Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Pantry Challenge: Week Four Finale

The Pantry Challenge ends this week and I believe it was quite a success!

The most important two things I learned are planning and time are the keys to saving money in the kitchen.  If I don't plan, I forget to get out things to defrost and end up flying by the seat of my pants.  Once I get out things I must take the time required to cook it!

I did a little bit of experimenting this week and came up with a really easy way to make homemade pizza dough!  I take my no-knead bread recipe and when it comes time to put it on the stone, I carefully spread out about half of the dough to the edges of the stone.  Make sure your hands are pretty wet so that they don't stick to the dough.  Put the spread out bread in the oven until it gets just a tiny bit brown, take it out and put on your sauce, cheese, and toppings, then continue baking it until it's done to your satisfaction.  The leftover half of the bread can go in the refrigerator and be baked in the next two weeks - just preheat the stone (and don't forget the water for steam).  No thawing, rising, or anything else is required. 

I bought two bunches of organic bananas and of course they didn't all get eaten before they started getting overripe.  Banana bread to the rescue!  Everyone has their favorite recipe, here's mine:

  After creaming together the butter and sugar, I just dump all the ingredients one at a time while the mixer runs (even the whole bananas!).

Banana Bread

1-1/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. butter
2 eggs
3-4 ripe bananas
1/2 c. buttermilk or milk
1 tsp. vanilla
2-1/2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. chopped nuts (optional)

Bake at 350-degrees for about 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Makes 2 loaves.

My own personal Pantry Challenge will continue into the spring so that I can clean out, use up what I have before the new spring and summer vegetables come in and in the fall when the new batch of chickens, pork, and venison get put in the freezer. 

"Being frugal does not mean being cheap! It means being economical and avoiding waste." 
--Catherine Pulsifer

Monday, January 30, 2012

Fresh: The Movie, FREE Streaming Until February 1st!

FRESH celebrates the farmers, thinkers and business people across America who are re-inventing our food system. Each has witnessed the rapid transformation of our agriculture into an industrial model, and confronted the consequences: food contamination, environmental pollution, depletion of natural resources, and morbid obesity. Forging healthier, sustainable alternatives, they offer a practical vision for a future of our food and our planet.

Among several main characters, FRESH features urban farmer and activist, Will Allen, the recipient of MacArthur’s 2008 Genius Award; sustainable farmer and entrepreneur, Joel Salatin, made famous by Michael Pollan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma; and supermarket owner, David Ball, challenging our Wal-Mart dominated economy.

FRESH Details
Total running time: 72 minutes
Production Year: 2009

Produced and Directed by: ana Sofia joanes
Edited by: Mona Davis
Director of Photography: Valery Lyman
Music: David Majzlin
Sound Design: Eric Milano
Mixing: Tom Paul
Poster Design: Seltzer Studio Graphics

Go HERE to get FREE streaming of Fresh: The Movie now through Wednesday February 1st.  

You're NOT going to want to miss this!

I wanted to get this free offer out there as quickly as possible.  Tomorrow I'll post my wrap up of "The Pantry Challenge."

And don't forget to hop over to Homestead Revival!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

How To Become Certified Naturally Grown

"Organic" has been thrown around so much that it's hard to tell if some of the things we buy are really organic at all.  Do the organic standards for produce coming from Chile match the standards in the United States?  It's hard to know.  Maybe they're better, maybe they're worse.  Certified Naturally Grown is farmers policing themselves and each other.  It is an honor system and, I feel, a point of honor, to raise the best/healthiest/chemical free vegetables, chickens, pigs etc. that I can.  

 Certified Naturally Grown offers certification programs for produce, apiaries, and livestock.  The standards generally follow the USDA organic practices.  

