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What Makes Spicy Foods Spicy?

July 22, 2014

Be it peppers or other hot or spicy food, some love them some don’t! What makes them the way they are? From a science – and preference – point, here’s a great, concise look.

Real Traditional Cooking – Cooking With Fire

July 17, 2014

Paula Marcoux captures more than flavor in a look at wood fired cooking in her book Cooking With Fire. If you’re interested in working with food history, order it. If you are among those called “preppers” or camping enthusiasts or just want something different, check out this book.

It’s part history, part how to, part cookbook and part beautiful photos. If you’re interested in what if things change tomorrow, you’ll be glad to have this book. From roasted whole rabbit to kabobs to traditional ethnic foods of several kinds, this is a chance to connect with roots as much as the wood being burned to cook with. Making a wood fired oven is something that could fit in many rural as well as urban yards. Love paleo? Cook paleo!

A detailed chapter on making a wood fired oven is included, but cooking over an open fire is also, and over a grill and a rock bed. Dozens of recipes are included and there is enough tempting photos to make you want to try them. Wood fired cooking has been an option for centuries and is a good option when there are wooded areas around!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADon’t miss the roasted tomato recipe below! From roasted rabbit to butterflied leg of lamb, seafood to breads and deep frying to grill there is variety here for everyone.

Roasted Tomatoes

This is a great use for the inevitable blemished tomatoes at the height of the season. Scoop roasted tomatoes when cool into zip-lock bags and freeze for the rest of the year, as a great base for pasta sauce, salsa and many other dishes.

3 pounds garden tomatoes

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3-4 cloves garlic, chopped,

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Find a half sheet pan or other shallow baking or roasting pan that looks like it will both accommodate the tomatoes and fit through the door of your oven. Pop it into the oven to preheat for a few minutes.

Trim the core and any blemishes away from the tomatoes and cut in big chunks. Cherry tomatoes may be left whole; small plum tomatoes halved. Put them in a large bowl with the rest of the ingredients and toss together well.

Pull the pan out of the oven and dump the tomatoes on it, scraping in all the garlic and oil. Quickly return it to the oven.

After 40 minutes, draw out the pan and have a look. When they are done, the tomatoes are thoroughly condensed and even blackened on the edges. If they are almost done, give them a good shake or stir and return to the oven. Most likely, more time will be needed, depending on the heat and the tomatoes. Very juicy tomatoes may take much longer.

10 Tasty Potato Dishes For Your Next Campout (or Grill Night!)

July 16, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThey’re easy and tasty – and several can be prepared and packaged at home so at the campsite you simply put them on the grill. They’re “packaged” individually so those who want two servings will have to fix two.

1. A common way to fix potatoes on the grill is a “baked” potato. Spice it up with this twist – get four baking potatoes. Get the grill ready for medium-low heat. Prepare four foil squares – each square should be large enough to enclose a potato. Spread one tablespoon of butter onto the foil in a large enough area that when wrapped up it will coat the potato. Spread a tablespoon coarse salt, 1/2 tablespoon garlic powder, pepper and 1/2 tablespoon Italian seasoning on each butter area. Roll each potato up in the foil and puncture the package and potato with a fork or knife a few times. Grill for about an hour, or when soft, turning often and serve with favorite baked potato toppings.

2. Thinly slice three large potatoes; combine in a bowl with a medium onion, chopped; 3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, 1 tablespoon minced chives, 1/2 teaspoon seasoned salt and 1/4 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning. Divide and put in a double thickness of greased heavy duty foil about 18 inches square. Dot with two Tablespoons butter, fold foil around mixture and seal tightly. Grill, covered, over medium heat for 30-35 minutes, turning once, or until potatoes are tender. Carefully open the foil and top the potato mixture with 1/2 cup crumbled cooked bacon, 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese and 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese. Grill 3-5 minutes until cheese is melted.

