How a Former Vegetarian Became a Butcher and Ethical Meat Advocate — How to Provide

What a wonderful read!!!

“Before she was a butcher, Meredith Leigh was a vegetarian. She was fascinated by plants and loved vegetables—how they grew, the way they tasted right out of the field, how they changed color and texture as they cooked.” [repost: http://civileats.com/2016/05/27/how-a-former-vegetarian-became-a-butcher-and-ethical-meat-advocate/%5D But during a trip to Vietnam in 2004—after Leigh had been a vegetarian for nine […]

via How a Former Vegetarian Became a Butcher and Ethical Meat Advocate — How to Provide

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Biscuits & Gravy (Semi-Homemade)

There are two meals my grandson requests when he spends the weekend with us. One is my Smoked Sausage Surprise, and the other is my biscuits and gravy.

Now, I prefer to cook from scratch most days, but I’m certainly not adverse to using mixes, though I generally have to tweak them, too.

Anytime he stays, I make a double batch of gravy so you can adjust accordingly if you want less.  I usually only make one skillet of eight biscuits, though.

I start with Old Folks Country Sausage in a one pound roll.  You can use your brand of preference, or fresh ground, too, if you grind and season your own.

You can slice the roll like this:

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Which makes it easier to get the sausage out of the wrapper.  You just peel it out  by pushing on one end of the roll and peeling the other end off into your cookpot.

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Crumble and brown, adding about 1/2T rubbed sage.

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While it’s browning, prepare the biscuit dough.  First, preheat the oven to  450°F.  You can use a baking sheet, I use a 10 inch Lodge cast iron skillet.  If you use cast iron, put about 1T shortening in it and let it preheat with the oven, never put a cold skillet in a hot oven.

Measure 1T lemon juice into a measuring cup. Add enough milk to make 1C, and let sit about five minutes to ‘sour’.  This is a great substitute for buttermilk.

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Meanwhile, check on sausage, don’t over brown!  If it’s done, turn off heat and let cool.

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Next, measure out 3C Of Pioneer Brand Baking Mix into a large bowl.

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Here’s where the tweaking comes in.  Add about 1 1/2t baking powder, 1/2t baking soda and 1/4t raw cane sugar.

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Mix well with a whisk, then make a well in the center of the biscuit mix.  Add the milk, and stir with a spoon just until the dough follows it around the bowl.IMG_5695.JPG

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Dust the top of dough lightly with additional baking mix, as well as your hands.  Pinch out eight evenly shaped balls and set aside till oven and skillet are hot.  Be sure to use hot mitts to handle the hot skillet!

Put them in the hot skillet, and slightly flatten them.

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Pop in the oven, and set your timer for 12 minutes.

While the biscuits are baking, make the gravy.  Again, I use a mix, Pioneer brand Peppered Gravy Mix.

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Instead of mixing it the way the directions say, I add the required amount of milk to the sausage, and then add the mix, too.  Add a pinch of crushed red pepper, if desired. Stir well, until no lumps remain, on medium heat and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened.

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By now, the biscuits should be ready to come out of the oven. To check for doneness, tap them on top, in the center.  They should have a slightly hollow sound. Brush with melted butter.

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These are some tender, flaky biscuits, folks!  And while Dearest and the Grandson enjoy theirs in the traditional way~~

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I prefer mine separate. (I have this weird thing about soggy bread).  So I enjoy my biscuit buttered, with honey, and small bowl of gravy.   And a glass of ice cold milk.  That’s also a must.

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Homemade taste with a little less fuss.

Till next time, friends!

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Face It, Winter’s Coming

It’s hard to believe it’s almost the last day of November and I’m outside, and it’s  61°F.  I’m enjoying the last few hours daylight and tending to some last garden tours that seemed to slip my mind or got put by the wayside until today.

As I sadly carried the window box planters,  with green and still growing strawberry plants,  from the front porch around to the backyard, and pulled my two year old sage and lemon thyme plants from their pots, I realized why I’d put off this last garden chore…denial of the approaching Winter.   These last bits of greenery greeted me every morning on my way out the door and every afternoon when I got home since Spring.  It was bad enough when the baskets of petunias were done and put up for the season.  Now, without the lovely ceramic flower pots and planters brimming with trailing strawberries, the front steps look bereft, barren, naked.  And lonely.

