Home In Disarray

January 27, 2016

Brats with Bacon Braised Cabbage

\Brats with cabbage
By

This is a goody.  Simple and satisfying as a small meal, or add a side of some sort and serve it as a “normal” meal.

Makes 5 servings, takes 45 minutes

Ingredients

  • Pack of 5 Trader Joes uncooked bratwursts
  • 4 strips thick cut bacon, cut into matchsticks
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 10 oz shredded cabbage
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 T apple cider vinegar
  • 1.5 cups chicken stock
  • salt and pepper to taste

 

  • In a large skillet, crisp your bacon. Allow it to cook over medium heat until it is starting to crisp up but isn’t destroyed.
  • Remove the bacon to a plate and set aside, but leave the fat behind. Add your brats and brown them on each side. Once you’re satisfied with their color, add the bacon back to the pan and remove the brats. Add your cabbage, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes.
  • Saute for a few minutes until the cabbage begins cooking down. Add your ACV and chicken stock, plus a large pinch of salt and allow to come to a simmer, still over medium heat.
  • Add your brats back to the pan(nestled into the cabbage) and allow to simmer gently for 10-20 minutes until most of the liquid has evaporated.
  • Taste a little of the cabbage and adjust the seasonings.
  • To serve, place 1/5 of cabbage mixture on a plate and top with one bratwurst.Brats with cabbage
August 11, 2015

I put up the extra 2 walls of my Roosting loft and got an egg for it!

Nesting Loft
By

I have had these painted hardiplank pieces collecting dust all on my deck for the last month, and have frankly been far too lazy busy to complete the project of the hen house.  But I had a few free hours on Saturday afternoon and decided to just buckle down and get it done.  It really didn’t take much effort, and I wanted to have them ready to go before the weather started getting chilly.  I still haven’t completed my poop hammock, so that is definitely on the list.  I got started on a proof of concept for it using old feed sacks held together with staples as I can’t commit to having the sewing machine out on table until I am sure that this is going to be a worthwhile time sink.  If this setup doesn’t work out very well, I will have to back up and either move to a hinged and rhino-liner coated piece of plywood that will collect poop and can then be scraped off, or something else that will be effective at keeping drafts off their toes and fluffy little butts, but also be removable so I can get in there and clean.  Either way, we are making progress.  I moved the temporary nesting box to another wall of the enclosure.  I am in the planning stages of a nest box that is accessible from the exterior of the coop, and needed the area clear so that I could stare and obsess over how to make the jigsaw of a nesting box that I’m planning go together.

I have also tried numerous treats for the 3 new hens, and they’ve poo-pooed them!  My first girls went apeshit for black oil sunflower seeds.  These ones couldn’t care less about their existence, even going so far as to pick at them when I toss them into the run, and then spit them back out!  I tried cornflakes (don’t judge, I had them in the pantry) and after reading that chickens like cat food, I grabbed a little of Perry’s  food and tried that.  They weren’t interested in any of those options!  So I bought a tiny amount of cracked corn from the bulk bin at our local Grange store and prepared myself for disappointment.  But there was extreme success!  They really like it! Now to get more!

Now we have been told that the Red Sexlink is about a year old, and I think that the Ameraucana mix was supposed to be less than 6 months old, and the Langshan is also young. When you stress chickens at all, it is pretty common for them to stop laying for a while until they acclimate to the new change (in this case, a new yard, new flock dynamic, and new dogs that are drooling at them through the fence.  I have been expectantly going out 1-2x daily and checking the nest box (doghouse) for eggs and have had no success!  Well I went out to bring the girls some kitchen scraps last night and defeatedly decided to peek inside.  And what did I find?  My very own egg!  Now it’s not brown, so it didn’t come out of the Red Sexlink, and the Langshan (RaptorChicken) should be laying pinkish tinted brown eggs, so it didn’t come from her.  I had been hopeful that the Ameraucana mix would be a blue or green layer, but we got a greyish putty colored egg.  Not particularly exciting, but it tasted damn good!

chicken egg

 

August 6, 2015

It’s Hatch Chile Season! Preserve some for the rest of the year!

