Tuesday, March 29, 2011

You Are What You Eat.

Without really delving into it, I have some experience with ADHD (not my own ADHD). An article came out last week on Civil Eats that really supports our views on food, how it affects the body, specifically with ADHD in children. I think there is definitely something they are on to. If you think about it, when we were kids ADHD wasn't a term I had ever heard. Our diets were also based on whole foods rather than the crap that kids get today, especially in school, where it should be the most important.

I have a feeling Big Pharma will now try to discredit the study as soon as possible so they can continue to sell drugs to families. Big Pharma won't be the only lobby. The Food Industrial Complex will be on it as well. Here's a woman that has taken on the food industry after watching her child develop an allergic reaction to commonly fed foods today. Definitely worth watching.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Week 25 - Pork!

Monday -
Pork chops with mashed potatoes and sauteed cabbage from the garden.

Tuesday -
Pork tacos with guacamole, salsa that we found in our freezer that we had made last summer, onions and homemade tortillas. Served with Spanish Rice.

Frittata from our hens' eggs, home cured bacon, Swiss chard from our garden and mushrooms.

Pork stirfry with mushrooms, carrots, and onions from the farmers' market and cabbage from our garden.

Grassfed london broil with Swiss Chard from our garden and rice. 

We ate a late lunch so didn't really eat anything for dinner. 

Obviously we're going to be eating a lot of pork for awhile. I've also taken on the enormous challenge of curing lots of it. The hams are almost 30lbs each. So far we've got one in the brine for 13 days and then we'll smoke it for a couple of days. I'm thinking of making proscuitto with the other ham but need to come up with a place to cure it at. I could use our wine fridge but then I'd lose the use of that for cheese because the ham would take up the whole thing. I also started curing half of the pork belly which weighs 12lbs. I think we'll be OK with bacon for awhile.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Week 23 and 24

Beans from our storage with a smoked ham hock from the Fatted Calf.


Grass fed carne asada with homemade guacamole (avocados from the farmers' market), homemade tortillas, refried beans from Sunday and Spanish Rice

Stir fry with cabbage from our garden, grassfed beef, and various vegetables that were either given to us or from the farmers' market.

Maple Cured Applewood Smoked Bacon, eggs from our girls and potatoes from the farmers' market. 

Soup made with cabbage, potatoes, onions, carrots and....bacon!

Grassfed tri tip with mashed sweet potatoes and swiss chard.

Grassfed ground beef burgers with fried potatoes

Swiss chard, bacon, cheddar, mushroom fritatta.


Chayote Pizza.

Vegetable stirfry with rice.

Never got around to eating dinner.

Pork roast with sweet potatoes, potatoes, turnips, carrots and Swiss chard.

We had spaghetti over at Tom's mom's house for his brother's birthday.

These last two weeks have been a bit crazy. One of our goats gave birth (the first time I've helped with a kidding) so by next weekend we should be able to provide at least some of our own dairy. Our other doe is due April 2nd so that will make it a lot easier for us in the milk department.

A big issue we're having right now is water. The overabundance of it. We're about a month behind on planting, which I'm concerned about for our last three months of not buying any food. It's also been keeping us busy trying to keep our animals dry. We currently have 19 chicks and 2 baby goats and the barn flooded this weekend. This past Friday we were so busy with trying to keep everyone dry we never got around to eating dinner.

Earlier on Friday we went and picked up the whole pig we bought and had butchered. It was butchered and nicely wrapped. We promptly unwrapped it so we could vacuum seal it. We had asked for the skin, liver, heart, lungs and kidneys. Unfortunately we only got one kidney and the head. So no chicharrones. :( But I can make head cheese.

The craziness should be continuing as we approach the 6 month mark!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

March Challenge - Chayote Pizza

Oh yeah, you heard that right! Pizza with Chayote on it! And what a tasty pizza it was. It didn't hurt that it had whole slices of bacon on it and that the chayote was first fried in bacon fat. I figured it was an interesting way to have chayote. Oh, and we also had fried potato slices on it as well. It was all and all a very unique pizza.

Chayote, Bacon and Potato Pizza

1 chayote peeled, seed removed and thinly sliced
1/2 lb new potatoes thinly sliced
6 slices bacon cooked until crisp reserving bacon fat
1 lb pizza dough shaped into a crust on a cookie sheet or pizza stone
Pizza sauce (we make this from scratch with home canned sauce and fresh herbs simmered until very thick).
1 c shredded cheese (we used a mixture of sharp cheddar and parmesan)

Preheat oven to 375 deg F
1. In a hot skillet fry chayote and potato slices in bacon fat.
2. Spread sauce on dough and arrange bacon, fried chayote and potato slices on pizza.
3. Sprinkle pizza with cheese and bake for 20 minutes or until crust is golden and cheese is bubbly. Serve.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Food Prices

Every morning while getting ready for work we watch the news. This morning wasn't any different. As we were about to turn the TV off a story came on about food prices. Just last month the cost of food soared 3.9% which is the highest gain since 1974. What's even crazier is this is due to the cost of vegetables going up almost 50%. Economists say it's just temporary because of the freezes in the southern states. Regardless it still effects people, especially those that need access to healthy foods the most - the poor. This increase makes healthy foods even more unattainable. It's sad that a person can afford soda for their family but not apples. It's really clear that our government would rather see people unhealthy by subsidizing and making affordable only the least healthy of foods.

