Tuesday, November 10, 2015

My Youtube Channel

I have been really going back and forth with what is easier for me ... this blog or my youtube channel. Right now without the internet it seems so hard to keep this blog updated but I can make and edit videos at home and then have them ready to upload whenever internet is available. I upload as many as I have available all at once and then publish them at different days so they are not all published at the same time. Anyway, youtube has been a lot more practical for me at this point in my life ... so here is a link to my youtube channel ... subscribe for updates!! I will continue to update this blog as often as I can, which includes updating the ever-growing "recipe" section. Thank you!!

Frugal Home and Health (HERITAGE HOMESTEAD) on YOUTUBE

Saturday, October 17, 2015

A Funny Chicken Video and an update

We were going through old videos today and yesterday and ran across this one from 3 or 4 years ago. I forgot all about it!!! It gave us all a good laugh more than once over the years :)

Besides that, life goes on as usual. I might have a post for this blog soon!! Until then, go check out youtube channel FRUGAL HOME AND HEALTH ... I am still keeping that up-to-date. Have a great night!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

THE BEST (really) Grain Free Gluten Free Brownies

(video at the bottom)
I've always liked brownies but never liked the fact that sugar was the main ingredient. I've tried many 'healthier' brownie recipes over the years, tweaked them a little, and still have not come up with anything close to the 'real deal' ... until now. In fact, I like these brownies BETTER than the 'real deal' and they are much better for you.

With almond butter or some other kind of nut or seed butter as the base and honey to sweeten, these brownies can be enjoyed instead of feared.

Grain Free Brownies
FIRST (optional but really good!)
Soak about 10 prunes for a few hours, a day or over night. Blend the prunes and 1 1/2t instant coffee granules (optional) WITH the soaking water until smooth. Add only as much water as needed to help it blend (you may need to add more water).

Preheat over to 325* and grease a bar pan (15" x 10 1/2")

Place 2 cups (512g) of nut or seed butter in a mixer bowl.
Add the prune/coffee puree and 3 eggs.
Mix well, stopping to scrape down the sides at least once.

Add 1T vanilla and sweetener. If your nut/seed butter is sweet already, only use 1/2c to 3/4c sweetener. If it is not sweet, add 1c sweetener. I prefer honey.
Mix well, stopping to scrape down the sides at least once.

In a separate bowl combine 1/2c dark cocoa/cacao powder, 1t baking soda and 1/2t salt. If you did not use the prunes, now is the time to add the 1 1/2t instant coffee granules (optional).
Stir to mix well.

Spoon the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients while blending. Mix well. Scrape at least once.
Optional: Stir in 1/2c to 3/4c dark chocolate chips (I do this for any nut or seed butter except the chocolate hazelnut butter). You may melt this if you'd like to.

Pour onto the greased bar pan, spread out evenly and bake at 325* for about 30-35 minutes, or until the center is done.

Cool on a wire rack. Cut. Store in an airtight container ... on the counter for short term or in the fridge for about a week.

Friday, September 18, 2015

THE BEST Gluten Free Grain Free Almond Flour Muffins

I've been spending a lot more time recently doing videos instead of posting on here and I think I've come to the conclusion that I like to post blogs better than make videos ... so I'm going to shift back into that and still do some videos as time allows. [10-17-15 videos are easier for me right now because we do not have the internet!! I'll do my best.] But for now, here is a video I just did the other day: Gluten Free Grain Free Blueberry Muffins (or whatever berry or other fruit you prefer). I'll post the recipe and instructions here but you may watch the video too if you'd like :) I'll put it at the bottom of this post.

I order the blanched almond flour from Azure Standard, however if there is not an Azure Standard drop point in your area you can find blanched almond flour on Amazon, Vitacost, or other such place.
Another starch may be substituted for the Tapioca Starch, however the texture might be a little different (Arrowroot starch, potato starch, etc.).

Blueberry Muffins
Gluten-Free, Grain-Free
Preheat oven to 350*
Have ready 12 paper-lined muffin cups.

Combine well in blender...
3 large eggs or 4 small eggs
1/2c plain non-dairy or dairy milk
1/3c sweetener (I like honey)
1/4c melted butter (or other oil such as coconut)
1 1/2t vanilla
1/2t other extract to suit your choice of fruit (see below)

Mix first and then blend with above until just combined. Do not overmix...
2c blanched almond flour
1/2c tapioca starch
1/2t baking soda
1/4t salt

Pour in to 12 paper-lined muffin cups.
Top each with one heaping tablespoon of berries or other fruit.
Bake at 350* for 30-35 minutes or until done. Check around 25 minutes.
Cool on rack for about 10 minutes before removing muffins.

Allow muffins to cool completely on wire rack before storing in an air-tight container. Store on the counter if using quickly, the fridge if using within a week or so, or the freezer for long-term storage and a quick breakfast or snack.

Blueberry with lemon extract or 1t lemon zest
Raspberry with almond or orange extract and/or orange zest
Cranberry with orange extract or zest (may also add chopped nuts)
Peach with almond extract (add a teaspoon of cinnamon and 1/4t nutmeg for spiced peach)
Dehydrated strawberries with no extra extract (fresh strawberries are too runny)
Chopped, canned pineapple chunks with no extra extract
Chopped apples with almond extract (add 1t cinnamon and 1/4t nutmeg if desired)

For more videos please see our playlists:

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Easy, Healthy, Frugal, Fast, Freezer Breakfasts

In effort to save time in the morning yet still provide the troops with a healthy start to their days, I prepare various breakfast-type items for the freezer. A little bit of time and effort on one day when it's convenient for me saves a lot of time and effort each morning.

Some of the freezer breakfast ideas I share in this video are:
Freezer Smoothie Packs (video and post coming soon!)
Freezer Copycat Egg McMuffin Sandwiches
Freezer Waffles / Freezer Pancakes / Freezer French Toast
Freezer Gluten Free Muffins (video and post coming soon!)


Friday, August 28, 2015

How to save Heirloom Tomato Seeds

I did a quick video showing how I save heirloom tomato seeds. I hope to do a blog post about it soon too, but will use the same photos. You may follow the link below or watch here on the blog. Have a great day!!


