Our Family's First Red Bag Delivery

Getting into Tyner Red Bag
I don't care who you are, or where you are from, you have got to love having some of your grocery shopping done with a click.  And then, "ding dong"!  Our first 'Big Red Bag' is waiting for us on our front porch.  I have been anticipating this moment sincdiscovering Tyner Pond Farm!  Everybody loves a farm-to-door delivery, for free.  Well, unless you are a 4-year-old and you think that Santa left his bag on your stoop.  I guess I shouldn't have said, "I wonder who left a big red bag on our porch!?"  But, once he was over the initial disappointment, he had some fun with Baby Girl opening our delivery from Tyner Pond Farm.


So it is actually like Christmas morning, if you are a busy mom and just want some healthy, high quality food without having to load the whole gang into the minivan(if you are cool like me) and empty your wallet.  I usually go to 3 different stores to be able to get the best prices on the items I am not willing to sacrifice quality for; meat, milk, fruit and vegetables.  We don't have the time to go on a scavenger hunt every week, just trying to find some real food people!  I am thrilled to find the meat I want for my family; pasture-raised and natural, the way I believe animals were created to live, and be consumed.

Tyner Online Ordering

And the Tyner Pond Farm website is so easy to navigate, a pre-schooler could do it! 

Well, almost.  They clicked "Place Order".  And I began sorting through recipe ideas for our order of chicken breasts, Husk butternut squash, sweet Italian sausage, pork shoulder, and ground beef!


Now, it is time to get cooking some real food!  I will let you know how dinner time goes tonight.  Will someone throw themselves on the floor because I am not providing a Dora yogurt?  Will someone else be hysterically sobbing because he claims he heard someone mention "green beans"?  Probably.  Will we all be sitting down together at the same table?  Sort of.  Will we be eating delicious, healthy food?  Definitely.

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The Local Food We've Stored Away for Winter...and You Can too!

local food sunflowersHonestly, this post is not meant to be a brag, it's really not. OK, maybe a little bit it is, because I have been working my ass off and I want a little recognition I guess. :-) But really, I hope it's simply motivational... 

 

So what's my brag? The amount of local food we've stored away for the winter--not "amount" as in quantity, because that will have to come later. Rather, I mean "amount" in terms of variety. Right now, between our fridge, freezer, pantry, garden and a shed outside, we have: 

  • kale (in the garden)
  • chard (in the garden)
  • dill pickles
  • bread and butter pickles
  • pickled beets
  • beets
  • carrots (in the fridge and in the ground)
  • sauerkraut
  • potatoes (packed in hay in boxes in the shed)
  • pork
  • corn (frozen)
  • green beans (frozen)
  • salsa
  • stewed tomatoes
  • pasta sauce
  • peaches (canned)
  • pears (canned)
  • apple cider
  • raspberry jam
  • strawberries (frozen)
  • blackberries (frozen)
  • blueberries (frozen)
  • pears (dried)
  • apples (dried)
  • applesauce
  • corn relish
  • turkey meat (freezer)
  • turkey stock (canned)
  • butternut squash (stored)
  • delicata squash (stored)
  • heirloom pumpkins (stored)
  • And in the greenhouse, spinach, chard, lettuce and green onion seedlings that will either get planted in raised beds outside or nursed along in the greenhouse as an experiment

local food Cinderella pumpkins in our gardenAnd I'm not done. Well, it's November. I probably am done. There are quite a few things I didn't get done yet, like salsa verde, catsup, and hard cider, and I still have a bunch of apples that I was hoping to get pressed into apple juice for the hard cider but that didn't happen (so they'll probably become applesauce). 

 

Best of all, every single thing you see on that list is local, either grown by us or purchased from a local farmer (except the peaches and pears which came from the other side of the state where they are happier to grow). 

 

Do you know how good I feel reading through that list???? Do you know how awesome it feels to be able to make a meal that's not completely but mostly local, and from our own stores? 

 

view of our local food garden from the pig penThe Hubby and I are not striving to be completely self-sufficient. We couldn't be because we both work, for one thing, so we don't have time to. (As a farming neighbor down the road says, "We work so we can farm!" because farming is not cheap!) Raising just the little bit of food that we do takes a lot of time (and money). Raising even more would take more time...time we don't have, and definitely money we don't have. 

 

So it's not that we're trying to be totally self-sufficient. But we are trying to be a bit more food independent, by growing some vegetables in a garden that's slowly taking shape, harvesting what we can from the orchard that came with our old farm, buying other produce from local farmers, and either raising pastured meats or buying pastured meats locally. 

 

That picture above is one I took in August, looking towards the back of our house. It only shows a little bit of the garden, and really, only about half of the area got plowed up (by pastured pigs!), but it's a good start for next year. I have really ambitious plans for our garden, but getting to the end goal will take time and money (and blood, sweat and tears). And we grew more sunflowers and pumpkins than anything else! Yes, those are our sunflowers and pumpkins in the picture, and no, I won't grow as many next year. I just got a little carried away. :-) 

 

But you don't have to have a garden, you don't have to raise all your own, in order to have local food stored away for the winter. In fact, most of what I've put up was not grown by us, but by local farmers. And really, it's not that hard to put food up. It's not. I spread this out over three months, and there were only a few times where it was all-consuming. It's also helpful to do it with someone. It makes the tasks go faster to have an extra set of hands and company. (I find wine makes it more enjoyable too, along with fun music). 

 

And...it's just a little bit addictive, once you start thinking about local food that's in season and ways you can preserve it for later. Even now, I am thinking about buying local cranberries and making preserves to give to friends for their Thanksgiving meals...and I'm the only one at my house who eats cranberries! Even now, I'm looking at all the apples I've picked and not used yet, and debating between applesauce or trying one more time to get the cider press guy to let me come over. And, even now, I'm thinking about all the things I could have but didn't preserve. 

 

Because it's not only addictive, it's so very satisfying. It gives you a feeling of self-sufficiency like no other. 

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Does Your Kitchen Stop You From Cooking? 5 Tips for a Usable Kitchen You'll WANT to Cook in

I am on a one-person campaign to get more people back in the kitchen and back to cooking. Why? Several reasons, all of them important: so people will eat healthier, so families will eat together, and so local farmers will be more likely to be patronized (and therefore profitable). 

 

This campaign means I spend a lot of time thinking (and talking and writing) about food and farmers and recipes and dinners and stuff like that. But then it hit me that maybe some people don't cook for a totally unrelated reason: Maybe some people are put off by their kitchens. 

 

I had this epiphany because one of my many freelance writing jobs involves writing about kitchens once a week. That means I spend more time thinking about kitchens than the average Bear (or the average American!). In addition to that, I have an ongoing point of contention with The Hubby, because I insist on getting the dishes all washed, dried and put away before bed while he wants them to sit out and dry overnight (mostly so he doesn't have to feel guilty about drying them), plus I try to sweep the kitchen floor before bed too, which also bugs him as something that "can wait." But hold on: Putting off tasks like sweeping or putting dishes away does not make that task go away! It just moves those tasks to the next day's list, making that list even longer. I was getting tired of this argument until I read this article on 5 things to do in the kitchen before you go to bed. Then I felt justified. So now I just clean up the kitchen and ignore him. 

