, they were super fearful, taking shelter inside their little dog house and refusing to come out. But before long they were showing their true nature, jumping on top and checking out their new surroundings.


More to come, of course, in the coming days and weeks as we all settle in.

The post Bringing Our Baby Goats Home appeared first on Free Range.


Getting our Goat(s)

Maybe it goes without saying that I was thrilled when the breeder reached out to me and said she thought she’d identified a doeling that would be good for our situation — our situation being that we were looking for a “family milker,” as it’s called in the parlance.

She sent pictures and we fell in love with this little girl — one of quadruplets — and we determined to take her brother, as a wether, as well (a wether being a “fixed” male). We came up with names, and we prepared to welcome them into the Caird Creek Wildlife Sanctuary and Farm.


The day before we were planning to set off to pick them up (about a 3-hour drive each way), I got a message from the breeder: “Pamela, I have some very bad news….”

Turns out as she was getting the little doe ready for us, she noticed two extra teats — nothing that will likely cause her any problems in her life, but enough of an issue that she shouldn’t be bred. A responsible breeder will stop that genetic anomaly in its tracks. Thankfully, this just means our former-goat-to-be and her brother will be sent live with the breeder’s grandparents, who take on the “special cases” like this and, we were assured, they would be “thrilled to have her.” But what about us?

Thankfully, this just means our former-goat-to-be and her brother will be sent live with the breeder’s grandparents, who take on the “special cases” like this and, we were assured, they would be “thrilled to have her.” But what about us?

Decisions, decisions

We could either get a refund of our deposit, take the other two kids in the quadruplet set, or… a different option became a possibility. There was a “flat out dynamite” Mini LaMancha doe kid, whose mother produces a gallon of milk a day, that needed a milking home. A miniature dairy goat is basically a cross between a standard dairy goat (LaMancha, Nubian, Alpine, etc.) and a Nigerian Dwarf, with the goal of creating a high-productivity milker that didn’t eat as much, didn’t take up as much space, and wasn’t as hard to handle as a full-sized goat. I hadn’t really looked into them much, but, with this opportunity, I started to do some research.

After much discussion, a lot of research and plenty of questions, we decided to go that route — taking both the doe kid and her brother as a wether. The Mini LaManchas, or MiniManchas or MMs, are generally a bit larger than Nigerian Dwarfs, but they’re still small enough to fit into the large dog house we purchased. I’m told they can be bred earlier (at a year, rather than a year and a half) than NDs, and the increased level of milk production would be very nice. Plus, there’s a possibility that they could be bred year-round like NDs — whereas standard dairy breeds are seasonal breeders.

Plus, we’ve already found a “boyfriend” for her, for when the time comes. She’ll be able to go back to where she grew up and spend some romance time with an unrelated MM buck.

The Mini-LaMancha

We obviously don’t have any experience yet, but LaManchas are said to be very sweet, docile and quiet — the quietest of the dairy breeds. And they’re an all-American breed, as the breed was developed on the West Coast from descendants of Spanish goats brought over to Mexico by the Conquistadors.

The most unique breed characteristic is their ears — or lack thereof. They are supposed to have tiny ears, called “gopher” or “elf” ears, though the doe we’re getting has the long ears of the Nigerian Dwarf — which is acceptable in early generations. I’m trying to develop a fondness for the weird ears, as they aren’t immediately endearing, so it’s probably good we start with a doe with standard ears.

Speaking of which….

August 18, 2016 at 0801PM

This pic is a bit blurry, and this one of her brother is dark, as well.

August 18, 2016 at 0808PM (2)

But you can tell he has the little ears. I’ve asked for more pics, so hopefully there will be more to come.

They’re a little younger than the ones we were originally going to get, so we’re not getting them for another couple of weeks. In the meantime, we’re putting everything in place — feeders, waterers, a little house, a covered area — to ensure we’re ready. Though, of course, we’ll never really be ready. But that’s not going to stop us.

The post Getting our Goat(s) appeared first on Free Range.


Embarking on a Goat-Raising Adventure

The fight for legalizing chickens continues, though I’ve taken a bit of a campaign hiatus while summer activities caught me up in their clutches. I have to say I’m thrilled that — here in Central Texas anyway — school started this week.

And as we get into the new school year routine, we’re introducing another fun addition to the schedule — goat kid care. I’ve been thinking goaty thoughts since before we even moved here, and then I took that milking class (which actually discouraged me, because it reminded me of all the things we weren’t ready for). But, now, it’s finally time to take the step.

Since I have this “livestock should be useful, not pets” philosophy, our goal for getting goats is similar to that for having chickens: we want milk! Right now, our family is drinking so much milk that I’m constantly calling or texting my husband: “Could you pick up a gallon of milk on your way home?” With growing boys, I can only imagine that our milk consumption will continue to increase. And then there are the possibilities of cheese, butter, ice cream and even goat milk soap.

