Monday, February 29, 2016

Menu Monday!

Hope you all had a great weekend. Mine was busy but nice. Today it is back to menu planning and grocery shopping.

I did not get the chili made as I had planned last week so today it is on the menu. Instead of the chili I made meatball & broccoli cream soup. I plan on sharing that recipe and a little YouTube tutorial I made for it tomorrow.

The rest of my week is looking like this..

BBQ pork chops
I'll do these in the crockpot. I put the pork chops in, cover them with Sweet Baby Ray's BBQ sauce and let them cook on low until they are tender. I'll serve rice and green beans on the side.

Clam Chowder
I have not made it in a long time. A nice bowl of clam chowder, biscuits and a salad sound like the perfect meal. You can find my clam chowder recipe HERE.

Chicken Tater Tot Casserole
I have some cooked chicken in the freezer. I'm going to make the typical tater tot casserole (recipes are everywhere on the web) and substitute chicken for the hamburger. I'll add a salad on the side.

That should do it for this week!!


Friday, February 26, 2016

What to do with all that Whey

In my last post I showed how to make feta cheese. One gallon of milk will give you one pound of cheese and about 3 quarts, maybe a bit more, of whey. Is it good for anything? Oh yes it is!! So if you make the cheese don't toss out the whey.

Whey still has a lot of healthful nutritional value to it. It is cultured (think probiotic. Probiotcs are expensive to buy and how great you can them as a by product of cheese making), it has some protein in it (whey is the main ingredient in many protein powders), it contains calcium and many B vitamins.

Here are some of the great things you can do with it....

Use whey instead of the liquids called for in a recipe. I've used it for yeast breads and quick breads. It adds a lot to the texture of your finished product. I made a batch of pancakes with it and they were yummy...

Use whey for the liquid in your smoothie. I've been doing this every day since I made cheese. It is delicious and nutritious.. A great source of probiotics. You can find my favorite smoothie recipe HERE.

Whey Lemonade
I make lemonade for my husband to take to work every week. It is easy to make and frugal. I used some whey when I made it last week. It ups the nutritional value of simple lemonade.

Whey Lemonade

2 cups bottled lemon juice
¾ cup sugar
1 cup of whey
Water to fill
gallon size pitcher or jar

To make this I heat a little water up to dissolve the sugar. Then put this in a gallon size pitcher or jar. Add the lemon juice and whey. Fill the pitcher or jar to the top with water. Let this sit on the counter for 2 to 3 days to ferment.

The end result was delicious. Taste it and see if you like your lemonade sweeter than the recipe states. My husband likes his a bit on the tart side.

Fermented Veggies
I've used whey a lot over the years in making fermented veggies. I started making them after reading Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. You can find info on how I do this HERE.

Substitute for Buttermilk
Since whey is acidic you can use it as a substitute in recipes calling for buttermilk.

The enzymes in the whey help to break down proteins and will make your meat more tender and flavorful. Soak your meat in whey for a couple of hours before grilling it.

You can feed it to your chickens or dogs. Since it is a milk product I would hesitate to feed it to cats.

Bone Broth
You can use whey instead of vinegar when you are making stock or broth. I had a few chicken legs leftover last week from our dinner and I used them to make stock for chicken soup. I put the bones in the crockpot along with some veggies and added a cup of whey and about 4 or 5 cups of water. I let this cook for 24 hours, strained it and made soup from it.

Freeze It
If you don't think you can use that much whey up quickly enough, freeze it. It works great after it is defrosted.

****As a side note, you can get whey from other sources than feta cheese. You can also get it from yogurt or kefir. Hang it like I showed in my last post and let the whey drip from it.


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Making Feta Cheese

Feta cheese is one of the easiest cheeses to make. I use a recipe that a friend gave me years ago. It is good! I use to make it often when I was milking my goats and had so much milk to deal with. Recently I was in the mood to make some feta and for the first time made it with store bought milk. Yum is all I can say!

I used whole milk, which is a must if you try this. You will also need to purchase cheese cultures (or you can use cultured buttermilk, but make sure it has live cultures in it). I prefer cheese cultures because they are easy to use, store in the fridge for a long time, and are ready whenever I'm in the mood to make cheese. You will also need liquid rennet for this recipe and cheese salt. Below I'll give you some links on where to buy these products.

