What to do with Abundance….Strawberries

This month we ended up with 4 flats of strawberries from Feed My Sheep. For many the first thought would be jam, but let me be clear…we have more jam then we know what to do with! All kinds of wonderful sweet sticky goodness all stored up and ready whenever we would like it. So jam was out for preserving this wonderful abundance! So I came up with a few fun treats that you may like to try.  (One for now and One for later)

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SHRUBS

Shrubs or Drinking Vinegar can be made easily with just a bit of time. I am always looking for ways to get vinegar and other healthy foods into our diet. We have experimented with kombucha, fresh ginger drinks and ferments. Shrubs are in the same family and can be made from a wide range of fruits They are easy to make and do not need a long time to be ready for consumption.

What you need:

  • 1 lb Strawberries (Other berries can be used too)
  • 1 lb sugar (I think this may be too much)
  • 1 pint high quality Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Jar with lid (I like Mason jars)

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Mix the berries and the sugar and mash them slightly. set aside in a covered bowl at room temp. I let mine sit for 2 hours, but you can let them sit longer. This allows the juices to form.

Press the fruit mix through a sieve and set the pulp aside. Add the vinegar to your fruit juice. This is when I do a taste test. You should get a clear vinegar taste, but it should also be slightly sweet and taste of the berries. This should last a nice long time stored in the refrigerator. When you are ready to pour yourself a drink just add ice to a glass, pour a shot of your shrub and fill the rest of the glass with carbonated water. Enjoy!

INFUSED LIQUORS:

Last summer we experimented with cordials and infused liquors. The results were a bit mixed so I’m trying again. Keep in mind I will not have results for these mixes for another three months, so try at your own risk…or change it up a bit. I would love to hear what you add to the mix if you make changes! I am including the recipes for the two infusions I started this week.

What you need:

  • 2 Liters Brandy (or try a mix of Vodka and golden or dark Rum 1 Liter of each)
  • 2-4 Cups sugar (I went with 2C. and will add more sugar later if needed)
  • 4-6 Cups strawberries (I used 6C)
  • Jar with a lid (I like Mason Jars)

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I went with both options and they are made the same way. Mix the fruit with the sugar and let it stand for a bit. Then pour your alcohol over the berries and cover tightly. Shake every few hours until the sugars are all mixed in. I used a raw sugar so it took a bit longer. Set your jars in a cool dark spot and shake from time to time over about 2-3 months. After they have sat for a few months drain the berries out and save those…they are a yummy treat to have on hand! There you go! wonderful infused liquors. They can be used in all sorts of mixed drinks or pour a shot over ice with some carbonated water. I also mix with lemonade for a great summer time treat.

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Hope you enjoyed these little treats! If you give them a try I would love to hear how they turn out! Have fun with your abundance!

What to do with abundance…Peppers

OK, I am doing this for real….so that means I must have some level of commitment when it comes to writing each month, but I think I can swing that. Some ladies and I were chatting at this months ‘Feed my Sheep’ food distribution and it just solidified the fact that I need to be writing more about what we do at The Ebed house.

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‘Feed my Sheep’ is an amazing food share program that is open to the public. If you eat food then you are eligible to purchase shares. ‘Feed my Sheep’ is a bit unique in the fact that what we receive is mostly produce. I have participated in other programs that focus more on packaged and processed foods. These programs are wonderful, but when you eat a gluten-free, paleo heavy diet it just isn’t worth it.

On the first Saturday of each month I wake up and head out of the house before the sun comes up. I drive about an hour to a little country church, I purchase a few shares and enjoy a wonderful time of community with lovely ladies while we wait to pick up our food. We often joke that the time together without kids is worth getting up so early…It’s a time for moms to chat and see each other. I cherish it a great deal.

One of our regular topics of discussion is what to do with all the food we get. When I say all the food…I mean crates of oranges, Boxes of peppers, dozens of bananas and more lettuce then can possibly be consumed before it goes bad! So, I’m blogging to help with some of those ideas. We are also starting a Facebook group where other ladies will be able to give their ideas so that we can encourage each other after we have carted all of our items home.

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One more thing I have to say before I start on this months food…I could NOT do any of this without Mike’s support! In this we are a total team. While I pick up the food he is gets the kids ready for the day and gets out kitchen ready to receive all the produce. Mike chops and cans right alongside me, and we laugh and argue about what to make. Mike loves the surprise of what comes each month…maybe more then I do! I am so thankful for my partner in crime.

