I love using inexpensive cuts of beef. One of the best ways to keep the meat bill down is to use cheap, less popular cuts and organ meats. Like heart.
We don’t actually sell our beef hearts, because heart is Gabriel’s favorite part. He sells the choice steaks and eats the heart. Is that backward, or what? But really, heart is a muscle, just like other meat, it’s not funny tasting like liver, so it’s not a big leap from using beef roast, to beef heart in recipes.
Having kept the hearts from several cows last year, I was able to do some experimenting and find our favorite ways to cook it.
Not surprisingly, this slow cooker recipe took the top spot. I love being able to throw ingredients into a pot, and let it babysit itself until I’m ready to serve it for dinner.
Hearts tend to have quite a bit of fat on them, which you can save and render into homemade tallow. I usually freeze the fat, and save it until I’m ready to render a larger batch of tallow.
This dish is perfect served over a bed of rice, to soak up the juices from cooking in the crockpot. We like to serve with a side of salad, or steamed broccoli.
Slow Cooker Beef Heart
1 beef heart (approximately 1 pound)
1/4 t. pepper
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. dried oregano
1/2 an onion, sliced
Prepare beef heart by trimming fat, and dicing into one inch cubes. How much time you want to take to devein is up to you. I find that once the meat is cooked, the veins are pretty much indistingushable, so I don’t like waste much time on this part.
Toss into slow cooker, and sprinkle with pepper, salt, garlic powder, and oregano. Stir to coat beef cubes.
Top with slices onions.
Cook on high for 4-6 hours.
Serve over steamed rice, or quinoa, or for a more low carb dish, riced cauliflower.
Summer’s here, and you know what that means - hot, hot weather!
For those of us with little to no wiggle room in our budget, or maybe who are trying to create a little cushion, running the a/c is a real killer. My husband and I try to hold off running the everlasting money pit for as long as we can, and then only run a window air conditioner conditioner in one room of our house after that.
Call us extremists, but it saves us hundreds of dollars every year.
Heat tolerances varies from person to person, and there’s no shame in needing to keep cool, but for all of us, there’s at least something of a grey area, and with these tips, I hope you can expand that area a bit and save a bunch of money on your electric bill this summer.
Open your windows a night to let the cool air in.
Shut them in the morning to keep the warm air out.
Open windows on the shady side of your house.
Close windows on the sunny side to keep hot breezes out. Or…
Use a fan to push air out the sunny side, and suck cool air in from the shady side. These sunny/shady sides are likely to change depending on the time of day, so pay attention!
Hang dark curtains on the sunny side of the house
Wear light clothing
Wear a skirt. I’ve noticed a huge difference in how much cooler I feel in a skirt - much more airflow. Sorry guys that skirts aren’t socially acceptable for men. (if you’re a guy and want to try his one, feel free to call it a kilt )
Take a cool shower before bed - you’ll sleep so much better, trust me!
Wash your face frequently. If you get to doing some serious sweating, your face can really get to dealing grimy and icky.
In The Kitchen
Don’t use your oven. Or if you must use it, do it in the evening, so that your house has a chance to cool off during the night.
Eat cold meals. Grilled chicken salad is a favorite for us. In fact, I’ve been keeping several meals worth of this simple chicken recipe in my refrigerator, and using it in salad nearly every night. Sandwiches or tortillas wraps are other good options.
Eat outside. Seriously. set up a picnic under a big shade tree, your kids will love it! Especially in the evening, when there’s usually a breeze, this is a great way to cool off and relax.
Yesterday, I shared my simple chicken recipe with y’all, and gave a few of our favorite ways to use it, but today, I wanted to go a little further with a longer list of recipes that work excellently with this make ahead chicken dish to save loads of time on meal prep.
Aaaand, those are all that I’ve done so far. I’m sure that there are many more, but as you can see, there are lots of ways to use this simple diced chicken recipe to pull together a home cooked meal in record time.
This recipe is so simple, I almost feel silly posting it. but the fact is, it’s been a phenomenal time saver for me.
