Thursday, December 30, 2010

Extreme Coupons

Tom and I were watching some show last night. Well, in all honesty Tom was kind of watching it off and on and I was in the kitchen cooking dinner simply listening to it. I'm not even sure what the name of the show was but they were talking about these super crazy shoppers who use coupons to the extreme. Seriously, this guy bought like $5,000 worth of items at the grocery store and only paid $200 for it. Pure craziness.

A woman on there that does the extreme coupon shopping said something that perked my interest. She was talking about being able to eat healthier while going with these coupons. She even said to "call the company and tell them you want to eat healthier and ask for coupons." I thinks she ended up buying about $250 worth of food and only paying $6 for it.

Now hold on here. As far as I know coupons are really only available for processed food. Sure stores will have in-store deals on whole foods like produce and meat, but that's not coupons. She was talking about coupons.

I find it sad that Americans have been taught over the years (by the food companies, mind you) that processed food is "healthy" food. Lean Cuisine, Healthy Choice, South Beach Diet products being the more obvious culprits. They trick people into thinking they are healthy, when in fact they are not all they're cracked up to be.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Trust the Cow Not the Man

I've been saying this for awhile and finally people are talking about it!

I will not eat margarine or "vegetable spread." Even the transfat-free stuff. Nope. Not going to do it. Heidi from Itty Bitty Farm in the City  posted two great articles recently on this very idea.

The first article is about a study by the Harvard School of Public Health that found that people with a specific fatty acid found in cheese and other dairy products in their blood were 60% less likely to develop diabetes. Oh yeah! Go Cow!

The second article is actually a scary look at what exactly is in some popular food items out there that try to imitate the real thing. Well, the meat doesn't try, but it's pretty disgusting. The article also points out that the real thing whether it's real bacon vs. turkey bacon and bacon bits or regular peanut butter vs. the low-fat version is actually healthier than it's fake counterpart.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Week 12 - It was Interesting!

Leftovers. Every once in awhile we declare it's a night for "fending for ourselves." This was one of those nights.

Monday - 
Chili with ground grassfed beef, beans from our yard, tomato sauce from our canned tomatoes, pressure canned roasted bell peppers from our garden, frozen corn from our garden, garlic from our garden and onions from the farmers' market. Tom and Jerry drinks for dessert.

Tuesday -
Salisbury steak with brussels sprouts and mashed sweet potatoes from the farmers' market.

Wednesday -
Tom had a big potluck at work so he wasn't hungry. I pretty much just grazed and didn't eat anything substantial.

Thursday - 
We went to my mother-in-law's house for dinner with Tom's immediate family.

Friday - 
The Christmas Eve tradition in my family is a crab feed. Since my mom moved to Ohio it's just my cousin and I to carry it on. So Tom, Monique and our friend Scott, aka Angus had crab with homemade artisan bread and a pseudo-Caesar salad.

Saturday -
We spent Christmas at Tom's aunt's home with his family. We brough homemade bread and crab dip from the crab remaining from Friday night.

Sunday -
Sauteed Kale (need to find a better recipe because this just doesn't cut it) from the farmers' market, mashed sweet potatoes also from the farmers' market and brined turkey. We've had the turkey in our freezer for longer than I care to share. It was OK. We used a different brine spice mix and we forgot the butter and herbs when we roasted it. Granted it was better than most turkey we've tried but it wasn't the BEST ever.

Reflections -
It was Christmas week! It meant that food was, well, not-so-great for us. Fudge seemed to be the main theme this year. It seems like everyone was giving us some. Candies came in a close second. My sister-in-law and niece made theses AMAZING little balls of bliss that they called "Oreo balls." And yes, they had Oreo cookies in them. My personal favorite was the white-chocolate-dipped pretzels they made. Oh, and Tom's coworkers' wife made the best almond toffee I've ever had!

That said, I came out of this week feeling physically ill. One small piece of fudge would give my indigestion. I've also realized that after eating this way that I can now taste chemicals in a lot of store-bought food and it's disgusting. I used to like diet sodas and then I tried some on Thursday and ended up taking one sip and dumping the rest. I can't believe I ever drank that. I can also taste them in non-dairy creamer. Cold cuts are way to salty for me now. Most meat is unappetizing. And eating it makes me feel gross and slightly nauseous. It's amazing the changes that have occurred.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Have We Really Fallen This Far?

A friend on Facebook posted a Slate article that I found hilarious and disturbing all at the same time. Apparently insulting people by saying they eat fruits and vegetables has become the "in" thing to do. To eat fruits and vegetables is "elitist" and "socialist." Really? Are you kidding me? So I guess that makes your mom and grandmother ("Now eat your vegetables or you get no dessert!") an elite socialist. It truly is laughable. But at the same time it's sad that we have become so far removed from real, wholesome food.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Mmmmm, Eggnog

Mmmmmm, eggnog, how I love thee. Rich creamy yumminess. It's amazingly easy to make. I don't cook my eggnog but if I used commercial eggs I probably would. My hens have tested negative for salmonella so I'm not worried about that. You can heat the milk and cream until it's steamy and slightly frothy and add the beaten eggs to it stirring constantly to thicken it up more. I prefer my eggnog cold though. If I want a warm drink I make a Tom and Jerry, which is very similar in taste but it's warm and has fewer eggs in it.

So here's my recipe. Feel free to take plenty of liberties with it.

1 cup heavy cream
1 quart whole milk
3/4 cup sugar, divided
5 egg yolks, beaten
5 egg whites
3 oz bourbon or dark rum (I prefer a really good spiced rum such a Kilo Kai)
1 tsp ground nutmeg

Combine cream, milk, 1/2 cup sugar and yolks in a pitcher. Stir until sugar dissolves and yolks are incorporated.

Beat egg whites until stiff peaks form. Add sugar and beat until glossy. Fold whites into above mixture. Stir in alcohol and nutmeg. Sprinkle a bit of nutmeg on top and serve cold.

What I really like about this eggnog is that it isn't heavy handed with the alcohol. I normally don't like alcohol in my eggnog just because it always seems to be too much. This recipe is perfectly balanced. You can still taste the alcohol but it doesn't overpower the eggnog.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Weeks 10 and 11 - Yeah, I forgot

Mmmm, Homemade Eggnog

Holy cow! I forgot to post this last week!

Week 10

Sunday -
My mom is back in town and took us to our favorite Mexican Restaurant. Boy was that good!

Monday -
French Onion Soup with farmers' market onions and homebaked bread. Eggnog for dessert!

Tuesday -
Homemade gnocchi from farmers' market potatoes and tomato sauce from our harvest. Eggnog for dessert!

Wednesday -
BBQ chicken pizza with mushrooms and grilled onions from the farmers' market.

Thursday -
Tom had inventory at work so I made a stirfry thing from this bag we had in the freezer for at least 6 months. More on that later.

Friday -
Tom made chicken soup with George's carcass. I was at a cooking class with my best friend and her office (holiday party I was invited to because I do some work for them) learning how to make authentic Indian food. Yum!

Saturday -
Grassfed beef fajitas with mushrooms and onions from the farmers' market, homemade tortillas and guacamole (ingredients from the farmers' market) with spanish rice (tomato sauce from our tomatoes that we processed, onions from farmers' market).

Week 11

Sunday -
Grassfed beef steaks with a Zhug rub from the spice market. Served with mashed sweet potatoes from our garden and cranberry sauce. Individual apple crisps for dessert.

Monday -
Salisbury steak with grassfed ground beef, mushrooms and onions from the farmers' market with peas from our garden. Jeanette offered up some of her mac and cheese as a side.

Tuesday -
Grassfed Meatloaf with potatoes, carrots and turnips from the farmers' market. Served with homemade, canned ketchup.

