Thursday, March 15, 2012

Spring Break...

For many of you out there, spring break means taking a vacation.  Getting that last ski trip of the year in, heading to a warm beach somewhere, or staying at home and doing nothing. I love those spring breaks.  For my husband and myself Spring Break has a different meaning....

Spring Breaks means getting our garden started, planting lettuce, carrots, parsnips, kale, Swiss chard, radishes and spinach.  It means weeding and getting the other beds ready for tomatoes and peppers.  We are also working on our market garden where we grow around 300 hundred tomato plants to sell.  If you need tomatoes plants that have been raised with out chemicals we have those.

Spring Break means getting new baby chicks, both layers and meat chickens.  We have 27 layers at the moment and 23 meat chicks.  We need to build our chicken tractor for the layers and meat chickens.  We need to order our next batch of both layers and meat chicks.  We need to plant grass seed so the donkeys will have grass to eat through the summer.  And on top of all of that we will be learning how to process our meat chickens in order to sell whole  pastured chickens that have been fed only organic grain..

Spring Breaks means 10 days of dawn till dusk work to get ready for the busy summer life we lead. We will need to go back to work in order to rest.  LOL  One thing I can say though is that we love living this life.  When we built our brooder for the meat chicks, we worked outside, my hubby and I, for four hours, I also cooked dinner, and we built this thing into the night.  Once we put the chicks in their new home, they all said thank you.  They were so happy, they checked out the new digs, and then tried to fly.  They don't have the landing down and they end up face planting.....or bowling over nine other chicks for a strike.

I love our meaning of Spring Break and can not wait to get started with the list we have to work from.
That is what Spring Breaks means to us....what does it mean to you?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Roast Chicken

I love Roasted Chicken, I think it is one of the simplest meals and yet one of the most fulfilling; from making it, to the carving it and of course to eating it.  It fills the soul with a sense of home, comfort, and even a bit of security.
Roast Chicken plays with our emotions also.  Mom or grandma in the kitchen, placing a big fat bird in the oven covered with spices and surrounded with onions, carrots, celery and in our case sliced lemons.  The aroma of the chicken as it cooks, filling the house with a warm heady scent.  Since it takes a good hour or more to roast the chicken, the house fills with the aroma, getting your appetite ready for some really food.
My favorite part is when I plate the whole chicken, it's all golden brown and juicy; placing the veggies all around and setting it on the table.  We all sit, bow our heads and say Grace.  That is the moment of accomplishment for me.  Then I slice pieces of it and place it on the plates for my mom and dad in law, knowing that I have brought a little sense of their childhood forward to them.  Mom and Dad are in their mid eighty's, and smells bring back the most vivid of memories.  I take joy in being able to give them both a gift of food and memories.

On Sat. night I made a home cooked meal for 12 teenagers.  We had my own pasta sauce, spaghetti, salad with home made dressing, crusty bread and two simple but different cakes.  The kids were so surprised that I did this, they are so use to getting pizza and eating that, I think the home made meal threw them a bit, in a good way.  Here is the recipe for the sauce:

Hearty Pasta Sauce

2 lbs of ground beef
1 onions, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 28 ounce cans of pureed tomatoes
2 14 ounce cans of diced tomatoes with garlic and basil
2 T. of Italian seasoning
2-3 bay leaves
2 t. sugar
1 t. of kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper

In a large skillet brown the meat till no pink remains,  Drain and rinse with hot water, return back to the skillet.
Add the onions and continue to cook for 5-8 minutes.  Add the garlic and continue for another 4 minutes stirring well.

Add the tomatoes, all of them.  Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a gentle bubble. Partially cover with a lid and let this simmer on low for about 30 minutes.  The sauce will thicken and the flavors will learn to get along.

This sauce is now ready for pasta.....

Variations; you can use any type of ground meat from turkey and chicken to pork.  I will use a couple of links of sweet Italian sausage or plain ground pork.  Do use quality ground beef, ground round is my personal favorite.

Stay tuned for tomorrow, we are making our home made lasagna for lunch at school.  I will be adding pictures of the process.  Making lasagna for 250 is very interesting......

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


I have a lot to pass on and most of it has to do with chicken. I currently have 52 baby chicks at my house and they are so adorable.  Let me begin at the beginning....

