Just a few days ago, Hubs and I hitched a ride to the airport. Two flights and 18 hours later we were (half sleeping!) in a beautiful little condo overlooking the Pacific ocean.
The first day here, we walked to town (an hour+ walk... NOT recommended in the hot Panamanian sun with flip flops!) and got some groceries. I was delighted to find some goats and sheep on our way into town. Animal breeds here in the warmer climates can be completely different from those in Michigan.
Animals aren't the only exotic thing to see here in the tropics. I recognized some of the plants we had seen growing in Barbados on our honeymoon. At the end of the day I was able to identify some of them using my plant book and the internet.
Toward evening, we were able to spend some time on the beach, swimming in the salt water and picking up interesting sea shells. While walking, we found a stingray that had washed up on the beach. Someone (or something!) had cut the tail off by the time we found it. I had Hubs stand behind it to give you an idea of the size. It was enormous!
It has been a beautiful few days we've spent here. After all of the walking, swimming and a little sun burn, I'm exhausted at the end of the day. I look forward to sharing more of our trip soon!
Hi everyone! Today I'm going to introduce you to making noodles. Far from being an essential skill, I would say that it is more something fun you can do with a group of people. Noodle making takes a lot of time, and if you are buying eggs to make noodles, it's not necessarily a frugal activity.
I see noodle making kind of like cheese making. If you get a lot of free milk, cheese is a great way to preserve it. Similarily, making noodles is a good way to preserve a bunch of eggs. Last week I happened to have a bunch of eggs AND a sister to help me! We enjoyed accomplishing something together and getting a bunch of noodles at the end.
The other time noodle making makes sense financially is when you are making specialty noodles. Like specialty cheeses, specialty or gourmet noodles are worth making yourself. I've noticed that lasagna noodles tend to cost more than other pasta, so last week we decided to try making some lasagna noodles. It worked! Our noodles didn't have fancy frilled edges, but I always thought the frills were annoying to work around anyway.
Flour (I just use a 25lb. bag of white flour from Walmart. It is the easiest to work with.)
Separate egg yolks and whites. Use as many eggs as you have. The whites can be saved and used to make angel food cake, merangue, or more healthier foods like omlets or gluten-free/paleo recipes that call for egg whites only. Add 1 pinch of salt per two egg yolks. I had several dozen egg yolks, so I just put a teaspoon of salt in.
Stir flour into egg yolks. I just dump and stir, dump and stir. Soon the dough will be too thick to stir by hand, but too sticky to use for noodles. I refrigerated my sticky dough overnight to let the gluten develop.
The next step is the time-consuming part. Put a handful of flour on your working surface. Grab another handful of sticky dough and work the flour into it gradually by dipping in flour, folding, dipping in flour again and folding again. The purpose of this is to get the dough stiff enough to run through the noodle maker without having it stick all over. But you don't want it too stiff, otherwise you won't be able to get the sheet of dough thin enough to run through the machine. It's a fine line between too sticky and too stiff.
When you're done working flour into the lump, roll it into a log shape and flatten with your hands. This will make a "sheet" of dough to run through the rolling machine. Try to get it as flat as possible.
Using the roller setting on your noodle maker, run your sheet of dough through each setting, widest to narrowest, until you have a thin sheet. As the roller thins each sheet, they will become longer and have to be cut in half.
In between settings, you should flour the noodle sheet on each side. This prevents it from sticking to the roller. When we made noodles last week, my sister ran the roller on one side of the counter and I cut and floured noodle sheets on the other side of the counter. Instead of doing one sheet at a time from start to finish, we did 10 sheets at a time. Setting #1 for 10 sheets, cut and flour, #2 for the sheets, cut and flour, #3, etc.
After the noodle sheets are as thin as possible (without tearing), it's time to run them through the cutter setting on your noodle maker. My noodle maker is a vintage hand-crank model made in Italy. It cuts angel hair-sized noodles and fettuccine noodles. You can also buy noodle attachments for Kitchen Aid mixers, but I chose a hand-crank machine because it allows you to run the roller backward if your dough starts to stick, AND you can better control the speed. I'm very happy with mine so far, though if I had to buy another one I would choose a wider one to do more noodles faster.
After the noodles have been cut, you can air dry them on noodle racks (a lot of work), or you can just dry them in well-distributed piles on a large flat surface. I cover our kitchen table and coffee table with old sheets to keep things clean. If the noodles are thin enough, I usually have my tables back within a day or so. :) I store the dried noodles in plastic twist-tie bags in the pantry.
Have you ever made noodles? Would you do it again?
Since my last chicken post, "Are Chickens Worth It?", I've been keeping track of when we buy feed and how many eggs we are getting. After we first got the chickens, I wasn't quite sure how much to feed. We were feeding straight layer mash, going through a bag ($23.50) every other week and collecting at the most 6 eggs per day.
Improvements I've Made
About six weeks ago, I started mixing shelled corn half and half with the layer mash. I put a florescent light in the coop to discourage molting. I also started feeding the chickens "treats" (squash, apples, etc.) on a daily basis as part of their feed. Four weeks ago, our hens took off laying and now we are getting 10-12 eggs per day.
