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Thursday, January 1, 2015

Pinterest and Sweet Potato Pie Dip

2014 was my year of Pinterest!  This pin was the basis for building a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf in our house. We now have a shelf behind our sofa in our small living room because I saw this pin.  I brought a cheesy, gooey Jalapeno Popper dip for a Christmas Eve appetizer thanks to this pin. I used the recipe for a tart, sweet, and spicy Jalapeno Cranberry dip on this pin for Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, and again for New Year's. Last night, I made a creamy Sweet Potato Pie dip because I thankfully pinned this a while back.

I'm blogging about the Sweet Potato Pie dip because it is definitely a keeper, I want to make a minor adjustment to the original recipe, and family members who sampled it last night asked for the recipe AND suggested alternate uses for leftovers, which I want to share here.

Dip:
1 (8-oz) block of cream cheese, softened
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes
2 Tbs butter
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
Graham crackers or ginger snaps

Pecan Topping:
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup white sugar
1/4 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup dry oatmeal
1/2 cup chopped pecans






 Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. When oven is ready, bake the sweet potatoes until they are fork-tender.
3. Mix together the cream cheese and brown sugar. Add the mashed sweet potatoes, butter, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. I used a food processor to get the consistency nice and smooth.
4. Mix together all the ingredients of the pecan topping. I added oatmeal to the recipe because when I made it according to the original recipe (without oatmeal), the butter pooled on the top. Adding the oatmeal will give the dip a crisp-like feel and will eliminate butter pooling.
5. Sprinkle the topping on top. Bake for 15-20 minutes and serve with graham crackers and/or ginger snaps.

This dip was so good that by the time I remembered to take a photo for the blog, we had it 1/4 eaten!

For leftovers (if you  have any) or if you just want a twist, this would make a classy dessert served in nice glasses decorated with a cookie dipped onto the top. You could also add a dollop of real whipping cream or ice cream on top.

Pinterest treated me well in 2014. Hoping 2015 brings the same type of success!


A Feast for Our Chickens, 2015

This New Year's Day, we decided to celebrate the lives of our backyard flock chickens. Inspired by Heartland Farm Sanctuary's Feast for the Turkeys event, we made up a meal in which the chickens were the honored guests rather than the main dish.

We halved a few Delicata squashes and filled them with a mix of cranberries, beets, carrots, kale, yogurt, and Bob's Red Mill 10 Grain Cereal.

One half squash for each chicken
We spread them throughout the run.
 As you can see in the pictures below, our chickens were delighted. Rocky, the rooster, expressed  his excitement by getting a case of the hiccups.

Our youngest chickens, hatched on August 18th, are a bit more skittish around us than any of our other chickens have been. Surrounded by squash goodness, they hung out around us this morning as they enjoyed their feast. What a treat for all of us!







Happy New Year!

Monday, November 3, 2014

Salads in Jars

Yumminess before the jars.
A couple of years ago, I made my first set of salads in glass jars for lunches; they were convenient and delicious, but I fell into my old habits and reverted back to leftovers and soups. This past week, our CSA box contained a bag of spinach and another bag of salad greens and carrots and celery and radishes and broccoli and I thought -- hey! I should really get back to those salads.

By the way, making salads in mason jars for weekly lunches is so much faster than making a pot of soup. Duh, right?

The brilliant news is that jar salads stay fresh for a solid 5-7 days. I'll post a picture of Friday's salad later this week just to confirm.




What are the rules?
  • Put the dressing at the bottom. I used 2 Tablespoons, which was plenty for me.
  • Then, put something that can serve as a barrier between the lettuce and dressing. Obviously, this layer is going to get the most exposure to the dressing, so choose a more sturdy vegetable. I used carrots, celery, radishes, and broccoli for this week's salad. Use whatever you have. 
  • Next, add a grain or noodles, if you'd like. I used a quinoa this week.
  • If you're up to it, a protein such as cheese or hard-boiled egg goes next.
  • Finally, the greens themselves.
How do you eat it?
  • I take a bowl to dump mine into, but you could also try your luck just diving right into the glass jar.
  • Just dump it right in!
I use Myfitnesspal.com to track my calories and nutrition information, and I got an immediate green (which is good!) on the fiber section. The other side benefit of making salads in jars is for the sheer aesthetic pleasure of it! They are beautiful.


