Friday, December 31, 2010

A freezer full of meat!

I know it is kind of weird, but I am pretty excited today because I have a freezer full of meat! As I have mentioned before, after reading the book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, I had my eyes opened about the beef that I used to buy in the grocery stores. The cattle are kept in confinement, very tight, and are fed some disgusting items, including animal by-products. This is what led to the Mad Cow Disease outbreak a while back.  You would think that this would have gotten the government to tighten restrictions, but that isn't the case. Since then, I have tried to buy as much free-range beef as possible. I had found some sources at the Dallas Farmers Market and the White Rock Local Market, but I hit the motherload when I moved to Tyler! There is a ranch nearby, called Darby Farms, that raises free-range beef.

Here is a little about Darby Farms from their website:

"Our mission is to provide wholesome, disease free, tender, flavorful, natural beef for our fellow Americans. It is 100% Texas, USA born, raised and processed with no added preservatives, hormones, animal by-products, or antibiotics.  We want to provide your family with a beef product that you can feel good about.

"Free Range"
Free-Range cattle are free to roam and feed on a large variety of forages and native grasses.  This makes the beef high in healthy Omega-3 fatty acids.

BSE (Mad Cow)
Young animals are fed no animal by-broducts in their feeding program.  The young animals provide beef that is naturally tender and because they are fed no animal by-products, should be 100% free of BSE(Mad Cow)."

I was able to try some of their products from a health food store here in Tyler and really liked the quality, so I decided to go all out. We purchased the equivalent of a quarter cow, plus a little and loaded up the freezer! I am really excited to not have to try and hunt down meat every week. All I will have to do is head out to the freezer and pick what I want.

The Darbys were great to work with. I spoke with Cody by e-mail for a while and he was always prompt in getting back to me even though it was right around Christmas. Rachelle delivered the meat to Tyler - just a mile or two from our place and even threw in a free flank steak since we met her at an office she was already delivering to, rather than having her deliver to our house. Delivery was free. My hubby enjoyed meeting Rachelle and learning more about their farm and the meat.

The Darbys actually had our beef processed the day before, so talk about fresh meat!  They also know the man who owns the processing plant where they have the beef processed and say it is a great plant. They toured other facilities and did not find them up to their standards. It is so nice to know that they are involved through the whole process, ensuring a quality product.

So, what all do you get with a quarter beef? A lot! 4 ribeye steaks, 6 T-bone steaks,  1 package of ribs, 6 roasts, and 25 packages of ground beef. We also added on the Sampler package because I thought it would help us make the beef last for a full year, which is my goal. The Sampler package includes 2 T-bones, 1 roast, 8 packages of ground beef and 1 sirloin steak. So, in total, including our flank steak, we got 55 pieces of meat. We paid a total of $518.

Now, I know you are wondering, because I know I was, how much did I pay per pound? So, I did the calculations. I actually went in and wrote down all the weights of each individual piece of meat and then added them up. I ended up getting a total of 74.38 pounds of meat. This comes out to $6.96 per pound. While that is obviously more than I pay for a pound of ground beef (free range ground beef averages $5/lb), the cost of steaks is something that was always well above our budget. 

Like I said before, I bought this meat with the plan of having this last us for a year. This will fit right in our budget. I had been spending an average of $20/week on meat (beef, chick, pork, etc) and probably about half of that was for beef. So, I multiplied the $10 by 52 weeks and came up with a budget of $520. Obviously, I just squeaked in, but I have about 1 piece per week, which is the average of what we have had in the past, so I think we should do just fine. And now, I know that I am feeding my family a quality product.

The Darbys are currently out of chickens, but I am looking forward to stocking up on some whole chickens come spring and taking one more thing off of my shopping list!