I’ve become slightly obsessed with weekly food prep where you prepare a bunch of components for meals several days (or a week) ahead of time, and store them in the fridge. Have you ever tried it? It’s a genius way to save time in the kitchen, and this simple chicken recipe is one of the very best, most versatile components you can make. It’s a great way to turn a salad into a full meal (which I’ll address below), or to throw over fettucinni with white bean alfredo sauce.
Here’s what you do:
Simple Chicken Recipe
Chicken breasts. Boneless, skinless preferred
Dice chicken into small pieces. I like mine about 1/2 an inch square.
Season with salt and pepper.
Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet or wok over medium heat.
Stir-fry chicken until done.
Store in a container, or containers in the refrigerator until ready to use.
This pre-cooked chicken is perfect for most chicken casseroles, or for chicken lasagna, pizza, or spaghetti, but my very favorite use is for chicken salad.
I like to put one half cup of chicken, and two boiled and peeled eggs, and a quarter cup of shredded cheese into a zip-loc bag. That way for a quick dinner, I can just pile some salad greens on a plate, dump a chicken/egg baggie on top, add some dressing and voila! Instant dinner! We do this several times a week this time of year when we have salad greens galore coming out of our garden.
Enjoy! And let me know your thoughts. What would you make with this simple chicken recipe? (I can always use new recipes for my arsenal!)
I’m a strong advocate of the family dairy animal. Milk cows are great of course, but let’s be honest, cows are a huge undertaking. A goat isn’t as big of a leap, because they’re not any bigger than a large dog. Or you could get a nigerian dwarf, and they’re not any bigger than a small dog.
Anyway… I like the idea of all of us going back to the land a little bit, and being more self sufficient.
I like the idea of families drinking milk that’s really, truly healthy - not that commercial, sterilized stuff you see on shelves.
I like the idea of kids growing up knowing where their food comes from, and understanding responsibility.
But what do you need to get started with dairy goats? And yes, it’s goats. They’re like potato chips - you can’t have just one.
The short answer? Dedication, a sense of humor, tough forearms, and a little bit of work.
Now for the long answer:
Research. What kind of goat do you need? Nubians are really popular for their rich milk and heat tolerance, but if you live in a more heavily populated area, you’re neighbors might not be so thrilled with their noisiness. Alpines are nice and quiet, but don’t tolerate the heat as well. Everything’s a trade off. Do your research, and decide what works best for you, and your unique environment. Natural Goat Care by Pat Coleby is full of information on breeds, and what to look for in a dairy goat from nose to udder, to tail.
Room. I honestly don’t know the smallest area you can keep a goat in, but they do need room for exercise, even if their pen can’t provide all of their foraging needs. When we got Sage, she had been kept on a dry lot, and all of her feed came in the form of hay and concentrates. It’s not ideal, and certainly not as cost effective, but it is doable.
Shelter. Goats don’t like being out in yucky weather any more than we do. They need a roof, to get out of the rain, and a wind break - especially during the winter. Since we rotate through different paddocks, and need something mobile we often bed down our stock trailer and use it for our goats’ shelter. If you only have a few goats, something as small as a large dog house could work.
Water. This one kind of goes without saying, right? Goats need clean water, just like everybody else. Except my pig, Apparently she likes her water dirty, but that’s another story altogether. Point is, make sure your goats always have clean water on hand. For a while, I was taking water out to my goats in buckets two or three times a day, and that was a real pain. Now they have a cut off barrel out there, and boy is my chore load a lot easier!
Fencing. Good fencing is essential to having goats. Good fencing doesn’t have to mean expensive fencing though. Our goats are currently in a two-strand electic fence. As long as the fence charger is on, they stay in. If the fence charger is off, well, it depends on how hungry or bored they are.
Feed. If you’re milking an animal - goat, cow, sheep, llama, camel - any animal, you’re going to have to feed it some sort of concentrated feed. It simply cannot get enough nutrition to keep up good body condition and produce milk without some help. Is it natural? Heck no, It’s not natural to produce that much milk! These animals have been selectively bred for many generations, and as a result, they have a higher nutritional need than their non-dairy cousins. Depending on your forage, you may need to supplement with alfalfa, and/or oats, and/or black oil sunflower seeds (BOSS), and/or barley and/or ad infinitum.