1.  Complete Certification Application/s Online   Each type of certification has its own application: Produce (fruits, veggies, and maple), Apiary (for beekeepers), and Livestock (includes poultry and eggs). Once accepted, applications become part of your online farm profile on on the CNG website. This public document should be kept updated to reflect your current practices.
Be prepared to sit down for about an hour to complete the online certification application.  Most of the answers you will probably know off the top of your head.  
2. Make a Contribution   An annual financial contribution is required for certification. We recommend $125 - $200 per year, and the minimum contribution for livestock or produce certification is $110. The apiary certification program is newer, so while a contribution is required, and we recommend $75 - $200 per year, we don't specify a minimum. You may wait until after your application is accepted to make your contribution.
I certified my produce, and while $125 - $200 is recommended, a lesser amount, at this time, will be accepted.  
3. Sign & Return Your Declaration/s   This is quick and easy, but essential. Your signature indicates you meet and agree to all the Certified Naturally Grown standards, and you understand and accept the terms of participating in the CNG program. Your signed Declaration will be posted on your online profile. Declarations must be returned annually to keep your certification in good standing. We'll send you this one page form once your application is accepted. With livestock certification a Feed Supplier Declaration is also required.
Easy-peasy, sign and mail back.  
4. Arrange On-Farm Inspection   All farms must arrange their own on-site inspection, which should take place within two growing season months of being accepted into the program, and then annually, at least once every 16 months. Inspections are done by volunteers for free, ideally by other CNG farmers. Inspection forms and guidelines are available online.
The inspection is ideally done by other CNG farmers.  As I did not have anyone CNG Certified within an one hour drive I had the inspection done by our local Penn State Extension Agent.  
5. Conduct an Inspection   A true grassroots organization, CNG does have a work requirement. All participating farmers and beekeepers agree to conduct at least one inspection of another CNG farm or apiary annually. This requirement is waived if there is not another CNG farm or apiary within a 1 hour drive. Be pro-active and contact farms near you that need an inspection (nobody "at CNG" does it for you). To maintain the program's integrity, you may not "trade" inspections with the person who inspected your farm or apiary.
As I did not have anyone within an one hour drive I had this requirement waived.  The one person I contacted on the border of this limit had already had an inspection done on their farm.  
6. Record Keeping   This is something that you should do in your own way. The observations you record today will help you plan tomorrow. We simply ask that you maintain records of the following items in one convenient folder for your inspector to quickly and easily access. Copies should not be sent to us.
Receipts and orders of the following: seed and transplant orders; any purchased soil amendment items (off farm compost, rock powders, pre-mixed Organic Fertilizers, etc.); and any purchased organically acceptable botanical and biological pesticides (Bt, Sulfur, insecticidal soap, etc.)
An updated copy of your application. This was emailed to you when it was accepted by us, or updated by you. It can also be printed from your online profile.
Farmers that need to use chelated micronutrients to correct a soil deficiency must have soil tests from within the last one year that specifically note the deficiency.
Have a folder labeled "CNG" and throw everything (or copies of everything) in there.

The very best thing you can do is go to the Certified Naturally Grown website and poke around to get complete information.  

I have found, through years of practice, that people garden in order to make something grow; to interact with nature; to share, to find sanctuary, to heal, 
to honor the earth, to leave a mark.  Through gardening, we feel whole 
as we make our personal work of art upon our land.
-   Julie Moir Messervy, The Inward Garden, 1995, p.19

Friday, January 27, 2012

Certified Naturally Grown

Fitzgerald's Family Farm, LLC is Certified Naturally Grown!  Check us out here!
(we're dead center on the PA map)

From the CNG Website:  Certified Naturally Grown (CNG) is a non-profit organization offering certification tailored for small-scale, direct-market farmers and beekeepers using natural methods. 

CNG was born of a commitment to healthy food and healthy soils, and grew out of the belief that we could create something uniquely valuable to small farmers and the communities they feed. CNG was founded when the National Organic Program (NOP) took effect in 2002. 

Our certification model encourages collaboration, transparency, and community involvement. Our programs are based on the highest ideals of organic farming, and the requirements are reasonable. Many farmers find the peer-review inspection process a valuable learning experience.

CNG farms don't use any synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or GMO seeds, just like organic farms. Certified Naturally Grown is an independent program not affiliated with the NOP.

CNG is nationally recognized and endorsed, and it thrives because of enormous volunteer efforts and the commitment of the people who participate. Please join the farmers and beekeepers at the heart of the movement! 

