Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Awesomeness On My Horizon

Well, my friends, I have several exciting things to look forward to this week!!! Yes indeedy!

For one, my early birthday gift to myself is coming... an elliptical machine!! Woo Woo! I have always, always wanted one for the home and NO it's not particularly homesteady but it's most likely the only way that I will ever commit to working out. All other methods have failed and there's something terribly fun about pretending to run while blaring dub step through the room.

Next on the list of my amazing week, we are picking up the 1/8th of beef that we ordered from Jubilee Hilltop Ranch!! That's right, just another step in the right direction of eating all natural, nourishing foods. The cows are 100% grass fed, organic, free range, and cruelty free- just the way it should be! Now if you're thinking that 1/8th a cow is a wimpy portion, you're wrong- it's fifty pounds!!!

In the package I'll be getting:

  • 2 Delmonico steaks
  • 2 Sirloin steaks
  • 2 packages of beef tips
  • 2 Roasts
  • 4 packages of Chip steak
  • 3 packages of Swiss steak
  • 2 round steaks
  • 25 lbs of ground beef
  • Soup bones
Truth be told, I did want the 1/4th a cow but I just plum didn't have the space in my freezer. Oh well, perhaps next time. Just to show the difference, in the 1/4th cow you get:

  • 3 Delmonico steaks
  • 3 NY strip steaks
  • 3 Sirloin steaks 
  • 5 packages of beef tips
  • 2 Chuck roasts
  • 1 Rump roast
  • 1 Shoulder roast
  • 6 packages of chip steak
  • 6 packages of Swiss steak
  • 2 Round steaks
  • 45-50 lbs of ground beef
  • Soup bones 

Next up, the dried foods sampler I ordered: the Dried Veggie Variety Sample Pack from Mother Earth Products!! I plan on writing a more thorough review of this company but so far, I'm already impressed and I haven't even received the product yet. I emailed them to request a substitution in the variety pack because of my allergy to mangoes, they got back to me in less than 24 hours, made the switch easily, and had my ordered shipped within 24 hours of me ordering. What SERVICE. You just don't see that anymore... 

And lastly on my list, I've been jonesing to make a bulk purchase of some brown organic rice and found something that fits the bill

I'm doing my best as I continue to make my transition slowly but surely, using up what I have before I commit to more so when I do get to buy something in that regard, it's super exciting. 

Upcoming posts to include: Cheese making, Kefir making, Kombucha making, and Sauerkraut! 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Salad in a Jar

I've been making a profound effort to pack my lunches so that I don't: 
1) Eat something terribly bad but terribly delicious at work
2) Spend extra money on lunches when I'm already buying food for home

One thing I super hate though is actually having to.. pack my lunch.. I would love, love, love to just be able to pack for the week on Sunday and be done with it. And I never really came up with a way to do that since I predominantly eat salads.....

Until now. 

If you've been perusing Pinterest for healthy eats, this may already have happened onto your radar. It's called Salad. In a Jar. And it is quite the life saver and it just looks freaken' cute. 

The thought behind this little morsel of genius is that inverting the salad with the dressing on bottom and the lettuce far away from the wet stuff will keep the salad fresh for days! And it does my friends, it sure does. The meat marinates in the salad dressing,and the lettuce stays safe and far away from anything that'll make it wilt. Also, I like to think that the mason jar with lid keeps it a lil extra fresh and crispy- but what do I know? 

Here's what I like to do: 

Add a good dose of olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and garlic powder to the bottom of the jars. 

Add your meat, for me it's usually tuna or chicken 

Add your fixins: avocado, craisins, onion, etc 

Add the lettuce, I usually use romaine and I cram it in 

Then you just screw the lid on and then eat when you're darn and ready. I usually dump mine out into a bowl and voila, salad in the correct, preferable arrangement. 

The possibilities are endless though, you could make a taco salad, nicoise salad, anything that floats your boat really. Just keep the dressing and lettuce apart like they were divorced parents at a Christmas party. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Spoon - Romanticle Valentines Dinner

Alright, I have a confession to make: we actually went to dinner on February 15th. That's because neither of us remembers Valentines day is coming and by the time we remember, all restaurants are booked solid. But hey, at least we BOTH forget, that alleviates guilt on either party. Except he did get me some Godiva coffee and chocolate so, I guess.. I'm still guilty? 