This is why I think it's important for people to do what they can to grow food. Even if it's just one tomato plant on a balcony. Take control over your food before it gets too expensive that you can't afford it anymore.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

March Challenge - Chayote

The farmer was back! So I stocked up on Chayote so I can continue with March's challenge. I'll have to play catch up though because I missed last week.

It's raining and cold - perfect soup weather. I haven't had a simple vegetable soup lately so tonight it was a Vegetable Soup with Chayote. It was tasty. The chayote, though wasn't particularly flavorful - much like zucchini. The texture was perfect though. This soup is simple and you can really add just about any vegetable that suits you.

In this recipe I chose not to skin the chayote. You can do that if you want, but I don't mind the skin as it's really thin so I just left it on.

Vegetable Soup with Chayote

2 Chayote cut in half
3 Carrots, sliced
1 Onion, chopped
1 1/2 lbs potatoes, cut in 1/2" chunks
10 oz mushrooms
8 cups chicken broth
1 Tbs Harissa Spice Mix
1 tsp salt
Tapatio to taste

1. In a large stockpot add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Add Chayote halves and boil for 15-20 minutes or until seed can be scooped out. Chop chayote.
2. Add everything to hot stock and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until potatoes are tender - about 30 minutes.
3. Serve with fresh bread.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

When Perfection is Improved

Corned Beef. That vacuum packed brisket held in some sort of liquid with spices. Usually you can only make out the mustard seed and crumbled bay leaves. I never really thought about what went into corned beef but I knew the history behind the name. The "corned" refers to the salt the size of corn kernels used to cure it. The salt wasn't named after corn though. Corn was named after the salt, as corn's traditional name is "maize." The word "corn" is actually Germanic in origin. When maize made it's way to Europe they called it corn because the kernels resembled the salt used to cure corned beef.

Today corned beef is brined and then boiled instead of corned with dry salt. But growing up I didn't care how it was made. I just loved it. It was by far one of my favorite foods. Always served on St. Patrick's Day with cabbage, potatoes and carrots. One of the things that made it so special was that this was the only time of year we got to eat it. My family does that. We take one meal and only serve it one time of year. Every Christmas eve we would have a crab feed. The only time of year we'd eat crab. It made it a tradition. Something special. Corned beef is just as special.

When the March Challenge for Charcutepalooza was announced I was excited! I would learn how to make this nostalgic hunk of meat. I've brined before. Actually, every year we brine a whole turkey for Thanksgiving. You can find my recipe here. I HIGHLY recommend you try the next time you serve a whole turkey, whether it's for Thanksgiving or for any other meal. You will not be disappointed. Since I have experience brining, it meant that I could do the Charcuterie Challenge rather than the Apprentice Challenge.

Making the corned beef looked ridiculously easy. Because it's so easy, the instructions were to make your own pickling spice. Seemed fair enough. Well, as it turns out, while I was writing down the list of spices and herbs to get, I wrote "ginger" twice and forgot to write down "cloves." I didn't realize this until I was dumping spices into the bowl to create the pickling spice. Doh! We were out of whole cloves so instead I made the decision to go with ground cloves. Ground cloves are ridiculously strong compared to their whole counterparts. This was definitely a gamble, but it was a bet I was willing to make.

After a week in the fridge soaking in brine I pulled out the brisket. I was dismayed to see it come out looking gray and unappetizing. I didn't even take a picture of it. But I wasn't going to give up. It was ready before we could cook it for the required 3 hours, so I dumped the brine and recovered the brisket with some fresh, cool water until the weekend when we could cook it. That coming Saturday morning we stuffed it into our slow cooker and covered it with some of the water it had been soaking in. We set the slow cooker on high for 2 hours and then on low for the next several hours. Around 4pm I pulled it out and put it in a dutch oven with the remaining liquid, some more water, potatoes, cabbage and carrots. We of course had to have a traditional meal with part of it. The rest of it when into the fridge for Monday's dinner.

I pulled the brisket out and cut it. It was that lovely red color I was hoping for. No longer was it gray. The flavor? Perfection perfected. The cloves gamble was well worth it. You could taste the cloves, but they weren't overpowering. It was by far the best tasting corned beef I had ever tasted.

The following Monday evening we decided to make sandwiches, another common way to eat corned beef. But we didn't just go for regular corned beef, swiss cheese, and sauerkraut on rye. Oh no. We first started by making homemade garlic mayonnaise with green grapeseed oil.

We fried up slices of corned beef in bacon grease and then fried up an egg from our hens in the remaining grease.