 

But thinking about cleaning up the kitchen before bed (and arguing about it) got me thinking: Maybe people are less likely to cook because they walk into a kitchen that's unusable! I'm not talking about a kitchen that's unusable because the fridge is on the fritz, or the oven doesn't work. (Heck, I have TWO ovens and the handles are now broken off of both, so I know a thing or two about "unusable" appliances, sadly.) Maybe people walk into the kitchen and see a sink full of dirty dishes, mail all over the counter, someone's craft project taking over the kitchen table, and cat food scattered across the floor. 

 

Would you want to cook in that kitchen? Me either! In fact, the first thing I do before I start dinner is wash the breakfast and lunch dishes that sat in the sink all day, as well as clear off the counter. No matter how late I am starting dinner prep, if there's clutter to work around, I can't work around it. First the clutter goes, then the cooking starts. 

 

If a cluttered, unusable or unwelcome kitchen sounds even a little bit familiar to you, here are five tips that might make your kitchen more usable, welcoming and likely to get cooked in...so you can get cooking some local food and support those local farmers. :-) 

 

1. Clear off the counter: I don't know why it is, but we seem to have a knack for cluttering our counters. On mine right now sit a microwave, a mixer, a radio, an empty canning jar, a coffee maker, a soap dispenser, a bowl full of eggshells, a compost bucket, a fruit fly trap, a cookie far, a knife block, a cutting board, a butter dish, a sugar bowl, and an antique coffee can full of cooking utensils...and I have a tiny kitchen! I can tell you right now, this woman is going to be doing some decluttering in the next week or two! Because that stuff just gets in my way when I am cooking, and THAT makes cooking more of a hassle. 

 

2. Keep up with the dishes: We don't have a dishwasher for a couple of reasons, so I have nowhere to hide dishes until they get washed. Instead, they sit in our deep sink until I get them done. Sometimes they pile up more than other times, but at some point every day, every single dish, pot, plan, glass and fork is washed dried and put away. This can happen at your house in the morning or at night. It's no fun, and it feels like a never-ending battle, but keeping up with the dishes will give you room to work when you are ready to cook...a clean slate, if you will. 

 

3. Clean as you go: I know some cooks who just pile, pile, pile up the dishes, pots and pans as they're cooking until at the end of meal prep, the kitchen looks like a war zone. That would stop me from cooking for sure! Instead, I find it's a lot more efficient to clean as I go, washing and putting away one pot while moving on to another, etc. Constantly wiping down the countertop helps too. That way, once you're done cooking, cleanup is minimal...and not intimidating! 

 

4. Have lots of towels: I made my first husband crazy in all kinds of ways. One of them was my seemingly indiscriminate use of kitchen towels. He'd complain about how many towels I went through while cooking, which made no sense to me since I did all the cooking AND all the laundry, but I still hear his voice when I toss yet another towel into the laundry basket, and I still know my way is fine. I keep LOTS of towels around because I clean as I go and I like to simply toss the used towel and grab a clean one and keep going. Running out of towels while cooking, on the other hand, would be frustrating. So I have lots of towels. :-) 

 

5. Respect your space, and make the family respect it too: Keeping the kitchen clean so it's ready for use is kind of like keeping your living room picked up in case you have company, or making your bed in the morning. Learn to respect the space that's used to nourish your family, and teach that family they need to respect it too. Remind them of the common-sense rules about if you get it out, put it back, etc. 

 

I can't guarantee putting these tips into practice will make you want to spend every evening in the kitchen cooking a local food dinner. But I can guarantee that making even a little effort to make your kitchen a place that's usable will go a long ways towards making that local food feasting possible! 

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Free Apples! Changing How We Value Food

cider as local foodsOn Sunday, we headed over to the neighbors for a cider pressing. We didn't pick any apples from our trees for this because we are "between" apples, with three trees being done and the other three not quite ripe yet. But that didn't matter because the neighbor had raided trees throughout our valley and had at least 500 pounds of apples for us to use! It was an impressive sight for sure! Miss Picky Eater and I worked at it for 3 hours. We came home with only 4 gallons of cider for our own use, but we had a blast working the press and making the cider for other people. 

 

Now, other than telling you about a fun Sunday afternoon spend with really nice people, making really tasty cider, and finishing it off with some much appreciated hot spicy pork sausage soup (that went perfectly with the cider!), why am I going on and on about this? 

 

I think because it's a reflection of how we do or don't value food. 

 

All of these apples our neighbor got hold of, they would all have dropped to the ground to be eaten by the deer or simply rot away. And he didn't even make a dent in our valley's apple supply! I am laughing this week as I drive to and from work and I see all of the apples he didn't get, all of the trees still covered in bountiful quantities of fruit! 

 

Our valley was never an orchard, but it was homesteaded well over a century ago (our house was built in 1890) and the homesteaders all planted apple trees as a food supply. Our farm has six apple trees, three pear trees, a plum tree and a prune tree. And I'm pretty sure the cherry trees across the street in our neighbor's yard were originally part of our farm's orchard before the property was subdivided and sold off. And that's the case up and down the valley, with big huge old apple trees continuing to produce fruit year after year, long after the homesteaders have passed away and the families have moved on. 

 

But one hundred years ago, people would have used those apples! The apples would have gone into applesauce for canning and cider for drinking and hard cider for imbibing. Some would have been storage apples and carefully tucked away for use in the winter months. Others would have been dried. And whatever didn't get used would probably have been fed to pigs and cows. Back before grocery stores that make procuring food simply a matter of needing transportation to get there and money to spend, those apples had value as food, now when ripe and later in the winter. 

 

Yet today the apples go unused while the grocery stores stock and sell apples brought in from elsewhere. I would even bet money that there are people living in my valley who are driving past these apple trees to go to the grocery store and buy--among other things--apples to eat. 

 

The problem? We don't see the "free" apples as real food! We'd rather go to the store and buy the shipped in waxy ones than the real ones in our own backyards! We don't give the free ones any value, I suspect in part because they aren't as perfect as the storebought ones. 

 

Maybe it's time to rethink the way we view and value ALL food, whether it's an apple off of a tree, a chicken for the oven, or processed frozen dinner. Maybe if we step back and take another look with a more critical eye, we'll choose the food local in origin and sustainably raised. 

 

Maybe. 

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The Meaning of Pasture Raised Hogs Finally Explained in a Way I Understand!

pasture raised hogs at Tyner Pond FarmWhen we bought our first few pigs last winter, we had every intention of raising them as pasture raised hogs. But the pigs seemed to have other ideas. Rather than eat the pasture, they only tore it up. I started thinking we might have to turn over our whole 22 acres to the little swine in order to keep them from living in a mudpit all the time! I didn't get it! I mean, I know Tyner Pond Farm's pigs are raised on pasture, and they seem to be on grass, not in mud! Was it just that our climate is so wet compared to theirs? Were our pigs weird? Did they not like to eat grass? What was the problem? 

