Monday, December 26, 2011

Cajun Spiced Crab Cakes

Every Christmas Eve we have a crab feed at my house. This year was a bit different because Tom and Junior actually went out and caught the crab for the dinner table. They had great luck catching 6 rock crabs and 6 large Dungeness crabs. More than enough for 5 people, one of which wasn't interested in eating any crab. Eventually we'll get Junior to enjoy it.

Every year, even when we buy crab, we always have some left over. This year was no exception. My mom always made crab cakes the next day with what was leftover, but of course she's in Ohio so it was my turn to try my hand at them. Having never made them before I was a bit nervous. But in the end I was really happy with them. So here's how you can do it too.

1 lb Dungeness Crab meat
1 Egg
2 tsp Cajun Seasoning
1/2 cup Mayonnaise
1 tsp Hot Pepper Sauce
1/4 cup Oats
1 Tbs Lemon Juice
3 Tbs Safflower Oil

Remove all the crab meat from the shell. Grind the oats up. I like to use a coffee grinder as it gets them fairly fine. Add everything except the oil in a bowl.

I made the mayonnaise from scratch. I find that the commercial stuff is a bit too strong when I add it to stuff. I'm not sure what the strong flavor is, but I don't much care for it. The homemade mayo is much milder and what is left you can use to make an accompanying aioli. Also feel free to add more hot sauce if you wish. A teaspoon doesn't add much heat at all but rather just builds on the flavor profile.

I was surprised when I mixed this all together just how runny the batter was. Because it had egg in it though it should be able to bind well.

In a hot skillet add the oil over medium high heat and drop spoonfuls of the "batter." Flatten them with the back of the spoon and then cook until browned. Gently flip and continue to cook until the other side is browned.

Pull the crab cakes out and place on paper towels to allow to drain. Keep them in a warm oven while you cook the rest of the cakes. Serve the crab cakes with any sauce that you would prefer. We like to eat ours with more hot sauce.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Makin' Yogurt

I love yogurt. I try to eat it every day. The problem is, if you buy it, it can get pricey. So I did some online research and found a great way to get my daily yogurt for a fraction of the price.

What you will need:

1 gallon of milk (any type of milk you want to use)
1 cup of yogurt with live and active cultures – later you can use the yogurt you’ve made as a starter
1 cup dry nonfat milk (optional – makes yogurt creamier)
Thick bottomed pot (large enough for 1 gallon of milk)
Candy thermometer
Sterile canning jars
Ice chest

Heat milk in pan to 120 deg F stirring constantly and add the dry milk
Combine some of the heated milk with the yogurt and mix until smooth. Add mixture into the hot milk.
Put mixture into sterile jars and seal lids. Place the sealed jars into an ice chest filled with hot water that is between 110-120 deg F.
Leave overnight in ice chest or until gelled. Place jars in the refrigerator.

That’s it.
The texture will be different than what you buy at the store because it doesn’t contain gelatin, modified corn starch or other added gelling agents. If you want a thicker, Greek style yogurt you can strain it. Place a large coffee filter in a colander, put the yogurt in the filter, place colander over a bowl and place in fridge. Leave overnight.

You can add fruit to the bottom of the jars or mix in sugar and vanilla extract for flavoring.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Cheese Challenge Part 3

I've been getting some questions about what books and supplies you'll  need for the first challenge.

For the book I recommend Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll. We'll be utilizing that for a lot of the recipes.

Our first month we'll be making fresh, soft cheeses that don't require any cultures. On January 1st I'll provide a list of the types of cheeses you can start with. Get creative. Add herbs and spices if you want. You won't need a press yet but you'll want to get some good cheesecloth or butter muslin.

Monday, December 12, 2011

More on the Cheesemaking Challenge

First and foremost, we need a name. I'm drawing a blank so if anyone has one to offer share it!

The challenges will start out easy, making some type of cheese that can be made with common items you might find in your kitchen. They will be generalized so that you can make a cheese of your choosing with they type of milk you want.

I highly recommend purchasing a cheesemaking book. Fortunately the web is also filled with lots of recipes so it won't be absolutely required but it would be more helpful.

As the challenges move forward you'll need to get more specialized equipment and ingredients/starter cultures/etc. Of course, for items like a cheese press I will show you how we made ours at home for less than $50.

Part of cheesemaking requires somewhere that is cool (50 deg F is standard) and humid to age your cheese. Basements can work well. We use a wine fridge so if you're going to take on cheesemaking start looking on Craigslist for them. You can sometimes find good deals on them because a lot of people are getting rid of them. A mini fridge with a thermostat controller can also work.

Feel free to start with a cheesemaking kit as well. They have everything you need for at least some of the cheeses all together.

At the end of each month I want to see links to posts about your cheesemaking! Leave them on our FB page. I'll include a list on the blog of the bloggers that are taking part. If you're participating send me an email and I'll get your blog and/or name on the list!

I'm excited. Are you?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Making Peanut Butter

Have you ever thought something was crazy hard to make and easier and cheaper to just buy? And then did you realize it's the exact opposite? That happened to me with flour tortillas (not to mention they taste soooo much better homemade) and now with peanut butter. When we decided to give peanut butter a go, I could not believe how simple it really was. Of course, this can happen with most nuts, which can greatly reduce the cost. The only tool you really need to make peanut butter is a food processor.

A good rule of thumb is 1 cup of nuts will become 1/2 cup of nut butter. I start with salted dry roasted peanuts.

Basically just turn on the processor.

As the oils in the nuts get released the peanuts will start to look like butter. It will form a large mass but it's not done. At this point it's difficult to spread.

The lump will break apart and the peanut butter will become smoother and more easily spread. You can add more salt if you want, or just leave it as is.

That's really all there is to making peanut butter.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Blessed are the Cheesemakers

I am new to making cheese, but I love doing it! Once you have the tools you need it can be quite fun, though sometimes time consuming. But the resulting product is nothing short of amazing. There's something to be said about processing your own food.

So I'm taking a page from Mrs. Wheelbarrow and The Yummy Mummy with their Charcutepalooza: A Year of Meat. What better accouterments to go with cured meat than some cheese?

Starting January 1st I will post a new cheesemaking challenge. Join me in learning how to make cheese, talk about it, write about, take lots of photos. I'll post more about it in the upcoming weeks, but for now, consider this your warning.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Mmmmmm....Crockpot Chili

It's been awhile since I've done a non-canning recipe so I figured I was overdue.

With this cold weather it's nice to sit with a bowl of comfort food. I love chili but I really don't make it enough. We have a ton of dry beans that we've grown so there really is no excuse for not making it. Yes, I put beans in my chili, which I know some of you would consider blasphemous. I've done it this way since I learned how to cook. My mom has done it this was for as long as I can remember. And I will probably always add beans to my chili.

I don't like to heavily rely on meat to make my chili, well, meaty, so beans are added. Of course, it does take some planning ahead because you'll need to soak the beans overnight. You could skip the soaking, but it will have to be cooked on the stovetop at a higher temperature for quite awhile.

As for the meat, we've got a freezer of goat and it seemed like some goat ribs would be a fantastic addition to this chili. Goat can be difficult to find so feel free to substitute it with lamb.

The night before in a large bowl cover 2 cups of dry beans with water. Add enough water so that there is at least an inch of water over the beans.

