Nature’s fury…

Hurricanes are a part of life, in Florida. The last crazy Hurricane season was in 2004. I was in my last week of pregnancy when Charlie hit. Power was out for a week and we needed chainsaws to get out of our community. With gestational diabetes, it was hard keeping the insulin cold and ice was no where to be found. We survived, as Floridians always do, and a week after I gave birth, Jean came barreling into town. Not as bad, but blue tarps covered much of Central Florida for many months to come. My daughter, 12 asked me why we didn’t name her Charlie and if she could change her name. Lol, I said no!

 When Matthew came calling, everyone wanted to prepare. The news stressed evacuation of barrier islands, most complied, but some did not want to leave their homes and many simply had nowhere to go. Within hours, there was no gas, water, bread and ice! 

 This was the real deal and Georgia, South Carolina are feeling the rath of this powerful hurricane as I write this. Our coast line is battered, many returning to uninhabitable homes. 

I am so happy that our little farm came out unscathed! My biggest worry was the barn areas, which are shaded by giant, live oak trees. While there is a little roof damage, it’s nothing major. The trees lost a few branches and there are a few danglers. The winds were unrelenting for 24 hours straight! With each gust that braced our home, I feared our roof would fly off. But it didn’t! Bunch of branches and leaves litter our pastures but that is alright. My favorite lemon tree was uprooted, but Mike put it back and hopefully it can be saved. The screen pool enclosure has a few rips, but again that is ok. 

We milked in high winds and torrential rain and even lost power, but our amazing power company fixed it within 1 1/2 hours!

I am so grateful that this storm spared us, but saddened at the same time that our historic St.Augustine has been flooded, beaches and roads are damaged and homes lost. Two casualties too many…

Heed warnings of storms, always be prepared, look out for your neighbors and have compassion.

The sun will rise, we will rebuild!

Farmer’s cheese pancakes

If you are lucky and have excess to raw milk, you are able to, not only, have the ultimate cream of the top, pun intended, but also the main ingredient to many delicious foods. Farmer’s cheese being one of them. This awesome cheese is a fluffy, crumbly texture, which can be used in a variety of sweet and savory dishes. My favorite is cheese strudel and no one makes a better strudel of any kind that my awesome Mom!

I come pretty darn close, but I digress!

Basically, farmer’s cheese is made from soured milk. Leave a gallon of milk out, covered lightly with a breathable cover, like a coffee filter or cheese cloth. Let us sit at room temperature for 2 days. When nice and thick, slowly bring up temperature to 180 degrees F. Once the whey is clearly separating from the solids, strain through a cheese cloth, tie it off and hang to drip. The longer it drips the drier the cheese. I drip only for 30 minutes. Transfer to a container and cover right. place in fridge until ready to use. Will last about 5 days in fridge. Before getting our cow, I bought the Friendship farmer’s cheese at our local super market, and it tastes great!
My kids love farmer’s cheese pancakes! It’s almost like a cheesecake pancake. Yum! Hold, I have to flip them.

Unlike regular pancakes, you want to use oil or ghee (clarified butter).

I use the latter. A heavy cast iron skillet is the way to cook these babies!


1 cup farmer’s cheese

3/4 cup all purpose flour

1/2 cup vanilla sugar (vanilla bean pods placed in a large jar of granulated sugar makes vanilla sugar)

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

3/4  cup milk

pinch of salt

1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon zest

powdered sugar for sprinkling on top.


Place everything in a bowl and Mix until all is well incorporated. Let it rest for 10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, heat your cast iron skillet and melt butter, pour oil or ghee in to heat up.


Proceed as with making pancakes.

Don’t mind the funky shape, trying to do two things at once haha.

Tada! The finished and delicious farmer’s cheese pancakes.

Simca

Chicken talk…

We love our ladies and our small rooster. Our mixed flock of 30 includes, black australorp, silver laced wyondottes, buff orphignons, polish hen, New hapshire and red stars. We also have 3 pulets and 7 chicks. It is a beautiful sight, especially in the afternoon, when they dot the middle pasture. They chase, yes chase, bugs and scratch the ground. The chickens do a great job of spredding Elsie’s cow pies and practically climb in the wallow with  Bacon-bit when she is eating.

Just the other day, I asked Mike if he could imagine his life without all of these animals, and he simply stated, “Not anymore”. I second that. 

Our chickens have free range over the entire property, but mostly they keep to the back 2 acres of our property. Their yolks are a lovely deep orange and everyone who eats them, raves about their delicious taste. 

They say chickens are the gateway drug, err animal and that’s is absolutely true. I am thinking I need more red stars, because I have more customers now, and well I can’t disappoint them!!!

We will also be ordering broilers in the next week, because there is nothing better than home grown chicken!

Look for a post on our Victory Garden Farm Facebook page, we will be taking deposits for your birds soon!

Simca

Whey, oh so many uses

So, now that we have a dairy cow, Elsie, we make a lot of yoghurt and cheese. With that, we also have its by-product called whey. Whey is the left over liquid which, in itself, is full of incredible flavor, protein, vitamins and minerals like calcium.