Sunday, August 16, 2015

Juicy Baked Chicken

I think we have 17 chickens left out of the 25 we butchered about 2 months ago ... and they sure taste good!! Here I'm sharing our favorite way to prepare them: Baked (some might call it roasted but it's baked). I numbered the photos above - can you see them? I hope so!
1. Begin with a rack in a roasting pan.
2. Put the raw chicken BREAST SIDE DOWN onto the rack. Even with store-bought chicken, cooking it this way makes for a juicier breast ... I guess because all of the juices go down into the breast instead of the back?
3. Rub with butter and sprinkle with seasonings. I like to use poultry seasoning, garlic granules, onion granules and celery salt. I also put a little butter, fresh chopped onion and celery inside the body cavity.
4. Bake uncovered at 350* for about 20 minutes per pound. Using a meat thermometer will ensure doneness (165* in the fleshy / thickest part of bird, which is usually the thigh) however if you do not have one just poke around deep into the flesh with a fork and see if the juices run clear. If ANY pink runs out it is not done.
5. Remove the bird into a dish; picture number 5 shows what it looks breast-side-up when done. Not as pretty as the back!
6. Cut into desired pieces. Here in #6 I have the leg quarters and the breasts in separate pieces in a casserole dish. The oven is off but still warm ... put the lid on and keep in the warm oven until ready to serve.

Pick off any remaining meat from the bones. Save the bones, the skin AND the drippings in the pan (unless you are making gravy!) for chicken stock. I'll share how I do this some other time.


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Homemade Chicken Sausage and Freezer Sasauge "Egg-McMuffins"

I've been meaning to do this post for a while but you know how it goes ... busy ... no internet at home ... don't feel like it ... blah blah blah.

When we butchered chickens a few months ago we marked two for turning in to sausage. I already have my sausage recipe on here, but formerly I've always used ground turkey from the store. Using my handy, dandy, Kitchen-Aid grinder attachment, I turned those two chickens (and the organ meats from about 10 chickens) into sausage. A word about that real quick - it would have been much easier if the meat and organs were slightly frozen still. Also, as per the book's instructions, I cut the meat into thin strips and that did help a lot. I started on the courser grind and then ran it all through one more time in the finer grind. It took longer than I thought. Next time (turkeys?) I will be a lot more prepared.

Here is a photo of the meat and organs going through the grinder, a photo of the seasonings all mixed up into the ground meat, and a photo of what I did with some of the sausage (browned it and froze in meal-size portions for biscuits and gravy, scrambled eggs with sausage and peppers, pizza soup, etc.).

The next step of course is to make the patties. This is made easy and uniform by using a 2oz ice cream scoop with a blade. Release the scoop directly onto a griddle set to medium or medium-high and flatten into a circle (quickly before it cooks too much!) with your fingers. Once finished cooking, cool on a wire rack and then freeze individually by putting a little square of waxed paper in between each patty. Of course you may just make the eggs and assemble the sandwiches now, however I sometimes have to break things up into more manageable sessions; it was a lot easier for me to make the patties, put them in the freezer, and then assemble the sandwiches some other day.

For the eggs, it is very convenient to have a 'muffin top pan' (be sure they are large enough! You should be safe with a 6-cup muffin top pan), however you may also use whatever you have on hand, such as small pyrex bowls, soufflĂ© bowls, etc. The key is, it helps to have them well greased for easy release. Also, cooking at too high of a heat or over-cooking will cause them to bake on to the bowls and be hard to remove. Simply break one egg into each muffin top cup or other bowl, break the yolk, shake on a little salt and pepper if you like, and bake at 350* until set (10 minutes or less). Again, if you over-bake it or bake it at too high of a temperature it will be hard to remove! Slide a rubber/silicon spatula around and under the egg and allow it to cool on a wire rack before assembling your sandwiches. Repeat until you have all the eggs you need.

Now you will need the remaining ingredients. You may use store-bought or homemade English Muffins or biscuits. I prefer homemade sourdough English muffins or sourdough biscuits. You might also prefer cheese on yours. For this batch we got a great deal on (expired) organic raw cheddar so that's what we used. You might also prefer to add butter to insides of the bread. Assembling is common sense :) Once all of the sandwiches are made, wrap each one in parchment paper (so the aluminum foil is not touching your food) and then in foil. Keep all in a freezer bag or other freezer container until ready to use. If you think you are going to use several at once, store as many as you will need in a foil roasting pan. We only use a few at a time so I just keep mine all separate but together in a plastic freezer bag.

To heat: If you have them in a foil roasting pan, just pull that out of the freezer and put it right into the oven. Or put as many as you need into a covered dish of some kind. Heat at 350* until heated all the way through (25-30m or so). Obviously if you remember to take out what you need the night before it will heat up much quicker!! If you only need one or two, it's best to heat in a toaster oven. Of course you may use a microwave ... but we don't ... so I cannot counsel you on that one with confidence but I'll guess: remove the foil but not the parchment paper. Zap it for a half a second and it's done. Or something like that.

We really, really like having these things on hand! Especially with the cold months coming up, the wood cookstove will be on again (once we move it!!) and these are so handy to just throw right into the wood cookstove oven.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

D.I.Y. Homemade Tomato Powder

This year I have decided to focus more on dehydrating instead of canning. I have learned that dehydrating tomatoes instead of canning them is better (for me anyway) in many ways. Let me list some of them.
  • It takes up a LOT less space in the pantry (one quart jar of dehydrated tomato powder holds well over 20 pounds of tomatoes, maybe 25-30 pounds)
  • It is more shelf-stable if done properly
  • No heavy pots or hot jars to maneuver around
  • It takes much less prep and work time; most of the process is simply waiting for them to dehydrate
  • It does not heat up the house or put a bunch of extra humidity into the air
  • It's easier to use (in my opinion)
  • It can be done a little each day
I'm sure there are more benefits, but those should give you a good enough idea as to why I prefer this over canning. Really though it all comes down to the fact that it is something I can do myself, even with my physical limitations. This has been a major blessing to our food storage efforts! All of these fresh, ripe, organic, heirloom tomatoes are sitting on our shelf in powder form, waiting to be used, and the effort was minimal.

