It’s been quite a long time since I’ve posted anything. We’ve been prepping our house to list for sale while looking for a new home. It is amazing (and disturbing) how these things can consume a person and family! I couldn’t for the life of me convince myself that any of you would be interested in our front door before and after pictures, a couple of old ceiling fans replaced, our countertop measurements, or anything of the sort.
Oh well. I’ve packed up a lot of things in our house: wedding china, crystal, other serve-ware, books, etc, etc. We don’t have much storage, so we rented a storage unit in order to stage our home. Fun stuff. I feel a little like a hoarder!
Guess what didn’t get put away? My juicer! Big, fancy meals have been scaled down to easy grilled meats and salads. Entertaining has turned into dining out with friends. The stand mixer is packed up, but my juicer remains. I love it and I love the benefits of juicing. My orange, carrot and beet juice is still a go-to, and I’ve recently started incorporating this green juice. It’s simple and sweet. Nutritious and delicious! The fun thing about juicing is that you can swap and add anything you like. Enjoy!
- 1 whole bunch Kale (stems included)
- Small handful of Parsley
- ½ Lime (peeled)
- 2 Pears
- 1 Cucumber
- Juice the kale and lime on slow, then the cucumber and pears on high.
It’s just about morel season and my family is kinda on the edge of their seats. These lovely wild mushrooms pop up sometime in April and are usually all gone before Mother’s Day. The conditions need to be just right: above 50° at night, with rainfall. Mushrooms will not grow if the soil is not wet.
Lots of folklore surrounds these yummy bits. Some say start looking when you see the first dandelion, others say as soon as the may apples come up.
Morels have umami, (a naturally occurring chemical responsible for a “pleasant savory taste”, which is what the word means in Japanese) and although you might be thinking you prefer to buy your food rather than forage for it, morels cannot be cultivated. In fact they sell for between $100-$300 a pound.
Searching for morels is a great excuse to go tramping through the woods. Even if you don’t find any, you just spent an hour walking through the woods. The creeks are usually running and the mosquitoes aren’t bad this time of the year.
If you have never gone mushroom hunting, take someone with you who has. Morels have a distinct look. The mushroom cap is full of ridges and pits that create a honeycomb look. They are entirely hollow inside from top to bottom. Never waiver. False morels are not entirely hollow and are poisonous. Also, when in doubt, throw it out.
Recipes to follow, when we start finding some!
Tell us, do you mushroom hunt? What are your tips and tricks?
Also shared at Little House in the Suburbs
When my husband suggested we buy a pig to process for freezer pork, I was skeptical. We don’t eat that much pork. One of his friends offered to go in with us so each family would get a half a pig for our freezers. We decided to try it. Honestly, it was one of the best, most frugal, food buying decisions we ever made.
The overall cost fluctuates with market conditions (lean hog futures being what they are). The last hog we bought cost $367.52. It weighed 218 lbs. (Also called the hanging weight) The farmer takes the hog to a butcher who cuts, wraps and flash freezes it. The butcher charged us $167.52. The farmer charged us $200 for the hog.
What did we get for that? We got 19 – 1# packages of bacon, 40 – 1½ thick pork chops, 4 half pork shoulders, 2 packages of spare ribs, 48 – 1# packages of breakfast sausage and 23 – 1# packages of plain ground pork. Since we split it with another family, we got half of all that.
Once the farmer takes the pig in, you should get a call from the butcher asking for your processing instructions. Would you like the ham, ham steaks, picnic hams? How thick would you like the pork chops cut? How many in a package? Would you like lard? Neck bones for soup? Sausage? Ground or in patties? We usually ask for 25% ground pork and 75% sausage, all in one pound rolls.
The first time we ordered a pig, the farmer took it to a butcher that added MSG to their sausage seasoning. I was devastated. When I talked to the farmer, he said he could just take it to a different butcher next time. We also didn’t like how “hammy” the bacon tasted. Before we ordered our next pig, we went to the butcher and just bought a pound of bacon and sausage from their meat counter so we could taste the “house” seasoning beforehand, something I highly recommend you do first.
What do you get for your money? $60 worth of bacon, (at $3.15 per pound), $150 worth of sausage, (at $3 per pound), $70 worth of ground pork, (at $3 per pound) $120 pork chops (at $4 per pound). I estimated the value based on sale prices. This comes out to $400 worth of on-sale grocery store meat and doesn’t even include the pork shoulders and the spare ribs.
There is no doubt it’s a good deal, but is pork healthy? Definitely.
Let me explain how it works for us:
First the bacon. All that bacon lasts us a long time. We don’t eat meat every day and when we do, we use it in small amounts. Two slices of chopped up bacon will give huge flavor to twelve servings of vegetable soup. The little bit of fat makes the meal more satisfying and doesn’t leave us hungry later. We also like to have it once in a while for Saturday morning breakfast.
