Spinach and Mushroom Gnocchi

 

“Winter is the time for comfort, for good food and warmth, for the touch of a friendly hand and for a talk beside the fire: it is the time for home.”

-Edith Sitwell

When it’s cold outside, all you want to do is snuggle up and eat a stick-to-your-ribs meal of comfort classics, wrap yourself up in a blanket, and hibernate.  Unfortunately, most of us don’t have the time it takes to make those comfort foods after a long day of work, a commute, and let’s face-it sometimes the urge to wrap up in a blanket is stronger than the one to enjoy a home-cooked meal.  Well, I’ve got some delicious go-to meals that can satisfy all of your cravings, while only taking 20-30 minutes to make, and today I’m going to share one of them with you!

As you all know, I have a full-time job (I am a paralegal) and I still have a house and “farm” to upkeep.  David and I have chickens, ducks, rabbits, 2 cats and a dog.  We both work Monday-Friday, we are always starting and/or finishing projects, and let’s just face it: we are always busy.  But when you are on a budget, home cooked meals are definitely the way to go, so that means I always have to set aside a bit of time to make dinner.  I also have cravings, especially in these winter months, that must be satisfied.  So, over the years I have developed a few go-to dishes that I can make when I want something heart and soul warming, that don’t take much time at all to make.  That leaves me with the rest of the evening for some additional chores, but also time to relax, get some crocheting done, enjoy some garden planning, and watch a few YouTube videos or a TV show and maybe even get some reading done.

Here is the recipe for one of my favorite week-night winter meals that is both quick and delicious:

Spinach and Mushroom Gnocchi.

Ingredients:

1 Packet Store-Bought Gnocchi.

1 Stick Butter (don’t judge me….)

4 Handfuls Baby Spinach

1 Lemon (zest and juice)

7-8 Sliced Cremini Mushrooms (you can use any mushrooms that you like)

Fresh or Dried Rosemary (I prefer fresh but if you are in a pinch dried will work great)

Salt and Pepper to Taste

Shredded Parmesan Cheese for Topping

 

Directions:

Fill a pasta pot with water, add at least a tbsp of salt to the water, and set the heat on high until it reaches boiling.

mushroom

While water is heating, melt butter in a sauté pan, add mushrooms, a sprig of rosemary, and the zest of 1 lemon, and then allow mushrooms to brown, stirring once or twice to get all sides of mushrooms browned.  Add your spinach, the juice of a lemon, and some finely chopped rosemary, salt and pepper, stir, and turn off the heat once the spinach starts to wilt.

 

 

pan

Add gnocchi to boiling water and cook only about 2 minutes.  Gnocchi is done once it floats.  I like to use a slotted spoon to transfer gnocchi to my sauté pan because you will get some of that seasoned water into your spinach and mushroom mixture, creating a cohesive sauce.  Mix gnocchi and sauce together, add some additional salt and pepper.  Serve in shallow bowls or on a plate, topping as desired with shredded Parmesan cheese.

 

 

gnocchi

See?!  I told you, simple, quick, and above-all delicious.

Now, wrap yourself in a blanket, and get to hibernating!

 

 

 

 

My Christmas Wish…

 

“Never half-ass two things, whole-ass one thing”

-Ron Swanson, Parks and Recreation

 

All I want for Christmas is a Huge Garden that flourishes and produces non-stop delicious vegetables and jaw-droppingly beautiful flowers.  Is that too much to ask?  Huh?

 

This is, in fact, no joke.  My future mother-in-law actually asked me what I wanted for Christmas this year and my response was literally “Dirt.  A gift card for dirt, or a truck delivery of dirt.”  I swear, five-years-ago-me would not recognize myself, but that’s not a bad thing I’m sure of it.

 

David and I, amidst constant wedding planning (aka wedding spending and saving) have decided to forgo work on the inside of our house, and solely concentrate on the garden this year.  This will cost us much less money than the renovations, while allowing us to improve on our property.  Not-to-mention I am a firm believer in that quote above because as we have learned before, trying to do too many different things at once generally leads to no projects being completed.

 

So back to the garden… I had been planning on getting some brush-clearing done on Sunday, but after David decided he wanted to celebrate his birthday on Sunday as opposed to his actual birthday on Monday, I assumed that would put my plans on the back-burner.  Well, I was wrong.

