Category Archives: Uncategorized

How to Prevent Holes from Forming in Homemade Cheese

Happy Halloween!

Before we get to the meat of this article…or should I say the cheese?…we thought we’d share a little Halloween trivia with you!

cheese_fingersFun Fact #1

Halloween is thought to have originated around 4000 B.C., which means it has been around for over 6,000 years.  

Fun Fact #2

Halloween was influenced by the ancient Roman festival Pomona, which celebrated the harvest goddess of the same name. Many Halloween customs and games that feature apples (such as bobbing for apples) and nuts date from this time.

mac_and_cheeseFun Fact #3

According to tradition, if a person wears his or her clothes inside out and walks backwards on Halloween, he or she will see a witch at midnight.

Fun Fact #4

Scottish girls believed they could see images of their future husband if they hung wet sheets in front of the fire on Halloween. Other girls believed they would see their boyfriend’s faces if they looked into mirrors while walking down stairs at midnight on Halloween.

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How to Buy the Best Produce without Blowing Your Budget

Unless you’re a hard core proponent of the local food movement and never eat anything that was grown outside your immediate area, you’ll find yourself cruising the produce aisle at the supermarket from time to time, especially now that gardening season is winding down. If you grow your own food, you will probably be looking for products that were produced using sustainable and organic practices.

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Unfortunately, depending on the time of year and where you live, the selection of organic fruits and vegetables can sometimes be downright pitiful or prohibitively expensive. What do you do when you can’t find what you’re looking for, or when the item you want costs more than you can afford to pay?

Do you know how to choose the highest quality foods from the available selection? Or do you get frustrated, grab just “whatever,” and then pray it doesn’t harm your health?

If you’re discerning about the quality of the fruits and vegetables your family eats, you need to become a savvy produce shopper.

Navigating Supermarket Produce Aisles

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You’ve undoubtedly noticed the little stickers with four- or five-digit numbers on them that supermarkets put on individual pieces of produce. These stickers sometimes also identify the variety; for example, an apple might be marked “Gala” or “Fuji.” (Bins containing bulk items, such as granola and nuts, are often similarly labeled.)

The numbers on those stickers are PLU (Price Look Up) codes randomly assigned by the International Federation for Produce Standards (IFPS). When cashiers ring up your order, they key in these codes to identify the item being weighed or measured.

If you know what these codes mean, you can tell how (and sometimes even where) the food was raised. For instance, a PLU code can tell you if that head of lettuce you’re holding is organic or conventionally grown.

Deciphering the PLU Codes on Produce Stickers

PLU codes can have four or five digits and start with the numeral 3, 4, 5, 8, or 9.

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Four-digit PLU codes beginning with 3 or 4 denote conventionally grown produce. For instance, conventionally grown Fuji apples like the one in the photo above are assigned the PLU code 4131.

PLU codes beginning with 5 identify transitionally grown produce. This means the food was grown under conditions that meet organic standards, but for which the certification process has not yet been completed. A 5000 series PLU code can also mean the produce was grown on land that has not been free of chemical usage for the required length of time (36 months) before it can be classified as organic.

Both 8 and 9 are used as leading digits in five-digit PLU codes. In other words, 8 and 9 are prefixes to standard four-digit PLU codes and have special meanings that provide additional information about the item.

5189399089_c6ee3e62ec_oA standard four-digit PLU code prefixed by an 8 indicates the item is a Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) containing genetic information from an entirely different species. Very little is known about the possible long-term effects of eating GMO foods. For this and other reasons, many people choose to avoid GMO foods altogether.
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A five-digit PLU code that begins with a 9 indicates the item is organic

They Don’t Want Us to Know It’s GMO

Okay, let’s assume you know how read PLU codes. Can you now feel confident you’re making the safest choices for your family and not drive yourself crazy worrying if the product you’re buying might be loaded with pesticides or if it’s a Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) food engineered in a laboratory? Well, maybe. Read on!

Although this labeling system seems straightforward on the surface, herein lies the rub:

Because PLU codes aren’t mandatory, companies can label GMO foods as conventional.

The truth is, unless it’s labeled as certified organic, most of the corn, soybeans, canola, cotton, papaya, and squash being sold today is genetically modified.

According to Consumer Reports, an estimated 60 to 70 percent of foods, including packaged goods, contain genetically modified ingredients. Dreadful, isn’t it?

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Even worse, you will rarely see a PLU code that begins with an 8 because GMO awareness is rapidly gaining traction and manufacturers are afraid that labeling GMO foods will impact their profits. And they can get away with it because the FDA has determined that GMO’s are substantially equivalent to their conventional counterparts. According to our government, there’s no difference between conventional and GMO foods, despite the fact that plenty of studies show otherwise.

How to Be Confident about What You’re Buying

Even though PLU codes can’t be trusted entirely, there are a few ways to ensure the produce you’re buying isn’t genetically modified. You can choose

  • Items labeled 100% organic or certified organic
  • Items labeled GMO-free
  • Items with PLU codes that begin with a 9

But what can you do when the selection of organic produce is slim to non-existent?

Fortunately, the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) “Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce” is a terrific resource that can help simplify decisions at the grocery store.

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EWG singled out the produce with the highest pesticide loads for its Dirty Dozen™ list. These are the foods you want to AVOID at all costs.

Similarly, EWG’s Clean Fifteen™ lists the produce that’s least likely to hold pesticide residue. You’ll notice a lot of these items have thick or layered skin, like onions, avocados, and pineapple. These are foods you can feel good about buying when their organic counterparts aren’t available.

Clean Fifteen foods are also a safe bet when you want to shave some money off your grocery bill or need to stay within a tight budget.