For our V-day dinner, we went to Spoon and had their Valentines day prix fixe which was absolutely amazing.  

We started off with some drinks, I ordered:
the French Manhattan 
Old Fitzgerald 1849 Bourbon + Marie Brizzard orange Curacao + 
house dry vermouth + Angostura bitters

Mike ordered:
 The Old Cuban
12 Appleton Estate rum + lime juice + 
mint + Angostura bitters + sparkling wine

While I seriously enjoyed that Manhattan, I tried Mike's drink and it was so good that I ordered one of those after I'd finished my first drink! Happy Valentines day to me! 

Next up was this amazing lobster tail over a mac-n-cheese style pasta. I really wish this was a gigantic bowl... I really am not doing this meal justice in description but I just plum can't remember, so here are the ingredients...

butter poached Maine lobster: 
“baby shells + clam sauce,”
sopressata, olive and parmesan bread crumbs,
Laudemio extra virgin olive oil

Mike ordered their wings which came with a hot, poblano sauce and potato wedges. My favorite part was also that it had sauteed greens ontop- yum yum!!

crispy smoked chicken wings: 
southwest spice rub, poblano hot sauce
duck fat fried ļ¬ngerling potatoes,
braised collard greens,
chili + lime aioli

For our main entree, I ordered the Duo of beef which came with steak and also braised beef cheeks over roasted vegetables and mashed potatoes made with duck fat. 

I'm fairly certain my favorite part of the cow now is their cheeks... so tender and melt in your mouth...

duo of beef: 
grilled rib eye, braised cheek,
loaded smashed potatoes,
baby vegetables, Gorgonzola,
bacon + arugula salad, natural reduction

Mikey-doodle ordered the cod fillet over potato risotto and crab cakes. The cod was so tender and well made, as was the potato risotto which I thought was an innovative idea. 

Alaskan black cod + crab cakes: 
potato risotto, Brussels sprout leaves,
roasted beets, burnt orange aioli,
root vegetable slaw

And then this happened, and the world made sense....

They called it their "Spoon Bar"

I call it heaven. 

spoon bar 
Bailey’s cocoa bar, milk chocolate nougat frozen mousse,
semi-sweet chocolate pudding

That amazing dinner plus all the delicious Godiva treats my loving husband got me made for a wonderful Valentines Day indeed.

Yum, yum...and amen. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Yumvelope February 2014 Review

I seriously love these Yumvelope packages, it's like Christmas once a month. I'm like an excited lil kid whenever they arrive and I can't wait to tear into them!

This one was pretty neat but, I have to say, I was kind of disappointed it wasn't Valentines- themed since it arrived just the day before Valentines day! Oh well, I guess they weren't into it, moving on.

After a long day at work, I came home to the BEST mail delivery EVER! A Valentines day card from my mother-in-law with a giftcard to Whole Foods, a birthday free meal at my favorite restaurant franchise, and.... the Yumvelope. I was jazzed.

This month featured two types of a product I actually have already sampled and liked, Teeccino. They're an herbal, non-caffeinated coffee 'alternative'. Though I really, really gotta have my cup o' Joe, if you're unable to drink coffee- it's a pretty good compromise.  

Also included were two types of cookies from Grey Ghost bakery: Cinnamon Pecan and Espresso Chocolate, as well as a Macadamia Chocolate Chip cookie from The Yes Bar.

And lastly, a Tapaz 2 Go pack with lentil crackers and roasted garlic hummus. 

The cookies were delicious, but nothing beats my Liz Lovely cookies- I'm addicted! I preferred the cinnamon pecan over the chocolate which is a shocker for me. 

This bar was phenomenal, it had all sorts of dried fruit and nuts and deliciousness packed into it, and still was able to maintain a delicious chocolatey taste- a winner!! 

As for the Tapaz 2 Go.... I just wasn't digging it.. I don't like shelf-stable hummus and the crackers just weren't my thang. 