Why create a whole separate program?

Certified Naturally Grown provides a much-needed complement to the National Organic program. While the NOP is an important program that primarily serves medium and large-scale agricultural operations, CNG is tailored for direct-market farms selling in their local communities. These farms often find the NOP’s heavier paperwork requirements (and fees!) are not a good fit for their small-scale operations. CNG enables these farms to get credit for their practices while showing some accountability to their customers. Some CNG farmers become certified organic after a few years with CNG, and we think that’s just super.

The Grassroots Alternative to Certified Organic

Tomorrow I'll tell you how this came about and how easy it would be for you!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Why Your Teenager Can't Use A Hammer

As I was running through my blogs, I came across this article about how many of today's teenagers have never learned how to use simple tools. 

Why Your Teenager Can't Use A Hammer

Why your teebnager can't swing a hammer

As humans developed, "The conversation between hand and brain grew more complex, too. We advanced to the unique ability to visualize an idea, then create that vision with our hands."

The article discusses how some engineering students at MIT can't estimate a problem without their computer and the college had to build remedial courses into their curriculum.  It discusses how even architectural courses have had to add back to basics courses.

Our local Jr/Sr High School, due to a shrinking budget, cut shop class last year.  How many of our children will never learn the skills necessary to build a simple birdhouse?  What does this do to the thinking and reasoning process?  What happens to the paths between hand, eye, and brain?  And how can I combat this loss of skills in my own children?  

Easy Carpentry Projects For Children by Jerome E. Leavitt can get us started.  The book lists all the tools required to complete the projects.  Every project is made from entirely from hand tools.  Will it help a child learn patience and lose the need for immediate gratification when they must cut out the base of a simple sailboat with a coping saw?  What about the intense pride of watching your own project float?  The projects in this book are simple and do-able.  It includes 15 easy-to follow-plans for projects like a bird feeder, clock shelf, candlesticks, a cart, and more.

Wouldn't a handmade candlestick holder, bird feeder, flower box, book rack, or shoeshine kit make great Christmas presents!?!   

Lefty loosey, righty tighty?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Just Label It

The U.S. and Canada -- unlike Japan, Australia, and the European Union -- don't require GMOs to be labeled as such, even though 80 percent of packaged foods in this country contain genetically engineered ingredients

We are really behind on GMO labeling!  What do you think makes us so different from the countries who have done it?

Monday, January 23, 2012

Pantry Challenge: Week Three

The Pantry Challenge still chugs along.  All I've bought this past week is milk (of course) and while buying organic salad greens I saw that organic bananas were fairly inexpensive and picked up a couple of bunches.  

When I'm figuring what we're going to have for dinner, I either poke around in the freezer to see what needs to be cooked, or I look at my rough list for ideas.  This list isn't anything fancy, but  I just jot down dinner ideas that I find while rummaging through my cookbooks. 

Sometimes I note what special ingredients the recipe has that I want to use up and I always write down the cookbook and page where it was found.   

This week we started with a cheese tortellini that had been hanging out in the freezer with homemade canned spaghetti sauce from the summer (when I first made it I thought it might be a bit sweeter than I liked, but now it has melded into an incredibly good flavor!) and homemade bread into which I mixed a little less than a tablespoon of garlic powder and dried parsley.  

Another meal we ate was chicken breasts baked in a 9 x 11- dish with cut up carrots, potatoes, and garlic all tossed in olive oil, and a baked acorn squash.  I cook my squashes by throwing the whole thing in the oven on the oven rack and baking it until a fork pokes in easily.  I then cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, and the skin usually peels right off.  Then I mash it with what ever seasonings I want to add.  It's simple and good!

Homestyle Chicken and Sausage was a big hit.  I only added sausage though.  

One night we ate out.

And our Sunday dinner was an easy Baked Ziti Casserole from Family Feasts for $75 a Week.  

My family loves their desserts and this week I made a pumpkin pie and brownies and last night a huge batch of chocolate chip cookies.  I freeze some of the cookie dough in dropped spoonfuls so that I can just take them out, put them on a cookie sheet, and have fresh baked cookies anytime.    