 

But last week I took a tour of a local farm raising Tamworth pigs (a heritage breed) and I finally understand the meaning of the term pasture raised hogs. The farm's pigs had lots of room to roam, each with big runs or paddocks, but they weren't on pasture even though the farm advertises that they raised pasture raised hogs. "What gives?" I asked the farmer. 

 

She explained that pasture raised doesn't mean they are grazing pasture plants like cows and sheep do, but that they are raised outside with plenty of room to run around. Ooooohhhhh.... OK. Now I get it. And it makes sense. We don't call them pasture fed hogs. We call them pasture raised hogs. Not that they don't eat the plants, because they do. But they also dig them up. As one pig expert described it, we're dealing with an animal that has a bulldozer for a nose! The answer? Give them more room!

 

Visiting that other farm got me all pumped up to give our own pigs big huge runs like hers have. Our three pigs lived outside and got new ground every couple of weeks as we moved them around the garden to plow it up for us. But they never had a big area with lots of room, like, well, a pasture! We had two pigs slaughtered, but kept one for breeding, and today while I'm at work, The Hubby is supposed to be putting some t-posts in the ground for me so I can move the fencing around and start slowly making our pig's smaller area into an actual run. I am psyched! We want to raise our animals as naturally as we can, and I am so thankful for farms like Tyner Pond and the one I visited last week, small farms that are forging ahead and figuring out how to return to a natural sustainable way to raise meats, one that's better for the animals, the people, and the planet. 

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Being Food Independent Without Farming

Last weekend, we unexpectedly had nine people around the dinner table--and we are a household of three. We had multiple projects going on at the farm and people chipping in to help on into the evening, and they had to be fed. So at 6 p.m. I stopped what I was doing outside and went inside to figure out how to feed a very hungry crowd on short notice. 

 

What ended up happening was I truly felt self-sufficient and food independent. It was as if I got a glimpse of the reality of everything we're working towards with our small farm. I had just picked up our pork from the butcher's two days prior, Berkshire pork from the first pig we'd ever raised. So I pulled bratwurst sausages out of the freezer to thaw, then cooked them up. I went out to the garden for two kinds of lettuce to make a salad. I opened a jar of cider from our own apples. I put some pears I had dried in a bowl to pass around for something sweet. I quickly baked biscuits and put out raspberry jam and apple butter I had canned. And I opened a jar of bread and butter pickles made from cucumbers from our garden. 

 

Was the entire meal grown by us? Not at all! I need flour and butter and milk to make biscuits, and the salad had cheese, olives, vinegar and olive oil. I cooked up some local corn that was in the fridge, to have on the side. I put out spicy mustard for the bratwurst, and so on. But I sure felt proud to put as much homegrown food on the table as I did, and I remember something farmer Chris had sent me via text the day we had the pigs slaughtered: "...you are becoming food independent." Yes, I felt pride, and a sense of security. (I also felt relief because everyone loved the dinner!)

 

Then a couple of days later while shopping at the local farmers market, it occurred to me that food independence doesn't have to require a farm or even a big garden. In fact, all it really requires is changing one's frame of mind and way of acquiring food. What got me thinking this was my farmers market experience that day. I only had a few minutes, so I didn't have time to chat and THAT made me realize how much I enjoy being friends with farmers. Also, one of the farmers mentioned we could still go to their place during the winter to buy from them, even though the farmers market will be done. And all of THAT made me realize that really, maybe the first step toward being food independent is simply changing how you buy your food. (Or maybe I should say whom you buy your food from?)

 

It's like building a business network in a way. Because I have lived in this town for four years now and I shop the farmers market and get to know the farmers, I have an "in" to local foods that I didn't have before. That doesn't mean I am growing everything we eat, but it does mean I am getting ever more free of the grocery store, when I have a local resource for food, one that gives me "food independence" from the mainstream supermarkets. 

 

If you live in the Greenfield, IN, area, you can claim your own kind of food independence by purchasing your meats from Tyner Pond Farm. They only raise pastured meats: All the chicken, pork and beef they sell is raised on pasture right there at their farm, then processed onsite too. And when you choose to buy your meats from a small sustainable farm like Tyner Pond Farm and not the big chain grocery store, you're making yourself food independent while ensuring you have farmers there to supply your needs. 

                                                                 

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Butterscotch Brownies: Lard Bakes Up Better!

butterscotch brownies with lardI found another way to love lard this week. I baked up a batch of Butterscotch Brownies, something I hadn't cooked in years, but it was a busy weekday morning and I had nothing dessert-wise to put in the family's lunches. Remembering these butterscotch brownies cook up fast, I preheated the oven and pulled out the recipe. 

 

Now, I hadn't made this since I started cooking with lard, so it was a bit of an experiment to swap it out for the shortening originally called for, and I was a little nervous, because these brownies only have a few ingredients, and the lard could affect the flavor.

 

I needn't have worried. As usual, the brownies baked up tastier than before, because there is a silkiness that comes from baking with lard. I put still-warm brownies into people's lunch bags, and later put what was left into a tupperware...not that many were left, because The Hubby kept "ops checking" the brownies as he got ready for work. Then when I got home that night, there were zero left because Miss Picky Eater couldn't keep out of them. 

 

Yeah...from a pan full of butterscotch brownies that morning to not a crumb left that night. Think the lard worked?? :-) 

 

Here's the recipe, and remember it needs to be lard from pastured pigs to be any good! 

 

Butterscotch Brownies
1/4 c lard
1 c packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 t vanilla
3/4 c unbleached white flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
lard for greasing pan

 

Preheat oven to 350 and grease a square (8x8) baking pan with lard. Slowly melt the 1/4 c lard in a bigger saucepan (one you can use to mix all the ingredients together) over low heat. As soon as it's melted, remove from heat and beat in the sugar, egg and vanilla. Then add the flour, baking powder and salt and stir well. Spread batter into baking pan and bake 20-25 minutes. 

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Bounty in My Freezer: Berkshire Pork Galore

Berkshire pork in my freezerWell. I am embarking on a new food adventure now. Like my search for a bread recipe that would be healthier for my family--which led to a major education for me--I am now about to learn about cuts of pork. (Cuts of pork...is that correct wording? It looks weird. See? That's how much I have to learn: I don't even know how to say it!) 

 

We have a lot of Berkshire pork in our freezer after having our first ever pig slaughtered, and now I need to learn how to cook all of these different kinds of Berkshire pork. The bacon, sausage and bratwurst will be easy, no worries there! But there are ribs and steaks and pork chops (what is the difference between a pork steak and a pork chop, I wonder??) and a roast and hams and, oh my! Plus I got the back fat AND the leaf lard, so I'll need to learn the difference between those. I already know I like cooking with lard, but now I get to learn how to actually render it, and the different properties of back fat vs. leaf lard. 