Minerals. Goats in general have high mineral requirements, and dairy goats even more so. Unlike sheep and cows, goats are browsers. They like to eat the leaves, twigs, and bark from trees which have deeper roots than grasses, and pull minerals up from further down in the soil. So, if you’re goats have good browse available, they may not need as many minerals, but you still need to put them out there for them. The good news is, you can feed minerals free choice, and the goats will only take what they need. All of these things by the way, fencing, feed, and minerals, can be found at pretty much any farm/feed store.
Milk Pail. Preferably stainless steel. Plastic and other substances are really hard to keep sterile. Why is sterility important? All those fun little germs can really give your milk an ugly flavor after a while. Are they harmful? Well, they can be. I’ve never known anybody who got sick from drinking raw milk, but it can happen. Besides, you want milk that tastes good, so get a good bucket. A four to six quart pail is usually a really good size for a goat, because eight quart or larger is a little too tall to fit underneath them comfortably when you milk.
Filter. This can be anything from butter muslin, to a coffee filter, to pantyhose (yes, seriously - a country boy will survive), to an official made-specifically-for-straining-milk filter. Personally, I use thin, nylon material which has been cut into one foot square pieces, and wash them after each milking.
Jars. Half gallon jars are really handy for goat milk. Right now, our goats are each giving half a gallon at a milking so, you know, it just makes sense. . We also like gallon jars. Sometimes you can get them empty from restaurants, or you could always buy a couple gallons of pickles from the bulk section at Walmart, and have a pickle party.
Milking stand. I put this one last because you don’t have to have it. It’s nice, that’s for sure. I find goats too low to comfortably sit on a bucket or stool while milking, and squatting eventually starts to put a strain on my lower back. Plus, goats seem to get a little snarky about standing still if they’re on the ground where they can step away from you as you milk. Gabriel built our milk stand. It’s very simple, and as long as you’re not milking a crazy-wild goat (you’re not, are you?) who needs her head locked into a stanchion, simple is all you really need.
Consitency. I guess the milk stand isn’t going to be last after all. Animals need constancy. Especially dairy animals. You can’t decide to sleep in an extra hour when you have a goat outside needing to be milked. It’s just rude, for one thing, and it causes your milk production to decrease. Not to mention, if you have a goat who’s producing heavily, it can lead to all kinds of problems, like mastitis, and damaged udders.
Maybe all this stuff seems a little overwhelming at first, and you may have to write everything down for a while just to keep track of what you need to do, and when, but before you know it, taking care of your goats will be second nature, just like washing dishes, or folding laundry, and you’ll be branching out into things like feeding baking soda, putting apple cider vinegar in their water at breeding time (some folks believe it causes them to conceive doelings), and stocking cheese and yogurt making supplies.
Having a milk goat will go a long way toward self sufficiency, your family’s health, cutting your grocery bill, and teaching your kids responsibility, and I highly recommend it!
You’re turn to chime in! What would you add (or subtract) to my list? Is there anything that you feel needs clarification?
I’ve always been hesitant to delve into the topic of how to can, but since canning has always played such a significant roll in how we store our food, I think it’s time to change that. It also happens to fit quite nicely with the whole theme of this website - being a Frugal Farm Wife.
But the thing is, I’m not exactly a Ball Blue Book adherant. See, I grew up for the most part, in an Amish-ish community. Everybody canned, nobody used the Blue Book (or any other book). There was nothing scientific about it. It was just something you did, like cooking dinner. That’s why I’ve been hesitant to address canning.
You’re not supposed to deviate from tested and true recipes, and what would happen if I put a recipe out there, and someone used it and it went bad? Now of course, I hope that people would use common sense when they open their food, taking appropriate safety measures before consuming it. But sadly, common sense doesn’t seem to be all that common. More to the point, since we modern folks tend to buy food that almost never goes bad (when’s the last time you opened a can of commercial tomatoes that was moldy?), we don’t think about it. Detecting bad food isn’t second nature to us anymore.
