Monthly Archives: April 2012

Spring Cleaning in the Kitchen (and a little Easter Explanation, to Boot)

First off, Happy Easter to those of you who celebrate!  (If you don’t want to read about Easter due to religious preferences, skip ahead to paragraph four.)  Although we don’t often make a very big hoopla about Easter here at Aspendale Farm (and this year was no exception) I love Easter.  As a Christ-follower, it is the most humbling, amazing of all our holidays to me.  I still remember when, after having been raised in the church for 30-odd years, someone finally told me why we celebrate that Christ died on the cross and rose again.

I always had some vague notion that the things I’d done that broke all the “rules” had somehow been responsible for Him having to die on the cross.  What a relief to finally understand that He didn’t have to die.  He chose to die.  In the Old Testament, the Hebrews made sacrifices to atone for their sins, and hoped their accounts were all caught up when they died.  Jesus did away with the need for the old sacrifices when he decided to offer himself as the perfect sacrifice, once and for all.  (He was perfect because he never broke any of God’s laws.)  What truly astounds me to this day, is that He chose to sacrifice himself so I wouldn’t have to pay the penalty for my wrong-doing.  I mean, we all do wrong.  Every one of us.  And unfortunately, God doesn’t grade on a curve.  A judge wouldn’t be just if he let you off for speeding just because you were a nice guy or gal.  And God is required to be just, because that is one of the perfect things about Him – perfect justice.  Anyway, since God doesn’t grade on a curve, there has to be judgement passed for my wrong-doing.  And Jesus offered to take the penalty for me so I wouldn’t have to.

If you’re not a Christ-follower, you can certainly choose not to believe any of that, but I am and it is the very crux of what changed me (overnight, I might add) into who I am today.  I have a deep peace and joy in my salvation that cannot be disturbed by any other circumstances in my life, even when they may disturb me on some more superficial level.  I absolutely love celebrating this huge gift I gladly accepted from Christ when I finally “got it.”  Sometimes religious traditions can get in the way for some folks’ understanding, and that certainly was the case for me.  Our traditions were just confusing and didn’t really explain much to me.  I’m so glad I finally did “get it.”

Anyway, we didn’t have a big Easter dinner.  Well, we had one Friday.  But today was much more low-key.  We had a large bonfire down by the paddock.  I burnt some of the hair on my eyebrows!  LOL!  But we had decided to celebrate Easter with the fattening foods and all the candy on Friday because Jess and I were pretty tired of being a bit too indulgent lately, and needing to shed a little “winter weight.”  So we were anxious to get back to eating cleaner.  I loved the meal I made for us, and it was super healthy!  So I thought I’d share in case you’re looking for something nummy and healthy.  We had Chicken Cacciatore and Baked Apple Tart.  I thought it was the perfect amount of food, but Jess would have liked a green salad with it, too.

Chicken Cacciatore (serves 2)

*This name doesn’t really do it justice, but it has to have a name, I suppose.  I love the basil in this dish!  It’s perfect!

Ingredients

2 small chicken breasts

1 tablespoon water*, for sauteing the chicken in

2/3 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

1/3 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground, plus more to taste

1/3 onions, chopped

1 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1/2 cup water*

2 medium to large tomatoes, chopped

1/2 teaspoon oregano leaves, dried

2 tsp. dried basil leaves, coarsely chopped

*You can substitute chicken broth, which would be good, but ours had sugar in it and I wanted to steer clear of processed sugar.

Directions

In a large heavy saute pan, heat the 3 tablespoons of water over a medium-high flame. Add the chicken pieces to the pan and saute just until brown, about 5 minutes per side. Add more water as it evaporates, if needed. If all the chicken does not fit in the pan, saute in 2 batches or more.

Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside. Add the onion and garlic to the same pan and saute over medium heat until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper. Add the remaining water and simmer until reduced by half, about 3 minutes.  Add more water if the pan gets too dry.

Add the tomatoes with their juice, oregano, and basil. Return the chicken pieces to the pan and turn them to coat in the sauce. Bring the sauce to a simmer. Continue simmering over low-medium heat until the chicken is just cooked through.

Spoon the sauce over the chicken and serve.

And here’s what we had for dessert:

Apple Tart  (Serves 2)

2 apples
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 dashes of ground cloves
4 tbl water
sweetener to taste (I used 2 packets of stevia and 1 packet of sweet and low.  I’d have used Sun Crystals, which is stevia mixed with cane sugar, but I really wanted to stay away from any sugar today.  You could use all stevia, which would be healthier.)

Directions:
Slice apple into very thin slices. Arrange in layers in a small baking dish.
Mix rest of ingredients and pour on apples.
Cover with tinfoil, bake at 350-degrees for 30 min or until apples are tender.
If desired, you can uncover and broil for a few minutes to brown top.

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Sweet Dumplin’

I’ve never tried growing “Sweet Dumpling” squash, but I’d like to buy one of these at the Farmer’s Market!  (This is my niece, Dagny.)

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Mountains of Manure

In spite of having *three* stalls and plenty of paddock space to choose from, these guys prefer to hang out together!

I love having horses.  It’s a childhood dream come true.  You horse-crazy people can relate – especially if you were a horse-crazy and horse-deprived girl like I was.  I wanted a horse so badly it hurt!  Now that I’m an adult, our kids are a little older, and we have a few dollars to throw at hobbies, I really love having horses!

But although it seems like a romantic fairy tale to be able to feed my horses every day and groom them and keep their stalls and pens clean, it is much more prosaic to find something to do with all that manure they make.

At first we were going to compost it.  So I built a neat little three-c0mpartment composting bin out of t-posts and cattle fencing.  Wow, did that ever fill up fast!  And we only had two horses then.  Saffron and Spur were our first two.  Then we added Saxton.  And those three little 5x5x4 compost bins weren’t cutting it.

So I built three very large compost bins out of pressure treated lumber.  8x8x5.  That’s big!   We’d spread all the manure we possibly could on the gardens, the orchard, bare spots in the yard … anywhere we could.  Then we added a mini horse, Squirt.   He’s not that big, really.  And his poop is pretty little – and kind of cute (for poop).  But I’ll be darned if that fourth horse didn’t make a noticeable difference in how fast the compost bins filled!!!

Well, eventually Saffron was replaced by Sophie, and Squirt is gone but Lacy is here.  Four full-sized horses.  ROTFLOL!  It’s enough to make even the most stalwart composter go stark, raving mad!  So last summer I bought a small disc that I can hook up to the back of our quad.  Now we spread the manure on the trails in the summer and I disc it into the dirt.  It works pretty well, but there are definitely spots that maddeningly resist having all the manure disced into the dirt.  Ah, well.

At any rate, the compost disaster has been slowed down.  Now we only put our manure in those gargantuan bins during the winter.  This past winter we managed only to fill about a bin and a quarter.  It was a short winter.  But we still had a bin and a half of composted manure left from last year.

I know this stuff is black gold to city folks.  But around here it’s a bit more common.  So I’m doing everything I can to get the word out to anyone who wants some that it’s free for the taking!  Please come take my manure!  We did send a load off in a fellow gardener’s truck bed this morning.  I was happy to see it go.  I know it will be well-loved and well-used.  But even if it weren’t I’d be happy to see it go.

In the meantime, I do actually have a fellow who said he was glad I had so much and that he’d take every shovelful I can get.  We’ll see!

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