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Another Convenience Food-Farm Style

Sweet Pea and Calendula soap ready to be cut into bars

I know I talk about this all the time but here I go again. Some times I don’t feel like making a huge mess or spending lots of time cooking. There are other fun things to do but everyone has to eat right? And everyone like good home cooked meals over some boxed stuff, right?

Last night was one of those I don’t feel like cooking nights. So our fast food was a hot bowl of pea soup, corn bread and for dessert we had peaches. I had exactly 2 pans, 4 spoons, 4 glasses, 4 bowls, 1 knife and a wooden spoon to clean up. I warmed up a jar of pea soup I had frozen last fall, a quick corn bread recipe that took all of 5 minutes to measure out, and I stirred together right in my cast iron frying pan then baked and popped the lid off a jar of peaches I put up. The corn bread recipe could have been even faster if I had the recipe minus the liquids and eggs premeasured in a container with the recipe written on the side.

gardener's soap with cranberry seeds

The secret to these meals is that it all started months ago when I purchased a nice smoked pork shoulder. We had a wonderful family meal with close friends the night I cooked it. I saved the left over meat in small packages and froze for things like quick omelets, mac and cheese and even toasted ham and cheese sandwiches.

Meal two came with the ham bone a few night later, I made into a nice large batch of pea soup. This was a don’t even think about it meal. I put the ham bone in the crock pot and covered it with water, set it on low and forgot about it until the next day. After it was cool I removed the bone and other undesirable pieces, leaving the loose ham bits in the water. To this I dumped in about 4# of dried peas and a few well diced carrots. I turned the crock pot back on low and forgot about it again until later in the day when it was dinner time. Turned out perfect. A quick batch of corn bread and a fresh salad from the garden and dinner was served.

To freeze the leftover soup for another quick meal, I used regular quart canning jars and lids to freeze meal size portions in. These were not new lids, this is okay because I didn’t pressure can the soup I froze it. Make sure to leave plenty of head room as this stuff does expand when it freezes. No pressure canning needed, I simply put the band and lid on and put it in the freezer. I sometimes use other sized jars and their lids in place of the canning jars, it depends on the size I want to freeze.

After dinner last night I stopped into one of my favorite Blogs, to say hello to Rhonda Jean over at Down To Earth and was quite pleased to see she too is talking about pork shoulders and how handy and economical they are. You can read about it from her, here. Her photo of her dinner makes me hungry all over again for another cooked roast.

will be in our Etsy shop soon...Smells like spring to me...

So now on to the corn bread, like I said I was in no mood to spend lots of time cooking so I mixed my corn bread right in the cast iron frying pan and tossed it in the oven to bake. My recipe calls for corn meal, I decided to use up some I ground last fall while preparing for our 7 months of eating from our pantry. The recipe also called for a small amount of white flour, I used ground oats and a bit of bran flour. There is also a small amount of “liquid fat” my recipe calls for so I used flax oil with a splash of sunflower oil. It turned out yummy. * here is another little Karyn is not into cooking tonight tip…the recipe needed a cup of milk. Since I am doing my baking with powdered milk to cut back on the fresh milk ($$ & running to the farm down the road) I didn’t bother mixing the milk first I tossed about 3 TBS of the milk powder right in the flour mix and added a cup of water with the oil and egg.

20 minutes and very little dishes later we were stuffed full of our convenience food…farm style. Now to decide what is for dinner tonight. I think it will be a “farm house buffet”  (leftovers for those of you who are wondering). We have some Shepard’s pie, pea soup, potato salad and fresh spinach that need to be used up. Almost forgot the brownies and chocolate chip cookies…

So whats for dinner at your house tonight?

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Forced Changes

skyYes they are here and I’m not sure I like them one little bit! A long series of events has brought me to return to school nights and then looking for employment outside of the farm and away from my family.

I will be off to obtain my LNA license to work in one of the area nursing homes or start in home care for our area elderly. I thought about many possibilities all the way up to an RN licence but decided on the LNA. My current training has covered 90% of this so it won’t require much effort or extra thought on my part. Oh I will put in the effort and work required I just don’t have the energy or commitment for much more than that at the moment.

I am looking at this as a temporary change to bring other opportunities to me, since I know my working outside of the home is always a short term liking to me. Sooner rather than later I will want to come home and do what I do best, care for my own family.

I have been stepping up my efforts to bring income into our home through the crafts made here on the farm. If you haven’t had the chance to stop over at our Country Farm Store, there are some very nice things there. Most recently is the addition of the homemade Rose Oatmeal soap. These are selling fast, so if you are thinking about some now would be the time to place your order before they are gone.