Wednesday -
I was soooo not hungry. We had a holiday potluck at work. I made handmade gnocchi with marinara from our canned tomatoes. Tom ended up having stirfry from whatever veggies we had hiding in the fridge.

Thursday -
Tom's holiday office party took care of our meal for this night.

Friday -
Roast chuck roast with potatoes and spinach from the garden. Rice pudding for dessert.

Saturday - 
Green chili stew from tomatillos from our garden. Pastured pork from the butcher. Veggies from the farmers' market.

These next couple of weeks are going to be interesting. Mostly because the farmers' market, which runs on Saturdays will not be open for the next two weekends, which means we won't have a regular source for food for the next 3 weeks. The produce stand we sometimes go to is also closed for the season. We did buy a lot of extra food yesterday at the farmers' market and made sure that most of it lasts a long time so hopefully we're good. I am worried that we didn't get enough onions. 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Why We're Doing This - Reason #6

I can't stress enough how IMPORTANT it is to know your farmer and your food. One of the biggest things that has changed for us is where our meat comes from. All of our meat now, if we don't raise it ourselves, comes from hunting (pheasants and geese from Jeanette) or is pasture raised and slaughtered humanely usually in the form of ranch kill. Ranch kill is done, as the name implies, at the ranch, where the animal is at home. It is less stressed and their death is much more humane and quick. The meat is much more expensive, however, we are now eating less of it and with the other changes we have made in our diet we are still spending less on food than we were when we were buying junk from the grocery store.

Recently an undercover HSUS investigator went to a pig farm owned by a subsidiary of Smithfield. Here's a short video that I think everyone should watch. You can also read more about it here.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Why We're Doing This: Reason #5

I haven't posted in awhile about food politics so here's a good one. Some companies, like Kellogg's (who also refuses to eliminate GMOs from their foods) refuses to remove cancer-causing dyes from their food. However, they have removed it from their products in European countries. Apparently their food safety regulations are a lot stronger there and actually watch out for their citizens. You can read the article here.

Monday, December 6, 2010

So How Difficult Is It?

The first question everyone asks us when we share what we're doing with them is "so how hard is it?"

It's ridiculously hard.

No, actually it's not. For some reason people think it takes a lot of time and effort to eat real food that we prepare ourselves. I wrote a post about time management over on Dog Island Farm that can give you a peek into just how much time we spend growing/raising food.

In all honesty, we do spend quite a bit of time preparing food, whether it's for dinner, or creating handmade snacks and baking. But I don't see it as spending too much time on it. What else are most people doing with their time? Watching TV? Playing video games? Surfing the internet?

I recently came across this article thanks to farmCurious. The premise is that studies have shown that the harder we work for food the better we perceive it tasting and therefore the more satisfying it is so we eat less of it. If you consider the obesity problem in the U.S. and how it correlates today to how accessible food, particularly unhealthy food, is to us now it make sense. We can just throw something pre-processed into a microwave or pick it up through the fast food drive thru window. We keep eating it because it's just not satisfying us.

There are other benefits to preparing our own food of course. We know what's in it. We can avoid corn, soy and all of their derivitives. No need to try and pronounce the names of the chemicals, preservatives, flavors or colors.

Another bonus is that I'm becoming a much better cook and baker. Nothing like actually doing it to learn how to become good at it.

So for us, the little bit of extra time we spend preparing meals is more than worth it.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Week 9 - Let's Get Serious

Eggs in a Nest: Swiss Chard and Garlic from our garden sauteed with onions from a produce stand topped with our hens' eggs served with rice and a mash of sweet potatoes from our garden.

Pastured heritage pork, sauteed potatoes, onions and brussels sprouts from the produce stand.

Falafel with homemade tortillas, tahini sauce (sesame seeds from the spice merchant), and tzatziki sauce (homemade yogurt with limes and cucumbers from the produce stand). The falafel was made from canned garbanzo beans that we've had for months, though we do have garbanzos that we grew in our garden.

Grass fed beef and rice stew with carrots, peppers and onions from the produce market.

Handmade pheasant stuffed raviolis with a creamy whiskey sauce. Mmmmmm. It's great having a hunter stay with us because our freezer is full of game. For dessert we had homemade eggnog with some dark rum (not homemade).

George. Our first chicken that we raised and slaughtered ourselves. He was D.E.L.I.C.I.O.U.S. He wasn't the "rubberbands" that people told us he would be. He was surprisingly tender and flavorful. Best roasted chicken I've ever eaten. Because he wasn't a Cornish X, but instead a Black Austrolorp, he wasn't overly muscled like Cornish X birds are. We had him with roasted potatoes and turnips from the produce stand and sauteed cabbage and cauliflower from the produce stand.

Saturday -
We went to a friends' house to celebrate my mom being in town. We brought a Buffalo chuck roast that we had bought at a bison ranch in Wyoming and lettuce from our garden for the salad. Potatoes were also served.

We're nearing the end of our supplies that we had from before we started. We had also noticed that we were eating a LOT more bread and bread-like foods so this week we decided to focus more on fresh fruits, vegetables and meat. I feel better about that. Our meals were more varied. The unfortunate part was that some of our meals this week didn't give us a chance to have leftovers for the following day's lunch.

Friday, December 3, 2010

The Hair Trial

Back in September I wrote about using baking soda and vinegar on my hair as shampoo and conditioner. I figured it's about time I update you all about how it's going.

The first thing I've noticed is that my hair is so much softer and shinier than before. There's never any product buildup either. The biggest bonus though is that my hair color (I dye my hair if you missed the first post) stays true much longer. I use non-permanent color and my roots are growing out and my color still hasn't faded.

As for the oily hair - it's still oily and usually in the winter it's extra oily. The baking soda gets rid of it just like shampoo, but it doesn't stay away any longer than with shampoo.

My hair is a lot healthier though. It doesn't break as much anymore and I don't have any split ends even though I blow dry.

So would I recommend using baking soda and vinegar? Yes! It's so much healthier not just for your hair but also for you. It doesn't have the chemicals and irritants that commercial shampoo and conditioner contain.

Monday, November 29, 2010

A Word About Being Prepared

This past week staying with my Mormon side of the family got me to thinking. They are all set to weather some food system collapse they think will happen in the near future.

Kind of.

They have buckets of freeze dried food and grains in their basement. They have the Survival Seed Bank buried in their backyard. They think they are all set. But they aren't. Those things just give the illusion of being prepared.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm all about being prepared for a disaster. I live in earthquake country after all. But freeze dried food and seeds buried in your backyard just isn't enough.

Everything has a shelf life. Freeze dried food can last 20 years max. Then what do you do with it? As it ages it loses it's nutritional value. At 20 years there's virtually no nutrition in it. And who wants to live on freeze dried food? Not only that, but it requires water to prepare it, precious water that you would need for drinking.

Seeds, even when buried in the ground will only be viable for 5 years maximum depending on the type. Corn, spinach, and onions are only viable for one year if they are stored correctly. So you put all this faith that if there is a disaster you can plant these seeds only to find out that they won't germinate. Then you're stuck. Not only that, but you'll still have to wait at least 3 months before your first harvest.

And what if there is a major disaster and you have to start growing your own food? If you don't have access to food you probably don't have access to gardening equipment and soil amendments. If you live in a difficult growing area do you know how to maximize your harvests? I live in California - a prime place to grow food - and yet I failed miserably my first couple of years because I was still learning. Even now I'm still learning and it's been over 5 years of constant food production.