Despite having a couple of  heavy frosts over the last week, the herbs were holding up remarkably well, and the strawberries have new growth.  However, overnight temps in the teens next week, will most likely put an end to that.

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The plants will overwinter in the small, heavily mulched kitchen garden.  Once the frost kills them back, I’ll mulch them with straw as well.  Funny thing, after the sage and thyme died back last year, I yanked them out of the smaller pots they were in, and tossed them by the compost bin.  There they lay, all Winter long, roots exposed, so it was very surprising to notice new green growth one day, when taking scraps out to dump.   I’ll be putting them in much bigger planters next year, planters that won’t freeze up and bust, like the ceramic pots they were in.

There’s weather coming in, darker clouds are rolling in, and the wind has picked up a bit.

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Probably should head inside and get dinner started.

Till next time, friends…

Have a wonderful evening!

 

 

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What Is Culture?

via Daily Prompt: Culture

What is culture?  When you hear the word ‘culture’, what is the first thing that comes to your mind?  Does it differ from when you were younger?

Growing up in the 70’s, culture, to me, meant things like the opera, the ballet, museums.  I had a very narrow definition of culture, largely because I was a farm kid, and my introduction to “things of culture” were books and the classical and vinyl records my mother had.   As I grew older, I understood it to mean differing beliefs, traditions and ways of life among different races, religions, and countries.  I discovered that even within individual countries, regions often had their own cultures.

Here in America, we’ve begun to use the word in another way, a way that doesn’t have such an enlightened meaning behind it.   We use it to describe negative things, like “rape culture” or “culture of greed”.  Increasingly, it’s used as a derogatory term, as if cultures other than white Christian American are somehow wrong and not worthy of even the barest understanding.

I would like to know where respect for others’ ways of life went.   Was it ever really there in the first place?  Or was it just lurking in the shadows until now?  Something to ponder, for sure.

 

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Small Scale Stockpile Cooking For Two

It’s another lazy Sunday here at the house.  I’ve been up since about 8:30 this morning, and I really haven’t felt like doing very much. I suppose I should get some things done, seeing as how tomorrow is a workday, and I’ve been pretty slack  about getting things done yesterday and today, but since I did so much cooking and cleaning on Thursday and Friday, plus a small grocery run as well, I decided that a couple days of semi-loafing wouldn’t hurt.

I have to say that, all in all, it’s been a really great Thanksgiving holiday.  I was fortunate enough to have not only Thursday off, but Friday as well, with pay, so it’s been great, really relaxing, and much needed.  I hope it’s been as kind to you.

I did manage to clean out the pantry yesterday, and got rid of a few things that were well past expiration date due to being hidden in the back corners of the pantry. Found several vintage Pyrex glass containers that I had forgotten about, as they were way back in the corner of the top shelf,  and as I’m kind of short, it was hard for me to see them.  But now they’re all washed and ready for use again.

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I acquired them at various Goodwill Stores we have locally.  It’s one of the reason I love thrift shops; old Pyrex, Hull and McCoy Pottery….

But, back to the pantry.  It wasn’t too much of a loss of pantry items as most of it were things that could be tossed into the compost pile.  Old oatmeal, flax and chia seeds, and herbal tea bags.  They’ll nourish future veggies in the garden, so they haven’t really gone to waste.

Today, it was pretty much back to normal, except I did laundry up yesterday.  Heated up the leftover ‘Sketti for Dearest, while I cooked three chicken thighs, chopped it up and added the it to two envelopes of  Minute Rice Multi grain blend-

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-along with several herbs, spices, salt & pepper, evoo and butter.  It makes enough for me to divide five ways, one portion I ate for dinner, the remaining four will be for lunches, along with about one cup of ‘Sketti that I’ll take for lunch tomorrow.  Toss in cut up fresh fruit or vegetables, and you have a filling and fairly heathy lunch.

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I like to buy in bulk as far as meats and vegetables, and prepping ahead as much as I possibly can, not just for meals for that week, but to freeze as recipe starters, like chopped raw or cooked veggies, marinades and sauces, partial recipes that requires additional ingredients to finish the dish that don’t freeze well, individual serving sizes for the lunchbox, and one pot/pan meals and/or casseroles, ready to heat and serve.