Roasted hatch chiles
By

Get out your rubber gloves, it’s time for Hatch chiles! Hatch chile season only comes about in August.  The town of Hatch, New Mexico has some special conditions that create these incredible chiles.  Either way around it, they are only around for a few weeks, so you have to strike!  I found the first bits of this year’s crop at a local grocery store and promptly purchased 4 pounds of peppers.  I had the day off and was going to get them “put up” for the remainder of the year. Apparently in the Hatch area, there are regularly guys on roadsides with these big metal roasting rigs that will just sell you boxes of charred hatch chiles.  The Whole Foods in our area gets them each year also and will sell you cases of charred chiles also.  This is definitely easier and only marginally more expensive, but I don’t mind doing my own, so I got to it.

Roasted hatch chiles

 

My method is actually to fill the charcoal chimney for my Weber grill all the way to the top with charcoal, light it, get it nice and hot, and then set my grill grate directly on top of the chimney, and then place my chiles on that.  It takes a little while, to do all of them, but the chiles char more evenly and faster than when they’re further from the coals.  This can also be done over a gas grill, using a propane torch, or if you’re manly, over a campfire or whatever.  Then the chiles get piled up in a container that will assure that they are stacked on top of each other, and covered in plastic wrap until they are cool enough to handle.  Now for the next part, for the love of god, wear rubber gloves!  I made this mistake last year, and apparently was too stupid to remember it this year, and made it again.  Hatch chiles are hot.  They run between 5,000  and 7,000 scoville units. For reference, Jalapenos are in the 2,500-8,000 range.  Just keep that in mind.  After doing probably 20 peppers, my hands were BURNING.  And I tried many different things to get rid of the pain, all with very limited success.  I had to remove my contacts and wash my face using a rubber glove that night.  Not exaggerating, it took 24 hours to stop hurting, and even 36 hours later, I would get occasional burning sensations.  Not pleasant.  Wear gloves.  Anyway, once the peppers have been charred, covered, and cooled, the skin should be loose and peel off pretty easily.  Peel all of your peppers.  Then go through and remove the stem end and pull the inner membrane and seeds out.

Roasted hatch chiles

After roasting, peeling, and deseeding, I individually vacuum packed each chile. I know that this seems wasteful, and it kind of is.  My reasoning is that last year I packed a few in each package and would usually only use one or two for a particular recipe or dish, and then struggle to find a use for the remainder of the package.  This way, they defrost in seconds under a stream of warm water and I won’t have leftovers.  Your mileage may vary. After vacuum sealing each pack, I labelled and weighed (I love weighing everything) and tucked them away in the freezer.  Recipes utilizing hatch chiles to follow!

Roasted hatch chiles

Posted in: Clean Eating, Cooking, Food
July 22, 2015

Bought half a cow! Cost breakdown included

1/2 steer
By

Last year we bought 1/4 cow and split it with another couple.  Neither of us had ever purchased a portion of an animal before in this manner, so it was quite a learning experience for us.  We both ended up very satisfied with the results though.  For me, it was such an interesting way to expose myself to cooking cuts that I have never made before/probably wouldn’t buy in the store.  There are few things that force you to stretch your cooking muscles more than a freezer full of stuff that you’re not sure how to cook!  Regardless, it was something that we wanted to do again.  But after The Great Freezer Failure of 2014, I bought a slightly larger chest freezer (went from 5 cubic feet to 7) and an alarm that goes off if the freezer hits above a specified temperature. Once I got the freezer situation figured out, I got into contact with the farm that we purchased our steer from last year and learned that all of their animals to be slaughtered prior to autumn were spoken for (sad trombone) and we were hoping to have something in the freezer during grilling season!  As luck would have it, I was visiting my mother around that time and drove past a sign on the highway (this is actually how I found the beef.  I know, right?) advertising “grass fat beef Blacksmith Farms” and the phone number.  Feeling a little desperate and maybe craving a steak from a healthy animal, I set to researching the farm.  I couldn’t find a great deal of information about them, but everything that I did find was overwhelmingly positive, so I got into contact with them and got breakdown on their method.  As is noted in my post last year about the 1/4 cow, buying portions of steers this way usually goes thusly.  Hanging weight (this is the weight of the steer after it has been slaughtered, skinned, and all of the internal organs have been removed – this goes to the farm that grew the steer) + Cut & Wrap fee (this is a fee per pound hanging weight that goes to the butcher that processes the meat) = Total.  Now, this sounds simple enough, but the hanging weight is not your take-home meat amount.  Here, let me give you our breakdown.

