Kitchen Stewardship

Apart from Knut’s love of the South Beach Diet, in our house we’re not organic food crazed or fad diet crazed (I will never consider the South Beach Diet a fad diet.  It’s good, old fashioned eat right diet.)  However, I believe in real food.  I will choose real butter over margarine any day.  Real milk, real bread, real fruit.  It just tastes better, and as a bonus it’s often cheaper.

The tough part about incorporating as much real food as possible is that it often requires that you cook from scratch.  That’s why the use of the freezer is so vital to running our household.  I have 2 freezer cookbooks:  There’s a Chef in Your Freezer and The Freezer Cooking Manual from 30 Day Gourmet.  The second one is good, but I’m sure there’s better books out there.  The first one really taught me to have a different mindset when it comes to cooking from the freezer.  I would recommend that one to anyone who has a garden as it has less “casserole in the freezer” recipes and more “how to preserve your garden for fast, all year round use.”

If you don’t have a garden, you can buy in bulk when the vegis are in season and cheap and get the same benefit, or be part of a garden co-op. The main 3 things I use from this cookbook is beef and chicken stock that I make in big batches on a lazy day at home, and roasting, pureeing and freezing tomatoes when they are ready from my garden.  Those 3 things, frozen in little 1 or 2 cup portions in my freezer are something I use all the time.  Since then, I’ve added pumpkin, squash, as well as many other vegetables to the freezer cooking technique.  Most of all, I think about freezer cooking differently.

I’m always looking for ways to make real food faster, and in a more organized fashion.  A little while ago, I did a quick post about how we started making homemade yogurt using the tutorial from Kitchen Stewardship.  Well, Katie, who is the blogger from Kitchen Stewardship sent me an email after I posted that, saying she got a ton of hits on her site from that post.  She was so delighted that she sent me one of her e-cookbooks as a gift for me.  (Basically, a cookbook that you download instantly…so no shipping…and you can print off only pages you want to…which is extra frugal.)

The cookbook she sent me was for Healthy Snacks which use real food. In the post I had asked for favorite granola recipes, and her cookbook had a few.  It also had homemade fruit roll-ups, power bars, muffins, bars, puddings, etc.  She also codes each recipe for cost and work intensity, as well as whether they are diaper bag friendly or should stay in the fridge.

She also invited me to be one of her affiliates, and if someone should buy one of her cookbooks through my site, she’d send me a cut of the profits.  It was easy from there for me to rationalize that I needed all 3 of her cookbooks so that I could recommend her with good conscience.  (Notice how little prompting I need to get a cookbook…or any book.  It’s a sickness really.)

Her Everything Beans book talks about the frugality, and high nutrition density of beans and how to incorporate them in the kitchen.  She talks in my kind of language: making large batches on lazy days and freezing them into portions that are easy to grab and throw into a meal.

There’s a common thread in all of her books.  They’re not just a compilation of recipes, but a complete “how to manage your kitchen” book with tips and tricks along the way.  She has the organization that I lack, therefore she is my friend. 😉

For instance, she recommends some recipes that cook well together in the oven so you only have to have it on once.  There are lots of lists too, which are going to be very instrumental in my weekly meal planning. 

The third book that I drooled over for awhile and then gave in.  I don’t regret it for one second.  It’s her Family Camping Handbook.  Notice that it doesn’t say “cookbook” although there are tons and tons of recipes in it.   Katie goes over packing tips, things you’ll need in order to carry “real food” into the campsite and not settle for prepackaged food.  Details like how to camp with babies and toddlers and not go insane…every family camping tip you’ve ever wanted to know.

We’ve been planning to go camping sometime this summer, and this book has me soooo pumped to do it now!  It’s like going camping with someone super organized like my sister, Heidi.  It’s like peeking inside of the brain of someone who thinks of everything, and has a method to all the madness.  Some of the ideas were no brainers for me, and some were fresh and new and I will definitely be using during our next camping adventure this summer.

She teaches you how to pack a cooler for a few days worth of food, and what to prep for before you leave.  It’s truly inspiring organization.  I guess I just love that sort of thing.

She does not include my mother’s chili recipe, which was a mainstay in our family camping trips growing up.  I’ll post that recipe later with my own tweeks, as well as about the best cornbread recipe using yogurt from a highly tweeked recipe I found online.  (I changed over half the recipe, so can I call it mine?)

So as my first hand picked sponsor, I’m going to put a link to Katie’s cookbooks on my left sidebar, and right here: Click here to visit Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship. I’d like to figure out how to put a little “Kitchen Stewardship” picture button there, but for now we’ll all have to settle for a little letter link that I got.  When I’m making some of her recipes in the future, I’ll try to let you know how it goes.  So far everything we’ve tried has had a big thumbs up from both the grown-ups, kids, and wallet of this family.

