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.