Hanging weight (half steer) 413lbs @$3.10/lb + $40 harvest fee = $1320 (this is what goes to the farmer)

Steer is then transferred to the butcher shop, where it spends 14 days dry aging.  During this time, it loses a little water weight and the enzymes in the meat begin breaking down some of the proteins, making the meat more tender.

Hanging weight (at time of cutting after water weight loss) 401lbs @ $.80/lb + $20 size charge + tax = $370

Total for steer = $1690

Total weight of meat after cutting – 298lbs

Total cost per pound in the freezer $5.67/lb (Once we split the steer into the parts that we wanted, and subtracted the weight of the soup bones from that, we ended up with a total cost of $6.21/lb)

That is a far cry from the $3.10/lb that goes to the farm, and let me give you my disclaimer.  With this farm/steer/butcher, we got very lucky. Last year, the steer that we purchased was smaller, and the butcher was less efficient.  I can’t remember the specifics, but we ended up with something like a 60-65% hanging weight/wrapped weight.  This year, the steer was huge, and the butcher that they use was very efficient, and we ended up with 75% efficiency. When we picked up the meat, the butcher even noted that this farm seems to have really big cows (and angus tends to be larger on average to begin with) that have good fat distribution (which tends to be more uncommon with grass fed).  Additionally, the taste of this beef has been superior to last year’s. When buying and eating any grassfed beef, one expects a certain level of gaminess with it.  It’s the nature of the beast.  Last year’s steer was on the stronger side as far as gamy flavor goes.  This year’s is a lot beefier and has a more toned down level of funk.  It was a pleasant surprise.  The specifics that I got from the farm is that our animal was a 30 month old angus steer, if that’s helpful to anyone reading this and doing information gathering.

Once again, we had a bit of a drive to get the beef.  If we hadn’t hit traffic, it would have been about an hour and 45 minutes.  If you live in a larger metropolitan area, you may be well-served to look for meat from further out.  My experience has been that there is usually better availability and the prices are lower.

1/2 steer 1/2 steer

1/4 steer

The half cow, in coolers (we had a long drive and it was very hot outside) filled up pretty much the entire back of my little Mazda hatchback.  Once we got it home, the other couple came by, and we played the game where we divvy up the cow.  First, everything got set out on our counters, and grouped by cut. We got a shockingly large amount of ground beef from this bad boy.  53lbs apiece, so 106lbs total.  A third of the steer ended up as ground(which is fine with us, because who doesn’t love burgers, tacos, cottage pie, etc?).  After that, we went through and took turns picking out the most “valuable” cuts.  There was a little bit of negotiation.  Our friends value T-bones pretty highly, and I’d rather have ribeye or sirloin.  It worked out really well. Then I once again went through and weighed everything as it got put into the freezer.  Having all of the cuts and weights not only made writing this blog post easier on me, but also makes meal planning much more simple.  I can reference my spreadsheet to determine what I have, and how much of it I have.  Once a cut has been eaten, I simply remove the line from the spreadsheet and the inventory of my freezer stays up-to-date.

