Category Archives: Recipes

“So, What’s for Supper?”

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My beloved October flew by too quickly once again. There were trips to the beach and the mountains, pumpkin spice lattes, and one little pirate who was very excited about Halloween.

I dream of these chilly mornings and crisp days all through the heat and humidity that is summer in South Carolina. There are rumors of a long, snowy winter, which would be most welcome in this household. Two weeks ago, I told The Boy that it would be getting cold in a few days, and he promptly announced that he was going to the window to watch for snowflakes. He will be hugely disappointed if we end up having another weak winter!

One of my favorite things about this time of year is the food. Yes, I love a nice, fresh heirloom tomato (especially when it’s chopped up in a big bowl of pico de gallo or sliced with fresh mozzarella and basil in a caprese salad), but the scents and flavors of cold weather foods warm my soul.

Root vegetables and winter squash. Why do we eat anything else? I’m quite sure my family could survive happily for quite some time on turnips, sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, and a combination of butternut, acorn, and spaghetti squash.

I made a new chicken stew recipe the other night, and the only thing we didn’t like about it was the chicken. Seriously. I think we’ll be leaving it out the next time. In which case it will cost approximately $3.00 to make a huge pot of stew.

One thing that’s new for us this season is that after years of talking about it, we’ve finally started making a menu plan. I don’t really know why it took so long. I hated the days when I didn’t know how to answer Ben when he’d call and ask, “So, what’s for supper?” But I thought that planning out a week’s worth of suppers ahead of time would lock us into eating food that didn’t actually appeal to us on the day it was “scheduled” to be cooked.

In reality, it’s working well. Ben knows ahead of time what to expect for supper each night, so he can plan his lunch accordingly. And I’m not scrambling around every afternoon to figure out what to make. I’m using my slow cooker a lot more, so I can prep everything and throw it in during The Baby’s morning nap.

I make notes on the menu reminding me of what I need to get out of the freezer for the next few days. And I plan around foods that can be used in several meals, like the twelve ounces of bacon which has so far been used in the chicken stew and tonight’s chili (which smells really good, by the way!) and will still easily stretch into at least one more meal.

Meal planning doesn’t just save me from the late afternoon panic of wondering what I should make for supper each night. We’re eating healthier and saving money by not resorting to takeout, and we can save even more by stocking up on staple food items when they’re on sale. This is big for me, because while I love saving money, I’ve never been able to get into couponing. There just aren’t usually coupons for the types of food I buy.

The best part is that while a menu makes it possible to plan ahead, since I pull several days worth of food out of the freezer at once, it’s still flexible. And of course, there will always be eggs on hand if I get desperate.

I know I’m behind the times in discovering the benefits of meal planning, but just in case anyone else has been thinking about trying it, do! I’m pretty sure you won’t regret it.

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Got Milk? Or Eggs? Or Pancakes?

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Tell me if this doesn’t sound like a perfect day:

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It’s from From Scratch, a new, free online magazine for current and wannabe homesteaders. If the magazine turns out to be anything like the photos they’ve been sharing on Facebook, then I’m really looking forward to the first issue!

I also want to share a recipe for grain-free pumpkin pancakes from Erin over at the Polyface Henhouse — I haven’t tried them yet, but I find it hard to imagine them being anything but delicious. I have several medium-sized heirloom pumpkins on the front porch that are waiting to be roasted and turned into purée. Add the eggs from our backyard, and I feel really good about feeding these to my family! Note that the recipe makes only one large serving — I will probably have to multiply the recipe at least three or four times for the sake of my boys.

Grain Free Pumpkin Pancakes:
Ingredients:
2 eggs
¼ cup pumpkin puree
⅛ tsp. cinnamon
dash of allspice
1/4 tsp. of vanilla
Coconut oil for the pan
Raw butter, raw honey, maple syrup, or fruit butter for serving
Instructions:
Warm a cast iron pan over medium high heat.
Whisk together the eggs, pumpkin puree, cinnamon, allspice and vanilla.
Add about a tablespoon of coconut oil to the hot pan and swirl to cover the bottom of the pan.
Use about two scant tablespoons of batter for each pancake. They flip best when the pancakes are small.
Cook until golden on the bottom and slightly opaque in the center and around the edges.
Flip, brown on the other side, and serve.
Makes about 8 small pancakes, for 1 large serving or 2 medium servings.

Speaking of cooking enough for my boys, I’m a little terrified to see how the addition of another one is going to affect our grocery budget in a couple of years! Hopefully by then we’ll have found some land and will be meeting more of our own needs with meat chickens and a couple of pigs, because right now, The Boy’s appetite seems to be multiplying every day! I’m still grateful, though, for the fact that the food he asks for in ever-increasing quantities is “real,” wholesome food.

