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Friday, October 29, 2010

Today I learned an important life lesson and I am glad.

When I went to bed last night I had never killed another living thing in my life besides insects. Never ever, I had never even seen something killed. My dad doesn't hunt and my husband hasn't since before we were married.

Do you remember when I blogged about my chickens before? And I wondered how you could tell if they were roosters or hens? Well out of the 10 chicks we got 8 of them are roosters. I was so wrong in that post! That is entirely too many roosters in the hen house and we needed to downsize the number of roosters to one. I asked my husband to find me an Amish to do it and well he did - I love that guy!

So today  I had my first experience with death of an animal and it wasn't as bad as I had always envisioned.  Maybe it was the lovely Amish lady that did most of the dirty work, maybe because of how fast she was and how she just kept talking and teaching the whole time. I learned really where my dinner was coming from and how a life needed to be lost for us to eat it. I learned that was OK, and how God meant it to be.

You see this morning I went and picked up that Amish lady who raises 25,000 chickens every 6 weeks to sell - when you buy "Amish raised chickens" it could be one of theirs.  I didn't know that when I went to get her - my husband set it up. 

To say she is a professional is a understatement. Mary is her name. I wasn't sure what I was getting into - boiling plucking etc. Well she brought a sharp kitchen knife and that was it.  No cone, no boiling water - just a super sharp kitchen knife.

My son caught the roosters for her and GET THIS - in order to kill them she just held them by the feet and stepped on their heads and pulled - yes she just pulled the body off the head. It was super quick and the first time I was amazed. They really do run around without a head, I guess I just thought it was an old wives tale or something.  I didn't actually kill any - I am not strong enough to do it quickly, and that is what you want is to just get it done quick. She kills 20 - 30 chickens in a couple hours at home in the same way.  Mary told me that when you are doing it alone it is safer than trying to cut their necks because they move around and you can miss and hurt yourself or not kill the chicken quickly.

Our coop is out by our pond and so we set up a table with a couple big buckets of cold water and she set to work. She skinned them and gutted them and well - it was very interesting - really not gross at all. I didn't actually do that part - I was running back and forth for things from the house - buckets of cold water, a table etc. She did show me how to do it - we only had about an hours time to do it in and she was so much faster. What was super interesting was the stomach - it was full of feed, about the size of a tennis ball. We opened it and spread it back on the ground. 

I saved the heart and liver and gizzards - not sure how I am going to cook them. I also saved the feet for stock - not the heads, that was a bit much. We did throw them in the pond for the fish - so they weren't wasted.

Mary thought it was funny I wanted the feet - she said only the Mexicans ask for them around here - I laughed and told her how they make great stock! She said I could have as many of hers as I wanted for free! I am super excited about that.

After Mary killed one of the chickens she tossed it on the ground  and it ran right into the pond - it was a funny sight - my son had to fish the headless chicken out. I know it sounds horrible and maybe I have a weird sense of humor but I so wish we had a video of it. 

What I thought was the grossest part of it all, not skinning them, not gutting them, heck not even killing them was when some of the other chickens got out and kept eating the heads - so gross! Cannibalism - I thought that was just too gross.

This was a real Amish lady - she was a treat, she just couldn't understand why anyone would prefer my backyard chickens to her "free range, organic feed" ones. She kept assuring me they were super healthy -no antibiotics. 

But an interesting thing was that mine were way harder to kill and butcher - the bones were harder. One reason was age - 6 weeks to 6 months but I also think that being able to roam around, in the sun eating bugs and other lovely things made the bones stronger. I could be wrong.  She also said mine had about as much meat as hers. But hers are bred as meat chickens and mine aren't. 

I am not posting any of the pictures here - except for the lovely chickens above still alive and then these two of them soaking in water. If you want to see a couple of the in between pictures - like me on facebook and check them out.

To be honest I wasn't sure about blogging this experience, but I was encouraged by some dear friends. And really I just wanted to share. And perhaps encourage you to step out of your comfort zone. We are so far from really knowing where our food comes from, 60 or 70 years ago almost everyone knew how to butcher a chicken or at least knew that was where their dinner came from. Not today, most children don't have any idea where their nuggets come from. It is sad really. 

Trust me if I can do it anyone can - I have always been afraid of all things animal - but I am so glad I experienced this today and now I know I can do it - and it gives me a feeling of empowerment. 

I am linking this to The Hearth and Soul Hop - hosted by moi and my 3 lovely fellow bloggers!


This is also being linked to Monday Mania at The Healthy Home Economist
and Simple Lives Thursday at A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa
Fight Back Fridays at Food Renegade 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Grits and Smoothies - Breakfast of Champions!

Well after my liver and tongue posts I thought I had better bring it back to normal a bit. Not too much -as you will see - but some.

When I ate gluten free for several years I often ordered grits at the restaurant when we went out for breakfast in place of toast or oatmeal with my eggs and bacon. It was just OK - I never could figure out the attraction. Until today. When I ate my own homemade grits. Absolutely to.die.for. I wouldn't lie to you my friends. The creamy goodness was out of this world. Maybe it was the cornmeal I used, or the butter, or whole milk or real maple syrup?? I am sure it is a combination of all of them.