Freezer Inventory spreadsheet

Posted in: Clean Eating, Food, Paleo
May 15, 2015

Garlic Aioli with an immersion blender

homemade garlic aioli
By

This is a quick, down and dirty rundown of my garlic aioli.  A more in-depth discussion of the various methods of assembly and ins-and-outs of the process can be found here.  This is how I go about making it on a regular basis.  It takes under 5 minutes from start to finish (including cleanup) and I get so many compliments on it, it even surprises me (and I freaking love this stuff).  A couple months ago friends came over for BLTs, and one of them said “I kind of just want to eat this on some toast without the lettuce, tomatoes or bacon.”  So she did.  Last night, another friend, having a little bit extra in her dish after dipping some incredible spot prawns in it asked it it would be weird to just eat it with a spoon. (It’s not.  Craig and I have both done it.)  Anyway.  People don’t seem to believe just how simple it is to make.  So I made a really low quality video of the process.

Ingredients:

1 egg

1 tablespoon dijon mustard

3 cloves garlic, run through a garlic press (microplaning them is also an acceptable alternative)

2 tablespoons acid – this could be vinegar, lemon juice, lime juice, or whatever you have floating around

1 large pinch salt

1-1.5 cups avocado oil

 

Special equipment:

2 cup jar.  I prefer a wide-mouth pint jar, but a narrow mouth one works OK as long as your immersion blender fits in.

Immersion blender (Did you know you can get a vintage bamix for like $30 shipped on ebay?  Just sayin’.)

 

Instructions:

  • Get your egg out of the fridge. Put it in a bowl with hot water from the tap (you’re not trying to cook it, just to warm it up to room temp)
  • Spoon your mustard into the jar (this is not a science here, just get some mustard in there.
  • Get your garlic pressed or grated into the jar
  • Put your acid in the jar
  • Put your salt in the jar
  • Crack your egg into the jar
  • Get your immersion blender in the jar, and start it running to break and mix up the egg with everything else.
  • Start streaming your oil in, and get the blender going.  Allow the oil to go into the jar as fast as it wants.  The finicky streaming method isn’t necessary when using an immersion blender.  You can even fill your jar with oil and then start blending, but I find that this takes an extra 30 seconds to fill the jar and then blend. Doesn’t benefit me one bit.  Move your immersion blender up and down in the oil column to agitate and emulsify the oil.  My bamix’s chopping blade is faster than it’s whipping blade and generally results in a slightly stiffer mixture.  Your mileage may vary.

May 12, 2015

Paleo Orange Chicken

Paleo Orange Chicken
By

I am entirely aware that eating paleo is first and foremost about eating healthful, real food.  But everyone has cravings, and sometimes the best you can do is to make an unhealthy meal as close to healthy as you can get without totally sacrificing what’s at the heart of the dish.  This is that.  The base recipe is the Cooks Illustrated Orange Chicken which is incredible, but decidedly unpaleo. The whole recipe is pretty heavily adapted.  But it really does taste similar and there is far less oil waste and fuss, so there’s that!

This recipe is fairly time consuming for a takeout substitute, but I promise it’s worth it if you’ve been craving Chinese or want something to feed to a group of people or potentially finicky eaters.  Throw a pot of rice into the mix and it’ll satisfy even the fussiest of people.  I’ve doubled the original recipe because if I’m going to the effort and mess of making this, I am going to make a ton.  Feel free to cut in half.  I will suggest that if you have a pizza stone, heavy pan, or baking steel, make sure that this is in the oven and preheated.  It’ll facilitate the crisping of the coating.