Since meat is often the biggest grocery expense, I focus on that aspect and I try to buy in bulk to take advantage of sale prices.  For example, instead of roasting a whole pork tenderloin, I typically divide into thirds.  Freeze one for a small roast, slice another into boneless loin chops and roast the third. Use leftovers from that roast for sandwiches the next day or shred and simmer in BBQ sauce for pulled pork.  Or, you can freeze the slices, wrapping them individually, or make your pulled BBQ , and wrap/pack appropriately, before freezing.  You can also cube some of the meat for kebabs or recipes calling for cubed pork. You can easily do the same with beef and chicken.  Just make sure to get out as much air as possible before freezing.

Ground meats can be frozen raw or cooked, though I find it easier to brown them first.  These come in handy for adding to chili, soups, stroganoffs, etc. without having to first thaw and then brown them.  I’ll typically buy three or four family packs of good ground beef, 83% lean or higher, and patty 1/2 of one package into burgers, which I individually wrap, then freeze.

I’ll often mix up a couple meat and cheese loaves, with just the meat, veggies and cubed cheese, put in gallon-sized freezer bags,  and roll flat, then seal.

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They fit on shelves under other items, or you can stand them upright once frozen, so they fit well in small freezers.  Freezing them flat has an added benefit of quicker thawing, too.  Throw it in the fridge to thaw in the morning, and it will be thawed by afternoon.  Just add the remaining ingredients, shape and bake.  Since it makes two loaves, I freeze the second one, stretching that food dollar further.

I try to keep sausage on hand, cooked links, wrapped in serving portions, some crumbled and pre-browned for gravy, casseroles or soups, and some shaped into patties and cooked up, that only take 20-30 seconds to heat up in the microwave. Perfect for tossing in your lunchbox, since they only need about 15-18 seconds to heat in the microwave.

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Wrap patties individually in wax paper, links two or three per serving wrapped in wax paper and frozen. Store in a ziplock bag or airtight container.

The two main rules for freezing anything, especially meat, are: 1. Label the container, bag or wrapper with the contents, quantity and the date, and 2. To get as much air out of the packaging as possible, or use within a couple-three months to avoid the dreaded and ruinous “freezer burn”.  Glad’s Press and Seal Wrap is awesome for this.  At some point, I plan on investing in one of those FoodSaver vacuum seal gadgets, but I’m going to need a freezer first, which I don’t have room for at present.

Buying whole chickens on sale, then  simmering them, gizzards included, (unless you cook them separately, reserving for giblet gravy), in a pot with onions, garlic, celery, carrots and fresh herbs makes wonderful stock.  After removing the meat from the bones, I let the carcass simmer a bit longer while the meat gets packaged up for the freezer.  One bird typically yields me two four-cup containers of stock and two four cup containers of meat.  The vegetables used in making the stock get scooped out and cut up for use in a soup or stew, instead of pitching them, and I don’t strain the broth when I package it, keep all that flavor and nourishment! I just make sure any bones aren’t left in it.

Since I don’t have a freezer, I make do with what space I have, which is my fridge’s top mount freezer.  At present, I have about three quarts of broth and as much chicken meat, which translates into chicken noodles and chicken pot pie,  (2 night’s worth of dinners EACH), one extra quart of stock for soup, and one quart of meat for a soup or casserole (2 nights dinners EACH).

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There’s also 1/2 dozen homemade yeast rolls (individually wrapped), two quarts of Chicken & Barley Soup (2 night’s dinners), two half racks of pork spareribs (1 night’s dinner EACH), two boneless pork loin chops (1 dinner), twelve boneless, skinless chicken thighs (4 dinners +2 lunches EACH), twelve country style pork ribs (4 night’s dinners), a 2 pound boneless ham (2 night’s dinners, + another 2 night’s worth of dinners using some of the ham for beans), one Meat & Cheese loaf, (2 night’s dinner + 1 lunch) five individual servings of Sweet Potato Casserole, and a week’s worth of sausage links for breakfast at work.  Twenty-six nights worth of dinner.  I’m out of ground meats at the moment, just waiting on a sale, so, we’ll see how much more I can fit in there!

