25 December 2009

Cookbooks and Green Biscuits

Today Nate and I opened the box my mom shipped us for Christmas. Among all of the other amazingness was this cookbook. This is the cookbook my parent's church put out in 1985. I have cooked out of this book as long as I can remember. Many of our family's favorite recipes are found here. Their Ladies Group decided to reprint the cookbook this year. As you can imagine, I was very excited to get this cookbook. Not only are many of the recipes that I always call mom about in here, but like other cookbooks from other eras, it gives us a unique glance back in time. Oleo, Eagle Brand Milk, Cool Whip. Not items that I frequently use anymore but that I remember fondly from my childhood (did anyone else sneak spoonfuls of cool whip from the freezer?)

Tonight we decided to make a large pot of cupboard soup - wherein you use the things in your cupboard to make an impromptu soup - for dinner. We sort of threw together sauteed onions and garlic, cubed potatoes, red lentils, green lentils, quinoa, pearled barley, tomato paste, pickled turnips and parsnips (weird, I know, but surprisingly good!), and some random spices. It turned out good! But while the soup was simmering, I remembered a childhood treat: green biscuits. Green biscuits make everything better. I remember my mom making biscuits, melting butter in the bottom of a pan, adding dried green stuff and letting us help by dipping both sides of the biscuits in the butter mix and then licking our fingers. The biscuits were then arranged in the pan on top of whatever butter was left and cooked until golden. The resulting biscuits were everything we ever wanted in a savory biscuit: flaky, buttery, and utterly yummy. Tonight I threw together a biscuit dough (based on this one, but I used a LOT more flour, maybe it's the altitude...) and flipped through the new cookbook until I found the recipe.

Green Biscuits (aka Herbed Biscuits)

These will forever be known to me as green biscuits. As I was throwing this together last minute, I didn't have all of the ingredients. Seeing as this came from 1985, the Parmesan cheese was from the green Kraft bottle (and we referred to this cheese as green cheese, appropriate it would seem). And the onion flakes were, well, those weird freeze dried onion flakes. I didn't have these two items. I'm guessing this would be even better with real Parmesan...

1 stick butter
2 t parsley flakes
1T dried dill (more or less to taste, I love the stuff so I kind of went overboard)
2T dried onion flakes
2T Parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 425. Melt butter in a 9x13 pan in the oven. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir. Mix up your favorite biscuit recipe and roll it out on a floured surface. I tend to roll these out thinner than most other biscuits. Cut biscuits into your preferred shape (I just roll them out flat and cut with a knife into sort of squares so I don't have to worry about scraps). Dip each side of the biscuit into the mixture and lay the biscuits out in the pan. Go ahead and crowd them in there. They won't stick to each other. Bake for about 12 minutes or until the top is golden. All that herby buttery goodness will have baked into the crusty bottoms of the biscuits. Try not to eat the whole pan.

Good Reading for Homesteading Types: Paper Edition

Over the past few years, I've come across a few print resources that provide some indispensable information for homesteading, DIY living, or being self-sufficient in any setting. These are similar to blogs, but made out of paper.
  • A subscription to Mother Earth News is money well spent. There are always insightful tips on gardening, living off the grid, and sound advice for those seeking those kinds of lifestyles. My favorite article I've seen in there recently was an essay by a homesteader sharing what he's learned over the past few years that he wished he'd have known at the beginning. What could be better?

  • If one of your favorite possessions requires bullets, Backwoods Home is a great read. It's like a grittier version of Mother Earth News, with lots of tips on living sustainably and independently, and they throw in a dash of Gadsden Flag-style libertarianism to round things out.

  • Dwelling Portably is a legendary zine that's been coming out for decades. It's essentially an analog message board where people write in that live off the grid or nomadic lifestyles and share tips and tricks that they've learned. It's a delightful read for people of any background, but especially useful for earthy, self-reliant types.