Paleo Orange Chicken

Ingredients:

Marinade & Sauce

3lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs

1.5 cup chicken stock/broth

1.5 cup orange juice

Zest of at least 1 orange, finely grated using a microplane type grater

.75 cup vinegar – apple cider or white wine

.5 cup coconut aminos (or tamari if you’re very strict)

.75 cup “approved” sugar – I used a combination of maple syrup and honey

6-8 cloves garlic, grated, minced, or run through a press

2″ or about 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, grated

.5 tsp cayenne (adjust up or down depending on how spicy you like it – this is middle of the road)

4 tablespoons (or .25 cups) tapioca starch

4 tablespoons (or .25 cups) cold water

 

Coating Medium

4-5 egg whites

2 cups tapioca starch

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp baking soda

 

Misc

.25-.5 cup avocado oil, chicken fat, coconut oil, etc.  Whatever high-heat oil works for you

2-3 lbs veggies – I used cauliflower, broccoli, and bok choy


Instructions:

Chop your chicken and make your marinade:

  • Cut your chicken thighs up into bite sized pieces.  I usually get 6-8 pieces per thigh, depending on size.
  • Combine chicken stock, orange juice, orange zest, vinegar, coconut aminos, sweetener, garlic & ginger.  Whisk until sweetener is fully dissolved and everything is combined. This can be prepared up to 2 days ahead of time up til this point
  • Preheat your oven to 450F and prep your trays – Put enough oil/fat onto the trays to coat the bottom.  When I use chicken fat, I place the pans in the oven for a few moments to melt the schmaltz.
  • Measure out 1.5 cups of your marinade/sauce mixture and add it to your chicken. Refrigerate for 60-90 minutes, no longer or the ginger will begin making the meat mushy.

Cook your veggies and prepare your breading station

  • Cook your vegetables.  My favorite way to eat cauliflower is when it’s been roasted in a little chicken fat, so I did that with the cauliflower and bok choy, and steamed the broccoli.  The cauliflower should be just about done by the time your chicken is done marinating.  Cooked veggies can be reserved to a dish that can be either microwaved or popped back into the oven when you are getting ready to eat.
  • Drain your chicken in a colander, then pat dry with a paper towel.  Do not rinse.
  • Beat your egg whites in a medium sized bowl and set aside.
  • Combine your tapioca starch, cayenne pepper and baking soda in a pie plate.
  • Make an assembly line.  Mine goes: Chicken> egg white> starch> greased pan

Coat and cook your chicken

  • This is messy.  It’s worth it. Try to work with one “wet” hand and one “dry” hand to minimize stickiness. Grab a handful of your “dried” chicken, and drop it in the egg white, mix around to coat, and then drop each piece (individually) into the starch mixture.  By now you’ve realized just how fine the starch mixture is and how it gets all over everything.  Don’t fight it, just live with it and then scrub your kitchen counter when you’re done.  Coat the chicken pieces in the starch mixture, and place in your greased pan. Do not allow the chicken pieces to touch each other.
  • When you’ve filled your pan (3lbs of chicken takes me about 3 pans usually), place it in your oven, directly on your pizza stone and allow to bake while you move on to the next pan.
  • After about 20-30 minutes has passed, check your chicken by pulling a piece or 2 up with tongs.  When it begins to release from the pan and has developed a bit of a crust on the bottom side, flip it over, rotate pans to allow the next pan to spend some time on the pizza stone.  The time it takes to cook this will vary wildly with different ovens, but I trust that you’re able to determine what the desired level of crispiness is.
  • Continue rotating chicken and pans through until all of the chicken has been cooked.

Cook your sauce

  • Put your remaining sauce/marinade mixture into a saucepan and bring to a simmer.  Combine your tapioca starch and cold water in a small ramekin and stir til dissolved and clump free.  Whisking the sauce, drizzle your starch mixture into the sauce and continue whisking until it has come back up to a simmer and thickened.  Remove from heat.

Assemble and enjoy!

  • Reheat your vegetables if necessary, and put them in the bottom of a shallow bowl.  Then top with about 1/8th of chicken, and pour some of the sauce over the top.