3. Combine 4 cups hashbrowns, 1/2 cup chopped celery, 1/2 cup chopped green pepper, 1/3 cup butter, 2 tablespoons finely chopped onion, 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, 1 teaspoon garlic salt – mix thoroughly and place on a double thickness of heavy duty foil (about 28″ X 18″). Fold foil around potato mixture and seal tightly; grill, covered, over medium heat for 45-50 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

4. Peel and dice 4 large potatoes, 1/2 bunch green onions; in a bowl add 1/2 of a 10 ounce can condensed soup, 1/2 cup shredded cheese, lemon pepper and garlic salt to taste. Add crumbled bacon if desired. Prepare aluminum foil with cooking spray; evenly divide the potato mixture into the foil and dot with butter. Fold into foil packages making sure it’s sealed well. Cook packets for 12-20 minutes until potatoes are cooked through. This is an easy one to mix up at home and just put on the grill at the camp site.

5. Go the simple route – spread herbed butter around the potato, wrap in heavy foil and put on the fire for 30-60 minutes until soft.

6. Toss together 5 large red potatoes (cubed), 1 medium sliced onion, 1 clove garlic (minced), 1/4 cup butter, 3/4 teaspoon black pepper and dried oregano and 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Mix thoroughly and wrap in several layers of foil, sealing edges well. Cook on rack over hot coals, turning midway through cooking until potatoes are tender, about 30-40 minutes.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA7. Thinly slice 5 pounds of potatoes and three onions. Place in large bowl and toss in three tablespoons vegetable oil. Divide into six portions and place mixture on a double thickness of 18 inch square heavy duty foil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and top with dots of butter and a sprinkle of garlic powder. Fold edges over and seal securely. Place on grill 4-6 inches over coals and cook, turning a few times to insure even cooking, about an hour.

8. Cube six medium potatoes (skin on), and slice one large Vidalia onion. Place on large piece of foil. Dab two tablespoons butter over top, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place 2-3 ice cubes on the top and close foil around potato mixture. Wrap with one additional piece of foil, sealing it securely. Place over fire, turning occasionally, and cook for 20-30 minutes until potatoes are tender.

9. Wash as many medium sized potatoes as needed. Cut slits into the potatoes – do not cut all the way through. Cut three small slats of butter and place one in slots on the end and one in the middle. Sprinkle on as much garlic and onion powder as you like. Wrap in foil and grill about 20 minutes until potatoes are soft and cooked through.

10. Slice 2-3 large russet potatoes and one large sweet potato into 1/2 inch chunks. Thinly slice a green pepper and a medium onion. Combine and cook with 3 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat for about 30 minutes.

Cooking over a campfire need not be boring! Plan ahead and make camping an enjoyable experience! Sitting around a fire cooking a meal and watching wildlife in an open clearing as fireflies sparkle through the early dark — nothing quite like it!

3 Recipes for Pepper Lovers

July 15, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe love peppers here at SlowMoneyFarm. Adding new varieties, from banana hot and Beaver Dam to the Carolina Reaper and Purple Passion varieties is an adventure. We’ve tried the mild Bianca sweet pepper – wonderful for those who like pepper flavor without heat – to some new ones this year that one pepper is good for seven pots of chili!

Peppers come in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes. While many are familiar with the bell pepper and jalapenos, and thus recipes commonly call for them, pepper fans can expand beyond these! Small mini-bells can be used in many ways, as well as many heirlooms, both sweet and hot. With options between mild and use sparingly, the pepper terrain varies!

Love peppers? Try one of these recipes – and check out the books they’re from (linked!).

Homemade Roasted Red Peppers

Makes as many as you have.