Yarn Along

It’s been so busy in the garden.  Strawberries are in, rhubarb won’t wait forever.  We harvested our first peas yesterday, though there was only enough for the kids and I to have a quick snack while we were out there weeding.  I love fresh, raw peas!  Soon the peas will take over my life for a few weeks.  Even though they’re one of my favorites, a part of me is glad that they didn’t come up very well this year.  Less work now.

All that to say crafting has been at a minimum.  Sometimes that makes me grouchy.  I need to get over that.  I just went to a baby shower, and pulled out my UFO box (UnFinished Objects) and found dozens of booties that I had at one time made for the express purpose of having a handmade gift at baby showers.  In my traditional form, I had made several booties, and their match, but neglected to sew up any of the seams, weave in any ends, or make any drawstrings.  Well, one had a drawstring, as shown in the picture, but the other one did not and I no longer have that yarn.  Since it was for a little girl, I just took out some pink yarn for the drawstrings and made them up quick and did other “tidy” work.

That’s the extent of my knitting this week.  It’s so depressing.

I have actually gotten a bit of reading done.  I’m finally getting to the Read-Aloud Handbook which was recommended to me by several homeschoolers and looking online, several teachers and parents recommended it as well.

It could have been titled “3,475 studies that prove that reading to your kids is really, really good.”  Ugh.  I hate “studies say” books, but this one has some treasure when I look for it.  I’ve basically been reading the sections that look interesting, and skipping a page or 5 here and there.  Normal non-fiction reading for me.  Knut reads every single word of boring non-fiction books.  He’s really kind of a nerd when it comes to things like that.

I am learning some great techniques for getting David more interested in hearing stories.  He never wants to pay attention when we’re reading one of our “read aloud” books, and this book suggests that if he is struggling with that to read one on one as much as possible, and I see I’ve been grouping him together with Silje perhaps too much.  I’m also getting some great ideas for particular books that could help Elias with his vocabulary.

Really, it’s inspiring me greatly to read to the kids more, and more intentionally.  That’s what I’d hoping it would do, so it’s doing its job.

I’m dying to read a good novel but am too scared.  When I pick up a novel, nothing else gets picked up in my house until it’s done.  So I’m not allowing myself.  This also makes me pout.  What I wouldn’t give for a good, captivating story.  I’ll have to at least wait until the garden is done.

I’m going to cheat a little again this week and show one more picture of the rest of the shower gift.  They’re called a “bapron” (baby + apron).  I did cut out more, and they were almost done, but I think I’ll save them for Solveig.  It looks like a great full size bib!  This tutorial was recommended to me by a friend and I’ve been waiting months to get a chance to try it out.  It came together so fast that I was in shock.  I got nearly 4 done in yesterday’s naptime hour.  (From cutting fabric to clipping threads and done.)  I did use prepackaged bias tape, though, so that cut down on the time.

I wish I could sell these in my store, but since I lack the permission they may just be my next favorite baby shower gift.  That…and the booties.  😉  I have to admit, one whole blissful hour of sewing did take the grumps out of me for quite some time.

Before and After

These were strawberries from the farm down the road, picked by Knut, Silje, and David.  They are now strawberry jam, and some (well, a lot)will be frozen to throw into smoothies and smoothie ice pops for the rest of the year.  They can really be thrown into a lot of desserts.  I’ve always liked those ice pops at the store that use real strawberries.  I bet if I added a bunch of sugar to some of these strawberries and froze them up I could make even better ones.  
I’m pretty sure the Ice Pop Joy lady would not approve of all that sugar.  I probably shouldn’t tell her that the jars of jam pictured above took roughly 10 pounds of sugar either.  
These are strawberries from our very own garden.  I can’t believe how many we’re getting, since last year our patch didn’t produce enough for each of us to have one berry.  I made a pie with them…and I still have leftovers and we’re still getting more from the garden about every other day.  (I did not have the forethought to buy cream to whip up.  We had generic cool whip in the freezer, but that kinda taints the beauty of it, don’t you think?)  I’m thinking that maybe in future years we will be supplying 100% of our own strawberries.
Notice that berries that ripen on the plant and eaten the same day they’re picked are red throughout…not white insides like in the store.  I always thought that’s how they grew.  The pie was supposed to set in the fridge for another hour but Knut and I were impatient, so it’s a bit runny.
There are no words that discribe the flavor of our strawberries.  
You can stop trying to taste your screen now.