This winter will bring research into the local farmer’s markets, craft fairs and stores. Something I didn’t have time to put much effort into over the summer. I am also working harder to use the Etsy site and our own selling blog. The doing not thinking challenge has helped although I haven’t had the time to post much about it recently.

beetThe arrival of fall and the coming winter are another forced change to always think about around here. It will soon be time to put the gardens to bed for the winter.

I ordered my fall garden seeds several months ago and never got them into the ground. Don’t exactly know why, perhaps discouragement from the poor garden of the summer. But I think it more the fact that I don’t have the energy to put it in. My thoughts and efforts have been better served looking for work and caring for our family. Yes, I know food is one of the first things to think about, but it just didn’t happen.

I did manage to pull the old tomato plants up over the weekend and will spend some time getting an area ready and putting in the fall garlic. I will add compost and manure to our new garden bed and put up the fencing it needs to keep the deer and little creatures out of it. 🙂

daisy chicken daltonSo for produce this winter I will take advantage of the fall frozen food sale and fill the freezer that way. The best choice at the moment. There is still time to plant a few things that will start this fall, go dormant for the winter and regrow in the early spring. fall lettuce, cabbage are a couple of them.

This week will also bring more experiments with the sour dough started I have been playing with for the past couple of weeks. More how to start from scratch at this point that actually using it. I’ll let you know once I have it figured out. It’s not hard, just requires a bit more daily care that I have been able to give it recently. Again my efforts have been more toward long term care for our family that immediate experiments…

Hope you enjoy the day.

Making Sour Cream and Buttermilk

sour creamThe other day I talked about some of the things I am changing to get ready for the slow season around here, this means winter. I don’t like trips into town and put it off until I have to go when winter sets in it’s even worse. One single flake of snow and I’m not going anywhere.

Often I wish I had something that doesn’t have all that long of a shelf life and hard to stock up on. Sour cream and buttermilk are two that come to mind often around here for making meals for my family.

Dick is a sweetie and will go for me but I ofen discover I need these things in the middle of a recipe and he either isn’t home or I don’t want to wait for him to get back. His trips to the country store could be hours long if he runs into someone he knows and around here who doesn’t he know?

After a bit of research in the old cookbooks I have come up with these two recipes. The first one is how to keep buttermilk as a starter to start more buttermilk or things like the sour cream.

There are two types of buttermilk one is the result of making fresh butter, that isn’t the kind I am talking about. I am talking about cultured buttermilk. In my research I discovered you can make a substitute that will work in some recipes. That is using whole milk and mixing in a bit of lemon juice or white vinegar. While that will work in a pinch I want cultured buttermilk.

Buttermilk starter

First you will need a pint size jar that is clean and sterilized. I don’t worry to much about this, just that the jar has been washed in HOT soapy water and rinsed well. To this add a cup of fresh raw milk. Put the cover on and set on the counter until it has clabbered. Clabbering is when the milk has had a chance to thicken, not sour to become curdled but thick is the best way I can describe it. This should take several days.

Once that has happened place ¼ cup of the clabbered milk into another clean sterile pint jar. Add to this 1 cup of whole milk, it doesn’t have to be raw milk this time. Put the cover on and shake well. Allow it to sit at room temperature until it has clabbered. This will take another couple of days.

Repeat this process, ¼ cup of clabbered milk and 1 cup fresh milk several more times until the milk will clabber in 24 hours. Give it a taste it should taste tart and not bitter.

To make a quart of buttermilk, take a clean quart jar and add 6 ounces of your buttermilk starter and fill the rest of the jar with fresh milk. Put the cover on and shake well, allow this to clabber then put in the fridge for use. This should take 24 hours.

Don’t toss out all that clabbered milk while making your starter. It can be used as liquid in baking or fed to the animals.

 

Making Sour Cream

You will need a clean sterile quart jar with lid.

To this jar add 2 Tablespoons of your fresh buttermilk (or fresh cultured buttermilk from the store) if it is less that one day old. If not use a bit more buttermilk and add 1 cup of cream or half and half . Put the cover on and shake well.

Let this sit in a warm place on the counter for 24 hours until it clabbers. Date the jar and put in the fridge.

It’s that easy. Store bought milk is fine. I have also discovered that 2% milk will work but doesn’t have as good a flavor and is very thin. The more fat in the milk the thicker the sour cream is. I would like to try powdered milk and will sooner or later.

Now is all this work worth it you may ask? Well that is a question only you can answer, it’s not that much work in fact it’s down right easy. How can you mess up pouring milk in a jar and letting it sit on the counter?  It is to me when I want buttermilk and sour cream but don’t want to go to the store, I have it right here.

Is it cost effective? Again that depends, around here it sure is, here are a few numbers for you:

½ gallon of half & half cream …..$2.99 store brand

1 pint sour cream…..$2.29 store brand

1 quart buttermilk, cultured…..$3.99

So here are a couple of recipes to use that wonderful buttermilk and sour cream should you decide to give it a try. Since I make my own convenience mixes this one is a favorite around here.