The next morning in your crockpot combine:

2 cups chicken broth
1 large onion, chopped
4 cups tomato sauce
1 Tbs cumin
2 Tbs chili powder
1 tsp salt
12 oz roasted green chilies, chopped
1 lb goat ribs

Turn your crockpot on high and leave it until dinner. The meat should be falling apart. Most chili powders are mild so it won't really be a spicy chili. If you want it to have some kick add some hot sauce. Serve with fresh chopped onion and sour cream.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Green Tomato Lemon Marmalade

Cook down halved or quartered tomatoes
We were given a slew of green tomatoes. Last week I picked out the ripe ones and made pizza sauce.Now what to do with all the green ones? We did make some fried green tomatoes, but that didn't even make a dent in them. At first I wanted to make a chutney but a friend of ours gave us some lemons (and some canned items) for helping her cull an injured chicken she had. I love to make marmalade, but it wasn't quite enough lemons to do that so I came up with the idea to do a green tomato lemon marmalade.

Mill the tomatoes to remove seeds and skins

OK, so I have to be honest, I don't like this marmalade. You do have to take that with a grain of salt though because I don't like tomatoes very much. For the most part it does actually taste good, but for me I get this really strong zinc taste from it. That same taste you get when sucking on a zinc lozenge when your sick. No one else that's tried it can taste zinc though. They all really like it, so I'm posting this because you can't take my word on it.

Zest the lemons
 You will need a couple of specialized tools to help speed things up. First, you'll need a food mill. Otherwise you can seed and skin the tomatoes the old fashioned way. Also, I highly recommend getting a zester for the lemons. This really helps making long, thin strands of zest for the marmalade. Otherwise you'll need to carefully cut the zest away from the white pith and then slice it really thin. You don't want to include the white pithy part of the peel because that is what will make the marmalade bitter.  Oh, and now that I've got myself a candy thermometer I can't believe I went so long without it. So get one if you plan to make a lot of preserves.

Supreme the lemons

So what you need:
6lbs of Green tomatoes
1 1/2 lbs lemons
3/4 cup of sugar per 1 cup of liquid

1. Half or quarter the tomatoes and throw them into a pot. Bring them to a boil and let the tomatoes cook down. Once they are soft run them through a food mill to remove the seeds and skins.
2. While it's cooking down, zest your lemons, cut off the white pith and outer membrane, and remove the pulp from the membrane (supreme).
3. Add everything together and then measure out how much you have. Add the sugar.
4. Cook down until your preserve has reached the gelling point at 220 deg F.
5. Ladle into sterile jars and process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pizza Sauce

I have to apologize for not posting much this past week. We've been crazy busy and I just haven't had time to write. Hopefully this coming week will be a bit calmer.

Halved tomatoes
If we can save time it's a bonus for us. Yes, I freely admit that I sometimes use a bread machine to save time, but I also know how to make bread by hand and sometimes I do. We're so busy all of the time with the animals, garden, events, friends and family that half the time I don't know how we have the time to do anything else.
Cooked down tomatoes, skins, seeds and all
Friday nights are pizza nights around here. Other than making the crust, the sauce is what can take the most time. It also seems a waste to open a quart of tomato sauce to make a cup of sauce so this year we decided to go ahead and can sauce. We put the sauce in 8 oz jars which end up being the perfect amount for one large pizza. It cuts our kitchen time in half by having these little jars.

Adding cooked tomatoes to the food mill to remove skins and seeds
I nearly wasn't going to be able to post this recipe because we no longer had any tomatoes but Tom's boss gave him two buckets of green tomatoes (green tomato recipe coming up next week). In that bucket there were quite a few red ones, actually more than I expected so I was able to make 12 more jars of it and finally make a post.

It doesn't really matter how many tomatoes you have to do this because it can be multiplied or divided how you like.

If you process a lot of tomatoes I highly recommend investing on a food mill. It doesn't need to be fancy, it just needs to do it's job. Using a food mill really saves us a lot of time while making the sauce (Yay! more times saved!). You don't need to skin and seed the tomatoes first. Just simply half or quarter the tomatoes and throw them into a pot. Bring them to a boil and let the tomatoes cook down. Once they are soft run them through the mill to remove the seeds and skins. This also makes the sauce smooth. If you don't have a mill go ahead and skin and seed them first. Put them in a pot and boil them down. In batches, blend the tomatoes until smooth or use an immersion blender.

For ever 4 cups of tomato juice add:

1 Tbs salt
1 Tbs choped basil
1 Tbs chopped oregano
1 tsp chopped thyme
1 tsp chopped rosemary
2 cloves of garlic, minced

Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer down the sauce and herbs until it reaches the desired consistency. This, of course, is a personal preference but can take over an hour depending on how much sauce you have. While it's simmering prepare your jars and to each 8 oz jar add 1.5 tsp lemon juice. Ladle sauce into jars and then process in a water bath canner for 35 minutes.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

California Scapegoat

Today my friend alerted me to a recall of raw milk here in California. Five children in Contra Costa, Kings, San Diego and Sacramento counties got sick from E. coli O157:H7 between August and October. Three of them suffered from the highly dangerous hemolytic uremic syndrome.

The finger was being pointed at Organic Pastures, a fully licensed and legal raw milk dairy. When I heard that I immediately had to look it up. When I read the news article on it my bullshit alarm went off. The CDFA (California Department of Food and Agriculture) claims that raw milk was the only common food consumed by the children and since such a small population actually drinks raw milk that must be the cause. Never mind, of course, that none of the milk, including the actual milk the children supposedly got sick from, actually tested positive for E. coli O157:H7. It's also important to note that the State tests Organic Pastures' milk monthly and that the milk is also tested several times a week by an independent lab. All tests have been negative for E. coli.

This is actually the second time the state has pointed a finger at Organic Pastures for contamination. The first time, coincidentally also didn't show their milk was contaminated and they were allowed to resume business. With California's renewed interest in shutting down any and all avenues to raw milk, including herdshares (where you own and board a goat at a farm and the farmer milks it for you), I find this all very suspicious. It's a great way for CDFA to get raw milk in the news with E. coli in the same sentence. The damage is now done and they hope to see more people avoid raw milk and call for an outright ban of it.

The victims here are the children but I find it does them and our society as a whole a great disservice to point the finger at the wrong company. If the actual milk that the children drank isn't contaminated that cannot be the source, even if it's a common food they all consumed.

This all goes back to my post last week about your right to eat the food you want to.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Best Turkey You'll Ever Eat!

Since Thanksgiving is coming up quickly I thought I'd repost my recipe for the most succulent Turkey you'll ever taste!

I have finally perfected our Turkey Recipe! It takes some preparation, but in the end it was more than worth the effort!

This recipe will work for a 16-25lb turkey. Make sure the bird is completely thawed the day before you plan to cook it because brining it requires at least 12 hours.


For Brine:
1 gallon unsweetened apple juice
3/4 cup salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
6-8 slices of ginger
2 Tbs peppercorns
2 Tbs allspice berries
2 Tbs whole cloves
2 bay leaves

Combine all ingredients in a large sauce pan. Stir in salt and sugar. Bring to a boil for 3 minutes and then allow to cool completely.

