The Sick Husband
We've all been there. You go to bed, exhausted from work and the gym, expecting a completely restful night's sleep. You close your eyes and blissfully think how tired you are, how soft and comfortable the blankets are, and you just know the next time you're conscience it will be 2 minutes before the alarm goes off, with the soft sound of birds chirping outside the bedroom window, and you will be awake, rested, and ready for the day. Instead, after what seems like just a few minutes of the most perfect night's sleep, the Hubs comes to bed, and is soon tossing, turning, moaning and groaning. If you're like me, and a light sleeper, This. Is. Torture. After what seems like hours, the Hubs finally gets up, and starts to wander the house, making more sick noises and complaining about how he could be dying and I wouldn't even care. Meanwhile, I lay in bed, eyes tightly clinched shut, making apologetic noises when appropriate so that I can get back to sleep as fast as possible. Morning does eventually come, although in a slightly less poetic fashion than I had envisioned the night before.
The flu does suck, and I did feel sorry for my husband for having it. As someone who was blessed with an impeccable immune system and hardly ever feels sick, Steele just isn't too graceful in the throws of the full on flu. After getting my minimum 8 hours of sleep, albeit interrupted, I felt like I could tackle the monumental task which is taking care of a sick Steele. I knew I was really going to have to hit a home run as Steele's temporary nurse after ignoring, ahem, I mean accidentally sleeping through, all of his pleas for attention and trips to the bathroom the night before. So, after administering some ibuprofen, lovingly placing a cold cloth on his forehead, and wrapping him up in 3 layers of blankets like a burrito, the lightbulb came on.
Homemade. Chicken. Noodle. Soup.
What follows is my recipe for chicken noodle soup, after combining ideas from a couple different recipes, and looking in my fridge and freezer to see what we had on hand. I'm not big on following recipes, especially for soups. You can follow this recipe to a T, or you can wing it and your soup may be just as good, or better. The point is, that it's not out of a can, and wasn't picked up from the nearest restaurant (although, that would be a whole lot faster and easier). If you need to score some extra points, maybe after enjoying your sleep a little too much, or if you just really want to say I Love You and I Care About You, this recipe might be worth a try.
Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup
Here's a tip: If you want to make the entire recipe from scratch using ingredients on hand, you will need to get started the night before, and follow each step in the order it is listed. You can also make a really good soup the day of, just using what you already have on hand. If the latter is the case, you can complete your soup in just a couple hours.
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: Up to 1 hr, depending on size of bird
1 whole chicken
2 Cornish hens
I like to use a whole roasted chicken for my chicken noodle soup. Most recipes will call for dark meat from the thighs, but Steele likes white meat, so we get the best of both worlds by using a whole chicken. This time I actually used 2 Cornish hens, because hey, that's what we had, and this lady didn't have time to drive 20 minutes to the nearest grocery store.
If frozen, allow your chicken or Cornish hens to thaw.
Preheat oven to 425 F.
Place your chicken in a chicken roaster or baking pan. Add 1 inch of water to the pan. This water will keep your meat from drying out while baking. You can add 1 or 2 tbsp of butter to the water to form a broth, if you're so inclined.
Even though you won't be using the skin of the chicken in your chicken noodle soup, I still like to season it. Add salt, pepper, and rub with olive oil.
Bake your chicken, covered, for 10 minutes, and then decrease oven temperature to 375 F. Continue to bake until the internal temperature reaches 165 F. Use your thermometer in the thigh, without touching the bone, for the most accurate result. I like to watch for meat pulling away from the bone on the legs as an indicator that the meat is getting close to finished. You can also remove the lid of the roaster the final 10-15 minutes that the chicken is in the oven to crisp up the skin.
Once your chicken is finished, you will need to carve the meat. I always start by inserting a knife next to the breast plate, and pulling the breast meat away from the bone. The chicken breasts are going to give you most of your white meat. You can then remove the legs, thighs and wings to pull as much meat as possible. Don't forget to flip the bird over and pull off the oysters, which are at the base of the back. The oysters are tender dark meat morsels that usually just go immediately into my mouth and never make it past the cutting board.