So I guess my point is that stockpiling what you think you'll need in a disaster is not disaster preparedness. Truly being prepared is being able to hit the ground running because you already know what you're doing

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Week 8 - The Two Month Mark

I'm not going to do a menu download this week because we have some extenuating circumstances. We spent the week at my Dad's house in Wyoming for Thanksgiving so while we didn't buy any food from the grocery store or restaurants we also didn't provide our own food. We did bring food with us though. Because we drove to Wyoming from California we had to make sure that we brought enough food for the two day drive. We also brought food for Thanksgiving including ingredients for making pie and for brining the turkey. Of course things would have been different if we were having Thanksgiving at home.

Staying in Wyoming I became acutely aware of the food availability. Living in California is a blessing. Really. But it was also the mentality of those that lived there that amazed me. Veggies come in cans. Fruits do too, even though they are coated in high fructose corn syrup. We were fortunate to be staying in Cheyenne, the capital. Their grocery stores had large fresh produce departments but very little organic food. The weather isn't conducive to gardening and I'm told that it's impossible. But I don't buy that excuse. I know there are several "urban farmers" in Cheyenne who grow their own food. Also, my Grandmother grew up on a farm in the Grand Tetons and they were able to supply their large family with all of their food all year.

I do have a confession though. On the drive home we had brought a bunch of food and water with us. 75% of the trip was fine and we were making great time. We left Salt Lake City at 4:00am PST to get home. We were scheduled to make it home at 4:00pm according to our GPS (it was 3:30pm but we had to stop at the Cabela's in Boomtown). That is until we got to California. The Sierras were the thorn in my side. We got to Donner Pass at 2:30pm. Multiple times we were at a dead stop in the mountains for long lengths of time - enough where everyone was getting out of their cars and walking around. The longest period we sat for nearly 3 hours in the same spot. We didn't get home until 11:00pm. A trip that should have been 11 1/2 hours instead took us 18 1/2 hours. We weren't fully prepared for this and ended up having to buy some coffee just so we could stay awake for the ride home.

I'm glad to be home now. I'm glad to be somewhere that we can control our food and that we have healthy options available to us.

Monday, November 22, 2010

It's already Week 7 - The Menu

Rabbit braised in Cream of Chantarelle soup left over from last week. Sauteed cabbage and mushrooms from the farmers' market.
Homegrown popcorn.

Taco Tuesday!
Ground turkey tacos with homemade flour tortillas, salsa from our remaining tomatoes, Spanish rice and refried beans.

Chicken and Vegetable Curry soup. Summer squash from our garden. Carrots (Jeanette's) and onions from the farmers' market.

Chicken stirfry with cauliflower, onions, and bell peppers from the farmers' market.

Jeanette (aka House Elf) made us ribs and roasted potatoes, parsnips and squash.

Visited my aunt who made us Prime Rib, squash, bleu cheese scalloped potatoes, and salad.

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup.

We've pretty much been finishing off the meat we've had in our freezers. We still have some left, but the chicken is gone. Our meat birds are almost ready to slaughter, but in the mean time we'll just go without. Yes, we want humanely raised animals, but if I can do it myself I just can't justify paying $6.50/lb for one. This leads me to the idea of sustainability and accessibility. Sustainable food just isn't accessible to a lot of people. Not only is it harder to find, but the cost is too much. The argument could be that people should just eat less meat, and while I do agree with that, I'm not just talking about meat. Sustainable fruits and vegetables are the same way. It's just too expensive for the poor to afford and that is a serious problem. Healthy, wholesome food needs to be available to everyone or it will never be a sustainable system. The rich shouldn't be the only ones that can afford it. Until the system changes and whole foods are available for everyone at affordable prices it will never be sustainable.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Add a New Food Source

Mushrooms we foraged
Foraging! My new obsession. Sometimes we do it in the woods, sometimes it's in urban areas - also called urban gleaning. Pick fruit that is in public areas is perfectly legal. See a fruit tree going unpicked in a person's front yard? Knock on their door and ask them if they would mind if you picked from their tree. The worse thing they could do is say "No."

We used to go every August and forage for blackberries which grow everywhere around here. Our favorite spots have been found by others though, so we need to find new places.

This year was our first time foraging for huckleberries and mushrooms. We've learned a lot from our wonderful friends that have taken us under their wings and taught us how to forage. Yes, I'm talking about you Jessa and Crystalman Tom.

Soon we're going to go back out for mushrooms and I know a bunch of neglected figs that should be getting ready to pop soon.

So now is time for a disclaimer. If you ever decide to go foraging ALWAYS be 100% 1,000% sure of what you are picking and about to consume. I can't stress this enough. If you aren't sure what you're looking for, take someone that's knowledgeable with you.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Week 6 Menu Download

Beans with pork ribs, carrots from the farmers' market, onions from the garden and sauteed pig's ear mushrooms that we had foraged.

Chantarelle (that we foraged) risotto with sauteed glazed chicken with small chantarelles and salad with foraged huckleberries, peppers and onions from farmers' market and lettuce from our garden.

Cream of Chantarelle Mushroom soup with garlic bread.

Vegetable Stirfry with rice. Veggies from the Farmers' market.

Handmade potato (from the garden) gnocchi with Tom's tomato sauce (left over from last week).
Huckleberry ice cream

Pizza! Topped with tomato sauce, homemade shredded mozzarella, mushrooms and caramelized onions from the farmers' market, chicken and bacon that was hiding in our freezer.

Meatloaf with carrots and brussel sprouts from the farmers' market and potatoes from the garden.

Fried Green Tomatoes (the last tomatoes from our garden) with eggs from our chickens and cornmeal from our corn.

I think it's interesting how the art of cooking (and baking) seems to be becoming a lost art. I don't know if it's because people don't have time (or they just think they don't have time). Part of me thinks it's a bunch of problems. The first being that cooking is no longer taught in school and thanks to the Food Network people are led to believe that you have to be a professional to cook a decent meal. Maybe it's because people don't realize that it takes a lot of practice to become a good cook and they get discouraged when they don't immediately cook a 5 star meal. In all honesty I don't know what the problem is and I wish I did.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Why We're Doing This Reason #5

Talk about mixed signals. The United States Department of Agriculture, who is trying to lead the charge against obesity is now also trying to get us to eat more saturated fat through it's new campaign to push more cheese on it. The USDA created an organization called Dairy Management, which has teamed up with Dominoe's to develop pizzas that use 40% more cheese. Then they devised and PAID for a $12 million marketing campaign to sell these cheesier pizzas.

In one hand they tell us to eat less fat and go for fat free or low fat dair products while with the other hand try to get us to eat more cheese.

Don't even get me started on who actually *owns* the USDA, because it's obviously NOT the People who it was originally designed to protect.

You can read more about this here.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Week 5 Menus

Pot Roast with grass fed beef, carrots from the farmers' market, potatoes and swiss chard from the garden.

We were invited to dinner at a family friends' house and had sausage sandwiches and amazing minestrone soup and salad.

Green Chili Stew with pasture-raised pork, roasted hatch green chilies from my mom, tomatillos, onions, corn, and potatoes from the garden.

We all kind of just did our own thing. 

Tom's homemade spaghetti with handmade pasta
Huckleberry crisp from huckleberries that we foraged on Sunday.

Grassfed beef stirfry with mushrooms, peppers, broccoli, and spinach from the farmers' market.

BBQ Pheasant with rice and swiss chard from the garden.

Food has a different meaning now. Our lives have definitely become more focused on food - and yet it's not. It's definitely more focused on preparing food and less about eating it. Food is more "precious" because we put so much care into making it. I  feel really good. And can I say that my skin has improved significantly? I used to get nasty breakouts and I haven't had one this past month since starting this project. I haven't changed any other part of my daily routine, so my diet seems to be the biggest factor. I'm going to be writing this week about how difficult this is. A lot of people keep saying how amazed they are that we're doing this and I want to discuss it.