Decisions, Decisions

Even with our goal clearly in mind, there were still tons of choices before us. What kind of goat should we get? A normal-sized goat? A miniature goat? What breed? Where do we get one? How much are we willing to pay? Do we get an adult in milk or a kid? And then, since goats need at least one companion… what should the second goat be? Male? Female?

We finally settled on Nigerian Dwarf goats. They’re small and easier to handle — the breed standard for does is under 21 inches tall. They eat less than full-size goats. And there are breeders in our area that have been working to increase their capacity and suitability for milk production.

It helped that my husband found them cute, as he’s been a bit skeptical of this plan all along. We were also a bit unsure about whether we were really ready for a twice-a-day milking commitment, so we decided to get a kid and ease into it slowly. Get to know her for a while, then think about milking when she’s old enough.

The Kids Are All Right

Every spring, Craigslist and Facebook light up with the exciting news of new kiddings. For years, I’ve been watching and sharing the cute pictures and videos with my husband and children, and it served to whet our appetite. I got a better feel for the way things worked and learned that spring was the time to make the leap — in whatever year we ended up being ready. I scoured these Facebook Pages, groups and websites trying to learn everything I could about choosing Nigerian Dwarf goats. In the end, there were a couple of breeders here in Texas I had my eye on.

This spring, we had a fence, we had a little experience with chickens, and I had my eye on a particular breeder’s kiddings.

It was time to proceed. I communicated with the breeder about our situation and needs and put down a deposit to reserve a doe kid. Then I waited.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this story coming soon.

The post Embarking on a Goat-Raising Adventure appeared first on Free Range.


The Homemade Ice Cream Contest — With Recipe

13558969_10154291867443735_893099404995619577_oSpoiler alert: I did not win. Did not even place. But, wow, what an experience. And the things I’ve learned about homemade ice cream along the way… Well, that’s why I’m writing this post.

As the days here in Central Texas have crept ever-upward into double digits, I’ve contentedly puttered around in the kitchen, conjuring up delicious (and sometimes even healthful) desserts on my homemade ice cream machine.

What started out as Honey Vanilla and Salted Butter Caramel soon progressed to Pear Vanilla Sorbet, Buttermilk Basil (Weight Watchers) Sherbet, Blackberry Sorbet, Sweet CreamChocolate and Vanilla. I’m not kidding — I seriously made ALL of these since mid-June when I purchased a dedicated ice cream maker at Costco. (No wonder my Weight Watchers effort has stalled in recent weeks!)

Along the way, I’ve developed a bit of confidence, maybe even swagger. So when I learned that the (first ever, but extremely promising) Independence Day Spectacular festival put on by our local newspaper would be holding a homemade ice cream contest, I was intrigued.

The Recipe

But, what could I make? I wanted it to be original. Even though my own ice cream tastes lean toward vanilla, I thought it would be hard to stand out from a crowd of vanillas. Then, I thought about Independence Day. Should it be red, white and blue? Vanilla, blueberry and strawberry? Hmm…

For all my tinkering, I’ve actually never developed an original recipe before. I’d never made batch after batch of variations for side-by-side testing, tweaking ingredients or amounts until I’ve gotten it just right. I didn’t actually get the opportunity to do it this time, either, but I came close and I was pretty happy with what I came up with.

For additional inspiration, I scoured the internet for flavors, and contests, and contest-winning flavors. Contest-winners varied, of course, based upon the venue. Food 52, one of my favorite (but kind of snobby) sites, held a contest in which the winner was Olive Oil-Saffron Ice Cream with Burnt Orange Caramel Swirl. And the runner-up? Kabocha Vanilla Chai Ice Cream. (I’m not sure what Kabocha is, but I’ll be sure to look it up.)

Meanwhile, closer to home, the 57th annual Hopkins County Dairy Festival’s Ice Cream Freeze-Off (which calls itself the Texas State Championship) crowned a Pecan Pie flavor as champion this year, with the people’s choice award going to something called Vanilla Pebbles. (Hopkins County became home to a Carnation Milk processing plant in 1937, which led to a big increase in the importance of dairy farming thereabouts.)

At last, I decided to adopt a theme for my recipe that didn’t exactly call Independence Day to mind, but one that paid tribute to the season — one that used locally-available seasonally-appropriate ingredients. I hoped that playing to tradition in this way — bringing to mind days gone by when you couldn’t GET these ingredients at any time but summer — would overcome the novelty and “weirdness” of my recipe choice: Summer Sweet Corn and Buttermilk Blackberry Ice Cream.

Home-grown Blackberries

Home-grown Blackberries

Alas, my strategy didn’t work. Maybe the judges were traditionalists (a strawberry/banana combo won, I believe), or maybe it was just that I failed to spread the blackberry evenly enough through the batch (I had to make a full gallon, which ended up requiring 4 containers). But the eventual ice cream was delicious and super summery, and there was plenty left to bring home! (I guess the judges couldn’t stomach a gallon of each of the competitors’ wares.)

