It’s been a busy week on the Ridge. We attended a three day Mother Earth News fair in Seven Springs, PA last weekend. Mother Earth News is in it’s 42nd year of publishing a magazine for sustainable living, DIY projects and a wealth of practical living lore. Each year they host seminars and fairs throughout the United States where everyone from hippies to yuppies is welcome to attend and learn more about being self-sufficient. The seminars range from a live chicken butchering demonstration to practical canning and preserving to sessions on the use of modern tools and technology. With over 250 vendors, 200 workshops, and 15 keynote speakers, we arrived home Sunday evening with a serious case of information overload and a pile of books, brochures and business cards. It will take us a while to process everything we learned and collected. Check out bigoakridge.org where we are currently writing a recap of the seminars we attended.
We arrived home late Sunday evening, unloaded the car and dropped into bed. We are thrilled to be home and excited about what we had learned, but too tired to think anymore. We would deal with Monday when it came…
Early Monday morning the realities of being a locavore hit…the refrigerator was empty. One of our standard jokes goes like this: Me: “What would you like for breakfast?” KC: “what are my options?” Me: “Eggs” KC: “So the question really is, what would you like with your eggs?” So we had eggs with our eggs and started our day.
“Grocery shopping” at our house means going to the larder to bring some food upstairs to prepare. A chicken to be roasted for meat, soup, salad and broth. Canned or frozen vegetables and fruit plus squash and potatoes from the root cellar, add in a trip to the farm for raw milk and the refrigerator will be full in no time…or at least in a day or two. Soon the shelves will be full of yogurt, cheese, butter, pickles and containers of soup. Some tapioca and pie for dessert and we’re good to go for another few days.
Probably the hardest part about being a locavore is the busy days when you reach mealtime and you haven’t thought about what you’re going to have for dinner. There are no cans of soup or boxes of Hamburger Helper to prepare a speedy meal. On these days, driving eight miles to a burger joint sounds pretty tempting. But we have learned to talk ourselves down from the temptation and remind ourselves that eating what we grow always tastes best. And the in time it would take to drive in town, we could make a quick meal from our own food. You just have to do a little bit of extra planning and you can enjoy local “fast food.”
One of the best ways to prepare a speedy meal is to have a supply of canned meats and potatoes in your larder. Our favorite canned meat is venison and we eagerly await a call from my father each year. A nice 8 point buck provides about 40 pints of canned venison for our larder. Canned venison makes an awesome stew or soup; add a few jars of canned veggies, a handful of seasonings, heat and serve. With a scoop of homemade yogurt and some noodles it makes a tasty stroganoff. On a salad or a sandwich, the possibilities are endless and quick because it’s already cooked.
Old laying hens also make nice canned meat which is perfect for quick BBQ’d chicken or a speedy casserole. Add a jar of canned potatoes, fried to a golden brown and you have a great meal in less than 10 minutes. Chicken noodle soup or chicken, broccoli and rice make great speedy meals for drop in company.
On bread baking day, I make some of the dough into a pizza crust that I bake half-way, wrap in foil and put in the freezer. That makes a great Friday night speedy pizza or a quick treat when the grandkids come for movie night. I make cinnamon rolls, hamburg buns and dinner rolls that can be used immediately or frozen for later use.
On milk day, I skim all of the cream off of the milk. This is used for butter and cream cheese. I make yogurt six cups at a time and several kinds of cheese. I shred some mozzarella cheese and freeze it on waxed paper so it is loose enough to sprinkle on pizza on a “fast food” night. I make pudding in large jars for quick snacks. Having a few milk products in the fridge helps round out meals and provide healthy treats for my hubby’s sweet tooth.
When we have a slow, wet, day, we make noodles and other pasta and freeze them for quick meal nights. Add some canned meat, spaghetti sauce or broth and we have a quick delicious meal. Pop open a jar of fruit and one of veggies we have a complete meal.
Use tools to help you prepare your meals while you’re busy. My favorite kitchen “helpers” include my crock pot and electric skillet. The “time cook” feature of my oven is also a life saver when I am occupied elsewhere…I can prepare a meal without even being in the house. Use food processors, blenders, and choppers to dice, shred and julienne. My stand mixer with dough hooks saves me valuable time on bread making day.
When I do have time to cook, I cook double or triple. Instead of thawing a single pound of ground meat for burgers, I thaw several pounds and make meatloaf and meatballs and brown a bit for tacos or casseroles. You can refreeze cooked meat for quick meals later. I can roast a large chicken and use the leftovers for casseroles and soups. When I’m slicing or dicing peppers and onions from the garden, I freeze them in small bags for quick use later. You can even make your own frozen dinners that can be used for busy nights. Put a white board on your refrigerator and write down what foods are in the fridge and freezer for quick eating. Train your family to look there to see what’s available and cross off anything that has been used.
These are just a few tricks you can use to make mealtimes quick and healthy and avoid the trap of the fast food joints. You’ll save time and money and your family will benefit from not grabbing a burger on the way home.
Until next week,