One goal of this challenge is to clean out one of the freezers we have (we have a chest freezer and an upright freezer) so that I can defrost one and then move everything over and defrost the other.  It would be nice to actually be able to turn one freezer off over the summer until we stock up on our meats in the fall.  

Next week will be my last week reporting on my Pantry Challenge, but I will continue following it all the way into the spring - when the fresh vegetables start coming in!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Reverse Osmosis

This unusual machine sitting in my den is a reverse osmosis machine in the process of being built.  It takes some of the water out of maple sap and makes the boiling time  in the evaporator much shorter.  When we ordered it, we were told that the maker was so backed up that he couldn't possibly have one ready for maple season (fast approaching!).  We bought the kit and now it is being assembled in my den - with the accompanying mess!  

Over the next few weeks and months, I promise, you will begin hearing more and more about maple season!  

Friday, January 20, 2012

Making The World's Easiest Brownies Even Better!

Quite awhile ago I wrote a post about the Baker's Chocolate One-Bowl Brownie Recipe and how fantastic it is.

The only problem I found with these brownies is that they fell apart if you tried to get them out of the pan while they were hot, and if you waited for them to cool, they stuck like iron to the bottom of the well-greased pan.  

Then I had an aha! moment.

Parchment paper!  I shaped a sheet of parchment paper as well as I could to the bottom of the pan and poured in the batter.  

Success!  The brownies don't stick at all.  

And they're going fast!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Bud Nip, or chlorpropham

Chlorpropham.  I was surprised at the number of fruits and vegetables that are sprayed with this chemical.

Should we care?

I first heard about it in this little girl's science project.  

Also known as Beet-Kleen, Bud Nip, Chloro IPC, CIPC, Furloe, Sprout Nip, Spud-Nic, Taterpex, Triherbide-CIPC and Unicrop CIPC.

Chlorpropham is a plant growth regulator used for preemergence control of grass weeds in alfalfa, lima and snap beans, blueberries, cane berries, carrots, cranberries, ladino clover, garlic, seed grass, onions, spinach, sugar beets, tomatoes, safflower, soybeans, gladioli and woody nursery stock. It is also used to inhibit potato sprouting and for sucker control in tobacco 

Chlorpropham is moderately toxic by ingestion (2). It may cause irritation of the eyes or skin (2). Symptoms of poisoning in laboratory animals have included listlessness, incoordination, nose bleeds, protruding eyes, bloody tears, difficulty in breathing, prostration, inability to urinate, high fevers, and death. Autopsies of animals have shown inflammation of the stomach and intestinal lining, congestion of the brain, lungs and other organs, and degenerative changes in the kidneys and liver (2)

Chronic exposure of laboratory animals has caused retarded growth, increased liver, kidney and spleen weights, congestion of the spleen and death (2). No deaths or micropathological abnormalities occurred in rats given diets containing 2% chlorpropham for 90 days (4).

Long-term exposure to chlorpropham may cause tumors (2). In one experiment chlorpropham initiated skin cancer in mice, but this result was not confirmed by a later study (2).

Read the full report here.

~ from "A Pesticide Information Project of Cooperative Extension Offices of Cornell University, Michigan State University, Oregon State University, and University of California at Davis." 

I think so.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Pantry Challenge: Week Two

I should look at my previous week's Pantry Challenge update so that I can remember what I wanted to cook the next week. 
This is what I planned: 

Leftover Holiday Bean Soup, homemade biscuits
Manicotti (I made it awhile ago and it must be used)
Roast chicken, pumpkin bread
Apricot Pork Chops
Baked Salmon, corn relish, cabbage salad with asian ginger dressing
Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore
Pumpkin Ravioli
Salad, every day.

Other than the Baked Salmon and Leftover Holiday Bean Soup this is not what I cooked.

The salmon was yummy and with it we had a cabbage salad (thinly sliced green cabbage, grated carrots, and sliced almonds) with Asian Ginger dressing (recipe to follow).  The recipe comes from Family Feasts for $75 a Week.   You've got to check out this cookbook!  I was dubious about the recipe, but even the kids gobbled it up! 