Next the sausage. Sausage is a good source of protein, but also has plenty of fat. You know who that is great for? Kids. Growing kids. It’s a perfect part of breakfast on school days. If you go to the grocery store & buy a pound of sausage, know what’s in it? Pork, water, corn syrup, salt, spices, sugar, monosodium glutamate (MSG) and “flavorings.” Know what’s in mine? Pork, salt, pepper and sage. When I portion my sausage, I make 8 patties per pound.
Ground pork from my butcher is just that. Pork ground up. Again, fat is mixed in. Rather than have the butcher prepare the hams, we have them ground up into pork. We use it to mainly to make meatballs. A few meatballs served with whole grain pasta and a salad is a typical Sunday dinner for our family. It’s an easy substitute for hamburger
The pork shoulders become pulled pork, and the spare ribs are saved for a summer cook-out. The thick cut pork chops are out of this world! Very lean. Two chops is dinner for our whole family of five.
Our bodies need some fat. I will take mine as fresh and as minimally processed as possible. So go ahead and order that pig.
In case you live in Central Illinois and need a recommendation for a farmer and a butcher to purchase pork from, just contact me by email. I am happy to share my source!
Tell us: what’s your favorite pork recipe?
Also shared at Little House in the Suburbs.
Because I have spring fever, let me bother you with one more gardening post. Even if you don’t want to or don’t like to garden, and especially if you do, you should grow a few perennial vegetables. They can be tucked into your landscaping and they come back every year, on their own. They are easy to grow and care-free. You don’t need to water them, spray them, trim them. Nothing. They are simply beautiful harbingers of spring.
In my actual small-plot square foot garden, two perennials I grow are asparagus and chives. The asparagus takes a little more to get established, but chives are too easy. The easiest thing to do is to buy a small pot of them from the store and plant them. They will come back every year. In fact, they are the first thing to come back every year. I should have taken a picture of them poking through the snow. We use a lot of chives. (In fact my son recently complained that everything I cook contains onions or chives and he is actually correct.)
On the side of my house, I grow two more perennials: horseradish and rhubarb All you have to do is plant them and keep an eye on them the first season. A horseradish plant looks sort of fern-like. It’s easiest to start with a root. My grandma in North Dakota broke off a piece of her plant and mailed it to me in an envelope. I planted it and have had it now for about 6 years. When you need some horseradish, you just dig up a root, (they look like skinny, white carrots) peel, drop in the food processor with some vinegar and you have freshly made horseradish Not that you need horseradish all the time, but when you do, this is the way to do it. (Plus I hate that I buy a jar, use it once and by the time I need it again it has expired.) Homemade horseradish is a tradition on our Christmas prime rib and so good on grilled steaks.
Another sure sign that warmer days are coming is rhubarb. A dear, dear friend of mine gave me a bucket of rhubarb plants (Thanks, Mary!) and every year when they come up, I think of her generous spirit. Giving a gardener a perennial that makes food and is maintenance free is a big deal. I make a strawberry rhubarb jam that is practically gourmet. :) Only the stalks of the rhubarb are edible. In fact, the leaves are poisonous, but you would have to eat a lot of the giant leaves to do any harm.
Do you grow any perennial vegetables? I am always on the lookout for new ones to try so please share any ideas or tips!
When I was a little girl, my Uncle Jim grew sunflowers on his farm in North Dakota. One of my favorite memories I have as a child is running through those fields with my cousins. (I don’t think we were suppose to be playing there.) The sunflower fields were breathtaking. Row after row of flower heads that seemed ten feet high. The heads of the giant flowers would all face the same direction. Since I am dying for spring, I thought I would share my plans for a slice of sunflowers in the suburbs: a sunflower house for the kids. A little place they can crawl inside and hide or play or even rest.
The just of a sunflower house is to plant sunflower seeds in a circle, leaving a little opening to crawl into. As the sunflowers grow you can bundle the tops loosely, ala a teepee, or use a vine like morning glories to crawl up and across, creating a roof. I’ve also been thinking about a moon flower vine, which would glow at night.
I am using Black Russian sunflower seeds from Pinetree Gardens. They are the typical brown center, yellow petal flowers that you think of when you think sunflower. They can grow to 12 feet tall, with 8″ heads. It takes about 100 days for these plants to reach maturity. I am planting mine about 3 weeks before the last frost date. Luckily, this variety is touted as “easy for beginners.” Perfect.
Besides being amazing for the kids, a sunflower house will attract all kinds of beneficial birds, butterflies and insects and is an important part of my small plot backyard garden plan. Sunflowers need lots of sun, (obviously), so you have to pick a spot that will get a full days worth.
I cannot wait to get started! Do you garden with your kids? Please share your ideas!