Perfect Saltine Cracker Recipe

One of the things I've been missing is crunchy, salty snacks. I've made crackers before but have never really been happy with the recipes. So I decided to find something closer to a true saltine cracker. Unfortunately when searching for a "saltine cracker recipe" all the recipes that come up use saltine crackers. I couldn't find any recipes that showed how to make those saltine crackers. No such luck. So I finally came up with one that can't come much closer to the store bought ones (except they have more "meat" to them and are more satisfying).

4 c unbleached white flour
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 c coconut oil
1/3 c skim milk
1 c water
Oil or water and salt (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 deg. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Sift flour, salt and baking powder together. Mix in oil, milk and water until blended well. Knead dough on a surface until smooth.

Now I prefer to use a pasta machine to roll out my dough - usually ending on setting #3. The trick is to make sure the dough is rolled very thin. Otherwise you won't get crispy crackers.

Cut crackers into squares (I like to use a pizza cutter) and put on parchment lined cookie sheet. Spray crackers with oil or water and sprinkle with salt.

Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown around the edges.

This recipe will make a TON of crackers. If you want, divide the dough in half and freeze it for later use.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Why We're Doing This Reason #4

Mmmmmm, high fructose corn syrup. It's in everything. It's hard to eat it in moderation if you're the average American. In my opinion, however you shouldn't ingest any of it. But the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) is putting a lot of money into advertising trying to tell people that it's chemically the same as table sugar - which it is not. I'm sure you've seen their Sweet Surprise ads. As it turns out some products, mainly soft drinks, are much higher in fructose (which shouldn't be confused with the low levels of fructose in fruit which is better regulated by the body because of the addition on nutrients and fiber) than touted by the CRA. Sweet Surprise indeed.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Week 4 Download

Meatloaf from grass fed beef, homemade ketchup. Roasted potatoes, carrots and grilled eggplant from garden.

Chili with grass fed beef and roasted hatch green chilies. 

Thai stir fry with pheasant (that Jeanette caught), eggplant from garden, cauliflower and brussels sprouts from farmers' market. Coconut milk from mom when she moved. With rice.
Berry smoothie with raspberries, blueberries and blackberries and homemade lemon lime soda.

Beef fajitas with grass fed beef, peppers from the farmers' markets and onions from the garden
Mexican rice with tomato sauce and onions from garden
Refried beans (can we got from my mom when she moved)
Homemade flour tortillas

Chicken with alfredo sauce and pasta

Jalapeno Poppers with Squash puree. Yum!
Pumpkin pie.

Another party where we just basically picked at whatever was there - mainly shrimp.

This post marks the end of our first month. I'm starting to miss restaurants. Not sushi as much as I was expecting, but I am really missing Thai, Chinese and Mexican food. I'm also missing just going and eating something when I'm craving something and when we're out just going and grabbing a bite to eat. But it just will have to wait. I'm thinking those things will taste so much better after a year though.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

In a Tough Spot

It looks like we're not getting our co-op order again this month due to lack of orders this time. Last month our order was forgotten and never placed. This really puts us in a bind as I have not been able to source some of the items that I need to order elsewhere. I refuse to go another month without chicken broth. I haven't been able to source chicken yet, so it looks like I'm going to have to find that somewhere so I can make broth.

Thanks to the Murphy's Law Gods, right after posting this I got notified that enough orders have been placed. Phew!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Remember the cheese emergency? I needed a cheese kit for a party we were having, ordered it in plenty of time and ended up not getting it in time? I'm convinced it was because I needed it by a certain day. Even if you plan ahead there is a bigger chance you won't get what you need in time. This time around I ordered hard cheese making kit from the same company and guess what? It showed up within just a couple of days. All because I didn't need it for anything in particular.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Vinegar FAIL!

A couple of months ago I started a batch of vinegar. The sugar water had fermented. I had racked it into a bucket and added the starter (I used Bragg's apple cider vinegar). It was moving along perfectly. It made the water tower smell like vinegar - not the greatest smell in the world, but it meant it was working. The mother created a nice film on the top and everything looked good. And then the towel that was covering it fell into the vinegar. That was just the beginning of a series of mishaps that finally resulted in the vinegar gnats getting into it, laying eggs and leaving their lifeless corpses floating in the liquid. The vinegar smell started to dissapate. Yesterday I finally dumped it.

I will try it again. This time I'll find a better way to keep the gnats out.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Week 3 Menu Download

We had a Harvest Potluck with some of our homesteading friends. Everyone brought amazing homemade food! The meal and who made it are as follow:
Italian herb stewed rooster (slaughtered the day before) and goat cheese stuffed figs wrapped in prosciutto from Alethea and Tim
Homemade pita and dip from Shelby and Greg
Whey lemonade and homemade goat cheese with tomato jam and baguette  from Heidi and Ute
Calzones from Esperanza
Gazpacho from Nicole
Pumpkin Bundt Cake with walnuts and caramel sauce from Clare and Jon
Squash Lasagna, no knead bread, and marinated grilled eggplant by us. The squash was from our garden; the pasta was handmade using our chickens' eggs; cheese was handmade

Leftover lasagna
Leftover cake with sauce (honestly it's lucky it made it that long because it was soooo good)

Handmade raviolis filled with homemade ricotta and sage.
Meat sauce with grass fed beef, oven roasted tomato sauce and lots of veggies from our garden and the farmers' market.

Rice Noodles with leftover sauce from Monday
Homemade Strawberry Rhubarb Pie - homemade lattice crust, strawberries and rhubarb from our garden.

Pumpkin soup with leftover pork (from our summer BBQ where we roasted a whole pig). Squash and onions from our garden. Mushrooms and carrots from the farmers' market.
Leftover Rhubarb Pie

Leftover soup, Filipino rolls from our neighbors.
Leftover Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Random chicken pasta alfredo dish made from sauce my mom had given us.
Rosemary Garlic Artisan Bread

We were at a party so we just ate what was served.

There wasn't really anything all that significant about this week. We did go to a pumpkin carving party at a friend's house on Saturday, so we got our fill of food we can't normally have <cough> candy corn <cough>. I was excited about that candy corn. I LOVE candy corn and was bummed that I wasn't going to get any this year. But, I have found a recipe for it and will be making some later this week and will post the recipe next week on the DIF blog.  

Friday, October 22, 2010

Lots of Answers

'47 Ranch Dressing (is this Yolanda?) asked me:

Where do you get your beef from?

And since you both work outside the home, how do you manage food preparation time? Do you prepare meals just before eating, or do you do a lot of it in advance? How do you manage your time between farming, maintenance of the property, and enjoying life? Please share your strategies.

We get our beef from some friends that live near Yosemite and own a historical farmstead. We actually buy part of the live steer and then get some of the meat from it. However, there are other ranchers closer to home that do the same. You can go to Eat Wild's website to find local ranchers.There's one ranch in Martinez called Silver Springs Ranch that also sells grass-fed beef. They have comparable prices to what we paid. Of course the more you buy the cheaper it is, with buying a whole steer the cheapest option. If you can get enough people together to go into a whole steer you can take advantage of this discounted price. In a few months we may be interested in getting a group together to get another steer.

As for time management, it does take time, but if you do it right, you can save time and still have plenty of time to go out and enjoy life. The trick is having both of us sharing all the responsibilities. We cooked dinner almost every evening before this so, that hasn't changed.  I don't work Fri-Sun. On Fridays I do a lot of baking for the coming week.  But if I didn't have Fridays off I just spread out the baking throughout the week. We have a bread machine which is a a life saver. We just add the ingredients before bed and set the timer. We wake up to the smell of fresh bread.

