Photo: Great grandparents at their farm in Blandinsville, IL, with five of their six children .. my grandpa was yet a twinkle in grandma's eye. Stable boy and governess also pictured. Hodges farm, circa 1903-4

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Bone Health ..

I've written about the benefits of making your own beef and chicken stock before.  When we purchase our beef from a local ranch, I always ask for about 15 pounds of bare bones cut in 2 inch pieces (no meat).  These get roasted (approx. 5 lbs at a time and the rest are frozen until needed) in a moderately hot oven (400F) for two hours in a roasting pan .. then added to my enamel canning kettle with 5 quarts of water, 4 large yellow onions, quartered and skins left on, a pound of whole carrots (don't peel) .. and a head of celery (I used the woody parts and leaves from my garden crop) .. NO SALT.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 12 hours .. adding water if necessary to end up with 5 quarts of liquid.  After defatting and straining the liquid, it can be frozen or canned for later use.  This year I canned it due to limited space in my freezer.  When refrigerated is congeals .. so you know that it's got lots of nutritional properties.

chicken stock
It always amazes me after making soup and consuming this broth for several weeks, that I notice less and less aches and pains .. and cricks in my bones.  My shoulder injury from a year ago spring is healed as well.

For chicken stock, buy whole chickens and save the backs and wing tips.  Freeze wrapped individually in plastic wrap until you have about 8-9.  Fill a canning kettle with the frozen bones, 3-4 onions, carrots, and celery .. you can add a few herbs too .. NO SALT.  This doesn't take nearly as long to make as beef stock, as you don't have to roast the bones, and it cooks in about 3-4 hours on the stove top.  Defat, strain and store same as the beef broth in freezer or by canning.

Forget those little bouillon cubes and broth in a can from the market.. make your own broth from bones that most people throw away.

Be sure when freezing to use freezer safe containers.  I prefer to use straight sided glass jars (without narrow openings as these will crack), leaving about an inch or two for expansion as it freezes.

Broth is beautiful

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Seed Saving, Ginger and Garlic

This is our first year saving our garden seeds.  We purchased organic and or open pollinated seeds and used some given to us by neighbors.  I was amazed to see that our bush beans (the seeds were burgundy red) have produced speckled white-ish-pink seeds.  We have our tomato seeds soaking in little jars of water to help get the 'slime' off of them.  Peas (bush, sugar snap & sweet) are packaged .. along with a host of other types.  It will be interesting to see what they produce next year.

Last spring I planted a small 'finger' of organic ginger in a small pot with potting soil.  It was kept indoors and produced a two foot palm-leaf looking green shoot.  I watered it once in a while .. and last week dug up the ginger to see what was growing.  It was double in size with several small nubs growing .. and roots.  The biggest portion was broken off and two nubs replanted in the pot.  It tasted amazing added to some cooked apple topping for our French toast this morning.  I will store it in the freezer and use a fine grater as needed.

Last fall I planted Spanish rojo garlic bulbs.  They produced small heads of great tasting hardneck variety, and is a good choice for cold climates.  They are supposed to store well, too.  After reading a blog post at Down To Earth last week about imported garlic from China, it's nice to have our own supply.  If you are concerned about eating healthy AND love garlic, it's a must read article.  If you don't grow your own garlic, buy organic or garlic from California.  I was shocked to read that my large jug of sliced-dehydrated garlic from Costco (McCormick brand) says product of China in fine print on the back.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Economical Cooking 101

Mrs. Mac's fresh herb container
There was a time when I'd pour over cookbooks and recipes, buying specific ingredients for meals.  Alas .. since taking up gardening, I rarely pull out a book .. except, perhaps, for a bread or canning recipe.  With a supply of fresh and dried garden herbs, and the pantry/freezer filled from the harvest, most of our meals are cooked from the bounty, locally raised meats, and staples such as single ingredients.   This type of cooking is never the same twice; forever changing.  Instead of relying on store bought boxed/canned goods, usually loaded with preservatives and cheaply made ingredients, it is much easier to just put a meal together by using basic (fairly simple) cooking techniques.

Recently for dinner I made Mexican quiche topped with shredded cabbage and diced cherry tomatoes & green onions.  Everything pulled quickly from the fridge & pantry. The Mexican part of the meal came from corn tortillas .. and a little bit of extra taco meat & beans from a meal several days ago.  With the price of food .. leftovers get turned into something brand new.  Hubby raved about the meal several times .. thinking I had used a new recipe.  Cooking off the cuff or from scratch with what is on hand and without a written recipe .. is a good economical skill to master and gets easier as time passes.  This type of cooking does not involve extensive meal planning, is more nutritious and contains more fiber.  Now that the freezer and pantry are stocked, our food bill is shrinking.  We could go for many weeks without having to set foot into the market. 