 

On Sunday morning, I asked David what he wanted to do that day.  “We can do anything you want, anything at all.”  His response was “I want to work in the garden!”  Ha!  I love him beyond words.

 

raked garden

 

 

 

So, we went at it in the garden and let me just say that you guys should have seen me with that ax chopping away at dead tree stumps!

 

 

You will recall pictures of our garden last year, about half-cleared and not nearly as soil-rich as we wanted.  Well, this year we are going all-out!  We finally finished clearing the whole garden, as in twice the gardening space we had last year.  We also started clearing out a small space for my “Potager Garden,” which will be right outside my front door.  Finally, we also finished making a trellis for our blackberry plant and both of us agreed that we could not fathom why we had been putting it off, it was so much easier than we thought!

 

blackberry trelli

 

 

P.S. if any of you have some advice for blackberry pruning, we would love to hear it.  Any insights as to when to prune, how much to prune, etc. would be very appreciated.

 

 

 

 

 

We are aiming to start planting in February, and are planning to plant seeds straight into our garden, and thin them, as opposed to relying on all of the transplanting like we did last year.  We will also be doing a lot of trellis work for our yard-long beans, French beans, and cherry tomatoes.  In order to accomplish getting our seeds in for our cauliflower, broccoli, cabbage, radish, etc. in February, we will need all of the new-dirt to bought and spread, and then covered with our compost that we have been working so hard on.  We don’t want to make the mistake we did last year by not having adequate soil in place to feed the plants.  Yes, we amended as we went with some compost and rabbit droppings, but it was never quite enough to make up for us not bringing in enough good soil in the first place.  Now, we are aware that this is all a lot of work, but I-for-one am so beyond excited that all I ever want to do nowadays is to just sit on my couch with a cup of coffee surrounded by seeds, notes, garden blueprints, and my imagination!

 

I know you guys must feel the same way sometimes, so excited by dreams of squash, sunflowers, and beans, so what are your garden plans?

 

 

 

Exciting and Exhausting

“A bee is never as busy as it seems; it’s just that it can’t buzz any slower.”

~ Kin Hubbard

 

It may seem like I’ve completely neglected this blog for a while, and yes, that is true. Some days can be a whirl-wind of activities, chores, work, commuting, family gatherings, and now the Holidays AND Wedding Planning have been added to this mix! (Yes, I am engaged, you read that right.)  David and I have finally decided to tie-the-knot, and as exciting as that is, the planning process mixed in with the Holidays, our little farm, regular day chores, and a full-time job have totally caused me to hit my limit.  It’s no wonder that something had to give, and truth-be-told I had to sacrifice my writing time.

 

blushLuckily, though both the holidays and the wedding planning haven’t much slowed, I have completed a few big tasks (hosting a family Thanksgiving being one) and have therefore I been able to gather a few moments to myself to say hi!  So for both you and I, here’s a little recap of life over the last two months at our little weekend homestead: as previously mentioned we got engaged and started our wedding planning process, we planned and hosted our family’s Thanksgiving, we also completed our first-ever round of rabbit butchering and finished a few small backlogged household tasks like cleaning out the office and cleaning out the gutters.

 

rabbit
5 Rabbits down… 6 to go…

 

Meanwhile, I have 4 ducks and 6 rabbits that need to be butchered, a dining-room ceiling that slowly leaning (aka falling down).. not to mention photographers hounding me to make a decision and be reserved, a wedding planner to officially hire, hair and makeup artists to reserve, and the list goes on.  But life continues, and there are always more days.  I tell myself that at least 4 times a week.

 

 

All-in-all it has been busy but wonderful.  But now I get to enjoy Christmas and some exciting future ventures!  This month (aka December) David and I are going to finish clearing brush for our garden.  We will also be removing bushes in front of our house to create a “potager garden” with a mixture of edible plants and flowers.  In January we will be getting into some more wedding planning, and some additional garden-planning.  I am also really hoping I can get some painting done on the cabinets in our kitchen and/or some wall priming.  *Crossing my figures* that in February, David and I will be putting up the last of the dry-wall, hanging a large beam to replace the supports we have in the house, and replacing the ceiling in our dining room.  Oh, plus, garden, garden, garden.  I am seriously hoping to set aside a few hours this Sunday morning while the weather is sunny and 60’s (as projected thus-far) to start on the brush clearing, in between groceries and some fun birthday plans for my husband-to-be… So basically, my life is continuing as it has been for the last two years: Exciting and Exhausting.  And guess what?!  I wouldn’t have it any other way.