As for farming and home maintenance, we spread it out. I think that's the key. Don't do it all at once or you'll burn yourself out. We've also got everything set up so that we don't have to spend too much time. Our crops are on automatic irrigation so we don't have to water. We use wide rows which helps reduce our weeds. I don't plant everything at once so I only need to spend about half an hour a couple of times a week dealing with that. Cleaning is easy because we have a ridiculously small house. Floors just need to get swept and occasionally mopped. We don't have any rugs or carpet to deal with, which really helps when you have dogs and cats in the house all the time. We split the cleaning between us, which makes it go a lot faster.

Caring for the livestock is made easier by automating as much as possible. We use a large feeder for our chickens. Each of our rabbits have their own feeders and waterers that we only need to fill every few days. Our goats have a hay feeder, again, only needing to be filled every couple of days.  Our goats and chickens share an automatic waterer that we don't have to fill.

I suppose our main key is sharing the cooking, cleaning, farming and maintenance chores. And automate everything you can. Not having to go the grocery store saves a lot of time too.

Mexican Hot Chocolate

When my mom moved, one of the many things she gave us was cocoa powder - and a lot of it. It's starting to get cold now and the rains have begun. Last night I was looking for something warm to drink and figured I'd make something with that cocoa powder. I love a little spice with my chocolate so I decided to go with a mexican-style hot chocolate.Now, everyone's tastes are different so it definitely a recipe you can adjust as you see necessary.

3 Tbs cocoa powder
3 Tbs granulated sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
pinch of cayenne
dash of salt
2 cups milk (I like whole milk for this recipe)

Whisk in the dry ingredients into the milk in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir constantly until milk is heated. Serve.

Yep, that's it. It was one of the best cups of hot chocolate I've ever had.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Is it Cheaper?

Believe it or not, it's a LOT cheaper. Not only that, but it's also higher quality food that we're eating. There are three reasons it's cheaper. The first is that we're no longer buying value-added foods. No preprocessed-ready-to-eat foods. This alone makes our food higher quality. We are making it ourselves and control what goes into our food. It's also making it cheaper. A loaf of bread is just costing us maybe fifty cents.  Homemade tortillas - even less. I can make homemade corn tortillas for free by using wood ash to slake the Indian corn that we grew this year. Grind it up. Add a bit of water and cook.

This brings us to the second reason - buying bulk. This is undoubtedly the cheapest way to go. We bought a freezer full of beef - all cuts - for $5.30/lb. That's pasture fed, humanely raised beef for less than we can buy a steak from a CAFO steer.

Third reason - no more eating out - enough said.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Why We're Doing This - Reason #3

It is becoming increasingly difficult to find food that isn't produced by Big Ag. You know those small mom-and-pop brands that have become popular because they appear to be healthier? Well, appearances aren't everything and they are quickly getting gobbled up by giant food conglomerates. Tom's of Maine? Yeah, they're owned by Colgate-Palmolive. Here are a few others to watch out for:

Seattle's Best Coffee - owned by Starbucks
Bass and Boddingtons - owned by Anhauser-Busch
Altoids - owned by M&M Mars, Inc.
Kashi, Morningstar, Gardenburger, Natural Touch and Bear Naked - owned by Kelloggs, who, as it turns out isn't all that interested in health.
Nantucket Nectars - owned by Dr. Pepper Snapple Group
Stonyfield Farm and Brown Cow - owned by Groupe Danone (aka Dannon)
Ben & Jerry's - owned by Unilever (this skeeves me out a bit because it's a company better known for making soap than for making food)
Naked Juice - owned by Pepsi Co.
Boca Foods and Back to Nature - owned by Kraft
Cascadian Farm and Muir Glen - owned by General Mills
Lightlife and Alexia Foods - owned by ConAgra
Odwalla - owned by Coca-Cola
Seeds of Change - owned by M&M Mars, Inc.
Dagoba - owned by Hershey Foods
Westbrae Natural, Earth's Best, Bearitos, Celestial Seasonings, Little Bear, Rice Dream/Imagine/Soy Dream, Westsoy, Arrowhead Mills, Walnut Acres, Debole's, Mountain Sun, Garden of Eatin', Shariann's, Nile Spice, Spectrum Organics, Breadshop, Tofutown, Casbah and Health Valley - all owned by Heinz and aligned with Cargill
Horizon, The Organic Cow of Vermont, Alta Dena, White Wave/Silk - owned by Dean Foods.
Santa Cruz Organic - owned by J.M. Smucker

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Week 2 Menu Download

Homemade bread
Custard Pie (see week's one menu)

Beans with pork left over from summer pig roast. Carrots from farmers' market

Cioppino leftovers

Salisbury steak (grass fed beef from friends) with onion mushroom gravy (mushrooms from farmers' market, onions from garden), mashed potatoes (from garden) and cauliflower (from farmers' market)
Homemade lemon popcicles (lemons from neighbor's tree)

Tom had a salad from our garden spoils. I wasn't really hungry so I didn't eat anything.

Pasta with grass fed beef sirloin (from friends), spinach and mushrooms (from farmers' market) and a homemade white sauce.

Pasta with chicken (found buried in freezer), broccoli (from farmers' market) and zucchini (from garden) with a creamy mustard sauce (mustard from Angelo's Meats - best damn mustard I've ever had too!).

Tom's a bit bitter about the missed co-op order. Because of it, we're out of chili powder and sea salt. We've resorted to using regular table salt (from a giant bag in our garage that we use for brining meat) and it's way too salty and hard to pinch out of the bowl (we don't use a salt shaker).
This week we've been getting asked more and more about how it's going. Right now it's fine. I do find myself spending most of the day on Friday (which I have off right now) making bread, cheese and other various items for the upcoming week.
Our main focus this week has actually been on breeding our goats, so the food has taken the back burner.
Tonight we're having a big potluck with some of our homesteading friends. We'll be serving a squash lasagna with bread and marinated and grilled eggplant. It's going to be a lot of fun.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

'You're just shopping in the wrong "supermarkets"'

That's a direct quote I got today on Facebook by someone I don't even know. Actually, the entire quote was:

'There is nothing wrong with purchasing food at a local independent market. I shop at ours every day. Everything in the butcher department is sourced locally, they sell produce and fruit from local farmers, apple juice from a local orchard, jams and jelly produced in our town. You're just shopping in the wrong "supermarkets"'

This quickly made me realize that a lot of people don't realize that not every place is blessed with the shopping choices that they have. It also made me realize that this project makes some people uncomfortable. So I suppose I should explain our living situation so people aren't so judgemental about our choices - though I don't expect them to actually read my blog.

We live in an economically depressed city about 30 miles (as the crow flies) northeast of San Francisco. The city is bankrupt and has been for several years. We barely have police or fire services anymore (we're down to less than 90 officers for a city of over 120,000 people). Property values continue to somersault downhill (our neighborhood has seen a 60% reduction in home values since the height of the market), while crime rates skyrocket. We have more than our share of poverty - our county has the highest poverty rates in the Bay Area. People just can't afford healthy food, so there is no demand for it. None of the supermarkets carry local meat, let alone grassfed. The selection of organic produce is pathetic to say the least. This is the reality of where I live.

If I want to go to a "local independent market" I will have to drive 30+ miles plus pay $5 in bridge toll to get there. To me, that is no longer "local" and the carbon footprint and added cost is too great. It also doesn't look at the part of the problem I'm trying to solve - that you don't have to live in a foodie hub (such as San Francisco or Berkeley) to be able to eat healthy, unprocessed food while on a budget.