With my move out to Tyler, I also am able to buy local organic milk from Texas Daily Harvest. They use low temperature pasteurization and never homogenize their milk. So, every 1/2 gallon of milk we get has cream on top. It is so yummy! Currently, I have to buy it at a local health store, but I am hoping to be able to start a delivery group in the near future. Texas Daily Harvest would deliver their items weekly, including items that aren't in the stores like eggs and produce. Of course, they just started a delivery to Grapevine the week we moved!

Last Day to Win Trois Esprit Jewelry!

Don't forget to register for the Trois Esprit Giveaway! The giveaway ends today.



Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Wordless Wednesday


This is one of my all-time favorite pictures of our Little Man, just a few days old!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tasty Tuesday - Biscuits and Sausage Gravy!

So, really, my plan is to post healthy recipes on this site, but with the move, I have not had much time to do menu planning. So, when I was putting together my meal plan for this week this morning, about 30 minutes before I needed to head out the door to the grocery store, it included some of my go-to recipes. Since I grew up in Texas, what is a better go-to recipe than biscuits and sausage gravy? Although, I have to admit I think I was in high school before I actually discovered the meal of biscuits and gravy. I would always ask for extra gravy on the side when I ordered chicken fried steak and then I would dip my rolls into the gravy. My mom finally asked me if I knew about biscuits and gravy. I was a fan from then on! This is one of my favorite comfort food recipes - I love it when it is chilly and gray outside. I did make things a little bit healthier this time by making whole wheat biscuits and using chicken sausage.

I searched a LONG time for a good biscuit recipe. My husband sat through many breakfasts/dinners with me picking apart what I liked and didn't like about the most recent recipe. And then I found a blog that I love - Homesick Texan - there are a ton of recipes that I have tried and loved, but the one I go back to most frequently is her beaten biscuits. I have this recipe printed out and at the top, I have written "THE recipe" - I am searching no more!


You start out by mixing together the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Then, if you are lucky like me and got a pastry blender for Christmas, use this to cut the butter into the flour mixture. If you are not so lucky, you can do what I have done in the past and use your fingers.


Next, pour in your buttermilk. If you don't have buttermilk, you can substitute cream or half and half. I have even used the little man's whole milk in a pinch. Or, you could try your hand at making your own buttermilk substitute. Or, you can go all out a whip up a batch of homemade butter in your food processor or stand mixer, and use the buttermilk from that process to make your biscuits! I have done this before - so, so easy! So, so yummy!


Mix the buttermilk into the dough - it can be pretty sticky at this point, although I noticed that with whole wheat flour, it isn't as sticky. Turn the dough out on a floured surface and knead for a bit.


Now, for the fun part - beating the dough! This is even better than kneading bread dough for getting out some aggression. Take you rolling pin and give the dough a good whack. Every few whacks, fold the dough in half and give it a turn. Keep this up for a couple of minutes.


Next you roll it out, to about 1/4 inch thick and then fold it in half. I love this part because it makes it super easy to split the biscuits when they are done.  Then proceed to cutting the biscuits. I don't have a biscuit cutter, so I use a fluted cookie cutter - makes for some pretty biscuits!


Then you place them closely together on pan lined with Silpat (or if you don't have Silpat, you could grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper). While the biscuits are baking, it's time to work on the sausage gravy. This is not a recipe I tend to use measurements for, but I measured today to give you an idea of what I do. Today I used chicken sausage I found at a local health food store that carries meat from nearby ranches and farms. And, my husband and I agreed that it was better than any pork sausage that we have ever had. I just noticed today when I was grocery shopping that every brand of breakfast sausage has MSG! Not something I really want added to my food. Which is why I picked up the all natural chicken sausage. Okay, back to the recipe. I had the sausage browning while I was making my biscuits. It took a while because the sausage was frozen.


When the sausage was completely cooked, I sprinkled on some flour. It will coat the sausage and make it look kind of gummy. This is good ;-). Let the flour cook for a minute or so (get rid of the raw flour taste!).