Peppers!

This month we were blessed with an abundance of beautiful peppers! Red, green and even some smaller yellow ones. Beautiful! I made a few things with this months peppers. We currently do not have much space in our freezer, so I knew i couldn’t chop and freeze them. However, I did fill 2 gallon Ziplock bags with fajita fixings and played Tettris with the freezer.

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Next I chopped a bunch into small bits and layed them out on the dehydrator. I sort of mounded them…but it all worked out and the next day I filled a few jars with dried peppers that I will be able to toss into soups and other dishes. Peppers keep a great flavor when they are dehydrated.

The last thing I tried was a bit of an experiment. I chopped the peppers and blended them down into a pulp. I placed one of those fruit leather sheets in one of my dehydrator trays and poured the pepper pulp in. I dehydrated for a day. when the pulp was dry I crumbled it into my food processor and made a powder. Now I have peppers in the consistency of a seasoning powder. I will be able to use it to season many dishes and (I think) it may aid in the thickening of soup…but I haven’t tried that yet.

We made a number of other things this month as well, but the peppers were the processing highlight. I hope this helps and gives you some ideas if you ever find yourself with an abundance of peppers.

 

The Preservation of food Part 1: Lacto-fermented Carrot

A few months ago we started participating in a food share program called Feed My Sheep. Once a month I pack up the van with a bunch of laundry baskets and some dear friends and we drive about 45 minuets to a little country church to pick up a few shares of food, and lets be honest, a little mom sanity time!

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This program works for our family for a number of reasons.

  1. The food we get is mostly fresh produce and with a family that can not eat a lot of processed, prepackaged and glutenous foods this works great.
  2.  Mike is on board. We are a team on this one. It just wouldn’t work for me to cart the girls with and then have to come home and clean, chop and process all that food with out his help. Just one more example of how amazing my husband is!
  3. The processing…The food we receive from this program is usually past its prime or a bit unsightly, and it often needs to be eaten or processed relatively quickly. We have been able to make use of most of the food because I have learned how to preserve food in a variety of helpful ways.

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This post on lacto-fermentation will be the fist of a series on food preservation focused around the items we receive from Feed my Sheep as well as from the abundance of our garden. If you keep a garden you know there comes a time when you are racking your brain for another way to use those zucchinis or, if you live in MN, the frost comes before all of your tomatoes have ripened….what on earth are you going to do with a gallon bucket of green tomatoes? Well, I have a few ideas that I am happy to share with you.

The last time we picked up a few shares of food we received a laundry basket full of organic carrots. They are beautiful! Amazing and crisp, but what do you do with 20+ bags of carrots? Some will be used for soups and broth as well as every day munchies, but that amounts to 1/3 at most, so fermenting it is. Carrots can also be blanched and frozen or fully canned, but my family LOVES ‘spicy carrots’ as the girls have named them and I am long over due for a batch (or 5).

If you are still reading I promise I’m getting to the actual work of fermenting the carrots, but I am sure some people are a bit curious about what lacto-fermentation is. Just about every time I talk about it someone asks a really good question, so let me direct you to This link for a bit more clarity. It is worth the read and Cultures for Health is a wonderful page to explore. There are more recipe ideas there as well. Now on to my carrot project!

Lacto Carrots

Items you will need

  • Jars with Lids
  • Filtered Water
  • Sea Salt
  • Fresh Ginger root (if desired)
  • Fresh Garlic
  • Fresh Dill (if desired)
  • Cabbage Leaves

