Saturday, December 31, 2011

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!!!

2011 was a great year for us.  We finally finished "remodeling" our house, we bought chickens, fell even more in love (if that's possible), went on a couple cruises, planted a garden that didn't produce much (guess that happens sometimes), started a much to name.  

I'm looking forward to 2012!  I am so grateful for another year with my husband...words can't describe.  Plus, our baby will be born this year!  

I hope you have an amazing 2012 also.

Love, the happy homesteaders

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Homemade Ranch Dip Mix

Ok, so, I like ranch dip and I wanted to learn how to make it myself so I could make it healthier.
Here it is!
1Tb dried parsley
1/2 tsp garlic
1tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp salt

Mix that together and add it to 3/4c of plain, organic yogurt.

Then stick a carrot in it and enjoy!
As you can see, I had already eaten a bunch!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Oats, Honey, Peanut Butter and Yumminess

This super easy dessert is sooo good and good for you!  Here's how you do it:

Melt together 1/2c peanut butter, 1/3c honey and 1/4c coconut oil.
Like this:

Then stir in 1c oats.  Like this:

After that is complete, spread it into an 8x8 pan to chill.  (or a 9x11 or a pie plate or whatever you want.  It's your dessert.  Don't let anyone tell you how to spread it.)
I'm a rebel spreader.
Chill for 2 hours.

If you like variation, add some nuts, coconut, celery (not really)...


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

It's Christmas!!!  I really like this time of year!  I hope you have a GREAT holiday....and avoid the marshmallow cream and nitrate ham....just kidding.  sort of. 

Friday, December 23, 2011

Why Must Hens Molt?

Raising laying hens is interesting.  I grew up with dogs (inside dogs) not with hens.  So, now I'm learning a lot.  I started getting concerned several months ago when one of our hens looked like she had the mange.  After discussing it with Grandpa, I learned that she was molting.  Now, several of our hens are molting.

Apparently, this happens each year.  They lose their feathers, grow new ones, and usually stop laying during this time.  So, the definition of molting is:  ridiculous looking birds that produce no food.

This isn't our hen but you get the idea.

When will this be over?!  We're getting about one egg every couple days.  In fact, we actually went to the store and bought some organic, free range eggs to use in baking.  bummer.

I didn't know how good I had it this summer!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Meat Washed in Acid

I recently read about a new company coming to our state.  It will create many new jobs (which is always great) but I was very interested in this particular company.  The article states that the facility will produce peroxyacetic acid that will be used to sanitize meat and poultry to reduce or eliminate pathogenic organisms such as E. coli and salmonella. 

I have previously written about the problems with big industry meat.  Here is an excerpt from my article:

"The [supermarket] beef contains traces of hormones, antibiotics and other chemicals that were never produced by any cow. That hamburger looks fresh, but it may be two weeks old and injected with gases to keep it cherry red. Take a closer look at that “guaranteed tender and juicy” filet of beef. The juiciness may have been “enhanced” with a concoction of water, salt, preservatives and other additives.
More ominous, the beef also may be infected with food-borne bacteria, including E. coli 0157:H7. Some experts believe this toxic E. coli evolved in cattle that were fed high-grain diets. Every year, hundreds of thousands of pounds of beef products are recalled. One of the largest recalls to date took place in October 2007 when Topps Meat company recalled 21.7 million pounds of hamburger because of potential E. coli contamination. The massive recall actually put the company out of business." MotherEarthNews
 So, why do we need a company to manufacture peroxyacetic acid to wash our meat?  Because those who produce the supermarket meat do not raise the animals the way they were intended.  They feed them diets they wouldn't normally eat in nature and that creates "pathogenic organisms" which then need to be killed by washing the meat in peroxyacetic acid. 

In conclusion, if you can find grass fed beef at a farmer's market, buy it. 