Mexican Quiche

Preheat oven to 350F
Serves 3-4

3-4 corn tortillas
2 tsp. cooking oil
5 eggs
2 Tablespoons half-&-half (or milk)
1/4 tsp. chili powder
1/4 tsp thyme (or your favorite green herb)
one diced jalapeno pepper
1/2 cup taco meat and/or refried beans

1/4 cup shredded cheese (I used mozzarella .. but cheddar would be good)
1 cup diced/shredded cabbage
1/2 cup diced tomatoes
sprinkle of green onions (or chopped red onion)
salt & pepper optional

In a medium 10 inch cast iron skillet heat oil and cook the tortillas flat over med-high heat until tender (barely crisp).  Turn off heat.  Arrange the tortillas so a little of the edges go up the side of the pan.  Beat the eggs, half-&half, chile powder, thyme and jalapeno.  Dollop the meat/beans in small spoonfuls over the tortillas .. and sprinkle cheese over the meat.  Turn the heat on medium and add the egg mixture cooking undisturbed for a just a minute or two until the bottom is 'set' .. Put the pan into the preheated oven and bake until the eggs are set on top (3-5 minutes).  Carefully remove the pan and top with cabbage, tomatoes and onions.  Cut into wedges and serve with salsa and or a little sour cream on top if desired.

What is your strategy for frugal cooking?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

2011 Garden .. It's A Wrap

Today was the last day harvesting in the garden before we get our first predicted frost.  I was also canning tomato sauce, watching my little grandson and cleaning up from hosting my oldest daughter's baby shower on Sunday.  That left a very slim window of time to pick the last of the raspberries and stash uprooted/re-potted celery, peppers and parsley ... along with potted geraniums and herbs into the garage to deal with in a few days.  Our apples were carefully picked and have been stored wrapped in tissue paper in the cool basement.  It smells wonderful every time I walk into the storage room.

The past few days were peak for autumn colors in the yard.  I even brought in a few boughs of maple leaves to use as 'floral' arrangements for the baby shower.  This year the sweet peas I planted produced an abundance of blooms .. they are one of my favorite flowers to pick and bring indoors.  All of the seed pods were harvested to plant next year.

It really does take many years of practice to have gardening become second nature .. even then there is something new to learn.  I have not gotten up to speed with extending the growing season using protective coverings .. perhaps when hubby retires he will lend a hand and the end of gardening season won't be as demanding (not).

For now, we have more food stored away than any previous years.  It was a lot of work keeping up with canning and freezing.  Who knows, maybe I'll have time to start blogging again :)

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Hurry Up Already

I'm trying to get all of our fruit and vegetables processed before my upcoming trip.  Hubby won't know what to do if twenty pounds of tomatoes ripen .. or that the apples should be picked carefully without bruising .. or our second batch of raspberries is ripening up and should be picked before the frost hits.  I've got two days to get this work done .. and pack .. and get my hair cut .. and, and, and ..

Today I roasted Roma tomatoes and garlic .. then canned four quarts.  The berries got turned into a nice raspberry cordial.  All the apples are picked waiting for??? Sauce, storage, etc.  Only 40 lbs of tomatoes to go and I'm done til next week.

Adios ..

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Food Prepping

... to leave a good supply of home goodness while I'm away.  Hubby is in charge of the homestead next week.  This means he will buy grocery items from the middle of the store .. the worst offenders laden with chemicals and over processed .. unless I leave a good supply of baked breads, and some meals he can set out to defrost and heat up for dinner.  I'm sure even after my baking and cooking efforts have taken place, he will hit the store a few times.  He is not a foodie and often eats what's convenient.  I did leave STRICT instructions that a trip to McDonald's is forbidden; at least for Nathan.  Last night he started taking notes about meal preparations.  When asking how to cook pasta, I said, 'read the label' .. He seemed rather excited about buying a box of Eggo waffles .. but alas, I shall break that little bubble and make homemade freezer waffles.  I'm sure he's not alone as far as hubbies that don't know how to cook.  Maybe home economic courses in healthy eating should be mandatory for both boys and girls .. and heaven forbid the U.S.  government get involved .. if you ever take a peek at school lunches served according to their guidelines, then they might as well eat at Micky-D's.  Rant over.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

Egg - less

We have been going through the local eggs hubby buys from a co-worker; the new chickens are young and the eggs are smaller.  I had to buy a carton of local eggs from the health food store at more than double the cost.  After last year's tainted egg outbreak with big ag companies, I just can't bear to buy mass produced eggs.  Can you believe I'm already thinking about where I'll buy my eggs in two years when hubby retires?  Maybe by then our neighborhood will allow backyard chickens  .. although I'm not sure I have the energy to take on another 'project.'

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Summer .. a fading memory

We had a nice end of summer in the North Woods.  Warm temps allowed some tomatoes and peppers to ripen on the vine.  There were still plenty of green tomatoes to pick and box to ripen in the cool temps of the basement.  Rain has arrived and I've not quite got the garden tucked away for winter.  All of the tomato plants have been pulled.  My goal is to get some of the pepper and herb plants dug up and potted to bring in during the winter.  Gardening in the new raised beds was a good learning experience, provided to our food supply ...  and added a beautiful view from my back windows.  Adding the fine bark around the raised beds cut my weeding down 95% .. well worth the investment.  End of summer work is .. well endless!  I'm glad that autumn has arrived and I can s.l.o.w. down the pace.

Enjoy the day!