Another day we ate Pork Chops rubbed with a Barbecue Spice Rub that is one of four Rubs - Barbecue, Mediterranean Herb, Cajun, and All-Purpose - a friend gifted me.  Mmmm.  

I made some rice with the pork chops and mixed a bit of the homemade Asian Ginger dressing into the rice while it cooked.  It flavored it beautifully.

The next day I had a ton of leftover rice.  I sauteed and browned red and green peppers - frozen from my summer garden, onions and garlic - from my summer garden, and sweet bulk italian sausage - from my summer pig, into another great dinner!  

We ate leftovers a couple of nights and soup that was hiding in the freezer.  I adore hot soup on these cold and breezy days, but I guess I made it too much and my daughter finally told me she was tired of soup!

I had to make a run to the grocery stores for some big shopping and ended up spending $217 at our big box store for assorted odds and ends - flour, organic apple juice, toilet paper, etc.  This included giant bags of dog and cat food.  Along with about $8 at the bakery thrift store, $30 for a huge hunk of cheese, and another $25 at the local grocery store for milk, a lemon, and bananas, that is our grocery bill for quite a while!  $217 + $8 + $25 + $30 = $280.  Not too shabby for a month's worth of groceries for four people.  We'll see how long I can cook meals off of this shopping trip.    

The big expenditure at our house is milk.  We can go through up to a gallon a day.  At almost $4.00 a gallon that adds up fast.  I started looking for a local dairy from whom I could buy milk because they usually sell it for about $2.00 per gallon.  Unfortunately, even if I find a dairy, I can't blog about it.  With all the hoopla about raw milk I fear the "milk nazis" could shut down any dairy I would find.  

I made a pumpkin pie out of my kakai pumpkin puree.  The pie tasted rich and pumpkiny, but not quite as sweet as an actual pie pumpkin would have yielded.  My husband, the pumpkin pie aficionado, said he liked the less sweet taste better.  I'll definitely plant this pumpkin next year!  

Asian Ginger Dressing

Makes about 1-1/2 cups

3 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup white vinegar
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 Tbsp. honey
2 Tbsp. sesame oil
1 Tbsp. peeled and minced, fresh ginger
1/2 tsp. salt

1. Combine all ingredients in a pint-size container with a tight fitting lid.  Shake well.
2.  Remove lid and heat jar in microwave on High 1 minute just to dissolve honey.
Cool and shake well before serving.  Store, tightly covered, in refrigerator up to 2 months.
~ from "Family Feasts for $57 a Week" by Mary Ostyn


I usually write about the dinners I'm serving for the Pantry Challenge, but breakfasts and lunches are included in the Challenge as well.   We usually eat biscuits, eggs in some form, toast, or hot cereal of some kind, for our breakfasts  - and leftovers, or soup and sandwiches, for our lunches.  Today, to go with lunch, I'm going to try to make a homemade tomato soup using canned tomato sauce from this summer's crop.  It should make enough to last 3, 4, or even 5, days!    

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sunday Breakfast

A big Sunday breakfast is a tradition in our house.  Sometimes I make a big batch of pancakes or waffles.  This morning we ate bacon from our own pigs, homemade biscuits (recipe to follow), butter, and honey from our own bees.  In an attempt to plan ahead,  I usually make extra so that there are leftovers for breakfasts during the week.  Sometimes there just aren't any leftovers to be had!

I was lucky to get a shot of the bacon before it disappeared!

A quart jar of raw, unfiltered honey

"Never-fail" Biscuits

I've tried a number of different biscuit recipes and these are the best I've found.  They come out light and airy and the family loves them.  I'm not entirely happy about the large amount of baking powder they require and will happily take suggestions from anyone who has a good alternative recipe!