The process is simple. The photo above has the steps in order:
  •  Slice the fresh, ripe tomatoes 1/4" thick (I used my nifty Borner V-Slicer Mandoline purchased from Amazon - LOVE IT!)
  • Place onto the dehydrator tray, do not overlap. Dehydrate at 135* until dry (tomatoes will be slightly leathery but obviously dry). Some say to squish out the seeds and juicy middles but I say leave them in! It will take longer but why waste the nutrition these things provide? The type of tomato will have an effect on the drying time. For instance, a roma tomato (which is a paste variety) will dry much quicker than a juicy beefsteak tomato. Plan on at least 8-10 hours but probably longer for the juicy kinds ... and even longer if you leave all the seeds and juicy pulp in.
  • Remove from trays and pack into a coffee grinder or blender. I found the coffee grinder worked better and I think that's because I was able to pick the grinder up and shake it while it was on. If you use a coffee grinder you will have to grind in batches.
  • Funnel the powder into a mason jar. When it is full, add a 100cc oxygen absorber and vacuum seal it with a Food Saver mason-jar attachment. Add the jar ring.
  • Write the date and the jar number. Store in your pantry.
So far I have 4 full quart jars with a lot more on the way. So simple and rewarding!!

To make tomato sauce, whisk a few tablespoons of powder with a cup of water (or paste - use half the water). Now with that you can make so many things ... add basil, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and a little sugar for spaghetti sauce. Add oregano, onion, garlic and salt for pizza sauce. Or whatever other tomato-based sauce you like :)
You can also add this to soups, stews, homemade bread, popcorn, etc. There are so many possibilities.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

It's hot outside!

The last week and the upcoming week have been and will be HOT! It's been rough but we'll make it.

I've been updating my chicken page each week with new photos of the chick - here's a link to that if you want to check it out, or you can just click on it at the top on the menu bar. CHICKENS

I've been looking on craigslist for turkey poults and finally found a few that seemed worth getting. They are Bourbon Reds (a heritage breed). I'm not sure of the sexes yet but we have 3 so I'm hoping they'll be opposite sexes. We'll see! The previous owner was not sure how old they are ... they just noticed them following around a hen one day.

The garden is quite full of weeds but producing well. Brianna has been selling produce and I've been dehydrating it. My goal this year was the dehydrate more and it's been going well so far (it seems anyway?). I have learned that about 25-30 POUNDS of tomatoes can fit into one quart jar. ONE. How many jars would that take if I were to can them? I'll do a blog post on it some day but for now I'll just share my method. I slice them 1/4" thick with my nifty Borner V-Slicer Mandoline (love it!), dehydrate them at 135*, grind them into powder with my coffee grinder (seems to work a little better than the vitamix but it might just be because it condenses it down so small), and then vacuum seal them into a mason-jar. I purchased a few oxygen absorbers that I'll use when I'm ready to do several at once. To use, just simply add water until it's the desired consistency. Easy! I'm excited about this method because it takes me much less time and energy, it does not heat up the house, and it really saves on space and jars. We'll see what I think about it after the year is up and I've used the dehydrated food a while.

Ok, time to go.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Chicken update, All about eggs

I've uploaded a few chicken videos on youtube ... if you'd like to see them, here's the link to the 'Chicken' playlist: CHICKENS.
A few are videos of our new chicks and the other is a video showing how we take care of our eggs - including how we chart the amount gathered each day, to clean or not to clean (not!), what we do with the eggshells, and more. If you are not able to watch videos but still would like to know what we do with the eggs, please let me know and I'll just do a blog post :)

The chicks are doing well but are in need of a bigger 'brooder' ... so we'll probably move Sadie's whelping box into the living room. Soon they will be able to live outside and that will be a lot better!! But for now we are enjoying them in the house, learning who is who, and trying to figure out names. So far, sadly, we only have one name besides the three given by our old lady friend. I'll share about that in my next weekly "new laying flock" update, coming in a day or two, Lord willing.

Ok, I must get back to work. Have a great day!

Monday, July 6, 2015

My new peeps

Last Thursday we received our new layers in the mail :) We got a variety this time and I eventually plan to make a post for each one as they grow ... but for now, here they all are. There were 25 (we ordered 23) but one died ... it came sick; I did my absolute best to nurse it back to health but it was a hopeless cause. Corban had to snip her little head off, which is the "most humane way" to dispose of a baby chick.

Our 'old girls' are about 3 1/2 years old. They are still laying an average of 4 eggs per day and there are eight hens. Their eggs are super healthy and yummy! But production is slowing down and it's all downhill from here. This new batch will replace the old, however I think we'll keep the old around as pets unless money will not allow it ... then we'll have crock-pot chicken stew or something of the sort.

Without further ado, here are our new chicks. 5 Welsummers, 5 Black Copper Marans (2 males, 3 females), 5 Barred Rocks (like what we have now), 6 Easter Eggers and 3 Buff Orpintons ... the one that died was a Buff. Just like our old girls, we plan to handle these as much as possible so they are tame and like us. One male is kind of snobbish ... I hope he changes his ways!

Friday, July 3, 2015

"What About Moose?" Book Review

A disclaimer first: this was written by my sister-in-law Rebecca Gomez ... even still, I'd like it anyway. Though she's had many things published in popular children's magazines, she's been working hard for years to get a book published and this was just released June 9th. I'm very happy for her!

The whole story is in rhyme, it's filled with valuable lessons and the pictures are cute and fitting. As a former homeschooling family (children are all older now) I can just imagine using this book to help get conversation going about several character traits that are good and bad. Love it!

We've shared this book now with several people, from the very young to the very old (95!) and all agree it's an excellent book. So ... if you're in the mood or the market for a nice children's book, pick this one up at your local book store or online: What About Moose?

