Saturday, January 29, 2011

Dark Days Challenge: Week 8

I've been a little obsessed with all things flour this week; after finding so many great local grains at Two Farm Kids. I love pancakes and regularly make my Grandmother's recipe. The basic recipe is 2 C. flour, 3 tsp. baking powder, 1 tsp. salt, 3 Tbsp. sugar, 2 eggs, 1 3/4 C milk and 1/4 C. oil or shortening. Early this week I replaced 1/4 C of the flour with de Ruyck's organic whole wheat flour. Very nice. Later in the week, I replaced 1/4 C. of the flour with spelt. The pancake was a little heavier, but a really great, nutty flavor. We'll do that again!

Also in the oven this week: Grandmother's recipe for baking powder biscuits. The basic recipe is 2 C. sifted flour, 4 tsp. baking powder, 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar, 5 tsp. sugar, 1/2 C. shortening or butter and 3/4 C. milk. Made the recipe straight up this time, but I'm going to try swapping some of the organic unbleached flour for whole wheat and spelt next.

Now, I know that salt, sugar, cream of tartar and such isn't local. But I'm counting the food as part of the Dark Days Challenge because they were homemade and I've sourced as many of the ingredients as possible from local sources. And we ate them with homemade nanking cherry jelly! Next on the agenda: more homemade pasta with local durum semolina flour!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Just for Fun: Ain't Mother Nature Grand?

Found this link on the Facebook page of
My Edbile Yard Urban Homestead
! It's just so cute, I had to share!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Case Against Genetically Modified Food

While cocooning in the middle of winter, I have much more time to check out Blotanical - a world of garden blogs! Found this interesting post by Peter Finch of Rolling Hills Organics in Ontario. His post '10 Reasons We Don't Need GM Foods' is worth a read! Check it out here.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Dark Days Challenge: Week 7

A couple of good scores this week! Finally, local butter! In a little trip to Two Farm Kids, I found butter from Notre Dame Creamery, from Notre Dame de Lourdes, which is southeast of us. And, local seafood! Fresh pickerel from Lake Winnipeg showed up at the big-box grocery store! It's a little, wee bit out of the official range, but so close......!!

So, pickerel breaded and baked, with steamed garden carrots, the last of our beets, cubed buttercup squash and some parsnips. Mashed German Butterball potatoes completed the plate. A nice change from our home grown pork! The buttercup squash was delightful! I think it's getting sweeter in storage! Peeled and cut into one inch cubes, it steamed up very quickly.

We've also been thinking French Canadian meat pie or tortiere! We've got the stuff, and it would be a nice change from the meatloaf we make so often. Online, the recipes are numerous, with a myriad of variations. We made the crust with local flour, and adapted the recipe for the meat mixture. True tortiere involves cinnamon and all spice, and we passed on those totally non-local spices and used our own dried thyme and sage. Simply browned the meat, adding some homegrown onions and some of the left over mashed potatoes from pickerel night. Into the crust and baked! We ended up using organic ground beef and lamb from our friends at Logan Farms; our pork is a little fatty, but I think it would work well. Next time! Served with steamed buttercup squash and some fresh sprouts! The leftovers were good the next day, too! The variations on this are quite limitless; next time we may work in some of our (dwindling) carrots or other veggies.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Love, love, love this!

This is a young (!) Brandon boy with a big heart for the animals. It's so exceptional that someone so young wanted to do something. The family asks that if you'd like to help, well, you can buy the toys that he's put on eBrandon or you can forward a cheque to the Brandon Humane Society or Funds for Furry Friends on 'behalf of Evan'. Then, let them know and he can track his progress. If you are reading this and you are not from this area - make a donation to your local Humane Society or no-kill shelter 'on behalf of Evan' and let them know!

Dark Days Challenge: Week 6

It was kind of a no-brainer. We love pasta; the simplest recipe involves just flour and eggs, both of which we have from local sources. So, an Imperia pasta machine arrived in the mail this week. Thanks to all the Dark Days Challenge participants who responded to my query about types and hints. We went with the Imperia because it's the brand carried by one of favorite Canadian kitchen supply stores, Golda's Kitchen. They've got lots of different attachments but we went with the basic machine, which will make spaghetti and lasagna and we added the ravioli maker.

There is, I must say, a bit of a learning curve. We managed to jam up the machine trying to get lasagna out! Apparently, on further research after the fact, our dough was still too wet, we hadn't passed it through the sheet maker enough while adding a little extra flour. You can't see it in the finished picture because of the sauce, but our lasagna was a little crimped, some pieces were very short and some pieces were stuck in lumps. We need a better way to dry the finished product - we were trying to drape it over over turned mixing bowls. Our first batch was made with our local, organic, all-purpose unbleached flour because that is what we had. Since then, I went on a little pantry-restocking foray to Two Farm Kids and did find some local Durum Semolina.

We didn't make tomato sauce this summer but we did have, in the freezer, some homemade Hubbard Squash/Apple/Bacon soup, which had thickened up in the pot while we ate. We thought it would make a good pasta sauce - and we were right! We didn't do anything to it except de-frost and then warm it up. We topped it with some more home-grown bacon. It was yummy!! We will certainly do more squash pasta sauces! The original recipe for Hubbard Squash soup is here. And this coming summer, I will certainly try canning tomato sauce for the first time. Wish me luck!

