Monday, February 25, 2013

Three little lambs arrived today.

We welcomed another sweet little lamb to the farm today.  She arrived this morning and was promptly named Opal...  

As I finished writing that sentence my son came running in to say Mom - there's another baby.  Oh dear - we only have one lambing jug set up and this was Mom number two!  We all headed for the barn and a few minutes after we arrived out came number three! One girl named Ruby Mae and one boy we've named Jed.

These are certainly happy days!  The first two years I was so stressed with what could potentially go wrong that it took most of the joy out of the process.  There's always the potential for things to take a wrong turn so it's nothing to take lightly and yet for the most part everything just happens on it's own and personally I think it's best that way.

We bought a beautiful lambing jug from the feed store a few years ago.  It has four parts that clip together like a big 4x4 dog cage with no top or bottom.  It's great but it's on the expensive side so we just bought one and crossed our fingers that no two ewes would lamb out at the same time.  Ha.  Not today.  We have lots of leftover pieces of 4x8 plywood, 2x4's and random other items like wooden doors and heavy cement bricks.  Living on a farm will turn me into a hoarder yet!  Today it came in very handy.  We blocked off a corner in the pen, added a heat lamp, straw, hay and a water bucket and made the "walls" out of the wood.  It's all being held up with chicken crates and a kids wagon.  Creative huh?  and much cheaper too.

I'll be out a few more times tonight checking on the lambs and the mommas. Ruby-Mae seems to be drinking less than Jed and I'm not sure if she just needs a little nap or a little encouragement.  

So we are now the proud owners of 11 sheep.  Who woulda thunk that would happen a few years ago - when I was planning to raise goats!  I'm so glad we didn't!  I love my sheep.  They have taught me by example the meaning of many of the "sheep" verses in the Bible.  They are stubborn, scare easily and can be so sweet and loveable all at the same time.  

I took a few pictures of Hubert this weekend - the lamb born just before Christmas.  He's a huge "little guy"!  His papa is from another farm and I can't believe the size of him!  He's a little shy - it this picture he's hiding behind a friend.

We had some visitors this past weekend.  Too bad they missed the babies!  One special little helper was very good at collecting eggs and feeding treats to the sheep and donkey.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Home made yogurt from fresh or powdered milk

A few months ago I came across a really good deal on milk - well - better than a good deal because it was free.  I had a $1.00 off coupon on milk that went on sale for $1.00. So I "bought" lots of them and stored them in the freezer.

We're a family that likes yogurt.  If it's in the house it disappears quickly and it can be kinda-pricey especially when you get those little individual containers.  I made yogurt once or twice a long time ago but my interest was rekindled when a friend traded me a yogurt maker for some Tattler lids.  She was upgrading to a larger yogurt maker model - that should have been a clue - because after several very successful batches of yogurt we ran into a problem.  At the rate we could eat this yummy yogurt I would have to make yogurt everyday which in my world is just too-much-work!

Enter the food dehydrator and some of my collection of canning jars.  I've used pints in the pictures here but you can use whatever size you like - half pints or the tiny 1/4 pint jam jars work great and then you have the same portability as those expensive personal sizes in the store. You can of course use any recycled jar but it helps if you still have the lid - you'll need them for storage afterwards.

The amounts of milk and yogurt are really not critical which is what makes this so simple.  I started with 3 litres of milk and about a 1/2 cup of either store bought yogurt or leftover home made yogurt.  I buy the plain organic yogurt when I need to start over.  Usually this happens at least once a month when we accidentally eat all of it.  Save some for the next batch by labelling the jar or putting a different coloured lid on it or divide up the original container of yogurt into an ice cube tray and freeze and use one or two in each batch depending on how much you are making.

This is the hardest part of the whole production - heat the milk.  You want to heat it without boiling it.  I watch for the tiny bubbles to start rising from the bottom of the pan and some steam - other people use a thermometer - you need to bring it to 180 degrees.  Over time you will just know when it looks right.  

I have also made yogurt out of powdered milk - a great option for being able to use a shelf stable item and even faster because you can boil the water in a kettle! I used 2 cups of Thrive powdered milk and 6 cups of boiling water.  I added it to my blender/food processor and mixed it on low - it's hot - so be careful!  I used a thermometer to measure when the milk had cooled to 150 degrees (edited to 115-120 degrees - although 150 has always worked for me - just to be on the safe side - see comments), added the yogurt starter and continued as below.  It makes about 4 pints - because that's all that will fit in my blender.

When the milk has reached the right temperature take it off the stove and allow it to cool.  While you're waiting wash your jars in hot soapy water and let them dry.  The milk needs to cool to room temperature or 150 degrees.  Use a funnel to fill your jars.