So go ahead and shop at your local independent market. It's great that you have access to one! I'm not telling anyone that they shouldn't - in fact, you will never see me say that anyone should do what we're doing unless they are truly interested in doing it themselves and have expressed that to me. Just please realize that not everyone has one (or two or five) independent markets where they live.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


I LOVE seafood. I mean LOVE it. I've loved seafood since I was a little kid. Every year for my birthday all I wanted was to go eat calamari at my favorite seafood restaurant at Jack London Square in Oakland, California. They are no longer there, but I'll always remember it.

So it would make sense that I would love cioppino. One of my favorite restaurants, the Dead Fish in Crockett, has what they call the Dead Fish Stew, which is basically cioppino and it is fabulous! Well, since we can't eat there for at least the next year I had to find a substitute. This is a pretty good stand in and it's really easy to make.

4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dry pepper flakes
1/4 c olive oil
1 green bell pepper, chopped
4 c oven baked tomato sauce
4 c regular tomato sauce
1 1/2 c white wine
1 lb clams
1 lb mussels
1 whole dungeness crab
1 lb firm white fish of your choice
1 lb shrimp - shelled and deveined
1 lb scallops

1. Steam clams and mussels in 2 cups of water until they open. Strain, reserving liquid.
2. In a large pot cook garlic, onion, and red pepper flakes in olive oil until the onions soften. Stir in bell pepper and cook for 1 minute.
3. Add wine and boil until reduced by 1/2. Add reserved clam & mussel broth, tomato sauces, and bay leaf and simmer for 30 min.
4. Add fish, and remaining seafood to broth. Cook until seafood is cooked through - about 5 min.
5. Serve with fresh baked or artisan bread.

I made this last night we added octopus to it as well. If you make this, have fun with the seafood you put in it. The garlic, onion, peppers, and tomato sauces all came from our garden. The seafood sans the mussels and clams came from our local fish monger. The mussels and clams came from our farmers' market. The wine is the last remaining wine from our wedding, almost a year ago. The bay leaf is from our garden. The red pepper flakes are just some of the spices we still have in our spice cabinet - but will be making more with our serrano peppers that we're growing.

The pot we made was huge! I had to remove the meat from the mussels and clams because adding them with the shells wouldn't have fit in our pot, and I was using the biggest pot we had. Well, not the biggest pot, my brew pot is the biggest, but it's not suitable for cooking meals in due to it's thin bottom.

I hope you try this out and love it as much as we do.

Friday, October 8, 2010

First Week Run Down

Breakfast, lunch and snacks are usually eggs or granola, the previous evening's leftovers, fruit from the farmer's market and homemade bread.

So here is a list of what we had for dinner this week:

BBQ Chicken with the last of our commercial BBQ Sauce
Peas (from our garden)
Squash puree (from our garden)

Lasagna (homemade cheese, oven roasted sauce with tomatoes from our garden, grass fed beef from our friends)
Homemade Artisan Bread
Salad (brought by my mother-in-law)
Pumpkin Cupcakes (pumpkin from our garden) with homemade cream cheese frosting

Braised Rabbit (our rabbit, carrots and celery from farmers' market, homebrewed scotch ale)
Bok choy (from our garden) sauteed with pepper flakes
Penne Pasta

Eggs in a Nest (eggs from our hens, carrots from farmers' market, swiss chard, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, and onions from our garden)
Granny Smith Apple Crisp (from our garden and the farmers' market)

Meatloaf (onions from garden, eggs from our hens, mushrooms from farmers' market, oats from co-op, homemade ketchup from our garden)
Potatoes (from our garden)
Granny Smith Apple Crisp
Bonus: Our awesome next door neighbors brought over some homemade 7 layer dip and chips for us (they don't know about our project, but it's still "legal" since it was given to us).

We were so busy neither of us wanted to cook a big meal. Tom had a salad (veggies from garden and farmers' market) and I had some leftover top ramen (that we actually bought over a year ago).

Another busy day so we just had rice and beans.

Pizza made with whey dough, homemade mozzarella, spinach (from the farmers' market), onions (from the garden), oven roasted tomato sauce (same as last Friday), sun dried tomatoes (from our garden).
Custard pie (with eggs from our hens).

This has been an interesting week. It hasn't been smooth, but it has been tolerable. Lunch seems to be the most difficult meal to do because we're never really interested in really cooking anything like we do for dinner, or even breakfast. I have found that I'm doing a lot more baking. A LOT more. I used to only bake for special occasions. Now I'm baking at least twice a week. I'm making stuff I've never made before - like the custard pie. Of course it helps that it's no longer hot outside, so our kitchen isn't smoldering.

After this week it is clear that planning IS really crucial. Also, it's important that unless it is IN our house, don't plan to use it yet.

Why we're doing this: Reason #2

New Jif....Only Chummier. Need I say more?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Gotta Keep it Interesting

So much for thinking this would be a breeze. I'm actually finding it rather entertaining and it's forcing me to get creative.
We were supposed to pick up our co-op order today. We only get one once a month - on the first Wednesday of the month. We had some pretty essential items on there (at least for us) including chicken broth, salt, and chili powder. Well, I was just notified that our order did not come in. Well, then...I guess I'll need to figure something out.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Why We're Doing This Reason #1

Oh, we have lots of reasons, but this has to be our TOP reason for why we're doing this.

We are completely and utterly diallusioned with our current food system. The governmental agencies that are supposed to regulate it are practically owned - or at least ran - by big ag and corporations.

Case in point, Obama just appointed Catherine Woteki to be the USDA's  undersecretary for research, education, and economics. What's the big deal? Well Woteki also happens to be the global director of scientific affairs at one of the biggest junk-food producers - Mars, Inc - and a staunch supporter of GMOs. In her new role, she'll be supervising the head of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (which oversees grant programs), Roger Beachy. Beachy is openly hostile to organic farming and has strong ties to, you guessed it, Monsanto.

Good grief, could it get worse? Oh it is. More on that later.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

And Then It Hits Me

Yesterday we were super busy preparing Junior's (my stepson) birthday dinner. All of a sudden it dawned on us that we were completely out of eggs, which we needed for the pasta. Doh! And of course we can't just run to the store to buy more. Fortunately I dug around in our cabinets and found some lasagna noodles that I had bought a year ago for our rehearsal dinner. I don't know what we would have done, other than wait for our chickens to pop out some eggs and just hope that we get enough.

It just goes to show that we really need to plan out what we're doing.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Our First Dinner

Well, it's not going to be anything special. My stepson's birthday is today and he's having a friend spend the night. Well....picky teenagers means it will be something rather generic - BBQ chicken, rice and probably squash as a side.

But tomorrow we're having lasagna with homemade pasta, tomato sauce, homegrown veggies, grassfed ground beef and homemade cheese. Yes! I got the cheese! And for dessert we'll be having homemade pumpkin cupcakes (with pumpkin we've grown) with homemade cream cheese frosting.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Cheese Emergency!!!

We have been having terrible luck with online companies lately. First there was the bee suit fiasco last week. We took a top bar beekeeping class last Sunday. I had ordered some bee suits and had specified the shipping method so that we would get them in time for the class. Well, the company (that shall remain unnamed) didn't ship them how I specified and we quickly realized on Saturday that we weren't getting them. We ended up having to run and find another store that could sell us what we needed. The store we found ended up being about an hour and a half away. So that was our first shipping problem.

Then there was the cheese fiasco.

My stepson is turning 13 tomorrow, so on Saturday we're having a birthday party for him. The plan was that we were going to make lasagna completely homemade, including the cheese. I have all the milk and cream needed, all I needed was the mozzarella kit that I had ordered last week. I ordered it from a company I use regularly with good luck. The kit was in stock and their site said they ship out within 1-2 days. Not only that, they are located in Northern California as well, so shipping should only be about a day.