The Testing Process

I’ll share the recipe below, but first a few words about my decision-making. I tried various ways of infusing the corn flavor into the ice cream. The recipe that inspired my variation used a corn cob, along with the kernels, which cooked with the milky liquids to infuse it with flavor. I didn’t have cob corn, so I tried just corn kernels, but I blended them up with an immersion blender to amp up the flavor. The problem? The result was lumpy-ish with corn solids, which I mistakenly believed was due to my substitution of cottage cheese for cream cheese.

Later, I tried just using corn kernels without blending them, but the result just wasn’t “corny” enough. I started with a version in the style of Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream of Ohio, which uses cornstarch as a thickener rather than egg yolks and employs cream cheese for smoothness. Then I wanted to try egg yolks, but the result — though delicious — was a bit too heavy tasting for summer. I ended up splitting the difference and using egg yolks, cornstarch AND cream cheese. I wanted the depth of flavor without the heaviness.

Not knowing that the corn solids had caused the lumpiness in my initial batch, I immersion-blended the corn kernels into the milk mixture on my contest-entry giant gallon batch. But then, when it came time to strain the corn pieces out of the mixture, it was pretty much impossible to get all the milk a strainer while keeping the corny bits behind. So I went full throttle and put my fancy blender into service, blending everything super super fine and incorporating the corn into the batter completely. The result was plenty smooth and very very corny — which went deliciously with the blackberries, though there were far too few of the blackberries in the end.

Ice Cream Science

In concocting my final effort, I referred to lots of different sources, but especially Ice Cream Science, which offers a handy dandy spreadsheet for calculating various ice cream blends. Because science!

The site taught me a few key things, the most important of which is: the enemy of homemade ice cream is iciness. To avoid iciness, freeze your ice cream as quickly as possible as cold as possible, and keep it consistently cold. To this end, put everything you’re using in the churning process (spoons, churning paddles, storage containers, etc.) into the freezer so that it doesn’t hinder the freezing process. Additionally, keep air away — by using Ziploc bags in an ice bath, and, after churning, seal off the top of the ice cream from the elements with parchment paper or plastic wrap.

And now, without further ado, the recipe:

Summer Sweet Corn & Buttermilk Blackberry Ice Cream Recipe

Frozen Desserts Ice Cream

Makes About 1 1/2 quart  ? Source By Pamela Caird – adapted from a recipe in Saveur magazine


  • For the Ice Cream:
  • 3 cups 1% milk
  • 3 tbsp cornstarch
  • 6 tbsp buttermilk powder
  • 2 1/4 cups corn kernels (fresh, frozen or in a can, drained)
  • 1 7/8 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tbsp. honey
  • 3/8 tsp. kosher salt
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 4 1/2 tbsp. cream cheese, softened
  • For the Sauce:
  • 1 1/2 cup blackberries
  • 3/4 cup sugar


For the Ice Cream:

In a bowl, stir together 2/3 cup milk and the cornstarch; set slurry aside.

In a 4-qt. saucepan , combine the remaining milk and the cream, sugar, honey, buttermilk powder and salt. Add corn kernels. Using an immersion blender, blend together all of the ingredients until the corn kernels are all broken apart and the rest of the ingredients are well mixed.

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook for 4 minutes. Stir often to ensure nothing is sticking to the bottom of the pan. Reduce the heat to medium-low.

Put the egg yolks in a medium-sized bowl and whisk them or mix them with an immersion blender. Take a small amount of the warm mixture and add it to the bowl with the egg yolks. Whisk the yolks and the mixture until well-blended, then add it all back into the saucepan. Add the slurry of milk and cornstarch.

Raise heat again to medium-high and return to a boil and cook, stirring, until thickened. Remove it from the heat. Pour mixture into a high-powered blender (Blendtec or Vitamix type), and blend thoroughly on high power until all corn pieces have been blended into a fine puree. Do this in batches if needed, depending on the size of the blender.

Place cream cheese in a bowl and pour in 1 cup of the blended hot milk mixture; whisk until smooth. Pour in the rest of the mixture as it is blended and whisk to mix well and incorporate the cream cheese.

Pour mixture into a Ziploc bag, sealing in as little air as possible, and submerge in a bowl of ice water until chilled. Place plastic bag in the refrigerator for several hours or, ideally, overnight. Pour mixture into an ice cream maker by cutting off one bottom corner of the bag and squeezing the mixture out. Process according to the instructions provided by the manufacturer of the ice cream maker.

Make the sauce:

Combine blackberries and sugar in a 1-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat, and cook, stirring, until thick, about 8 minutes; strain and chill.

After churning, alternate layers of ice cream and berry sauce in a storage container before freezing.

The post The Homemade Ice Cream Contest — With Recipe appeared first on Free Range.


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