We use a large orange "water cooler" that we have designated just for brining similar to this one:
Unwrap the thawed turkey, remove the giblets and place neck end down into clean cooler. Pour cooled brine over the bird. Add water until the bird is completely submerged. Add a bunch of ice on top to keep cool. Put lid on cooler and leave undisturbed for at least 12 hours.

For Roasting:

1/4 lb butter (1 stick) cut into pats
2 Tbs chopped fresh rosemary
2 Tbs chopped fresh Thyme
2 Tbs chopped fresh Oregano
2 cups chicken broth
Olive Oil

1. Remove bird from brine and let brine drain out of cavity. Don't rinse bird.
2. Coat roasting pan with olive oil and place bird breast side up in it.
3. Using your hands separate skin from breast and legs. Rub the chopped herbs onto the meat.
4. Place the cut pats of butter under the skin in various locations, including the legs. Pour chicken broth over bird.
5. Cover bird with lid of pan or foil and place in a preheated oven at 350 deg.
6. Roast for two hours basting every hour. Remove foil and allow bird to brown, basting every 20 min.
7. Continue to roast bird until interior temp reaches 165 deg. Can range from 1-2 additional hours depending on whether the bird is stuffed. Make sure when taking the temp that the thermometer is through the thickest part of the breast and is not touching bone.

This recipe will give you an incredibly moist flavorful bird that is amazingly tender.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

You Do Not Have the Fundamental Right....

This is a cross post from my Dog Island Farm blog but I think it's important to post it here as well since some of you don't follow the other blog. While I wrote this, I do want to give credit to Evren Seven, a lawyer, who provided some information for this post.

“no, Plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to own and use a dairy cow or a dairy herd;”
“no, Plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to consume the milk from their own cow;”
“no, Plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to produce and consume the foods of their choice”

These are the words of Wisconsin Judge Patrick J. Fiedler in his clarification of his ruling against the Zinnikers who were running a herdshare and ordered to stop because the state claimed it violated law. 

Do you think you have the fundamental right to produce and consume the foods of your own choice? This isn't the first time this has been said. The FDA said almost the exact same thing not that long ago.

"There is no absolute right to consume or feed children any particular food."
 [p. 25]

"Plaintiffs' assertion of a 'fundamental right to their own bodily and physical health, which includes what foods they do and do not choose to consume for themselves and their families' is similarly unavailing because plaintiffs do not have a fundamental right to obtain any food they wish." [p. 26]

Unfortunately they are right. Technically the Constitution doesn't say that you have a fundamental right to eat what you want. However, the FDA doesn't care much about the Constitution when they stated "(observing that “it is within HHS’s [United States Department of Health and Human Services] authority . . . to institute an intrastate ban as well”)." thus trampling over the 10th amendment. 
This doesn't affect just those of us that choose to drink raw milk. It can have a much further reach than that so it's important that even if you don't drink raw milk that we take a stand against the outright ban of it.

Have you ever heard of Wickard v. Filburn? Chances are you haven't, but it has the potential of affecting all of us that grow and raise our own food.

The quick and dirty story is that in 1938 the Federal government set quotas on the amount of wheat put into interstate commerce to try and stabilize the price. Roscoe Filburn, a farmer, grew wheat for commercial and also for personal use. Unfortunately, combined the amount was over the quota so he was fined. He refused to pay the fine and was taken to court, eventually ending up in the Supreme Court. The ruling, based on the Commerce Clause*, stated that the Federal government, can indeed, regulate what is grown for personal use and not put into commerce and it it can also regulate intrastate commerce because it can indirectly effect interstate commerce. It is important to note, however, that Wickard never dealt with whether or not growing food for your own consumption (or being able to obtain whatever food you see fit) is a "fundamental right," since the statute wasn't a total ban but rather a maximum production limit that far exceeded what a family might require.  Should the Supreme Court decide that growing one's own food is a "fundamental right," it becomes extremely difficult for a state to regulate it.  Once you get "fundamental right" status, Congress or a state legislature would have to show that it is "necessary to achieve a compelling government interest" to regulate raw milk production for one's own use (or purchasing), and that's never happened.**  Given today's business friendly SCOTUS, it's essentially guaranteed that such a case, should it get there, would not get that protected status.

Personal use affects interstate commerce because if you can produce it you don't buy it, thus reducing the demand. One person doing it is trivial, but when a lot of us are producing our own food it can have a huge impact on interstate commerce.

We better be careful because us vegetable gardeners may be the next ones with targets on our backs. 

*The Commerce Clause was also used against California's Medical Marijuana legalization because it said that making it legal in California effected the prices in other states. Nevermind that it's illegal in other states though.

**OK it happened once regarding Japanese internment but the Court later admitted it was wrong. 

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Got Apple Cores and Peels? Make Jelly!

I spent all day today processing apples from our trees. After I finished peeling and coring them I ended up with a pretty substantial pile of apple bits. It would be a shame to just throw them out so I decided to use them for all they were worth. I was originally thinking of making them into apple cider vinegar but I didn't really have a container I could use for that. Instead I decided that I'd make jelly out of them. Since you generally just throw out the fruit when you make jelly it kind of seemed appropriate to use the unusable parts of the fruit to start with.

What you will need:
 Apple peels and cores
1 Tbs lemon juice for every 2 cups of liquid

1. Put the peels and cores in a large pot. Add water until you can see it just under the top layer of fruit. Bring to a boil.
2. Boil fruit, uncovered, until it is soft. Strain liquid into a new pot.
3. For each cup of liquid add 3/4 cup of sugar. Add lemon juice and bring to a boil. Watch it carefully so that it doesn't boil over.
4. To check consistency: put some ice in a bowl. Scoop up a small amount of liquid with a spoon and place the spoon on the ice to get it to cool quickly. Turn spoon sideways. If the liquid has jelled onto the spoon and doesn't appear syrupy then it is done and ready to can. If you have a candy thermometer, you want the temperature to be 220 deg F.
5. Ladle hot jelly into sterilized jars. Put on sterile lids and process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Not-So-Green Chili Stew

Remember the Red Roasted Tomatillo Sauce? Here's what you do with it.
I posted a recipe on our other blog a few weeks ago for a  Red Roasted Tomatillo Sauce recipe. I promised to post this recipe but I just kept forgetting to. Well, here it is finally.

My mom taught me how to make the first version of this back when I was in college. It became a staple for me because it was tasty and easy to make. It was originally made with canned enchilada sauce, canned green chilies, pork, onions and potatoes.

Over time the recipe obviously evolved substantially.  It made it's largest change when we wanted to make it one day and didn't have any enchilada sauce but plenty of tomatillos - which we simply threw in the food processor. For that recipe you just replace the sauce with 2 1/2 lbs of tomatillos, 4 tsp chili powder and 4 tsp cumin.

Even though we've eliminated all of the commercially canned ingredients, this is still a surprisingly easy recipe to make.

Not-So-Green Chili Stew
1 quart of Red Roasted Tomatillo Sauce
1/2 lb pork loin, cut into 1/2" cubes
1 c nixtamel or hominy
1/2 lb roasted green chilis, remove skins and seeds and chop
1 lb potatoes, cut into 1/2" cubes
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 c chicken broth
2 Tbs oil
Hot sauce to taste
Sour cream and/or cheddar cheese

1. Heat a dutch oven over medium high heat and add oil and then pork and garlic. Cook until pork is browned.
2. Deglaze dutch oven with chicken broth.
3. Add remaining ingredients except sour cream/cheese and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are very tender.
4. Serve topped with sour cream and/or cheese.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Costs

When we took on our year we gave quite a few reasons as to why we decided to do it. We wanted to eat healthier. We wanted to know what was on and in our food. We wanted to make sure farmers were paid fairly for their hard work. One reason, though, I never really touched on, but in actuality was one of the biggest reasons we did it.