 

I am excited, I confess. I love learning new things in the kitchen! But I am nervous too. Raising pigs turned out to be harder than we expected, and much pricier too. I want to do every piece of Berkshire pork justice, whether it's a chop or a steak or a rib or a roast. But I lack the experience to know for sure what I'm doing. One thing I know is that raising them on pasture means they'll likely need less messing with in the kitchen to taste good, at least! 

 

So it's Berkshire pork galore but that's mixed with a whole lotta trepidation! 

 

(And yes, that's our freezer, with local berries frozen up above, the Berkshire pork in the middle (with packages of meat from a turkey we raised) and local corn and green beans frozen below. It gives me a lot of confidence going into winter with this much local food on hand!)

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In Search Of: Recipes for Pork Chops!

recipes for pork chops from Tyner Pond FarmAll of a sudden, I need recipes for pork chops...lots of recipes for pork chops. We got our first pig slaughtered, and now I have loads of Berkshire pork chop packages neatly wrapped and stacked in the upright freezer. What I don't have is a lot of ways to cook them. 

 

See, I haven't eaten a lot of pork. I'm not sure I can even remember eating pork chops as a kid. So it's not as if I have a family tradition of recipes for pork chops to fall back on. 

 

And if you reeeeaaallly want to know how daft I am about pork chops, consider this: I think I've cooked pork chops once in my whole life! 

 

Do you see why I'm in desperate need of recipes for pork chops?? And a lot of what I'm seeing online is not helpful. No, I don't want to stuff the pork chops with cheese or bread or vegetables or meat or anything. I don't have time to stuff a pork chop. I barely have time to cook a pork chop! I also saw recipes that sound too sweet, like pork chops with apples and cinnamon and sugar. Wait. Am I making breakfast or dinner?? 

 

Today is a busy day (the kind of day that leaves no time for hair or makeup, that kind of day, yuck), and I haul our green horse to the trainer's for a lesson tonight, so it will be a late dinner. I searched for recipes for pork chops online and out of allllllll the recipes I looked at, I only found one that sounded appealing. The others were too complicated, too sweet sounding, or too much about masking the flavor. (If you have a really good Berkshire pork chop, why on earth would you want to do that?)

 

I found this recipe for cooking the pork chops in the oven after brining. That should work. They'll brine while I'm gone, then I'll cook them once home tonight. If the recipe is any good, I'll share it. :-) 

 

Wow. I am this confused and I am only learning to cook a pork chop, when there are all kinds of cuts of pork available! Guess I'd better hurry up and master the pork chop so I can move on to the next cut! 

 

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Recipe Review: Brined Pork Chop Recipe

brined pork chop recipe from thekitchndotcomYesterday I faced cooking up pork chops from our Berkshire pork for the first time. Seeing as how I've only cooked pork chops once in my life before, I was a little intimidated. Add to that my schedule, split between the farm chores, work, and hauling three horses to the trainer's, and I would say I was more than a little intimidated. Knowing I wouldn't get home until late and I'd want to cook dinner up quickly, I looked for a pork chop recipe that would help me make that happen. 

 

I stumbled across this brined pork chop recipe and I was definitely intrigued! Brine the pork chops while I'm busy doing other things? Cook them up in 15 minutes upon my return home? Works for me! Plus I liked the idea of brining because the only pork chops I've ever eaten were dry, and even though this Berkshire pork we raised ourselves, I was still scared that I would cook up yet more dry pork chops. 

 

I made the brine, just water and kosher salt, got the pork chops brining and went on about my day. When I got home that night, I followed the pork chop recipe to cook them. The result? Well, mixed reviews... 

 

On the one hand, brining the pork chops gave them a juicy, salty flavor, but too salty. I followed the recipe and rubbed each pork chop with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper, and only later after tasting them did I realize they did NOT need the additional salt. Maybe the saltiness would have been right if I hadn't done that. But if I follow this brined pork chop recipe again, I think I'll use less salt in the brine, maybe 2 tablespoons instead of 3, to be on the safe (less salty) side. 

 

The other thing that went wrong was my fault: You're supposed to put your frying pan in the oven to preheat. I only waited until the oven was preheated, not the pan, so my pan wasn't hot enough to start with. That meant I didn't get the sear, and it meant I had to bake the pork chops in the oven for much longer to cook them all the way through. I also had four pork chops and cooked three in the first batch and just one in the next batch. I should have done two and two, in retrospect, because I think the three chops were so crowded in the pan that they created more moisture. 

 

The recipe says to save the pan drippings for gravy, but the liquid in my pan was wwwaaaaayyy too salty for anything but getting poured down the drain. Maybe there's a way to press some of the brine out of the pork chops before searing? Lucky for me, I had made mashed potatoes earlier in the day, and taking a bite of potatoes with each bite of pork chop helped to tone down the salt. 

 

Overall, I was really happy with the technique offered by this brined pork chop recipe. But the salt factor needs some fixing, and I did learn less crowding means better cooking when it comes to our homegrown pork chops. :-) 

 

If you're in the Hancock County area of Indiana, and you want to try this recipe with some very high quality pork chops (like I used), definitely make your way to Tyner Pond Farm or their website to buy some pasture raised pork! Then try the recipe because I do like the brining, but maybe use a little less salt, make sure your pan is HOT, and don't crowd your chops. (Don't crowd your chops...I like the sound of that LOL!) :-)

                                                              

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Pork Chop vs. Pork Steak: What's the Difference? No, Really...What's the Difference?

pork chops picture from National Pork BoardYou'd think finding the answer to the question, "What's the difference between pork chops and pork steaks?" would be easy, wouldn't you? I did! Now that I have a lot of Berkshire pork in the freezer, I need to decipher what is what so I know how to cook it, but--just like my earlier experiences with figuring beef cuts--this is not cut and dry (pardon the partial pun). 

 

In my freezer, I currently have packages labeled pork chops, pork steaks and pork sirloin steaks. What the heck?? 

 

So I go to my trusty kitchen resource (a.k.a. Google) and even on the pork website, I can't find the difference. On the sites where people are describing differences, information is conflicting, like (and I am not kidding here) a pork steak is more dry, no it's more tender. A pork steak doesn't have bone, oh, wait, yes it does. A pork chop is from the side, no, from the back. And so on and so on. I have not been able to find one single explanation of the difference between a pork chop and a pork steak. Even the National Pork Board's website fails to list a pork steak among the cuts. They have a "blade steak," but that's it. 

 

I even went to Google images and typed in "pork steak" then looked at the pictures in the Raw category. When I did the same for "pork chop," I was given the same images! And those posters with all the cuts of meat and where they originate? I can't find any that show a pork steak.

 

So finally, I got smart and went to Tyner Pond Farm's website. There they describe a pork steak as: 

 

A steak comes from a roast cut that’s been sliced. Pork shoulder steaks are cut from the pork shoulder and contain the blade bone. Pork steaks are flavorful like roasts because they are rich in marbling, which keeps them tender during cooking. Pork steak is a popular, quick-cooking cut for grilling. 

 

You know what? That makes sense. I'm going with that. Don't know why I didn't go to Tyner Pond Farm to start with.... 