Monday, August 25, 2014

New Brooder Equals Unrivaled Space

Our friend Fjud spent his Sunday building our chicks a bigger brooder. Because we got the chicks so late in the season and because winter here is so brutal, we are going to  have to keep these babies inside a bit longer than we have when we've gotten them before, in the spring or early summer. Not wanting them to get crowded, we proposed a sort of inside coop/brooder to our construction-savvy friend. He was up to the challenge.

This is what former chicks and the newbies have resided in....




Now, check out their new digs....


Notice the perching bar to the left.

Easy access to allow chicks out to play. This will be useful for introductions to the big hens, too.

View upon opening the above door.

View of entire operation






We couldn't be happier with the results. This is a project that will benefit us for all future poultry endeavors. Thanks, Fjud!

A Flock in Chaos: A Tumultuous Week of Backyard Chicken Keeping

Spindy, on one of her in-home nights
This week, we put down Spinderella (our favorite hen), got a set of 4 baby chicks, and buried one of said baby chicks. It was a tumultuous week for the flock and for its owners.

Back in July, Spinderella began acting lethargic, not excited for the mealworms or cherry tomatoes she so loved. We found a local vet who often works with hens; she diagnosed Spindy with fatty liver. She predicted that we may have called too late, but she gave us instructions to feed Critical Care (actually made for guinea pigs) through a tube twice daily and to give Spindy some R and R inside. We followed instructions, and Spindy's crop got nice and full.
Some TLC

As soon as we put her outdoors again, Spindy began riding a roller coaster of health. One day, we thought she was better; the next she spent the day puffed out under a tree. When the heat index increased on Friday and Saturday, she began floundering around, unable to stand. Even in the air conditioning, she was panting, and we knew it was time.

To all of those hard-core farming types out there, this is where we former city-dwelling, inexperienced, overly compassionate and sentimental homesteaders fail. We took Spinderella to the emergency vet and paid to have her put to sleep via injection. I rationalize this expense by remembering why I wanted backyard chickens to begin with: to give animals who provide me with food a happy life, filled with dignity. There is just no way either my spouse or I have it within us to end her life in the more traditional methods, though we have discussed seeing if we can buy the injection supplies needed for future situations. At the vet, both of us felt the pain and stress of putting a pet down, which to me, means we had succeeded in giving Spindy the type of life I had wanted for her.

On the other end of the week, on Monday, the 18th, four chicks hatched at My Pet Chicken and were shipped our way!  Their fuzzy little bodies are a delight to anyone!

Our friends' kids have flocked here this week, and we've personally enjoyed watching these little ladies grow feathers and flutter around. Our flock is comprised of hens with musically-related names, and this year we let our nieces and friend's daughter name the hens.

We have a:
Eleanor Annie Cosette (Eleanor for Eleanor Roosevelt - strong woman; Annie for Annie Lennox, Cosette from Les Mes)



P!nk


Katy Perry


One of the chicks, our Buff Orphington, didn't make it.

RIP Little Taylor Swift
We came home from dinner (the same day on which Spindy was put down) to find our little chick face-down in the brooder. We are unsure what happened, but we suspect heat. It was a sad day around these parts.


For now though, we'll enjoy the sound of our little peepers singing away in their brooder...and so will the mammals

















Sunday, June 1, 2014

CSA: A Bi-Weekly or Weekly Venture?

Everything consumed in time for Box 2!
For years, we've picked up a weekly CSA box on Saturday mornings from the first weekend in May to roughly the end of January. As our farmer predicted, by year three, we had a system to either eat everything or freeze or can that which we did not consume in a week's time. We did well. Our friends would marvel at how we, two people, managed to eat so many veggies.