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Fruit in Mexico

We recently went to Mexico to witness a beautiful wedding (see photos here; hear message here - English and Spanish) ... I am SO THANKFUL I was able to go. Not only did I get to witness a godly union between two very sweet young people, but also the weather was perfect (75/55, dry, high elevation), the people were so friendly, and there was good food and FRUIT everywhere. We got big glasses (24oz or so) of fresh squeezed juice from a street vendor for 15 pesos each (just over a dollar). But one vendor stuck out ... the woman stopped me by offering a taste of a fruit. She had my number I guess. She kept offering us this kind and that kind and another kind, all really good but I do not remember all of the names. And then all at once she motioned like I must have my photo taken with the fruit. She started moving things out of the way and making room for me and a man ... must be her husband ... so the photo was just about ready and then he shoved a cantaloupe in my hand. Funny! They were super nice people.

Needless to say, the hotel people had to clean up a juicy mango mess every morning. I honestly did my best to keep things clean but they were so juicy and I did not have the proper tools, paper towels, etc. so I did get a few drops on the floor and our trash was filled with mango peels each morning.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Easy Dehydrated Zucchini Chips and May Produce Tallies

A recent experiment turned out really good, and what a fun way to use up all those zucchini that everyone is trying to get rid of every year!

The possibilities are really endless, but here are a few tips.

Size - Our mandolin slicer does 1/8" and 1/4" slices. The 1/4" slices will be a little 'leathery' and have more of the zucchini flavor (not much, but noticeable), which might not be the best for those who do not care for the taste of zucchini. The 1/8" slices are crispier and take on more of whatever seasonings you use. The thicker slices would be ideal for dipping, however the thinner slices might break in a thicker dip such as hummus.

Shape - Round works well for chips, however if you want to use your dehydrated zucchini for soups, bread, etc., then cut the rounds into quarters, or shred for breads.

Oil or not - The un-oiled 1/8" slices might be slightly difficult to get off the dehydrator tray. The oiled slices are ... oily ... and can make a mess on your fingers. As for storage, the slices with oil will have a much shorter shelf-life, so if you are looking for long-term storage it's best to leave off the oil. Whether oiled or not, the seasonings stick well to the zucchini, so really the oil is for flavor and texture (if you use too much, it will produce a softer chip ... just a very thin brush of oil will do). For a super crispy chip, oil and bake in the oven ... but watch it carefully so as not to burn it! But, the thin, dehydrated, un-oiled chips are plenty crispy in my opinion.

Seasonings - A personal preference but here are some ideas. You may marinate the slices in soy sauce or braggs (or even Italian dressing), or just sprinkle with something. We did some with salt, season salt and cinnamon sugar.

Dehydrating tips - Do not layer the chips! If you are shredding the zucchini, be sure you do not pile a whole bunch on to one tray - it will rot before it has a chance to dry and all of your food and efforts will be wasted. I suggest you check your favorite zucchini bread recipe - how much shredded zucchini does it call for? For instance, if it calls for 2 cups, place 2 cups of shredded zucchini on one dehydrator tray (or only one cup per tray if two looks like too much). When dry, put the measured 2 cups into a labeled bag or container of some sort with the fresh amount marked.
If you want to keep these raw you will have to have a dehydrator with a thermostat that can be adjusted. 105* for raw or 125*-135* for vegetables. The time will vary depending on the temperature, moisture level and the thickness. Count on at least 4 hours, but up to about 12 is possible.

Rehydrating - For soups, just toss the zucchini in dry but watch your liquid level. For bread, take out your pre-measured two cup baggie (or whatever!), put the dry zucchini in a bowl at least 3 times its size, add water to cover double, and allow to soak until rehydrated. Drain off the excess water (save for soup or stock!), and use as usual in your bread recipe.


Now for the May Produce Tallies ...
Lettuce 263.10oz
Kale (baby) 129.95oz
Kale (dino) 92.65oz
Strawberries 687.87oz...
Beet greens (baby) 115.50oz
(Also dill and lemon balm but I did not weigh them before I dried them ... dry: .5oz dill and 1.75oz lemon balm)

TOTAL: 80.5lbs ... not bad for a few 8'x4' beds in a church parking lot!! Hopefully our new country garden will do just as well, if not better. We'll see. 

Estimated store price total of above said produce: $399.81 ... all organic prices at our favorite store. We can knock $100 off that total if I consider the fact that I usually get non-organic frozen strawberries from Azure.

I hope I'm able to keep up with record keeping when things really get busy!! It sure has been helpful knowing what's going on and I know it will be helpful for planning next year. I'll try to get a post going to share the system I've worked out ... because it's been working really well and I believe it's worth sharing ... though it might not be until the end of the gardening season when things slow down a bit and I've had time to reflect.

We've just now started getting cherry tomatoes and a few tomatillos in our country garden. Spinach was done at the end of May. Lettuce is almost done, though I planted a new batch in a shady area in the country as an experiment. We're using the more bitter leaves in our smoothies ... very thankful for them! My dehydrator is on nearly non-stop. Lots of kale and beet greens right now (see my recent post Homemade Green Powder and Washing Greens the Easy Way).

Monday, June 15, 2015

Raising Cornish Cross Meat Birds

We live in an area that is heavily populated with huge chicken barns, large hatcheries and processing factories (mainly Tysons and George's). I see the trucks filled with nasty, unhealthy chickens going in to Tyson's continuously and have watched as the fork-lift driver unloads cage after cage after cage of chickens into the building. Filled cages go in as empty cages go out. It seems like he never stops. I see (and SMELL) the chicken barns all over the beautiful countryside and have been inside of several (some for meat, some for egg production, some 'conventional', some 'organic', some 'free range', some not ... makes no difference, they are all the same except the feed ... and does organic feed really make that big of a difference in such situations?).

While I understand fully that we must do what we have to do (I've eaten plenty of chicken from Tyson's and will continue to do so when I have to ... and be THANKFUL for it!!), I also believe that if we have it within our power to do things better then we should. It is for these reasons and more that I decided to raise my own chickens for meat. Organic, non-GMO feed, clean water with ACV, room to roam, green grass, fresh air, sunshine, bugs.

I was very ignorant when I started and had no idea what kind of bird to choose, so I did a little research; later however I discovered that I did not research fully enough. Live and learn.