The Self Sufficiency Questions

“Self sufficiency is the greatest of all wealth”

-Epicurus

 

I think it’s important to sit back for a moment and think about everything, and I mean everything.  Why are David and I changing our lives so drastically?… What do we get out of it?… Is this new step a solution to a problem, a journey, an adventure, or are we bored?… And much more broadly and maybe even more importantly: Where are we as a humanity…Where are we as a country?  What do we need more, our cell phones or our dignity?  What do we as humans care about, and why?  What has changed in the last 150 years, and why?

 

I know it seems like a lot, but really, it’s all I can think about recently.

 

I am feeling myself changing, and I’m not sure if it’s good or it’s bad, I just know I am becoming more and more inquisitive, excited, and yet confused.  Am I crazy or have we as a society fallen asleep, accepted a life of being reliant a rich few folks…

……ARE WE CATS?!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What matters?  Is it how many followers you have on social media or is it whether or not you feel fulfilled?  Is it whether or not you like yourself?  Is it whether or not you know what you are eating?

 

Do I know where my water is coming from?  The answer is yes and no…. I know it’s city water…I don’t know how many feet it travels through pipes to get to me, what the filtration process is, or what the pipes it travels through look like…I don’t know what chemicals are used to keep it clean…AND I don’t know if I even read up on it I will be reading the truth.

 

Here’s a more important questions: Do I want to know where my water is coming from?  YES!

 

 

 

 

At least I got an answer to that one… But really, though, I took a gateway pill through those lil’ birdies that we bought back about 4 months ago, and since then I am changing.  Am I an addict?  And if so, is this a bad addition or a wake-up call?!

 

 

For example, I realized this morning that I lost my mascara, and started to freak out, running around, looking for it…It is not acceptable to go to work without mascara on!  I never wondered why though… pretty quickly I realized that I didn’t care.  I don’t need mascara! Revelation? Symptom of this change?  I am not sure, but I’m sure glad that I’m saving myself $12.00 on a new tube of black gunk that society tells me I’m supposed to slather all over my eye lashes every morning…

 

Am I crazy?  Are you crazy too?

 

What the hell, let’s be crazy together, because I finally feel awake and I finally feel alive.

 

I want to know where my food comes from, I want to know where my water comes from.  I don’t want to feel oppressed and stressed about things that truly do not matter, are not important for my survival, and that, in reality, make me feel less than human.  I have more confidence in the past few months, I can tell you that.  I think it is because I feel that I am judging myself on a new spectrum.

 

For example, why do we measure wealth in terms of money?  Why do we measure intelligence in terms of grades? Why do we measure social acceptance in terms of social media followers whom we have never met?

 

I guess I add to my pile of questions every day, but at least I’m asking them, and attempting to answer them.

 

 

 

 

 

On a different note, I made three loaves of bread this weekend, and David and I decided that we no longer need to buy bread!  It was delicious.

 

 

Do you have questions?  Are you trying to answer them?  Are you on a journey?  Are you savoring it?

 

Gravity Fed Watering for Duckies and Chickens

“Like a duck on the pond. On the surface everything looks calm, but beneath the water those little feet are churning a mile a minute.”

Gene Hackman

 

It is no secret that ducks love water, and if you follow my social media pages you know that I could watch them playing in their little ponds all day long.  Just get me a cup of coffee, a beautiful day, and a mini pool filled with ducks and I’m a happy gal!

 

On the other hand, duckies can be a bit messy, there’s no question about that either.  If you are like me, and you love chickens and ducks, and you want  them to all live in happy harmony, you have to consider a few things.

 

It is important to keep in mind if you have baby chicks and baby or adult ducks in the same area that baby chicks need to stay dry and warm.  Duckies love to splash around, and so it’s always important to keep a close eye on the chicks.  Also, baby ducks, though they may love to swim already, should not be given pools or container type pools while unattended at a young age, as they can drown and/or they can get too cold.  Although a 2-day old duck’s tolerance to cold is a bit better than a 2-day old chick, it does not mean that they can handle 70 degree temperatures and being wet or damp for long periods of time.

 

A second thing to keep in mind is that ducks eat and drink differently than their chicken companions.  Ducks need water in their mouth while eating.  So, they tend to get a lot of food in their water.  This means that ducky water gets dirtier and gunky much faster than chickens’ water.  And let’s be real, just because you have two waterers and two feeders does not mean that your chickens will drink from one set and your ducks from the other.  So, you will need either just change your water frequently, working harder, or you can do what we did recently and work smarter instead!