Dearest’s work for years has been largely seasonal, so I learned very early in our marriage how to stretch resources during the lean times.  Getting the most meals out of various cuts of meat with the addition of seasonings, grains, potatoes, vegetables, broths, gravies and/or bread was a challenge and soon became habit.  Buying and cooking in bulk during peak work season was a simple transition for me from the farm life I lived during my childhood, producing and preserving for the winter.  I want to share my knowledge, tips and recipes, because, while I learned a lot from my mother, much more of my knowledge is very hard earned.  I know first hand what it’s like to struggle as a young couple of limited means (and cooking appliances!) with children to feed.  My hope is that by sharing the hints, hacks and tricks I’ve learned over my adult life to “make do with” whie stretching our food budget with savory (and sometimes quirky) recipes I’ve altered or created that satisfy the senses and fill the belly, will make life just a tiny bit simpler for someone else.

For me, the main benefit of stockpile cooking is reducing our grocery budget during the winter. The money not being spent on meat can provide staples like sugar, milk, coffee, fresh fruits and veggies, etc., so that we have delicious and wholesome meals year round.

So get creative with it!  Adapt your favorite recipes to the freezer.  Experiment with new recipes by checking out freezer meal cookbooks, search online,  create your own!  If you want to start small, pre-chop veggies and fruits for the week for your lunch and/or dinner.  Time spent doing these things is great therapy for anxiety, since you have to slow down and focus on what you’re doing.  The amount of time and frustration it saves you on those busy nights when you have absolutely no desire to cook, or you have limited time to cook is a huge bonus.  You’ll save time and eat well, and you know what you’re eating.

Till next time, friends…

Have a wonderful evening!

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Saturday Afternoon~Late November

On this peaceful Saturday afternoon at 2:40, I’m in the kitchen, tending to laundry and kitchen chores while nursing a tender lower back that still feels as if it could lay me low at any moment.  I’ve already done ice packs and stretching, and, with the addition of a muscle relaxer, it’s holding its own.

I woke up early again this morning, well before daybreak.  Ever since the time change a couple of weeks ago, I’ve consistently woken up around 1:30, sometimes 2:30, every morning, restless, anxious, and uncomfortable.  For some reason, (I suspect Seasonal Affective Disorder), the “fall back” in November is particularly hard for me.  About the time I get adjusted, it’ll be time to “spring forward” again.

I had a yearning for some classical opera this morning, so I’m currently delighting in this lovely piece-

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-which was preceded by this-

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-and it’s just making the afternoon feel a bit more peaceful.

As I listen to another selection by the incomparable Pavarotti-

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I’m reminded of the mother of the main protagonist, Dave Stoller, in the movie “Breaking Away”, which was filmed locally.  (If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it).   I’m thinking in particular of the scene where she is doing the dinner dishes, lip syncing to an Italian opera, very much in a far away place, as she sways and gestures, while up to her elbows in suds. That’s about how glamorous I feel, in old longjohns, battered old tshirt and a denim shirt over that, sleeves rolled up, gloves in hand, ready to tackle the dishes-

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Yes, my dishwasher is old, about ten to fifteen years or so old.  But it works, and that what matters.

Heres a handy kitchen tip: I’m sure you’ve seen the new cleaning strength vinegar from Heinz-

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This stuff is awesome!  I use it in the rinse dispenser instead of pricey rinse aids, and quite often, pour in a 1/2 cup during the main wash. We have hard water, and by using this, with it’s acidity percentage of 6% vs the 5% of regular white vinegar, it really keeps the limescale from building up on the heating element, plus it makes the dishes sparkle!!

Fresh out of Turkey Day leftovers, (having frozen what remained for enjoying some cold Winter night), I settled on ‘Sketti. The Italian sausage is cooked-

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-and, I’m cheating a bit on the sauce (thank you Emeril)

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-and I didn’t grate fresh Parmesan, I used store bought shredded-

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But after all the from-scratch cooking I do, not just on holidays, but most days, no one’s going to complain about some semi-homemade comfort food, especially when it’s been a cold November day, and this dish is quick, hot and comforting.  Feel free to adjust spices and herbs to your liking, use good ground sirloin, a mix of beef and Italian sausage, or make it vegetarian.

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If you’d like to whip this up, you’ll need:

1 jar of spaghetti sauce of your choice

1 lb. browned Italian sausage

1 T. Italian Seasoning

1 t. Oregano

salt & pepper to taste

1/2 lb. pasta of choice

grated real Parmesan

Brown the sausage, add sauce, herbs, salt & pepper and simmer while cooking the pasta   Drain, add to meat/sauce mixture and throw in a couple-three good pinches of grated Parmesan.  Heat and eat!