I chose the Cornish Cross probably for the same reasons most folks do: they grow quickly and produce a lot of meat for the least amount of cost. I knew they were hybrids ... but at the time I was only thinking how at least it's not GMO. These birds were 'selectively bred', not 'genetically manipulated'. I learned through reading that if they are allowed to eat freely 24/7 they will grow too quickly and suffer with health issues (heart and leg problems, among other things). It is for this reason that it's recommended to restrict their access to feed after about 2 weeks of age (12 hours of free access and 12 hours of nothing). For some reason, this did not seem too strange to me ... however after I got the birds and learned more about them my thoughts began to shift.

I must admit, at first I struggled to like these birds because they simply just grossed me out. They are not like a 'normal' chicken. While I've read of many who claim their Cornish Cross birds (CX) do in fact act like normal chickens if given the right environment, this has not been my experience. I've owned a heritage breed for over 3 years now and the difference is very clear. The CX might be a little active and forage a little bit if given free access to do so, however my girls (Barred Rocks) are active pretty much all day long, scratching around, hunting for bugs, eating green stuff, etc. They take a break once in a while, have a dirt bath, or just relax in the shade, but it's not long before they are back up, roaming around, hunting, scratching, etc. Totally different from the CX. They have free room to roam but choose to stay pretty much right where they are ... as close to the feeder as possible of course!! Many of them do not even stand up to eat! I have noticed they are much more active in the morning before we give them their feed ... I really enjoy watching them run around and play, however they are just too big to last very long at acting normal. All too soon, one by one, they plop down, exhausted.

Well, as I said, I did struggle at first to like these birds, however I realized that my bad attitude and regret was having an effect on how I handled them and I did NOT want that to happen!!! So I quickly changed my attitude and just treated them the same as I do our girls. Yes, I talked to them, tried to pet them, gave them treats, etc. This helped me a lot, and I'm sure it helped them in some way too. I made the absolute best out of the situation and gave it my all. While I've read of several having health issues with their CXs, we've never experienced any such thing. Yes, they are lazy and as I shared above they do get tired quickly, but it seems to me if you do it right they do not suffer. We did lose one to an owl, but that was our only loss and totally our fault. :'(

The end result: fresh, organic chicken meat from chickens that were raised with love in a healthy environment. DELICIOUS! Tender, moist, and full of flavor. No regrets.

We chose to butcher in batches instead of all at once, and still have 9 left that will be butchered within the next 2 days. There is only four of us and more often than not there is only 1 or two of us. We've done several together but a few times Corban has butchered some, left for work and then Brianna did all the cleaning/dressing. We try to butcher then at about 7-8 pounds, though some have been a little smaller (closer to 6lbs). The dressed weight has been 4-5.5 lbs, with one so far weighing in at just under 4lbs.

Instead of raising a hybrid that grows from zero to 10 pounds in a record amount of time, I am going with a dual purpose heritage breed like our Barred Rocks. We'll probably just do a 'straight run' of chicks, cull out the roosters when the time is right and save the hens for eggs. This seems a much more natural, peaceful way of doing things ... the way I believe God intended it to be ... because really, if he wanted us to have a huge, fat chicken in 6-8 weeks he would have made one that way. This, above all else, is why I believe heritage breeds are the healthiest and best choice. God knew what he was doing.

But that does not mean I am totally closed to ever raising CX again ... if that is all we can afford and handle I do believe it's a much better choice than Tyson's and I am very thankful for a freezer full of good meat!!

And if anyone is wondering, we purchased all of their feed in advance and stored in an old refrigerator (unplugged, laying on its back like a chest) to keep the mice out. I was informed of a good deal on organic, non-GMO feed but it's a few hours away so we thought it best to get it all in one shot ... we figured 20lbs per bird ... 25 birds (well, 26 actually) ... 500lbs total. We are butchering the last few within the next few days. There is a little bit of feed left (less than 50lbs) that we'll just mix in with our layer feed for the girls.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Raised Beds in the City

Our country and city gardens are coming along well enough I guess, though with the unexpected move we did not get everything planted that we had hoped to. Maybe we'll have a bigger-than-usual fall garden to compensate? We'll see :-) I would love to post more but I still do not have the internet at home and time is limited. I plan on posting a country garden update soon though. A lot of rain has caused some flooding but all seems ok now. A week or two ago I did a quick video of our raised beds in our (former) meeting house parking lot ... a lot has changed already but here's the video link: Raised Beds in the City. Most of the spinach is going to seed and the lettuce is just now bolting... and the kale will eventually. It'll be good to freshen up my seed supply!

A word of encouragement from a brother: just enjoy gardening; tomorrow a tornado could wipe it all out. I was beginning to stress out a little about how "behind" we were but he helped put things in perspective. It's always a blessing to be out in God's creation working with the soil ... if that's all that ever becomes of our efforts, praise the Lord!

A country garden photo: delicious strawberries.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Homemade Green Powder for Smoothies and Washing Greens the Easy Way

Ever wonder how many fresh greens fit inside a one pound container of powdered greens? Wonder no longer.

Homemade Green Powder for Smoothies
Every year I try to dehydrate lots of green things, turn in to powder and use in our smoothies (just remember to add a little extra liquid to the smoothie!). I've been wondering for a while how many greens I am actually putting in to my smoothie when I add a tablespoon or two and since Google turned up no answers for me (IMAGINE THAT! Maybe I was not using the right search words??) this year I decided to figure it out myself.

To begin my experiment I started with one pound of two kinds of greens: kale and spinach. In each photo they are pictured side-by-side, kale on the left and spinach on the right.




I did two different kinds because I wanted to see how they compared when dehydrated and turned in to powder. Both were the same ... each pound produced about 1/2c of powder (maybe a tablespoon over a half cup) and weighed nearly the same (a gram or two different).

Now, on to WASHING all of those greens.
Sometimes I have to wash about 25lbs of greens in one day. That's a LOT of greens to try to put through the salad spinner!!! So what I do instead is wash the greens in a bowl of water, put into a pillow case, secure the end with a rubber band and put it through the SPIN CYCLE of my washing machine. This works prefect! Of course I still have to spin them in several batches but it is a real time saver.
For those who do not know, spinning greens helps pull the water off and dries them quite a bit. This in turn helps them to keep longer in the refrigerator. If you are planning to dehydrate them, do not bother spinning :)
Beet greens ready to spin.

