Sunday, November 28, 2010

Cheeseslave Giveaway

Cheeseslave is giving away a seat in Nourished Kitchen's cooking class.  Check it out here:

Happy and Healthy Holiday Cooking Classes

Cheeseslave is also giving away olive oil from Chaffin Family Orchards. Check it out here:

Olive Oil

Friday, November 12, 2010

Cooking Local Pumpkins & Giveaway

We received two locally grown sugar pumpkins from our CSA this year. We have never cooked a pumpkin before so we were glad that the newsletter we receive with our produce provided us with a recipe and some tips. Below are some of the tips that Jessica gave in the newsletter:

Pick your  pumpkin.  Sugar pumpkins make great pies. Jack-o-lanterns are not recommended, as they can be stringy and tough.(Good to know...we had no idea that there was a difference!)

Cook your pumpkin. Slice up your cleaned out pumpkin, and steam or bake (350 oven) until fork tender.  (We put a little water in the bottom of the pan to keep the pumpkins from drying out).

Puree your pumpkin. After you're done cooking, scoop the flesh out of the skin and mash with a potato masher. If I'm going to freeze for later use, this is where I package it up. When I am ready to puree it for a specific dish, I toss the mash into the blender with the liquids from my recipe (cream, milk, eggnog?) to make a nice fine, stringless puree.

Spice your pumpkin. My favorite pie recipe uses cinnamon, ginger, cardamom, nutmeg, cloves, lemon zest and vanilla.

So we cut them in half and put them in the oven. That is our beef broth brewing on the back burner.

And we used the pumpkin seeds for this recipe they were yummy.

Then we pulled the pumpkins out of the oven and scooped the flesh out.

Next, we mashed it up, placed 8 cups of the puree in the freezer and used 2 cups to make a molasses pumpkin pie.

The pie mix was excellent, but the whole wheat crust we attempted to make for the first time was terrible. If anyone has a good pie crust recipe please comment!  We would love to make a pie for Thanksgiving with a crust that is edible. We forgot to get a pic of the pie....maybe next time.

And the Giveaway:

Check out the Nourishing Days site. She is giving away a L'Equip 524 Dehydrator and she has posted a review regarding the product as well.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Week 2: Go Shopping

This week we didn't do much shopping In our last post we mentioned that we don't really budget for food. Well...after tallying up what we have already spent on food this month we realized that we only have $129.00 left to spend out-of-pocket if we want to stay within the thrifty budget plan!

We know we only have eleven days left in the month, but we have to use that for milk, cheese, and a few other things that I know we will need over the next couple of weeks.  So I took Jenny's advice to heart and I shopped my pantry this week. Every meal we have had since the last post we made came from what we already had on hand. We started by using an excel spreadsheet to create our pantry inventory, then found recipes that would use what we have. Here is a quick look at what we have had for dinners:

Sunday: Grass-Fed Beef Chuck Roast with locally grown organic potatoes, carrots, and garlic.
Monday: Grass-Fed Beef and Kidney Bean Chili with Whole Wheat Bread made in our machine
Tuesday: Sloppy Joes made with Grass-Fed Beef and garden tomatoes
Wednesday (Today): We all ate leftovers!  Roast, Spaghetti and Chili
Thursday: Plan to have Chicken marinara made with garden tomatoes and local free range chicken

We are trying to work toward better meal planning!  Tonight we will figure out what we will eat over the weekend.

The next piece of the challenge was to buy in bulk.

We ordered the Azure Stands catalog and plan to order from it in the future when our budget allows!

The last two Steps in the challenge--buy in season and buy single ingredients--no problem since we didn't shop this week!  But we have been doing this since June.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A New Challenge: Real Food For Families

Jenny at Nourished Kitchen has presented her readers with a new challenge: Real Food For Families. We are getting a bit of a late start. Last week the challenge focused on setting up a grocery budget and learning how to plan meals in advance. We have never formally budgeted for food!

