Real Food Mama

Musings about cooking, eating and everything in between.

Got Milk? September 9, 2009

Filed under: Home Economics — realfoodmama @ 9:49 am
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The goatless barn

The goatless barn

The struggles and trials I have been going through in order to set up a home goat dairy have been fairly surprising. Construction on the barn has been easy, with my boyfriend being able to build nearly the entire thing in a day. The fence construction has been a breeze, being less expensive than originally thought. Finding food, milking supplies, storage etc. has been easy as pie.

Finding the goats has been a nightmare. We have lost three!

The first was due to the fact that the seller’s pregnant does had half as many kids as she was expecting, and half of those were male. Since we were not first in line for a goat, we didn’t get one. The second goat was a beautiful white beauty named Rose for whom we made an offer, only to discover that the other interested party countered and she was sold out from under us. The most recent tragedy has been with Sweetie, the goat I wrote about just the other day. Her health has declined dramatically in the last month due to a terminated pregnancy and the owner doesn’t feel she can sell her in good conscience.

Luckily she has offered up a replacement goat at a lower price, which is helpful, but that still leaves us with only one goat (we were planning on taking Sweetie and her kids). Goats are social creatures and we really need two. So we are searching for more and honestly, the pickings are slim this time of year. Most goats are bred in October or November and deliver in March or April, which means all the kids have been sold by now. People are offloading their older dairy goats, but they will all be dried up for the most part, and will need to be bred – yet another expense. And while I have a few contacts that I am working with, we have reached the high end of our budget, the low end of our patience, and wits end in general.

The whole purpose of setting up this dairy was in order to have a safe, reliable source for food – raw milk, cheese, yogurt etc. However it has really illuminated for me how difficult it can be to actually do this!

Like most people, I have always taken my food for granted. The abundance, variety and seemingly endless supply of foods in the grocery stores and farmer’s markets has always been a pleasure, but I never considered it a privilege until I started trying to grow more of my own food, including milk.

The amount of work required to nurture enough food to feed a family of four is…mind boggling. And not just because of the foibles of trying to find a goat. We have had squash bugs, companion planting issues, late starts with our seedlings, grasshoppers…the list is endless. It really opens one’s eyes to the whole idea of privilege. For centuries the upper classes were in power and had so much wealth because they didn’t have to worry about their food supplies. They had serfs or servants, tenants or slaves to do all that work for them. They could devote their time to intrigue, war, politics and art.

And while I don’t really have an interest in intrigue, war or politics, I am used to a lot more free time than I am currently allowed. I am in no way regretful of my decision to become more self sufficient and to provide my son with reliable and safe food, I may miss all that free time.

So hopefully, the goat saga will not go on for much longer and I will soon have myself a nice caprian friend.

 

Sausage and Zucchini pocket pies. September 8, 2009

Filed under: Baking,Garden Fresh,Recipe — realfoodmama @ 8:05 am
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Rounds of dough

The dough

Several months ago I indulged in some late night food television and watched a life changing episode of Alton Brown’s Good Eats. I really like Alton Brown because he explains the chemistry of food in a way that I find fascinating. He is not what I’d call a Real Foodie because he does extol the virtues of such things as Crisco, but he provides enough fundamental information so that you can work with his recipes while still using your preferred ingredients.

To this day, the best example of the above phenomena is his recipe for pocket pies. The dough recipe he provided in this particular episode is absolutely incredible and can be used to wrap up all sorts of amazing goodies. For example, one could take yet another zucchini from one’s garden, saute it up with some Italian sausage and potatoes, add a little home made tomato sauce and voila! Instant deliciousness.

This is exactly what I did for dinner last night and it was such a successful combination of flavors that I thought I should share it with the world. So here it is!