Set dial to final SPIN cycle.
I hope this was helpful! Maybe you have a more efficient way than this? If so, please share!

Kombucha Revisited

Almost FIVE YEARS AGO I did a post on brewing kombucha tea. We do things a tiny bit differently now ... here is a video I did recently to show how we flavor our kombucha. Let me know if you have a different method that works for you :)


Monday, May 4, 2015

General Update

Drilling fence post holes

Preparing to build the new meat bird and layer houses

Tilling the garden spot
Greens from our raised beds ... got about 6lbs so far :)

Selling our organic, heirloom starts

Picking mushrooms
The best seat in the house ... but ...
... now she thinks all windows are hers

Easy Homemade Sauerkraut

Making your own sauerkraut is super easy :) I know I've posted a 'how to' blog before on this subject but here is a quick video demonstration. I hope it is helpful!!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Easy Lacto-Fermented Apple Chutney

Another super easy lacto-fermented food ... probably a good one for beginners since it is sweet. Excellent alone or paired with yogurt, pancakes, cottage cheese, etc. Video at bottom :)

3c chopped apples, any variety
1/2c seeds or chopped nuts - sunflower seeds, almonds, pecans, walnuts, etc.
1/2c dried fruit (chop if larger) - dates, figs, dried apricots, raisins, etc.
1/2c distilled or filtered water
1/4c fresh lemon juice
1/4c starter (whey, water kefir, ginger soda, kombucha, liquid from carrot or other veggie ferment, etc.)
2T unrefined sweetener - pure maple syrup, honey, sucanat, rapadura, etc.
1/2t sea salt (such as Redmonds Real Salt)
1 - 2T spices to taste
(I use a combination of spices but you may use only cinnamon or a pre-made mix such as 'pumpkin pie spice'.)
My combo: 1T cinnamon, 1/2t nutmeg, 1/2t ginger, 1/4t cloves, 1/4t allspice, 1/8t cardamom, 1/8t anise seed ... or something like that :)

Mix together thoroughly. Place in a 1qt mason jar with a tight lid or an airlock (D-I-Y Fermenting Airlock Tutorial). Leave on the counter to ferment 2-3 days, after that store in the refrigerator. Keeps about 3 weeks but really you should have it eaten by then. :)

For more videos please see our youtube playlists.

Monday, April 6, 2015

America's Test Kitchen

When searching for a good mandolin slicer I happened across "America's Test Kitchen" on YouTube and I'm so glad I did! I really appreciate their channel ... it's filled with all sorts of interesting things, but I especially like it when they do equipment reviews. Here are a few I've watched ... enjoy! (actually, when looking up these videos to post I see now that I watched their stand mixer one last year before I got a refurbished KitchenAid, but I must have not thought to check out their channel at that time).

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

It's time for an update ...

Well ... here we are not much more than a week or two past my last update and I'm going to have to change what I said last time. I mentioned our church burned down and we were waiting for a place on the new church property just on the outskirts of town. A few of us got to thinking that it made more sense for us to move now to a little house in the country and then some day whenever everything else is done on the new property we will re-evaluate and see if we should stay where we are or move to the property. So, without further ado, here is our new house that we plan to move in to this week ... Lord willing ...

It's a little house in the country, about 8 minutes or so from the SE edge of town. As a HUGE bonus, it's about a block down the highway from the elderly woman we help out several times a week. She is BEYOND EXCITED to have us so near :) :) :) and has all sorts of plans for us :) :) :) On a side note, our bees are on her property too so that will be convenient being near them as well.

There's a good barn and a large, 2-car garage. The house itself is smaller but the kitchen is super nice (in my opinion). A few brothers and my children have already been busy fixing things up. It's sat empty for about a year and has a few issues ... mainly mice, spiders and plumbing. One of the brothers installed me a wash sink in the laundry room. YAY! It has a little bit of land but we are going to see if we can get a little more (some really brushy area to the west).

The last people who lived there enjoyed gardening and left behind some asparagus, strawberries, a few blueberry bushes and some fruit trees. All are sorely neglected so we'll see if we can revive them. Corban rolled down one of the fruit trees because it was hiding in the brush! We hope to get a garden going there soon.

In other news, our green house plants are all doing very well. These photos were taken last week already so things are taller than what is pictured. The peppers just got transplanted and really needed the room ... they have already grown so much!

This evening we sat outside with our girls and enjoyed watching them peck around. I wonder what they will think of country life? For now though, they are still very much city-chickens ... as evidenced by the burned and partially torn down church in the background!

All the bricks are gone, some in a huge pile in the back, just to the right of this photo. We've had quite the activity around here these last few weeks.

I have several video ideas in the works but I might hold off until we move. We'll see.

Chewy Butterscotch Brownies

They aren't healthy but they could be frugal!

Ok ... I'll admit it ... even I make junk food once in a while but only when I have a specific reason ;) The other day I wanted to cheer up a friend whom I know likes all things butterscotch, so I got online and gathered up a few ideas. Butterscotch Brownies caught my attention and we had the needed bag of butterscotch morsels from the discount store (purchased with said friend in mind).

The original recipe is here. I did not change it much at all the first time except to omit the nuts and reduce the sugar. Next time I will reduce the sugar even more, trying 1c. If all goes well I will reduce it more to 3/4c and see what we think ... and so on. I'll try to remember to update this blog post to share my final sugar adjustment. Adjusting the butter however is not an option to me.

The original recipe said to use a 9 x 13 baking pan, however that did not seem right to me so I used a larger bar pan and that worked quite well.

Chewy Butterscotch Brownies
2 1/2c flour
1t baking powder
1/2t salt
1c/227g butter, softened
1c packed brown sugar
1T vanilla extract
2 large or 3 small eggs
1 - 11oz package butterscotch morsels

Mix together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
Cream the butter, brown sugar and vanilla.
Add the eggs to the creamed-mixture and beat until well combined.
Gradually add in the dry ingredients, beating well after each addition.
Stir in half the butterscotch morsels.
Spread into an ungreased 15 1/2" x 10" bar pan (or a few 9 x 13 pans).
Sprinkle the remaining morsels on top and bake at 350* until done, at least 25 minutes but probably longer.