Chop your meat into smaller bites if you have littles, or leave it as is for nice big bites in your soup. Place all your meat aside in a bowl for now, or in the fridge if you started a night early.
Waste Not, Want Not: Save any leftover chicken bones, skin, fat... literally all the leftovers, including the carcass. You can throw this in the crockpot to make broth for either this batch of soup (see next section on Broth), or save and freeze for later use.
The broth is what makes chicken noodle soup so freaking special and delicious. Make yours the night before your soup using your leftover chicken carcass and scraps, or just use broth that you already have on hand. Helpful Hint: If you're making broth for your chicken noodle soup, you can prep your veggies for your soup the night before and save the scraps to add flavor to your broth as it simmers overnight.
For complete instructions on making broth, visit our blog post here.
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cook Time: 8-24 hours
Waste Not, Want Not: This will make 3-4 quarts of broth. Use some in your chicken noodle soup, and save the rest for later by throwing it in the freezer. Freezer tip: Leave at least 1 inch of head space to allow your broth room to expand as it freezes- otherwise you'll be tossing both the broth and your glass jar when it breaks!
Who doesn't love Grandma's homemade noodles?! Just 3 simple ingredients make up our most wholesome family recipe, enjoyed at all the major holidays. I like using Grandma's noodles in our homemade chicken noodle soup because, well... why not?
Prep Time: 15 mins
Dry Time: 8 hours
1/2 eggshell of water
In a bowl, add 3 to 4 cups of flour. As Grandma always says, make a "nest" with the flour for the eggs. Crack 2 eggs into the middle of the of the flour nest. Using a eggshell from one of the eggs, fill the half eggshell with water, and add it on top of your eggs. For simplicity, a half eggshell of water is roughly 1 tbsp, if you'd rather skip Granny's country style of measuring. Optional: dash of salt.
Using a fork, begin combining your eggs and flour. Start in the middle, and allow flour from the edges of the nest to fall into the center as you whisk your eggs. Continue until you've combined most of your eggs and flour into a dough ball.
Lightly dust a clean, dry surface with flour. Transfer your dough onto the floured surface, and begin turning the dough and incorporating more flour until the dough is no loner sticky.
Using a rolling pin, begin rolling out the dough. Be sure to turn and flip the dough after stretched. Your dough should be about as wide and tall as the rolling pin (see picture below). Helpful Hint: Add additional flour to the surface between flips to keep the dough from sticking.
Although not entirely necessary, you will need to allow your dough to dry overnight, or about 8 hours. I like to add another dusting of flour to the top, and then cover with a kitchen towel to keep the dough nice and clean, and let's face it, safe from our furry family members, while it dries.
If you aren't able to give your noodles the full 8 hours to dry, just remember that they will be sticky and will want to clump together once they're cut. I think for this recipe I gave my noodles about 1.5 to 2 hours to dry, and I felt like they worked really well in the soup.
Once the dough has dried, you can use a pizza cutter to cut your noodles into whatever shape and size you'd like. Even though my family usually enjoys long noodles for Easter Sunday, I tend to prefer shorter, fatter noodles for chicken noodle soup.
Waste Not, Want Not: Did you know that you can freeze your homemade noodles? It's a great way to save yourself some time when you're making a million other dishes during the holidays. I suggest allowing your noodles to dry for a full 8 hours, then tossing the noodles in some flour so the they don't stick to one another. Gravity is not your friend. Laying the noodles flat in a thin layer in a gallon freezer bag will both give you more freezer space and keep your noodles from sticking together before the freezing process is complete. To cook, just plop them directly into some broth, still frozen. Thaw the noodles out first and you will be sad.
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, diced
Meat from 1 whole chicken -or- 2 Cornish hens
2 quarts homemade chicken broth -or- 4 quarts store-bought broth
4-6 carrots, chopped
6-8 celery stems, chopped
2 cups sliced mushrooms
In a Dutch oven, add 2 tbsp of olive oil and allow it to heat up over medium heat. Add garlic and onions, and cook for a few minutes until soft. Add your chicken, and allow to cook and meld with onions for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
Ok, now add your broth. If you're using homemade soup, use 2 quarts of broth and 2 quarts water. Store-bought broth is not quite as concentrated and you will need to use 4 quarts.