I'll also share the link to my recipe below..

The process..

Heat a gallon of milk up to 88 degrees (86 for goats milk). Remove from heat and add the cheese cultures and the rennet that has been diluted with water.

Let this sit for 2 hours. I try to keep it as warm as possible. I will fill a larger pot with 88 degree water and set my pot of cheese inside this to help keep it warm. It is not necessary that stays exactly at 88, but if it cools down too much it might interfere with the thickening process. You can also cover it with a towel during this time.

When the 2 hours is up gently stir it to break up the curds. They will separate from the whey. Let is sit for another 30 minutes. Now it's time to drain and strain your cheese..

I use a large bowl, a large strainer basket and some type of cloth. The simplest cloth to use (in my opinion :) is to take an old sheet, cut up a piece large enough to fit in your basket. Wash it with bleach to sanitize it. Pour the pot of curds and whey into the basket. 

And tie it up, and hang it to drain. I used an old shoelace (any type of heavy duty string will work). I also wash my shoelace with the sheet in bleach to sanitize it as well. I tie it up on the handle of my cupboard, put the bowl below it and let it drain for at least 8 hours. It will reduce in size quite a bit...

When it's done draining you can open it up and see your cheese...

Cut the cheese up into chunks...

Finally... it's time to give this feta some flavor. For this batch I used Italian spices, salt and garlic... Put a layer of cheese chunks into the bottom of a quart jar. Liberally sprinkle with cheese salt (don't use iodized salt, it will discolor your cheese, kosher salt will work as well), sprinkle in the spices and a few slices of garlic. Repeat this process until you have used up your cheese. Cover the whole thing with olive oil.

Make sure all the cheese is below the olive oil. Now let it sit on the counter for 3 days. You do not need to refrigerate this. The olive oil seals the cheese from oxygen and so you don't need to worry about it going bad.

When you are done you will have a lot of whey leftover! But don't toss it. I'll be posting next about all the things you can do with the leftover whey.

Here is my Super Easy Feta Cheese recipe.
You will find step by step instructions with pictures on this page.

Links for cheese making ingredients
{affiliate links}

Cheese Making Cultures and Rennet

Cheese Salt

Happy Cheese Making!!


Monday, February 22, 2016

Menu Monday!

This last week I made beef bone broth in the crockpot and plan to use some of it this week. Due to the fact it was nice and concentrated I ended up freezing it in 1 cup portions. It is perfect to add to soups to boost nutritional value and give flavor.

I also made a small batch of chicken stock in the crockpot using the chicken leg bones from our meal last week. I currently have had it in the crockpot since yesterday morning. This afternoon I'll strain it, add more water and a couple of chicken breasts and let this simmer. Then I'll shred the meat and add and some noodles for chicken noodle soup. I'll serve a nice salad and some muffins or biscuits on the side.

The rest of week is looking like this...

I'll cook the beans with a portion of my bone broth. Then add the cooked hamburger & onions and spices after the beans are cooked. Cornbread and a salad will be served on the side.

Garlic Butter Chicken
I had this on my menu last week and it did not get made. I realized I also have a little shrimp in the freezer. I plan to use both chicken and shrimp. I'll saute garlic and onions in butter, add the cut up chicken and shrimp. Saute until they are cooked, add a little spinach and some angel hair pasta. I'll serve broccoli along with this.

Pork Chops
Baked pork chops served with mashed potatoes and gravy. I'll use the rub I bought from Costco for the pork chops and use some of the bone stock to flavor the gravy.

That should do it for the week!


Friday, February 19, 2016

Beef Bone Broth in the Crockpot

I see blogs and articles everywhere on bone broth. It seems it is the latest craze. I've been making broth for years now. Nothing is really “new” about it, other than I think people are more aware of the health benefits today. I remember when my family was small I was making it because it was a thrifty use of my chicken. I'd serve roasted chicken one night, chicken meat in some casserole the next night and take the carcass and saved bones and make chicken soup the next night.

I began to understand broth for it's health and healing properties when my Mother in Law gave me Sally Fallon's book, Nourishing Traditions. I started seeing broth as a staple in the household. I made many pots of broth over the next few years. Each year we would buy a whole cow for the freezer and I'd always ask for the soup bones.