Paleo Orange Chicken

Paleo Orange Chicken

Posted in: Clean Eating, Cooking, Food, Paleo
May 8, 2015

Ginger Sage Breakfast Sausage

ginger sage breakfast sausage
By

Ok, so this stuff is delicious.  I have had a tenuous relationship with sausage casings in the past, but I have since made peace with not making stuffed sausages, and just being satisfied with making sausage patties  and using it as a loose sausage, not in casings.  And so we come to my ginger sage breakfast sausage, which is based on Michael Ruhlman’s version, but has been modified to suit my tastes.  It’s a little less salty (I don’t reduce the salt in recipes without serious consideration, but Rhuhlman has a very heavy hand with salt) and tweaked all of the ingredients until (at least to my palate) everything was more harmonious.  Please, feel free to adjust to your specific tastes.  These are great in breakfast sandwiches, or in paleo “sausage mcmuffins with egg.” This recipe does require the use of a meat grinder, but you can use one for all sorts of things.  Otherwise, you could always spring for pre-ground pork, but that kind of takes away part of the allure of having used distinguishable parts of the animal in your sausage (pre-ground meat kind of creeps me out).  And for your sanity (and the sake of consistency, I recommend the use of a scale.

ginger sage breakfast sausage

Ingredients(makes 80 1oz sausage patties):

5lbs fatty pork – shoulder/boston butt is preferred – cut into pieces small enough to fit down your meat grinder’s tube

29 grams or 1 oz salt

4 grams (or 2 tsp) black pepper

22 grams grated or pressed garlic

10 grams finely minced fresh sage

3 grams red pepper flakes

5o grams grated fresh ginger

 

Instructions:

  • Combine all ingredients except ginger and chill thoroughly.  This can be left for up to a day in the refrigerator prior to grinding.
  • Set up your meat grinder with the small die, pull the sausage out of the fridge, mix in your ginger, and get to grinding!
  • Once all of your meat has been ground, measure out 1 cup of very cold water(you can use any type of liquid here – I like wine in many sausages, but this is a little over the top in a breakfast meat)
  • Start mixing your sausage.  You can use your stand mixer, but mine always manages to get meat all up in the connection area, so I stopped using it.  I just use a stiff spoon or spatula.  The goal here is to get it a little gluey.  Pour in part of your water, mix it in, and continue adding water until it has been fully incorporated.  Once the sausage beings looking sticky, you can do a test bite.  Cook a little sausage in a pan and taste it for seasonings.  If it needs more of anything, it can be added at this point and mixed thoroughly.  Continue mixing and tasting until you’re satisfied.
  • Once you are happy, you can get to the portioning part of this.  I used my 1oz disher scoop on this batch.  As an aside, I have tried so many different ways to portion this sausage out, from handmade patties (always lumpy and inconsistent) to rolling it into logs and slicing into “coins” (creepily squared off edges – the patties look offputting).  This is definitely the least messy and simplest method in my opinion.  I’m feeling a little proud of myself for developing this method.
  • Scoop your portions out onto a silpat or waxed paper lined sheet pan, leaving space between each scoop.  Once your pan has been filled, place another sheet of waxed paper. (I really recommend using only waxed paper instead of silpats, it separated much more easily than the silpats did!) Then place a second pan on top and push down to flatten.  Line the top pan with waxed paper or silpat and then dish your next batch of patties onto that, top with another layer of waxed paper, then flatten with an additional pan. This should handle about half of your sausage.  You can do as many layers of this as you need.  I only had 3 sheet pans available for this ordeal, so I stuck with the 3 and refrigerated my additional sausage until the next day and did the whole process over.  When you remove the frozen sausage from the freezer, peel off of the liner, place in a freezer baggy, and put back in the freezer.
  • To cook: preheat a pan over medium-low heat (I like using 4/10) and cook just until the side starts browning a little, turn over, and cook until that side has browned as well.  The sausage should be thin enough with the sheet-pan method to cook fully in this time, but if it’s not, allow to cook over gentle heat until no longer pink in the center.

breakfast sausage portioning