Sausage and Zucchini pocket pies

I have found that the easiest way to make these pies is to prepare the dough first. The recipe from Alton Brown is as follows:

9 1/2 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 2 cups
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 1/2 ounces shortening, approximately 6 tablespoons
3/4 cup milk
1 egg mixed with 1 to 2 teaspoons water

Combine the flour, powder and salt in a bowl and whisk together. Using a pastry blender, cut the shortening (I use butter) into the flour until it resembles coarse crumbs. Add the milk and mix, turning it out onto a board to kneed a few times until everything is combined. Pat out the dough until it is about 1/2 inch thick. Using a 2 1/4 inch biscuit cutter (or glass rim if you don’t have the aforementioned biscuit cutter) cut circles out of the dough. You can work the scraps back into a 1/2 inch thick piece and cut more as necessary until you’ve used all the dough.

The Filling

The Filling

I tend to wait to roll the dough circles out until I have completed the filling so as to avoid having them dry out, however you can do it beforehand if you’d like. Using a rolling pin and a floured board, roll the dough out until it is quite thin, nearly translucent. Perfection is not necessary here and if they end up slightly more square than round, that’s okay!

The filling

1 small zucchini, cubed
1 cup cubed, cooked potatoes*
1/2 – 1/3 lb of your favorite loose Italian Sausage – I use the sausage from my farmer’s market.
1/4 c diced onion
2 – 4 TBSP tomato sauce**
2 TBSP olive oil
1 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste (this will vary depending on the sausage used)

*Boil the potatoes in water until easily penetrated with a fork. Let them cool before cubing them and adding them to your saute.

**If you add too much sauce, you will risk having soggy pies. This is simply a flavor enhancer!

Heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat and add the onions when hot. Cook these, stirring frequently, until they become translucent then add the loose sausage. Turn heat to low and let the sausage cook through. Add the cooked potatoes and zucchini, as well as the oregano and sauce, and let cook for a few minutes more. Taste, add the salt and pepper, stir a few times and take off the heat.

At this time you can roll out your pocket pie dough if you haven’t already done so. For this particular recipe I actually made larger pies as I was making dinner and didn’t want to be stingy (it also saves time because you have fewer to roll and fill) so I used a slightly larger circle than mentioned above. As a result, I ended up placing about 4 TBSP of filling in each pie. If you follow the recipe above to the letter, you will only be able to get about 2 TBSP of filling in each pie without them exploding all over your counter.

Ready to Serve!

Ready to Serve!


So, that being said…using your best judgment, place a few tablespoons of the zucchini and sausage filling in the pie. Using a pastry brush, apply the egg wash to the edge of the dough. Take the far edge and fold it over the filling. Fold and press the edges together to make a tight seal. Cut a small slit in the top of the pie to allow air to escape while cooking then place on a baking sheet and continue the process until you have finished all the pies.

Using the remainder of the egg wash, brush the tops of each pie and then sprinkle a generous helping of grated Parmesan on top of each one. Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until the pies are golden brown on top.

Serve with some more warm tomato sauce on the side and garnish with basil if you want to be fancy. Happy Eating!

 

Goat update September 7, 2009

Filed under: Home Economics — realfoodmama @ 3:34 pm
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Sweetie

Sweetie

As some of you may know, I am awaiting the arrival of a lovely female goat named Sweetie and her kids in the hopes that she will provide me with delicious, fresh, raw goats milk on a daily basis. In anticipation of her arrival I have (well no…I haven’t, my boyfriend has) been building her a lovely fenced pen and cozy barn and we have been patiently accumulating goat related supplies – such as a milking pail, hoof clippers, hay…you get the idea.

The way things currently stand is seems as though everything will be done in time for her arrival, however I am anxiously awaiting news of her delivery! You see Sweetie is currently pregnant and I agreed to purchase her and her offspring with the understanding that her current owner will disbud (dehorn) all kids and “alter” (a nice word for castrate) any males. Her due date, according to rough calculations, was Sept 5th. Since that day has past I am compulsively checking my inbox in the hopes that an email containing all the information about her labor and delivery, as well as the gender and quantity of the kids, will be there.