We needed to save money.

In September of 2010 I was facing another possible pay cut at work. After spending over 2 1/2 years at part time and not being able to find a second part time job even after sending out dozens of resumes and applications every week (told time and again that I was overqualified) we had to make cuts, and unfortunately food was going to have to be one of them (cell phones, cable, and commercial beauty products also got the ax).

When I used to shop at the large chain supermarket I could easily spend $250 a week on groceries. Usually it was nothing but crap processed food but we did buy a lot of produce. I then started to make the switch to only shopping at Trader Joe's and the farmers market. Once a week I'd go to Trader Joe's and spend between $80 and $140 a week. It was usually higher in the Winter because we had less produce growing in our garden. Every Saturday we would spend $40 at the farmers' market. So every week we spent between $120-180 every week on food. Less than what we were spending compared to the large chain supermarket, but we still needed to cut it.

But, this also didn't include what we spent eating out. I can't really say how much that was, but we went out at least once a week, but usually more like twice a week. On average we'd probably spend about $30 per meal out. It added up quickly.

One of the first things I'm asked by a lot of people is how expensive it is to eat like this. There's an assumption that now that we buy all of our food from the farmers' market and from shops that specialize in local and organic food that we're actually spending more on food. It didn't turn out that way.

I kept track of all of our expenditures on food over the year. We ended up averaging $84/week. So if you included two meals out in a week totaling $60/week plus the grocery store bill we were saving $96-156 a week. Even without including eating out we still saved $56-96 a week.

The biggest change, and what saved us the most amount of money, was processing all of our own food. Bread is a prime example. A loaf of plain white bread costs between $2.50 and $4.50 at the grocery store. Making a loaf of bread at home costs less than $0.50. If we make 1 loaf per week, we save over $100 per year just on bread. Of course store bought, basic white bread doesn't compare to homemade bread so in reality the savings was greater.

Buying in bulk was also key. We have a very small house - only 750 sq ft. Organization is key for us and buying in bulk can prove difficult because of our size limitations. But we make it work. We have a chest freezer because we buy whole or partial animals. The cost of an organically raised pig that we bought live and had slaughtered and butchered came to $2/lb.

I won't lie. It takes a lot more planning and definitely more work, but we decided that we needed to save the money and eat better and so this is what we had to do.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


I've been asked quite a few times here and over on the FB page about our recipes. I only have a few on this blog, but on our other blog, Dog Island Farm, I post a recipe every Sunday. What I can do is post the recipes both over there an over here on Sunday so everyone gets to enjoy them. For now though, I'll post my go-to bread recipe (though I don't have any photos right now to share).

This basic bread recipe we use for just about anything - loaves, rolls and pizza crust.

In a large mixing bowl mix together:
3 cups flour (we use Giusto's Peak Performance flour, but any bread flour should work fine. If you use whole wheat you'll need to allow it more time to rise)
1 Tbs kosher salt
2 Tbs sugar
2 1/2 tsp yeast

Add to the dry ingredients:
1 cup warm water
2 Tbs oil

Mix ingredients until combined. Knead for at least 10 minutes. You'll notice that when the gluten develops and the dough, when pulled, will stretch rather than tear. Put a light coating of oil over the dough and allow to rise in a warm dark spot. I like to keep it in my oven to rise.

Once it's doubled in size punch it down and flatten it into a rectangle with one edge as long as your loaf pan. Taking one edge, roll the dough so that you end up with a log.

Grease a loaf pan with butter and then dust it with flour. Add dough roll to loaf pan and allow it to double in size again.

Bake at 450 deg. F for 25 minutes or until nicely browned.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Wal-Mart Produce

My friend Lisa recently sent me a link to a reddit post about Walmart and farmers. I found it intriguing so I decided to look into it further. The post is as follows:

As a former employee of a vegetable farm, let me give you an explanation of how selling vegetables to Wal-Mart works. First you make an agreement with Wal-Mart to sell them X bushels of produce at Y price/bushel. You spend the entire week ramping up production, bringing in more pickers and hiring more packers to ensure you get your X bushels of product. You are especially picky about the quality of your product, because Wal-Mart's business represents a dynamic increase in sales and you want to impress them. You have everything picked, packed and prepped for Wal-Mart's pick-up (they always want to make the pick-up, rather than pay you to deliver) on Friday.
Now the fun begins. The Wal-Mart inspector starts going through the produce that you picked and prepped for a Friday pick-up, at 6:30pm Tuesday. He/she immediately begins marking crates as below agreed upon quality, assuring you that you will be compensated full-price for these crates, and that he/she is just marking them so that the produce that is below grade is sent to Mexico or something. Finally, the inspector allows the fruit to be packed into Wal-Mart's non-refrigerated truck at about 8 o'clock. Again, you're paying your employees to wait to do this the whole time. They close up the truck, and tell you that you should receive your payment in a few weeks, and have you sign a receipt.
This is where it gets fun. The truck doesn't take the fruit to the nearest refrigerated Wal-Mart Distribution Center. Instead, it goes another day out of its way, to unload. When it gets there, the unrefrigerated fruit is inspected again. It's now been 5 or 6 days since it was supposed to be delivered to the refrigerated distributorship and there's been about a 30% loss of product. You're contacted by Wal-Mart and told that the product was not in the agreed upon condition and that they will be deducting a loss-penalty of 50% to your agreed upon price and will not be paying for the 30% of lost product. However, they will keep that lost product and use it in some sort of paste or juice or other form of private label Great Value product that can use the product. You protest Wal-Mart's unilateral negotiation and they tell you that they can refuse delivery of the product and have it shipped back to you, but you'll pay for the shipping (Pay Wal-Mart's trucks, not yours). You threaten to sue, and they remind you that they have a 100millon dollar retainer with the very best lawyers money can buy, and that while you will probably win the case, you'll be in litigation for at least 10 years (because Wal-Mart's already paying these guys anyways) and at best you'll get your agreed upon price, while paying your own lawyers $400/hour for 10 years to sue them for what amounts to $50,000.
So you swallow your pride, you take your 75% loss on the signed contract and then they ask you if you'll be able to make your next shipment, as per your contract, Wal-Mart has the ability to extend, however, because China is selling them Lead contaminated produce at 10% what you're selling, they're renegotiating the prices for "market value"
And thats when you send them the stuff you throw out when you sell to Krogers.
EDIT: bluegender is correct
TL;DR - Wal-Mart screws their suppliers, laughs at lawsuits, and then demands you uphold your end of the contract, all in the name of saving you money. 

Michael Pollan comments on this for the New York Times. 
Wal-Mart’s big-foot entry into the organic market is bad news for small organic farmers, that seems obvious enough. But it may also spell trouble for the big growers they’ll favor. Wal-Mart has a reputation for driving down prices by squeezing its suppliers, especially after the suppliers have invested in expanding production to feed the Wal-Mart maw. Once you’ve boosted your production to supply Wal-Mart, you’re at the company’s mercy when it decides it no longer wants to give you a price that will cover the cost of production, let alone enable you to make a profit. When that happens, the notion of responsibly priced food will be sacrificed to the need to survive, and the pressure to cut corners will become irresistible."
Unfortunately, probably afraid of lawsuits from Wal-Mart there doesn't appear to be more info out there. There was a response to this post from someone whose family was in agriculture saying that this was a typical scenario for Wal-Mart.