It reheats well, and it’s even better the second day.  Can also be frozen in bulk or individual servings for a quick meal later on.  Pair with a salad, bread and a beverage for a meal.

Till next time friends

~~~Have a happy Saturday!!!~~~

 

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Thanksgiving 2016

This has to be the most relaxed Thanksgiving of my adult life.  Nowhere to go; my in laws holiday dinners are largely a thing of the past.   Those big get togethers started unraveling several years ago when my father in law died at the end of September 2009.

Since then, a couple we lived next door to when our daughter was born, who “adopted” us, have died,  so there hasn’t been that family get together in several years now, though we are still very close with their daughter and her husband.  More recently, my brother in law’s son, who was killed in a head on collision barely three blocks from his home.  No one felt much like celebrating this year.

My mother in law decided against having thanksgiving dinner at her house, as hardly anyone showed up last year.  We couldn’t go because Dearest was sicker than a dog, much as he is this Thanksgiving.  Since she went to my sister in laws, we opted to stay home and have our own little Thanksgiving dinner.

I bought a small, boneless fully cooked half ham, because, let’s face it,  a forty dollar spiral sliced ham for two people is a bit much, when the one I got was only a bit over twelve dollars.  It’s currently heating up in the oven-

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-accompanied by a brown sugar & pecan topped sweet potato casserole.

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Parkerhouse rolls (from scratch) are done-

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-as is a huge  bowl of homemade potato salad –

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-Fresh green beans are gently simmering in a bit of bacon grease and a few slices of bacon-

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I decided against any dessert, neither of us wanted any, and I would have been hard pressed to fit a from scratch pie into everything else I prepared.  I plan on making something tomorrow, something with apples, maybe.

“Thanksgiving with The Duke” is on AMC, bringing memories of my dad, dozing in his recliner, and, as The Sons of Katie Elder and El Dorado play out on the tv, I can’t help but think of him, as I’m bustling around the kitchen, slicing, chopping, mixing, stirring…memories, some uneasy, from my childhood.

My mother, using a turkey baster to get pan drippings to make giblet gravy from the drip pan of the Farberware electric rotisserie, set up out in the linoleum tiled breezeway of our ranch style home, dutifully turning a fat turkey, slowly but surely, turning it to a delectable golden, crisp brown.

This isn’t to say it was a warm and happy family time, not in my teen years, anyway.  By the time I was 14, it was fully a house of volatile rage, waiting to explode on the slightest nudge, fueled on one side with an immovable, unforgiving nature, and by whiskey, disappointment and anger on the other.  Another story, just not for today.

I shove the bad memories aside, and this leaves me to dwell on the parents I had when I was very little.  Back when we were a happy family.  When I felt safe and loved, not caught in the middle of a war, very often bearing the brunt of it.  Not a good path to be wandering down, as the holidays make me weepy these days.

Dearest and I both woke up headachey and with very stiff shoulder, neck and back muscles, courtesy of a weather front that moved through yesterday, making it a chilly, gloomy and rainy day and most of the evening.  After some stretching and use of a percussion massager, I felt better, and fixed us a small breakfast of bacon, eggs and toast.  After cleaning up from breakfast, I started cooking our dinner, doing cleanup as I went, like I was taught in Home Ec class.  (They need to bring that class back).

Six hours later, most of which Dearest spent in bed, we sat down to a wonderful dinner-

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-Neither of us dressed up, him still feeling puny and weak, in flannel pj bottoms and paint stained tshirt, hair rumpled and needing a shower, me in an equally ratty tshirt and zip up hoodie, an old pair of Nikes, and a cast off pair of his old thermal longjohn bottoms-

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-My hair, though braided and tucked in a clip, is in it’s standard state of disarray.

Though we don’t say it out loud, we have much to be thankful for, and we are, every single day.   Just being together, he and I and the precious Baby Girls, in our little home, is enough for me.

I hope wherever you were today, you were happy and loved, and with family or framily.  I hope you smiled, had a good laugh, shared hugs and had a contented heart.  I hope you recalled, fondly, those no longer here, and cherished the ones who are.

Happy Thanksgiving, folks!  Enjoy those tasty leftovers tomorrow!

 

 

 

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