Light a fire in your grill; when the fire is medium hot (you can hold your hand 6 inches above the grill grid for about 3 to 4 seconds), put the peppers on the grill directly over the fire. Grill the peppers, moving them around with your tongs, until all sides are uniformly black and charred. Remove them from the grill and place in a plastic bag or in a bowl covered with plastic wrap for 20 minutes to loosen the skins. Peel off the charred skins,remove the stems, seeds and ribs, and use right away or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks. The Big Flavor Grill

Roasted Red Pepper flakes

Combine in medium bowl and toss:

3/4 cup roasted red peppers, jarred or homemade, diced small

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh basil

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

<Also from The Big Flavor Grill>

Hot Pepper Jelly

makes 5 1/2 cups

1/2 cup chopped green bell peppers

3/4 cup chopped red bell peppers

1/4 cup chopped jalapenos (2-3 seeded and stemmed)

1 1/2 cups cider vinegar

6 1/2 cups sugar

6 ounces pectin

2 teaspoons crushed red chile flakes

Put bell and jalapeno peppers and vinegar in a food processor or blender and puree. Pour puree into large pot and add sugar. Bring to boil and boil for 3 minutes. Whisk in the pectin and continue boiling for 1 minute, then skim the foam from the top. Remove the pan from the heat and let sit 5 minutes; skim any foam again. Stir in the red chile flakes. Pour the hot pepper jelly into hot sterilized jelly jars. Seal and store in a cool place. from Pizza On the Grill


Drink the Harvest – Book Review

July 12, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are many ways this book could be valued. Drink the Harvest: Making and Preserving Juices, Wines, Meads, Teas and Ciders is a book for more than wine enthusiasts. It’s a good book for those who come across great deals in produce and want to use it. It’s good for the homesteader who wants to use more of the harvest that is around them. It’s excellent for those who want to give more homemade gifts for the holidays.

Several points I really liked about the book – a big one was when the author talks of chopping and draining the liquid out, so often it seems I read “throw the solids out”. I think to myself how much of a waste that is, although if feeding chickens it’s not a total waste, but why not find a way to use it. The author’s suggestion here – blend it and spread it in a dehydrator for fruit leathers. Brilliant!! Yes yes yes! USE it.

Sorry – got a little excited there. If you don’t know a mead from a cider or hard cider from wine that’s ok – you will by the time you get through this book. Details are important and there are plenty of those, but it’s in a knowledge empowering good way.

One would expect grapes, apples, pears, cherries and maybe tomatoes here, and they are included. Also included is mint, birch sap and prickly pear. Let the kids help collect dandelions – don’t spray them, pick them and drink them! This is a good book for ideas as well as action, and makes some wonderful gifts for those with patience and attention to detail at little cost.

If you raise or find bruised fruit, cut off the bad part and use the rest for things like this minimizes the loss. There are wonderful ideas on how to use it. For example, with the mint syrup, the author notes using it in “mojitos, mint juleps, mint flavored iced tea or lemonade, mint spritzers, minty-licious sangria or other wine punch or mint-flavored hot chocolate3 (with a splash of peppermint scnapps for the adult version). For a special dessert, add some mint syrup to homemade fudge sauce before spooning it over ice cream.” I could add including it in chocolate fudge just before turning into the pan to cool.

Worth the money especially if you like making things. Classy look with every day roll your sleeves up tones make for a nice mix. Check it out at Amazon or Storey Publications. And if you like herbal tea – get this book!

Mint Syrup

2 cups filtered water

1 cup mint leaves, washed

2 cups sugar

1/8 teaspoon ascorbic acid.

Bring the water to a boil.

Place the mint leaves in a small bowl, and pour the boiling water over them. Cover and steep for 20 minutes.

Strain the liquid into a saucepan to remove the mint leaves

Add the sugar and bring to a boil. Skim off any foam.

Remove from the heat.

Add the ascorbic acid and stir.

Pour the contents into sterilized containers, seal and label.

Makes 1 pint. Takes 1 hour.

Can be used immediately or stored in  swing-top bottles for up to a year with ascorbic acid added, or six months without it. Store in the refrigerator for up to two weeks after opening.

There’s some oh-so-tasty sounding options for variations which you’ll have to get the book to see.

Is “Antibiotic Free” Just Marketing?