 

Finally, just so you know, ducks poop…a lot…a lot more than your chickens.  And it’s smellier. Don’t get me wrong, I love my duckies, they are my world.  But, you know, just be prepared.

 

David and I are learning as we go, this is new to both of us.  But part of the reason I have this blog is that when we do discover ways to make our daily lives easier on our little farm, I can share them with you!  So here goes:  Gravity Pressured Watering.  This will make your daily animal chores ten times easier if you have ducks and chickens.  It will keep your water clean and also make it to where you do not have to change it ever day!  And, if you are homesteading, I am sure part of why you are doing it is to be more self-sufficient.  So, part of the perk of using Gravity Fed Watering is that you can hook up the barrel to be fed from Rain Water simply by adding a gutter and filtration system to your coop and connecting it to flow the water into your barrel.  We are currently working this next step and are very excited about the prospect!  Talk about a money saver.

 

 

 

 

Here is a general How-To for building your own Gravity Fed Watering System:

 

Lengths of all pipes and materials are dependent on your specific needs.  We built this for what our chicken watering needs are, yours may be different.

 

List of Materials

Schedule 40 PVC Pipe – 1.5 inch diameter (I used 10 feet)

2 Schedule 40 PVC 1.5 Inch End Caps

2 Schedule 40 PVC 1.5 Inch 90 Degree Cupler

1 Male Schedule 40 PVC 1.5 Inch Threaded Adapter

1 Female Schedule 40 PVC 1.5 Inch Threaded Adapter

1 Schedule 40 1.5 Inch Ball Valve

Schedule 40 PVC 1.5 Inch T-Connector

1 Small Can PVC Cement

1 Small Can PVC Primer

Sand Paper (120 Grit)

55 Galleon Drum

Poultry Watering Cups (number dependent on needs; also, can be replaced with Poultry Nipples)

 

Directions

 

Choose a location under the roof of your chicken coop and level/flatten the earth.  Using brick or cinder blocks, build a platform about 2-3 feet high.  Next, Place your 55 galleon drum on said platform.

 

Drill a 1 and 1/8 inch hole into the side of the barrel, about 2 inches from the bottom.  Gradually increase the size of the hole until the male adapter can forcefully be threaded into the hole.

 

Thread on female adapter to male adapter from inside barrel and tighten (having an extra set of hands will be useful here.)  Loosen, apply primer, let dry, apply glue and then tighten again.  They should pinch together to create a good seal on the barrel.

 

Cut a 2 inch section of pipe and glue into non-threaded end of the male adapter.

 

Now, glue ball valve to pipe,  From hereon-out, all lengths and number of materials will be dependent on your needs.

 

Insert (not glue) length PVC pipe into female of valve.  The purpose of not gluing this section is so that you can easily detach your watering system from your 55 galleon drum when needed.  Attach 90 degree PVC cupler with glue.  Attach another PVC pipe (length dependent on your need) with glue.  Attach “T” connector with glue.  Finally, attach end caps, but do not glue, as this will be a sediment clean out section to help prevent and fix clogged pipes.

Drill appropriate sized holes into your PVC as necessary to fulfill your watering needs. From here you can insert your cups (or nipples) for your little feathered friends.

 

Now you have more time that you spend in your garden or your kitchen 😉 Enjoy!

 

 

 

Blueberry Cornbread Panzanella Salad

“We might think we are nurturing our garden, but of course it’s our garden that is really nurturing us” 

 – Jenny Uglow

  This dish is really a perfect representation of the idea that our gardens nurture us.  Blueberry Basil Cornbread Panzanella is basically southern summertime on a plate, and really just looking at it tells me is must be August.  
Doesn’t this just look so like a garden feast?!
This dish can be served alone as an entree for lunch or for a light supper, or can work as the perfect accompaniment to a main dish.  This weekend when I made this panzanella, I served it alongside my favorite chicken meatloaf, and the two worked magically, almost like Thanksgiving in August.   Here’s the recipe for you all to enjoy!    