We can pumpkin (you’re not suppose to), we can meat without a pressure canner (you’re not supposed to do that either), We can marinara sauce (you guessed it, that’s taboo too), and soup, and gravy, and pie filing - all with homemade recipes. Not only that, I can’t name a single person who pressure canned anything for 90 minutes. 30 minutes, 45 even for some things, but 90 minutes? No. Never. We don’t necessarily sterilize our jars. Wash them, yes - although not necessarily right before we put food in them. It just depends on what we’re canning.
An open can of butternut squash with cinnamon - fantastic baby food!
See what I’m saying? I guess you could say we’re a bunch of canning renegades.
So maybe this can serve as a little disclaimer for future canning recipes that may appear on this site.
Nothing was tested, not even the ph of my tomato sauce. This is just the way I do things.
I can’t gaurantee that your food won’t go bad, but in reality, no recipe can gaurantee that. Use these methods and recipes at your own risk. Read up on canning safety, educate yourself, and use your common sense to decide what you should or shouldn’t do.
Always smell the food before dumping it out of the jar, and in foods that have the potential to grow botulism, always simmer them for at least ten minutes before you even taste it.
So now that that’s out of the way, here we go.
What do you need to can food? Well, if you plan to can vegetables or meats, you really need to have apressure canner. Above I referenced canning meat without a canner. That’s because there are Amish folks out there who are so conservative, they won’t own even a pressure canner, so they water bath can everything, Even meat. I don’t reccomend it. It takes forever, and is a tremendous waste of energy. It’s also much safer to use a pressure canner. I have a Presto canner - it’s cheap, but I haven’t had any problems with it. Mirro canners are also quite good. For a pretty penny (or you know, a few thousand), you can get a metal to metal canner to eleminate the problem of having the occasional bad gasket. Yes, they’re aluminum, but the food isn’t coming into contact with the canner itself.
The most handy size in my opion is a 21 quart capacity which should hold 7 quart, or nine pint jars. This size is large enough that you feel like you’re not wasting a lot of heating energy on just a little food, but not so large that it gets too heavy to move around when full if you need to.
Water bath canner. Essentially, this is a stock pot large enough to hold either quart or pint jars, with at least an inch of water over the top. You’ll also need a rack of some sort to keep the jars off of bottom of the pot. I use the rack from my pressure canner, in a pinch, I’ve seen people use a folded towel. Water bath canning is used mostly for fruits and pickles, though you can use a pressure canner for them too (not the pickles - I think pressure canning would make them mushy).
Jars. Here in middle Tennessee, you can harldy find a store that doesn’t carry mason jars. When I moved to central Texas for a short time, I was quite taken back to find that that is not the case there. So depending on where you live, you may be able to find mason jars at the Dollar Store, or you may have to order them online. Ball jars are very popular, with Golden Harvest right behind - and slightly cheaper. I much prefer smal mouth jars to wide mouth. There are very few things that you can’t shake out through a small mouth jar, and they hold a better seal. I use mostly quart jars for meat and most vegetables and fuits. Pints for jams, jellies, and pickles, and half pints for relishes because we don’t use a lot of relish. I find that a quart of pie filling fills a 9 inch pie shell quite nicely.
Lids. New jars should come with lids. With subsequent uses, you’ll need new lids, also called canning flats. Like jars, these may or may not be available in your area, but I’ve definitely found them easier to purchase online than jars.
Rings. I’ve never bought rings. New jars come with rings, and rarely go bad, so you can use them over and over. Further, you don’t need to keep rings on the jars to store them. Once the jars are sealed, you can unscrew the ring, leaving just the flat on the jar. So you really don’t need very many rings.
A jar lifter is handy if you’re doing a lot of canning and need to lift jars out of a hot water bath before they cool.
Lid lifters can be handy, but for me, that’s just one extra gadget that I don’t need cluttering my kitchen. If I need to sterilize lids, I can either drain the water, or fish them out with a fork.
Canning funnel. This is nice for sloppy food like tomatoes. It keep the rim of your jar nice and clean while you fill. It’s also nearly a must for filling jars with hot jam.