For chicken noodle soup, this recipe is not quite the same with any other kind of broth. But. As I mentioned earlier, I used what I had on hand, the day of, which meant using some beef broth that I had in the freezer. You'll notice the color to my soup is a little darker because of this. My soup was still awesome, but once I got done simmering my chicken broth in the crock pot the following morning, I realized we had missed out on that classic chicken broth flavor.
Add your veggies and herbs. I suggest using at least one bay leaf, maybe one and a half. I love the flavor bay leaves give to soup. Now is also the time to add a generous amount of salt and pepper. Don't go too crazy on your salt, but you'll also probably want more than a couple dashes. Remember, you have 4 quarts of liquid to flavor. If using store-bought broth, you won't need to add as much salt.
Bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, and cover. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add your noodles. Toss them into the soup in small handfuls so they don't clump together once they hit the liquid. Allow your noodles to cook another 15 to 20 minutes, before serving your soup.
Waste Not, Want Not: Save your veggie scraps from prep, including your onion skins, to use to flavor your next homemade batch of broth.
Make too much soup? Guess what! You can put your extra soup in mason jars in the freezer, so long as you leave at least 1 inch of headspace for expansion while freezing.
Too good to freeze? Share with friends and family! My parents love when I show up with some fresh soup to share.
Peppers a member of the Solanaceae family, along with tomatoes, potatoes, tomatillos and eggplant. Peppers originated in Central and South America, and quickly became popular throughout Europe after the discovery of the New World. At August Creek Farm, we grow both hot and sweet peppers.
The heat in peppers is produced by the capsaicin, and heat is measured by Scoville Heat Units (SHU). The majority of the heat resides in the seeds, so avoid adding seeds to your dishes if you want to reduce the heat. If you bite into more heat than you can handle, rinse your food down with some milk or alcohol, like a beer. Water won't save you.
For the Love of Chickens
Spring has arrived, and home projects abound. For me, one of the hardest parts of spring are trips to Rural King or Farm and Fleet. It's impossible to ignore the little "peep, peep, peeps," and continue on with my shopping list. My husband gets a panicked look on his face anytime I mention a quick trip to either store. If you have chickens, you know what I'm talking about. That irresistible and irrational urge to buy more chicks, even though you don't want to mess with an egg license, detest cleaning eggs and hate the feed bill that ultimately results from one innocent trip to Rural King in March.
Sometimes it's just easier to give in. Aren't they adorable? This was my first favorite hen, Cheese Grits, named after my favorite southern breakfast. Or was it her sister, Hush Puppy? I never could tell the difference.
When they're young, the chicks need a brooder box that will keep them warm and safe from predators. Eventually, they can graduate to a larger "run" or a brooder house, before they make the final move into their very own chicken coop. If you have some extra buildings or sheds, you may want to convert one of those buildings into a coop.
Our first chicken coop was a very old garden shed that we converted into a coop, and it worked well for a couple years. Alas, our little coop couldn't last forever. Wooden floors are bad news when it comes to predators, and we eventually lost all but 2 birds in our flock due to mink. Yes, mink.
Deciding to build a new coop
So you've decided to dive in and build your own chicken coop. Jump on Pinterest and you'll find a hundred different design options, from the most basic to the Ritz Palace for chickens. The first choice you will need to make is whether you want your coop to be stationary or moveable. And will you have a fenced area outdoors for your birds, or give them free range of your property? For us, we decided to go with a tractor-style coop that we can move around the yard with a fenced yard. The fenced yard keeps your biddies safe from predators like neighbor dogs and coyotes, and the benefit of tractor coops is that you can move them to different areas of your yard as the chickens graze down the grass. Don't let their small size fool you: in less than a month your chickens will graze and scratch away all things green and you'll be left with a dirt lot.
