Posted in Farming, Food/Wine (and preserving)

How I “Make” Money and a New Chefs Knife

Welcome 2020! You bring with it such promise and excitement for a new year! What are your dreams this year? What are your goals? One of my main goals this year is to up our food production. Not just gardening, though that is a big part of it. We also have a lofty goal of creating all of the processed food items that we typically purchase in our own kitchen.

Homesteaders always have crazy goals like that. This is my living. I am a housewife and I make the bulk of my money by not spending what I typically would if I had a full time job. I “make” money by growing most of our food and I “make” money by preparing and preserving it. I create my own grocery store. And it is lots of fun! I also “make” money because I create all of our own medicines and because we stay healthy eating homegrown and prepared food.

I received a very special Christmas gift from my husband. Jewelry, you might ask? Better. A chef’s knife. It is a beauty. And sharper than a lost sewing pin in the carpet. It will make cooking such a pleasure for me.

I love cooking and I love a challenge, so homesteading is a good job for me. I have an animal sanctuary here and for as long as I can remember, animals have been dearer to me and better friends to me than most humans. I have sworn off consuming them and their by-products. We are always healthier and happier when we are vegan and we save a lot of money. We have begun making our own veggie meats to supplement meals. It is a lot of fun, super easy, and we get more nutrition without the preservatives and unknown ingredients. I am experimenting with different cheeses as well. I was a cheesemaker for many years so I think I might be able to come up with a pretty sly alternative to smoked cheddar! It’s all a part of the fun. Lots of baking will ensue as well; granola bars, cereal, breads, desserts, tortillas.

But my main love is vegetables. I make a very good vegetarian because I crave vegetables more than anything. I will have my biggest garden yet on this new homestead. It will be nearly as big as my entire last homestead! Using roughly a third of our 1.1 acre, I will be able to grow nearly all of our vegetables and get many perennial fruit and nut trees and bushes put in. I am even going to experiment with grains, though I will count grains, some nuts, coffee, black tea, and chocolate as things that I will probably always need to purchase! But within a few years my goal is to growing, preserving, and preparing at least 90% of what we eat and have plenty for my grown family as well. Another way I “make” money is by growing my own farm.

We all have plenty of goals this time of year and mine will certainly be more fun with a chef’s knife! Let’s not forget to live in the moment. One never knows what tomorrow brings. (I do hope tomorrow brings Spring!) Happy New Year to you all.

Posted in Food/Wine (and preserving)

Creative Ways to Cook With A Lot More Vegetables

_BBF2511_gThere is something about the various colors of vegetables that I find so beautiful.  Artists for centuries have been painting their curves, their textures, their light.  Vegetables are among the most appealing sights to me.  It fuels my gardening.  It fuels my diet.

I am still surprised when people tell me that they, or their spouse, or their children do not eat vegetables.  Missing out on that satisfying crunch, the way the savory slices gather in sauce and spices, the bright colors creating a mesmerizing palette on the dinner table.

I will never forget when my friend, Nancy, and I were running our market booth and two women came over and pointed at green, frilly leaves and asked, “What’s that?”  We stared at them for a minute.  “Lettuce,” we replied.  “What do you do with it?” they inquired.

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So, perhaps folks do not know what to do with vegetables.  Here are some ideas to easily incorporate lots of glorious colors, textures, and flavors into your meals.  Listen, if mama is cooking, the folks around the table are going to eat it.  We raised our children vegetarian.  Their primary diet was vegetables!  They never turned their nose up because they were never given an option.  That goes for men too.  No one got their own meals.  There were no chicken nuggets and fries for the kids while we ate crisp slices of eggplant with spaghetti.  The kids (and this goes for how school lunches should be too) should eat the same fabulous food as adults.  That is how they learn to love vegetables.

With that, let’s get cooking!

First buy or grow lots of beautiful, organic produce.  Whatever appeals to you or interests you.  Now think of a theme.

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If you want to go Asian- chop maybe five different vegetables (like cabbage, carrots, onion, snow peas, and red pepper) and saute them with tamari, scallion oil, a touch of orange juice, and serve topped with peanuts or cashews and rice.

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If you want to go Italian- slice eggplant real thin and bread in flour, non-dairy milk, then panko and fry or bake.  Put salt and pepper, nutritional yeast, onion and garlic powder, and oregano in the flour and panko mixtures.  Make your own sauce by sauteing onions and garlic, then add in diced tomatoes, and simmer with dried basil, oregano, a touch of thyme and paprika, a dash of wine, then top with basil as you add it to the pasta.  Or just pick out a great pasta sauce.

