A Step in The Right Direction – Reflecting Back on 2011

I do believe that 2011 completely changed how I chose to live – less consumerism and baby steps towards self-sustainability was where my heart was. It really started because I wanted to avoid all processed foods and the nasty ingredients that they all contain: GMO’s, high fructose corn syrup, MSG, and hydrogenated oils. I also wanted to eliminate chemicals in our cleaning products and personal care items. Now, reflecting back I see just how much I actually changed.

The garden was not much to brag about. I had good intentions but the turkeys benefitted the most. Another one of those ‘live & learn’ moments. (One needs to securely fence the garden)  Lets just say, they ate really well!

  •  Raw Milk – Nothing compares to raw milk or the healthiest nutrition for your body.
  • Grass-Fed Beef – in total this past year we purchased 3/4 of a cow. It was a commitment financially, but overall it is a per pound savings. Especially for the quality and health benefits.
  • Home raised: Turkeys – this was an experience and we will definitely raise more this year. After an unpleasant ‘store bought’ turkey for our 2010 Christmas dinner, we made the decision to raise our own. Fed totally organic feed and allowed to free range our back yard, they were absolutely the best turkey we have ever eaten. They weren’t injected with salt water or ever given antibiotics.  We did get many comments about how could we eat our ‘pets’! They were fun to watch grow up, but it was always with the intention of what their fate was to be.
  • Eggs –  Not a new change but noteworthy. We have had eggs from our own backyard for over 3 years now and I just can’t go back to store bought, anemic eggs. Once you have ‘free range’ , ‘cage free’ eggs you don’t realize just how bad the store bought eggs are.

Other notable changes I made was to make homemade versions of what I used to buy.

 In the Kitchen:

  • BBQ Sauce – the best we have ever tasted
  • Breads: Artisan, Sourdough, Hamburger/Hot Dog, Breadsticks, English Muffins, Tortillas
  • Broths: chicken and beef
  • Chocolate Syrup
  • Ketchup
  • Kimchi
  • Mayonnaise – so easy and made with healthy oils
  • Salad Dressings: Vinaigrettes with my chive vinegar, Blue Cheese, Ranch, Thousand, Caesar…..you name it, I made it.
  • Pepperoni
  • Rendered: Lard and Tallow for use in cooking
  • Sausage
  • Sauerkraut
  • Spice Mixes: Season Salt, Taco Seasoning etc
  • Stevia Extract
  • Vanilla Extract
  • Yogurt – made from the raw milk

 Household Cleaning – you can make cleaning supplies for pennies and they won’t be harmful to you or the environment.

  • Laundry Detergent
  • All purpose spray cleanser
  • Liquid Dish Soap

Personal Care – It is amazing how much you can save by making simple daily use items and many from ingredients from the kitchen or craft room.

  • Bar Soap
  • Shampoo Bars
  • Deoderant – for me, not the hubby yet!
  • Toothpaste – again for me…..I am the quinea pig for the ‘science experiments’ it seems…..
  • Hard Lotion Bars
  • Dusting Powder
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Foaming Liquid Hand Soap
  • Healing Calendula Salve

What’s ahead for 2012? Future posts to include recipes and/or links to the above ~smile~!

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL!

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HAVE A HEART……

With all the information I have read about the benefits to a nutrient dense diet and grass-fed organ meat, I decided it was time to add it to our meal plans. We were fortunate to find a local source for some good, grass-fed beef and on the day of slaughter my husband and I went to the farm to help bag up the organ meat. He was a good sport about the whole thing and I was secretly hoping that by being ‘up close and personal’ with all the organs he may consider actually eating some of it. Four cows were slaughtered right at the farm and we washed and bagged up kidneys, hearts, tongues, and livers. I wanted to bring home a tongue, but that wasn’t gonna fly, however I did bring home about 3 lbs of liver and a 3 1/2 lb heart. Of course NOW he said maybe we should have gotten a tongue too! Oi…I should’ve just done it…..

I haven’t cooked any of the liver yet, mainly because I get a groan whenever I mention the possibility of eating some of it. Then there is the heart – and it is a big one! It sat in the refrigerator for a couple of days and I honestly didn’t know what to do with it. DH was having a real issue with it staring at him every time he opened the fridge, so I put it in the freezer.

Then, today I read about adding beef heart to ground beef. Just grate 1/4 lb of heart and mix with a pound of ground beef. Do you realize how hard it is to hold a frozen, 3 1/2 lb object and grate it! Especially when you are trying to be a bit sneaky about it…

So, tonight we are having Hamburger Sliders with the secret ingredient!