It all started out when I made girlichef's  Herbed Cheese Polenta for dinner. The cheesy goodness just spoke to me. My kids kept asking what it was, they couldn't keep the word polenta in their brains but cornmeal mush - that they got.

So today I decided to make grits using the same basic recipe and it is a real winner.

Grits aka Cornmeal Mush
4 1/2 cups of  water
1 Tbs. salt
1 1/4  cups. yellow cornmeal
1 cup whole milk (I used raw) + additional as desired
5 Tbs. butter, cut into pieces + additional as desired (do NOT substitute margarine PLEASE)
Maple syrup

The first thing to do is bring your water to boil then add the salt.
Slowly add your cornmeal a little bit at a time whisking as you go. Once it is all incorporated reduce heat to low and continue stirring often. When the cornmeal thickens it is done. Take the pan off the heat and add milk and butter, stirring until the butter is melted.

Spoon out into individual bowls and top with extra milk and butter - to your liking. Then pour over some real maple syrup. Delicious and oh so healthy!

Kefir Slushy (Smoothy? - really what is the difference?)

That in itself was a winner but I also made a kefir slushy - this is where it gets a little weird again but stick with me please! I don't use a recipe, more of a process and I will walk you through.

Beware that it looks like a lot of stuff but you are just dumping them in the jar. And any and all ingredients are optional except the fruits and kefir or you can even substitute whole milk or yogurt for that.

I drink one of these almost every day. It is a great way to get in a bunch of different super foods that I don't always have time to fix in a real recipe. Alex at A Moderate Life explains in her post about the Power of the Puree how her daughter will eat fruits and vegetables pureed but not whole or even diced in a dish - and I totally get that!

First you will need a quart canning jar and an immersion blender - for ever I made these in my blender but this is much easier on the cleanup but if you don't have an immersion blender than use a regular one.

Into your canning jar put one broken up frozen banana, a cup of other frozen fruit, one cube of frozen orange vegetable, one cube of frozen green*, one cube raw liver if you have it, a teaspoon of expeller pressed coconut oil or coconut butter,  and 1 raw egg from healthy chickens. Top it off with kefir - fill cover. I then let it sit about 15 minutes to let the frozen stuff thaw a bit. Put the immersion blender in and mix up - it is really delicious. If it is too tart add raw honey until you like the taste - I do this when I am sharing with my kids.
Before kefir and without eggs - my chickens aren't laying (they will soon be dinner).

1 banana
1 cup other fruit frozen or raw cut up
1 cube frozen orange veggie - I cook different squashes and pumpkins and then mash and freeze in icecube trays and save in baggies. (opt)
1 cube green veggie - I do the same with spinach and kale (opt)
1 cube raw ground liver (opt)
1 raw egg
1heaping tsp or so of expellor pressed coconut oil or butter(important so you can better absorb the nutrients in the fruits and vegetables)
1-2 cups kefir
TBS of raw honey if you want

Let sit 15 minutes to melt frozen stuff a bit. Mix with immersion blender and drink - delicious!
 So easy a 5 year old can do it! 
Here Sylvia is modeling the delicious and nutritious smoothy.
Showing off the deliciousness of the smoothie

But beware, when you do a photo shoot with a 5 year old and a cold, damp canning jar this is what can happen next!
Sad sad day! It tasted so good too ;o[

* Sarah, the Healthy Home Economist explains in her post about the importance of cooking certain vegetables why we should cook them before eating. So, I always steam my greens before I blend and freeze them. Jenny at Nourished Kitchen also has a great post explaining the whys of eating healthy fats with fruits and vegetables.

Submitted to:
Simple Lives Thursday @ A Little Bit of Spain in Iowa and EKat's Kitchen's Friday Potluck.
Sue at Couscous and Conscousness' Make it With....Mondays. Where there are some great recipes for using cornmeal - yum!!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Cow's Tongue - Yes It's For Dinner!

We have gotten a quarter of a cow several times now and each time I request all the unusual pieces - the liver, the heart, the fat - but by far the most unusual has been the tongue.

Years and years ago when I was in High School I took a home ec class and had 2 crazy guys as my cooking partners. We decided to cook tongue as our final project. I have no idea why. I do know that it must have been inedible because we certainly didn't have 3 hours to make it. We did get an A+ for originality! I certainly didn't eat it - I think I decided I was a vegetarian that day LOL!

Up until now the cows tongues have just sat in the freezer - they are so weird looking and HUGE these tongues are a foot long or more. I just wasn't sure about cooking them - my memory of that High School dish is not pretty.

Now all these years later I cannot stand to waste perfectly good food so I set out to find out how you cook this strange looking cut.