I like to find a common denominator or "theme" for the boxes, so I dig the idea of a cookie and a hot beverage in the cold days of February, but... I really didn't like the hummus and I thought that they'd really 'bring it' for Valentines day. I guess they can't base their packages on EVERY holiday though- huh? So for Feb: Not my favorite, but I was still super jazzed to get it. 

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Stocking My Pantry

I've been trying to find some blog entries of pantry lists to see what other people are stocking up on in the "Real Foodie Movement." That's not really what it's called, I'm just trying to be cool and start a trend... oh, me..

Many people have some great lists out there and I found them very inspiring. Lots of good ideas for what to have on hand in a pinch (and avoid excessive grocery shopping, blagh- Amazon anyone?). Alot of this stuff I already have on hand, and some I'm still trying to stock up on. Someday I dream of buying everything in bulk and eliminating my constant trips to the grocery store.. ahh someday.. 

Anyways, I wanted to make up a list of items I want/need on hand to work towards that goal, so here goes!

  • Dried beans (kept in small amounts, I don't tolerate legumes so well... Go to bulk bins at East End Food Co.) 
    • Cannellini
    • Kidney
    • Black Bean
    • Black Eyed Peas
    • Lentils 
  • Rice 
    • Brown Rice mostly (Costco or Whole Foods)
    • Basmati or Jasmine (Whole Foods)
    • Arborio (for risotto) (Whole Foods) 
  • Grains 
    • Quinoa (WF)
    • Barley (can buy 1 or 6 if ya really like barley!) 
    • Oats
  • Popcorn Kernels
  • Nuts/Seeds
  • Dried Fruit
    • Bananas (homemade)
    • Pears/Apples (homemade)
    • Craisins (Guilty pleasure..Costco has huge bags)
    • Prunes
    • Unsweeted coconut
  • Canned products - I'm trying to switch over to only home-canned items, so far I have:
    • Apple Pie Filling
    • Blackberry Jam
    • Strawberry Jam
    • Salsa
    • Corn Relish
    • Canned pears
    • Canned apples
    • Hot Mustard (Mom canned this- yum!)
    • Hot Pepper Rings (Mom again, double yum!) 
    • Apple Butter
    • Jalapeno Apple Jelly (Holy delicious heaven) 
    • Garlic Pepper Jelly 
    • Someday plan to also can marinara, tomato sauce, tomatoes, lots and lots of tomato things..oh and PICKLES. Pickled EVERYTHING!!! 
  • Wheat Berries/etc
  • Fats
  • Baking supplies 
  • Cheese Making supplies
  • Sweeteners
  • Vinegars
    • Distilled White (Costco)
    • Cider (Whole Foods) 
    • Balsamic (Whole Foods) 
  • Spices
    • Kosher salt (Costco) 
    • Smoked salt (Pgh Public Market) 
    • Peppercorns (Costco) 
    • Garlic (Costco) 
    • Cinnamon, Nutmeg, etc. I'm trying to build up this department (Costco) 
  • Coffee Beans (Costco)
  • Tea lots of tea
I also plan on having: Kefir grains, Kombucha SCOBY mushroom, and vinegar "mothers" so that I can make my own Kefir, Kombucha and vinegars- but those are all works in progress. 

The rest of my food is basically meats, fruits, vegetables, and dairy that I buy as needed.

Anything I missed? 

Friday, February 7, 2014

Things I've Learned So Far

I have to say, since starting on this journey of...gosh, how do I sum this up? This real foods, whole foods, traditional eating, do-it-yourself, from scratch, all natural, anti-commercialism, organic, non-toxic, homesteading journey, I've realized that the learning curve has been exponential in the beginning.

I've loved every minute of it. 

I know that what I'm striving towards is a natural, self-sufficient, and satisfying lifestyle and every mistake and failure is an irreplaceable lesson- and trust me, it's so worth it. These are a few things I've found that need to be kept in perspective, especially when I'm feeling discouraged or defeated in something that's gone awry. 

