Friday, September 24, 2010

Curly tails and snuffle noses

We picked up some new weaner pigs the other day. Whenever we introduce new pigs we like to have them separated from the main herd just so everyone can safely get acquainted across the fence. These groups are all full blood sisters out of the same boar and sow from a neighboring ranch (the big pigs are the spring litter and little pigs the fall litter) and are half Berkshire, quarter Hampshire and quarter Large Black.

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Nathan and Jarom building the temporary nursery pen inside the larger pig pasture.

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These little gals are quite squirmy and they make the most unbelievable squeal when you pick them up. The safest way to carry piglets this size (for pig and person) is to hold it upside down hanging on to opposite legs. They are calmer this way are only upside down for a few quick steps from the truck to their pens.

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The big pigs are very interested in this new pens of weaner pigs and there is lots of grunting, squealing and nose touching. Pigs are very social animals and once they get their differences worked out they would much rather to live as one big family group. For the first few nights after we brought the new pigs home, the big pigs slept in a pile of straw next to the pen instead of inside their pig house.

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Little pigs enjoy some fresh cut clover and tasty squash.

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We don't want the big pigs feeling neglected now do we?

CSA member submitted recipes: Hawaiian Chicken

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Our delightful friend and Meat CSA member, Rachel sent along this yummy recipe for how she cooked up some of the pastured poultry from her share. Looks delicious. Thanks for sharing Rachel!

Hawaiian Chicken
Courtesy: Rachel Mills


- 2 chicken legs or 4 boneless thighs (skin removed)
- 1 medium onion, sliced into thin wedges
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 1 tsp dry mustard
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 cup butter
- 1/4 cup water
- pineapple chunks, optional

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place legs/thighs in square glass baking dish. Slice onion to desired thickness and add to baking dish.

2. In a medium saucepan add soy sauce, garlic, sugar, mustard, ginger, butter and water. Bring to a boil, immediately pour over chicken. Bake for one hour or until cooked through, periodically basting chicken with sauce. Pineapple chunks may be added to the dish for the last 15-20 minutes of cooking. Serve chicken over rice and vegetables.

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Monday, September 20, 2010

Ranch recipes: grass finished sesame beef

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Out at the ranch, you get used to not being able to hop in the car and go out for dinner. There is no such thing as picking up Chinese or pizza to save time on dinner prep since the closest restaurants are are least 45 minutes away. But sometimes I really crave good Chinese - not the greasy, deep fried stuff with gloppy sauce but healthy, flavorful meals with unique flavors. Here's a very simple recipe that hits the spot.

Grass finished sesame beef

- 1 pound grass finished beef sliced thin or into strips (I used sirloin steaks but you could use economy cuts like round or cube steaks, just add a little meat tenderizer to the marinade)
- 3Tbsp soy sauce
- 2Tbsp sesame oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 T brown sugar
- 1/2 tsp ground pepper
- 2 Tbsp sesame oil (for cooking)
- 2 cups chopped stir fry vegetables (I'm a fan of onions, thin sliced carrots, broccoli pieces and green beans)
- 2 Tbsp sesame seeds

Directions
1. In a glass bowl (or zipper bag) combine beef strips, soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, brown sugar and ground pepper. Mix thoroughly, cover and refrigerate at least and hour (or overnight or while you are at work).

2. Quickly stir fry vegetables in sesame oil over medium high heat until they are mostly cooked but still al dente. Remove vegetable to a platter and cover. Return pan to stove, add beef and marinade and cook slowly over medium low heat for 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add in vegetables and cook another five minutes or until beef is cooked through and vegetables are done. Season to taste, top with sesame seeds and serve over rice or noodles.

Cheers!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Weddings and anniversaries

A bit off topic from my normal "life on the ranch" theme today.

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My little brother got married last week. It was a very sweet ceremony. They really made it their own; you could see their personality in all the little details. It started to pour just as the ceremony started (a new rainfall record for the day!). All of the guests were under a tent but the wedding party was not covered. Didn't matter though, those two just beamed through the whole thing.

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I was having issues getting enough light for the camera to make non-blurry photos. Ironically enough, my best shot of him is one of those "Ahh it is my wedding day, I am so stressed out" moments. He doesn't read the blog anyways so I am sure he won't mind me sharing.

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But just so it doesn't seem like I am picking on him. Here's one of my finer moments from my wedding:

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Looks like I am about ready to club the photographer.

Aww. Little bro is all grown up now. Now those two can help diffuse the "when are you going to have kids?" nagging Nathan and I get all the time. Here's me and my man of honor on my special day:

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Speaking of special day, today is Nathan and my anniversary. Five years. I'm not sure if you asked me on my wedding day where I would be in five years, if I would have imagined the life I have today. Since that day we've graduated college, moved several times for several jobs and finally decided to follow our hearts out to the ranch. Nowadays, I can't imagine my life being anything different.