Cool or serve warm ... with ice cream ... if you want.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Taste of Home Magazine

Some time last year my elderly lady friend, Christine, gave me several older issues of Taste of Home Magazine. I really enjoyed them so I got online and found a deal ... $7 for a year of Taste of Home. I was excited to get the first issue but quickly became somewhat disappointed by the major format change of the new issues (way too busy for my liking) and also the introduction of all sorts of advertisements. Oh well. Times change right? The magazine itself is still pretty decent for the price ... it seems to have a lot more practical, every-day-type-recipes that normal home cooks would actually USE, or at least use as a springboard for ideas. It still has sections with tips and hints, however not nearly as helpful as the older issues.

Ok so what's my point? :)

The other morning we put a roast in the crockpot to slow cook all day long, but didn't know what we were going to do with it or serve with it. Towards supper time preparations we decided to chunk up the meat and make a gravy to serve over garlic toast, however we still didn't know what to have as sides. We grabbed the newest Taste of Home Magazine and Brianna and I decided to make two of the recipes. She chose "Scalloped Potatoes with Mushrooms" and I chose "Tuscan Roasted Asparagus". Here is the outcome and the recipes; for a downloadable PDF version of the recipes just click on the recipe title.

Tuscan Roasted Asparagus
From: Taste of Home Magazine

2T butter
1lb asparagus, cleaned and trimmed
2T minced onion
2T minced celery
2 medium tomatoes, sliced
1/2t basil
1/2t thyme
1/4t pepper
3T grated parmesan cheese

Preheat over to 350* and melt butter in a 9x13 baking dish.
Place asparagus in bottom of dish with melted butter.
Sprinkle with onion and celery, arrange tomato slices on top.
Sprinkle with seasonings and cheese.
Roast for 30 minutes or until asparagus is fork-tender.
Makes 4 servings

My notes:
I prefer using Roma tomatoes for this recipe. I leave off the thyme and add a little garlic and salt.
I am not sure this can really be called 'roasting' … more like 'baking'.

From: Taste of Home Magazine

2lbs potatoes (about 4 medium) peeled and sliced
1T butter
½lb sliced fresh mushrooms
1 small onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
¼c all-purpose flour
1c chicken broth
1t salt
½t oregano
½t pepper
1c (8oz) sour cream
1c coarsely chopped fresh spinach
2c (8oz) shredded Swiss cheese

1. Preheat oven to 375*. Place potatoes in a large saucepan; add water to cover. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cook, uncovered, 8-12 minutes or until tender. Drain.
2. Meanwhile, in another saucepan, heat butter over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms and onion. Cook and stir 6-8 minutes or until tender. Stir in garlic; cook 1 minute longer.
3. In a bowl, whisk flour, broth and seasonings until smooth; stir into mushroom mixture. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly; cook and stire 1 minute or until thickened. Remove from heat; stire in sour cream.
4. Arrange half of the potatoes in a greased 1 ½qt or 8in square baking dish; top with the spinach. Spread hafl of the mushroom sauce over top; sprinkel with 1c cheese. Layer with remaining potatoes, sauce and cheese.
5. Bake, uncovered, 12-15 minutes or until heated through and cheese is melted. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Serves 8.
Per serving prepared according to recipe instructions above: 269cal, 14g fat (9g saturated), 49mg cholesterol, 471mg sodium, 23g carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 11g protein.

My notes.
In my opinion, there was WAY TOO MUCH dairy in this recipe. We doubled the recipe to make a 9x13 dish for leftovers. In our double recipe we substituted about 2 ounces of cream cheese for the 2c/16oz of sour cream (blended with a little water to thin it out). We did not sprinkle cheese in the middle on the first layer; we only sprinkled cheese on the top and even then it was way less than what is called for one recipe. So … in our double recipe we probably sprinkled a cup or so of cheese on top, nothing in the middle, and that was plenty enough. We did not have Swiss cheese, though I think that would have been the best option for flavor. We substituted home-canned mushrooms for fresh mushrooms and did not measure out the spinach.
I've never pre-cooked the potatoes in a scalloped potato dish before so this way was new to me. I'm not sure I liked it; they seemed a bit too mushy.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Beet Kvass: Lacto-Fermented Super Tonic How-To Tutorial

Beet Kvass is said to be a lacto-fermented super tonic that aids in digestion, helps cleanse the liver, promotes regularity, good for kidney stones and other ailments, and helps to alkalize the blood. How do I know this? I read it ... so I guess I just have to take 'their' word for it ... but if you have success stories please feel free to share.

Before I continue however I'd like to share an apparent pet-peeve (and, I believe, rightfully so) of many who are of Russian or Ukrainian origin. Kvass or Kvas is actually a fermented drink made with grain, usually rye sourdough bread, not beets!!! So really I am not sure we can properly call this drink beet "Kvass" (maybe 'fermented beet liquid?') but it seems that is what has become the new thing. So, here on this blog, though I know that REAL kvass/kvas is made from grain/bread, I will still call this drink "beet kvass" ... ok? But be watching! I'll eventually post a 'how to' on the original Bread Kvass. Maybe. We'll see.

Beet Kvass can be consumed straight up (start with 4oz or so, morning and night, but how much is too much? I'm not sure.), diluted with fresh juice, water kefir, kombucha or ginger soda, or even used as a vinaigrette in a salad dressing recipe. It may be added to soups too, although the soup must not be so hot that it kills the beneficial bacteria, enzymes and yeasts. Lukewarm is good. From all the comments I have read, there are usually two camps on the taste ... really good or really nasty. I'm with the former camp. This stuff is absolutely delicious to me and I like it best 'straight up'.

