Friday, August 26, 2011

A Homestead's Weekly Meal Plan

I've been wanting an old fashioned egg basket for a few months now. My aunt found out that I wanted a basket and mailed me one that can be traced as far back as my great, great grandma. I love household items that have a story behind them. The basket comes in very handy!

Our Meal Plan
Vegetable Pizza and Cherry Tomato Salad
Beef Stew
Roasted Chicken and Pasta Salad
Mac and Cheese with Chicken and Brocolli (Using leftover chicken)
Swiss Chard and Ravioli (Book: Serving up the Harvest)

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Rocket Stove for Beginners

Over the last year we have been entertaining the idea of some kind of permanent outdoor cooking appliance for our back yard. Our choices were between a masonry oven, earth oven, or a rocket stove. After researching all three and taking an earth oven building workshop, I decided the rocket stove would be the easiest place to start. The earth oven required a large base and I wasn't sure of the quality of our local clay. The masonry oven involves a lot of brick work and I had never held a trowel before so I chose the simpler rocket stove.

The Concept
A rocket stove uses a small combustion chamber to burn fuel efficiently. Unlike a campfire which can slowly draw air in from all around and gives off heat in every direction, the rocket stove creates a draft at the inlet that rapidly pulls fresh oxygen into the combustion chamber and exhausts through a small opening at the top so the energy is transferred only where the operator wants it. The setup burns the fuel efficiently so less is needed. Rocket stoves are popular in third world countries where fuel is scarce and expensive.

The Materials
I used:
-76 standard construction bricks
-6 pavers
-two and one half 60lb bags of mortar
-19" length of stainless steel vent pipe
-stainless steel angled pipe
-2 pieces of stainless steel plate
-7 gallons of wood ash

The construction bricks were 25 cents at the habitat restore. The mortar was about $8. The wood ash was free from the parents wood stove. The plate was donated but the pipe was a bit pricey at $85. I didn't want to use galvanized steel or aluminum around high heat and food.

As I said I had never picked up a trowel before this project, but after watching some master masons on you tube and consulting with both of the dads, I felt confident enough building a simple tower. I figured the worst that could happen would be some wasted time and maybe a ruined meal if it collapsed. At least it wouldn't be providing structural support for anything more than a frying pan.

After getting the hang of the mortar, it went quickly. I finished all but the last two courses (a course is one layer of bricks) in the first day. I left a hole for the fuel magazine/air inlet by leaving out one brick and trimming two down leave a space.

The second day I laid the last two courses, finishing with the pavers for a clean look on top. Next I installed the pipe and poured wood ash in the void between the brick and pipe. The ash served as insulation to both protect the bricks from cracking, and to concentrate the heat at the opening to increase efficiency. I mortared in one of the stainless steel plates below the top two courses to keep the ash from getting wet and blown around.

The finished stove sits 36" high to approximate the working height of our kitchen stove. The middle of the opening for the fuel magazine sits 14" off the ground so we don't have to bend down too far to start and feed the fire.

First Firing

I fired the stove up the next morning to boil water for coffee and try a bistro breakfast panini recipe Moriah found at Taste of Home.

The flames shot up over 20 in

The paninis were delicious, but this is not the recipe I would recommend for the first time using the stove. It takes some practice feeding the fire and adjusting the height of the grill. This type of stove can get up over 1200 degrees F. The heat can be controlled by how much fuel is added and how high the cooking surface is raised.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Pickles for Beginners

I don't eat many pickles every year, but the thought of being able to make my own is intriguing. And I think that a picnic basket filled with homemade pickles, homemade ketsup, and homemade mustard would make a great Christmas gift for family. After reading a few websites, I figured that I could manage making pickles.

There are a few different kinds of pickles: refrigerator pickles, lacto-fermented pickles, and canned pickles. Each kind has its pros and cons. Refrigerator pickles stay crisp, but they of course take up space in the fridge. Lacto-fermented pickles have beneficial digestive properties. Canned pickles can easily be stored in a pantry, but they lose their crisp after several months.

Washed Pickling Cucumbers
I'd like to make all the different kinds of pickles. For starters I made the refrigerator pickles. I used a recipe from a farmer. Just add brine to pickling cucumbers...anyone can do that. After feeling good about the first patch of pickles, I canned some dill pickles. I really liked the recipe, but my pickles lost their brilliant green color. I also noticed that a couple jars have garlic sticking out of the brine, so those jars might end up in the fridge. I think the brine settled into gaps after I put the jars into the water bath, and I should have stirred the contents to remove air bubbles. Please visit this blog for good step by step instructions.

Canned Dill Pickles
My next goal is lacto-fermented pickles!

A Homestead's Weekly Meal Plan

We finally solved our chicken coop problem by fencing in the garden.  This keeps the chickens out when we aren't outside watching them. The added bonus of the fence is that the rabbits get to run around on the inside between the raised garden beds. The rabbits must be supervised though because they could still jump the fence if they wanted. Socks got out once and was hopping around by the chickens, and the chickens were terrified. We took a video, but I'd really like to get some pictures.

Rabbits hanging out by the tomatoes

Our Weekly Meal Plan
Zucchini Parmesan Crisps, steamed green beans, and grilled chicken
Grilled brats, cole slaw, and homemade pickles (and maybe sauerkraut if it is ready by then)
Red Wine Beef Stew with Potatoes and Green Beans
Vegetable Pizza
Sauteed Vegetables and slow-cooked chicken

Friday, August 12, 2011

A Homestead's Weekly Meal Plan

Our garden seems a little stunted right now. It's in an inbetween stage of ending spring plants and planting fall crops. Our summer tomatoes and peppers and squash aren't quite ready yet either.  For some reason our two front garden beds aren't doing well right now. The tomatoes stopped growing and the onions just finished growing and are still too small. At least we have our CSA basket to depend on!

Weekly Meal Plan
Baked Zucchini Cakes with Cucumbers and Tomatoes
Vegetable Pizza
French Onion Soup
Slow-baked Beans with Kale
Beef and Bean Chimichangas
Vegetarian Enchilada Bake
Marinated Venison Steaks served with any vegetables available still

Friday, August 5, 2011

A Homestead's Weekly Meal Plan

Everything is looking great in the garden this week...including the weeds.  We've had a steady supply of water and heat-- perfect for our 15 tomato plants.  The only problem we are facing is that our paste tomatoes are still the size of cherry tomatoes and we aren't sure if they will grow bigger...not good if we plan to make sauce again this year.

Speaking of problems...our laptop crashed and it had all my recipes here are the links I could remember and find.

Weekly Meal Plan
Braised Chard Pizza (didn't get to it last week)
Grilled Brats and a cabbage cole slaw (recipe provided with our CSA newsletter)
Zucchini Carpaccio (for lunches)
Pasta Primavera
Roasted Carrots and Beets and Baked Chicken
Baked Zucchini Cakes
Meatball Cabbage Rolls

I've never been a fan of beets. But for a few weeks, we have been getting them from our CSA box and now they are piling up in our fridge. Any ideas for a recipe that hides that "earthy" flavor?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Homestead's Weekly Meal Plan

Now, we are feeling the summer pressure of trying to get stuff done around the house! This weekend was full of family events and volunteering at a CSA farm.

Weekly Meal Plan
Kale and Cheese Spread (great on toast or crackers)
Penne with Kale and Onions
Swiss Chard and Ravioli (Book: Serving up the Harvest)
Braised Swiss Chard Pizza (Same book as above)
Two dinner provided through other events

This week's garlic harvest!