Ugh. So, this got really long, so what I’m going to do is come back later with articles on things like how to use a pressure canner, water bath canner, how to sterilize jars, and then hopefully, you’ll start seeing canning recipes!
Chicken pot pie is one of my favorite dinners. And this is the best chicken pot pie recipe. Why? Well, it’s delicious obviously, but also very nutritious with the incorporations of vegetables, meat, and cicken broth. Especially when you use homemade chicken broth.
I’m so happy to have a good gluten-free pie crust recipe to use for these. Chicken pot pie is one of my favorite comfort foods. It does take a little bit of time to prepare, but it’s well worth it! It’s also a great freezer dish, which means you can knock out several pies in one stretch, and then pull one out of the freezer for an awesome meal when you don’t have time to cook from scratch.
This recipe pairs very well as a main dish, with a green salad, and pan fried sweet potatoes as sides. Talk about a warm, hearty, country meal - and a nutritional power house!
Welcome to our last installment of My Dairy Goat Adventures! If you’re new to the series, click here to get up to speed!
In our first year of “commercial” dairying, I wasn’t really sure how to handle things, and was glad that a few of our customers were also friends who could give us feedback as we tested the waters of this new milk business.
But also because the customers were friends, I was a little more lax than I should have been - and I really paid for it.
Nobody wants to be that hard nosed, hard to deal with business person - we all want to be liked, and I’m happy to work with people’s needs, and work with them BUT..
… I found myself being way to flexible on payment, pickup… Well, everything really.
Before I knew it, I had spreadsheets full of how much milk each customer had gotten, how far behind they were on payment, and how many jars they had out. And then when I finally asked people to pay up, I shaved the price down because I felt so bad about what they owed. Not very smart, I know.
Not only that, but I had let milk pick-up become MY responsibility. I was forever calling and emailing, trying to arrange a pick up or delivery point.
“Well, I really don’t want to come out to the farm, can meet me at…?”
“Can you just let me know when you’re coming to town so I can meet you there?”
That doesn’t really work when you’re running a business.
So I’ve learned some important principles, and enacted some new rules. It’s hard to be tough, but I can’t bend over backward for everybody and still make a profit.
Milk pick up is the customer’s responsibility. If I have to constantly call, you’re out. The end. There are other folks who would be glad to take your milk.
Bring a jar, or pay an extra fee. I started out this year with literally one third of the jars I had last year. Those jars cost litterally 2/3 of what I charge for the milk they hold.
Pay up, or go home without milk. Again, this is a business, not a charity. Sorry, but I have to put food on the table too, and if I don’t have money, I’ll take the milk home and feed that to my kids.
I now apply these rules with very few exeptions. Right now, I have a couple of customers getting milk to feed their babies, and I really like that. It’s gratifying, knowing that my milk is going to such a worthy cause, but more pragmatically, baby customers are consistent customers, and yes, I’m much more flexible with them… and I’ll be sad when they wean.
But aside from the business/customer aspect, there are some other lessons worth mentioning. Some of them were no surprise to us because we’d had dairy animals off and on throughout our whole marriage - or in my case, throughout my childhood.
Yes, I opened the fridge and took a picture of the milk.
you’re tied down. You can’t go out of town when you’re milking animals - unless you have a substitute milker.
you can’t go for evening outings unless they’re after chore time, and for us, after chore time, our kids are really close to bed time. Also, for us, this is kind of a bummer, when our church family and friends have lots of get togethers (such as shop time).
You’ve got to figure out how each goat ticks. Each goat will have unique needs, both social and nutritionally and it can take quite a bit of time and effort figuringing them out. For instance, if Sage and Vanilla are both milking about the same right now, but Sage is getting more drawn down, it’s my job to figure out what’s lacking in her nutrition, and fix it.
Speaking of nutrition, you can’t just set them out in the pasture and call it good. You’ll almost certainly have to supplement them with minerals if nothing else, keep them wormed, and ideally, rotate them through pastures to keep fresh forage in front of them, and give old paddocks a rest.