So, as you can see, labeling laws are sneaky and interpreting the PLU codes on fruits and veggies is a bit trickier than reading the labels on canned and boxed products found on supermarket shelves. But, as a savvy shopper, you can feel confident you’re buying the very best quality produce available without breaking the bank.

By the way, if you sign-up on the EWG website, they’ll send you a PDF version of their Guide for free. If it’s more convenient, you can access the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen using these resources too:

Authored by Anna Paige.

 

 

Celebrate the Harvest – Giveaway Week 1

Celebrate the Harvest

Homesteader’s Supply and Countryside & Small Stock Journal invite you to celebrate the harvest and reap the many gifts the earth provides this time of year. Click on the photo or link above to enter.
preserve the harvestEnter weekly to win a prize package from one of our sustainable living sponsors. Your weekly entry will also be included in the grand prize drawing (value of $5,000) in September!

 

 

 

Sparkling Freebie This Week!

Sparkling Freebie This Week!

The next freebie starts tomorrow, Monday, June 29th and runs through Sunday, July 5th at midnight. Get 5% off site wide with the coupon code  SPARKLE at the checkout.  Let’s have a sparking sale to celebrate 4th of July holiday.

coupon code

New Product! Nesco Snackmaster Dehydrator & Jerky Maker

New Product! Nesco Snackmaster Dehydrator & Jerky Maker Kit

Exclusive offer for our customers! The Nesco Snackmaster Dehydrator & Jerky Maker Kit

I’m so excited about our new products I wanted to tell you about this one here, not just in the newsletter as usual. I have 100 pounds of pastured beef ordered and am expecting delivery any day now. I’ll be making jerky from some of the ground and at least one roast. I thought I’d share some of my favorite recipes along with this new product announcement.

Nesco Snackmaster Dehydrator, Jerky MakerThis exclusive package deal includes the Nesco FD-80 Dehydrator. It comes with four trays, and we’re adding another four for a total of eight trays! The kit also includes screens and sheets, a jerky gun, spices, and a how-to book. Nesco Snackmaster Dehydrator

This square dehydrator features an innovative design with 700 watts of drying power that generates maximum speed and quality for dehydrating fruits, vegetables, beef jerky, and venison jerky. I’m sure you can make turkey jerky, too! The top mounted fan eliminates liquids dripping into the heating chamber! Nesco Snackmaster Dehydrator

FD-80HW includes the following upgrades and additions:

  •     FD-80 Dehydrator with eight trays instead of four
  •     Eight  SQM-2-6  Clean-A- Screens instead of one
  •     Eight SLD-2-6  Fruit Roll Sheets (new part of this offer)
  •     Large Jerky Gun with five spices (new part of this offer)
  •     “How to Dry Foods” book by Deanna De Long (new part of this offer)

Teriyaki Marinade Recipe

I use this marinade on my beef strips. You can use a tougher cut of meat thanks to the tenderizing properties of the pineapple juice.

1 cup pineapple juice
1 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/2 c packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon garlic, minced

Combine all ingredients in two quart pan. Warm over medium heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Allow to cool. Pour the marinade in a 9 x 13″ pan. Lay 1/4″ strips of beef, deer, moose or other large game in the marinade and allow to sit in the refrigerator at least overnight. Pat the meat dry. Follow the dehydrator’s instructions.

Enjoy!

Asparagus and Eggs!

Asparagus and Eggs

Asparagus and eggs are trying to take over the kitchen. I was out bright and early this morning, before sunrise, to see why the roosters were crowing louder and longer than usual. Whatever it was, it wasn’t in the hen house when I walked in. I picked up the first duck eggs of the day and snapped enough asparagus for a breakfast quiche. I made the quiche and while it baked, called a friend. “Happy Monday! Your breakfast is in the oven. Stop in on the way to work and it will be ready to take with you.”

asparagus and eggs

Asparagus, two duck eggs and a chicken egg

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Asparagus Quiche

1/2 to 3/4 pound asparagus
2 T butter
1/4 cup chives, chopped
6 oz shredded Swiss or Havarti cheese
4 large chicken or 2 large duck eggs
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 pie crust
Snap off the tough ends of asparagus, if necessary. Roast whole asparagus spears on a lightly oiled cookie sheet at 400° for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool enough to handle. Cut asparagus into 1/4″ pieces.
Turn the oven heat back to 375°. Line a pie plate with the crust and bake for 8 minutes. While the crust bakes, whisk together the chives, cheese, eggs, milk, salt, pepper and nutmeg.
Remove the pie crust after 8 minutes. Place the asparagus on the crust and then pour the egg mixture over the asparagus. Bake at 375° for approximately 50 minutes. A butter knife inserted into the center will be clean when removed when the quiche is done.
asparagus and eggs, asparagus recipe, asparagus spears
This is the recipe I’m following for tonight’s dinner. The photo caught my eye last week and I’ve been thinking about it since then. Baked Eggs With Asparagus.
My go-to asparagus and eggs meal is quick and simple. If there’s a cooler day in the week I roast a bunch of asparagus at once and use some of it for this almost-a-non-recipe.

Roasted Asparagus with Fried Eggs

Drizzle olive oil over a single layer of asparagus, sprinkle with sea or Kosher salt and Italian seasoning, and roast at 400° for 10 minutes.
While the asparagus is roasting, get out the eggs and get ready to fry them. I especially like quail or Silkie chicken eggs for this dish because they are small. Two or three small eggs look nicer when plated with the asparagus but all means, if you are fortunate to have extra large goose eggs, go with it! In the last few minutes of roasting, pan fry the eggs until they are slightly under cooked for your taste. Move the hot asparagus to your plates. Top asparagus with a fried egg. The heat of the asparagus will finish cooking the egg. I love this served with a slice of oatmeal sourdough bread.
Asparagus and eggs – a late spring favorite!