Somewhere along the way as the children were growing up and life became hectic I stopped making broth. Occasionally I'd make a pot to have it on hand for soup making.

I've slowly started making broth again. Mostly it has been chicken broth. Chicken is easy to obtain. Beef bones are a bit harder to find now that I don't buy my meat the same way I use to. I was surprised to find beef soup bones in the grocery store last week. So I bought a package and decided to make some broth.

I'd like to get into the habit of making it weekly. It was a small package of bones, about 4lbs. For the first time I made it in the crockpot. I could see how a small weekly batch of broth is more doable when made in the crockpot.

I have to say I'm happy with the results. I may do less water next time and my broth will be more concentrated. Meaning I can add a spoonful to a cup of hot water if I want to drink it or a few spoonfuls to a pot of soup.

Here is how I did it..

I started with my package of soup bones. They were frozen...

I put them in the crockpot with 1T salt and 2T white vinegar. The vinegar helps draw out the minerals from the bones. The minerals and trace minerals are much of what makes bone broth so good for your body.. I added 1 gallon of water, put the crock pot on high (because my bones were frozen I wanted to get the water to a nice light boil a little faster). After it had started to boil around the edges I turned the crockpot to low.

I really let this cook for a long time. In total it cooked for about 70 hours. The recommend time for most broth is 24 to 72 hours of cooking time.

I strained the broth to remove the bones and bits of fat..

The end result was beautiful (if you can call stock beautiful ;). A lovely rich dark color. I ended up with 7 cups of stock and a thick layer of fat.

I put the broth in the fridge overnight to let the fat harden and then removed it..

Broth will keep in the fridge for about a week and can be frozen. I plan to save some this week just for drinking by the cup and use the rest in a pot of soup.

The crockpot really made this a simple process. And as I mentioned before, somehow it seems more doable to make a small batch weekly in the crockpot.

The health benefits of bone broth are huge. The minerals and trace minerals, the collagen which helps joints, skin, hair and can help to reduce joint pain. It fights inflammation throughout your whole body and promotes a healthy digestive system. It's a worthy food to have simmering in your kitchen each week.

Sally Fallon also wrote another book on nothing but bone broth. Her original book, Nourishing Traditions is an excellent book and I just recently ordered her bone broth book and am eagerly looking forward to it arriving.

{affiliate links}


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Garden Season 2016!

It is way to early to even think of planting anything in my garden. But it is never to early to dream about this years garden and buy seeds. I was at the hardware store with my hubby and picked up a few packets of seeds.

One of those seed packs was cabbage seeds.

I now have a my cabbage seeds planted and I'm excited for spring to arrive and get them in ground.

I'm having a much smaller garden this year so I only planted a few seeds. We'll see how many come up and how many I end up transplanting.

I planted each teeny tiny seed in the my smallest pots...

Several years ago my hubby made me a little greenhouse box that is in his shop. It is very simple, 4 sides, a back and plastic that covers the front. Shop lights hang across the box. I put my planted seeds on a larger tray and put them in the box under the lights..

Then I put a plastic greenhouse dome over the top...

I cover this with a towel so it is dark (just for the germination process). The towel holds in the heat that the lights give.

Then I pull down the plastic cover to keep it nice and warm...

Now to wait until the little seeds start popping up!! I'll keep you posted with updates on my garden journey this year!


Monday, February 15, 2016

Menu Monday!

This week is looking like it might be a bit busy. So my menu planning will reflect that. Quick meals that can be put together in no time.

Due to having kids over on the weekend I ended up making a chicken dish that was so good. I put 3 chicken breasts in my crockpot. Covered them with a sliced onion and a whole bunch of sliced mini sweet peppers and a can of spaghetti sauce (24oz). Let that cook all day, shredded the chicken up and served it over pasta. It was a hit! :)

Now for this week...

Meatball Subs
It's been a while since I made them. I use pre made frozen meatballs that I buy from Costco in the crockpot, cover with spaghetti sauce and cook on low for 4 or 5 hours. Serve in sub sandwich rolls along with coleslaw.

Baked Chicken Legs
I will either season them with lots of garlic, onions and salt and pepper or I'll put bbq sauce on them. Rice pilaf and a salad will be served on the side.

Fish Sticks
Fish sticks and tater tots is always a win at my house. I'll serve some green beans along with this.