Blueberry Cornbread Panzanella Salad

  Ingredients   Salad: 4 Cups Cornbread (cut into 1 inch cubes, store-bought or homemade) 1/2 Large Red Onion  (julienned) 2 Cups Cherry Tomatoes 5 Oz. Arugula 1/2 Cup Torn Basil (or about 12 large leaves, torn) 4 Slices Bacon 4 Tbsp. Butter Salt and Pepper Dressing: 1 Cup Frozen Blueberries 1 Cup Balsamic Vinegar 1/2 Tsp. Salt 3 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil   Instructions For the Dressing, Add your blueberries, vinegar, and salt to a small saucepan or pot, turn your burner to medium heat and let it get to a simmer.  Once simmering, keep an eye on to watch for any boiling, you don’t want it to boil as it could burn.  Stir regularly for 15 minutes while it lightly simmers.  Turn the heat off and then pour contents into a blender.  Be very careful, as the contents are hot, so make sure you put your blender lid on tight before you start to blend! Blend until smooth.  You can now transport the contents into a bowl and whisk in your olive oil.  Cool for later use.
FYI this is one of my favorite dressings that I make on a regular; it also goes great with an arugula and pear or arugula and granny smith apple salad!
***TIP: If you are on a time crunch, you can always create what I call a reverse double boiler by putting your bowl of dressing on top of a larger bowl filled with ice cubes, stirring dressing constantly.  This will cool down your dressing very, very quickly to where it is safe to put into the fridge and/or cool enough to serve. Okay, so for the salad, cube up some cornbread, either homemade, store-bought, or store bought mix and baked.  Try for a cornbread with a higher flour content to avoid super crumbly bread.     Slice up your bacon into lardons (thin slices of bacon about 1/4-1/2 inch thick and one inch long) and then fry them up.  Remove the bacon and set aside.  Cool the pan if it’s getting too hot.  On medium-low heat melt butter into bacon grease.  Brown your cornbread cubes in batches until lightly golden and allow them to cool.         Next, cut your cherry tomatoes in half, julienne your red onion, and tear your basil.  Mix your tomatoes, red onion, arugula, basil, cornbread, and bacon all together with about 1/2 cup your blueberry balsamic dressing.  Salt and pepper to taste, and serve your plates with extra dressing on the side.   ****Note: Do not over mix, as cornbread can be delicate.       I hope you guys enjoy this fresh and comforting summer dish as much as David and I did!!!

An Ode to Basil

 

“Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it.”

-Russel Baker

 

That’s right, I guess I’m just a sucker for the pain!  I just can’t get enough dirt under my fingernails, bug bites, back sweat, and you name it… Why?  Because it’s worth it.

 

I have fell in love with vegetable gardening over the course of this journey.  Of all vegetables I have grown so far, I think herbs would be my favorite.  Thyme, Rosemary, Mint, and above all else:  Basil.

 

I have basil growing all throughout my garden, originally as a pesk deterrent

 

I have learned this year that nothing beats home grown basil.  It smells strongly, much more strongly than the store-bought variety.  And it’s a beautiful smell… like fresh summer breeze or something more poetic but just as delicious. In truth, the basil is really just the tip of the ice berg.  I think more beautiful than the smell of home grown basil is the feeling that it gives me to pick it, to see it, to have grown it myself.  It grows so quickly and with abundance that it can sooth my anxiety when other plants may be struggling.  It’s strength and willpower allow me to keep feeling self-sufficient, successful, and oddly content.  David and I are about 4 months into this journey towards self-sufficiency, and the progress has been massive.  So massive that I sometimes have to remind myself to step back and smell the basil.

 

 

 

 

 

It’s something about the leaves that attracts me too basil, they look so strong but are so delicate.  The second they are picked they begin their decline.  This makes it unique, and the smell and taste is something to fight for.  Beyond that, it’s beautiful to look at and there are just so many different ways one can use it!

 

 

 

 

Fun Fact:  Basil has amazing medicinal uses, one of which I discovered this week!  I have recently found myself in need of cheap and holistic approaches to remedying my itchy bug bites.  Having spent so much time recently in my garden, I have become covered in mosquito bites.  Like covered.  I have tried lavender oil, tea tree oil, and coconut oil, all of which worked well, but not as well as I wanted.  If this sounds familiar, try basil!  I took a basil leaf, and rubbed it on my bug bites, and wow, I mean wow.  It worked beautifully.  It didn’t cure them, but it did fully take away the itch.

