Recipe: Zucchini Muffins

‘Tis the season of the Zucchini….. Here’s a great recipe we made this week as a special birthday treat. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did! And here’s a quick link to another of our favorite zucchini recipes…in case you’re as covered up as we are.

Don’t forget: If your garden is growing faster than you can eat it, consider donating some items to your local food pantry or community kitchen! I’m taking some zucchini to The Community Table this week!

Zucchini Muffins :: A great birthday breakfast!

Zucchini Muffins :: A great birthday breakfast!

Zucchini Muffins

Ingredients
3 C. grated fresh zucchini
2/3 C. coconut oil
1-1/3 C. coconut sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 tsp. vanilla
2 tsp. baking soda
3 C. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
Pinch of salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl combine the coconut oil, coconut oil, eggs, and vanilla. Stir in the grated zucchini.
  2. In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt. Stir these dry ingredients into the zucchini mixture. {Optional: Add 1 cup of nuts and/or 1 cup of raisins or cranberries for a little umph!}
  3. Coat each muffin cup in your muffin pan with a little butter or coconut oil. Use a spoon to distribute the muffin dough among the cups, filling them completely.
  4. Bake on the middle rack until muffins are golden brown, and the top of the muffins bounce back when you press them; about 25 to 30 minutes. Test with a toothpick or bamboo skewer to make sure the centers are done.
  5. Allow to cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Remove muffins from muffin pan and allow to cool another 20 minutes.

*Note: If you are adding walnuts or dried fruit you are likely to have more batter than what is needed for 12 muffins.

Recipe :: Homemade Yogurt

Thank you, Emily, for your super duper, easy peasy recipe for making homemade yogurt. Even with raw milk this worked perfectly on my first try, which really is saying something….

My first homemade yogurt!

My first homemade yogurt!

Ingredients:
1 quart whole milk {raw will work}
1 Tbsp. yogurt {I used Seven Springs Organic, Plain}

Instructions:

  1. Heat milk over low to medium heat to 18o degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Turn off the heat and let the temperature drop to 110 degrees.
  3. Pour warm milk into quart-size mason jar or other suitable container.
  4. Stir in yogurt and put on the lid.
  5. Place the jar of milk and a second jar full of hot water {I boiled water while the milk cooled} in a cooler. I also stuffed an old towel in the cooler for extra insulation.
  6. Wait 24 hours and enjoy!

Of course the result is plain yogurt, so if you prefer something sweet, you can sweeten it with honey or maple syrup. Add vanilla for a little extra something.

Enjoy! {OvO}

Homemade Ramen Noodles

I thought it would be fun to share a simple homemade ramen recipe with you today, but as I started, I realized I needed to share another recipe with you at the same time.

Homemade Ramen Noodles

Ingredients
4 cups chicken stock*
1 tsp. Chinese Five Spice
1 tsp. salt
1 carrot, sliced thin
Chinese curly noodles
Chives
2-3 cloves garlic

Directions

  1. Add stock, spices, salt and carrot to a pot and bring to a boil.
  2. When the carrots seem almost cooked, add noodles and continue to boil for 3-4 minutes.
  3. When noodles are cooked through, add chives and garlic. Serve.

I have only ever found the curly noodles at Wegman’s, so let us know in the comments if you’ve come across them elsewhere. and the Chinese Five Spice is something I purchase in bulk from Frontier Co-op, though I’m sure you can buy it in smaller quantities in a well-stocked gourmet or whole food market. Or you could make your own!

*For about a year and a half (?) I’ve been making chicken stock with the carcass of a Farmer’s Market chicken. We roast the chicken first, or sometimes I just part it, and then use the bones, skin, neck, entrails – whatever is leftover – to make nutrient-rich, delicious chicken stock. There are lots of different ways to do it, and many recipes, but this is what works for us. And, like so many other “recipes,” I work with what I have and leave everything else out if I don’t have it. I think it’s still healthier than anything I could buy in the supermarket…

Homemade Chicken Stock

homemade chicken stock setup

Decanting 1 quart of stock

Ingredients
1 chicken carcass
water
2 carrots, chopped
1 onion, chopped

Directions

  1. Place the chicken carcass in a 6-quart crockpot and cover with water.
  2. Add chopped veggies and cook on low for 24 hours.
  3. Using a ladle, remove 1 quart stock and then add more water to the crockpot. {I use a fine mesh sieve to catch any of the chicken or veg bits and then add that sludge back to the pot. See photo.}
  4. Next day, same time, remove another quart of stock and add more water.
  5. I usually do it for a total of 3 quarts.