Also, on the dinner table this week - our comfort food for snowy weather: meatloaf. We used our homegrown ground pork and mixed it with some awesome bison from Crocusview Farms. We got our pork as 'regular' not lean, and it is rather fatty. Mixing it with an equal amount of the drier bison was perfect. To keep it local, we topped it with our homegrown bacon, instead of the usual ketchup/mustard mix. I always thought topping meatloaf with bacon was a bit of meat overload, but now I get it. It added great flavor to the dish. We served it with a simple one dish roast of homegrown potatoes, Australian blue pumpkin, parsnips from our market buddy Hugh and our own carrots and onions.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Let's Help Riverheights School!

A new round of voting is on at the Pepsi Refresh Everything contest. If you haven't heard, Pepsi is supplying grants that different groups have applied for and you can vote to make it happen. My pet project, this round, is Brandon's Riverheights School, which needs to refurbish their playground. Since you have ten votes a day, but can only vote once for each grant application, I'm also voting for Biggar, SK, which is also trying to refurbish a playground, I'm supporting the building of a straw bale greenhouse in Grand Forks, BC, the building of a 'machine' that will recycle food scraps into fertilizer quickly, teaching underprivileged kids to grow food and, of course, some animal rescue organizations. Get online here and help support some great groups trying to improve their communities!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Fun in the Sun!

It has been a nice, sunny day but very chilly. We're still slip-slidin'-away with a dusting of new snow on top of icy roads and walkways! The Garage Kitties (previously known as the Feral Felines and the Wild Kitties) were chasing some sun, so I opened the garage doors to let them sun tan on the back of the truck. I also got one of those cheap sets of little plastic mesh balls with bells inside. Seems Garage Kitties like to play, too!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Dark Days Challenge: Week 5

Eating local through the dark days of winter: that is the Challenge! Now, if you follow this blog, you know that Aagaard Farms is well on it's way with our own homegrown pork, fresh eggs from The Hens and a root cellar full of potatoes, winter squash, some onions and a wee bit of garlic. There's still a small amount of carrots and parsnips in the fridge. We're on the Prairies, so local grains are quite readily available. Surprisingly, even though there are cows everywhere around here, local milk, butter and cheese are really, really hard! I have sourced some great goat cheese from Iles de Chenes, Manitoba - just a wee bit out of the mileage limit. So far, though, it's a rather limited diet. We're missing greens! So, it was definitely time to get out the Biosta Sprouter. This is a great gadget to get sprouts going for fresh, local, organic greens. As we get our seed orders in, we're also getting some micro green and mesclun mix seeds, which we'll start in flats as soon as they arrive. So, we've got breakfast down, with our own eggs, bacon and local grains for oatmeal. Now, lunch is looking better, with sandwiches of homemade bread, fresh sprouts and (sort of) local cheese. Making bread has become a part of the regular routine - love that 'Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day' by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois! (If you grab a copy of the book from the Amazon link in the sidebar, The Hens will get some extra treats!) I'm going to give another try at making cheese, soon. If nothing else I can find organic milk, even if it isn't local! Dinner, well, we know it's largely going to involve pork, potatoes and winter squash - we've just got to find some new recipes to keep things interesting!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Hey, Manitoba Gardeners - Get Some Schoolin'!

With frigid weather upon us, what are Manitobans going to do with some spare time? Aside from leaving for warmer climates? Yes, there's skating, skiing, snowmobiling and the like, but we can only spend so much time outside before, well, frost bite sets in! So, how about some warm and cozy classes! Some great things are being offered over the next few months in Manitoba, particularly in Winnipeg! First, the Organic Council is offering 'Crop Rotation for the Market Gardener'? on January 15th in Winnipeg. Or 'Marketing for the Farmers Market Vendor' later in January. Check out these classes and others here.

Manitoba Eco Network has some great listings! They've got film festivals, community forums and some great workshops coming up. I like 'Naturescape: Prairie Transformations for Urban Gardeners' and 'Naturescape: Urban Eatin' garden Co-op Indoor Gardener Workshop'. Check it out here!

And don't forget the 'Growing Local Conference' organized by Food Matters Manitoba, February 24 - 26 in Winnipeg. Feature speaker this year is Joel Salatin of Food Inc., yes, the Joel Salatin! I think our friend Dwayne of Logan Farms will be speaking, too! Lots of great info if you're interested in eating local and producing local food! Get more info on the conference here.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A New Year: All The Best To You!

It's 2011! Another year is gone - and where did it go? 2010 seems to have gone by in a whirl! It was a big year for us; best year ever in terms of business. And we can see the possibilities and we're so excited about 2011! So what's happening at Aagaard Farms in the New Year? Well,.......

We may have new baby chicks on the way. One of the hens has been steadfastly sitting on a nest for about a week; 'going broody' it's called when a hen gets an urge to hatch. She'd have to sit there for a few weeks in order for a baby to form in the egg. And then we don't even know if Rocky has fertilized the eggs under her; there's no way he's 'doing it' with all The Hens. Time will tell!

Santa left a little envelope on the Christmas tree. The card inside said the enclosed cash was for goats! I've been wishing for goats for a while; I'm going to make soap and cheese and live happily ever after! First, we'll have to build some good fencing - goats are known to be escape artists. Then we need a good shelter, then they can come. Hopefully, the goats will come mid to late spring!

The Hens, any new livestock, and our flour are all going organic. We've ordered ourselves a wonderful grain mill - the Milapa - more on that later!

Oh, 2011 is going to be a great year! And we hope, for you, an interesting, profitable and fulfilling year! Best Wishes!