Never Fail Biscuits
~ from allrecipes.com

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. salt
4 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
2 tsp. white sugar
1/2 cup butter, chilled and diced (I learned that the trick is to dice it up pretty small)
3/4 cup milk

1. Preheat oven to 450-degrees.
2.  In a large bowl, sift together dry ingredients (or just throw it all in and mix it up a little bit like I do).  Cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse oatmeal.  Make a well in the center of the dry mixture and pour in the milk.  Stir until dough begins to pull together then turn out onto a lightly floured surface (it'll be kind of crumbly). 
3. Press dough together and then roll out until 3/4 inch thick. Cut into 2 inch round biscuits and place on an ungreased baking sheet. 
4. Bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes or until golden. 


I realized, as I typed out the ingredients for this recipe, that I forgot to add the cream of tartar to the above batch of biscuits!  That must be why they didn't puff up as much as usual.  They still tasted really, really good though!


Saturday, January 14, 2012

Simple But Incredibly Entertaining Toy

Who would think that a bunch of little magnetic balls would keep a boy entertained for hours?

When my son asked for these balls known as Neocube, Buckyballs, or Zen Magnets I thought, 

"What a waste of money."  

Boy, was I was wrong!  We purchased a 216-pack of the 5mm balls from eBay and he has given up t.v. and electronic games to spend hours creating shapes.  He even researched sites online that tell all about different things that can be done with them.  Google, "neocube tricks" to find ways to make 2-dimensional shapes click together into 3-dimensional shapes - entertaining and educational!  

Hollow egg shape

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Powerful Tree

There's a path through a beautiful forest close by my house where I occasionally take "blog walks" to think of, and if I'm lucky, get ideas for my blog.  

Every time I pass this tree, I'm always astounded by the power a tree has to adapt to foreign objects.  Where I grew up it was common to see old, old barbed wire from fences sticking out of the sides of a trees.  My husband tells me of a tree somewhere out in the forest that has a half-buried old lantern in it.  Here, someone must have, years ago, stuck this soda pop can in the 'V' of the tree and the tree appears to be enveloping it! 

The tree is more than first a seed, then a stem, then a living trunk, and then dead timber.  The tree is a slow, enduring force straining to win the sky.  
~Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Wisdom of the Sands, translated from French by Stuart Gilbert

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Family Feasts for $75 a Week

I love passing along great finds to my readers.  I, not too long ago, found a cookbook that I think you might find worth investigating.  I love cookbooks and I have a lot of them on my shelves.  I adore digging through them and finding recipes to match what I have in my cupboard - especially now that I'm working on my Pantry Challenge.  But rarely have I found a cookbook in which I would cook almost every recipe that's in it... until now!

Family Feasts for $75 a Week has become my new "go-to" book!

Family Feasts for $75 a Week by Mary Ostyn (2009, Paperback) Image

This book is full of recipes that are simple and use ingredients that can be found in every grocery store.  The writer, Mary Ostyn, gives tons of tips that she uses for her meals to substitute, stretch, make the meal vegetarian - or not vegetarian, and much more.  

Here's an excerpt from the back cover:

In Family Feasts for $75 a Week you'll find:

~Tips on Achieving your spending goals
~Shopping lists, charts, and quizzes to help you plan and save money and time
~Advice n how to cook smarter and eat healther
~Everyday pantry, canning, and freezing tips and much, much more!

Family Feasts for $75 a Week is $11.65 from Amazon (new) and $8.00 from half.com (acceptable condition) and you can get a look inside it here.

BTW, I'm not making any kind of commission by promoting this book.  I just love passing along great stuff!

Monday, January 9, 2012

My First Week of the Pantry Challenge

I successfully finished the first week of the Pantry Challenge and found myself spending a lot more time cooking, but I think as I get on track the time will be less of an issue.  My husband has finally, after 5 years, stopped working full time down in Baltimore with only weekends at home and I'm cooking for one more person.

We ate very well and I found myself testing out some of the things I had processed over the summer.  I used  of my dried cubed zucchini in a "Homemade Rice a Roni" (the recipe follows) that the family loved

The next night, I mixed the leftover "Homemade Rice a Roni"(the recipe makes a lot) with browned bulk italian sausage, onions, and some sweet green peppers that were getting wrinkly.   

The family raved about my "Teriyaki Pork Roast" and I got to use up some ginger that has been floating around for awhile. 