I’ve taken more each day and find that it gets very thin. Taking only 1 quart yields a dark, rich stock. We use the stock when cooking grains like rice or barley for dinner and as the base for soups. During the cold winter, it’s lovely to take a scoop, add some salt, and sip it like tea. Truly a homemade super food.

Ten Reasons to drink Bone Broth {chicken stock} from KitchenStewardship.com:

1. Immunity Boosting Fat
The yellow fat from pastured chickens holds immune boosting powers that are only the tip of the iceberg in the power of a properly prepared chicken stock to keep you from getting the next cold or other bug that flies through your house.

2. Warm Liquid is Soothing
It’s okay to mention the obvious. There are plenty of other immune-boosting strategies, like apple cider vinegar water, using lots of raw garlic, and taking fermented cod liver oil, but the soothing feel of a warm liquid on a cold day can’t be beat. (You’ll still want FCLO from Green Pasture for the Vitamins A and D and omega 3s, but you might not want to sip it as you sit at the computer!)

3. Super Mineral Boost
Bone broth contains minerals from the bones that are not only abundant but easy to assimilate into our bodies (unlike the whole mess with whole grains and phytic acid and such – see the soaking grains series for more info on that). Minerals that will help you stay in optimal health include:

  • calcium
  • magnesium
  • phosphorus
  • other trace minerals

SEVEN more reasons here!

Ladies Homestead Gathering

I have been leading the Doylestown, PA chapter of the National Ladies Homestead Gathering for a year and we have outgrown my house! A few weeks ago we did a canning demonstration at the Doylestown Farmer’s Market which was a great success. We used an induction burner to boil water for canning and prepared a fresh-fruit + simple syrup recipe for the market shoppers, which we sold for a fundraiser. Blueberries & Bay is one of the easiest canning recipes I’ve ever done, and the result is simple and yummy (see recipe below).

We talked to lots of people about our group, but the luckiest moment of the (very hot!) day came when we met Shawn Touhill of Sandy Ridge Farm and Market. He and his wife are the newest full-time farmers in Doylestown, and have generously offered to host our monthly Gatherings in the Community Room of their Farm Market! The market is a great fit for our group, and will give us the space we need to meet comfortably and to grow our Gathering. You can read more about the Touhill Family and Sandy Ridge Market here.

In addition to hosting our monthly Gatherings and any workshops we decide to do this year, Shawn is a great resource for farm-to-consumer marketing and I hope to learn much more about his business as a potential model for our own farm.

In other news: We are back on realtor.com every day searching for potential properties. We are feeling a new sense of urgency that has us buckling down on the small house renovations, and hoping to sell within the next year. We’ve looked all over, and currently our search is centered around Madison County, Virginia because it’s halfway between Gramma’s house and Grampa’s house, and because it borders the Shennandoah National Park and other preserved land. I’ve been doing some asking around and it seems like Madison County (or neighboring Rappahanock County) would be a good fit for our farmy family, so we’ll see!

Blueberries & Bay

Blueberries & Bay Canning RecipeIngredients
Approximately 3 quarts fresh or frozen blueberries
5 cups water
2 cups sugar
Bay leaves

Equipment
Waterbath canner
Jar lifter
Lid lifter
Ladle
Canning jars, sterilized
Unused canning lids
Canning jar rings

Directions

  1. Place canning lids in heat-safe pot or bowl and cover with boiling water to sanitize and soften the gum. Fill the waterbath canner and bring to a rolling boil.
  2. Heat water to boiling and add sugar, stirring to dissolve. Boil for 5 minutes and set aside. Place blueberries and one bay leaf into jars, leaving ½” headspace. Ladle hot syrup into jars, maintaining ½” headspace. Remove any air bubbles from jars before wiping the rims with a warm, damp dishcloth.
  3. Add lids and attach rings – tighten just until you feel resistance.
  4. Place jars into canner, insuring they are covered by at least 1” of water. Bring to a rolling boil and begin timing: 15 Minutes for ½ Pints and Pints; 20 Minutes for Quarts
  5. Carefully remove jars from canner and allow to cool on a towel-lined countertop.