Garlic Butter Chicken
Basically I'm going to make it the same way I make garlic butter shrimp, only I'll use cut chicken breast and serve it with angel hair pasta. A nice green salad on the side and maybe some garlic bread.

That should do it for my week...

Happy menu planning!! :)


Saturday, February 13, 2016

Winter Time & Book Reading

I am happy to see January over. It is always the longest darkest feeling month of the year. The weather in PNW has not been to bad. We've had some snow, but mostly it has been rain, as typical. Gray days are getting old. Yesterday it rained almost all day and was very gray. At one point the rain stopped and the fog set it. I could barely see anything outside...

I am enjoying the fact that the days are getting a little longer. Every now and again we are starting have some sunny days and I'm feeling that spring can not be too far away! I've seen a few more birds out and am waiting until I hear some pond noises (frogs croaking). All are sure signs of the changing seasons. I know that baby chicks have arrived in the feed stores. It does make me want to pick up a half a dozen.. :) But, I'll just be patient and wait until next year, I think, ha, ha..

One thing I have done this winter is to read more (at least more than I do during the busier months of the year). I've read a few books that I really enjoyed. Some are classics. I've read a lot of books over the years and I always come back to classic books. They are enriching and enjoyable to me. They increase vocabulary, challenge my brain to think, they improve IQ, and give me a look at historical times in context (which I find fascinating), and classics are part of our literary history as well and why not always be learning and growing and partake of this art form?

I thought I'd share a few books that I've read. They are linked to both the Kindle version and the paperback version. I read a lot of my books on my Kindle. The nice thing is that many of the classics are free or very inexpensive. (Affiliate Links)

I read these books while doing a study of Christian World View:

Frankenstein by Mary Shelly

(the Kindle version)

(Paperback):  Frankenstein

Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson 

The Kindle Version:

(Paperback):The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Dover Thrift Editions)

Both of these books were quick reads. I have seen countless Frankenstein movies over the years and have to say I enjoyed reading the real story! :) My favorite of the two was Dr, Jekyll & Mr. Hyde.

These books went along with the study I did in Christian World View. I read the following book after I had finished them:

The Deadliest Monster  by Jeff Baldwin

Only available in paperback: 


It was very good and I'd highly recommend this study to anyone with high school age children. It would be a fantastic addition to any homeschooling curriculum.

This book was historical fiction. It was based on a true story of a crew of men surviving for over a year on the ice-bound Antarctic seas. What I liked knowing was that the author had actually been able to talk to families of the survivors and was allowed to read their diaries in order to come up with the most accurate story. I was so much in awe by their ability to survive such a harrowing journey.

Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing

(The Kindle version)


(Paperback): Endurance: Shackleton's Incredible Voyage

And another classic:

Jane Eyer by Charolotte Bronte

She does like to write in flowery prose!  I enjoyed it as I do books by her sisters, Ann Bronte and Emily Bronte. I have Tenant of Wildfell Hall on my “to-read” list next. 

The Kindle:


(Paperback): Jane Eyre

Currently I'm enjoying a good old fashioned mystery. I will always love a good mystery! I'm reading Sherlock Holmes: The Hound of the Baskervilles (Wisehouse Classics Edition) by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

So as the rain continues and the gray skies loom overhead I will spend my evenings lost in other worlds and other times and read!!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Thoughts from the Barn

I really enjoy my daily trips to the barn. I'm down to only 2 goats and a few barn cats nowadays. They are always happy to see me when I arrive. The cats want their food and the goats eagerly wait for the daily treat of grain. How different it is today than it was a few years ago when my barn was filled with goats and daily milking and busy children helping to do the barn chores. Now I'm the one who does it all and am happy to have it small and manageable.

Most days I haul water to the goats, rake out their stall, feed them, talk to them and they talk back :) and it is peaceful and pleasant. It is a nice time to do the chores and think and ponder many things.

One thing I've learned over the years is that it is so easy to grow way to big on a farm. It is easy to take more and more on, but harder to keep up with and manage it all. The maintenance and up keep can become overwhelming. I don't really ever read or hear that end of it when I read homesteading blogs.

After almost 20 years on our homestead the barn needs some repairs, the chicken coop needs a new roof (we don't have chickens right now, but we don't want the coop to fall apart either), fences need repair, the driveway needs new gravel, and so on. I'm sure I'm not alone in having a long list of things to be done on a homestead.