 

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When Slaughter Day Comes, Lord, Grant That I Am Always an Honorable Farmer

Every once in a while, I stumble across a gem on the Internet, a piece of writing or a video that connects me to others and grounds me. So it was with Katherine Dunn’s article in Modern Farmer, on what it feels like to butcher your animals.

 

I’m not sure I can express how much this article moved me. My eyes got teary while reading it, in part out of relief in discovering that I am not unusual as a newbie farmer who struggles with slaughter time.

 

Yet it also moved me because of the dignity and respect with which she talks about the animals. I have wanted to view the animals in the same way but thought it was un-farmer like to do so. Now I believe it is the way to be an honorable farmer.

 

We are still quite new to farming, and we are very new to raising animals for food. We’ve figured out how to raise chickens and turkeys for food. This year we tackled pigs. (Sometimes literally, when they were little 3-month-old piglets and they escaped time and again and I had to chase after them. Then I quite literally tackled pigs, and I will be forever grateful that no one was ever nearby videotaping the antics to put on YouTube.)

 

Anyway, we raised pigs this year, and two were slaughtered a couple of weeks ago. I’ll admit it: I didn’t want to be there when it happened, and I felt guilty about that. In fact, I scheduled my day so that I wouldn’t be, even though I felt I owed it to the animals to be there. As it turned out, the mobile slaughter guy was several hours late, so I was there. Yet, I stayed clear of that part of the farm and kept myself busy with horses rather than be part of the slaughter. That is something I regret, but I’m going to cut myself a little slack. I need to ease into this.

 

I know those two pigs had a good life (and the one we kept for breeding still does, as a very happy pig who gets three times the attention now!). We worked very hard to make sure the six months the pigs spent with us were healthy, active, enjoyable and natural. They flourished. They were healthy, grew like crazy, loved attention, enjoyed life.

 

One thing I’ve yet to see reasons away by the impassioned vegans and animal rights advocates is that these animals would not be alive in the first place if they weren’t being born to grow up to be food. We hope to get our pig pregnant this fall and have piglets in late winter. If they were not destined to be food, those pigs would never be born. They would never feel the warm sun on their backs, dig their noses into musty-smelling moist soil in search of earthworms, cuddle together for naps in the shade, or romp around as silly playmates. In short, they wouldn’t experience the joy of living.

 

If the animal rights activists really cared about the animals, they wouldn’t be campaigning for everyone to be vegans. They’d be campaigning for a nation full of farmers like Katherine Dunn. They wouldn’t be lambasting Katherine for her beautiful essay. They’d be taking down Tyson while supporting small farms like hers.

 

People are going to meat. Always have, always will. That won’t change. The only thing that has changed is how that meat is raised, and most of the meat consumed in this country is raised and slaughtered in an inhumane artificial way. The question to ask ourselves isn’t, “Should we eat meat?” The question to ask is, “What kind of meat should we eat?” Meat from animals raised humanely or cheaply? Because they are two different things, with very different consequences.

 

I went 24 years without eating meat. I could easily go another 24. But I live in a family of carnivores, and I’m the cook, and I want my family to only eat meat I can vouch for. So we raise our own and buy from people we know.

 

Like the author, I hope I always question it. I hope slaughter day always agitates me. Because the day it doesn’t is the day I stop being an honorable farmer.

 

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Recipe Review: Drip Beef Sandwiches--Combining the Best of Two Recipes!

drip beef sandwich from Pioneer Woman CooksUsing Pinterest for pinning family dinner ideas is great, except for sometimes Miss Picky Eater pins things and the picture looks wonderful, but when I go to look at the recipe, I'm not so sure. That happened with a drip beef sandwich that Miss Picky Eater pinned from The Pioneer Woman Cooks. The picture of the sandwich looked wonderful, but as soon as I looked at the recipe, I knew it would need tweaking to fit my schedule and my cravings. 

 

If you go to the recipe, you'll see it's called Drip Beef, Two Ways. Well, what worked for me was adding way 1 to way 2 to make a way yummy dinner! I wanted the flavor of the first version minus the pepperoncinis because there's no way Miss Picky Eater would eat those! Plus I wanted the dipping sauce. But I also wanted to make this in the crock pot because I needed a midweek-at-work-all-day meal, so cooking it on the stove or in the oven wouldn't work. And finally, I wanted it to taste like a French dip sandwich because the cold rainy weather we are having is making me crave certain foods.

 

How's that for a list of criteria?? It probably sounds like I should have simply found a different recipe, but I liked that these called for chuck roast. And the recipes were easily combined! Below is what I did, and it was a hit! The family gobbled it up, and what was left made up lunches for today.

 

Drip Beef Sandwiches MY Way

  • Lard of other grease
  • 1 medium onion, sliced thick
  • 2 cloves garlic peeled
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 3-lb boneless chuck roast (of the grass fed beef variety, of course!)
  • 2 c dry sherry
  • 1/2 c soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 c beef broth
  • 1 t dried oregano
  • 1/2 t dried rosemary
  • black pepper
  • deli rolls
  • provolone or jack cheese
     

Grease your slow cooker with your lard or other fat. Put the sliced onions, garlic and bay leaves in the bottom. Put the chuck roast on top. Mix together the sherry, soy sauce, beef broth, herbs and a few dashes of pepper. Pour this over the chuck roast. It should almost cover or just cover. Cook on low for 8 hours. Go to work or have fun or whatever. Forget about dinner for a while.

 

When the 8 hours are up, pull the chuck roast out of the crock pot and put it into a shallow casserole dish. Use two forks to pull it apart, shredding it into a lot of little pieces. The kids can do this if you want. I made Miss Picky Eater do it because she was tired after swimming but could do this job sitting down. Meanwhile, slice open the deli rolls and toast the cut sides under the broiler. Thinly slice the cheese. Pull the rolls from the oven, put the cheese slices on ONE half of each roll and put the other half of each roll aside for now, then put the cheese-topped halves back under the broiler until the cheese is melted. Put some of the beef on each bun half and top with the other bun half. You've got sandwiches!

 

Next, strain the liquid that's left in the crock pot. Discard the onion, etc., and keep the strained liquid for your dipping sauce. 

 

To serve, slice each sandwich in half and put some of the dipping sauce into a small bowl for dipping the sandwich in. Tasted like a French dip sandwich to me!! 

 

If you're like me and the fall weather where you live is making you want some warm and meaty comfort food, definitely give this recipe a try, whichever version you choose. It made for a filling and delicious dinner with very little effort!

 

P.S. I tried taking photos but the batteries in the regular camera ran out and my phone takes horrible photos because it has been dropped so many times. So this photo is from the original recipe at The Pioneer Woman Cooks, and you'll probably want to start there anyway, if you decide to make this recipe, to see if way 1 or way 2 sounds better to you than my way. :-) 

 

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Why Tyner Pond Meat Tastes Better




As our business has grown over the past year, a lot of new customers are really amazed at the difference in Tyner Pond Farm meat and what they are used to.   