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Pizza night- Layer pizza sauce on thin pizza dough (15 minutes to make tops).  Layer on (or for more depth, saute first in olive oil) oyster or lobster mushrooms (these aren’t your slimy canned bit, they taste like seafood), red and green peppers, black olives, and diced eggplant and zucchini.  Top with nutritional yeast, Italian seasoning, maybe a bit of truffle salt and a swirl of truffle oil.  Bake.

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Maybe you want Mexican food tonight- How about sauteed red and green peppers and onions in mini-tacos.  Maybe add diced, roasted pumpkin, butternut squash, or zucchini.  Pinto beans with green chilies. Top with salsa (which is a vegetable), guacamole (best vegetable), lettuce, tomato, and a creamy vegan cashew queso (5 minutes to make).  Serve with a margarita (not a vegetable, sadly).

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Spanish calls for paella with its slow cooked rice, savory seasonings like garlic and paprika, and lots of finely diced vegetables like peppers, onions, tomatoes, mushrooms, and kale.

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Indian food is quite easy with its various curries and sauces using any vegetable but especially lentils, cauliflower, peas, and potatoes.

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Create a hash by sauteing or baking onion, garlic, bright colored peppers, potatoes, sweet potatoes.  You can add in crushed up tofu colored with turmeric for scrambled eggs.  If you have farm fresh eggs from happy chickens, you can throw all the vegetables you have into a cast iron pan, saute, then add eggs to make a frittata.

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Soups are always comforting and easy to put together.  With most meals start with a sofrito.  A sofrito is a blend of onion, garlic, celery, and carrots slowly sauteed in olive oil.  Then add diced veggies.  Any and all combinations.  Then add spices depending on what theme you chose.  Then add rich vegetable broth or bouillon.  At the end you could add a bit of cashew cream or almond milk for creaminess.  Add lots of beans.  Use an immersion blender to hide the Brussels sprouts if need be.

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A few tips:

Garlic should go in everything!

Top dishes with toasted pine nuts, almonds, cashews, or walnuts.

Add beans, lentils, or dried peas.

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Serve with pasta, big hunks of warm Italian bread and olive oil, rice, cooked rye, barley, or quinoa or homemade croutons.

Roasted vegetables cooked with rosemary, thyme, and garlic increase flavor and are wonderful served with bread and salad.

Top dishes with a drizzle of great olive oil or flavored olive oil.

A touch of sugar balances acidity in tomatoes.

Spices, spices, spices.  Layer flavors as you cook.

Put on some music (preferably Andrea Bocelli), pour a glass of wine, put your apron on, and enjoy cooking.  Vegetarian food takes half the time to prepare and is real easy on the wallet.  Antioxidants and nutrients kill disease and make healthy kids and hubbies.  And vegetables taste great!  Bon Appetit!

 

 

Posted in Farming

Meandering Paths (shunning straight rows)

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I have visions of meandering paths.  Perennials interspersed with annuals.  Gardens in themes.  Soft grass (or mowed weeds) in the path.  Maybe wood chips.  Maybe pea gravel.  I want to walk upon something soft.  My granddaughter never wears shoes, what would she love to walk on?

Hills and secret benches for pondering butterflies.  A pond or two.  Corn growing the way I have read in old American Indian gardening recollections, a large hill, seven kernels around, squash plants growing between mounds.  Beans of course growing up the corn.

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What if we took a world journey through the gardens?  What if you begin your trek by the multiple rose bushes in the English garden and walk past the peas and cucumbers, radishes, lettuce…

Then you turn the bend and suddenly you are in Ireland?  There are swirling mounds of potatoes and kale, parsnips and cabbage.

In Italy the tomatoes would be red and plump near the eggplant and oregano.  The basil and zucchini and artichokes (I’ll try to grow them here.) and garlic tucked amongst.

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In the Asian garden yard long red beans hang over soybeans and pak choi.  Snow peas for stir fry interspersed with Thai basil and green onions.

In the Americas the corn will stand proudly waving with pumpkins at its feet.  The old varieties of beans will slither upwards.  Homage to my southern ancestors with collard greens and sweet potatoes (I’ll try to grow those here too!).

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Flags or little statues and annual flowers join in the fun.  And the medicine plants will fill all spaces, rest assured.  Forty plus varieties of herbs that we use in medicine will add beauty and pollinators to the spaces.

The orchard will be grand, with plum and cherry (cherry bark for medicine), apples, and apricots, willow, and hawthorn, sumac, maple, and bushes of berries.  A meditation pool.  A fire pit.

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A place of enchantment is what I wish to create, not just for sustenance of the body this time, but for sustenance of the soul….