 

This is what is so beyond cool about gardening and growing your own food and plants.  You do not want anything to go to waste, forcing yourself to learn more and more ways to use food in multiple ways.  Learned how to preserve it instead of just eating it fresh, learning how to use it medicinally, using it in flower arrangements, and the list goes on.  My garden teaches me every day, and I love her for that.

 

What does your garden teach you?

 

Dreaming of Goats and Piggies…

“Without leaps of imagination or dreaming, we lose the excitement of possibilities. Dreaming, after all is a form of planning.”

~Gloria Steinem

 

When you want pigs and goats so bad it hurts… I understand that might not be a common phrase that you hear every day… but it’s true!  I want them so bad!  Can I have them?!  Please?!

 

So, I already know the answer: no.  I have to wait.  Waiting is honestly one of the hardest parts of starting a homestead or hobby farm.  This year we started the garden for the first time, installed new floors in our house, got chickens, ducks, adopted our dog Hank and started breeding our rabbits.  So…. Do I want them?  Yes.  But can I have them right now?  No.  We are just too damn busy.

 

Luckily, the key work is “right now” because I can and will have them later.  In preparation, and just because a girl can dream, I have recently started researching what types of animals I want to have.  I know I would like to keep some heritage breeds, because if there’s anything I can do to maintain these breeds and/or help them from dying out, I want to do my part.  I also know that there’s a sort of waiting list for our homestead projects, and here’s the order:  1st Bees, then Goats, then Pigs.  Oh yeah and mixed in between all of that is a garden expansion…and the house renovation projects…an acre of de-forestation, and… and… *sighs* too much to list.  But these things are so exciting, and not anything at all like the stressful list that is always looming in my head.  The list that stresses me out is much like most other peoples’ lists: bills, car registrations, taxes, etc.…

 

 

 

 

 

I snapped a picture of these adorable little goats at the farm down the road… aren’t they just so cute?!

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, I am well aware that David and I have our hands full… and that goats are not going to be had in the next 6 months, and probably not even in the next year.  And yes, that means pigs probably won’t be had for another year and a half … but a girl can dream.  And if you are like me and “plan” aka dream things out months and months and months in advance like I do, then you think I am completely sane and should have actually started looking into all of this a year ago!  Like, it’s not at all weird that I’ve already started working on my Thanksgiving menu, right?

 

When thinking about what kind of animals we might want on our land, David and I immediately agreed on Chickens and Ducks… and we already had Rabbits before we had even settled seriously on the plan of becoming hobby farmers or homesteaders.  But then we talked back and forth about other ideas: bees, sheep, cows, pigs, turkeys, goats, etc.

We settled on bees because they are pollinators that would be extremely beneficial to our garden.  Bees also produce honey and wax, and we would feel rewarded in aiding to prevent bee extinction.

 

Next, we settled on goats.  Goats are beneficial in so many ways, including milk, meat, and overall cuteness.  They also are easy to feed, and do not take up a huge amount of space.  We knew we wanted something that we could milk, but in all honesty, cows just take up so much space and need lots of ranging fields if you want them to be grass fed.  Goats milk is much tangier than cow milk, but this to me is actually a big plus for cheese making purposes!  And I for one cannot wait to make honey, lavender, and goat milk soaps and lotions!

 

Finally, after having decided that would be it, I came out of the woodwork insisting that we must have pigs.  Why?  Because pigs are beautiful, clean, sweet, and can be a true member of the family.  They also have delicious meat and fat, and a lot of it.  So, all in all we want pigs because they will provide us with a large amount of meat, fat, and love, all while taking up barely any space on our 7-acre plot.

 

As I said, I know that I want to have our goats and pigs be heritage breeds.  If you don’t know what a heritage breed is, that’s okay!  I only just learned about them in the last month or so.  Heritage breeds are traditional livestock breeds that were raised decades ago by our predecessors.  They were carefully selected and bred over time to develop traits that made them well-adapted to their local environments, but today these breeds are in danger of extinction due to changes in modern agriculture.  You can learn more about them by visiting https://livestockconservancy.org.

 

David and I have already settled on the breeds we want:  San Clemente Goats and Gloucestershire Old Spot Pigs.  These are both heritage breeds that are in danger of extinction.  They are both beautiful breeds and are known for being great mothers.  This aspect of being good mothers is very important to me and David, as we are new at this and it will be helpful to have the animals themselves be able to help us out.  They are also both known as being pretty docile and sweet and also for having delicious meat!  A little bit of a side-note, San Clemente Goats have a very interesting and mysterious back story and I definitely urge you to look them up and learn more about them and their history!