I think there are three things that makes our product unique:

 

  1. The first is their diet.   They eat forage.  Our animals all live on pasture. Tyner Pond Farm pastures are a lush carefully managed mix of native grasses that are carefully managed for the maximum brix and nutrition.  We never cut hay from our pastures and we have invested a lot in replanting trees.  Trees play an important role in providing soil microbial life and mineral dispersion.   That variety is the main driver in both taste and texture.  
     
  2. Management.   We don't just toss the animals out on the field and hope for the best.  Every day of their life is carefully managed.   We practice what is called Management Intensive Grazing (MIG).  We carefully control our animals on the pasture so that they are in the right place at the right time.   Cattle only eat the top third of the grass before they move.  This means they are often moving to new paddocks two or three times a day.   Then we give the ground time to recover...usually about 30 days before the animal is back.   Pigs and Chickens are moved every three days or so and are not returned to the same spot for a year or more.   

    MIG is pasturing the way nature intended.   Think back 10,000 years ago when huge herds of Ruminants roamed Indiana.  They traveled in large tightly mobbed groups our of fear of predation.   Predators kept them bunched for defense and (along with seasons) kept them moving.   The mobs trampled what they didn't eat which put carbon into the earth.  Carbon mixed with the animals manure (nitrogen) builds soil and microbial life.  Making better pasture makes better meat.  

     
  3. Genetics.  Our animals are different.  They are mostly heritage breeds or specific genetics designed to prosper in our environment.  They are bred for flavor, marbling and their ability to process forage efficiently.   Not all cows can prosper on grass anymore.  Those genetics have been bred out in favor of the ability to withstand massive drug infusions and eating foods they were never designed to eat.   Factory Pigs and Cattle would die out here.  Not their fault...but sad nonetheless.  

 

This isn't an accident.  It's a careful multi-year strategy coupled with intelligent management.   If you would like to see it in action, we encourage you to come out to the farm or watch the video above.  

If you like what you see, we encourage you to try our online meat ordering!

 

buy meat online

 

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Why Pasture-Raised?

As I read, and re-read, and re-read my last three posts, because I am obsessive like that, I realized there was a big piece of information missing. WHY pasture-raised? Why is Tyner Pond Farm so unequivocally dedicated to raising pastured animals, and HUSK to non-GMO produce? Sure, it’s one thing to share time-saving ideas in the kitchen or relish in the relaxing moments to come, but the “why” factor was just staring me in the face, point blank, saying: SHOUT THIS FROM THE ROOFTOPS! But experience can attest that often evangelizing is not the best approach. It turns people off, almost accelerates the speed by which this occurs.  


So I’m not going to shout, but on the inside, I might be doing just that, because yes folks, I feel THAT strongly about consuming properly raised animals… for a plethora of reasons. From the many health benefits they offer me and my family to the positive impact sustainable farming has on our environment, there are countless reasons to embrace the vital importance of pasture-raised animals.

 

For years, I was turned off by the organic food movement. This was based mostly on my perception that it eschewed privilege and a cost-factor that I was just not going to support. After all, if the vast majority of foods that line our grocery store aisles are available for consumption, with FDA approved labels to boot, doesn’t that mean they are safe to consume? I thought so. I trusted the government. Why would the governing body of the United States feed its citizens toxic food? Well, it turns out both money and power have a lot to do with it. With the ability to fund the “right” studies to back up such notions that a carbohydrate based diet (full of refined grains & sugars) is the best kind; that saturated fat leads to heart disease and causes obesity; that the additives and dyes in packaged foods are “safe”; that pesticides used on non-organic produce are harmless; and more, the government, in fact, continues to SHOUT FROM THE ROOFTOPS that these foods are not only healthy, but also cause no long-term harm.

 

Let’s step back and look at the long-term data of the serious decline in our nation’s health over fifty years. Heck you don’t even need to see the data! Just look at your family, friends, and neighbors and consider the rate of disease majorly impacting the quality of life of some of these people, and more so, their lifespan. For the first time in 200 years, the current generation is expected to have a shorter lifespan than their parents. This is outrageous! WE MUST begin to question the validity of all of the “food safety” notions espoused by the FDA. One way you can do this is to buy local, organic, and pasture-raised foods when possible; it is a powerful way to stake your claim.  (Of course, pharmaceutical and chemical industries play a detrimental role in the health of our citizens as well, but that’s not what this post is about.) 

Through a series of personal experiences – which I believe is often the most powerful catalyst for a food transformation; where a disbeliever can become truly awakened – my family and I began to see the truth from within. And it was astounding. First and foremost, the nutritional value of locally grown, pesticide-free produce and sustainably raised, pastured animals is far superior to most of what we find in the grocery. Second, and perhaps more importantly, the body doesn’t have to work nearly as hard to process and rid itself of the countless chemicals, toxins, antibiotics, and pesticides found in conventional foods. In the end, it’s simple math: our bodies acquire greater amounts of vitamins and minerals PLUS they don’t spend as much time filtering all the bad stuff, and thus are better prepared to combat the average cold or infection, as well as more serious afflictions that our bodies may encounter daily, from bad bacteria and nasty viruses to even cancer.

 

So, my number one reason for eating and supporting the local food movement? Health! The health of my unborn baby, my family, my friends, my community. There are also many important, powerful, pleasing, and feel-good reasons for supporting it: better for the environment, reduces soil erosion, lowers the carbon footprint of food travel, supports the local economy and small family farms, my money stays in my community rather than funneling into the deep pockets of Tyson or Driscoll, supports the humane treatment of animals, and I am staking my claim by voting with my dollar.

 

Will you?

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Taste Expectations: The Problem with "Real" Food

kaleI had an interesting problem the other night: I cooked up kale fresh from the garden, braised it with garlic like I usually do, and Miss Picky Eater who usually really likes that side dish wouldn't eat it because it tasted like spinach. Why did it taste like spinach? Because it was tender young kale fresh from our garden, a garden that is new to our farmhouse meaning the kale was new to the table. It was the texture that was like spinach, it turned out, because the kale was so young and tender.

 

On the one hand, I find this funny, that a leafy green vegetable could be TOO tender to be good. But on the other hand, it illustrates what I call "taste expectations," meaning, how we expect things to taste vs. how they really do taste. This is an issue because we have lived so many decades with an industrial food system that we might not always appreciate the taste of food local in origin and in season. In short, we might not always appreciate the taste of real food, nor will we appreciate variations in the tastes of foods. We have become too used to it all tasting the same. 