Basically, we pay the bills and purchase any other items we need. Then we use what we have left over to spend on food. If it is a tight week we eat thrifty. A not so tight week, we eat better. I am really interested in figuring out just how much we really spend on food! Of course learning from Jenny and all of her readers in the forums will be the best part!

Using the USDA's cost of food plan, my family of four is allotted 144.70 per week or 627.00 per month on the thrifty plan. We have two teenage boys in our home so we get a bit more to spend.

Fixed Monthly Expenses: $259

* Beef from the 1/2 beef we purchased this summer (23 lbs/month): $75
* Egg Share (4 dozen): $16
* Butter purchased from US Wellness Meats (1#/week): $44
* Produce Share (1 large box full/week): $124

TOTAL Fixed Costs: $259

Flexible Monthly Expenses:

* Produce: $150
* Pantry Items & Fridge Items: $150

Total Flexible Costs: $300

$68 under budget--we will see if we stay under budget!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Giveaway: Stainless Steel Bakeware

The Giveaways on some of the Real Food blogs we follow just keep getting better and better. Check out this Giveaway from Food Renegade.  Enter to win a stainless steel muffin pan and jelly roll pan from Paula's Bread.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Fruity Snacks on the Fly

For this weeks challenge, we chose our electric dryer,since we have already used our sun. We began by buying two bunches of organically grown bananas. After looking about, it became obvious there are many opinions about how thick and how long they should be dried as well as how best to prepare them. Melissa suggested we look up the manual for our particular dryer, A Nesco American Harvest: a cheap unit for all practical purposes; however, cheap things  can sometimes surprise us, so we'll see how it works out. The suggestion bore sweet fruit. A simple process was laid out that reflected similar suggestions by others. Perfect!

We sliced each in thin rounds between one quarter and one eighth-of-an-inch thick. They dried for about nine hours, and Melissa shut it down about 3 am. They tasted great but had the consistency of a thin Lays potato chip. Still, Melissa and or son, Solomon, took full advantage of their easily accesible location; hence, the empty space on the top rack in the picture.

Thus far, it seems the dryer is doing well. Although it looks as if there isn't too much once dried, we filled one quart jar and about a fifth of another.

Encouraged by the results,we chose to dry all our peaches and what bananas we had left: 2. Unlike the earlier batch, we cut them in one quarter to one half inch slices for uniformity and to keep the bananas from drying too quickly. I'm not convinced that will work out, but this is a challenge, right? Below is the result.

The last picture shows the total gained from the last two days of drying. Last night about 5 pm, the dryer appeared to die. My first thought was "Bloody cheap dryer, figures it would die now!" To our relief, we were wrong. It turns out  it will turn itself off if it gets too hot--what a novel idea! * smirking* The peaches lost almost all their thickness but only a shred of their taste, and as we had hoped, the bananas didn't  turn out like chips again; in fact, unlike the peaches, they held most of their thickness, but I think they lost a bit more of their flavor.

All in all, this experience was a great success! We learned some very valuable things from this challenge. Preserving food isn't as complicated as one might think, nor is it as time consuming as we expected. Given practice, the proper hardware, and a developed system, a lot more can be done in the same amount of time. With Fall definitly encroaching into summer's territory, it'll be less challenging to make the most of the harvest this year. Thanks a lot Jenny, it's been a real pleasure.

We wish you all the best,
David and Melissa

Monday, August 30, 2010

Catching Up with Vinegar and Booze

Last week, we expanded our horizons up at our cabin; thus, we missed the vinegar preservation challenge.

However, we'll make up for it this week for whatever it's worth. Last night, we filled two jars with plums and brandy. It wasn't very complicated overall. The organic plums were smaller, and they were a lot harder to pit. As a consequence, we lost more of the meat than we would of liked. In contrast, the second set of plums was easy to pit and went quite smoothly. We chose not to add any sugar to the mix, but we did spice them with cinnamon. We will add some vanilla beans as soon as they arrive in the mail. The whole process took about thirty minutes. We have never tried brandied plums before, so it will be interesting to try one.