Sadly, it has yet to arrive. All in all, this is probably for the best seeing as the roof isn’t quite finished on the barn and I have yet to find a suitable storage container for her grain feed. But still! The anticipation is killing me. I have been fantasizing about all the things I can do with the milk – yogurt, cheese, possibly even butter! I can’t wait to start experimenting with it – especially as a substitute for regular milk in familiar recipes. For example, will goat milk make my morning pancakes taste funny? Inquiring minds want to know.

In either case, the wait continues and I will simply have to be patient. As any mother knows, you can’t rush these things. Kids come when they come. I just hope they come after the roof is up.

 

Blogger’s Secret Ingredient – Oats September 6, 2009

Warm Oatmeal Date Pudding

Warm Oatmeal Date Pudding

While perusing the food internet last week, I discovered a fabulous weekly recipe contest called Blogger’s Secret Ingredient and decided I wanted to participate. Unfortunately, my fig recipe didn’t make the deadline so I am trying again this week. The secret ingredient? Oats.

I decided to use Steel Cut oats instead of rolled oats as I had recently posted a rolled oats recipe for my home made granola. It has been so cold and rainy here that I have been craving puddings – delicious, rich, warm puddings. I have always been a fan of rice pudding and thought to myself, perhaps steel cut oats could be substituted for rice! Deciding to add dates, a bit of cinnamon and some other flavors I pulled together a fabulous warm pudding that will be a great addition to my repertoire!

Oat and Date pudding

1/2 c steel cut oats, cooked*
1/2 c chopped dates, loosely packed
2 TBSP butter
1 TBSP lemon juice
1/4 c organic half and half
1 egg
1/2 tsp salt

*To cook the oats, bring 2 cups water to a boil, then add the oats. Cook on medium high for about 3-5 minutes or until the cooking liquid starts to thicken. Turn to low, cover, and simmer for 25-30 minutes or until all the water is gone. Very similar to rice!

You will notice that there is no additional sugar in this recipe. I find the dates more than sweet enough, however if you’d like to add sugar you can do so by mixing it with the dates and butter while you are cooking them down. I wouldn’t add more than 1/4 c.

Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the dates and lemon juice (and optional sugar). Cook on medium low until the dates have softened and soaked up all the butter, stirring regularly.

Combine the cooked oatmeal, dates, cream and egg and cinnamon in a round dutch oven and bake, covered, at 350 for 25-30 minutes or until the custard has set. You can remove the cover after 15-20 minutes so as to brown the top, however if you take it off sooner your pudding will dry out.

Serve warm.

Happy Eating!

 

Zucchini Bread from home made zucchinis. September 5, 2009

Filed under: Baking,Garden Fresh,Recipe — realfoodmama @ 9:42 am
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From start to finish.

From start to finish.

Our zucchini plants were the only squash in the garden that didn’t get eaten by ants, and they have been producing some fabulous zucs. I have been experimenting with bread recipes. The last batch was the best and is now my official “go to” recipe.

Zucchini Nut Bread

2 large zucchini – grated
1 c all purpose flour
1/2 c whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp aluminum free baking powder
3/4 c evaporated cane juice
1 stick unsalted butter – melted
1 lg egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 c raw pecan pieces

Using a food processor or a hand grater, grate the zucchini with the skin still on. Place the grated zucchini in cheesecloth and squeeze as much excess moisture out of the zucchini as possible. (If you like, you can save this juice and drink it! It’s great in smoothie’s).

Combine the flours, cinnamon, soda and powder in a bowl and set aside.

Melt the butter over low heat and allow to cool for a minute. Add the sugar, vanilla and salt and whisk until well blended. Add the egg and mix a few times, then pour the liquid ingredients over the dry. Using a wooden spoon, stir the mixture until all the flour is mixed. Add the grated zucchini and work it into the batter. Add the pecans and put the batter in a greased 9 inch bread pan. Bake at 350 for approximately 45 minutes (or until a toothpick comes out clean when poked into the middle).

Let the bread cool for a minimum of 10 minutes in the pan. If you skip this step, your bread will fall completely apart! No matter how good it smells, you must be patient.

Happy Eating!