Now it's time to add the milk. I usually add a cup or so and then let it thicken up before I add the remaining cup of milk.  The great thing about cream gravy is that it is pretty flexible. If you add too much milk and the gravy is thin, just let it keep cooking, it will thicken up if you give it time. Or, if you let it cook too long and it is too thick, just add a little more milk.

While you are waiting for your gravy to boil and start thickening up, now would be a good time to look around at the havoc that has been wreaked by your little one while you have been cooking! We have more easily accessible drawers in our new place, so my little man has found all kinds of new play things in the kitchen. Today's drawer of choice was my cookie cutters.


If you have timed your cooking right (which rarely happens with me), you should be pulling out your golden brown biscuits....

... at the same time as your gravy reaches a nice, thick consistency...


...and you can dish up this plate of yumminess!


Biscuits
adapted from Homesick Texan

Ingredients:
1 C. white flour*

1 T.  baking powder
1 t. of sugar
1/2 t. of salt
1 stick of butter, cold (8 tablespoons), cut into small pieces
3/4 cup of buttermilk

Directions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Mix all the dry ingredients together.
  3. Work the butter into the flour mixture with your hands or a pastry blender until it resembles pea-sized crumbs.
  4. Add the buttermilk, mixing until a bit loose and sticky.
  5. Pour dough out on a floured surface, and knead for a minute. Dough should be smooth and no longer wet. You can sprinkle more flour on the surface if you find it’s sticking.
  6. Take dough into a ball, and hit it with a rolling pin, turning it and folding it in half every few whacks. Do this for a couple of minutes.
  7. Roll out dough until it’s 1/4 of an inch thick, and then fold it in half.
  8. Using a round cutter (or a fluted cookie cutter ;-)) cut out your biscuits from folded dough.
  9. Place on a greased baking sheet close together (so they rise up not out), and bake for 15 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.
The number of biscuits depends on the size of your cutter. I usually get around 12 or 13 when I use my 2.5 inch cutter.

*In the past, I have also successfully used 2 cups of whole wheat pastry flour (which has a lighter texture than regular whole wheat flour) or 2 cups of white wheat flour (I have found this in King Arthur brand flour).

Sausage Gravy

Ingredients
1 lb. breakfast sausage (pork, chicken, turkey - whatever you want!)
2 T. flour
2 C. milk (skim, low fat, whole, you could even really splurge and use some half and half or cream!)
Ground black pepper to taste

Directions
  1. Brown sausage in large skillet. Don't drain the grease!
  2. Sprinkle flour over browned sausage and stir until flour coats the sausage. Cook over medium heat for a minute or two to get ride of raw flour taste. 
  3. Add 1 cup of milk to sausage mixture. Bring gravy to a boil and let it thicken. Then add remaining cup of milk and repeat.
  4. If gravy is too thin, cook a few more minutes until it reaches desired consistency. If it is too thick, add a little more milk to thin it out. 





Tools I used:



    Monday, December 27, 2010

    10 Things I Said I'd Never Do ...

    This started out as part of the About Me page, but it seemed more appropriate for a post, so here it is!

    10 things I said I would never do (or never even knew enough about to say I'd never do them!), but now I've done:

    1. Give birth naturally - I thought I would be the first one running through the front door of the hospital asking for drugs, but instead chose to give birth naturally at a birth center. I LOVED it.  I cannot recommend the Birth And Women's Center highly enough. Who wouldn't love to have a baby in this room?



    2. Cloth Diaper - when going to my birthing classes - for the natural birth I said I would never have - the instructor asked if any of us were considering cloth diapers - my answer was an emphatic NO! Well, fast forward 14 months and my mind was changed. Cloth diapers ain't what they used to be! We now cloth diaper our son full-time and don't plan on every going back. I look forward to using cloth diapers on any future children that God might bless us with.

    3. Use cloth wipes - just seems to come naturally with the cloth diapers - it was more work to separate the disposable wipes from the cloth diapers. Now they all go in the same bin and go through the wash together. Plus, they are so much softer and sturdier than disposable wipes!