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Here's to many more. Cheers!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ranch recipes: Beep noodles

I will admit it. Mac and cheese is hands down my favorite comfort food. Not the orange stuff in the box (though I did put in my time with the blue box growing up) but real, homemade cheesy goodness. Though I cannot foresee ever tiring of such a delicious treat, sometimes it is nice to mix things up. Hence the following recipe for what we call "Beep Noodles" aka Cheesy Beet Pasta.

OK a word about beets or "beeps" if the very word sends shivers to your soul. These root vegetables related to spinach and chard don't have many friends in the food world. I think many people have had bad experiences with beets (especially pickled beets) including Nathan but beets are a great vegetable. They are packed full of vitamins and minerals (including fiber, folate which is important in pregnancy and contain compounds that may be helpful in preventing certain types of cancer like colon and stomach cancer) and because they are naturally sweet it means they they don't taste too vegetable-y making them a great vegetable for kids and finicky eaters.

This recipe starts with a basic mac and cheese recipe: cook pasta toss with butter, milk, cheese and spices but the addition of boiled or steamed beets at the end results in an amazing presentation that even kids are excited about eating.


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Ok, are you ready to give beets a try? Even you, oh friend of ours that doesn't eat vegetables? It is really good I promise. Don't worry, if you can't get up the courage yourself I will make it for your November visit. Nom!


Beep Noodles
Remember to season to taste, measurements are approximate

- 2 medium beets, tops removed, peeled and chopped small (they stain FYI, wear gloves unless you want purple fingernails)
- Macaroni or some kind of swirly/squiggily pasta
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1/3 c milk
- 1-1.5 cups shredded cheese (cheddar is good, smoked or sharp or a creamy Jack)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper
- 3/4 tsp mustard powder (or 1-2 Tbsp prepared dijon)
- 2 cloves garlic
- chopped basil or parsley for garnish (optional)

Directions
1. Steam or boil beets until tender (10-15 minutes). If you are boiling the beets, adding a little lemon juice or white vinegar (1-2 Tbsp) to the water will prevent the beets from bleeding. Once fork tender, drain beets, mash roughly with a fork and set aside.

2. Cook pasta until al dente. Drain and return to pot on stove. Turn burner to low and add butter, milk and cheese. Stir constantly until cheese begins to melt and sauce thickens, clinging to the noodles. Add salt, pepper, mustard, garlic and beets. Stir to combine, season to taste and serve. Beep noodles make a beautiful side dish  or you could add cubed chicken or sausage for a casserole type meal. Cheers!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Bits and pieces of the last few weeks

The last few weeks have been quite busy out here at the ranch. Friends and family coming and going, lots of projects, just overall late summer busy-ness. I don't have a very cohesive post put together today but I do have lots of photos. Enjoy.

Moving the cows from "Up on Top". The gals were ready to go but the bulls on the left were more interested in a head butting each other. 


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Sorting cattle.

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New pasture "Out West".

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Belts, gears and sprockets.

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A lovely summer Salade Nicoise prepared by Rick and Celia. 

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Trucking a few beef steers to new pasture.

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A lovely sunset.

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Jarom bird hunting in the wheat stubble.

Jarom and Rachel 

Rachel holding one of the chicks from our last batch of chicks for the year. 


To ensure that each chick gets off to a good start, Rachel dips their beaks in the water and makes sure they take a good drink.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Incredible egg

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Since eggs have been getting a bad rap in the news lately I thought it might be helpful to spend a moment talking about salmonella. As my parents can attest to, growing up I was a bit of a germaphobe. I would never touch the trash or the "sink gack" that collects in the drains and I treated raw meat and eggs as though they had the plague. Proper food safety in terms of sterilizing surfaces and washing hands after coming in contact with meat and eggs is always a good (and important) thing but I'm not sure the culture of fear surrounding our food is very healthy even in this age of factory farming.

Last I heard the current egg recall for salmonella is at some 500 million eggs. Over a thousand people have been sickened but nobody has died. So why did I grow up thinking that all eggs were contaminated with salmonella and e. coli and race to scald my hands under soapy, hot water the instant I was through touching them? Fear and misinformation I suppose.

Salmonella in or on eggs is a very rare occurrence and can only happen if the hen herself carries the bacteria but even then, eggs are naturally very resistant to contamination. Think about it; from a reproductive perspective, the purpose of the egg is to protect and nourish the embryo. Eggs have to have built in defenses to fight against contamination for the survival of the hatch.

Here is a very interesting piece that was on NPR the other day that further discusses the ways that eggs can fight back against contamination.

So in an egg shell (har har), if you follow food safety precautions, cook the eggs through and eat them promptly, even if the egg did have salmonella at one point, the cooking process destroyed the pathogen. Of course I wouldn't recommend eating cookie dough made with raw factory farmed eggs but I do enjoy homemade ice cream made with fresh eggs from our hens. Hens that I know are healthy and produce healthy eggs for me, my family and our CSA members.

Just knowing where your food comes from, goes a long way in helping to encourage healthy food safety practices without perpetuating an unnecessary fear of our food.