Monday, October 31, 2011

2011 Costumes

Here are the Crew's Halloween costumes this year.

We had a great time trick or treating with a couple of friends and their children. They made quite a long line as they traipsed from door to door!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

This Is Not a Drill

Nor is this picture a set-up. Vic brought Ohren out of his bedroom very carefully so I could see him. He'd climbed into the Tech-Deck Bowl and fallen asleep with his teddy bear. I'm not sure how Ohren got the teddy into the bowl, but he does love it dearly and sleeps near it often.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Jack's a Lego Maniac

Jack has been a Lego maniac again lately. This time, Polly and Troubles and he are separating all the Lego people out of the tubs and arranging them on base plates. I didn't know we had so many Lego dudes! Most were in pieces, so they were carefully rebuilt, with much attention paid to proper uniforms, expressions, attachments and accessories. Details matter to Jack.

Today Jack built a gym.

He created barbells, weight stacks, a bench press station, pull up bar and more. He is so creative! I can't imagine raising this boy without Lego.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

2011 Fall Gardening

The weather is cooling and so it's time to plant winter crops. I've not been all that happy with my western garden bed for winter growing because it gets little sun and so the green grow slowly. I've been planning a new bed for a couple of years and this was the year we did it! Isn't it beautiful?

Below is my older bed. I shoveled much of the dirt from this one into the new bed, since it will be more in use during the winter. At some point we will buy a truckful or two of topsoil and compost to fill it back up. For the winter, I have seeded it with carrots, lettuce and other greens and since I have the eastern garden now, I don't care how slowly they grow. These are just so I have plenty to share with friends and neighbors.

Here's a view of both beds, taken from the north side. The above pictures are from the south side.

I have planted roamine, butterleaf, salad bowl, Swiss Chard, carrots and spinach. I already have cute little sprouts peeking out from my first sowing! Every Monday or Tuesday I plant another couple of feet, so I should be able to have freshly mature greens all winter long.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Apple Days

It's finally apple season in our valley. My Honey took me up to the foothills and we got several boxes of Red and Yellow Delicious and some Bartlett pears, as well. So far I have 28 quarts made, but I'd like to get up to about 100 quarts. I have 2 boxes left to process. In other news, I am running out of places to store jars. :)

Friday, October 21, 2011

Coconut Pancakes

I finally made something with my coconut flour. I made these pancakes and they were pretty good. Not all of the Lambies liked them as much as wheat flour pancakes, but I think they will grow to enjoy them. They are silver dollar sized and only 2 1/2 of them, spread with peanut butter and maple syrup, filled me all day. The recipe is from Home, Health and Happiness.

Coconut Flour Pancakes

8 eggs
1/2 cup coconut flour
1 heavy pinch cinnamon, optional
2tablespoon honey
1/2 cup yogurt
Ghee, butter, or coconut oil for frying

Mix ingredients until smooth and let them sit for five minutes so the coconut flour can absorb the liquids. Put 1 teaspoon fat on griddle and melt over medium heat. When griddle is hot, pour 1 tablespoon of batter on for each pancake. Allow to cook until golden brown, 1-2 minutes on each side. Repeat with the remaining batter, adding the teaspoon of fat each time or as needed to prevent sticking.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

I've Failed...

Failed to keep up here, that is. I've been plenty busy, just haven't been taking pictures. I've built another garden bed, canned a lot, been to a few book sales, I've been babysitting my neighbor's kids more often...I'll try to get back in the groove of taking pics throughout the day.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Making the Food Money Last

The Headmistress and the other Three Moms are blogging about food budgets this week. Even though HM mentioned most of my favorite ideas, I thought I'd share some tips anyway.

I blogged about the discovery of my favorite tip of all here. Go to farmer's market at the very end and offer to buy the perishables that will not make it to the next market day. You can often get lots of goodies. Be prepared to fix, freeze, can, share or otherwise prepare your bounty THAT day. Ripe food turns fast. I also ask different vendors for canning specials. Often they have bins of blemished fruit that they will sell inexpensively.

Learn to can! It is not inexpensive to begin, by any means, but Craig's List, garage sales and word of mouth can get you jars for little to nothing. Ask for canning supplies for your birthday, anniversary or Christmas presents. For water bath canning, all that's needed is a large pot and the basic canning tools. A pressure canner is more expensive, but priceless for making meals in a jar that will save many dollars when you need a dinner and you need it fast. I like my harvest yellow Presto canner. The new ones that you can get are flimsy and won't stand the test of time.

Put out the word that you will pick fruit trees. I have a list of folks whose trees I pick yearly. We get the surplus fruit to eat, can or bake with, they get a clean yard and don't have to watch the fruit moldering. I take canned goods to them as a thank you.

Buy meat that is marked down at the grocery store. I would love to buy organic, but I simply can't afford it. I watch for 25% and 50% off stickers and buy up as much as I can. Most goes into the freezer, some is eaten for dinner that night or the next and some shared with others. Use whole chickens rather than parts. Make your own broth. Use the bones from the meat you buy for beef stock. Collect vegetable trimmings in a freezer bag and use that for stock making rather than fresh produce.