My one remaining Easter Egger hen finally started laying this week — beautiful, light sage green eggs that are already impressively large. I’m really shocked it’s taken her this long, considering that she’s about nine months old and has “looked” productive since late summer. She’s a beautiful blue and red girl, and I’m really glad she’s decided to make herself useful, because otherwise she might have been destined for a pot pie. It would have made me very sad, too, because she used to be my little buddy — often when I opened the roof of the chicken tractor last spring, she would fly out, land on my shoulder, and ride around while I did my other chores. It would have been hard to eat that chicken.

For anyone in South Carolina who’s interested, there is a quiet attack beginning against the sale of raw milk and dairy products in this state. At this point, it’s just a proposal being considered by an advisory board of the South Carolina Farm Bureau, but depending on their response to the idea, it could become a threat to the right of South Carolinians to purchase raw dairy items. Personally, we don’t use raw milk — the Happy Cow milk we buy is pasteurized at low temperatures, and honestly, it’s so much richer than the grocery store milk I grew up on that I’m still learning to drink it. Raw milk would be way beyond me. But as long as people are aware of the small risks involved with consuming it, they should certainly have the right to do so.

I don’t believe that any foods should be banned — people have the right to make their own decisions without the government or anyone else interfering. Joel Salatin says something about the folly of seeking salvation through legislation when we should be focusing on educating and informing people about wise choices so that they’ll avoid the bad stuff on their own. So while I don’t want to see fast food outlawed, I do find it ridiculous that the government turns a blind eye to the parent who chooses to feed their child fast food three times a day, while the one who does serious research, weighs the benefits and risks, and chooses to purchase raw milk for their family’s use is losing that right in many states.

Most raw milk and dairy products come from small-scale farmers. These are the farmers who look their customers in the eye week after week and whose livelihoods depend on maintaining that relationship. To me, that kind of personal accountability is a much better motivator for them to maintain food quality and safety than a hundred regulations and government inspections.

Yes, there are problems with contaminants from time-to-time, and people get sick. But if the issue was only with raw milk (or organic produce, for that matter), then we wouldn’t see situations like the conventionally-grown, chemically-bathed bagged spinach and salad green recalls that we’ve been plagued with in recent years, not to mention the numerous peanut butter recalls and the ground glass in frozen vegetables.

My point is that anything we buy to feed to our families is basically bought on faith. Faith that everyone who touched that produce on its way to our shopping cart had washed their hands recently. Faith that all the equipment involved in the processing of those canned tomatoes was clean. Faith that every cow represented in that pack of hamburger was healthy on the day it died. And faith that the farmer who knows every one of his cows and customers by name is concerned enough with providing for his family that he will do everything in his power to make sure that the product you buy from him is the safest, highest quality product he can make.

People die in car accidents, get severe food poisoning from bad sushi, and develop cancer or liver disease from using tobacco and alcohol. And sometimes they get sick from drinking raw milk. There are risks and benefits involved with every choice we make, but that doesn’t mean we need someone else removing options or making the decision for us, no matter how well-intentioned and unbiased that person or agency might believe themselves to be.

So, we’ve talked about pumpkin pancakes, green eggs, and milk. And I think I’ve realized why I’m getting hungry…

Perfect Saturday

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We have our first real fire of the season in the fireplace today, so the three of us spent most of the morning snuggling on the couch and soaking up the warmth. Now my Boy and his daddy are off to Home Depot, and I got a phone call from Ben that they “just happened” to discover a classic car show in the parking lot. What a coincidence…

The weather has been so beautiful the last couple of days, so I’ve been enjoying taking The Boy outside with me when I go to take care of the critters. He likes to stand beside the chicken coop and chat with the girls — he tells them stories, shows them toys, and “feeds” them twigs and leaves. A few days ago, he took his ultrasound picture outside, held it against the fence so they could see it, and told them all about his little brother. My sweet little Farmer Boy.

A couple of people have requested the apple butter recipe I used this week. I sort of combined several recipes, and here’s what I came up with:

  • 15 medium sized apples, peeled, cored, and sliced (I used a combination of Pink Lady and Granny Smith)
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 Tbsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. allspice
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • Layer the apple slices and granulated sugar in slow cooker, and let sit for several hours. Add brown sugar, spices, and salt, and stir carefully to coat apples. Cook on high for one hour, then reduce to low and cook for 10 hours. Mash apples with a potato masher till no large pieces remain. Makes about four pints, which can be canned and processed in a 15-minute boiling water bath.
  • Some “rustic” recipes ask you to leave the apples unpeeled and use an immersion blender to smooth out the finished product. Others suggest placing the apple butter in a mesh or cheesecloth-lined strainer to allow excess liquid to drain off. I didn’t do either of these things, and we love the texture my apple butter ended up having.

The cozy fire made today seem like a good day for baking, so I tried a recipe for Harvest Cake from the blog of a fellow chicken keeper. Let me just say… yum. It has apple, pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, and everything else comforting and autumnal. Given the number of people in the Northeast who are without power, heat, and food right now, I’m grateful that our family is safe, warm, and fed.