  • Back in the 70's when simple living was really big, Possum Living was written by a teenager living in the country. Her wit and knowledge always bring a smile to my face. She has tons of great ideas on living frugally and independently. It used to be available for free online, but the link is dead. Write, and I'll send you a copy of the file.

  • Country Wisdom and Know-How is an oversized soft-cover book a-la Whole Earth Catalog for rednecks. It's full of canning recipes, designs for chicken coops, tips on wood stoves, tool sharpening, or anything else you could possibly want to know.

  • Foxfire Books are the coolest anthropology books I've ever read. A few back-to-the-land enthusiasts in the 70's wrote articles for Foxfire Magazine. They were compiled into the Foxfire Books. There are currently 12 of them, all very worthwhile. They docuement the nearly-lost wisdom of Appalachian Mountain people. You can learn anything from how to build a gourd banjo, hog dressing, tanning hides, to making shoes from scratch. They include the unique human elements of mountain culture which make these books a very fascinating read.

24 December 2009

Review: Denver Urban Homesteading Indoor Farmer's Market

Last weekend I finally made it out to the only winter farmer's market I've been able to find in Denver. The Farmer's Market is located inside the new Denver Urban Homesteading building at 200 Santa Fe. The market is open every Saturday from 9am-2pm.

I love spending time at Farmer's Markets, but I hate it when they turn into crafts fairs or a place for people to resell produce they got from a big distributor and was shipped from 6 states away. If I wanted crafts, I'd go to a craft fair. If I wanted non-local produce, I'd go to the grocery store. I'm admittedly a tough customer. I expect when I walk into a Farmer's Market to be able to find locally grown and produced items. That's exactly what I found at the Denver Urban Homesteading Farmer's Market. Here's what they have to say about their goals:
Do you know where your food comes from? We know where ours comes from and we know the people who grow it. One of the goals of our urban agricultural center is to provide that information to our customers and help strengthen the bonds between the farmer and the consumer, to make transparent the route from the farm to the table. In order to this, it is our goal to visit all the farms selling at our market, to understand their food production processes and to feel confident that the food is grown or prepared with agricultural, nutritional and environmental integrity.
Sounds like my kind of people!

The building is an older brick warehouse with huge wood doors. When you first walk in you'll see a reception area with a desk, some shelves with local products, 2 freezers, and a refrigerated case. Don't pass this area up before going into the main farmer's market area! There's a lot of good stuff here. You can find preserves and dried apples from Ela Family Farms by the door. I made apple sauce from their apples this fall. It is amazing.

Creative Commons-licensed content originally uploaded by annethelibrarian.

In the fridge there is milk from Morning Fresh Dairy Farms. I know I keep mentioning them, but seriously, their milk is that good. You have to pay $1.50 bottle deposit the first time you buy their milk, and the milk I got (Cream-Top, N won't let any fat free stuff in this house) was $3.00. So, I paid $4.50 this time. But you bring the bottle back next time and the bottle deposit rolls over to your next purchase. So next week it'll be just $3.00. They have chocolate milk and the best egg nog I've had in a long time. And you get to drink your milk from a glass jug, how cool is that?!

In the refrigerator case with the milk you can also find Hazel Dell mushrooms. I didn't get any this time, but I've had theirs before. Their mushrooms are delicious. They had 1/2 pound packages of assorted mushrooms for around $6-8. Totally worth it!

One of the freezers has locally raised trout and tilapia. It's greenhouse raised and comes from Aquagreen. I think N wants me to pick some up next Saturday.

The other freezer has Red Trolley ice cream. Maybe next Saturday...

I had so much fun talking to the lady at the Berry Patch Farms table. She is cheerful and nice and loves her farm. She has several types of dried beans. I was really excited about a local vegetarian source of protein. I bought the Heirloom Black Turtle beans. She also had kidney/chili beans. If you like chili, she'll hook you up. She's got everything you'll need: onions, dried chili powder or whole dried chilis, kidney beans, frozen tomatoes, and garlic. And she grew it all herself. I ended up buying some beets, garlic, and a butternut squash from Berry Patch Farms.