 We slathered the mayonnaise on some toasted Amber Ale Bread that we had picked up at Model Bakery, added the corned beef, egg, and topped it off with a sliced lacto-fermented pickle I made this past summer. We served this amazing tasting sandwich with fried potatoes and kale chips we made earlier in the week.

March Challenge - Still Unknown

So my original idea was to do Chayote for the March challenge. I found them at the farmers' market and since I had never tried them before I figured that this was the perfect item.

For years I've seen this odd looking food around. Is it a fruit? Is it a vegetable? I have no idea. I do know that it's a squash - so botanically it's a fruit, but legally I have no idea. Why do I say "legally?" Well, the USDA likes to have stuff in their own neat little boxes. And they determine what is a fruit or a vegetable. Sometimes their rulings don't match up with the botanic definition. Tomatoes are the perfect example. Botanically they are fruit. Legally they are vegetables. Weird.

A spiny Chayote
OK, so back to the chayote. It's a squash that likes to grow in the winter. They come in a smooth and a spiny form. I have never tried it before though, so when I found them at the farmers' market I immediately knew what March's challenge was going to be. I bought two from a farmer only knowing what he told me. That they were sweet and should be boiled or sauteed. With this recipe I decided to do both.

I made this dish for that challenge only to be disappointed this past weekend when I went to the farmers' market and the farmer that I had bought them from the week before wasn't there. No Chayote. I will keep looking for them this week to continue this challenge. As a backup, however, we'll move on to mustard greens since we've got a very nice patch of them in our backyard ready to pick. 

Sausage and Mushroom Stuffed Chayote

2 Chayote cut in half lengthwise
2 Sausages removed from casings
1 Tbs oil
1 medium onion, chopped
10 mushrooms sliced
3 oz shredded sharp cheddar cheese
3 oz cream cheese
3 Tbs Cilantro, chopped
Hot Sauce to taste

1. In boiling, salted water, cook the chayote halves for 30 minutes.
2. Remove chayote from water and allow to cool until you can handle them. Scoop out seed and discard. Scoop flesh out of the skin, creating a shell.
3. In a large skillet over medium-high heat add oil and brown sausage, breaking it up as it cooks. Once browned add onions and mushrooms and cook until onions become translucent.
4. Turn down heat to low and add chayote flesh, cheeses, cilantro and hot sauce. Stir until ingredients are well mixed.
5. On a cookie sheet place scooped out chayote "shells" and fill shells with sausage mixture. 
6. Bake in a 350 deg F oven for 30 minutes.
7. Serve.

They chayote tasted like a sweet zucchini. I was pleasantly surprised. So much so, that we will hopefully be adding them to our garden next year. Everyone I had talked to said to remove the skin. One of them definitely had tougher skin, but it's paper thin, similar to the skin on a bell pepper. The other chayote had more tender skin so we just ate the entire thing.

Weeks 21 & 22

Marmalade smothered roast duck with fennel

Monday -
Fend for yourself today. I had a grilled cheese sandwich with homemade bread and cheese that Jeanette left at our house.

Tuesday -
Breakfast for dinner. Eggs and fried potatoes.
Wednesday -
Green Chili Stew

Thursday -
Portobella mushrooms, sausage, onions, cheddar, cream cheese and hot sauce saute.

Friday -
We spent the evening running errands, so leftovers it was - Green Chili Stew.

Saturday -
Corned Beef, cabbage, carrots and potatoes.

Sunday -
Sausage and mushoom stuffed chayote

Corned beef breakfast sandwiches.

Tuesday -
Eggs and bacon. I love breakfast for dinner. 

Wednesday - 
Pizza with homemade mozzarella and sausage from the Fatted Calf

Thursday - 
Carrot Cauliflower Soup with bacon. Cauliflower was from the farmers' market and the carrots and onions were given to us.

Friday - 
Carrot Cauliflower Soup

Lasagna with homemade pasta and cheese and sauce from tomatoes we canned last summer. Sausage from the fatted calf.

Reflections - 
This has been a rough week. Squeek, our super mutt, developed a tumor next to her nose. We'll know later this coming week what the exact diagnosis is. We've also had some other major issues that I won't bore you with. But in the midst of all the stress, our meals have been pretty good.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Other Changes Caused by Not Going to the Grocery Store

Obviously because we aren't buying food at the grocery store, we're not going there very often. Actually, I can't really remember the last time I was there. I think it was to buy some parchment paper. Anyways, because of this I'm noticing other changes too. Our personal care items are changing.

I'm not using shampoo and conditioner anymore. I can get baking soda and apple cider vinegar through our co-op/buying club. My friend Maya, from Soul Flower Farm, Jeanette and I made cold process soap together, which I'm now using as hand and body soap. I'm also using it to make homemade laundry detergent.

We're not ones for using chemical cleaners. We generally just use good ol' elbow grease to clean with. Counters we use hot water and dish soap. We don't use antibacterial anything except for cleaning beer making stuff - but then it's biodegradable, food grade sanitizers. I do like my Comet though for cleaning the toilet and bathroom sink, but that's about it.

It's interesting how this wasn't our primary goal and yet our lives are changing so much.