 

I’m drowning in tomatos! and other gardening news… September 2, 2009

Filed under: Garden Fresh,Home Economics,Real Food Wednesday — realfoodmama @ 8:52 am
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Heirloom tomato - unripe

Heirloom tomato - unripe

Our tomato plants have exploded and there are copious amounts of tomatoes to be dealt with. I have already made several batches of pasta sauce and a few batches of ratatouille using eggplant and peppers from the farmers market. We’re getting ready to do some canning here in the next few weeks and I’m thinking I will also try my hand at some sun dried tomatoes. Although it should be noted they will not be dried in the sun, but rather in the kitchen in a basket. So I guess they’ll be my kitchen dried tomatoes instead.

Regardless of what we call them, the whole process of preparing foods for winter storage is fascinating and ultimately a lot of work. I can only hope it is going to be rewarding as well! I am planning on canning tomato sauce and apple products such as applesauce and pie filling, I will be freezing pesto sauce and possibly some veggies, such as the brussel sprouts. However the root veggies are presenting a problem. I desperately need a root cellar!

Root cellaring is fascinating to me as it is a very tried and true method of storing certain foods such as root vegetables and squash, however I have no idea how, or more importantly where, to make one. Certainly the concept is relatively straight forward – you basically dig a hole in the earth, cover it with some sort of roof, put a door on and voila! Root cellar. The problem isn’t so much that I don’t have an idea how to do it, but rather that I have nowhere convenient to put a root cellar nor do I have the shovel skills necessary to dig on out. All of the space close to the house is spoken for and even though we live on half an acre, the only vacant spots on the property are too far from both the house and the garden to be convenient. It requires further thought and better planning and we will have to contemplate it over the winter before any ground can be broken.

This has been a trial year as far as gardening goes. We have learned a lot of things we didn’t know before; companion planting is essential, ants can eat an amazing array of things, corn needs a lot of water and heirloom tomatoes are wonderful, but don’t produce as much so we need more. I suspect that the winter food preparation this year will be equally informative – no doubt we will learn all sorts of things about canning and freezing that we can’t even begin to imagine at this point. Information to file away for next year’s harvest. It is awe-inspiring to think about how much work is really required to feed a family of four when you are responsible for your own food production and processing. It makes you realize what the silent effects of industrial food really are.

I look forward to trying our garden again next summer, armed with the learning experiences gained this season, and I hope that we can find more success and more joy from the process. In the meantime it is stretching my culinary creativity to find recipes for all of these tomatoes and I will share my successes as well as my failures as they occur! And as much as I’d like to offer sliced tomatoes with sea salt as a recipe, I’m just not sure that counts. But it sure is delicious.

Happy Eating!

This post has been my contribution to Kelly the Kitchen Kop’s Real Food Wednesday.

 

Slow Food Membership is a deal in September! September 1, 2009

Filed under: Events,Fight Back Fridays,Food Activism,Politics — realfoodmama @ 12:36 pm
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Slow Food USA is offering a deal this month to new donors who would like to be members. Until October 1st any donation will gain you membership status. Usually requiring a $60 gift, membership in Slow Food USA connects you to your local slow food chapter, puts you on the mailing list to be notified of and receive invitations to events, and provides discounts on select events and publications.

This is a great organization and for those folks who aren’t familiar with Slow Food USA, here is a bit of an overview. Founded in Italy in 1986 in order to combat “fast food” (namely, a Mcdonald’s), Slow Food International was begun to preserve cultural cuisine, heirloom plants, local food traditions, and sustainable agriculture. The first chapter in the US was begun in New York in 2000 and since then US membership has grown to over 15,000 people.

Recently Slow Food USA has been taking on the school lunch program with their Time for Lunch campaign, aimed at raising the standard for nutrition in our public schools. This is a must read for any parent who has concerns about the quality of food choices provided to their school age children.

More information about Slow Food USA, their programs, and membership can be found at www.slowfoodusa.org.

Happy Eating!

This post has been my weekly contribution to Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday blog carnival.