Mean Girls

Our flock is growing up nicely.  I think they get prettier every day.  We lost “Lucky” the chicken that was attacked by Lena.  She had lasted nearly 2 weeks after the attack, was obviously eating and drinking.  Her head twitch left her and she started behaving normally, minus the eye she lost.  We started talking about reintroducing her to the flock, and the next thing we knew, we found her dead in her box.

Which brings our flock down to 18.  One was lost in the woods and never returned, (a black one) and then Lucky.  A few chickens have not returned from the woods for even a day or two since then, but they have always come back.  We haven’t had one unaccounted for in a few weeks now.  They have their routine now, and I don’t worry about them as much.  I know the bushes they like to hide in, and they are starting to spread over the yard more, which is good.

There is one problem which needs to be dealt with.  You might remember we exchanged some chickens with our friend, Conrad?  He took the roosters off our hands, and gave us 4 young hens.  2 of them had evidence of “bullying” from his coop as we could tell from the missing feathers on their necks.  One of them seems to be doing very well, and has regrown her neck feathers.  The other one is doing very badly, and is losing more neck feathers every day.  It’s gotten to the point where she will sometimes bleed.

The other birds that came from Conrad’s flock have seemed to acclimate fairly well, but this one seems to only be getting worse.  

She is constantly being put down and walked over and pecked by our the other birds.

We have named her “Princess” in order to help raise her self esteem.

I’ve even seen Selina, our mini-chicken who had pasty-butt in the beginning walk all over Princess.  See, here’s Selina next to another of her same breed.  She’s growing fine now, but is still behind the other birds.

I won’t show you a picture of Princess in case some of you are squimish around wounds.  We’ve put an old dog crate in the coop and have separated her from the rest of the birds so that she can have a chance for her pecked at neck to heal.  Unfortunately, she’s started scratching her wound often and comes out of the crate worse off looking than going in.

Knut and I have started to pour hydrogen peroxide over her neck every day, in order to promote healing.  If we can at least get the healing started, I’ve read in my chicken book that it’s a good idea to rub vinegar over her neck before she in reintroduced into the flock.  That way if one of the other birds tries to peck at her, they’ll get a beak full of yuckiness.  It puts an end to it pretty quick.

However, I can’t seem to stop her from scratching.  I’ve looked for mites or some other bug that may be causing the scratching but can find none.  I really think it’s just itchy like healing wounds can often get.  If any of you chicken experts has any idea how to stop her from scratching her sometimes bloody neck, I’d sure like some advice. It’s looking worse by the day, not better.  We’re trying to be vigilant.

Until then, we’ll keep her separate, and use hydrogen peroxide daily and hope for it to start healing on its own.  I can’t fathom any sort of bandage that wouldn’t interfere with her eating and drinking.  Knut jokingly asked if they made chicken cones like dog cones.  I’m not sure how that would work.  Well, at least the chicken cones that I know of are used for an entirely different purpose…butchering.

She’s a pill to try and catch.  She wasn’t handled over at Conrads as much as we handled our chicks.  His chicks aren’t by his house and he had almost 3 times as many birds to hold, and less hands to hold them.  Our chicks were handled by little kid hands multiple times a day and still are.  Knut and I working together will chase Princess for a good 10 minutes before she’s caught.  We’re slowly getting better at catching her.

They’re not all mean to her, though.  The one that came with missing feathers along with Princess, except her neck feathers have re-grown seems to be her close friend.  I’ve seen this chicken shield Princess from violent pecks of the other girls.  She’ll extend out her wing over Princess’ neck, and pull her in close.  I’ve never seen anything like this, but it’s fascinating to watch.

Amara will run towards me when she sees me coming now.  One of the other Amaracaunda’s is right behind her.  I need a name for that 2nd in command girl.  She’s always anxious to see if I have a treat.  I’ve been saving the mini strawberries for the chickens  (the ones in the patch that are so small they’re hardly worth taking the leaves off).  They go bonkers over them.

I’ve also been giving them our excess of garden lettuce as well, and sweeping up the leftover pieces of corn in the garage from where Knut used to store the “fuel” for our corn stove last winter.  I’ve been reading that diversions like this can distract the birds from some bullying…so far no luck.  They like the treats, though!

One of the big hamburgs (the yellowish white ones) picks on Princess the most.  I’ve named her Ursula.  I need a name for Princess’ protector and friend, though.  Still working on that. 

So those keeping track of named chickens:
Selina (mini chicken with pasty butt as a chick.  Now fine, but small.)
Amara (the golden Amaracauna chicken.  By far the most friendly and certainly runs the coop.)
Lucky (bird attacked by Lena, and later died…so we probably named her wrong.)
Princess (bird with missing feathers on her neck and constantly bullied)
Ursula (Princess’ biggest bully.)