Beef Tongue
1 beef tongue, cleaned
1 onions chopped
4 cloves garlic chopped
fresh ground pepper and salt to taste
Water to cover

The first thing you must do is clean the tongue - ok, I can do that.
Next you put it in a pan, along with some veggies, cover it with salted boiling water and cook the tongue on low for 3 or so hours.  The tongue will get strangely white. Remove the tongue and when it has cooled enough to work with peel the thick outer skin - yes you read me right - peel it. Don't let it get too cool or you will have a heck of a time removing it. I probably wasted a good bit of the tongue (will give it to the dog) but I had to slice off the thinner inner skin too - it still had the tastebuds and I just couldn't leave it on. If you are a braver soul go ahead and keep it.

At this point you will want to slice it and then you can put it in the fridge and then use it like bologna on a sandwich, or you can spice it up and serve like a pot roast. I decided to shred it and add Mexican seasonings and serve it in burritos.

So I cut the pieces up super tiny and then in a new pot melt shortening and add meat, to this add taco seasonings, stirring until blended.

I could have gone several ways we could have had it in a Mexican soup or chili or in tacos or burritos. I am making burritos just substituting the cow tongue for chicken and using - corn or flour tortillas, meat, beans, cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, salsa, guacamole.

If I had some of the tongue meat left, I would have sliced it  thin and froze some in small packages, my husband is one who likes it fried on a sandwich with mustard - me - not so much!

Oh and all that liquid from cooking the tongue - I am saving it for stock, oh yes I am!!!

So, to sum it up:
1. It tastes kinda like bologna (which I am not particularly fond of).
2. It tasted better all taco seasoned up.
3. I thought I would have more meat - I must have wasted too much.
3. I will cook the other 2 I have and any other I get free but I would never buy one. Nope, never buy one.

This is my submission to the Hearth and Soul Hop - Hosted by yours truly and 3 other amazing bloggers! You really need to check it out!
Christy's Tuesday Night Supper Club @ Fudge Ripple
And Real Food Wednesday @ Kelly the Kitchen Kop!
Balancing Beauty and Bedlam's Tasty Tuesday!  
Alea's Real Food Deals at Premeditated Leftovers


Tuesday Night Supper Club

Monday, October 25, 2010

Hearth and Soul Blog Hop vol. 20

Welcome to week number 20 of the Hearth and Soul Hop!  
Wasn't last week's Hop amazing? So many great link ups! I thoroughly enjoyed each and every one of last weeks links, if you didn't have a chance to read them all you should check out my link love post and see a few of the ones I loved. 
This week is going to be another great week - I can't wait to read your link ups and to try out as many as possible!  Read on for our mission and linky rules. Thanks for helping to make this blog hop AMAZING!!


Food from your hearth, to feed your soul. Food that follows your intuition. Preparing food from scratch to nourish your family…body, mind AND soul! Food made with your own hands…infused with energy and passion and intent. Real food made by real people to feed real families (big and small, in blood or spirit). Ingredients from scratch, be it something grown in your garden or raised on your land…food foraged in the field or woods…food from local farms, farmers, or farmers markets…or even ingredients chosen by you from your local market that will be turned into something that feeds your soul. Tapping the food memory that each of us has stored inside; letting it guide and influence our own time in the kitchen.

We hope to embrace not only the “expected” areas of real food, but also those who want to incorporate healthier choices without sacrificing their love of food…how it tastes, the memories it conjures up, the comfort it brings. Yes, we’re trying to steer clear of packaged, processed, and boxed foods in favor of real foods….without absolutely excluding the sometimes frowned upon white sugar or flour (because the body craves what it craves…and sometimes things just don’t taste the same when you replace these). Making conscious choices and being present in the now with what your body needs…and taking steps towards exploring and enjoying healthier choices. If you take the time to listen, your body will tell you what it needs.

The warm comfort of the home hearth…stories, anecdotes, lessons, adventures, journeys, recipes, meals, beverages…we want to share the “why” of how food feeds more than just our bodies…how it also feeds our souls. After all, aren’t these the essential ingredients in defining real food? Please share links from your Hearth and Soul with us each week.

*Each post will be visited by at least one of the hostesses before the next linky period opens, because this is personal for us…we want you to know that we appreciate that you’ve taken the time to create a post, add a link back to the hop, and add your link! We’ll be sure to acknowledge this with a comment and a tweet on Twitter (using hashtag #hsoul).

Rules for linking:
  • One link per week, please
  • Must include a link back to one/any of the host sites (through worded link or badge) in individual post, not on sidebar…although we love having links on your page, as well (this benefits all of us). You will be sent a gentle reminder if no link is added to your post, we understand that sometimes people forget…but if it becomes a regular occurrence, (even though we don’t like to do it) your post may be removed. It’s just not fair to those who do take the time and show the grace to link back.
  • Try to link a post that you think fits into the mission of the Hearth and Soul Hop. You don’t have to link up every week…link up when you can. We welcome posts that are shared in other events. If you have an older, archived post that you want to add, we welcome that…as long as you go in and add a link back to the Hearth and Soul Hop.

Linky will stay open from 10 pm Monday to 11:59 pm Wednesday (Eastern time).

Your Hosts:
Butterpoweredbike @Hunger and Thirst
Me, Christy @Frugality and Crunchiness with Christy 

This linky list is now closed.