Buy very little packaged "food". Meat, eggs, veggies, fruit. This is all we need to be healthy.

Grow a garden. It doesn't have to be more than some buckets alongside the garage. Lettuce is very easy to grow and will grow all year round in many places. Tomatoes grow like weeds in the summer. One zucchini plant supplies my entire family for most of the summer.

Make condiments from scratch. You can save SO much money, they taste ever-so-much better and have no mystery ingredients. I have many recipes here and here.

Cook your meals from scratch. Make the ingredients for your from scratch meals from scratch! For example, prepare dried beans rather than using canned (unless you canned them yourself), chop veggies rather than using frozen, cut stew meat out of an inexpensive roast rather than buying it pre-cut. You can think of many other purchased boxes and cans you can eliminate by making basic ingredients yourself.

Have a crockpot of beans prepared at all times to feed your hollow-legged teenagers. This has saved me tons of food dollars as my boys go through growing spurts.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Harvest Time!

The Farmer's Market surplus harvest season has begun! Two weeks in a row now, I have been able to get large flats of green beans and peaches. I now have my goal for the year (as far as green beans go) met! I finished 21 quarts last week and 28 this week. With what I had canned earlier from my picking at a friend's garden, I am over 52 quarts. I made 20 pints of Vanilla Peach Blueberry Jam on Sunday. I have just about all the different peach jams I had hoped to make done. The freezer has many gallon bags filled with sliced fruit for smoothies, too.

On the canning docket for the rest of the week: making chicken broth with the carcass of the chicken we got Saturday, canning the Peach Honey that finished cooking today, making Chili con Carne with my friend M. who wants to learn how to pressure can, Mock Pineapple and maybe some Banberry Jam. I have to convert this recipe to Pomona pectin before I make it. I love these cooler days when canning is a pleasure!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Farm Fresh Poultry (with bonuses)!

I found a source for local poultry for a reasonable price recently. I am very excited about it, as we eat a lot of chicken and I want to feed my family the cleanest meat I can.

Today was my pickup day. When I went to the farmer's market this morning, my poultry guy said that he had picked out two special chickens for me, but the killing team wasn't quite to them when he had to leave. He made arrangements to pick them up and bring the to me in the afternoon. WOW! Clean meat and superb customer service!

When we met up later, he handed me my bag and said that since I had asked for feet to be included, he had told that to the killing team. They packed a few extra in my bag since so few ask for them. I love to add them to my broth for extra flavor and gelatin. When I got the bags home and began putting things away, I found a surprise. If dead chicken offends you, stop reading here, for beyond is photographic evidence of my fortune.

They included the heads, too!

There were actually 10 feet, already cleaned, and 10 heads, also clean, along with all the internal organs except the intestines. I am very pleased. The livers were large, beautifully colored and healthy. The hearts were bright and ready for dissection. My anatomy students are well-pleased to have a bonus project for Monday.

I did a chicken anatomy lesson on-the-fly, since we had a neighbor child over who had never seen the feet and heads, let alone the insides of a real chicken. He didn't want to touch anything, but he did listen intently. I also pulled a tendon in the feet to make the toes move. We just learned about tendons on Thursday, so that was very timely. It also brought to mind a story.

I wonder if he will tell his parents about what he saw at Mrs. Mommaofmany's house today? hehehe

I also have to share this hilarious photobomb that I caught. Jack makes the best faces. He often makes us laugh at his accidental expressions in pictures. This one was far from accidental, but too funny!

Chicken Stock

4 pounds chicken pieces, including necks and backs

2 or more chicken feet, if desired (they REALLY improve the flavor and nutrition of the broth)

1 large onion, quartered

4 carrots, washed and chunked

4 ribs celery, cut in half

1 leek, white part only, cut in half lengthwise

10 sprigs fresh thyme

10 sprigs fresh parsley with stems

2 bay leaves

8-10 peppercorns

2 whole cloves of garlic, peeled

1/4 cup white vinegar

2 gallons cold water

Place cool water, chicken (and feet), veggies, spices and vinegar in a 12 quart stockpot. Allow to sit for 30 minutes. Cook on high until just boiling, then turn the heat down to medium. Skim the scum occasionally. Add hot water, if needed, to keep the bones and veggies submerged. Simmer, covered for 6-8 hours or up to 24 hours. (If simmering overnight, turn heat to very low and keep tightly covered.)

Strain stock through a colander or strainer into another large pot. Discard the bones and veggie scraps, but save the chicken meat. Put stockpot in sinkful of ice to cool quickly, then refrigerate overnight. Remove solidified fat from stock if desired. Keeps in fridge a week or more, or freeze for 3 months.

When refrigerated, the stock should be solid from all the gelatin.

You can also make this in a crockpot. Let cook on low for up to 24 hours.