 

Beyond the kale story, I can give you four other examples of these "taste expectations" straight from my own kitchen:

 

1) Local milk: I am lucky in that I can buy a lot of food local and in season. Even though I live in a small town in a rural area, the foods are available to me, including local milk. But Miss Picky Eater won't drink the local milk because a) it's always whole and b) it tastes weird (and that taste varies). OK, it doesn't taste weird. It tastes real. But it has a taste because it is the milk of only one or a few cows and the taste depends on the time of year and what they're eating. Storebought milk is the milk of thousands of cows all mixed together (and homogenized). All the local milk I find is whole, which I prefer, so I can't do anything about not having 2% around. But as far as how it tastes, my daughter is sadly lacking in knowledge of what real milk tastes like, so it tastes "wrong". :-( 

 

2) Grass fed beef: Grass fed beef tastes different from grain fed, and grass fed is what you're most likely to find if it's food local you're looking for. Plus grass fed beef tastes like real beef because it was only recently that we started feeding corn and soy to cattle. Like the taste of the milk, the "real" taste of beef is that of grass fed beef. But as with the milk, the flavor of the grass fed beef differs depending on how the animal was raised and what it was fed (like what kind of grass and grass vs. hay, etc.). That's why you'll sometimes hear people say they don't like grass fed beef, because it didn't meet their taste expectations, being used to storebought, grain fed, all-tastes-the-same beef. 

 

3) Canning catsup and pickle relish: I think I've given up canning catsup and pickle relish because they can't meet the "taste expectations" people have developed by eating storebought. I'm not going to put guar gum in the relish, so it won't have the thickness people are used to. And no matter how many hours upon hours I simmer that catsup, I can't get it thick like storebought...which is also probably due to some thickeners I don't want to use. (I did figure out the catsup made for fabulous sloppy joes! But I haven't decided if it's worth all that effort to make the catsup just for that purpose!) My family grew up eating storebought condiments, and that is what meets their taste expectations, no matter how much healthier the home-made versions might be.

 

So what can we do about taste expectations, and will they keep us from eating local foods, aka real food?

 

What we can do is educate ourselves and others. The farmers at my local farmers market who sell chickens ran out of the Cornish Crosses they were selling so they started selling red broiler chickens instead. These chickens are a bit more normal. They lack the massive breast (aka white meat) of the Cornish Cross. The farmers were smart: They had photos of each kind roasted and just out of the oven so they could explain the differences between the kinds of chicken. This was a great way to counteract the "taste expectations" problem rather than risk customers coming back and complaining about a lack of white meat or a "strong" flavor (because the red broilers have much more flavor). 

 

We can also expose ourselves to new foods on a regular basis. I write this on a Tuesday and Tuesdays are farmers market day in my town. As I strolled through the market today, I wanted to buy so many different vegetables! It's October and everything is bountiful and beautiful! But I have to limit my shopping to what I know I can use. Still, if there's that much choice among the "normal" vegetables, meats and cheeses at my little town's farmers market, imagine how many local foods there are that I haven't ever tasted?? 

 

I am constantly saying we have to cook in order to have local food systems, because we do. Local foods usually don't come as the processed foods or takeout that so many Americans rely on as "food." So it's only by being willing to get back in the kitchen and cook that we are going to support our local meat suppliers and farmers and cheesemakers, to get and KEEP them in business, ensuring long-term food security for us all. But maybe part of this local food movement has to be moving beyond our "taste expectations" too, to be willing to except that local milk won't taste like storebought, that grass fed beef differs from grain fed, and that kohlrabi might look weird but we need to give it a chance? 

 

We need to learn to love the taste of real food. :-) 

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Recipe Review: Crockpot Sweet Potato Chicken Chili...With Grass Fed Grass Finished Beef

OK, first off I have to confess that I did not use chicken when making this recipe. Yes, I know the recipe is for CHICKEN chili, and I fully intended to make it as such. But when Saturday rolled around and I wanted to make dinner in the crockpot so I could spend the day doing chores (and other things, but more on that later), I also wanted to try some grass fed grass finished beef I had bought earlier in the week. 

 

Although our local farmers market only has a few weeks left in the season, last week brought a new vendor to the market, a farmer selling grass fed grass finished beef, pork and lamb. I try to support local farmers as much as I can at the market, but grass fed beef is a little different and flavor can vary (unlike the grain fed beef in the supermarket that all tastes the same), so I only bought a pound of hamburger, just to try it. When Saturday rolled around and it was a crockpot cooking day, I opted to use the grass fed beef rather than the chicken called for in the recipe in order to try it out. 

 

And the reason for trying this particular chili was the inclusion of sweet potatoes. Since Miss Picky Eater decided a few months ago that yes she does in fact like sweet potatoes (ever since I started making sweet potato chips), I have been using them whenever I can, and now that fall is here and we are transitioning back to eating soups, stews and slow cooker meals, it's time to bring on the sweet potatoes once again. 

 

Crockpot Sweet Potato Chili by Aris MenuBut...I still don't get the difference between sweet potatoes and yams, at that came into play when making this recipe

 

As you can see in the photo from the blog where I found the Crockpot Sweet Potato Chicken Chili recipe, those sweet potatoes look very orange. Hmmmm, thought I, I think they are yams. So that's what I used. That means the sweet potato chicken chili turned into yam and grass fed grass finished beef chili. It was still tasty and I was really happy with the beef, it being a trial run, but if I make this again with either beef or chicken, I'm going to try sweet potatoes instead. The yams simply had no flavor. I thought they would add a sweetness to the recipe, but they didn't. They didn't even pick up the flavor of the chili at all. We really liked the texture they added, however! Sweet potatoes will add the same texture, but a bit of sweet too I hope.  

 

If you decide to give this recipe a try, here are my notes: Skip microwaving the sweet potato for 2 minutes. It didn't make it tender at all, and it made the yam so hot, I could barely handle it to get the skin off and start cutting it up. If you're worried about the sweet potato/yam not getting tender, simply cut it into smaller chunks. Because I used beef, I browned it first, and then I browned the onion too, rather than put it in the crockpot raw. I think it helps the flavor, but if I were in a hurry, I'd put the onion in raw. I added 1 T sugar, because I thought we were getting something a little sweet with the yams, and because I used home-canned tomatoes that have lemon juice added (to make them safe to can), and the sugar counteracts that. I only used 1/2 t cumin because we're not big cumin lovers at our house, and I didn't have the fancy chipotle peppers called for so I minced half a jalapeno and used that. I also left out the bell pepper because Miss Picky Eater is, well, picky!! The recipe says cook on low for 6 hours but that's not a setting on my slow cooker, so I did 8 hours and I think that helped to make sure the yam was tender. 

 

I had mine with sour cream and I really liked it. It's not a revolutionary recipe, meaning it's a pretty basic chili recipe, but I really liked adding the sweet potato aka yam because of the texture and even the visual appeal. Chili is something I could make over and over again because I love anything that cooks all day while I'm working, so having a few chili recipes to choose from appeals to me. 

 

And speaking of work, here's my confession: On Saturday, I spent a lot of the day getting stuff done around our farm, but I also did stuff like make the harvest decoration you see in the photo above. It's in front of the barn and the only ones who will see it are our family and the chickens and dog, but I had a lot of fun making it. We grew about 30 pumpkins in the garden this year, so I've been finding places to put them all around. This isn't the only display I made on Saturday! :-) 

 

And at the end of the day, when all was said and done, this crockpot chili with grass fed grass finished beef was the perfect meal to sit down too. 