Next, I moved on to Lee's Bees' table. Lee wasn't there, but his daughter was. She was very eager to educate people on the benefits (and deliciousness) of raw honey. And their honey is every bit as good as she says it is. I left their table with a half pint jar of awesomeness.

The last place I bought something from was Twin Mountain Milkhouse. They have some amazing cheese. I sampled some of their raw milk cheddar. I went home with a rather large hunk of their raw milk cheddar. I think next week I may bring home some of their gouda.

Those are just the people/places I patronized on my first trip. There are quite a few more to check out. If you're like me and have knives and tools that need sharpening, Johnson sharpening is there every week. There is also a lady, Westfarm Goats I do believe, who sells goat's milk soap and wool yarn. I'm drooling over the local yarn. But I told myself that it is pointless to buy craft supplies with a broken arm.

The Denver Urban Homesteading folks also sell chicken coops and feed. The building is huge, really. They plan on hosting classes this spring and summer on everything from raising your own chickens to composting with worms. Check their website for details and prices.

I was so happy months ago when I accidentally stumbled upon the Denver Urban Homesteading website. This seems like a place where people who are as passionate about local food and doing things the hard way as I am would congregate and be able to share their knowledge. I'm really looking forward to seeing how this place grows.

It is also so great to see how many people came to buy and sell things at a winter farmer's market. Eating locally doesn't have to be hard when you know the people who grow your food. Seems like a win-win situation to me!

Almost 100% Local Mac & Cheese

I wanted something fast and comforting last night for dinner. It was about 15 degrees, windy, and snowing hard.

I looked in the fridge for inspiration and found some of the yummiest cheddar and a jug of milk (we need to do some grocery shopping, soon!). The cheddar I picked up at the Farmer's Market at the new Denver Urban Homesteading building. The cheese is a local raw milk cheese. I love sharp cheddar, and this is deliciously tangy. While there last Saturday I also picked up a jug of Morning Fresh Farm's Cream Top milk. I also had some local butter in the fridge.

The only non-local things I used were some flour, the pasta, and salt.

Almost 100% Local Mac (or Shells) & Cheese

2T flour
2T butter
1 1/2 c milk
1 c shredded cheddar cheese (more or less to taste, I forgot to measure.)
2-3 cups cooked pasta
this really depends on how hungry you are and how much sauce you like, I prefer a greater sauce to pasta ratio than N does.

I really don't understand why Kraft Mac & Cheese became so pervasive. OK, I do, but once you make mac & cheese from scratch you'll never really look at that blue box the same way again.

First, I always but a pot of water on to boil for the pasta. The sauce is seriously fast and will be done by the time your pasta is done.

Next, you need to make a roux. This sounds intimidating, but it's not and it'll make the cheddar sauce much smoother.
To start the roux, melt 2T butter in a sauce pan over medium heat. Once the butter is melted, add the 2T flour and cook for a minute or two stirring constantly with a whisk. You'll notice the butter and flour mix gets all nice and bubbly. After about 2 minutes of stirring (you don't want the flour to burn!) pour in the milk. Let the milk get all nice and warm, but not boiling, and add the cheese in and whisk until the cheese melts in. The sauce should thicken up nicely, but it may take about 3 minutes or so of cooking after the cheese is added. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Your pasta should be done around the time the sauce is if you started the water boiling before starting the sauce. Drain the pasta, fill your bowl and top with cheesy goodness, and enjoy!

13 December 2009

Christmas came early!

In the form of a vintage All-American Pressure Cooker! It holds 15 1/2 quarts. It's a bit beat up on the outside, but nothing that Nate can't handle! That just means that we got it on the cheap. You can find so many good deals if you are willing to put a little bit of elbow grease into things.

I'm already scheming about what I want to do with it.

Besides can. What should I put in the cans?

Fancy Coffee

I really want some fancy coffee.

We have almost everything I would need.

Bialetti Moka? Check.

Milk? Check.

But I used all of the coffee beans this morning.

And we're out of ginger.