Directions

  1. Choose your jars/ lids and make sure they are clean. I use mason Jars mostly quart sized and then pint sized for the extra carrot bits.
  2. Clean and prep your carrots. I just scrubbed mine well, but you may also peel them if you desire to. cut them into sticks and trim them so that there is about 1-2 inches of head room in your jar. (you are going to want that space later)
  3. 1-2 Tbs of sea salt in each jar.
  4. 1/2-1 clove of slightly crushed garlic per jar
  5. A few sprigs of dill and (or) a bit of peeled ginger root slightly crushed in each jar. This just totally depends on your personal taste. you can omit this step if you do not like  (or have) ginger or dill.
  6. At this point you are ready to pack your jars. place the carrot sticks in the jars vertically as tightly as possible.
  7. Pour water into your jars covering the sticks while still leaving some head space.
  8. Place a cabbage leaf on top of your carrot sticks but below the water. The leaf helps to keep everything submerged so make sure it is snug. It is important to keep everything below the waterline. I have made these carrots without the cabbage, but it is helpful for peace of mind.
  9. The jars should sit at room temperature to culture for a few days until your carrots reach a flavor that you are happy with. **Burp your jars at least 1-2 times a day **  Gasses are expelled during this time so you don’t want an explosion. This is where you will be thankful for that head space. It is not uncommon to have an overflow while you burp your jars so watch them carefully.
  10. Move your jars to cold storage. we keep ours in the basement. With lacto-fermented foods you will KNOW if something has spoiled so there is little danger of harm from the food going bad. We typically keep our ferments for about 6 months.

That’s about it for the Lacto-fermented carrots that we make. I do just want to make a note that when it comes to food preservation make sure to do your research! I have come to the methods I use after lots of time on web pages and with book that I trust. There are years of trial and error that have gone into this process for me…don’t let this page be your only resource and don’t be discouraged if something doesn’t work the first time. Try it again…and tweak ideas (where safety permits) to make them your own.

 

Happy Preserving!

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Dandelions

Beautiful wonderful spring and all that it brings with it…the joy of children’s floral chains and small bouquets of ‘weeds.’ Yards full of yellow remind me that summer is just around the corner and oh so thankful the pollinators are back! What would we do with out those beautiful bees and butterflies?

Our fenced orchard area is filled with freakishly large dandelions! I’m not kidding! The grass in there is lush and the weeds are mammoth! I think it has to do with the consintration of animal droppings over the past few years! Either way I’ve been holding off mowing.

This past weekend was beautiful so mike went out with the girls and picked many of the flower heads. (I’ve seen the buckets full, but still there are soooooo many left) Last year Mike made dandelion wine. Yep, that’s real! It’s a thing, and we make it! Also a real thing (apparently) dandelion jelly! It tastes a bit like honey, and smells amazing! Mike has the heads steeping for the wine and he made the jelly last night. The girls are over the moon excited to have it in their lunch tomorrow! I love how excited they get about the projects we do.

I also need to get out and gather some dandelion to make an oil infusion for salves. I used it to make one last year and we really liked it. I will be sure to blog about that process when I am able to get to the project!

If you find yourself out at the Ebed House be sure to ask Mike about the wine or Jelly. He is always happy to share his projects!

That Gluten Free Pie Crust I picked up someplace….

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I keep meaning to post the pie crust and pastry blend that I use. I haven’t taken photos yet, but hope to soon…with the holidays just around the corner I am sure to have plenty of opportunities to take a few quick shots while I bake.

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This is a two part instructional. Part 1 is the flour blend for the pastry crust. This blend makes a lot of flour and I just keep it in the refrigerator until I am ready to make pies. It blends up easily and stores nicely. Part 2 is the actual recipe for the pie crust. Each pie crust recipe will make anywhere from 2-3 crusts (says my mom! I can never get a third one out of it…)

Part 1 The Flour Blend: Mix together and refrigerate the following

  • 2 Cups Tapioca Flour
  • 2 Cups Cornstarch
  • 1 Cup Potato Starch Flour
  • 4 Cups Sweet Rice Flour (I have subbed white rice with no problem)
  • 4 teaspoons Xanthan Gum
  • 2 teaspoons Salt
  • 2 teaspoons Sugar

Part 2 The Pie Crust:

  • 2 1/2 Cups Flour Blend
  • 1 Cup Butter
  • 1 Egg (cold)
  • 1 Tablespoon Vinegar
  • 1/4 Cup Ice Water

Place the flour mix in a bowl and cut in the butter. Mix with your hands until you have a consistency similar to Lima beans NOT cornmeal! Set aside.

Beat the egg with a fork. Mix in the vinegar and half of the water. Work this into your flour mix with your hands. Add the remainder of the water to the mix and form into 2-3 balls and refrigerate for an hour.