Using what you Have
The type of materials you're using for your project will somewhat determine the type of plans you'll draw out for your coop. If you don't have any extra materials laying around and plan to buy everything at your local hardware store, you will likely need to draw out definitive plans for your coop before you get started so you can buy the right amount of materials. Steele and I love looking around our farms and finding old materials to reuse in new projects. We are great at making loose plans, which allow us to be flexible and fluid as our project moves forward.
Our project started with us talking about how we wanted to make the new coop. We only had two chickens left, and I knew if we made a small coop it would physically prevent me from buying more chicks at the feed store every spring. Steele decided to make the box frame out of old concrete forms they had leftover at his farm. I jumped on the opportunity to use some tongue and groove boards I'd salved from my neighbor's old garage.
We had to think practically about how the chickens would get into the coop, how we would access the birds, ventilation during the summer, and egg collection. Our final decision was to have a chicken access door, a human access door, a window, and an egg box. I got busy painting while Steele cut doors and windows using the reciprocating saw.
Things got a little tense when we built the nest box. It took a couple tries to get it right, and having drawn out plans for the coop would have come in handy here.
Once we finished work on the box, we attached treated 4x4s to raise the coop off the ground. We framed the yard using ripped 2x4s and galvanized fencing. The door to the yard took some finesse since we were about out of wood, and I attached a ramp that I made with scraps. The roof was our final big project, and we were able to use some pieces of tin from an old building project.
We enlisted the help of my brother-in-law to move the coop outside, since we went a little overboard and made the coop too heavy. Once it was outside, Steele added caulking on the roof and along the sides to keep the inside of the coop dry and warm.
We now have a moveable coop that keeps our chickens safe, healthy, and happy. Overall, the entire project only cost us about $100, and we used up a lot of spare materials from both of our farms. Have you built your own coop? Share your photos in the comments!
There really is nothing better than curling up with a warm cup of homemade soup on a frigid winter day. Soup is so much easier to make at home than I ever dreamed, especially with whole, homegrown ingredients. Making your own beef broth is one way to take your homemade soup to another level. Don't get me wrong- store bought broth is super easy and fairly inexpensive, but there is just something wonderful about being able to use your own homemade broth for soups, stews, pot roasts and more.
What You'll Need
4+ lbs of beef soup bones
vinegar, red wine or tomato juice for acidity
salt and pepper
The most important part of your broth are the beef bones. Beef bones can vary a little bit depending on where you buy them. Beef soup bones purchased at most grocery stores are usually packaged really nicely and have quite a bit of hearty meat on them. You can also go to a local butcher or meat store to find beef bones, and they are usually packaged in bulk, are inexpensive, and have quite a bit of fat and cartilage still attached. You will have more fat in the broth made using these bones, but it can be removed from the broth once it has cooled and solidified. Cypress Grove Farm Store often has both types of bones in stock (call for availability), and both types of bones work great for making homemade broth.
Making the Broth
Preheat your oven to 425F. Set your bones on a greased cooking sheet and bake for 20-35 mins, or meat has browned.
Meanwhile, start chopping your veggies. Cut your onions into wedges and coarsely chop the carrots, celery and mushrooms. Place them all in the slow cooker and add your herbs. I used dried herbs since it's winter, but fresh herbs are even better if you have them available. What herbs should you use? That's up to you! I love using thyme and sage, and you can see I also threw in a couple small bay leaves. Once you've finished adding your herbs, add some salt and pepper. The broth will concentrate over time, so be careful not to add too much salt or you will be sorry in the end.
Now 20 or 30 minutes have passed and your stomach should be rumbling from the smell of roasting beef in the oven. Once your beef bones are ready, remove them from the oven and transfer them to the crock pot. You can set them on top of your veggies and herbs, or have the bones on the bottom. The broth will cook so long that it doesn't really matter which goes on top.
Now just for the finishing touches. Add 1/2 cup of red wine, vinegar or tomato juice to your slow cooker. This acidic ingredient is not entirely necessary, but does help with the cooking process. Then add enough water to completely cover your vegetables and soup bones. Put on your lid and let that baby simmer on low heat for 10-24 hours. If you are in a hurry and need to make your broth a little quicker, you can fast track the process by doing this in a Dutch oven on the stove. A faster cook time simply means less flavor and nutrients will be brought out of your bones and into the broth.