    4. Use cloth 'tissues' - this has been a recent change - I cut up some leftover fleece and we use it for tissues. So much nicer on the nose than the paper ones.

    5. Stopped buying 'commercial' cleaning supplies - I have a spray bottle of vinegar/water that is pretty much the household cleaner.

    6. Stopped buying paper towels - finally getting some use from the 200 kitchen towels and dishrags that I have bought/been given over the past 10 years!

    7. Buying organic - in my early 20's, I would have been happy to exist on Cheetos and Diet Coke and the thought of buying organic produce and other items never even crossed my mind - now I try to buy as much organic produce as we can afford. And, milk is all organic as well.

    8. Buy free range meat - Again, never knew enough about this in the past to even say I wouldn't do it, but after reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle - my thought process has really changed. I am now in the process of buying a quarter of a cow from a local rancher. I'll have to do a post on that when it comes about. I am also hoping to purchase some pastured chickens from the same ranch in the spring.

    9. Become a locavore - trying to buy local as much as possible - this came from the book above as well. I never gave a thought to the amount of fuel it took to get me some of the foods I buy in the grocery store. So, I have been trying to support local farmers as much as possible. In Dallas, I loved the White Rock Local Market. All the vendors had to come from within 150 miles of Dallas and they had to grow at least 60% of what they sold - which kept out the resellers. Even better, the vendors all tried to keep to organic practices. We have just moved to Tyler, and since it is smack in the middle of winter, there are no farmers markets, but I am looking forward to checking out East Texas Fresh in the spring.

    10. Start a compost pile - this has also come with our recent move. We are now in a house in Tyler, and while I try to buy as much organic food as possible, we are on a limited budget, so, in an effort to help the budget, I am going to try and start a garden this year - grow at least a few things myself. Well, what better way to help along a garden than a little compost. So, we just created a huge pile of leaves, etc., that we raked from the yard and have been adding vegetables, fruit, coffee grounds, etc., from the kitchen. We'll see if we actually get compost. I've never done this before, so I don't really know what I'm doing!

    Well, that's it for now, the spring will be bringing more new things for me - like the garden, new farmers market, the search for more local farms and ranches to support. I'll keep you updated!


    Good morning Blog Hoppers

    Thank you so much for stopping by! While you are here I would love it if you would:

    • Become a follower - leave a comment and I'll make sure to stop by and follow you back!
    • Enter my Trois Esprit Giveaway - there are very low entries, so there is a great chance of winning!
    I am linking up to:


    Sippy Cups and Cloth Bums

    Friday, December 24, 2010

    Merry Christmas Eve!

    Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.  -- Isaiah 7:14

    Well, things are winding down this Christmas Eve . . . we enjoyed a Christmas Eve Service at a church down the road from our new place - maybe we will have a new home church soon! It was wonderful to be able to enjoy the candlelight service with the reminder of what Christmas is really about - Christ!  The grace and mercy that has been extended to me brings me to tears at times.

    We came home and got the little man settled in for the night, and then it was time to get to work! We have a large assortment of Christmas presents for the little man, some from us and many, many from our wonderful families. Since our little man is only 19 months old, we decided to place the majority of the presents out unwrapped, pulling them out of plastic, undoing twisty ties, etc. Should make for a fun morning tomorrow!

    The spread!

    I have started a tradition of buying a special ornament each year for the little man - something that reminds me of him for the past year. This year the ornament is this Curious George - because he is beginning to be a bit like a monkey with all his climbing and he LOVES to read! 

    I hope everyone has a merry little Christmas - enjoying the yearly reminder that Christ humbled himself, shedding everything to be born an infant on earth, one who would later save the world.