For the vinegar challenge, we chose to preserve herbs. Unfortunately, locating organic white vinegar was more difficult than we imagined, so we settled for the basic sort. After picking a handful of Marjoram, Chives, Oregano, and a few sprigs of Parsley, we diced them after removing stems, and then mixed them thoroughly before pouring them into the two jars. Finally warming the vinegar slightly, we topped off each jar and sealed them.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Tomato Experiment: supervised by the sun.

We began thinking we had more tomatoes then we actually had. Everything seen in this picture came from our own vines. Most of them are cherry tomatoes with the first of the larger ones. I dried them six hours the first day and about nine the second. They lost about half their diameter. We added fresh finely chopped basil and a light sprinkling of Italian seasoning. Below is our standing security guard against insect invasion.

With so little created with the first batch, we decided to buy some more to fill a full jar.

We’ve been drying another fourteen non organic tomatoes sliced as suggested – most of our own tomatoes will ripen over the course of the next several weeks.  They have dried about the same amount of time, and hopefully will be finished by Sunday night. With this batch, we chose to season them with dry Basil, Italian Seasoning, Garlic powder, and hint of Curry powder. It’s a real pleasure to find ourselves downwind of them.

After two days, the tomatoes are mere specters of their former selves. They still smell like an Italian kitchen, but there’s no chance of filling a jar with them. On the positive side, this challenge was met with resounding success. The drying process worked wonderfully. They kept their dark red color, brought to the forefront from the pasty green and mustard yellow spices. The final lesson of this challenge— prepare to use a whole lot of them to fill our needs. Even with the extra, we didn’t get near a full jar.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

More About Us

We began researching why and how to eat locally in early spring of this year. Before that, we had tried a number of different dietary systems including Weight Watchers and The Worlds Healthiest Foods; essential guide for the healthiest way of eating, by George Mateljan, which by the way, is the most comprehensive cook book we’ve ever had the pleasure to use.

Melissa and I also began watching a lot of documentaries about food during our search for non-processed food that was not only affordable, but reasonably convenient to create without losing its health benefits. We plucked a virtual harvest of them from Netflix about food: where ours comes from, what is it made of, how is it connected to obesity and other health related issues including ADHD, Autism, GERD, Cancers, and many more. A few of the most eye-opening ones for us were Future of Food, Food Inc, and King Corn. We encourage those of you who are either new to this life style, just curious, or interested in the new studies about the relationship between skyrocketing health issues of adults and children and corporate food processing to watch those three movies listed.

Eating healthy is not just about weight, it’s about longevity. It’s about how different nutrients interact with our bodies and our minds. It’s about producing sustainable energy personally and communally, and for us, it’s also all about self-sufficiency.

In the last eighty years, our communities and our nation as a whole has become increasingly dependent on food supplies from destinations further and further from our backyard. As a result, the quality of these foods becomes more questionable as it is harder to regulate, and as with all things, plant and animal energy diminishes with the passage of time once picked or killed. What we don’t think enough about is what they eat, we eat.

During our tour-de-diets, what we learned is that weight loss and health are not regulated by how much or how little we ingest, but by how fresh, natural, and connected it is to us. By that, I mean organically fed and grown without chemical fertilizers and pesticides (not only poison for them but us as well), inhumane conditions that breed all the same problems for livestock as they do for ourselves , and how close we and our food are chemically. As an example, the geological and chemical makeup of China’s soil is very different from our own. It has a different measure of elements. It has microscopic bugs that they have grown immune to, but we may have not. The same is true of us in relation to them. Each environment shares some similarities but share as many differences. When we move from one place to another, we must re-adapt to different pollution levels, water purity, climate, population, why not the ground itself and that which comes from it?