Now, with your canned blueberries, you can make muffins, syrup, or just eat them on top of cereal, ice cream or yogurt. Enjoy!

What’s in Season in July? Zucchini!

growing-zucchini-how-to-grow-zucchini-summer-squash2Someone I know said “We’re not even growing any zucchini in our garden this year!” because it is so very prolific and some members of her family aren’t big fans. Zucchini definitely grows well, but it is also incredibly versatile in the kitchen, playing the lead role in savory dishes as well as sweet ones. It can be cut and roasted or sautéed, baked into breads, used as a pizza topping or even made into noodles and eaten like spaghetti!

Even the blossoms of this large plant are edible! If you decide to harvest them, make sure you grab only the male blossoms, saving the females to grow the fruit!

zucchini blossoms male female

Thinking about growing zucchini in your garden?

Soil preparation: Zucchini likes well-drained, fertile soil that’s been amended with lots of compost.

Planting: Plant seed outdoors when the soil temperature has reached 60°F—about a week after the last frost.

Spacing: You want to give your squash a lot of room to spread out and grow. Plant them about 3 to 4 feet apart in rows 8 to 12 feet apart.

Watering: Zucchini like consistently moist soil. To prevent problems with disease, always water from below.

Fertilizing: Spray plants with compost tea two weeks after seedlings come up. Spray again in three weeks or when the first flowers appear.

Special hint: If space is limited, put up a trellis for vertical support.

Pest Watch 
Pale to brown blotches on leaves are the work of squash bugs. Squash vine borers cause plants to wilt suddenly.

Disease Alert 
Powdery mildew may strike the plants, leaving whitish powdery spots on leaves that turn brown and dry. Plants that wilt and ooze a sticky sap when cut may be infected with bacterial wilt, which is spread by cucumber beetles.

Harvesting 
Harvest zucchini when the fruits are still small—about 3 to 4 inches across or 4 to 6 inches long. You can store zucchini in the refrigerator for about a week.

Source: http://www.organicgarding.com

Need a recipe?

This recipe came from a member of the CSA for which I work. It comes with such a high recommendation it’s the first recipe I’m sharing that I haven’t prepared myself yet!

Zucchini Cobbler

photo credit: dazzledish.com

photo credit: dazzledish.com

Ingredients

Fruit
8-10 cups zucchini, peeled, cubed and seeded
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup lemon juice
2 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. fresh nutmeg

Cobbler
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1½ cups chilled butter
2 +/- tsp. cinnamon
1 cup granola or oats (optional)

Directions

1) Place the prepared zucchini in a bowl with 1 cup of sugar, stir frequently and let sit until the water is drawn out of the zucchini and a syrup has formed (this process can take a few hours or it can sit over night).

2) Add lemon juice, cinnamon, and nutmeg. (If you’re in a hurry, you can expedite by cooking the zucchini, sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon, and nutmeg.)

3) In a separate bowl: mix flour, the remaining 2 cups of sugar, and butter. Blend together using a pastry knife (or butter knife).

4) Mix 1/2 cup of the pastry mixture in with the zucchini as a thickener and place 1/2 of the remaining mixture in the bottom of a greased baking dish. Use your hands to press it into the dish to form a crust.

5) Pour the zucchini mixture on top of the crust. Add to the remaining pastry mixture and your ‘finishing touches’ (cinnamon, granola, oats, etc.). Pour this mixture on top of the zucchini. Place in the oven and bake at 375 for 30-45 minutes.

Workshop Review: Fermentation Basics

This past weekend I attended a fermentation workshop at Blooming Glen Farm in Perkasie, PA where I knew I would:

Learn the basic principles of this ages-old, simple and fun preservation method by getting hands-on with yogurt, sauerkraut and seasonal vegetables. Everyone will leave with a jar of pickles or kraut and a culture with which to make their own, very simple yogurt at home! You will also leave (hopefully) with an appreciation for the role of the microbes living all around us!