I have found that rolling the dough out between two pieces of plastic wrap works the best for me. put down one piece of wrap and then place your dough in the middle. (if your pie will be larger place two pieces of wrap down next to each other) Then place another layer of wrap on top. Roll out the dough between the layers of plastic wrap. When the dough is the size and thickness you desire take the top layer of wrap off and turn it upside-down into the prepared pie plate. (so the side with the plastic wrap still on it is facing up) Press the dough into the plate and remove the last layer of wrap.

Single Crust: Prick the pastry with a fork on the sides and bottom and cook at 450 for 10-12 min. until the crust is slightly brown. Allow the crust to cool. Then fill the pie and cook per your pies directions.

Double Crust: Roll out both crusts as directed above and place bottom crust into the pan and prick sides and bottom. Add the pie filling and place top crust on as you would with any normal pie, and bake.

That Paleo Cake…

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We often choose to have couples over for a late meal rather than going out to eat. This allows us to stay at home with two, somewhat, stinkery 5 year olds and save on a sitter…it also frees us up to spend a little more to make a special meal that will bless the other couple joining us. We love to cook, we also like feeling good after we have eaten and cooking at home ensures that we know what is in what we eat!

I’ve been on the look out for a ‘go to’ for dessert. I have ALWAYS loved a rich dark chocolate cake with a good red wine…well….I’ve found it! It’s amazing and simple and oh so good! A number of friends have asked for the recipe and I am donating some to this weekend’s bake sale (raising money for a children’s play center and to help a few families in the process of adoption) so I thought this would be a great time to get it up on the blog….

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Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Paleo Chocolate Cake

1 1/4 Cup Coconut Oil

2/3 Cup Honey

1 Cup Cocoa Powder

4 teaspoons Vanilla

1/8 teaspoon Sea Salt

6 eggs

Directions:

Heat the oven to 300 and Grease a 9″ spring form pan (I have used other sizes with no issue, just watch your cook time). Then line the bottom with a circle of parchment paper. In a pot melt together the Coconut oil and honey. WHen they are melted remove the pot from heat and mix in the cocoa powder, vanilla and sea salt. pour into your stand mixer (or use beaters) and beat while adding the eggs. the mixture will be a bit bubbly. When all is well mixed pout into your prepared pan and bake for 40-45 min. The middle should seem a bit damp when you pull it out. The length of cook time will be something you get a feel for the more you make the cake. if you like it on the fudgey side then cook it less…if you want it set cook it a bit longer.

Enjoy! A good red wine is a MUST!!

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A life reanimated

  This was not how I planned to spend my morning…but I’m so glad I took the time! Each morning we feed and take care of the Ebed House animals. Right now we have 23 chicks that are about a month old and 6 adult rabbits. Each of the female rabbits is either expecting or just had their first litter of the season. 

 We have been surprised to see how small the litters are, but I have a feeling that has to do with the time of year. We lost all 6 of the bunnies from the first litter. Amber was a first time mom and often their first batch doesn’t make it. It is also common to lose a few kits at about day 3 so I was not surprised when I went out this morning to find one cold, and seemingly dead bunny. He only has three litter mates and at three days old they don’t have much fur to regulate heat.

As I pulled him out I wrestled with showing my daughter. The twins are almost 5 and they help with the care of our animals. As I held him up to show her his cold and limp body…he moved, just a bit and I decided this little guy needed a chance. His tummy was full so he had eaten at some point during the night and that gave me hope. I handed him over to my daughter who held him with love and whispered kind words to him while I finished up with the rest of the rabbits. 

 We brought him in and heated a small towel to wrap him in. I held my breath, but within 10 minutes he started gasping, and by 20 min (and three reheats of the towel) he was squeaking, squirming and pooping! By the 30 minute mark the towel had cooled for the last time and his body stayed warm! This little guy just might make it!   

  

  It is hard to know when to put in the extra care, but it’s something I’m learning as I take life one moment at a time and choose to enter in, as fully as possible. If he makes it I have no idea how on earth we will butcher him! That is the problem with nursing them back…but that is a struggle for another day. Right now I am grateful for the reanimation of a cold and lifeless little body!

Upcycling, The down side

Well folks, we uncovered a bit of a rats nest here at the Ebed House. Some of you may read this post and pass judgement on our foolishness…I will own it. We weren’t real smart. A few years ago we decided to start keeping chickens, and why not? We had land and the most adorable little out building that would make for a great coop. It was even in a wonderful location, not too far from the house, but just far enough.