As with all lacto-fermented foods, the variations of methods and recipes seem endless for beet kvass, so in this post I will not only share how I make it but I will also share all the variations I have found though I'm sure I have missed some. [My method will always be in brackets.]
  • Not many mentioned the quality of the beets (besides saying organic is best and preferred). Choose beets that are firm, preferably fresh from the garden.
  • First conflict of course is the amount of beets to use. Most recipes I found are pretty vague and leave a lot to individual interpretation with phrases like "3-4 medium sized beets". Some had nearly a jar full of beets while others opted for only half-full or even 1/3 full ... and of course everything in between. Most seemed between 1/3-1/2 full. [For the sake of consistency I'm much more fond of doing things by weight, so I filled my 1/2 gallon jars somewhere between 1/3-1/2 full of beets and weighed them ... almost 400g.]
  • On peeling. Peel the skins, do not peel the skins, peel if not organic and leave on if organic. Skins are said to hasten the fermenting process because they harbor beneficial bacteria ... yet some opt for peeling while others say there's no other way but to leave the skins on. [I do NOT peel them.]
  • For skins left on ... scrub well, do not scrub well, just rinse off. The 'do not scrub too much' camp believes the more skin the better (because again, skin is said to aid in the fermenting process). [I scrub decently well if the skins are tough, a little softer if they are fresh out of the garden.]
  • Skin or no skin, the beet tops are to be trimmed off, tails removed. [Save tops for other ferments, for juicing or throw in your green smoothie.]
  • Size of beet pieces: chop small, chop medium, chop large. I found instructions of 1/2" pieces to 2" or more. All however said do not shred - really small pieces or shredded releases too much of the beet sugar at once and causes the product to ferment quickly thus elevating the chance for mold to form. [I chop roughly somewhere between 3/4" - 1 1/4"]
  • To whey or not to whey, that seems to be the question on most folks minds. Most half-gallon recipes called for 1/4c whey along with the tablespoon of 'good salt'. (Left to your imagination or personal bias/preference, nothing mentioned as far as I have found about the different weights and sizes of various salts. I use Redmond's Real Salt.) Some say you can use kraut juice instead of whey for a non-dairy alternative. Some say you can purchase a 'starter culture' for more consistent results. 
  • No whey? Omit the 1/4c whey (or kraut juice or starter) and instead use an additional 1T salt. [For this batch I did a side-by-side experiment - one without a starter and one with 'juice' from my lacto-fermented carrots. I don't think I'll be using the starter next time.]
  • Herbs, other seasonings and/or other veggies are optional ingredients; add alongside the beets, salt and [optional] whey/kraut juice/starter. Rosemary? Caraway seeds? Celery seeds? Orange peel? Ginger? Garlic? Cabbage? Onion? Let your likes guide you ... a tip though ... put the other veggies in first and then beets on top; this will help keep the other stuff from floating to the top.
  • Add distilled or filtered water up to 1" to the top of the jar. [I find it easiest to mix the salt and optional starter with some of the water first, add that to the beets and then top off with more water and stir well.]
  • Cover the vessel ... with just a cloth, a plastic lid, a metal lid, an airlock. Airlocks were mentioned when commenters were having issues with mold as airlocks offer a controlled fermenting environment (preventing the wild yeasts and bacteria from your home from getting into your fermenting vessel). Hardly anyone that I found said to use a cloth, but I did see a few. The common method seems to use some sort of air-tight lid. [For this batch I used my new homemade airlocks with half-gallon jars.]
  • Fermenting time. Some say leave it sit out for only 2 days, others say leaving out a month or so gives it the best flavor, and then you may find everything else in between (I found one even mentioned leaving it out for only one day if it's warm in your home). 1-2 weeks seemed more common though and I found one that said "go by taste, not by time." I personally like this method the best, however it's not practical if you've never tried it before! [After 24 hours I noticed the salt-only jar had a few more bubbles than the salt+starter jar. At about 36 hours there was a marked difference in color; the salt-only jar being slightly red/orange and the salt+starter jar being more beet-red. At 6 days out they looked pretty much the same color ... beautiful, deep, beet red, however the starter jar had mold on top. Both tasted fabulous, but one was obviously a bit more salty than the other. The starter+salt batch seemed a bit more effervescent than the salt-only batch. See photos below.]
  • Many mentioned mold, most said to just scrape it off and continue. [that's what I did this time ... the jar without the starter never formed mold, however the jar with the starter did ... see below ... it scrapes off real easy and then looks just like the other one. Sometimes you might encounter a white film either on the veggies or the liquid or both. That is not mold but yeast. See this helpful article (off site) that gives a little more info about it.] [Update - I made another batch using liquid from a NEW batch of fermented carrots and that did not develop mold ... so it could have just been something in the old batch? Whatever the case, we drank it anyway and it was very good ... or at least I thought it was very good ... others just tolerated it :) ]

    [another update - I made 3 batches using the salt-only method. One formed quite a bit of mold, though I shook the jar trying to get the airlock off and the beet juice covered much of the mold, another formed a little spot of mold and another formed a black-looking film on top. All cleaned off easily and taste normal - see 'before and after' photos below.]

  • Strain out the 'tonic', pour into a glass container with a tight fitting lid (or see optional step below) and keep in the refrigerator for a long time (but really you should drink it ... don't let it sit there!).
  • Second batch from the same beets: save back some of the liquid and all of the beets. "Some" means different things to different people. Here are 'some' variations I found: about 10%, a half cup, an 'inch', 'a little bit left in the jar', and so on. Top off with water as before and allow to sit on the counter a day or two or three (or more). Some say to add more salt (about 2t if using a half gallon jar), however most leave off the salt for the second batch. Worth noting: one recipe I found only required the beets to be saved back; this recipe also required more salt.
  • Optional step after straining ... It may be bottled up and left out on the counter an additional 24-48 hours to promote carbonation (if preferred). Though from my experience this never gets fizzy like ginger soda, just a little effervescent. If yours gets fizzy like soda, let me know ... I'll be curious of the differences in methods.
    Some say flavors may be added to the bottle along with the strained liquid - like a few TBS of fresh juice (beet, apple, etc). Of course you may also skip this step and put it right into the fridge. [see below - after 2 days bottled on the counter the one with the starter began to form a little mold. I put it in the fridge and drank it anyway.]

Do you make 'Beet Kvass'? If so, please feel free to share your method below!