The jars go in the dehydrator at about 100 degrees for about 6 hours.  Check to see how thick it's getting.  You can leave it longer but it gets a stronger sour taste - which I like.  You can also heat the oven to 200 degrees, wrap the bottles in a towel and turn the heat off leaving just the light bulb on to keep the oven warm.  Some people use a thermos - a great no electricity solution.  I've tried them all but since my dehydrator is convenient and I can put something in it to dehydrate at the same time - it's win-win. 

You might think 5 or 6 pints is a lot of yogurt depending on how many people you have living at home and how much you all like yogurt.  You can of course make less at one time but we always find uses for it!

If you strain some through a clean cloth and let it sit the whey will drip out and you can use the thickened yogurt  to make your own cream cheese.  The whey is really good for you and can be used in place of milk or water in baking or smoothies.  It can also be frozen if you don't need it right away.

I add some Herbamare and some Mrs. Dash to my cream cheese but you can add whatever you like.  It tastes great on toast or used like goat cheese in a salad or anywhere you would use cream cheese.  We also use the plain yogurt as the base for some really outstanding smoothies.  

Yogurt is a great source of calcium, it helps to keep healthy bacteria flourishing in your stomach and tastes great.  Anyone else make yogurt???

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Stocking Up in February

We have officially finished our EAT TO THE BOTTOM OF THE FREEZER CHALLENGE  and this week I went shopping!

I'm sure it says something of my mental health to share with you how excited I was to make this trip.   I LIKE grocery shopping.  Of course NOT grocery shopping for more than a month is a great experience too.  I am always amazed at the creativity that comes out and the new recipes we try and of course HOW MUCH MONEY WE SAVE.  

Some people go off to the big city to shop.  They get all excited about going in to Toronto or some-similarly-sized-city - the crowds, the hustle and bustle, the fancy shops...personally just the thought gives me hives.  We've found a small city nearby - Peterborough - and once a month I do my shopping there.  It has a great health food store with 10% off on the first Tuesday of the month, every grocery store and thrift store you could ever want to shop in including a thrift FOOD store and it's only a half hour away from home.  

Subliminal messaging - buy eggs!
 I would love to get to the point of only shopping once a month but what would I do with all that pent-up shopping energy and no where to shop??   Probable lots!  My first goal is to shop less often because the less often I go shopping the less I spend.

You would never have thought so yesterday. I set off with my DD and my Mom for a Girls-Day-Out  Our first stop was an organic bakery that sells their frozen already baked and sliced bread for $20 for 12 loaves.  That's a $1.67 each.   It's the best tasting organic bread we've ever had. That's also cheaper than the regular "good" non-organic bread I used to buy.  It's only slightly more than making it myself and of course less work.  Starting the day off with such a score was exciting!

After an egg drop off and a visit and tea with my cousin we hit the thrift food store.  Sometimes you win and sometimes you don't but yesterday was a worthwhile stop.  We bought organic tomato soup 4 for $5.00, boxes of Kashi Cereal Bars for .99c, organic tea - 20 bags in each 4 for $8.00 and lots of other deals.

Then we went to my favourite health food store - on 10% off day.  What's not to like about that - except that it was a little busy!

I have lots of ideas up my sleeves to save money. You're probably tired of me saying you need to grow and can your own vegetables and fruit - so I won't even mention it!  I don't use coupons all that often because as many people find - the coupons are usually for things you wouldn't buy unless you had a coupon.  Of course if I was marketing coupons that's what I would do too however that doesn't end up saving you much money.  Except for Bulk Barns $3.00 off coupon it's very difficult to find basic food at a really great deal - and Bulk Barn is not really know for it's amazing prices anyway.  Things like wheat, beans, rice, sugar etc.  almost never have coupons that apply to them however if you keep your eyes open you will occasionally find them on sale in a regular grocery store.  I still find buying in bulk at Grain Process in Toronto is the way to go but not everyone likes to shop in massive bulk like I do!  The question is how do you know if it's a good deal or not??

Canned beets and pickled beets

You need to know the prices!!  This is where a Price Book comes in handy. This week was my stock up on cheese and butter week.  Cheese was $4.44 for 500gr. at "The Superstore". That's a pretty good price but sometimes it's on for $3.97.  My goal is to never pay more than $1.00 for 100gr. or anything less than $5.00 for that specific brick of cheese.  Butter was on sale at "Freshco" for $2.47lb - that's about as good as it gets.  When these sales come up I buy enough for about 6 weeks if it's a perishable item or longer if it's shelf stable.  That will keep us going until the next round of sales on those items.  If it all works out I never pay full price  - ever.  Imagine what would happen to your grocery budget if you could do that with almost everything you purchase.