July 11, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASeveral restaurants the last few months have made big announcements about their meats being sourced from antibiotic free places. Like individuals, companies have the option to source food from where they want. They do so based on customer demand. Or what customers say they want.

There seems to be an increasing demand to move back to ‘natural’ and the way things used to be, to the point of dismissing that decisions made over decades were for good reasons. There are always tradeoffs – chickens get outside, but are more exposed to passing things. Songbirds are frequent visitors to our area, with some even nesting right in the rabbit barn! Rats and mice are less welcome, as known carriers of diseases better prevented than treated.

There are many things we do on the farm, and at the processing level, to keep food as safe as possible but food is not sterile. Bacteria and viruses are all over in our world! Many are concerned about that, with antibacterial soaps that some question if they do more bad than good. There has been an increased concern in the antibiotics that birds and animals destined for the table eat, and how that affects us and the ability to use antibiotics for illnesses. Some want less, or no, antibiotics in the animals raised for meat.


An article I saw yesterday made me wonder just how dedicated to antibiotic free people are.

“We have to remember that before we had antibiotics, it was pretty easy to die of a bacterial infection,” said Laxminarayan, a research scholar with the Princeton Environmental Institute. “And we’re choosing to go back into a world where you won’t necessarily get better from a bacterial infection. It’s not happening at a mass scale, but we’re starting to see the beginning of when the antibiotics are not working as well.”

The study found that India was the single-largest consumer of antibiotics in the world in 2010, followed by China and the U.S.

The study also found that antibiotic consumption has flattened in the U.S., compared with the five BRICS countries. However, U.S. citizens per capita still account for far more antibiotic consumption than any other population, with a rate of more than twice that of India.

We don’t do antibiotic free labels here, although as a custom raised place we can provide meats that have never been treated with antibiotics. A bigger point is in the last 10 years no animals have received antibiotics. That isn’t unusual. For all the talk and what media reports say, most farms don’t use antibiotics unless they have to, for reasons of resistance and cost!

It’s critically important for you, dear readers, to understand that this doesn’t mean no medication. Somewhere down the line, if not already, someone is going to feel “lied to” because of ‘no antibiotic’ promises. Coccidiostats, dewormers and many other medications are not antibiotics. If we don’t use antibiotics, but do use other things as needed, is that lying or telling you what you want to hear (that antibiotics aren’t used)? Some might say this is semantics but it’s an important qualification.

If you have a cold, you go to the doctor, the doctor gives you an antibiotic and you take it then you contribute to antibiotic resistance. How? Colds are virus caused, so antibiotic won’t kill it – antiviral will. This might be basic biology 101 but in the fear to avoid fatal illnesses we too often don’t think. I can honestly say I haven’t used antibiotics in 10 years because antibiotics don’t affect what I need to do. Taking away antibiotics is an unfair issue for many.

It’s not unusual for a cow, for example, to get a slight infection after calving – after all they’re not in a sterile environment. We can take precautions but it’s not foolproof. Normally a few days of antibiotics and she’s kicked it, she goes back to the herd and lives a long life. Except in a certified organic herd, or ‘antibiotic free’ herd where she must be removed forever. No antibiotics ever means just that – never. Nothing like getting fired for a minor illness!

On the other hand, our rabbits it’s easier to keep clean to minimize infections. Antibiotic issues are a real concern, from the farm to the meat counter. There are certain situations antibiotics are used in fruit production too. The goal of every farm, large or small, produce or meats is to get as much to the consumer as we can that is safe, tasty and as fresh as possible. Sometimes, for reasons most people don’t understand in the black and white world.

The increasing consumption of antibiotics in the human population is a concern because there is a balance and keeping both animals and humans as healthy as possible is a big deal.

Everyone has an interest in safe food.


5 Meats to Try for Healthy Diversity

July 10, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe overwhelming favorite meats in America are beef, pork and chicken. They’re celebrated at the meat counter and in restaurants. They’re made up for every day or for special occasion. But sometimes, there are those days when you just want something different.