A few years ago I decided it was time to simplify my farm animals. My kids were getting older and they had their own dreams and I put my energy towards helping them emerge into adulthood. We moved to the country mainly because we felt like it would be a wonderful place to raise children, and it certainly has been.
I had to realize as they were growing up that they had their own dreams and desires (just as we did when we moved to the country). And they needed to be able to follow those dreams and see where God wanted them to go in their lives. It was just the next step in the journey of raising children.

So some of the animals were sold, the chickens were eventually put in the freezer when they were done laying eggs, the horses were sold, and we kept only a couple goats and the barn kitties.

One of these days I'd like a few chickens again, but not this year. This year, as I make adjustments with less children in the home and taking on the chores without their help, I'm keeping the words, "simple and manageable" as my motto. I've already seen how quickly things can grow and become overwhelming and that is not where I want to be.

As I was in the barn today I took time to enjoy the peacefulness, the noises of the animals, the simplicity of life in a barn. I thanked the Lord for His blessings in our life and thanked Him for the simple joys of barn chores on a quiet day.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Menu Monday!

Last week was a busy week for me, and too busy to blog. This week I think it should be a bit better. :)

The menu went as planned, and having it planned out was very nice. Last week I mentioned the “Rub with Love” that I bought from Costco. I did use it on chicken breasts and I it was good. It was not strongly flavored, more mild. I sliced my chicken breasts in and put the rub on both sides and let it sit for about 15 minutes. I heated a frying pan, added coconut oil, and cooked the meat for about 4 to 5 minutes per side. The meal was super easy! I'm looking forward to trying it on salmon soon.

Today I'll start the week off with kielbasa cooked with cabbage, garlic roasted potatoes and green beans. It's one of my favorite comfort food meals.

The rest of the week looks like this...

Chicken Vegetable Soup
Chicken and veggies are sounding good this week. Not sure if I'll do my creamy chicken soup, chicken noodle soup (with added veggies) or try something new. We'll see how creative I feel when the time comes. I'll make biscuits to go along with this meal.

Pork Chops
I'll try the rub on the pork chops and bake them. Pasta with garlic & parmesan cheese, some home canned corn and a salad on the side will finish the meal.

It's been a while since I've made chili. A nice pot of chili on a cool winters evening sounds nice. I'll make corn muffins and a salad to go with this.

That should do it for the week!


Monday, February 1, 2016

Menu Monday!

Happy February!! :) January always seems like the longest, darkest month of the year and I am happy to see that it is over. February gives me hope, spring will be here soon.

It's grocery shopping day for me. My husband and I are planning to get a bite to eat out and then go and visit with our son. Our schedules don't mix all that well and we've yet to see his new apartment. He lives way on the other side of the city and we'll be driving through rush hour traffic which has become horrific over the last few years. But it's the only way to see him. :) We'll be taking our ice chest to keep things cool while we visit and drive.

Last week hubby and I had a busy week (his days off are over the week so it was a busy 'weekend'). I did not get the sausage gravy and biscuits made so we'll have that on Tuesday. Tonight we'll be eating out due to a late evening.

For the rest of the week...

Chicken Breasts
I bought some seasoning rub from Costco. It was called “Salmon Rub” but said it could be used for chicken and pork as well. I plan to slice up some chicken breasts, coat with the rub and cook them on the stove top with coconut oil. I'm serving potatoes, squash (I have cooked sweet meat squash in the freezer from the fall), a big green salad or green beans.

Here is a picture of the rub that I bought for any fellow Costco shoppers who are interested...

Easy, filling, simple meal. I'll have all the regular trimmings to go along with the taco meat; lettuce, tomatoes, cheese, sliced olives, salsa, sour cream. Tortilla chips & salsa on the side. I like this meal for another reason. Sometimes a taco seems to heavy for me and I'll opt for a taco salad. I use all the goodies except the taco shells and mix them into a yummy salad.

Asian Pork Riblets
I have a big package of pork riblets in the freezer. I plan on putting them in the crockpot, covering them with THIS sauce and letting them cook all day. I'm sure we'll have at least a couple meals with this. I'll serve rice and a salad on the side.

That should do it for the week!