Although I have been making kombucha for a few years, I have never had success with yogurt, pickles or sourdough; three delicious and useful ferments I am determined to master. Amanda’s workshop was just wonderful and because we had so many fresh veggies at our fingertips {thank you, Tricia & Tom!} we all left with a pint of fermented pickles {ready to eat July 7} and some sauerkraut {ready July 21} plus a tablespoon of villi, a 100-year-old yogurt-like culture from Finland.

Amanda of phickle.comIt is clear that Amanda has done workshops like this one before. She was friendly, informative, and answered all of our questions without hesitation. She was engaging and a joy to listen to. I have a tendency to ask a LOT of questions, and I felt like I was in a safe environment, so I went with my gut and asked away; she answered all of them. I even had a follow-up for Amanda today via her Facebook page!

The thing that I already knew that bugged me the most: you can’t use raw milk in dairy cultures because the good bacteria in un-pasteurized milk will actually kill the good bacteria in your yogurt {or kefir} culture. Ultimately, you have three choices for how to deal with that:

  1. Buy pasteurized {but not ultra-pasteurized} milk.
  2. Home pasteurize your raw milk, or
  3. Maintain a mother culture made with sterilized or pasteurized milk to preserve the viability of the culture {www.culturesforhealth.com}.

For now, I am going with #1 – I picked up a half gallon of pasteurized, grass-fed, whole milk today, so we’ll see what happens. I started 1 cup milk + 1 Tbsp. villi starter around 1:30 today, and I have to work all day tomorrow, so I’m hoping that by 5:00pm tomorrow we’ll have some yummy yogurt!

The most memorable thing that I didn’t already know: using whey in your ferments will speed up the process, kicking the good bacteria into hyperdrive. So it might be useful when you want to have pickles for a certain event, for example, or if you’re giving pickles as gifts. But since the one experiment I’ve done with whey yielded less-than-tasty dilly carrots, I wonder if I don’t like the taste or if I messed something else up along the way…?

Overall, it was a lovely afternoon spent with old and new friends and I am re-energized about stepping back into the world of fermentation. Amanda’s workshop made home fermentation seem easy, affordable, and enjoyable, so I look forward to sharing some successes with you in the near future!

What Does Homesteading Mean to You?

For me, homesteading began with food. After reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, all I wanted to do was find, grow and eat local food. I was convinced the only way for my family to eat a grassfed turkey for Thanksgiving was to grow it myself. That’s the moment I became a farmer.

Unfortunately, I was still living smack-dab in the middle of suburbia, so raising livestock just wasn’t an option. While I waited for my farm dreams to come true, I focused my energy on things I could do immediately to feed my family more healthfully, while saving money, so that we could one day be able to live on a farm.

At that time, my oldest child was only a few months old, and we were drinking organic milk and eating organic vegetables, but we were still fully engaged in the industrial food system. I made it my goal to visit the Farmer’s Market every week that summer, and found a wide variety of foods I had never heard of. And boy, was it expensive! I realized immediately that if we were going to be purchasing real food, from real farmers, we were going to have to spend less in other areas of our life to make up the difference. And it was something I was committed to.

That summer was the first time I ever cooked a whole chicken, and after three years I can finally say I feel comfortable with that. We started out roasting the whole bird every time, but I felt we were wasting a lot of meat {not to mention the carcass} so last year I started cutting the bird before cooking it. Now we eat the breasts and tenders one night, the legs another night, and save the carcass for making stock.

The challenge of cooking a real, whole chicken was just the beginning of my journey to homesteading. In the kitchen, we started baking our own bread, making our own jam and apple butter, and eating fresh, local vegetables nearly every night of the week. One way we save money for fresh veggies is pretty simple: we purchase less meat, and instead rely on other non-meat forms of protein, like beans. I now have hundreds of delicious vegetarian recipes that allow my family to enjoy our meals together – and feel satisfied –without eating chicken breasts every night. Those three meals we get out of our Farmer’s Market chicken? They last us three weeks. We limit our dinners out, and buy almost no prepared foods, opting instead to make our own popcorn, rice crispy treats, fruit bars, and more. Making our own food means I know exactly what goes into everything, and allows me to eliminate sugar almost entirely. We don’t buy “instant” oatmeal, and rarely do we buy cereal. Instead we make our own oatmeal, granola, muffins, and scones and spend those dollars we save on pasture-raised chicken eggs which we enjoy almost every other day.

