Thursday, April 28

Strawberry-Cream Cheese Granola

I had a delicious wrap while having breakfast with friends last week. I knew it would be enjoyed by my whole gang and found it serendipitous that I had just made homemade cream cheese!

I whipped up a batch of my granola and went to the farmers market early to make sure I got my hands on some delicious local strawberries. We've been devouring this stuff ever since!

Tuesday, April 26

House Update: Root Cellar

Our house project is nearing its official completion. The only thing remaining is having concrete poured to expand our parking area and extend the sidewalk.

Now that things are starting to feel a bit more put together around here, it's time to post some pics, don't you think?

As I've mentioned before our root cellar is my little gem. My dad brought a load of old barn wood up and he and Sam cut the boards to fit the shelves. 

Winter squash, onions and sweet potatoes keep
very well. At right, you can see the wireless
thermometer my parents gave me. The readout
is in my kitchen so I always know what the temp
is down there.
My reserves are getting very low. I have a lone jar of tomatoes
remaining. I will can a LOT more this season!

The key to preserving foods in the cellar is constant temperature and humidity. The humidity nearly takes care of itself. We control the temperature with:
  • well-insulated interior walls
  • a exterior-grade door to the interior of the house
  • lack of heating/air-conditioning the surrounding rooms
  • two exterior vents to release hot air and admit cooler air when the temps get too high
This is the upper vent.
The lower one has a water line running
through it for reasons that aren't interesting
at all. I wish it looked clean like the top one
but, hey, it does the job. 
Any thoughts? Anyone grow up with a below grade room for food storage?

Monday, April 25

The Best for Guests?

A friend posed a question to me on Facebook tonight that really got my wheels spinning. She asked how I felt about serving/not serving one's usual local/organic foods to dinner guests whom you know eat conventional/industrially processed 'foods'. Is the expense of doing so justified for those who don't care (with 'care' meaning without the knowledge, means or determination to eat differently.) I've certainly pondered that myself and thought it might be an interesting question to pose here.

My answer is that I serve guests exactly what I serve my family. So much so, in fact, that I worry that others may not like it. After all, fresher, mindfully-grown foods do taste different. For the most part, they taste better but sometimes they require a palate adjustment.

The cost of feeding a group the foods we eat is certainly a consideration. Meats, especially. As our diet has changed, so have some of our eating habits. For instance, we don't consume nearly the amount of meat we used to. For me, that's easy. I don't really crave meat. My boys are a different story. They could eat it at every meal but, thankfully, they don't complain about vegetarian meals as long as there aren't too many consecutive ones.

Another opinion on meats is that I cannot justify supporting the industrial meat processors. While a vegetarian may argue that no meat processing is humane (with which I won't necessarily argue), the life of the animals we consume is of great importance. Since I am a carnivore, I care deeply that the animal that gave its life for my supper lived in the manner for which it was created -- it breathed fresh outdoor air, basked in the warm sunshine and ate what God intended.

But I digress...

For a crowd, I'll often make things in which the meat in dispersed throughout such as lasagna or soup as opposed to burgers or chicken breasts (the latter runs about $7 per serving - even for just our family of five, that's a pricey homemade meal.) But, again, that's the way we eat so I'm not really doing anything different for company.

My reasoning behind this is twofold. First, I'm a southern girl who loves to love people with food. Just as I make recipes I'm confident about, I use ingredients I trust. Secondly, I'm passionate about food and the way the health of the plants and animals it comes from manifests itself in our own health. If someone can come to my house and leave feeling truly nourished and a seed of change is planted, then that makes me very happy.

All that being said, I do not think about all this when I'm a guest in someone else's home. I'm food nerd not a food snob.

In the end, it's really as simple as this -- I eat a certain way at home but, when eating out or at someone's home, I'm just grateful to get out of dishwashing duty for a night!

Do you have thoughts on this? Please share!

Thursday, April 21

Homemade Cream Cheese and Whey

We buy two gallons of raw milk each week. Most of it is either drunk or used for baking but I've struggled with what to do with the leftovers. It's such a wonderful, nourishing food that I can't bear to throw it out once the fresh, sweet milk comes in the house. 

So...I'm learning to make some things with the surplus. This week it was cream cheese and whey. 

I put a half gallon of milk in a clean glass
jar and left it on the counter until it separated
as pictured above. (This took 4 days.)
Then, I poured the contents into a towel-lined strainer to let
the whey drain out. After 10 hours, I gathered and tied the
towel and hung it suspended over a pitcher for another
6 hours.
The result was...

...whey which will be used for
lacto-fermented veggies and other recipes... 
...and almost three cups of delicious cream
Yes, we are having bagels for breakfast tomorrow. Maybe even for after-school snack today!

Monday, April 18

Garden: Week One

I've been working in the garden for weeks but here's the first 'harvest'...
Our lone ripe strawberry
Other things already growing are red and yellow onions, peas and carrots. Lots more planting and sowing this week.

Thursday, April 14

Thursday, April 7

Storm Damage

On our wooded acreage, it's a given -- if there's strong wind, something tall is gonna fall. And what fun would it be if our fence remained intact?? None at all, apparently.

Of course, for many, Monday's storm caused much more damage and inconvenience. Schools were locked down until nearly five pm due to widespread debris on roadways and some people in our area were without power for more than a day.

Half of this tree is inside the fence and half is outside.
I'm so grateful it didn't fall toward the house.

With two trees fallen in the same direction, there's no
doubt about where the winds were coming from. 

Wednesday, April 6

One Window Closes As Another Opens

CSA yumminess from last summer
Today was the last delivery for the winter CSA season and we are not renewing our share for the summer season. I must admit I already feel a little unhinged from my usual food supply. (No comments, please, about my being unhinged in general...)

With a big garden in the making, my funds have been shifted to that effort. I know I'll miss the variety of things we've received but there's always the farmer's market to peruse!

Tuesday, April 5

Lesson Learned

One thing about eating a clean diet is that when I do eat something that I normally avoid, I can usually pinpoint it by just thinking back through what I ate. It's like food poisoning when you go, 'Hmmm...well, I had some fish....oh, the fish.'

The latest happened after the ACM Awards show Sunday night in Vegas. We managed to find a restaurant in the MGM with an open table to have dinner with a friend. The next morning, I felt awful. Really awful. My stomach was cramping and my head felt like I couldn't fully wake up. (I know what you're thinking, 'Hey, it's Vegas. That's called a hangover!', but, no, I only drank water.) I was in complete panic mode as I had only three hours until my flight and who wants to get on a plane when your stomach is staging a full-out revolt?

As we talked through what I'd eaten, it came to me. I had eaten a small (white) roll before dinner. (We had been so busy and not had time to eat so I was famished. I totally caved to instant gratification.) Realizing that the flour must have been bleached was the a-ha moment I was looking for. I was so mad at myself for not waiting the extra fifteen minutes for my salad and vegetable ratatouille to avoid this misery.

In the end, I ordered multigrain toast from room service and topped it with half an avocado I'd brought with me. (Yes, I travel across the country with avocados.)

With that, and a vow to not be my own worst enemy again, I headed home a happy camper.