Well, those days seemed to be over last year. With the purchase of a quarter cow and half of a pig (to be eaten by the omnivore in the family), we found ourselves with loads of roots and greens that ended up being chicken treats by week's end. Additionally, our gardens have grown exponentially in the past half decade, and when we bought a house in the country, we had hoped to someday be much more self-sustainable.

It seemed the time had come to downsize our CSA box, but we have commitment problems hence no children, no addition to the house...you get the idea. Even downgrading our CSA order seemed so daunting, but we took the leap (sarcasm intended for those of you who can never figure out my sense of humor!).

Well, on May 10th a CSA box was delivered to our normal pickup site, and we weren't on the receiving end. Admittedly, we felt a bit deflated. We doubted our decision. Then, May 17th rolled around. What a joyous occasion to see overwintered spinach and parsnips, freshly dug sunchokes, thick pink stalks of rhubarb, and the bright spring green of sorrel. Heavenly.

We think we made the right decision as this past Saturday, the 31st, we picked up our second box and were able to fit all of our new veggies in the fridge because ... get this: all of our other veggies had been consumed in the past 2 weeks. Regardless of how this first month went, we're going to keep track of how often we run out of veggies too early, how often the chickens are benefiting from our lack of consumption, and how much our gardens are contributing to our overall eating plans. We want to be decision-ready come 2015's order.

Something I made last week that was springy, healthy, and entirely local was Sunchoke-Parsnip soup, adapted from our very own Harmony Valley Farm newsletter. Here's how I made mine:

3 sunchokes
4-5 parsnips
2 Tbs. olive oil
1.5 tsp of salt
1 Tbsp butter
2 Tbs. chopped ramps (onions would work too)
1 quart water
2 cups fresh spinach
1 Tbsp lemon juice
ground black pepper, to taste

Instructions:
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut parsnips and sunchokes and put them into a baking dish with oil and salt. Roast for 30-45 minutes, or until vegetables are tender 


2. Melt butter in a small saucepan. When the butter has melted, add the ramps and saute. Add the roasted parsnips and sunchokes and water and bring all to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes.
3. Remove from the heat and stir in the spinach. Once the spinach is wilted, transfer all to a food processor and blend until smooth. Adjust the seasoning and serve.

Makes 4-6 servings.
Nutritional information per cup:
Calories: 113
Carbs: 10
Fat: 8
Protein: 2
Sodium: 28
Sugar: 5








Monday, April 21, 2014

Spring!

It is spring, my favorite season of the year. So much potential. So much excitement. So many new beginnings. More than at New Year's, I find myself coming up with resolutions to do better, be more focused, use my energy in more productive ways, and to find happiness in everyday moments. This winter has been especially trying for me as my father passed away the day after Christmas, in the middle of what always seems to be a difficult season anyway. But just like the green grass in spring always can be counted on to appear, one always finds herself on the other side of grief. Spring affirms that there is always new life, new love, new opportunities. This spring, I plan to capitalize on the positive energy that the re-arrival of warmth, plants, late and sunny nights, and all things green give me. One of the ways in which I hope to be better and more productive is to write more about the happenings around the homestead and keep up with this blog.

So, here it goes:  spring in Dane County has arrived!  In the quiet of the morning, the sounds of birds chirping and the hens scratching, purring, and clucking are ever-present. Rocky, the rooster, is back at his business with the ladies, and we find 3-4 eggs in the coop per day.

The spring flowers are up, and buds have formed on all of the perennials. Last year, we planted honey berry plants, service berry trees, and gooseberry plants, and they are shiny and green. We haven't seen any bees buzzing around, and we've yet to remove the insulation from the hive, so we're not sure of the state of the hive, but most hope that they've survived the many negative temperature days is gone.

Despite the bees, spring remains the time in which I feel everything gleeful rests on the horizon.
Honeyberry plant

Garlic shoots

Aronia and grapes
The dark, cold winter is over for now, and I plan to live every moment of spring in the present, basking in it all.