This wonderful liquid has numerous uses. I ,personally, put it in soup, baked goods, use it as fertilizer, feed my farm animals like pigs, dogs, cats and chickens. I have never thrown a batch of left over whey away. Lol, that rhymes.

Now, there are two types of whey.

A sweet whey, which comes from cheeses made with rennet, and acid or soured whey which comes from yoghurt, cottage and farmer’s cheese.

I utilize both. The difference is that acid whey used in creamy soups, will have a natural sour tang to them. I made a mistake of using the wrong whey for my soup and well, if you like that, then great. Otherwise, I would use the whey from your cheese making, like mozzarella, cheddar and such to make a creamy soup, sauce, dip…

What I find amazing, though, is what an incredible effect whey has on vegetables. I pour it to the root of the plants for an instant calcium supplement. I am sure there are more benefits, I just love how all the leaves are dark green afterwards.


My dogs love anything related to raw milk. If I am working with milk in the kitchen, my dogs are waiting to get their share. 

We also add it to our pig’s feed and the chickens too! Calcium, it does a body good, man!

What are your favorite uses of whey?

Cream of green bean and potato soup. 

4 cups of sweet whey

4 cups green beans, snapped and cut

2 cups potatoes, peaked and diced

1 bay leaf

1/2 cup flour, or corn starch for gluten free

2 cups cream

1 quart milk

Oil or butter for roux

Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation:

Place the whey, beans, potatoes and bay leaf in a heavy potom pan. Turn on med high and cook until tender. Make a roux, add milk whisk smooth and add it to the soup, add the cream. Slowly bring to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper to your desire.

Done!

If you like, you can also puree the soup for a smooth and delicious soup.

If using corn starch, just skip the roux step, mix corn starch in a cup of cold milk and add to the soup.

Serve with fresh crusty farmhouse rye or white. I use whey in that too.

Simca

Milking Elsie…

We had a late night. I woke up and took our son to work. Mike was ready with his boots on when I got back at 7:15am. We gathered our tools and went to the barn. Our milk machine is not set up yet, so it’s milk by hand. Cool! We can do this! 

One thing though, Elsie has never been milked by hand! Oh and one more, we collectively, have not milked a cow much! 

Mike built her a stantion with a platform and tried to coax her to walk into it, but no luck. So I washed her udders, grabbed a bucket and started to milk her right there. I saw movies, videos and did this before but, this ain’t the movies and I ain’t no milk maid, yet! Elsie went through her feed bucket in a few minutes and I was just beginning to see some volume in the bucket. She kept moving, Mike got more feed. Repeat and such and then my hand started to cramp. By this time, Elsie moved all the way across the barn. So Mike tied her off to a post added more feed and we tag teamed her from each side. She only picked up her legs a couple of times, nothing major. I rested my head on her stomach, kept milking and Mike did the same. 

Before Elsie came to us yesterday, she had a couple of calves on her and so, I believe she is holding back her milk. I am sure she misses them! We did out best, and will continue as we get to know each other more. In the mean time, Mike will finish the milk machine so we can properly empty her udders. That’s the most important thing. I don’t want her to have any discomfort!

As you can imagine, I wasn’t able to take any pictures. The phone would have ended up on the floor and then I wouldn’t be able to write this post. Here is a picture of Elsie walking with me towards the house.

I love this cow! She follows us everywhere and right now, she is calling out for her calf. It hurts my heart but as time passes, she will be ok. 

Everything will be ok. 
Simca

Elsie, our new dairy cow

We finally bought a dairy cow. Elsie, is a cross Holstein and Jersey. She is 31 months old and had her first calf in June. She will be our family dairy cow and we look forward to having her with us for many years. I love that she is comfortable around people and enjoys being rubbed down. 

Tomorrow morning, we will milk her for the first time! I will update you right after with pictures!
Simca

Pizza and everything else – outdoors

My shiny new outdoor pizza oven by Il Fornino, was sent to me last month. I could not wait to open it up and get it going. Not because we absolutely love pizza, but because we love cooking anything and everything outdoors.

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I am actually writing a cookbook for Il Fornino, so I am cooking and documenting everything for this project. One of the harder things was to figure out the even heating of the entire oven, not just the stone. This allows for cooking in the oven for long periods of time with retention of even heat without fire. I am trying to master the bread, because everything else I got spot on!

Besides having pizza twice a week, I have made roasts, potatoes, chicken, vegetables and dessert in the oven and let me tell you, not having to clean the kitchen is really neat! I absolutely love the fact that it is wood fired. Here in Florida, there is an abundance of wood everywhere. People give it away for free. Last year, a large live oak fell right next to our horse barn and we cut it up without knowing at the time, what we would use it for besides an occasional bonfire. Now it is ready, seasoned and cut for my project.