I’ll let you know how they are!

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Sourdough English Muffins

After my previous post for making sourdough starter, I thought I would give you my favorite thing to make with the starter. These English muffins are so good and just have a couple of ingredients.

Have you looked at the ingredients on store bought muffins? 

Unbleached Enriched Wheat Flour (flour, malted barley flour), Reduced Iron, Niacin, Thiamin Mononitrate (Vitamin B1)Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)Folic Acid]Water, Farina, Yeast, Nonfat Milk, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Salt, Soybean Oil, Preservatives (Calcium Propionate, Sorbic Acid)Soy Flour, Grain Vinegar, Monoglycerides, Whey, Natamycin (a Natural Mold Inhibitor)

Well, I like my ingredients better: flour, water or milk, raw honey, sea salt and baking soda.

Can’t get much more basic than that! I usually make a double batch, slice them, and put in the freezer.

ENGLISH MUFFINS

Makes 8

The night before mix the following:

  • ½ cup sourdough starter (thick or thin)
  • 1 cup liquid (water, whole milk, fermented dairy (kefir or buttermilk), coconut milk, plain yogurt)*
  • 2 cups flour of your choice
  • Optional: seeds, ground flax seeds, dried fruit, or chopped nuts

 Place the ½ cup sourdough starter into a medium size bowl. Add the 1 cup of liquid. Stir to combine the starter and liquid. Add 2 cups flour and optional add-ins. Stir well to combine.

Cover and let rest on your counter overnight or 8 – 12 hours (up to 24 hrs is fine, but not less than 8 hrs.)

*Note: I have found that the English muffins are much more tender on the inside when I have used kefir. If using water, you may need to add a bit more flour initially for easier kneading. If using yogurt, you may need to dilute it a little if it is really thick.

 The next morning add the following:

  • 1 tbls raw honey or any other sweetener
  • 1 tsp sea salt or table salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda

 On top of your soaked dough, sprinkle the salt, baking soda, and honey. Use a wooden spoon to push/cut/stir in your newly added ingredients. Turn out onto a lightly floured OR oiled surface to knead the added ingredients just enough to blend. Do not over knead. If sticky, just put some oil on your hands. Don’t add too much flour.

Pat into a circle and cut into 8 pieces. Gently shape each portion into a disk shape flattening slightly (maybe a finger width high) and place on a lightly floured or cornmealed surface. Cover with a dish towel and let rest for one hour. They will rise slightly. (I have left up to 1 ½ hrs and they were just fine)

 Preheat a griddle or skillet to medium. You don’t want it too hot or the outsides will get too dark and the inside won’t be cooked.

Carefully transfer the muffins onto your pan. Cook for about 5 – 7 mins on each side. They will start to rise a little so turn carefully so you don’t deflate them. Cook another 5 mins or so. Move to a cooling rack.

 They will keep about 5 days and freeze great!

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My Sourdough Journey and Starter Recipe

I have always been intrigued with sourdough, but just a bit intimidated at the prospect of it all. What I have learned this past year is just how easy it is to get started and keep it going. My biggest fear was the starter. I wasn’t sure if I could keep it ‘alive’ and just how attentive was I going to have to be with it. Well, let me tell you, it is very forgiving to say the least. I developed a starter, used it a couple of times, and then kind of forgot it in the back of my refrigerator. I neglected to ‘feed’ it like I read I was suppose to do on a weekly basis. It turned into a separated and not too appealing jar of glop and dark brown liquid…..not too appetizing I might add. I learned this is normal and the dark liquid (called hooch) can just be stirred in or poured off. I poured it off because it isn’t very pretty! I smelled the remaining paste (that’s what it looked like anyway) and it had a pleasant yeasty/sour smell, not at all unpleasant. So, I fed it……and it was HAPPY! It bubbled and grew – I didn’t kill it. That was a year ago and I have now learned just how forgiving and fearless it all is.

My sourdough starters (yes plural) have evolved. I have done three different methods – dehydrated sourdough starter (http://carlsfriends.net/), starter made with pineapple juice and flour (http://www.breadtopia.com/make-your-own-sourdough-starter/), http://www.ehow.com/how_2300269_make-sourdough-starter.html and probably the BEST sourdough course of all http://gnowfglins.com/ecourse/members/ecourses/sourdough has excellent instructions and recipes. I have taken a little from each and have come up with the starter that works the best for me.