After a successful fishing trip my husband came home and grilled Steelhead fillets.

We ate "Pat's Meat Stew" using up some venison shoulder - and a Holiday Bean Soup using a mixed batch of beans and a ham steak.  

On PTA meeting night I made a platter of Havarti cheese cubes, homemade bread slices, carrots, celery, and ranch dip. 

For desserts (because they always want dessert!)  we had coconut drop cookies, brownies, and a homemade apple crumb pie that had been waiting in the freezer.  

How did I enjoy the first week?  I truly enjoyed that we took the time to sit down to meals, talk, and eat good food.  What a pleasure it was to actually use up food rather than disposing of it after it had languished in the pantry and become inedible!

After looking through my pantry and perusing my cookbooks, here's a sampling of what I've planned for future dinners.

Leftover Holiday Bean Soup, homemade biscuits
Manicotti (I made it awhile ago and it must be used)
Roast chicken, pumpkin bread
Apricot Pork Chops
Baked Salmon, corn relish, cabbage salad with asian ginger dressing
Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore
Pumpkin Ravioli
Salad, every day.


Homemade Rice a Roni

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
2 Tbsp. oil (olive oil is good)
2 cups uncooked long-grain white or brown rice
1 cup uncooked vermicelli or spaghetti broken into 1-inch pieces or shorter
5 cups beef broth
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil or sage (I used 2 Tbsp. dried basil)
1 cup frozen mixed vegetables (I used fresh carrots, odds and ends of assorted frozen vegetables, and dehydrated zucchini)
2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper or to taste

1. In a wok, or heavy skillet, heat butter and oil over medium heat,  When butter begins to melt, add rice and toss to coat well with butter and oil.  Cook until some of the rice starts to brown
2.  Add pasta and keep stirring until some of it has browned bits as well.  When mixture begins to stick a little, add broth, garlic, basil, and mixed vegetables.  Cover and continue to cook until rice is tender, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  If rice starts to stick to the bottom before it is fully cooked, you made need to turn down the heat a little and add 1/2 cup water.  Total cooking time for white rice will be 20 to 25 minutes.  Brown rice will take 40 to 55 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.
~Adapted from "Family Feasts for $75 a Week"

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Coudersport Market Farmers Meeting 2012

What is a Farmer's Market?

Definition: A farmers market (a.k.a. greenmarket) is a place where farmers sell their products directly to consumers. Ultra-fresh produce, pastured meat and eggs, artisan cheeses, hand-harvested honey, and other fresh, small-batch foodstuffs are the hallmark (and benchmark) of the best farmers markets. They serve not just as a place for farmers to get the best price and consumers to get the best products, but as venues for producers and consumers of food to come together, forge relationships, and exchange information.
Note: Some "farmers markets" have vendors that sell produce they bought from wholesalers and then re-sell to consumers. Are there bananas at your farmers market in Minnesota? Be suspicious. That produce is the same that is available in supermarkets, which is fine, but then why go to the trouble of going to a farmers market?
~From www.About.com

Last night we held the first Market Farmer's meeting of the year.  We feel that the purpose of a local Farmer's Market is to promote our local farmers and craftspeople who are putting their own sweat, blood, and sometimes tears, into their products.  So we felt we needed to hammer down some guidelines for next years Farmer's Market.  Here's what we came up with so far (in some areas we'll have to get approval).

The Coudersport Farmer's Market will be held on Fridays, from 3 p.m. - 7 p.m., instead of on Saturdays - except for one Saturday a month that will coincide with a proposed "Saturday on the Square" project by the Coudersport Chamber of Commerce.  We hope this change to a weekday will give the people who work in town an opportunity to visit us.  We will also set up on Festival and high volume Saturdays, like the Maple Festival, the 4th of July weekend, the Falling Leaves festival, etc.   

The Market is free for those who are coming and selling their own produce - or up to 75% of their own produce or items (crafts, etc.)  - with the other portion coming from a local farmer.

Anyone selling more then 75% of someone else's produce or items will be charged a fee.