Well, by yesterday it dawned on me that I should have received it by now so I called and left a message. They called me back today and left a message saying that they would be shipping it out next week! I was so mad I actually started stomping. I promptly called them back and canceled my order

It was too late. I can't order online anywhere else in time. I don't know of any storefront around here that sells cheesemaking supplies. Then it dawned on me! There's a woman that sells homesteading supplies in Oakland! Her shop is Farm Curious. I emailed her the following:

I have a cheese emergency! I ordered the 30-minute mozzarella kit last week and, of course, need it for a dinner I'm hosting on Saturday (Oct. 2nd) and even though they say they ship in 1-2 days they aren't shipping it until later next week!!!!! So now I'm in need of a kit by Saturday. "But why can't you buy some mozzarella from the store?" you ask. Because starting tomorrow, my husband and I are giving up buying food at the grocery store for a year - yes we are gluttons for punishment.

I'm in Vallejo. I know you're local, in Oakland. Is there any way I can buy the kit through your site and then pick it up or something? Pretty please? Thanks!

Apparently I had her at "...cheese emergency!" She had what I needed. Yes! Traffic sucked, but we've got our kit now!

The Last Day

This morning I walked into a grocery store to pick up something for lunch (ran out of time to fix something this morning). It's hard to believe that it was the last time I'll be buying food at one for at least a year. If things go right, and it works for us, we may quit going permanently.

Last night we had sushi at our favorite sushi place. It was rather ho-hum. The sushi was really good, but it wasn't as phenomenal as I expected our last meal out would be. Maybe the weight of the situation hasn't hit me yet. I mean, THIS IS IT.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Planning our First Dinner

Hmmmm, what shall we have as our first dinner for The Project? It has got to be memorable and something we don't do too often. We've got a freezer full of beef and some chicken, though we're not opposed to vegetarian. Basically the only parameters is that it must be made from what is in season. Unfortunately we don't have a farmers' market between now and then, but we can hit up a produce stand if need be.

So does anyone have any EXCELLENT ideas for the first dinner? Do you have a fantastic recipe you just HAVE to share?

Sunday, September 26, 2010

This is it

We've got 4 days left. 4 days!

I feel like I'll never be ready. But I guess I'm going to have to be come Friday. One of my coworkers told me I need to have a big, bad dinner on Thursday night. I think we're going to have sushi. Of everything we eat out, I'm going to miss sushi the most. I'm kind of bummed out about that. I do have a sushi kit so maybe I'll just need to buck up and learn how to make it myself.

Sunday, September 19, 2010


We've got a freezer full of grass fed, humanely raised beef! I'm excited about that.

Soon we'll have chicken - chicken that we raised. In a few months we'll also have more rabbit.

Our transition to home-raised meat has been interesting. It started with our rabbits. We had two pass away recently and rather than waste them we dressed them and put them in the freezer. Now, I've had rabbit before, at a restaurant, and I enjoyed it. But there is just this kind of block I had about eating animals that I had raised. Maybe it was an uncertainty as to whether it would actually be edible? Kind of like, I wasn't confident enough in my skills to raise something and cook it properly to where it tasted good? I honestly don't know.

This past week we had my mom over for dinner (a good bye dinner, she moved this week half way across he country) and decided to braise one of the rabbits. This was the first time I had ever had home raised meat, and it was delicious! I was pleasantly surprised.

Then last night we went over to some of our homesteading friends' home for a dinner party. We had given them some of our older hens for eggs, and due to unforeseen circumstances, she had to slaughter two of them (which we are totally cool with because we were going to do it anyways). She stewed the older of the two (she was probably at least 4 years old). I wasn't sure how I was going to like it. People had warned me that non-cornish cross chickens would be like rubberbands and would have a horrible flavor. Granted our friend stewed her for a really long time, but the meat was delicious. It tasted like chicken - nothing like store bought chicken.

Now our coming meat issue is with pork. Out of all the meat we eat, pork is the one we eat the most. So our plan is to buy a piglet in the Spring and raise it for a few months until it gets up to slaughter weight. Well, that leaves us with quite a few months of no pork.

So now we're looking for a good butcher. Apparently that is easier said than done. There's one butcher here in Vallejo. It is in the G-H-E-T-T-O. It is scary. I don't want to go there. I have a feeling they don't sell humanely raised meat.

Then there is the Fatted Calf in Napa. Um, yeah, we can't afford to buy anything there. I had called them to buy a whole pig once. They wanted $700-800 for it. It is Napa after all. We ended up buying a live pig from a gentleman who raises hogs for 4-H and having it slaughtered for $180. That's a HUGE difference. So the search continues.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Timing is Everything

Originally we were going to start this project on January 1st. It seemed so far off, but it was a good date to start - kind of like a new year's resolution. We moved the date up though because I was worried about my job. Back in May we got back onto a full time schedule, which was great after being part time for over 18 months. But I knew it was only temporary and I was just waiting for the return of part time.

I'm glad we decided to do that because starting next week, sure enough, we're going back to part time. Fortunately it's not as large a cut in hours as the last time. And surprisingly I'm completely OK with it. We were making it work before and we will make it work again. It will also allow me time to write more.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Shampoo and Conditioner

I dye my hair. I don't like the natural color and since I'm already over 30% gray I've decided to just dye it black. What I like about the black hair is that all of a sudden my eyes have an actual color to them. With my natural hair color they were always kind of an unremarkable washed out gray-green-blue. With the black contrast they are more blue now.

My hair is also oily and fine. Not a good combo. Add onto that the fact that I am prone to outer ear infections, which are of course exacerbated by commercial shampoos, specifically products that contain Sodium Lauryl (or Laureth) Sulfate or SLS. It just so happens that the products that contain that ingredient also ruin your color. So I had switched my hair products to a brand that didn't contain SLS, parabens or phthalates. Of course these more expensive and you have to use more of them to get oily hair clean. So I am always in search of a better product.

I came across this post on One Green Generation about using baking soda and vinegar to wash and condition your hair.

Today I gave it a whirl. I'll be honest, I was totally skeptical. Afterall, I have oily hair and the non-SLS shampoo I have been using is so-so at cleansing. Since it's Saturday I figured that if it didn't work I could just pull my hair into a pony tail the rest of the day and just go back to my regular routine tomorrow.

I don't think I'll need to do that. I'm totally sold. Not only is my hair CLEAN, but it's softer and smoother than it ever was. It's the same texture as if I'd been standing in the rain for a long time and then let it dry naturally. You know, that smooth, extra soft texture. So I think I'm going to keep this new routine. It's MUCH cheaper than even bargain shampoo.

Now all I need is a good all-natural body wash.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Falling into Place

At least that's what it seems. This weekend a friend of the family told us she knows an organic dairy that we might be able to get milk from directly that is near us. That's beyond awesome. Dairy farms totally get the shaft and I'm amazed we even have any. While milk prices have gone up drastically the actual farmer rarely sees enough to cover production. Where does all that money go to? The supermarkets and distributors. I'd much rather get my milk directly from the farmer and pay them market price.

Tonight I also made my first batch of granola with the rolled oats we bought from the co-op. I'm impressed. They seem to absorb the liquids and flavors a lot better than the other oats I was using. I'm not sure the difference. Maybe the thickness is different. Anyways, it's a lot tastier.

Tomorrow we go shopping for our new freezer. We still don't know where we are going to put it, but we'll figure it out....somehow.