Monday, December 19, 2011

Pregnancy- Week 21

I can't believe it!  I'm already 21 weeks pregnant!  Time flies...sort of.  I can't believe I'm already this far along but then again April seems like a long time from now.  I'm really enjoying it though.  It's fun to feel the baby move.  The baby moves all the time so if it's moving while I'm eating I tell Mr. Right it's because the baby likes carrots, steak, or whatever I'm eating.  I know that's not true but it's fun anyway.

I've been careful about food for two years now but I think about it even more now that I'm pregnant.  It's different when I know the baby is growing off of what I eat.  So, even though homemade cinnamon rolls are beyond yummy, sometimes even good things can be bad!  It's time for less cinnamon rolls and more veggies with ranch dip.  Have I told you how to make that yet!?

From Mr. Right's dad- just waiting for baby!
We'll find out the gender in about a month and I can't wait!  Until then, I'll continue to call the baby "baby" and enjoy the movements!

Time for carrots and ranch.  yum....!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Is All Cocoa Powder Created Equal?

I like to make hot chocolate and many other chocolate things.  That got me to natural is the cocoa I buy?

 Cocoa powder is made when chocolate liquor is pressed to remove three quarters of its cocoa butter.  The remaining cocoa solids are processed to make fine unsweetened cocoa powder.   There are two types of unsweetened cocoa powder: natural and Dutch-processed.
Dutch-Processed or Alkalized Unsweetened Cocoa Powder is treated with an alkali to neutralize its acids. It has a reddish-brown color, mild flavor, and is easy to dissolve in liquids.   Droste, Lindt, Valrhona, Poulain and Pernigotti are some popular brands.

Natural Unsweetened Cocoa Powder tastes very bitter and gives a deep chocolate flavor to baked goods.  Its intense flavor makes it well suited for use in brownies, cookies and some chocolate cakes.  Popular brands are Hershey's, Ghirardelli, and Scharffen Berger. from here
How is cocoa powder made?
Cocoa beans are roasted, then ground to a paste. Afterward, the thick paste is pressed between hydraulic plates, which squeezes out about half of the excess cocoa butter. (Cocoa beans are about 50% fat.) What’s left is a hard disk of cocoa powder, which is then grated into a fine powder. Most cocoa powders are between 20-22% fat, which is why most low-fat chocolate desserts call for cocoa powder. found here
So, in a sense, all cocoa powders are created equal.  It doesn't seem like one is made more naturally than the other which is good....because....I like my hot chocolate!  :)