In addition to egg production stabilizing, I noticed that there were days when the chickens aren't eating all of their feed. This was good news because it meant I was feeding them enough. Between the mash, corn and treats, we are now going through only one bag of mash per month, and 1.5 bags of corn. Total feed costs for chickens is now $38.50. At 11 eggs per day, that means we are paying $0.11 per egg, or $1.32 per dozen. Last time I looked at Walmart, I could not find any eggs for less than $2.00 per dozen.
While the surplus eggs are wonderful, I am starting to get pullet eggs from our mama-raised chicks and almost a dozen eggs per day is more than we can eat. After we get back from our winter vacation I'll be looking for egg customers. Price will probably be around $2.50 per dozen. Many of the eggs are extra large. Since the chickens are free range (late into December there was still grass out there...#PureMichigan!) the egg yolks are nice and dark, perky and round. I like all kinds of eggs, but you really can't beat those orange yolks. Incredible!
Some New Resources
Since my last post, I've been digging around for information in historical chicken raising methods. In addition to watching BBC's historical farm series (Tudor Monastery Farm, Victorian Farm, Wartime Farm, etc.) on Youtube, I've also bought The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm & Stable, first published in 1952 by Juliette de Bairacli Levy. I can't recommend any of these resources enough- not only for raising chickens, but also other animals and plants as well. I love learning from historical sources because the methods are low-tech and often cheaper than modern ways to raise animals and plants. Before mass-marketing, people had to be more creative and resourceful, not just go to the elevator or farm store and buy anything they needed. Nowadays most hobby farming manuals direct readers on where to buy things, not how to make things.
Some of the alternative chicken feeds listed in The Complete Herbal Handbook are: bran & chaff with molasses, carrots, potatoes, berries, rose hips, beech nuts, acorns, chestnuts, seaweed, nettles, comfrey, lambsquarter, sprouts, cabbage, mints, peas, parsley, clover, chickweed, plantain, shepherd's purse, dandelion, fennel, dill, wormwood, peas, beans, and mullein roots. One of my readers mentioned that chickens love young curly dock, as well. This is all good information to know, as I'll be better able to put up food for my chickens next summer. It will also assist me in planning a garden for next year. For example, I'll plant more carrots. I may also toss some dill seed out in the pasture, or at least save the dill plants instead of just letting them rot in the garden.
My new book also instructs on how to raise chicks naturally and treat poultry with various diseases without drugs. I'm looking forward to doing a more thorough review of this book and trying more of the ideas in the coming year.
Til next time,
I recently rediscovered an old Michigan favorite- pasties! A pasty is just an individual meat and vegetable pie. It's perfect for lunch on-the-go, frugal and relatively simple to make with frozen pie dough.
Remember back in November when we butchered our lamb? Well, we've discovered that ground lamb does NOT replace ground beef. It tastes awful in spaghetti, chili and other recipes I normally make. However, the lamb works perfectly in these pasties. After farmers market and Thanksgiving, I had a lot of small pie dough balls in the freezer, too well-worked for pies but still good to use for these pasties, plus the recipe uses several eggs (which we have in abundance now, thanks to tripling the size of our hobby farm).
1 carrot, diced
1 large potato, in 1/2" cubes
3 oz. ground lamb
1/2 tsp. salt
Dash of pepper
1 lump (size of a small lime) of frozen pie dough, thawed
1 egg + water for egg wash
Spices to sprinkle on top
These ingredients make one serving size. You can double or triple the amount of these ingredients for more or bigger pasties.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Mix first six ingredients together in a bowl. Roll pie dough out into a disk shape, then spoon veggie mixture onto dough circle.
Fold the dough over in half to cover the vegetables. Press around the edges to seal. A little moisture on the inside edge helps seal the dough, but I forget to do that and it still works for me.
Fold over the edges. You can trim the edges if this makes it easier for you, but I normally don't. It leaves more pie crust to eat!
If you have trouble keeping the edges folded, again, dip your fingertip in water and moisten under the fold. Then press down really hard. It should stay folded.
Transfer the pasty to the cookie sheet. Use a knife to make 2-3 slits in the top of the pasty for ventilation. Mix egg and some water to make an egg wash, then brush on the pie.
Before it goes in the oven, I like to sprinkle salt, italian or pizza seasoning and possibly garlic and onion powder on top of the pasty for decoration and flavor.
Bake for about an hour.
If you will be taking these on a trip (or sending them with your husband when goes to work on a job site!), they can be made and stored in the fridge for a couple days, or cooked, frozen and reheated for 20 minutes at 300 degrees F when ready to eat.
What I like about this recipe is that most of the ingredients can be produced at home or locally. This means they will probably be healthier and inexpensive. You can use whatever meat you have, whatever vegetables you have and whatever spices you have. I love the flexibility of this meal.
The last reason I posted this is for the lack of "portable" meals in my meal plan. Being able to pack a lunch means being able to skip eating out and thus save time and money. This is NOT something I'm good at, so as you can imagine I was excited to rediscover this convenient old favorite.
A housewife; cook & bottle washer, cleaning lady, hobby farmer, seamstress, eBay seller, and amateur botanist.
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