  1. Homemade is not always guaranteed to be better than store bought- but it's still more satisfying. Yes, with some things for sure it is. Homemade bread? Delicious. Homemade cheese? Divine. Homemade jam? Yes please! But, homemade dishwasher detergent? Ehhh...No.... not quite... Sometimes I'm left disappointed with a white film on my glasses or picking dried food off a dish. But ya know what? It sure beats the heck out of all of those chemicals and God knows what in the commercial mixes. I have to remember that many of those chemicals were created to make that dishwasher detergent effective. Those companies have spent tons of time and money to make a perfect blend of ingredients to kick any homemade mix's butt. So what if I have to give a glass or two a rinse? I'm no longer paying for gallons of store bought dishwasher detergent and am using natural items I already have on hand. So there. 
  2. Things will not always work out as you had hoped or envisioned, at least the first couple of times. I cannot tell you how many batches of milk I have carefully labored over trying to create mozzarella only to end up with a bowl of ricotta. These crafts take time and experience to perfect. Cheese making is an art and at some point I was able to create a delicious, stretchy ball of mozzarella. It was amazing. 
  3. You gain a whole new appreciation for the things you have, and waste a whole lot less. The phrase "waste not, want not" has never rang truer. Whether it's creatively working in the leftover odds and ends of food or reusing old shampoo containers to hold my homemade cleaning products, I throw less away and appreciate more. I also buy a whole lot less (though my husband may argue this point, on the whole, it's true!)
  4. Your priorities change. Like 180 degrees. I'm no longer concerned with the things that I once found incredibly important. 
    1. I'm no longer such the germaphob because, well, you kind of have to let that go when you're leaving milk out on the counter to ferment into kefir or making sauerkraut in the basement. 
    2. I'm no longer concerned with my outer appearances. Don't get me wrong, I care about being presentable, bathed, healthy, etc. But I no longer am striving towards this unnecessary, unobtainable standard of beauty that society has pressed as important or as a status of success. I value myself not for how beautiful or "hot" I am, but for my intellect and my creativity. Making things from scratch and being self sufficient is incredibly self-empowering and gives you a confidence in yourself that you didn't have before. 
    3. I'm no longer chasing after the next big item to own or the big fancy house with the big fancy car. I'm happy with what I have, who I'm with, what I'm doing, and I'm happy with where my life is going. In a nutshell, I'm over that material bullshit. 

These are just a few things I've realized, I know that there's plenty more but these were the big ones that came to mind. I know sometimes it might not make sense why I bother doing all this extra work when it seems unnecessary, but it's so worth the effort. 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Homemade Queso Fresco

As I'm still trying to learn the ins and outs of finding affordable organic products, I've found that sometimes it's just easier to do it yourself. Organic and/or raw cheeses can cost an arm and a leg yo'!!

This is by far my favorite cheese recipe and I make it often - it couldn't be simpler and the mild, crumbly cheese it produces is so versatile. Put it on salads, crumble it into soups, casseroles, tacos, pizza, the list goes on and on.  If you're new to or nervous about trying to make your own cheese- this is the perfect beginner recipe. And all ya need are three ingredients:

  • 3-4 Tbsp Distilled white vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp Kosher salt
  • 1/2 gal of organic milk (You can do skim, 1%, 2% or whole - they all work!)

Pour the half gallon of milk into a large non-reactive pot and add 1 Tbsp Kosher salt. 

Bring slowly to a full, rolling boil over medium. Once it's good and boiling, add 3-4 Tbsp vinegar. (I find with the ultra pasteurized or pasteurized, you have to be a little violent with the boiling and the vinegar - alot of recipes say to turn the heat off when you add the vinegar but mine wouldn't curdle that way... I had to keep on boiling! Don't worry, you won't hurt it- it's not a sensitive cheese.) 

Here you can begin to see the curd separating from the whey....

Prepare your strainer: You can't see it very well but I actually have a bowl under the colander to catch the whey - you don't want to throw that away! You can make ricotta or other cheeses out of it or use it to boil pasta or rice in. It's full of vitamins! 

Here you can DEFINITELY see the whey and curd have separated, time to pour into the strainer...

Gather up the cheesecloth to let it hang and pour off the excess whey. 

I actually like to tie the cheesecloth to one of my cabinet handles and let it drain/cool while I'm busy doing other things... make sure to place a bowl under the cheese as it continues to drip. 

I love how it compacts into a little cheese ball, but crumbles easily if you need it to! 

And there you go! Homemade cheese! 

Now what to do with the whey....