Friday, December 16, 2011

The Skinny on Flour Types

I've heard of different kinds of flour like rye, spelt, etc but I didn't know what they were.  So, I looked it up.  Here's the skinny:
All-purpose Flour
All purpose flour has a medium protein content that makes it suitable for most baking uses.
Arrowroot Flour
This flour is made from the fleshy root stock of the tropical arrowroot plant. Its white, fine, and powdery texture is very similar to cornstarch but it has no flavor at all. It is typically used as a thickener for puddings, sauces and other cooked foods.
Barley Flour
Barley flour is made from barley ground very finely.  It is rich in protein, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, iron, and B vitamins.  
Bean/Legume Flours
Made easily by grinding all types of beans, this flour can be used to enhance the flavor and health benefits of your breads, and they also make easy soups and dips.
Bread Flour
The best flour for bread making, it is ground from hard wheat. It has a high protein (gluten) and low starch content.
Brown Rice Flour
Ground from brown rice, this flour has a slightly sweet flavor. It is used alone or combined with wheat flour in breads and batters.
Buckwheat Flour
Buckwheat flour is ground from the seeds of a plant originating in Asia, has an earthy, slightly sour flavor that is usually tempered in commercial products by the addition of a little wheat flour.
Corn Flour
A yellow, finely ground version of cornmeal, corn flour is used to add a mild corn taste and a pleasing texture to baked goods.
Millet Flour
Made from a small round grain resembling mustard seed, this flour has a slight nutty flavor.
Oat Flour
Oat flour is a fine flour ground from dried oats, has a characteristic nutlike flavor. It is used in combination with wheat flour.
Pastry and Cake Flours
Pastry flour is lighter and has a lower protein level of ~9-10% as opposed to ~ 12-13% found in bread flour. The soft, flakiness of pie crust is attributable to the softer flour. Cake flour is lighter than all purpose flour.
Potato Flour
This is a gluten-free flour made from cooked, dried and ground potatoes. It is mostly used as a thickener. It is also known as potato starch.
Rice Flour
This very fine powdery flour is made from pulverized long-grain or glutinous rice, used to thicken cakes and puddings as well as to make noodles and very fluffy breads.
Rye Flour
Rye flour is a fine flour ground from grains of rye grass, a close relative of wheat. It has a slightly sweet-sour flavor.
Self Rising Flour
Self-rising flour contains 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon salt for each cup of flour.
Semolina Flour
Semolina flour is made from the finely ground endosperm of Durum wheat.  Usually used in pasta making, it is a tasty, high protein addition to breads.
Seven-grain (or nine-grain) Flour
Seven-grain flour is a commercial blend commonly made up of millet, rye, corn, wheat, barley, oats, and flax or triticale. It is found in health-food stores and well-stocked markets.
Spelt Flour
This flour is lighter in protein and more easily digested than regular wheat flours.  This flour is sometimes known as Farro.
Whole Wheat Flour
Whole wheat four is made from milling the entire wheat berry.  it is brownish in color.
This was slightly adapted from here

Now you know!  So the next time someone tries to get fancy and talk about spelt flour you can join in.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Homemade Cinnamon Rolls

I didn't realize homemade cinnamon rolls were so important to my husband until this weekend.  We were out of town and stopped in this bread/kitchen store to look around.  They had fresh cinnamon rolls straight from the oven and ready to buy.  We didn't get any, of course, because we don't eat half of the ingredients they put in it.  That started a challenge from Mr. Right.  He wanted me to master the cinnamon roll.  So, as soon as we got home, I began trying.  I didn't take a photo of the first batch I need in embarrassing myself.  However, I got a few pointers from Grandpa and went for round two with a new recipe.

Ohhhhhh brother!  They were yummy!  Here they are:


baked and iced
I used the homemade wheat hamburger bun recipe and instead of cutting them out for buns I rolled the dough thin, covered it in organic butter, sucanat and cinnamon then rolled it into a jelly roll.  Then I sliced it and put it in the pan to rise.  They rose for about 15 mins, then baked for 15.

The icing is a cup of cane juice crystals that I processed to powder.  Then I added enough milk to make a fairly thick icing.

You HAVE to try this.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

My Secret Hot Chocolate

My secret hot chocolate recipe comes from the back of the Hershey's cocoa container.  Not very secret, huh?  Actually, I modified it because I think Hershey's is trying to give you a sugar high.

Here's how it goes:
2 tsp sucanat (or whatever sugar you use)
2 tsp cocoa
1 cup milk (We use almond milk.  Oh, how I wish I had a milk cow....or a goat...)

Warm all ingredients in a pot on the stove. (Give up the microwave.  You know you should.)  Make sure your sucanat dissovles. chocolate.  Skip the marshmallows.  You know those aren't natural.

You can't get goodness like this out of a package.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Cheater French Toast

I know there is a proper way to make French toast but I like to cheat.

After you make those ooohhh sooo yummy homemade hamburger buns, cut one open, butter it, add some cinnamon and sucanat then toast it.  Ah.  Now, that's beautiful in the morning.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Making Sour Dough Bread

The original recipe came from Above Rubies but I've modified it for a smaller army. (This recipe makes one loaf.)
You'll need:
2c home grown starter
3 1/4c whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp sea salt
1 1/2c filtered water

Add all ingredients to a big bowl.  "Knead" with a wooden spoon.  This dough is much wetter than any dough you're accustomed to so it can't be kneaded on the counter top.  Knead for 5-10 minutes.  It will look gooey.  It's supposed to have an oatmeal, goo consistency. 