Thursday, October 13, 2011


We've got a ton of new faces around here which is awesome! Thanks for following us!

Even though our year is over, we're continuing on and I'll still be posting regularly here. We are more than happy to answer any questions you have and if you need any advice just let us know. We totally understand that it can be really daunting if you don't know where to start.

In the meantime, here's a silly picture of our dog, Squeak, playing in the sprinkler.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Setting it Straight

We've been getting quite a bit of press lately, which is cool, but some of the spin that the media has put on what we're doing is just flat out wrong and sensational so I want to get the record straight here on the blog. Most of you that follow us are probably well aware that what has been said is sometimes completely false, but there are also quite a few new people reading this so I just want to clarify some things.

So here are the top falsehoods that have been said:

We're doing this because of the recent food outbreaks
False. While it's a bonus that we don't have to worry about food recalls it's not something we think about that much.

We have lived exclusively off of our 1/4 acre for a year
That's false too. Just read the rules and you'll see that for the first 9 months we were going to the farmers' market, bought our staples from a buying club that sources local organic food, and shopped at local merchants that sourced local meat, dairy, and other products. The last 3 months we didn't buy any food but we still used stuff that we had on hand that we didn't necessarily grow.

You have to have a garden and livestock to eliminate the grocery store.
Completely false. This bothered me a great deal because the reason we were doing this was to help show people that even if they live in an apartment they can reduce their dependence on grocery stores. From October 1st to late June our garden was barely productive so we couldn't rely on it for all of our food. But it showed us that you don't need to grow and raise your own food to be grocery-store free.

They've saved X amount of money
This seems to be a moving target. Some of the reporters want to include the money saved on groceries *with* the money we've saved by gardening. I try to keep the two independent because we gardened a lot before we took on our year without groceries. So you'll see numbers ranging from $4,000 to $9,000 depending on what they want to share.

And then there were some things that we did say during the interviews that were "conveniently" left out for the sake of journalism:

Why we're really doing this
I've developed a pretty severe intolerance to soy and canola, which are in nearly everything. I was getting tired of wading through all the product additives that were made from soy but didn't actually say "soy" in the name. The best option I had was to eliminate processed foods from our diet.

We then learned that most farmers don't get very much money for the food that they grow (Walmart is one of the worst) and that most food at the grocery store isn't even from California or the U.S for that matter. We decided that it was really important that the money we spend on food goes almost entirely to the farmer. Buying directly from farmers not only helped support small family farms, but it also helps keep money in our community.

Don't take it all on at once
I'm a huge believer that raising livestock and growing produce isn't for everyone. There are other things you can do to change the way you eat without going as far as we have. We've also been doing this for over 6 years, steadily building up to where we are now.

Our neighbors actually enjoy what we're doing
They like to come over and visit with the animals, they enjoy the produce and eggs we bring them and we create an open dialogue with them to address any concerns they may have. We make sure the noise and smell are at a minimum (many of the reporters have commented about the lack of smell) and that everyone is happy, from our neighbors to the animals.

Hopefully that's cleared up some of the misconceptions to those that are new to the blog. I'm more than happy to answer anyone's questions as well.

Monday, October 3, 2011

How Safeway Creates Food Deserts

I live in a community that has a lot of poverty. When we attended the Healthy Eating Active Living Cities Workshop a few months ago, we learned the locations of all the food deserts in our city.

An area is considered a food desert when there is no grocery store within a certain radius.

One of the largest ones is downtown. Standing right next to downtown is a church that occupies an old Safeway building. What I never understood was why that building couldn't be used as a grocery store again. In some of the other food deserts there are also buildings that once housed grocery stores but now house other businesses like furniture stores. Safeway has since moved out to bigger and better properties in other areas of the city.

So why haven't new grocery stores been able to come in to those areas? Because they were once owned by supermarket giant, Safeway, and now Safeway has put deed restrictions on those sites barring any future grocery store from using the property. In some instances, due to site limitations and availability these are the only places a grocery store could feasibly be located. So in the name of profits, Safeway has decided to create food deserts in my city. They put their profits above the health of our community, about the health of children.

This just drives home my commitment to no longer buy food from grocery stores.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Our Last Week

Frittata with rabbit sausage, onions, zucchni and peppers from the garden.

Rabbit braised in Red Roasted Tomatillo Sauce with carrots, onions, peppers and zucchini from the garden.

Another Frittata with rabbit sausage, onions and peppers from the garden.

We were at the East Bay Urban Ag Alliance's meeting so Jeanette made us some spaghetti.

Tom had scrambled eggs with veggies. I just had some brown rice because I wasn't very hungry.

Friday - The Last Day
We roasted a duck on the barbecue with quince and rose hips along with zucchini from the garden and brown rice.

I can't believe the year is done. It seemed to go by so fast. I'm a little sad that it's over but I'm really excited to get back to the farmers' market. We got asked a lot what we were going to first go out and buy at the grocery store when were were done with our year. Nothing. We're not going to buy anything at the grocery store. The reasons for why we were doing this are still there, so we're going to continue being grocery store free. If you've noticed, the name of the blog has changed to "Another Year Without Groceries." Let's see how long this goes on. For now though I'm going to no longer be doing a run down of our menu. However, I am going to focus more on the food issues our nation faces. I'm going to still do reflections as well. And if you haven't joined our Facebook page, please do so. The link is on the left.

I kind of feel like I'm saying goodbye, but I'm not. We're not going anywhere and we'll still be here to discuss living without a grocery store.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Week 51 - Less than a week left!

Pork chops with sauteed zucchini, onions, carrots and parsnips from the garden.

Chicken stew with red roasted tomatillo sauce, carrots, onions and zucchini from the garden (see a theme here?).

Frittata with rabbit sausage, onions and bell peppers from the garden with a cucumber and onion salad from the garden.

Homemade spaghetti sauce over brown rice because we didn't have time to make pasta. Served with a cucumber and onion salad from the garden.

Poacher's pie with rabbit

Leftover poacher's pie with a cucumber and onion salad from the garden

Veggie stir fry with zucchini, carrots, onions, eggplant, and peppers from the garden. Served with brown rice.

Wow, I can't believe how fast this year had gone by. We only have 5 more days! We've learned a lot about our food system and most of it is horrifying. So with that, we're going to be continuing our year without groceries. So now we'll be 2 years without groceries! I don't think we'll try going three months without buying any food again unless we absolutely have to.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Week 50 - The Trip

We just got back from Ohio where we were vising my mom. We did pretty good with not buying any food except for the trip out there and two other instances where we had a once in a lifetime opportunity to try meat from Polyface Farms and then we went to the farmers' market to purchase food for our flight back (which ended up taking 24 hours instead of the slated 8 hours as planned) I didn't feel bad though about that purchase because we bought the meat directly from the farmer.

I'm not really going to go over the menu this week though because we didn't really cook anything other than the meat from Polyface and the sides for that meal. I did make some Green Pesto Bruschetta for my mom's BBQ on Sunday, but other than that my mom, thankfully took care of all of our food.