Friday, September 3, 2010


Today I finally got word that the beef will be here in time! We pick up our 1/8 of a steer the next Saturday. Phew! I was starting to get a little worried. We don't eat much beef, but I'm sure an 1/8 of a steer won't be enough since we won't have any pork, which we use a lot of. So that's our next task - to find a pig ASAP. We have grand plans to buy one next spring, but then we have to get weight on it, so we're looking at not having it until next June or so. That's 8 months without pork and that just ain't gonna fly! So off to searching for a pig...

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Can We REALLY Do This?

Well, we're about a month away now from beginning this crazy idea of ours. I'm worried about meat right now. We were supposed to get part of a grass fed cow last month but I haven't heard anything about it yet. Sure we can without meat, but it's not necessarily what I *want* to do. Fortunately, right when we begin this project we'll have several chickens to slaughter. We'll probably get more right away. We do have 2 rabbits in the freezer right now and hopefully in a few months we'll have even more.

OK, the freezer. We are out of space in our chest freezer and we'll be needing to get a second one. This is where the problem lies. We don't have space for another freezer! We don't even have space for a larger one if we get rid of our current one. We're going to have to get creative here, or finish the kitchen and breakfast nook so we can empty out some of the boxes in the garage.

So much to do and think about! I thought we'd have enough time to work things out. Oh well, we'll just have to go with the flow.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

My 5 Gallon Vinegar Experiment - Part 1

Today I started a new experiment. I'm going to attempt to make vinegar. Now, most recipes I've found online only recommend making either red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar. That's all well and good, they are all focused on vinegar as a culinary treat. I don't need some fancy vinegar. I just need a vinegar with 5% acidity that I can use to can with. So I came across some info that said I could make it from a sugar solution. Perfect! I don't want the flavors that fruit can add to the vinegar so sugar it is.
The first step in making vinegar is you have to make alcohol. Easy enough, I've got lots of practice at that. Here's what I started with:

8 cups of granulated sugar
4 1/2 gallons water
Yeast Nutrient
Bread Yeast

I decided to go with the bread yeast because I'm not interested in the yeast creating certain flavors, and well, I have TONS of bread yeast on hand so it's just less money I had to spend. So I set everything up much like when I make hard cider.

So that's what I've done so far. In about 2 weeks I'll start the actual vinegar.

Thursday, August 26, 2010


This project is making us rather...hmmm, what's the word? Desperate? No...Well, maybe. So here we are trying to plan for our usual things. Coffee of course being one of them. I don't know about you, but I can't even contemplate making it through a whole day without at least one cup. But to be honest I really don't actually like coffee. I like what it does for me, but the taste is too much. At least here in the States. When we were in the UK their coffee was nothing short of phenomenal. It wasn't bitter at all and it had this smooth, almost nutty flavor. Well, I've heard the same thing about roasting your own beans at home. Coffee bean roasters can be quite pricey though if you're cheapskates like us. The green beans however, are much cheaper than buying coffee from even the grocery store. So what should we do to roast our own coffee? Why, use an air popcorn popper of course! I found some instructions onhow to use our old air popper to roast beans. How awesome is that? Now we can have fair trade organic beans that are freshly roasted every morning.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Milk Found! ...Maybe....

I think I may have found two sources for milk. While not ideal they might have to do if I can't find a better option. Apparently there are no dairies near us that will deliver milk or allow us to pick the milk up from them. The first option is our co-op. They offer organic milk in bulk. This is definitely not my first option because I don't really want to have to freeze milk. Our second option is Planet Organics. They are kind of like a CSA but slightly more grocery like as they also offer household items. Again, not ideal. We used them a few years ago. They drop off a box of seasonal organic produce (or dairy or handmade food) that is from local farms and restaurants once a week to your home.

To be honest I'm torn about this. While Planet Organics is not a grocery store, it is definitely walking the line. On the same token there is the issue of gas. It would be much more efficient to have them deliver to us than for us to drive every week to some far off dairy (if we can find one) or farmer's market just to buy milk.

Planet Organics is also a better option compared to the co-op, not only because of the freezing of the milk, but also because the milk won't travel as far. Through Planet Organics, the milk originates in Sonoma County, gets delivered to Sonoma and then delivered to us. Through the co-op it originates in Sonoma County, then gets delivered to a warehouse in Rocklin (past Sacramento) and then comes all the way back to us.

We hope to only need this milk for 5 months - then our goats will take over. I don't really want to give up milk and I know Tom definitely doesn't want to give it up.

So my awesome readers, what's your opinion on these choices? Do you think Planet Organics would be cheating? If you do then we will continue our search.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


So several people have asked where to find a co-op and where mine is. Well, I found ours (technically a buying club) by searching the internet of course! So here are a couple of resources:

Co-op Directory Service
Organic Consumers Associations (this is where I found mine)

And for those that want to know (Janice, I'm looking at you!) about our buying club you can find their listing here for more information.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Milk - Where are You?

Milk. Wow! I didn't think it would be that difficult to source milk outside of a grocery store considering there are dozens upon dozens of dairy farms around us. I'm also finding that most farmers' markets don't have anyone selling dairy and if someone does it's only in the form of cheese or butter.

I did find some milkmen - yes, the traditional milkman that delivers milk once a week to your door - but they seem to only be located in affluent areas and well, I don't live in one of those. It's quickly becoming clear to me that due to my location this might be a more difficult project than I thought. We are in a very economically depressed area, but unlike other cities like Oakland we don't have an upper crust or foodie scene.

We do have goats, but we haven't bred them yet and are waiting until October to do so. Then we have to wait another 5 months before they give birth before we can start milking them. So we need to find a milk source for at least the first 5 months of our project.

If you have ideas on where I can find milk please let me know.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

What We've Already Got

There are a few things we've already got plenty of - at least enough to last the entire year. The bonus is these items never came from a "banned" store. Many, many years ago - before I was even born - my mom was a Mormon. Mormons are known for their ability to stockpile essential goods in case of an emergency. These goods included buckets and buckets of wheat and granulated sugar. My mom is no longer Mormon and since she's moving she really didn't want to haul all of this stuff halfway across the country. Tom and I graciously took it and are now storing it. So we are fortunate now to have all the wheat and sugar we could ever possibly want.

I've also got a 50lb bag of salt in our garage (don't ask because I really don't know why I bought it), a quart of commercial lemon juice in my freezer and a whole turkey. I'm not sure why we have so much lemon juice (other than it's very handy for canning goods), but I do know that we got the turkey right after Thanksgiving last year because it was ridiculously cheap. Oh, and also have several gallon bags filled with pork from a BBQ we had last June where we roasted a whole hog (bought straight off the farm).

The next things I need to find are vinegar and vegetable oil. Oh, and I need to find a dairy for the next few months.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Anything you Could Ever Possibly Need

I'm incredibly excited! We just got the catalog for our local co-op! All of the things I was worried about getting, like pepper, vegetable oil, oats, baking powder/soda, etc. are all available through the co-op. They even have dairy products.

I don't know why we didn't do this before? The prices are much cheaper than even going to Trader Joe's. I can see this being a permanent change for us.

Friday, August 13, 2010


Well, this is the very first post. It's a bit early as we're not actually going to be starting our project until January 1st but as I find new places to get food I'll be posting here.

So far we have the Vallejo Farmer's Market. We are very lucky as it is year round. The only issue is that it's only once a week so we have to make sure we plan ahead every week to either make time to go to it every Saturday or buy enough for two weeks at once.

I've also recently found a co-op here in Vallejo. I just ordered the catalog to see what all they offer.

Some of the things I will need for processing food includes a coffee roaster and a grain roller mill to roll grains into cereal. Tom thinks he can give up coffee. He currently drinks the equivalent of 2-4 cups per day. We'll see how that goes. I love coffee as well and while I could give it up, I don't know if I want to.