Put the dough in a buttered pan to rise.  I let mine rise for seven hours.  If yours gets big before that, then bake it sooner.  However, seven hours is a good rise.  Keep in mind when you're mixing it that you'll be baking in seven hours so make sure it's not ready to bake in the middle of the night!  I usually mix mine in the morning and bake in the afternoon. 

Bake at 350 degrees for one hour.  That seems like a long time for one loaf of bread so I kept checking it.  Sure enough, it took one hour.  However, I did cover it with foil after 30 minutes so the top wouldn't get too brown.

After 7 hours of rising

All done!  I made that hole as I was checking it during baking.

Cooling as Mr. Right waits impatiently...

Ready to eat.  It was sooo delicious.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Our Family "Pet" (Part III) -It Worked!

I'm impressed.  Who would have thought you could catch wild yeast from the air to make bread?  Not me!  But you can.  I did it and it made beautiful, sour dough bread.  Here's what you do- sterilize a non metal bowl by pouring boiling water over it.  Then mix a 1/4 cup flour (I use whole wheat) and a 1/4 cup water (filtered if possible).  Cover with a breathable cloth and leave it sitting on your counter.  Each day for seven days, switch it to a new, sterilized, non metal bowl and add a 1/4 cup flour and a 1/4 cup water.  After seven days, you should have caught your yeast and your starter will be done.

Note: NEVER use metal bowls or utensils with your starter.  Also, wild yeast is more prolific in some areas than others.  So, you'll just have to give it a try to see if you can catch some.

My starter now lives in this home.  Now that it's started, feed it each day and give it a new, sterilized home once a month.  I wrote a date on mine so I wouldn't forget to give it a new home.

You can also check out Part I & Part II.

Start yours today!

Note:  You're ready to bake when you have 2 1/4 total cups of starter.  You'll need 2 cups for the recipe and 1/4 left over to continue growing.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Our Family "Pet"- Part II

Well, it's day four and the sour dough bread starter seems to be improving.  Maybe it's working?  I started it a few days ago with high hopes.  My hopes were even higher this morning when I discovered tiny little bubbles in it.  Is it supposed to look like this?

I sure would like some yummy bread by Monday...

Friday, December 2, 2011

Canning Apple Pie Filling

So, we bought a ton of apples and I needed to do something with them.  I decided to can apple pie filling.
Here's what you do.  Start by rinsing your apples...

Then make them magically turn into this:

Now, make the syrup:
10c water
2 tsp guar gum
3c sucanat
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 Tb vinegar
cook until it looks syrupy.
Like this:
That's before I stirred in the guar gum...

 Then add, 35c apples and 3 Tb vinegar. Cook 10-15 minutes.

 Fill your jars to just below the rings.

 Put the lids and rings on.

Put all the jars in the hot water bath for 10 minutes.

And viola!  You've got canned apple pie filling!  I had some leftover syrup so I went ahead and canned that too.  I didn't want to waste it!  (I didn't start off with exactly 35c apples.)

Now, we can have some yummy apple pies during the winter.  That makes Mr. Right happy. :)

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Great Chicken Light Debate

As the winter months set in, laying hens usually don't lay as much.  I knew that but seeing it in your own backyard is devastating because, well, I reaaallly like eggs.  What to do?  Grandpa keeps a light on in his hen house 24/7.  Many people do that so the hens will keep laying.  Supposedly, laying hens need about 14 hours of sunlight or their bodies kind of go into winter mode.  Obviously, this is natural.  What isn't natural is that there are six laying hens living in my backyard that I am feeding and caring for so I want eggs!

So, here's the debate....should we put a light in their coop so they might keep laying or let them have their down time?  Decisions, decisions....

Oh, how I miss you all.