 

Buttermilk pancakes mix

  • 14 cups flour ( I use a combination of whole wheat, white and flax meal)
  • 6 Tbl. baking powder
  • 1 Tbl. plus 2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 Tbl. plus 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup sugar

Sift together 3 times and store in air tight container.

 

To make the pancakes:

  • 1 ½ cups pancake mix
  • 1 ¼ cup buttermilk
  • 1 extra large egg (or 2 med)
  • 2 Tbl. vegetable oil ( I use sunflower, flax or olive)
  • 3 Tbl. water
  • 2 Tbl. melted butter

 Add the dry mix to a large bowl. In another bowl mix together the remaining ingredients, then add to the mix until just blended. Don’t over mix. I let this sit a couple of minutes before cooking on the electric grill that has been greased.

 

Berry Muffins

Preheat oven to 375° f (190° c)

spray muffin tins with cooking spray or use muffin papers

  • 5 cups flour (I use a combination of wheat, wheat germ, white and flax seed)
  • 1 ¼ cups sugar
  • 4 tsp. baking powder
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 2 large eggs lightly beaten
  • 1 ¼ cups buttermilk
  • 1 1/3 cups oil
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 4 cups fresh or frozen berries (if frozen don’t defrost first)

 Whisk together eggs, buttermilk, oil and vanilla. In another bowl mix together remaining ingredients except berries. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry. Gently fold in the berries. Don’t over stir or muffins will be tough.

Spoon into muffin tins and I let them sit a couple of minutes then bake for 20 minutes until golden brown and a pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.

bananna breadThis is one of those recipes you can’t help but play around with. I have used blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and bananas.  But fresh cranberries and a bit of oatmeal for some of the flour seems to be a favorite around here, the crisp tartness of the cranberries and the crunch of the oatmeal is a big hit. When I made them with bananas I used 3 mashed added a bit of cinnamon and walnuts and left out the oil. And as you can see I didn’t use muffin tins either…Go figure, Karyn didn’t follow directions :0

The Making of Plans

green pumpkinWe still have a few weeks left of warm weather but the signs are there. Late summer is here and so is the coming of fall around here. Already some of the trees are showing their bright red fall colors, the grass is wet with dew every morning and the fall wild flowers are starting to bloom and the days are getting shorter.

It’s time to start thinking about the coming of winter around this house…

Over the next few days I will be sharing with you a few thoughts and plans I am making for our family this winter. This year will be a bit different but not a lot from any other year. As fall and winter are about to set in here so come the added expenses of winter such as heat and increased electrical and the cost of food rises.  And too the end to Dick’s summer job until the spring. What is different this year is we don’t have my income to rely on, only what our “winter jobs” will bring. Our savings for winter and our emergency saving are very low this year.

My goal like any other year is to fill the pantry and shop from that over the winter with trips to town only for fresh produce, fruit and things like milk.

This year’s earlier plans were to preserve from our own garden, that isn’t going to happen. So I will stock up on store bought canned and frozen veggies and put up any fresh that come this way from friends and neighbors. So far that isn’t happening this year, their garden’s are as sad as ours.

Our home doesn’t use many cleaning or paper goods but what we do use I will stock up on. Things like, salt, vinegar, castile soap, baking soda and a bit of ammonia and bleach for cleaning. Bathroom paper, wax paper and diapers.

green pumpkin 2Things like herbs and spices. There are a few herbs I have been drying form our garden all summer and those are doing well for us. There won’t be extra for trading this year though.

Grain and hay for the animals. While this isn’t my first choice for grain as I like to purchase it monthly so it’s fresher I will be putting what I need in the cellar to last us until spring. Our hay has been saved for us so I don’t need to worry about that.

Continue to cut back on electric use. This is a tough one for us. Over 1/2 of our monthly bill is all sorts of fees & taxes-they can not be reduced. The actual energy used here is below the average for our area. But to help I will purchase another wooden drying rack as I generally don’t use our dryer and most of the winter hanging clothes outside is a miserable job to say the least. Shoveling mountains of snow to get to the line, freezing hands….inside is easier for me. The use of lanterns and rechargeable solar lighting inside the house.

green applesTrying to cut back on our propane use for heating this winter. Our home is very energy efficient and well weather proofed but there still are a couple of things I would like to do to help. Window coverings and winter drapes, draft stoppers across the bottom of the doors.

Working out and preparing healthy well balanced meals while cutting back on the cost of those meals. This will be a tricky one, but I have a few ideas.

So while I have been quiet lately I have been busy making plans and ready to share them with you.

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