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We have had two years of blissfully happy free ranging chickens. We have learned so much from and about them. Like the fact that a good free range hen will not only eat all kinds of bugs and ticks, but on occasion she may enjoy a snake or hunt down a mouse! Our smallest hen was our best mouser! I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it for myself. A few months ago our flock taught us our hardest lesson to date.

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This is Floppy. She was one of my favorite hens. She was a faithful layer with a great personality. Floppy was not much of a mouser, but she could take out a grasshopper like pro. (a skill she learned later in life). Floppy came down with Wry Neck. Wry Neck is when a bird’s head turns upside down, the bird can even fall over backwards…it got really bad when she was afraid. I removed her from the coop, put her in a quiet place and started her on a special diet. Then I researched. What was Wry Neck? Why did she have it? Could she get better? Did we have to put her down? Would the other birds get sick? The questions were endless…

The news wasn’t great. Some people have luck with an egg and vitamin E diet and a quiet restful place, but nothing is a guarantee, and there were endless causes…everything from genetics or sickness to a bad peck on the head. How do you treat something when you don’t know what the root cause is? So, I started to pray…yep, prayer in the practical everyday parts of life.

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The weeks went on and Floppy did not get better. We had to put her down. My sadness was mixed with confusion at wanting to really know what was going on with our flock. I ruled out the likelihood of genetics as well as a bad peck on the head. She was not a breed prone to those types of issues and at 2 and a half years old she could handle a good pecking. That left sickness or her environment. She was a healthy bird…no signs of any illness in the coop at all…that mixed with the nagging reminder that we never did a lead paint test on the coop before we remodeled it…WHAT? Why didn’t we do that?

Mike picked up a lead test on the way home from work….there was no question…lead. Then began the struggle to figure out what to do. We had 10, seemingly healthy birds…I went back to researching. The only way to get any real info on how bad our flock had been exposed would have been to do testing on each bird…we love our animals, but we were not going to run a bunch of expensive tests to find out that they had to be put down. I am sure that seems heartless to some…but it was the decision we had to make. We do not have another coop or the finances to just purchase one. Even if we tested the birds and sold the healthy ones we could not make back the money from testing and I didn’t want any chance of passing on lead issues to another family.

We put down the flock. I thanked each bird for the joy she brought and told our roo that I was proud of his protective instincts and then Mike taught me how to put down a chicken…The horable business was done in 10 minutes and a hard lesson was learned. I hope that our hard lesson can be learned by others….When you upcycle something old, make sure you know what it’s made of!

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We have been discussing what to do…Should we clean up the lead paint in the coop and start over there? Should we start over and build a movable coop? Should we just hold off a few years until we have a better idea of how we plan to use the land…maybe build a coop in the goat barn. I resigned myself to holding out a few years because I don’t think it is smart to put the money we would need to into the out building. Mike, on the other hand, has every intention of building a movable coop.

So we continued to pray, asking the Lord for some direction…one way or the other…that week I received a check in the mail…an unexpected gift with the note…’just for fun.’ Movable coop it is! I placed our order for chicks the next day and they will be here in mid March!

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We have learned a lot in the past 2 years, and I am excited to start with chicks this spring! The twins are excited to take care of them too. There will be many photos to come! We placed an order for 25 straight run chicks. Gold Laced Wyandottes, Plymouth Bard Rocks, Easter eggers and a mix of Brahmas. We will end up with some roos to butcher in the fall and maybe a few extra pullets to sell.

The new Garage is going up

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I’ve gotten a bit behind with all that went on this summer! Most of these photos were taken over 4 months ago now! I still can’t believe how much work a small team of focused men can do! The garage was raised and set for siding by the time the men left after two days of work!

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There is always food in this house! We believe in working hard and loving well, and part of that love is putting on a good spread! It’s a good thing too because those guys can eat!
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Daddy got the girls and I up on the roof for a few photos and to enjoy the view! It was lovely.
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We are so thankful to all who came out to help and for the amazing weather! Well it was a bit rainy the first day….sort of what we came to expect this spring, but the second day was full of sun!

garageHere is an updated photo! Next to the garage is the new rabbit home! For the first time in our married lives we can both park in a garage! Thanks again to everyone who came out!What a blessing! The rabbits are loving their new home out of the elements as well!!