Recently we invested in our local CSA. From them, we receive one box with a variety of produce from local farms throughout Central Washington. We get a dozen eggs a week as well, and had hoped to be supplied with raw milk. So far, that has not been attainable. We bought half a side of beef in our preferred cuts from Oberg Brothers Natural Beef which we hope to use through the winter, and we have found two good sources of grass fed poultry Tiny's Organic and Crown S Ranch. In addition, while we are not avid pork eaters, our family does enjoy bacon. Until recently, we couldn’t find a reasonably priced source for this until a few weeks back at Crown S-- $9.03 per pound. Wednesday, while collecting our produce and eggs; I also purchased two pounds of their bacon. We’ll test it later this week when we retreat to our cabin.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Preserve The Bounty Challenge: Fermentation

Until this year, I have never, yes never, tried to preserve food. Unless of course, you count freezing leftovers. With our family's new commitment to eat local food as much as possible, my lack of experience with food preservation might be a bit of a problem this winter. With this in mind, I began a bit of research on the net, and bought a couple of books on the subject of food preservation. In addition, I am currently enrolled in the How to Cook Real Food eCourse led by Jenny at Nourished Kitchen. The eCourse includes a lesson on fermenting vegetables, but I wanted to know more, so when Jenny decided to host a challenge related to the preservation of food, I jumped at the chance to sign up.

The Preserve The Bounty Challenge  is a 5-week course. Each week will focus on a different preservation technique, "sun-drying, oil curing, freezing, fermentation and salt-curing – traditional techniques that optimize nutrition and don’t heat up the kitchen like canning." Every Monday, I will blog about our adventure with food preservation.

The first week focused on fermentation. Perfect, especially since I just fermented my first sauerkraut--thanks to Jenny's eCourse.  I am still very new at this, so I  decided to start with something small: Ginger Carrots from Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions.

I had a fresh bunch of carrots from our local CSA. These particular carrots came from Tierra Gardens in Leavenworth, WA.

These carrots made almost eight cups of grated carrots, so I doubled the recipe. I added all of the ingredients in a bowl.

8 cups grated carrots
2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
2 tablespoons sea salt
8 tablespoons whey

Then, I pounded them with a meat hammer and my wooden spoon (I really need to purchase a wooden mallet.) I wasn't getting much juice, so I asked my husband to help, just in case my arms were just wimpy. 

Finally, we packed the mix into our Fermentation Jar that we purchased from Cultures For Health.

Now we leave them at room temperature, and wait three days before we decide whether to make a larger quantity. This gives us time to purchase some larger jars as well.

Eat Red Meat! ...Just don't eat it processed.

A new study published in May of 2010 "found that eating processed meat, such as bacon, sausage or processed deli meats, was associated with a 42% higher risk of heart disease and a 19% higher risk of type 2 diabetes. In contrast, the researchers did not find any higher risk of heart disease or diabetes among individuals eating unprocessed red meat, such as from beef, pork, or lamb."

Watch this video from the Harvard School of Public Health website that explains the findings.

In July, we purchased a half beef from the Oberg Brothers Ranch. We have been enjoying their grass fed beef over the last month and our freezer is still packed. The Ranch is located in the small community of Havillah Washington, a beautiful place with rolling grass and evergreen trees.

While we decided on purchasing from the Oberg Brothers, we have found that there are many sources for beef here in Central Washington.  Check out Eat Wild to find other sources for Grass Fed Meat, Eggs and Dairy.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Eggs and Turkey

We just learned of a source for eggs and turkey here in Central Washington.  Magler Farms in Quincy, WA has both duck and chicken eggs available.  They are also now taking orders for Heritage Turkeys at $6.50/lb.  This is actually a really good deal based on some shopping around that we have done.  We will be reserving our turkey for Thanksgiving this Friday if they still have some available!  I can't wait to taste our first grass-fed turkey!!