Rather than purchasing canned beans, we buy dry beans in bulk. They’re ridiculously affordable, and really not that hard to prepare, so I feel good knowing my kids are eating organic beans, organic rice, organic barley, and organic oats. We buy bushels of fruit when they’re in season, meaning we pay much less for “low-spray” fruit that was grown right around the corner – which is good for us, and good for the farmer who grew it.

But homesteading means more than just where you shop for groceries. To me, it’s a lifestyle. And what’s interesting is that a lot of our frugal family choices are ecologically-friendly too. We chose cloth diapers for our children because we couldn’t stand to send bags and bags of paper diapers to the landfills where they would never decompose, so we reduced our environmental impact while also saving thousands of dollars in disposable diapers. We use cloth napkins, towels and washcloths in the kitchen. The kids and I use cloth wipes at home, meaning we buy about ¼ the toilet paper we did two years ago. We shop at thrift stores and consignment stores for nearly everything for the kids and myself {My husband works a “real job” so he shops the big sales for his work clothes, or uses Christmas money to purchase new items}. Clothes, shoes, toys, books, canning jars, bookcases – whatever you need, you can probably find it used and for a lot less than what you would pay at a retail store. I still use Amazon for hard-to-find books, but purchase them used whenever possible. We utilize Craigslist for big-ticket items like our {1996 Ford F150} farm truck, our {1974 Massey Ferguson 135} tractor, and the trailer we’re using for our eggmobile. Every purchase is made with re-useability and longevity in mind. I absolutely abhor re-buying things, so I sometimes spend a little more now {say, $30 on a set of enamelware picnic plates} instead of spending more over time for something that will be thrown away.

We try to save money and do-it-ourselves in other ways too. We believe children deserve a better education than what is being offered in public schools today, but the cost of private school is insane, so instead, we plan to homeschool our two children. We will have the opportunity to spend countless hours of quality time with them, not just rushing them to and from the bus every day. We get to take extended vacations – any time of year, like during the “off-season” when attractions are easily half as expensive. We can really get to know them, and they us, as we grow and learn as a family.

We eliminate unnecessary expenses wherever we can and utilize free programs and events in town like story time at the library, music in the park, parades, festivals, etc. And though I can’t seem to get my husband to give up the television, we only pay for basic, basic subscription now. Don’t get me wrong, we both have iPhones {good luck trying to get mine away from me}. We choose to spend a little extra on our cell phones and instead gave up having a landline.

And now that we have moved to a place with a little more space – we’re doing more “real” homesteading. We built a garden and have planted mostly beans, some tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, squash and a few other things, with the hope that we can dry and can the excess to use over winter. This is our first real attempt at stocking a larder, so my expectations are very low. Saving seeds will allow us to spend less next year when it comes time to replant the garden. And eggs? The biggest expense in switching to a whole food, grassfed diet, is animal protein, and eggs are no exception. We were paying $4.00 per dozen in Georgia, $5.00 over the winter, and found a farmer at our local Farmer’s Market here in Pennsylvania that will sell them for $6.00/doz. For a family that now eats about 2 dozen eggs per week, it was easy to see what our second farm enterprise would be. Growing, feeding and caring for 12 laying hens will not be very cost-effective this year {we don’t expect to get eggs until late fall}, but with plans to feed our birds entirely on grass and then hatch out our own chicks next year, we hope to reduce our off-farm inputs dramatically in the future.

I have grand plans for our little farm {like, maybe someday it won’t be so little}, but in the mean time I’m doing everything I can to make living closer to home more comfortable and enjoyable. I experiment with everything in our CSA box; learning to cook once-foreign vegetables has become somewhat of a delight for me. I read books. All the time. I’m getting a thorough and enjoyable “free” education in composting, organic gardening, raising grassfed meat, raising chickens, living more sustainably, homeschooling, sewing, knitting, and more. I attend free seminars, did a few months worth of an un-paid internship last year, and have joined every club and Facebook Group I can find involved in the local food/local anything community where I now live. And I write this blog, where I can share my experience with you, and hope that you will share yours too.Image