    Thursday, December 23, 2010

    Coming back to the virtual world

    Just a quick note to apologize for dropping off the face of the virtual world this week. We just made a big move from Irving to Tyler and with the move came major hassles getting our new DSL set up! But, as of a few hours ago, we are up and running, so I will be returning to my regularly scheduled posts soon!

    Until then, I'll leave you with a picture of the little man helping us move with his new Melissa and Doug shopping cart from Grandma and Papa. It has been a HUGE hit!


    I love the fact that it is metal and not plastic. It required a little construction, but it was very easy - even included the tools you needed! The only thing that we have had to do is add a little cushioning on the front corners to protect the walls in our new place. It seems very sturdy and our little man has a great time loading it up with a variety of items from toy cars to pretend food and wheeling it around the house. I see many years of fun with this one. And since it is very well made, I am confident it will last through multiple kiddos. I highly recommend this toy.



    Friday, December 17, 2010

    Free Friday - Trois Esprit Jewelry

    I am so excited to be able to host my first giveaway and even more excited that I am partnering with a fabulous woman of God who is starting a new venture. Joni Barger has started a new jewelry business, Trois Esprit Jewelry. According to Joni, Trois Esprit means Three Spirit (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) and she has named it so because the trinity has been guiding her heart and hands as she designed the pieces.

    Joni actually crochets metal to create her pieces. Every one of her pieces is handmade. I love being able to support such creativity. And, I can attest, her pieces are beautiful!

    Joni has generously donated 2 pieces for me to give away on my blog.


     1. A cross bookmark


    2. A cross necklace




    Rules:

    You must be 18 or older.

    This giveaway is open to the US only.

    You must complete the mandatory entry before any of your extra entries will count.

    All entries must be submitted via the Google form below.

    The 2 winners will be chosen via Random.org.  I will then email the winners and post their names on the blog.  Each winner will have 48 hours to respond to my email or I will choose another winner.

    This giveaway will end at 11:59 pm CST on Friday, December 31st, 2010.


    Questions on how to enter? Please feel free to ask me!  My email is: diaperville AT gmail.com

    Wednesday, December 15, 2010

    Tuesday, December 14, 2010

    Tasty Tuesday - Christmas Crack

    No, I am not talking about illegal substances on this blog! I know this is called Diaperville, but for those that know me in real life, you know I love to cook, so I thought I would try and throw in a recipe once a week - hence the Tasty Tuesday. I will definitely try and do a variety of recipes and mostly healthy, but since we are in the midst of moving and I am not cooking dinners, I thought I would share the dessert I am trying out for my LifeGroup Christmas party tonight. Since most of my baking dishes are already packed up and I am not wanting to buy a lot of new ingredients that I will have to pack in a day or two, I thought I would try something simple. I have heard about Christmas Crack on a couple of blogs, and I had almost all of the ingredients on hand - and more importantly, I could use dishes that I hadn't packed!

    This recipe was super simple - only 5 ingredients - and minimal cooking. And, I have to say, this stuff is good. It could be considered addictive ;-). So, if you are heading to a party and need a quick dessert, I can recommend this! I do plan on taking step by step pictures in the future, but I was running late with packing, so I just got a few near the end.

    Christmas Crack
    adapted from allrecipes.com

    Ingredients

    * 1 sleeve saltine crackers
    * 1 cup butter
    * 1 cup dark or light brown sugar
    * 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
    * 3/4 cup chopped pecans

    Directions

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C). Line cookie sheet with aluminum foil and grease it with butter or non-stick spray. Line cookie sheet with saltine crackers in single layer. In a saucepan combine the sugar and the butter. Bring to a boil and boil for 3 minutes. Immediately pour over saltines and spread to cover crackers completely. Bake at 400 degrees F (205 degrees C) for 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle chocolate chips over the top. Let sit for 5 minutes.



    Spread melted chocolate and top with chopped nuts.

    Cool completely and break into pieces.


    The only thing I would do differently next time would be to use my Silpat on a jellyroll pan. The only reason I didn't this time is they were packed away! This would make a thinner batch. The candy was thicker than I would have liked when I used a 9x13 pan.