 

So, I guess I’ve rambled on long enough, but really, I am just so thrilled and excited about our future and the future of our little farm!  I would also truly love to hear any of your ideas or stories about heritage breeds!  Please, any advice or knowledge would be beyond appreciated.  Feel free to comment below or send me a message!

 

Spaghetti Squash Shrimp Alfredo

 

“It is health that is wealth and not pieces of gold and silver”

~ Mahatma Gandhi

 

In the spirit of health, and being a healthier me, (non-smoker extraordinaire, etc.), I have decided to share one of my favorite vegetable-filled, low carb recipes: Spaghetti Squash Shrimp Alfredo.  This recipe is low in calories, and high in nutrients.  It makes you feel full and satisfied and even feel like you must be cheating on your diet!  This alfredo sauce is delicious, but not nearly as devilish as the original because it is made from pureeing cauliflower with soy milk a butter, (yes, butter! It still needs to be a yummy alfredo dish, ya feel?!)

 

 

Spaghetti Squash and Cauliflower are both packed with nutrients, and you get to eat a whole bowl, packed with cheesy goodness and shrimp!

 

Enjoy this recipe without the regret 😉

 

INGREGIENTS

 

1 16 oz Bag Frozen Cauliflower

1 Cup Soy Milk (give or take)

7 TBSP Butter

2 Spaghetti Squash’s

2 12 oz Bags Frozen Jumbo Shrimp

4 oz Parmesan Cheese (freshly shredded)

6 oz Mozzarella Cheese (freshly shredded from a semi-firm mozzarella ball)

1 Tsp. Cayenne

1 Tsp Smoked Paprika

1 Tsp Chili Powder

1 Tsp Garlic Powder

2 Tbsp Vegetable Oil

1 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt and Pepper to Taste

Fresh Herbs for Garnish (Parsley and Green Onion)

 

DIRECTIONS

 

First, thaw out your shrimp in cold water.  Once thawed, de-shell the shrimp, running each shrimp under cold water and then setting aside.  Finally, remove excess water from shrimp by patting them dry with paper towel.  The drier they are, the better the rub will hold and the better they will sear.

 

Next, make your rub for the shrimp by mixing together the cayenne, chili powder, paprika, garlic powder, and about 1 tsp each of salt and pepper.  Drizzle 1 tbsp vegetable oil over the shrimp in a bowl, then sprinkle over your dry rub.  Mix it all up together, coating the shrimp.  I think the easiest way to do this is by using your hands, but if you would like to be more civilized you can always use a spatula… ;p

 

OK so now the shrimp can sit in the fridge for about an hour, covered with a bit of plastic wrap.

 

Next, Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Cut your spaghetti squash in half lengthwise (stem to end).. Remove the seeds using a spoon, brush the olive oil onto the cut side of each squash and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Pull out a baking sheet and cover it with some aluminum foil.  Brush the foil with a touch of olive oil, and place the 4 squash haves, cut side down, onto the baking sheet.  They can then bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until they are fork tender.

 

To make the alfredo sauce, steam the cauliflower until fork tender.  Then in a warm pot add 4 tbsp butter and about ½ cup of soy milk.  You can easily substitute to soy milk in this recipe with whole milk or almond milk, or any kind you like.  Keep in mind if using almond milk, you will probably end up using a bit less to avoid a thin alfredo sauce. Stir up the cauliflower, milk, and butter over medium-low heat until butter is melted, and milk is warm. Pour the contents of your pot into a blender and blend until silky smooth.

 

Pour contents of blender back into the same pot and turn your stove on low heat.  Add ½ of your shredded parmesan and mozzarella cheeses, 2 tbsp of your remaining butter and your remaining milk.  Stir together with some additional salt and pepper to taste.  You can always add more milk if you feel that the sauce is too thick.  You’ve now got yourself a bomb-tastic and healthy alfredo sauce!

 

To sear your shrimp, just heat 1 tbsp of butter and 1 tbsp of vegetable oil over medium high heat.  Sear your shrimp in batches of about 10 shrimp (to avoid over-crowding and uneven searing) until they are pink with some beautiful dark sear marks.  It should not take more than 50-60 seconds on each side if you have your pan at the correct temperature.  Finish your batches and set aside the shrimp.