I did a lot of soul searching while we were in Ohio. Ohio is prime farm land, which unfortunately, is used for soy and corn almost exclusively. My mom's next door neighbors, though, run an organic farm. My mom's garden was awesome even though their growing season is so much shorter than our own. The difference is they get more heat than we do.

I want to farm. I want to be a farmer. But California pretty much bars us from doing that because of the cost of the land. So here I am wondering if I could move out of California. I love living here but at the same time I want to live a certain lifestyle. I want a farmhouse that's older than my grandparents. I want rich topsoil to bury my hands in. The Midwest offers that affordably. But here we've got family and friends (some which are also family). It's a tough thing to have to work through. I think if our city allowed us to sell the produce we grow my feelings would definitely change, but right now I'm torn.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Week 49 - Holy Crap! Just 3 more weeks!

We went to a block party. We brought a cucumber and dry farmed tomato salad.

Roasted chicken with fried potatoes and sauteed zucchini with LOTS of garlic

Spicy gazpacho with homemade herb tortillas. 

Pork stir fry with corn, peppers, onions, eggplant, and zucchini from the garden.

Frittata with rabbit sausage, peppers and onions from the garden.

We went to our friends' home for dinner where we had rabbit, kale and cornbread. We brought Spice Honey Pear sorbet for dessert.

See "Reflections" below.

We had to get on a plane on Saturday. It was a day of complete riduculousness. First off, it was going to be an all day trip. It actually ended up being even longer than we anticipated thanks to mechanical problems on both planes. 8am-11:30pm. It was a really long day. It also meant we were in a bind in regards to food. Canned goods were obviously out of the question. Nothing with liquid was allowed either. And of course no way to keep anything cold. Well, stupid me thought that we could just get away with eating what they served on the flight. It just so happens the airline changed all of their food service right before our trip and they no longer served any food on any flight for free. Not even peanuts. What a freaking racket they've got going on. When we got our tickets we were allowed one checked bag per person for free. That also changed. So we ended up having to buy food. Crappy food at that.

We were supposed to get to our destination in plenty of time to eat dinner. It didn't happen so we ended up having to buy a couple of salads for dinner.

The whole situation pissed me off. We should have planned our travel day better. But we ran out of time and had to compromise ourselves.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Facebook Page

I've gotten requests to have a facebook page for our year without groceries. Like us! You know you want to!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Getting a Little Bit of Media Coverage

We were featured in the San Francisco Chronicle because of our Year Without Groceries. They dedicated their Food & Wine section of the Sunday paper to people like us who are making super local food choices. You can read about it and see some awesome photos here.

Also in that issue is an article about Sunset Magazine's One Block Feast and one of the finalist groups called Found Fruit. My friend Kitty Sharkey, of Havenscourt Homestead, is one of the members. You can read about some of the awesome things they've done to create a truly local feast.

And then back in March we spent 2 days in the rain with a film crew from Whole Foods. The film just went up today and I'm excited to share it.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Week 48 - I'm So Over Not Buying Food

Had leftovers from Saturday.

We fended for ourselves. Tom had more leftovers and I had french toast.

We went to our friends' house for dinner where we had chicken fajitas.

Pork stir fry with carrots, onions, beets, eggplant, green beans, corn and garlic from the garden. Served with brown rice.

Jeanette bought us some Mexican food.

Pizza with rabbit sausage, onion, bell pepper and homemade tomato sauce made with herbs from the garden. 

Jeanette had a hankering for seafood so she bought some shellfish from a local oyster farm at the farmers' market to share. I accompanied it with pasta and a cream sauce.

You're probably wondering who Jeanette is. She's one of my best friends and is currently staying in our water tower. Since we cook dinner for her most nights (obviously we're not going to exclude her) she's wanted to chip in her share since she's not on this journey with us and when we started it we didn't factor in feeding 4 people, only 3 - Tom, Junior (my stepson) and myself.

I have come to the realization that not buying any food for 3 months is a complete pain in the ass. I hate it. Completely. I never want to have to do this again unless we absolutely have to. It's much harder work than I ever expected. Honestly, I didn't think it would be that much different than going without groceries but it is. You're so limited on what you can prepare and you have to get SO MUCH MORE creative.

We only have a month left, which I am sooooo grateful for. It's definitely a challenge and I find myself daydreaming about saying screw it and buying some food.

Tom says he likes it though. He looks at it as a bigger picture and is proud of what we're accomplishing, though he's frustrated about the lack of fruit and sometimes he just wants something different to eat.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Week 47 - The New Challenge

Fend for yourself day.

Rabbit Sausage Vegetable Brown Rice Soup with kale, carrots, corn, and onions from our garden. The stock was made from duck and rabbit carcasses.

Homemade spaghetti with fresh tomato sauce.

I had French toast and Tom and pickle and tomato sandwich since we were headed to our EBUAA meeting.

Frittata with peppers and onions.

Pizza with homemade crust, goat milk garlic cream sauce, peppers, zucchini and onions from our garden.

Homemade hummus (from garbanzo beans we grew last year, sundried tomatoes, basil and garlic from the garden) served with homemade tortillas, BBQ'd rabbit with a jerk seasoning, green beans, BBQ'd corn with flourless chocolate cake for dessert.

We've got some big news! We've decided on what our challenge will be next year.While we're going to continue living the no groceries lifestyle (and yes, I'm keeping the blog going) we're going to add a twist. I've always loved ethnic food but I've always been too intimidated to try cooking much of it. Well next year we're going to change all of that! Every month we're going to pick a new cuisine and for a month we're going to make one meal a week from that cuisine. The meal is going to be as traditional as possible. We'll be making the meals on Sunday so we have the weekend to source all of the ingredients we will need. We will be allowing ourselves, however, to go to ethnic markets to pick up ingredients. However, if our October is, say, Indian food, we can only hit up the Indian market in October. If there isn't an ethnic market for it, we have to make do with what we can do. So for now the cuisines we're going to do are Indian, Japanese, Thai, Cajun, Spanish, Mexican, Italian, Moroccan, Ethiopian, Greek, German, and Russian. Twelve cuisines for twelve months.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Week 46 - Goat Milk Ice Cream

Bean and cucumber salad.

Frittata with peppers, corn, and onions with homemade ricotta on top. Served with shoestring french fries.

Vegetable stirfry with carrots, eggplant, green beans, peppers, and onions from the garden. Served with rice.

Nada really. We fended for ourselves. Tom had some sauteed veggies and I had scrambled eggs with some bacon sausage.

Tomato based soup similar to our spaghetti sauce with corn, onions, peppers, eggplant,herbs and garlic from our garden.

Bacon, pepper and onion pizza.

Lasagna with homemade rabbit sausage, homemade pasta, sauce made from our garden, homemade cheese, served with garden green beans and homemade bread. Dessert was apple crisp made from apples we traded pickles for.