That's about it.  As we get closer to time - and following future market farmer meetings - I'll keep you updated!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Organic Egg Fraud

Organic produce seems the best way to go.  But has the word "organic" been overused by industry to get you to buy those more expensive foods?  Are those organic eggs really all that organic or free-range? 

Watch this.

Look around.  Ask around.  Find someone that's raising chickens and selling eggs.  Maybe go to that place and watch those chickens forage (I had a friend tell me that watching chickens forage was like watching fish swim around a fish tank.  It's so restful).  Know from where your eggs come.  It's more work - but the payoff is really, really worth it!


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Havarti Cheese - Yum

We visited Atlee Miller, a metal worker from our local Amish community, last week to get some stove pipe made for our maple evaporator.  The people in our Amish community always have at least two, three, or even more, enterprises going and the Millers happened to be selling goat cheese.  So I bought a five pound block of some awesome Havarti goat cheese.  This giant hunk of cheese will fit perfectly into my Pantry Challenge.

The label reads:

Farmstead Fresh
A Step Above Organic
Semi-soft Raw Milk Cheese
Ingred: Raw Goat Milk, Cultures, Vegetable Enzymes, and Sea Salt
(then the nutrition information)
MFG. for 
Farmstead Fresh, Inc.
Winfield PA 17889
Aged over 60 days

This stuff is good.

It's a lot of cheese and I worried that it would get moldy before I could use it up.  The Amish guys told me that I could wrap the cheese in a vinegar dampened cloth to prevent mold.   

Now, where can I find good recipes using Havarti cheese?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Brrrr! It's Cold Outside!

It's not as cold as it is for my friend living in Anchorage, Alaska, but it's 10-degrees and this is the coldest we've had yet in this mild winter!

Here's a wintertime rule of thumb:  When you go out, for safety, you should always dress as if your car might break down.  

Monday, January 2, 2012

Pantry Challenge

Have you made your New Year's Resolutions yet?  Have you made a goals list for your homestead?  

We're still working on putting our goals for 2012 together, but one goal we're starting today is a "Pantry Challenge."  What this means is that my family will attempt to eat as much as we can out of our own pantry for the next month.  We'll be going to the grocery store less and having to take more time to plan meals. 

We spent the fall getting our pantry stocked and I hate to see all that hard work go to waste.  But each year it seems like there is far too much food that doesn't get used up and it ends up being thrown away, fed to the chickens/pigs/dogs/cats, or composted.

Sadly, the wasted food does not come from stocking too much.  It comes from going to our grocery store for this and that ingredient and picking up more every time I'm there.  Why?  Because it takes more time to cook, or I forget what I have, or it's not something I really like and I think "why did I buy that?"  It's as simple as I just don't have the ambition to cook or, more likely, I just simply forget to plan.   

I'd love to be able to claim the Pantry Challenge as my own idea, but it's not original.  I follow a blog named Good Cheap Eats.  The Pantry Challenge and it's "rules" originated from there.  You can find those "rules" here.

Yesterday was the first day of my pantry challenge.  I wanted to make a traditional pork roast for New Year's Day, but due to poor planning the roast wasn't thawed in time.  So I found some easy-to-thaw pork chops, the last box of Stove Top stuffing (I know, terrible stuff), and I almost always have cream of mushroom soup in the pantry (I bought a big case of Pacific Foods All Natural Mushroom Soup the last time I was at our "local" big box store, named BJs.  It's a bit more gelatinous in nature than I like, but tastes pretty much same as Campbells -I'll have to use it up).  Then, I went on to the Stove Top website and found a good recipe for Pork Chop Stuffing Bake here.   I made a salad from some great salad greens and some fresh red and yellow peppers that need to be eaten up before they go bad.  I segmented a tangelo from the case that I had bought at the high school from the FFA students.  We have lots of Christmas cookies left over for our dessert.  Dinner!

The family loved it.  There wasn't a bit left.

Starting next Monday I'll keep you updated on how well this challenge has done and (hopefully!) have a meal plan for the next week.

Will you join me for the Pantry Challenge?  I'd love to hear how tackle it!

Please head over to Barn Hop #43 at Homestead Revival!