 

 

After you pull out the squash, immediately flip them using a spatula and tongs.  This way you can pull up some of the spaghetti meat while it’s still steaming.  Then, spoon 1/3 of your Alfredo sauce in the 4 squash “boats” and continued to pull up “spaghetti” meat while mixing in the sauce.

 

 

 

 

Next, pour in the 2nd third of your sauce into the squash “boats” and mix it in, pulling up more meat as you go.  Now, top your boats with the beautiful shrimp, and finish with the last of the Alfredo sauce.

 

 

 

 

Top the bowls with the remaining cheese and pop your baking sheet with your beautiful Alfredo boats back into the oven for about 15-20 minutes, or until your cheese is melted with just a touch golden-brown coloring on the top of some spots.

 

After pulling out your spaghetti squash boats, top them with some fresh herbs.  I like to use chopped green onion an Italian flat-leaf parsley.  This recipes makes 4 large servings, as each person gets their own spaghetti boat.

 

 

Finally you can enjoy your delicious and healthy comfort food creation!

Minimalism: The Path from More to Less, Where Less is More

“Cultivate poverty like a garden herb, like sage. Do not trouble yourself much to get new things, whether clothes or friends. Things do not change, we change. Sell your clothes and keep your thoughts.”

~ Henry David Thoreau

 

 

Things do not change, we change.. this phrase really has made me think.  Things do not change, we change.  Well I certainly have gone through many changes over the last few months, no questions about it.  It’s been busy to say the least.  Luckily amid all of that busyness we had a few special moments, like the one snapped above when we found this baby deer lounging in our woods! David’s son spent a majority of his summer with us here in North Carolina, which was both a blast and a whirlwind.  I finally understand why co-workers talk about how fast summers go by and how crazy they are, because no lie, kids are like steroids to summer!  Pools, parties, arguments, energy, adventure, exhaustion, and oh wow tomorrow is August!

 

So, all of the excitement has kicked up dirt, caused a haze, a blur of exhaustion and emotion, confusion, and really when it’s all said and done, what’s changed?  Well, I’ve changed.  I have decided that I’m selling my clothes and keeping my thoughts…  Figuratively…  I like my clothes.

 

Saturday evening, David was almost back from his day-long trip driving his son back to his mom’s, and I had had a day of relaxation to clean, think, and relax, and then an evening to binge watch my guilty pleasure TV shows and eat nachos.  There was wine, cheese, cigarettes, and peace.  Well, I had been looking forward to this for 7 weeks to be honest, and now that the moment was finally here, I was confused.  Things changed.  Well, “things” hadn’t truly changed, but I guess in truth I had.  My nachos hadn’t changed, same recipe.  Same cigarettes, same wine.  I was enjoying the peace, but that time alone had made one thing glaringly obvious:  I needed a change.

 

My body has been beaten up this summer, there was no questions.  It was exhausting, and I was dealing with that exhaustion in unhealthy ways.  Fatty foods, sugar, wine, cigarettes.  But all of a sudden, sitting there full, cigarette in one hand, slightly tipsy, I just wanted water, to stretch, and for that crappy plate of food to digest so I could just be done with it.  My body was crying out.  Nourish me, love me!

 

So, I decided to give myself a break.  A real break.

 

That night I had my last cigarette.  I’m now going three days strong, no cigarettes, no tobacco use in the least.  It’s been hard, but my body needed that 10-year phase to come to its end. Quitting nicotine is no joke people, it’s grueling, but oh-so-worth-it.

 

I also decided, with David, that the next 21 days would be devoted to healthier living.  More food from the garden, and less from the fast food joint.  For 21 days we are concentrating on a kind of cleanse and penitence.  An apology to our bodies, and a thank-you for them treating us so well.  I am trying to do yoga every day, stretching and loving my body.  We are avoiding alcohol, sodas, fast foods, pre-processed foods, and anything with additives such as msg.   In honesty this is something I’ve been gearing up towards for a good long while, in developing this home stead, the goal is to be more self-sustaining, more minimalistic, and to limit the use of non-necessities that society tries to advertise to us as necessities.  It’s a great experiment, to see how far we can push ourselves.

 

Three days in and I’m feeling great.  I’m motivated, though a bit tired, and I’m proud beyond anything of both me and David for our hard work, dedication, diligence, and strength.

 

Change is good, but I’m keeping both my clothes and my thoughts 😉