You can’t sleep in. Not without planning anyway. I’ve got milking time set at 7:30 right now, so we can kind of sleep in assuming our children let us, but again, that time table kind of puts the kabosh on evening outings.
You’re refrigerator can get really full. In fact, a lot of people I know who have a dairy animal, be it goat, or cow, have an extra refrigerator to handle all the milk. We don’t seem to use as much refrigerated food as most folks, so one fridge has worked for us so far - it does get very full sometimes, but usually, I run out of jars before I run out of room, and in that case, whoever is late picking up their milk, is getting frozen milk. Hey, you snooze, you lose.
Well, that pretty much sums up my experience in the goat business. If we could just figure out how to sell cheese and still be legal, things would be much, much different. People virtually climb over each other to get to it. But alas! That’s not even an option right now, and that’s a point I like to harp on. Not so much because I’m bitter about it on a personal level, but because people need to know that their freedom of choice is being infringed upon. You cannot choose to purchase cheese from me. It’s a very sad state of affairs we find ourselves in, And you need to know about it, because nothing is going to change unless you push for change.
I’m hoping to add more to this series eventually, as time goes on, and we have more adventures - but not on a weekly basis.
In the mean time, go find yourself some goat milk, and get on over to the kitchen to try the super easy goat cheese recipe that *everybody* loves!
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We eat a lot of eggs, and that results in a lot of egg cartons. We’ve been storing these egg cartons up, using a few here and there, but not nearly all of them, so I decided to look into ways to use them, rather than just throwing them away. It’s amazing all the fun things you do with them!
Give them to local small farmers. Almost every chicken owner I know, myself included, has at one time or another been in dire straights for egg cartons, and would be more than happy to take them off your hands. Who knows? You might get a few free eggs out of the deal.
Donate them to a preschool, daycare, or elementary school. You would not believe how useful your discarded egg cartons are for children’s crafts! Ask around and see if preschools in your area might want or need them.
Make Fire Starter. Stuff paper cartons with dryer lint or other easily flamable material for a quick flame.
Make an egg carton wreath. Honestly. I would have never thought to make flowers out of an egg carton, but these are really cute!
Plant seedlings. This actually works better in the styrofoam cartons - the paper ones get soggy and hard to handle. On the other hand, paper cartons can be planted directly into the ground, so it’s six to one, half a dozen to the other it seems.
Grow your own gourmet micro-greens. Us the flat-bottomed lids for this. Here again, styrofoam works best.
Make chocolate covered strawberries. Make sure you clean them well before hand! Then sponn a bit of chocolate in the bottom, add a strawberry to each cup, and cover with more chocolate.
Sort and store tiny toys
Organize small pieces of hardware such as washers, nuts, and bolts.
Organize hair accessories
Make a game for preschoolers. Give them several different colored beans, or pasta shapes to divide into the individual cups.
I love chicken broth. It adds so much flavor and nutritional value to our cooking.
Chicken broth is an awesome addition to soups, rice, gravy, sauces… and the list goes on. And like most things, there is just no comparing what comes off the shelves, with what you can make yourself. Like homemade lunchmeat. There’s justnocomparison.
Homemade chicken broth is out of this world!
But there’s something else - you can make it in the slow cooker with so little work, that you’ll never want to buy it again!
In case I haven’t said this before, I love my slow cooker! It’s like magic - you throw a bunch of ingredients in, came back later and, le poof! Dinner’s ready!
This is chicken broth, and not, strictly speaking, bone broth. However, I’ve included apple cider vinegar to help leach the minerals from the bones, just like you would in a “real” bone broth recipe, and then cooked it for nearly 24 hours - until the bones were actuallly soft. In my opinion, it’s the best of both worlds.
Homemade Slow Cooker Chicken Broth
1 chicken carcass (skin-on for best results)
1 large onion, quartered
2 carrots, cut into chunks
4 ribs celery, cut into chunks*
2 - 3 garlic cloves, peeled
10 peppercorns (optional)
2-3 quarts water
*I like to use the leafy tops from several ribs of celery since they have the same flavor, but aren’t useful in a lot of other recipes
Place all ingrediens in a slow cooker and cook over night up to 24 hours.