As media warns of disruptions in the food supply, and people get more adventurous and health conscious, there are many who want to look beyond the big three. So what are alternatives? Here are five that can stretch your palate and add something different.

The guinea is a unique little bird that, when you see one, you won’t forget them. “They’re ugly!” is a common comment. They’re noisy is another. But get beyond that and they’re tasty. They’re similar to pheasant, but can be raised on small farms.

Rabbit is another possibility, with advantages of being lean, high protein, dense meat that is easily raised in small areas. Many say it’s just like chicken but that sells rabbit short. It is similar, but as a mild meat it takes flavor well. It’s wonderful in stews, enchiladas and other dishes that it can absorb the flavors from seasonings it’s cooked in. It’s incredible in curry, with some onions and peppers over rice. Rabbit meat is also tested low in cholesterol. If you use tender fryers under four months, there will be a different texture than the more “chewy”, firm flesh of the five to six month old rabbit.

Duck is often overlooked, but has gained the attention of chefs and foodies on a quest for cooking with duck fat. Explore a trip to the taste of duck and you’ll see these hardy birds are an asset to your dining calendar. Muscovy is a particular type that some say has a “beefy” taste to it.

The amount of fat on duck breasts confounds many beginning cooks. We all enjoy a bit of luxurious fat now and again, but few of us like a big glob of gooey suet in our mouths. The best way to meet this challenge is first to stop thinking of a duck breast as poultry. It’s essentially a steak, and should be cooked like a steak. Your task is to render that fat and crisp that skin, all the while preventing the meat from overcooking. It’s a lot easier than it sounds. Hank Snow- Duck, Duck, Goose

For those wanting the above options, they can be found from ‘exotic’ meat places online as well as purchased directly from farms like ours. These often benefit the family run operations, as the large volume agriculture operations aren’t quite caught up with these choices.

If you’re interested in a walk on the wild side, and taking your food into your own hands on another level, go fish. Freshwater streams and lakes can be a bounty for those who are interested in eating fish without going to the store.

WhitetaildeerUSDApublicdomainAnother option is venison. Although this is commercially available online, you can also spend time outdoors and gather your own. Indeed, in some parts of the country, there are those who celebrate fish, deer, elk, antelope and other wild treasures. Venison is usually restricted to hunting in the fall months, and a quick kill will help preserve the best meat.

Although for most people these options probably won’t replace the beef and pork on your plate, it can give some variety. Whether you purchase from a small farm that raises it for you, raise it yourself or buy commercially online or off, these are options that can offer something different. If the ‘big three’ continue to rise in price, or as some predict become more difficult to get, or perhaps you just want to try something different, any or all of these options can provide a hearty, tasty meal.

Even if just once or twice per month, variety is good!


Today’s recipe – from the book Pizza on the Grill -for a twist on the ordinary!

Duck Duck Pizza

¼ cup uncooked grits or polenta, for rolling dough

1 ball prepared pizza dough, at room temperature

3 tablespoons olive oil

¾ cup Cassis Sauce

1 ½ cups shredded duck confit or roasted duck

½ cup sliced water chestnuts, cut into slivers

8 ounces St. Andre cheese (a French triple-creme), rind removed if preferred, cut into ¼ inch thick strips, then cut into one inch squares

3 scallions, trimmed, cleaned, sliced

Zest of 1 mandarin orange or clementine

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the grill per the master instructions for gas or charcoal. Roll out and shape the dough, then grill the first side of the crust per the master instructions. When the bottom is marked and browned, use tongs to transfer the crust to a peel or rimless baking sheet. Switch the grill to indirect heat and close the lid to maintain the grill temperature.

Flip the crust to reveal the grilled side. Spread the entire surface with cassis sauce. Top with the duck, sprinkle with water chestnuts and top with cheese. Finish grilling the pizza per the master instructions. Remove from the grill. Sprinkle the scallions and zest evenly over the pizza. Season with salt and pepper. Slice and serve.


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