Why ginger? To make a Gingerbread Latte, of course. I am in love with anything ginger.

I even found the perfect recipe for gingerbread syrup.

Maybe when Nate gets off I can convince him to take me to get coffee beans and ginger. And if you're in Denver, get this milk. You'll thank me. Milk in glass bottles that you have to return to get your bottle deposit back? Yes, please. And may I suggest that you wear an apron while making this (or any thing else really)? It makes all the difference.


Well, I took a hiatus from my newborn blog, and for that I do apologize.
[to the 2 people who know this blog exists.]

Here's why I've been gone so long:
I graduated from grad school with my Master's in Education, May 2009

I got married to Nate on May 30th, 2009.

We went to Athens, Greece, for our honeymoon for 9 days.

Then, 2 days after we got back, I went to Alaska to help a friend move all her worldly possessions from Anchorage, AK, to Louisville, KY. Yes. We drove the whole way.
When I got home from AK, we realized that our lease was up in a week. And so we proceeded to pack up all of our worldly possessions, and the cats. We moved everything into a storage unit and went to stay with Nate's parents while we figured some things out. We knew that we were pretty burnt out on Nashville and that since our lease was up, now was the time to leave. But where should we go? We didn't have much time or money.
So Nate said "where do you want to move to?"
"I've always wanted to live in Colorado," I replied.
"How about Denver?"
"Sounds great! When do you want to move?"
"2 days enough time?"
"No, but I'll make it work."
And so, we rented the largest U-Haul trailer my little truck could haul, unloaded the storage unit, took lots of stuff to thrift stores, put the cats in the carriers, and left Nashville.
The first day we made it to Little Rock, AR, where my parents live. We stayed with them for 2 days to recover from our hasty exit from Nashville. While we were home, I emailed my resume to all of the high school principals in Denver. The day before we left I got a call from one of them asking when I'd be in Denver and if I could interview with them on Monday!
The drive to Denver was one of the worst drives. I pulled the trailer behind my truck and Nate drive his car. If I went faster than 55mph, the whole trailer began to sway and fishtail. And I freaked out. And Nate got frustrated 'cause we weren't going faster. And we were tired, and hungry, and sick of driving, and sick of not having a place to call our own.
When we finally got out of Kansas, we were hit with the mother of all storms. I kid you not. Tumbleweeds FLYING THROUGH THE AIR. Rain coming in sideways so hard I couldn't see the hood of my truck. And more lightning than I've seen in the entirety of my whole life x 100. I thought the trailer was going to be flipped by the wind. We both had our parents on the phone tracking the storm online to see how long we'd have to wait it out. About 20 minutes it turned out. The whole sky was dark and heavy with clouds the rest of the drive to Denver.
We made contact with Diego, an awesome guy from CouchSurfing who had agreed to put us up for a few days. He and his sister were awesome and even let us bring our cats in their house.
I interviewed 2 days later, we found an apartment 5 days later, and survived the whole ordeal.
We love our apartment. I love my job. Nate got a job as a chef at the biggest vegetarian restaurant in town (and needs to tell me all of their recipes!).

We survived and made it to CO:

Yeah, we have a claw-foot tub and gold radiators. What more could a girl want?

Well, more counter space is one thing...

But, look at this scenery, how can you be unhappy about living here?!?

Yeah, that's snow on the ground behind us. In July.

...And we needed time to settle in to our new lives and to adjust to the new location.

And then it snowed.

And I got one of these.

That's the ever curious Walter checking out my new board.
And a season pass.

And ended up with a broken humerus. 8-weeks to heal, they told me.

[Disclaimer: I started skiing when I was 13, in these very mountains. I've snowboarded for the past 10 years. It was a freak accident. I swear.]

So, it's been six weeks or so since "the accident" and I can finally get things done around the house with out help or too much pain.

So hopefully I'll be able to cook more and post more on here soon.

Do you know what a pain it is to wash dishes or sweep with one hand?!?

And, just in case you were wondering: No. Kids don't float.