GETTING STARTED

  • Pint size, wide mouth, glass jar
  • Stainless or wooden spoon for stirring – just don’t use aluminum, copper, brass.
  • Flour – I use King Arthur White Whole Wheat / Spelt / Rye / occasionally unbleached white (not often), just whatever I happen to have at the time
  • Water – Chlorine free – Mineral / Spring water is good. But instead of purchasing water, I have found that using regular tap water  that has been set out on the counter uncovered for at least 24 hours works perfect. If you forget to set out some water (gee, how do I know this?) you can boil the tap water for 10 minutes and let it cool to room temp before using.

The first day:  Put 1/4 cup flour and 3 Tbls. water in jar. Stir well and scrape down the sides as well as possible. Cover loosely (do not seal) with plastic wrap or cotton cloth (not cheesecloth). Let sit 24 hours at room temp. If your kitchen is on the cold side, you can place in your oven with the light on. I find it does best between 70 -75 degrees.

1st feeding:  add another 1/4 cup flour and 3 Tbls. water. Stir well incorporating air into the mixture. Scrape sides, cover loosely, and set on counter for 12 hours.

2nd feeding: 12 hours later, check for any signs of  ‘life’. You should see bubbles, they may be tiny. If there are no bubbles by now you will need to dump this out and start over. If there are bubbles, continuing feeding your starter the 1/4 cup flour / 3 Tbls water stirring well each time. You can add a little more water if the starter seems too thick. The consistency of  a pancake batter seems to be about right.

3rd – 7th feeding:  at least every 12 hours you will continue feeding BUT remove 1/2 of the starter at each feeding and discard. This will make a strong starter. At about the 4th feeding, I change the type of flour. I alternate with white whole wheat and spelt or occasionally all purpose flour. Although it is not necessary to do this, I find my starter is much more active when I do this. Your starter should begin doubling in size with each feeding.

Once your starter is one week old it is ready to use!

Notes:

  1. At this point you can keep the mature starter out on the counter, between uses, or in the refrigerator. If you are using your starter regularly and leaving it out on the counter, you will need to feed it two times a day. If refrigerating your starter, try to remember to feed it at least once a week.  If you are not ready to use the starter, pour off half, feed, and let it sit out at room temp and let it start bubbling. Once the active bubbling has subsided, cover with a lid and put back in the refrigerator. Don’t tightly cover an active starter.
  2. For a New Starter: Don’t increase the volume of your starter by more than double in one feeding. Once it has been used and has matured, tripling the volume would be fine.
  3. Change out the jar every couple of feedings to prevent dried starter on the sides of the jar and prevent mold.
  4. If you are fermenting / culturing other  items in your kitchen (kombucha or dairy cultures) keep them at least 5 feet apart. You don’t want to cross the molds that ferment each. I use my oven to keep them separated.
  5. Important: when using your starter in a recipe, always keep at least 1/2 cup as your starter culture. You don’t want to have to start the process all over again. Make sure you have enough active starter and build up the quantity you will need for your recipes.

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Zucchini Feta Pancakes

Since we are eating grain free / gluten-free this was an excellent substitute for a starchy vegetable to have with our steak. It would also make a great appetizer for holiday entertaining.

I made a few changes from the original recipe to make it GF friendly and are noted in parentheses.

Zucchini Feta Pancakes

  • 1 lb zucchini, shredded
  • 3/4 tsp  salt, divided (used pink Himalayan sea salt)
  • 1/2 c plain yogurt ( used 1/4 c plain yogurt & 1/4 c creme fraiche)
  •  3 tbls fresh chopped mint leaves
  • 1 small garlic clove, pressed
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 cup  (3 oz) crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup (about 4-6) thinly sliced green onions
  • 3 tbls all-purpose flour (used 1-1/2 tbls coconut flour)
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • Vegetable oil, for frying (used coconut oil)

1. Place zucchini in a cheesecloth-lined strainer, and toss with 1/2 tsp. salt. Let sit 20 minutes, then twist to wring out all possible liquid.

2. Meanwhile, mix together the yogurt &/or creme fraiche, mint, garlic, and remaining 1/4 tsp salt; set aside.

3. Place the drained zucchini in a bowl and toss with the egg, feta, green onions, flour, and pepper.

4. In a skillet, heat 1/4 inch oil over medium heat. When hot (drop a bit of zucchini in to test; if it sizzles, it’s hot), make pancakes using a 1/4 cup measuring cup filled three quarters full (3 tbls) with zucchini mixture. Press down lightly, if needed, to form chubby pancakes 2 1/2 inches in diameter. Cook until browned, about 7 minutes, then flip and cook on the other side. When brown on both sides, remove and place on a plate lined with paper towels to drain. Repeat with remaining batter. The pancakes will be delicate while hot, but will firm up upon standing.