    Also, since I started later than I had planned on making the dessert, I put the candy in the freezer to speed up the setting.

    Overall, this is definitely a decadent treat. Very easy and I think it would be a fun one to get kids involved with. Sprinkling chocolate chips and nuts is a fun activity for kids of all ages!





    Monday, December 13, 2010

    Why Cloth Diapers? Part 2

    I've talked about my main reason for cloth diapering - finances, but I want to talk a little more about my secondary reasons for choosing to use cloth diapers.

    Environment - We live in an apartment and they pick up the trash 5 days per week. We had to make sure to put out a bag of disposable diapers 2 times per week so that we wouldn't overflow on the days that they didn't do trash pick up. 2 trash bags of diapers per week for the 14 months that we used disposables is over 112 bags that I added to the landfill. And those bags take something like 100 years to decompose. Now, we use a wicker basket with a Planet Wise diaper pail liner and when we wash the diapers, we throw the liner in with it. No additions to the landfill!

    Health - When I was researching cloth diapers, I came across a number of articles that discussed the health impact of disposable diapers, citing issues with chemicals found in the diapers due to the bleaching process (dioxin) and sodium polyacrylate, a type of super absorbent polymer (SAP). Dioxin is linked to cancer, even in small doses and SAP is what is linked to Toxic Shock Syndrome in tampons. Neither of these things is what I wanted sitting against my little man's skin all day and night!

    Fashion - I have to admit, this was not one of my reasons that I started using cloth diapers, but one of the things I have enjoyed since we started - cloth is so much cuter than disposable! My little man has camo, cow print, tiger print, and lots of fun solid colors. I am going to have to take a picture of our stash to share. If I ever have a girl, it could get very dangerous because there are sooooo many cute girl prints!


    Friday, December 10, 2010

    Why Cloth Diapering? Part 1

    One of the first questions that most people ask me is why I choose to cloth diaper. I did not start to CD until my little man was 14 months old, so I was well versed in the use of disposables (or sposies - as many call them). My husband and I had started to do a cash/envelope system for most of our daily expenses, which, of course, included diapers. That's when I started to realize how much we were spending. I had to budget $20 per week for diapers, wipes, etc. That is over $1000 in just 1 year. Considering that we are on a tight budget, and I hate throwing money away, which is what you are doing with disposables, I started to seriously research cloth diapers. And, honestly, it was the money savings that totally won me over. You have to put in a chunk of money up front, but the savings make it easy to swallow.

    We have bought a wide variety of diapers as we started the journey of figuring out what we like. A number of the ones that we bought were of the more expensive brands. But, even with buying the more expensive brands, and investing in some of the other accessories like a pail liner, wet bag, etc, we have spent between $500-600 dollars. $600 is what I would have spent on 30 weeks of disposables - about 7.5 months and even if he potty trained early (for a boy) and was totally potty trained by 2 (and I DON'T think that is going to happen), we will have saved $200. If he is more of the typical boy and is potty trained by 3 - we will have saved over $1000. And, that's not even calculating the savings if we have another baby because we can use the same diapers. You can see over the long run, this is a huge money savings and that's with me starting late in the game. If we had started when the little man was born, the savings would have been even better.

    Now, I will be honest, we still use disposables on occasion. The MDO program that the little man attends was not comfortable at first with cloth and since we have a box of diapers left, we have continued to send him in disposables. At this point, they would probably use cloth with us, but since we are moving to Tyler, we haven't pushed the issue. There have also been times when we have been traveling and didn't have easy access to laundry, that we've used disposables to fill in the gaps. As we have grown the diaper stash, we have needed disposables less and less.

    I think that's enough for now, I'll do another post soon on some of the secondary reasons I have chosen to use cloth, but before I sign off, I'll leave you with this - aren't cloth diapers so much cuter than disposables?