I am often amazed that people don't pay more attention to sales and have no idea what the price of something "should" be considering that most of us are feeling the pinch of higher prices.  Some people shop and buy whatever they need for the coming week with no plan. You need a plan!

I am not the strict menu planning type. I find we eat the same basic things over and over again anyway so as long as I am on the look out for those items we will always have what we need to throw together a quick supper or a crock-pot meal or something more fancy.

I've been thinking about the true cost of some foods lately.  We freak out when tomatoes are $1.99 a pound in the winter but don't realise that potato chips cost about $5.00 a pound ($2.49/270gr).  We calculate that we can't afford to eat organic chicken at $4.50 a pound but we buy lunch meats of questionable quality like Schneiders Fat Free Lifestyle Chicken Breast slices for $15.37 ($4.27/125gr.)  Or Cheese Strings for $10.15 ($3.79/168gr.) when regular Black Diamond cheese is on sale as I mentioned for $4.00 a pound.  For $6.15 I can cut up my own cheese!

Wasn't that interesting?  Those were just some quick numbers I pulled from some grocery flyers I received today.  I bet we could come up with a lot more.

As I am stocking up in February I am making notes about what I canned this year and how much of it we're eating.  Some things were so worthwhile - canned potatoes are amazing - and we will be doing more next year.  Other things I need to plan to add to meals to make better use of them.  It feels good to have cleaned up the cupboards and the freezers and make room for the spring and summer bounty coming up.  I still have a few days of canning for some on-sale potatoes I bought and the layer hens in the freezer.  There's always the potential for canned soup too - anyone want some hands-on lessons while they keep me company?? 

I'm in the mood for canning but with a storm on the way I won't start - if the power goes out I will have a terrible mess to clean up!  What are you up to in February??

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Anita's Amazing Chicken & Vegetable Quiche

Are you ready for the best-ever MOST AMAZING Quiche recipe EVER??  This is a variation of quiche that I make regularly and as I've tweaked the recipe I keep getting even better reviews.  My son loves this quiche and that'a saying something.  It very versatile: you can eat it "freshly baked", warm, cold or re-heated and it's still great.  It's also made of simple ingredients that are easily replaced if you are vegetarian or can't have dairy and there's no crust so it's low-carb.  I'll give suggestions as I go.  The exact recipe will be below.

This post has nothing to do with the fact that I am trying to get you to eat more eggs so you will buy some of OUR eggs - nothing at all!

I use a cast iron frying pan because I love my pans but if you don't have one you can use any frying pan and transfer the ingredients at the appropriate stage to an oven safe dish.

Remember those peppers I froze last summer??  You'll need about two cups chopped plus 3 or 4 chopped onions.  I stir fry them until they are soft but not caramelized.

I bought this chicken bacon on sale a few months ago.  We tried cooking it and eating it like bacon but it fell so short of real bacon that we decided for the 3 times a year we eat bacon - the real thing is the only answer.  So this package got lost in my freezer until my recent EAT-TO-THE-BOTTOM-OF-THE-FREEZER-CHALLENGE.  You can substitute ham or sliced sandwich chicken or anything else your heart desires but the chicken bacon does make it taste really good!

Chopping the meat while partly frozen makes it easier to deal with.  Add it to the peppers and onions and let it get heated through.

You'll need one dozen free range eggs - preferably from Shalom Engedi Farms!

Beat the eggs along with 1/2 a can of evaporated milk or almond milk, or regular milk or no milk at all.  Add in 2 Tbsps of dried kale or a handful of chopped spinach or other greens.

Sprinkle home made broth powder or plain salt and pepper to the frying pan mixture.  If your frying pan is not oven safe transfer it to an oven safe dish now - a deep dish pie pan  for thicker slices would work.

Press the vegetables and meat even down into the pan and top with the egg mixture.
Top with sliced fresh tomatoes or if you don't have them canned diced tomatoes.

Sprinkle with 1 Tbsp. of parmesan cheese and bake at 350 degrees for 28 minutes or until firm. It slices really well and can be transferred to the freezer by slicing and wrapping each slice in plastic wrap and tinfoil.

Anita's Amazing Chicken & Vegetable Quiche

2 cups chopped green peppers
4 chopped onions
1 package chicken bacon or other as suggested
1 dozen eggs
1/2 can of evaporated milk
2 Tbsp. dried kale or a handful of chopped spinach
1 Tbsp. home made broth powder or just salt and pepper to taste
4 sliced tomatoes or equivalent of canned diced tomatoes
1 Tbsp. parmesan cheese

Bake at 350 degrees for 28 minutes and ENJOY YOUR EGGS!!