We ordered 25 barred rock chickens from a hatchery, these are laying chickens and we ordered only females. We shall see about that, seems like a rooster always sneaks in, kind of like the man from the titanic who dressed up in woman's clothes in order to board a life boat....

We also have 25 Cornish Cross-Rocks, these are a hybrid and they are what you get when you buy chicken at Target or Dillon's or any grocery store.  They have been bred to be large and they covert food to meat very efficiently.  There is some controversy over whether we should even attempt to raise these chickens for meat, but since ours will be raised humanely, outside in open pastures, under sunshine and atop of green grass we deemed it the best.  These are the chickens people expect when they order them, so we shall do it, but do it the way God intended.


So we also have one extra barred rock and they always add a "rare" chick.  She is a silver gray color so we can tell her from the others and her name is Pippin.  She will be a pet more than anything.

      They are friends!

Okay that is the first chicken story....although I will admit they are so much cuter.....
At school today we are doing home style Spaghetti with meat sauce and french bread and romaine salad
we also made a Hearty Chicken and Pasta Soup adapted from a Pioneer Woman recipe.  (If you don't know already I am a Ree Drumond aka The Pioneer Woman Groupie.)  We needed to make about 2 1/2 gallons of soup for today.

It came out fantastic!!  We all had a bit for lunch.  It was so easy!!!
Here is the home version of the recipe:

Hearty Chicken and Pasta Soup

1/2 c of olive oil divided 1/4 c each
4 bone in skin on chicken breast
4 carrots, diced (the carrots that have a stalk top and narrow bottom, no baby carrots here)
4 ribs of celery, diced
1/2 c diced onion
2 boxes of good chicken stock ( I love Kitchen Basics the best)
2 cups of a short pasta
1 t. of kosher salt and a bunch of fresh cracked pepper
2 t. of dried thyme
1/4 c of dried parsley or 1/2 c of chopped fresh

Heat a large heavy bottomed soup pot, let it get really hot, then add 1/4 c of olive oil, now add your chicken skin side down...let this brown really well.  When you can move the chicken it is done, this takes a little time, but adds so much to the soup.
Remove the chicken and add the rest of the olive oil.  Add the vegetables and cook them for about 5 minutes on high heat.  Then add everything into the pot, including the chicken on the bone with the skin intact.  Bring this to a boil for about 30 minutes.

Remove the chicken and shred the meat off of it, return the meat to the pot, discard the bones and skin; they have done their work.

Add the pasta and the seasoning.  Bring back up to a boil for about 10 minutes, check the pasta, when it is tender the soup is done.

I like to add lots of fresh cracked pepper to my bowl, but season how you enjoy it!

Friday, March 2, 2012

66 years....

This weekend we are celebrating my husband's parents 66th year anniversary.  That is a huge thing....they both made it thus far together, they got married very young, they still love each other.  They have had several major bumps in the last 5 years, cancer, lack of mobility, a move from their house of 55 years to a new place close to their kids and grand-kids.  So they have seen a lot and they have lived a lot.

We are having a big family get together on Saturday with as many as can come and a big dinner.  I am making a huge salad and the typical potato casserole....only mine will be a little different.  I just can not dump a can of cream of whatever soup into it.  I am not condemning, but there has to be a better way, more healthy and free of chemicals.  Watching The Pioneer Woman this last weekend helped me find my way!  She made a green bean casserole without the soup and it looked yummy.  Her youngest said it was the best ever, he is like 8.  So this is the recipe I have come up with.

Potato Casserole
This is an old standby, tasty, easy, and ready in no time.
2 lbs of frozen hash browns, thawed
½ c melted butter
1 t. of kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
1 can of cream of chicken soup
2 c shredded cheese
½ c diced onion
2 c sour cream
2 c of crushed cornflakes mix with ¼ c of melted butter

Thaw potatoes, in a large bowl mix all the ingredients together, except the cornflakes.
Turn out into a 9x13 casserole dish, top with the cornflake mixture. 
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to one hour.

I dislike cream of whatever soup, texture issue for me.  So I will make a cream base that can be used.

2 T. of flour
2 T. butter
½ c of good chicken stock
½ cup of whole milk or half and half
Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

In a small sauce pan melt the butter, then add the flour till combined, cook for 1 minute.
Add your stock and milk and stir to combine and continue to cook till thick.  Season as needed. 

Use this in place of the cream soup, the taste will be far better and there really was little effort going into it.

I love this casserole, but I think this way it will taste even better.