Busy busy busy. The garden has taken over our lives, and yet we don't have much to show for it other than tomatoes, peppers, beans, corn...wait. We are having an issue with powdery mildew this year thanks to the late heavy rains. Our bees are doing REALLY well and in about 2 weeks we'll have two full honey supers to harvest. I'm hoping to transition from sugar to honey in everything from canning to baking.  One thing I'm super excited about is ice cream! I spent 5 months skimming the cream from our goat milk and we finally had enough to make some ice cream. I decided to make some mint chocolate ice cream. I'm used to the "mint" ice cream that you get commercially. This one, however, is made with spearmint and chocolate mint. It has an incredibly earthy flavor to it. It's real and delicate with a very subtle green flavor.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Week 45 - Bartering

Frittata with zucchini and onions from our garden.

Pizza! Peppers, onions and zucchini from our garden with homemade sauce.

Green bean and cucumber salad with a thai peanut dressing made from honey from our garden.

Not-so-green chili stew with tomatillos, potatoes, onions, hominy, and chilies from the garden.

Jeanette brought us deli sandwiches. 

Pizza with bacon sausage, peppers, onions, and zucchini with a goat milk based white sauce and homemade ricotta.

BBQ rabbit with a Jerk marinade with BBQ'd corn and green beans.

Bartering has been treating us well. We've traded a breeding rabbit for rice, burlap bags for fruit and powdered sugar and a chest freezer for maple syrup, peanuts, baking chocolate and more fruit. I really enjoy bartering because you trade items someone else needs for items we need. It also helps reduce waste. Instead of the burlap bags and freezer going into a landfill someone who could use them got them. Actually, the burlap bags - leftover waste from coffee roasters - were picked up at the local waste facility because I know a lot of people that could use them. We traded rice for Scooter, one of our American Blue bucks. We had two bucks and only one doe and it just turns out that Scooter is the littermate of our doe so we couldn't breed him. He's an awesome rabbit so our friend, who is going to start raising rabbits took him to add to her new breeding program.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Week 44 - Only 8 weeks Left

Vegetable stir fry with zucchini, green beans, carrots and onions from the garden. Served with rice.

Vegetable soup with stock made from duck carcass. Zucchini, onions, parsnips and carrots from the garden.

Pork stir fry with green beans, peppers carrots, zucchini and onions from the garden.  Served with rice.

Bacon sausage (yum!) on homemade bread on my way out the door to a meeting. Tom had a vegetable stirfry. 

Roasted duck in a tomato sauce with parsnips, zucchini, and onions from the garden. 

No dinner. Jeanette and I went to the movies and she was in charge of snacks. Um, yeah, I can't do candy anymore....

We went to a friend's house after a day on the river. We had her wonderful tortilla soup and fajitas.

So the consensus is to keep the blog. Now I just need help with a name change. So help me out!

I can't believe how fast this year went by. Only 8 weeks left and I'm sure it will be over in no time. The canning season is starting. I canned 16 quarts - 4 gallons - of pickles today. I also have some lacto fermenting.

Our milk supply has been reduced thanks to a spider. Long story short, Daisy, one of our does, got bit by a spider and is now on antibiotics which has a 4 week withdrawal on it. So no milk from Daisy for awhile. It also is forcing us to wait 2 months before we can slaughter the kids. So no goat meat for this last bit of our journey.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Weel 43 - 9 weeks left with a question

Raviolis stuffed with brie, zucchini, sun dried tomatoes and basil with sauteed green beans.

Pork stirfry with onions from the neighbor, green beans and zucchini from our gardnen.

Sauteed green beans and zucchini from the garden with onions from the neighbor simmered in a tomato base.

BLT sandwiches on our way to the EBUAA meeting.

Roast duck with potatoes, celery and parsnips from the garden.

Pizza with leftover duck, bell peppers, zucchini and onions from our garden.

My mom was in town and took us out for sushi!

It's time to think about this blog and where it's going after our year is up. Right now I have two options. The first one is that I change the name of it since it's no longer a year without groceries, but really living grocery store free. The other option is to no longer keep going with it and transfer everything over to our Dog Island Farm Blog. Do you have any thoughts?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Week 42 - Just 10 more left

Curried Parsnip Soup with parsnips from our garden and onions from the neighbor.

Veggie stir fry with green beans, peppers, squash, and celery from the garden, onions from our neighbor and rice.

Pork with fried potatoes and corn on the cob. I don't think I've enjoyed a meal as much as I did this one.

BBQ chicken with BBQ corn.

Pizza with zucchini, onions, bacon and homemade goats' milk jack cheese.

My mom was in town and she took us out for dinner.

I'm seriously DONE with cucumbers and green beans. For most of the week, it's what my diet primarily consisted of with a bit of zucchini, beets, parsnips and onions mixed in for good measure. I was surpised with how crappy I began to feel in the beginning of the week. I needed starches, fat and protein badly. It was why such a simple meal of pork, potatoes and corn - something we eat pretty regularly -  was so thoroughly enjoyed on Tuesday.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Week 41 - The Losing

Green bean and cucumber salad with a thai peanut/almond dressing

Spaghetti with homemade pasta. Watch out for the upcoming sauce recipe.

Not-so-green chili stew. Tomatillos, onions, and hominy from our garden. Green chilies that my mom gave us when she moved. Potatoes that Jeanette gave us in exchange for dog sitting and pork.

Green bean and cucumber salad with a thai peanut/almond dressing again so I could write down the recipe.

Roasted chicken with braised celery and leftover green bean and cucumber salad.

Pizza with zucchini and bell peppers from the garden, tomato sauce made with homemade canned sauce and herbs from our garden, homemade Monterey jack cheese from our goats' milk and onions that our neighbor gave us. This was our best pizza so far. I chalk it up to the fact that we finally got a pizza stone.

We didn't have to cook! We went to a friend's birthday BBQ. I was so happy to not have to make anything.

Our second week of not buying any food went pretty well. We've been eating a lot of vegetables. Especially cucumbers and green beans. I'm actually feeling really good and I've dropped 3 lbs this week (I've dropped about 20lbs since starting the year without groceries now). And that's without watching anything I'm eating and not eating any of those horrible "diet" foods. Just eating more vegetables and fruits (actually mostly vegetables) seems to be the trick.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Week 40 - Harvest Beginnings

Chili with pork, beans, homemade tomato sauce, onions from the farmers' market, hatch green chilies that my mom gave us, and hominy made from our flour corn that we grew last year and the year before.

We had some local friends over for dinner. We had barbequed rabbit and chicken with a jerk seasoning, homemade pasta salad. Our friends brought over a salad (romaine with avocados, corn, tomatoes, etc) with a cilantro tahini dressing and a beet salad with bleu cheese and pickled onions. Yum!

Leftover BBQ chicken with marinated and grilled eggplant and zucchini with rice cooked with chicken broth and mushrooms.

Vegetable curry stirfry. Kale, carrots, beets, celery, green beans, zucchini, and garlic from our garden. Onions, eggplant and mushrooms from the farmers' market.

Vegetable and rabbit sausage soup. Kale, carrots, potatoes, green beans, zucchini, and garlic all from our garden. Topped with homemade goat's milk sour cream.

Leftover chili with a cucumber salad

We went to a friend's house for dinner. We brought a homemade pasta salad with green beans and carrots from our garden, sun dried tomatoes from last year's garden and our last farmers' market onion. It's a good thing our onions are getting close to ready.