Homemade beef broth! I started this batch around noon on a Sunday and turned the slow cooker off Monday morning before I headed off to work. The smell of your broth will fill the house and trust me, you will be dreaming about food all night long. To separate your broth from your meat, bones and veggies you will need to use a strainer. You can also use a cheese cloth to filter out any crushed herbs you may have used, but it's not necessary as long as you don't mind them being in your finished broth. You will need to use your fresh broth within a week. If, like me, you made a larger batch, you can freeze it for later. Just be sure to leave about an inch of head space in your jar so the broth has room to expand as it freezes.
I got into kefir about a year ago when my husband was looking into alternative and natural types of workout supplements. At first I was pretty skeptical, but thought it could be a fun project for us. Steele ordered the kefir "grains" from a natural foods website and I made sure we were fully stocked on whole milk and the experiment began. It took several days and a lot of milk before the kefir grains activated, but we were finally in business. Steele, who firmly hates yogurt, took one taste of the kefir and said he would never drink it again. Even though Steele isn't a fan, I have kept our fridge loaded with kefir and the whole milk we need to make it for over a year now, and the only thing better than fresh coffee every morning is my kefir smoothie.
To make kefir, you will need to either start your own grains, or have a culture given to you by a friend.
How to Use Kefir & Tips
Vacations. You may be processing your kefir every couple days or maybe even every day. If you're going to be out of town, don't worry. You can put your milk & kefir culture jar in the fridge at any point during the process to keep it from thickening into kefir. Once you get home, just move the jar back to the counter top at room temperature and you're back in business!
Uses. I use kefir for all the same uses as yogurt... it's just a lot healthier for you! I love using kefir in breakfast smoothies, as a yogurt substitute on granola or cereal, and I even mix it with my dehydrated face masks!
We have been incredibly lucky this year to have such a tremendous harvest of winter squash and cooking pumpkins. We face our fair share of challenges by growing with organic practices. Certain pests and diseases remain a problem year after year, but we continue to mature as a farm each season to try and combat these issues, one at a time.
This season the bulk of our cucumber, summer squash, zucchini, winter (fall) squash and cooking pumpkins were located at our satellite garden, just 3 miles from the main farm. This garden has a wonderful build-up of organic matter, and has been managed organically by the family who owns the farm. Nestled between several large barns and machine sheds, and protected by a meandering creek with towering trees, this small garden continues to out-perform our main farm, in terms of square feet. All these factors, combined with a long-term crop rotation plan, allowed our winter squash to mature past their most vulnerable growth stage before cucumber beetles and squash bugs blew into the garden and started doing damage.
So folks, without further ado, here is our lineup of winter squash and cooking pumpkin varieties for the 2016 season.
With so many different varieties of tomatoes, it can sometimes be difficult to keep them all straight. This year we have 4 varieties of cherry tomatoes. Here's an easy guide to help you remember your favorite...
I grew up around canning and frankly thought it was pretty gross. My grandma canned so many vegetables from the garden that she had to use the cellar in my parent's basement to store the surplus of goods. I remember going down to that creepy cellar at my mom's request, and hating all the cobwebs and creepy jars of lime pickles. Back then, you would have to bribe me to eat most of the canned goods in my parent's cellar. Over the decades, canning really became a lost art that is thankfully rising back up in popularity. Not ready to start with full-on water-bath canning? Try this easy-peasy recipe for Refrigerator Pickles and you won't be disappointed. You may even give yourself a pat on the back afterwards.
* regular iodized salt can be used if needed, but your solution may cloud over time
** wide mouth may be easier to use if your cucumber slices are wider
Zucchini and summer squash are two summer staples that are great for fresh eating, cooking, grilling and even baking. As a rule, I use zucchini for grilling, cooking and baking, while summer squash can also be eaten fresh. Zucchini tends to hold more water than summer squash, so keep that in mind while you experiment in the kitchen.
Here's a brief guide to our 2016 cucumber varieties...