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Recipe Review: Italian Sausage, Potato and Kale Soup

Italian sausage kale and potato soup from the candidappetitedotcomOK, this Italian sausage, kale and potato soup was hands down a winner, and it's a wonderful way to use Italian sausage so the sausage doesn't dominate but definitely shines. And you get the added benefit of getting the recipe from a food photographer, meaning the photos that accompany the recipe are enough to make your mouth water and your eyes delight! 

 

I made this soup yesterday early in the day before a swim meet, so dinner would be ready when we got home. Soup is also a good option for us when the Hubby is working swings because it's easy for him to heat up and eat when he gets home late at night. 

 

This Italian sausage, kale and potato soup was a hit both with Miss Picky Eater after her meet and the Hubby after his shift. In fact, the Hubby crawled into bed  raving about the soup, and then some of the first words out of his mouth this morning were, "That soup was amazing!" 

 

All that satisfaction and praise for very little effort. :-) 

 

This is one of those soups that shines because it uses fresh, local food, however. The ingredients and the preparation are simple, so the quality of the ingredients must be high. Lucky for us, kale is at its peak right now, and we have bunches of it (literally) in the garden. The Italian sausage I used was pork, and if you live around Greenfield, Indiana, you know you can get amazing locally produced pork sausage from Tyner Pond Farm

 

I have only a few comments on the recipe: I used home-made chicken stock (because we had a roasted pastured chicken for dinner on Sunday) and I prefer it to storebought which is too strongly flavored, and I added dumplings rather than serve it with bread. The weather in our area turned NASTY this week (someone joked we skipped fall and went straight to winter, and that is how it feels, just nasty and depressing), so dumplings sounded really, really good. They are just comfort food and easy to make (see the dumpling recipe here). I added the dumplings when the potatoes were just about tender, and put the lid on to let them cook. Then I added the cream at the very last second because it didn't need to cook at all, and might have curdled if it had. One note on the cream: I used twice as much as it called for, because really creamy sounded really good...which was also probably because of this horrible wet windy weather we're dealing with. 

 

I think my family would give this recipe 5 stars, and I am printing it out to make again, which doesn't happen very often. 

 

To give it a try, buy some Italian sausage from your local farmer, get some potatoes and kale at your farmers market (and onions and garlic too, to make it more local), and cook away! The dumplings are optional, but a very nice addition. 

 

And remember, if you're in the Hancock County area of Indiana, the place to buy your Italian sausage is Tyner Pond Farm

                                                                  

 

 

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Recipe Review: 5 Ingredient Pesto Chicken Soup (With Best Free Range Chicken)

5 ingredient pesto chicken soup from gimmesomeovendotcomYou know what? I suck at poker. I can try to tell a lie or fake someone out, but I fail every time. And I am the worst at insincere flattery. So I will be honest with you on this pesto chicken soup recipe rather than try to beat around the bush: I did not like it. But the weird thing is, the family did! They are usually the picky ones, where I will eat whatever I cook. But with this chicken soup, they were asking me to be sure to make it again another day while I was unwilling to even finish what was in my bowl. 

 

I don't know why the disconnect, with them liking and me not. But I will say this soup is super (souper?) easy to make, and if my picky eaters liked it, yours probably will too. The recipe's creator insists the quality of the pesto makes or breaks the soup, and I have to agree. I had some homemade pesto in the freezer, but if you have to use storebought, be reeeeeeaaalllly picky about the quality, and maybe try to buy fresh pesto, not the kind in the jar that is so oily and tastes so off. 

 

And as usual, with so few ingredients (five!), this is one of those recipes where the quality of the ingredients simply has to be high. That's why I'm calling for the best free range chicken you can find to use in this recipe, as well as quality stock and pesto too. (The canned beans are canned beans,  what can I say??) If you've got top quality ingredients, you can whip this 5 ingredient pesto chicken soup in no time, really. But do serve it with plenty of parmesan cheese, and the bread is a good idea too, because if your chicken stock is tasty, your family will want to dip their bread in it. 

 

I think I would have liked it better if I'd had some leftover cooked chicken, which is what the recipe calls for. But I didn't, because the last free range chicken I roasted left me with only a little bit of chicken meat, and not enough for this recipe. Since this was a Pinterest board recipe, and Miss Picky Eater had asked for it to be on the menu for the week, I found myself cooking up a chicken breast just so I could make this recipe. Since dark meat has more flavor, I think using leftover chicken meat the next time will make it taste better...to me at least, since the family already loves it. 

 

For a great use for leftover chicken (assuming you've sought out the best free range chicken to start with) and supper in a hurry, I'd recommend this soup. For something to impress your in-laws, however, I'd choose something else, like maybe this kale, sweet potato and chickpea stew that my family gobbled up two nights ago. Yum! :-)

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Why I Want the Food Photographers to Stop Blogging!

OK, I get that you are showing off your work, and yes, your food photos are beautiful, really stunning, but you are getting in the way of what I want: the recipe! 

 

I'm starting to think bloggers have gone a bit overboard with the numbers of photos in their recipe posts. Sometimes when I find a recipe online that interests me, I have to scroll so far down the page that I start to wonder if there's even a recipe or if a post is really just dozens of photos (I'm not kidding here) of the preparation of a dish and the finished product shot from so many different angles, you'd think it was someone's first-born child. Don't get me wrong! I love beautiful photos of food as much as the next person! It's the quantity that is getting on my nerves, not the quality. 

 

On the one hand, these photographers are doing the local food movement a favor by inspiring people to cook with their lovely photos--or at least I hope that's the case. But on the other, all those photos can be intimidating too. Since the only way we can gain momentum for the local food movement is by getting more people to cook more often, I love that the Internet offers to many recipes. But if a newbie cook comes across a post with so many photos of even the minutest steps of the recipe, don't you think that might be just a wee bit off putting? 

 

Take this recipe post, for example. By the author's own admission, it comes in shorter than his other posts because it only has a "mere 40 something" images. I made this soup and blogged on it, because it was tasty, and it was easy. But it was a hassle trying to scroll down and down...and down...to find the recipe. Although it had a "print this" option, I usually make new recipes found online from my laptop first, and only print them out if I like them and want to make them again. So for me, scrolling scrolling scrolling was the name of the game. And even if I had wanted to print it out from the start, I still would have had to do all that scrolling to get to the "print this" button! 

 

The photos in this post are all gorgeous, every single one! No, really, they are drop dead gorgeous. But the post ends up being a portfolio for the photographer, not a recipe for the cook. 

 

Here's a thought for all of you food photographers out there who are filling up your recipe posts with photos: Can you put the recipe near the top of the page? Maybe a picture of the finished product to entice us (and be pinned), followed by the recipe, and only THEN include your dozens of gorgeous images that are really there to impress potential clients, not to teach me how to cook your dish in painstakingly minute detail. 

 

But maybe that's the problem: My goal is to get people to cook. The food photographer's goal is to get noticed. My goal puts the recipe front and center. The food photographer's goal is to highlight the photos. But there must be a compromise, right? 

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