5. Serve with a hefty dollop of the yogurt topping.

Note: these can be prepared in advance; place the cooked and cooled pancakes in the freezer for about 1 hour, until par frozen. Stack in a sealed container. To reheat, place a tray of the frozen pancakes in a preheated 350 degree oven (no need to thaw first), and cook until they begin to sizzle (10 minutes). Serve with the yogurt topping.

This post is part of Real Food Wednesday by Kelly the Kitchen Kop (http://kellythekitchenkop.com/2010/11/real-food-wednesday-111010.html)

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Week Two – GF/GF

Week 2 of GF/GF (grain free/gluten free). I continue to look for recipes that will help us stay on track and still taste good. My husband does miss the ‘old’ lunches and dinners, but is committed to eating to improve his diabetes. Within 3 days of GF/GF he was able to lower his blood glucose numbers dramatically and was able to reduce his dosage of insulin. This has really helped to keep him motivated, which is not an easy task. As for me, I have much more energy and am able to keep my arthritis symptoms at bay. This really helps keep me committed to this way of eating.

Having my weekly plan has been great. It is making grocery shopping easier and eliminates my 4:00 in the afternoon trying to figure out what’s for dinner panic.  My goal is to try at least one new recipe each week and remake my old favorites to stay gluten free. I only have one meal this week that will have gluten / grain and this is because I haven’t figured out a solution to tortillas. I make my own tortillas, however, because I can’t bring myself to buy the store bought version with nearly 20 ingredients – mine only have 4 ingredients, so this compromise is just fine occasionally.

We are lucky enough to have our own chickens for their eggs and get raw milk for making kefir that is used for smoothies, kefir cheese, and salad dressings. The added plus to the raw milk is the cream for our coffee….yum!  This week I will be making mozzarella from the milk for our pizza night!

Breakfasts don’t vary too much. For hubby: Eggs, either hardboiled or scrambled and nitrite/nitrate free bacon or sausage.  For me: Kefir smoothies blended with an egg and frozen fruit.

Lunches: leftover meat (chicken or beef) celery w/cream cheese or natural peanut butter, carrot sticks, almonds, apple or pear.

Meal Plan Monday (11/8 – 11/14/2010)

Monday –  Pan Seared Sirloin Steak, Zucchini Feta Pancakes w/mint & garlic creme fraiche sauce, sauteed mushrooms

Tuesday –  Crockpot Salsa Chicken, Homemade Tortillas, creme fraiche & avocados, green salad

Wednesday – Salmon Patties, steamed veggies, green salad w/sundried tomato vinaigrette

Thursday – Meat Loaf, acorn squash, green salad w/creamy Italian dressing

Friday –  crustless shrimp & crab quiche, green salad w/ vinaigrette

Saturday – homemade Gluten Free Pizza – with homemade mozzarella!

Sunday – either leftovers or breakfast dinner

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Meal Plan Monday

Today begins our NO GRAIN meals and snacks. In addition to eating Real Foods, me mostly eating gluten free, going caffeine free (almost) and now going grain free…..geesh, what’s left?  This latest ‘free’ choice is an attempt to help control and try to reverse my husband’s diabetes. After reading and researching diabetic issues it appears that what the medical professionals and the FDA Food Pyramid DON’T tell you is that by eliminating grains, no meats with nitrites/nitrates, avoiding artificial sweeteners and not eating too much fruit will help to reverse diabetes. Is hubby ready?? We’ll see…..

So in order to make this work, I needed to begin planning our first week of meals and needed to do this with what we have in the freezer and pantry. I focused on dinners, but have also planned some snack items as well.

Monday – Pepper Steak w/wine sauce, Brussel Sprouts, Mushrooms, Green Salad

Tuesday – Pinto Bean Chili w/ground turkey, Green Salad w/Creamy Kefir Ranch

Wedsnesday – Crockpot Roast w/onions, celery, & carrots, Mock Mashed Potatoes (made with cauliflower!)

Thursday – Mexican Chicken Breasts w/ cilantro pesto, black beans, guacamole

Friday – Salmon Patties, Green Salad, Acorn Squash

Saturday – Veggie Frittata, Green Salad w/sundried tomato vinaigrette

Sunday – Left over pot luck   ; )

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