And so we finish our first week of not buying any food at all. Our garden somehow, miraculously started pumping out the vegetables on July 1st - beans, cucumbers, and zucchini. And we've already got some tomatoes ripening. I don't know how I timed that so well, to be honest. We bartered some weekend dog sitting for some fruit, corn and potatoes from Jeanette. And our young pullets just started laying so our egg counts went up. It's almost like it was meant to be.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Some Other Changes as Well

The no groceries for a year project has definitely led us to making changes other than just our food choices. For one thing - we've gotten pretty good at gardening as well as being resilient gardeners.

But other things have changed as well. Personal care items have made a pretty major shift. I phased out nearly all commercial shower products and have stopped dying my hair <GASP>. That was a hard one as I was dying it black - which I dearly loved. So now I have brown and gray roots. The chemicals in hair dye are just so harsh and many of them are carcinogenic. I'd rather just go without. There's alternative dyes, but most of them require too much of my time to do so I'm just going cold turkey.

Instead of shampoo and conditioner I'm now using baking soda and vinegar. My hair has never been happier. I now use homemade cold-process soap instead of body wash.

I recently changed my face care regimen as well. I'm one of those poor souls blessed with wrinkles and acne together. The wrinkles I'm OK with. I'm committed to aging gracefully (along with the gray hair). The acne on the other hand has got to go. What am I? 15 again? I'm trying out Delta Moon Soapworks Red Clover Tea Goat's Milk soap and then I use coconut oil that has some oatmeal and coffee steeped in it as a moisturizer. I just started this, but so far so good. I love how my skin feels right now. If this works out I'll post my moisturizer recipe.

But it's not just skin and body care that's changed. We've also just made some behavior changes as well. The first change actually led to the second change.

Our house is small. We don't have a formal dining room but rather a breakfast nook that's just big enough for a table slammed up against one wall. It seats four people. During the colder months we just can't have people over for dinner. We do have a giant patio though, which allows us to do quite a bit of entertaining during the summer.

We've decided to now eat dinner at the table every day instead of in the living room - where we usually eat. Since we eat so late it was really the only time that we watched TV. So that helped push us to make another major change. We canceled our TV service last night.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Week 39 - The Beginning

Salad with sliced beets from the garden, mushrooms, zucchini and onions.

Snacked on our way out to the EBUAA meeting.

It was Tom's birthday. I made fried potatoes with sauteed oyster mushrooms, rabbit sausage, yorkshire pudding and gravy.

Salad with sliced beets from the garden, mushrooms, zucchini and onions.

Our last beef for three months. Grilled tritip with mashed potatoes from the farmers' market and peas from our garden. 

Pizza with bacon and mushrooms, zucchini, and onions from the farmers' market. Sauce made with sauce made from last year's tomatoes and fresh herbs from the garden. Salad with fresh thinly sliced beets from the garden.

Homemade pasta with green beans, pickled jalapenos and sundried tomatoes from our backyard (green beans were fresh picked the others were preserved last year), mushrooms, zucchini and onions from our last farmers' market trip. Peach balsamic dressing with fresh basil and dill from our garden.

I think vegetables are going to be the big stars for us these next coming months. Yesterday the first flower appeared on our 8' corn stalks. Lots of nutritious pollen for our bees. Our fruit trees are a bust this year - at least our non-pome fruits. It looks like we'll be good on apples and quince, but those won't be ready for a few months. The squirrels stole all of our almonds. Boooo. We harvested a handful of not-quite-ripe split apricots. We'll see how the coming months go.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Shirred Eggs

This is my new favorite way of eating eggs. It's rich and salty and flavorful. Can you ask for anything more?

1/4 tsp butter
2 Tbs Cream (I skim the fresh cream off of our goats' milk)
2 eggs
Salt and Pepper

1. Preheat oven to 375 deg F
2. With the butter, grease a ramekin
3. Put the cream in the ramekin and then break the eggs into the cream. Gently move the yolks toward the center.
4. Top with salt, pepper and chives. You can also add cheese if you'd like as well.
5. Bake for 12 minutes. You want the center still a bit jiggly while the edges can be pulled away from the side of the ramekin.

Viola! You've got shirred eggs.

Friday, July 1, 2011

And So It Begins

This is our fridge on the day we start not buying any food for three months. To be honest, it freaks me out a little. As you can probably tell, we didn't really stock up on fresh food beforehand. What's the point? It doesn't usually keep much longer than a week or two so we're just going to have to wing it.

For those that are new to the blog, we've been going without buying food from grocery stores, convenience stores, box stores and restaurants since October 1st, 2010. We've only been buying food from farmers' markets, direct from the farmer, through real butchers that only sell local, sustainably and humanely raised meat, real fish mongers, spice merchants, produce stands, a CSA that delivers locally produced, organic dairy, and a buying club/co-op for our dry goods. Besides that, we've been subsisting off of our quarter acre urban farm.

When we reached our 6 month mark we were cruisin'. It was pretty easy so we decided two things. The first thing was that we were going to continue with our project indefinitely with one caveat - we get one restaurant visit per month. I just don't want to give up sushi for the rest of my life and homemade sushi just isn't the same.

The second thing we decided was that we were going to attempt to go without buying food for the final three months - July 1st through October 1st. We wanted to force ourselves to try and live off of what we produce and raise. We also wanted to see how successfully prepared we are in terms of emergencies. How much food do we really need in case of an emergency? We live in earthquake territory, and while it's unlikely we'll ever need to go 3 months without any services if there is an earthquake, we do face uncertain economic times. If one of us loses our jobs, can we reduce our spending on food?

Our garden isn't as far along as we'd like, but it's starting to ramp up. We'll have to limit our fresh produce for a bit. However, I expect to get zucchini, cucumbers and beans this coming week or two.

Fruit is going to be the hardest thing for us. The weather really didn't cooperate this year. While our stone fruit trees were blooming it rained and rained and rained. The bees couldn't get to them. We got a very small amount of fruit only to be ruined by very late rains (completely abnormal here) causing all of it to split before it ripened. We'll have to salvage what we can, but I fear it won't be much.

We will be bartering - trading eggs, bread, labor and knowledge - for food we need. Unfortunately, most of our friends in the area have the same problem with their fruit trees. We'll have to figure something out, but for now we'll just have to go with the flow.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Week 38 - Heat!

Homemade fish and chips

Salad with chicken

BBQ chicken with salad and roasted zucchini and eggplant from the farmers' market

Stir fry with leftover chicken and zucchini, mushrooms, onions from the farmers' market and carrots and kale from our garden. Served with rice.

Not-so-green chili stew with tomatillos, potatoes, and hominy from our garden, onions from the farmers market, foraged mushrooms, and Hatch green chilies direct from the farm in New Mexico.

Whole wheat pizza with homemade/homegrown sauce, onions, mushrooms, zucchini and bacon

Pork chops with baked potato and Brussels sprouts.

It was a HOT HOT HOT week! Well, at least the beginning of it was. Unfortunately it made it too uncomfortable to cook inside. On the bright side, the heat really kicked the garden into gear. The corn is now 7' tall - no tassels yet though. We have squash blossoms, tomatoes on the vines, flowers on the cucumbers, tomatillos eggplants and beans. I'm not so worried now about this coming Friday when we GIVE UP BUYING ALL FOOD. We've also struck a couple of bartering deals with a couple of farmers at the farmers' market. Fruit is going to be a problem for us. We just don't have any yet though we're trying to connect with people who would be willing to barter. Anyone out there in our area want to barter eggs or bread for fruit? :D