I celebrated my big 40 this weekend and well, we had an incredible pizza party. My older sister set up the area in an Tuscan theme, with cool Italian music and I made pizza. Everything was a hit! There is nothing better than a lovely fresh out of the oven pizza pie. The dough has 5 ingredients, its a breeze to make, even a day in advance and the toppings are what ever you like!

 

I highly recommend the Il Fornino oven. It is made of stainless steel and comes on a storage rack. It is moveable and weighs 400 lbs. No more waiting until you own your own home to build your permanent oven! You can take this one with you!

Here are some of the goodies I made in the oven. More will be available in the Il Fornino cookbook out this fall.

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Grilling chicken breast

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Grilled chicken breast with peaches and grated colby jack cheese

 

 

 

 

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A banana and berry dutch baby doing its thing!

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And of course pizza!

Happy cook outs!

Simca

Garden’s delight

There is absolutely nothing better than a vegetable which you have grown yourself. From  picking the seed packet to harvesting and eating the vegetable, the entire process is a labor and war with poor soil conditions and pesky insects and diseases and failed crops, dry soil, too much sun and all other negatives one can experience growing basically anything. But mostly its love. It is love that brings you to the garden every morning, to see the progress or overnight growth, to water each plant enough, to weed and transplant plants and to simply feast your eyes on all the colors and flowers. It is quite poetic, actually.

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While this years garden is quite young, less than two months, I have already been able to harvest a lot. The red leaf lettuce you see on the photo above,  has been cut down once already. The basil in the left corner has been pinched from the top numerous times for sauce, homemade pizza and my latest, basil papardelle pasta from scratch. Be patient, the picture and recipe is at the end of post. 🙂

The tomato plant gave us 3 large tomatoes already and has a dozen more lovely tomatoes growing, the pepper plant yielded 2 large bell peppers and has many more growing and lots of flowers. For a while, I had no idea what the plant in the left bottom corner of the bed was. It looked like a cucumber, but now I see it is a lovely green striped squash. I don’t know its name because the seed was in the soil I had delivered. Same goes for two tomato plants which sprung out of the said soil. Score for me! I have also used the green onion stalks for fajitas and chili.

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The random squash that came with the soil.

I have started a new garden as well. It is in a different spot and we rented a tiller from Ace Hardware, for $30 a day. Mike had it done in 45 minutes, and then the kids came and helped clear the 20×20 field. We created rows, added compost to the sandy soil us Floridians have been blessed with. (Total sarcasm right there!) The next day, I transplanted red cabbage and planted yellow, white and red onions, garlic, carrots, broccoli, beets, corn, potatoes and an array of squashes and pumpkins. I am watering it everyday, wishing I bought more mushroom compost. The issue with the sand is that you water it until your arm is ready to fall off, and then stick your finger in the soil and its dry! I curse a lot and keep watering. Mulching is in order!

This past week, we were not only able to eat from the garden, but provide the garden with a beautiful helper. Our first bee hive. Mike built the entire hive himself, and purchased the bees and frames from a lovely beek -bee keeper, from Altamonte Springs. The bees wasted no time, and got into their job collecting pollen from our farm and the surrounding neighbors. My neighbor called me today and said she saw them on the flowering bush by the coop. The sight and sound made her very happy. Bees do that. The sound, the busy-ness. Mike sits by them every night as he waits for the chickens to retire to their roosts. I love watching him sit there, on a cinder block and I can feel the peace it gives him. My heart swells just thinking about it.

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Bees at work.

We also have some new members on the farm. Our kitty Sonny had kittens and our rabbit-doe had her litter. Unfortunately, out of 9 only 3 are left. We had a little mishap on the farm,  a few days ago. Teatime the horse, got into our barn area, which includes the rabbit cage area. She is huge and as she was turning, she knocked over the cage with the pregnant mamma. The removable bottom fell out and mamma rabbit ran out. We believe, this caused her not only stress, but may have killed some of the kids. It is sad, as any loss is. But the remaining three are doing great and I will post pictures soon.

Our little chicks are all grown up. Well not yet, but they moved out of the brooder into the chicken coop. They are still a little shy and prefer to hang out in the coop door. I love watching them scatter in a posse of 10, from the coop to the barn and back.

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Our black Austrolorps and New Hampshire Reds chillin’ in the coop.

Now for the pasta. I have thought about making herb pasta, simply because it looks and smells so good. My pasta adjustment for the Kitchen aid mixer is perfect. When. It. Works!

As it does not, I simply proceeded with my own pasta making attachments, my hands y’all! When I was small, my mom would make noodles for her chicken noodle soup, every Sunday. All by hand, of course! I remember watching  pull out the large cutting board, create a well from flour and add eggs. Then she would whisk the egg with a fork and create a lovely ball of dough in a matter of minutes. She rolled it out, thin and even all over, cut it into thick strips and stack the strips largest to small on top of each other. Finally, she would cut thin short noodles for the soup. Dust them with flour and shake them gently with her hands. Her own mom taught her and it was my moms responsibility since she was 9 years old.

So I picked some basil and proceeded to make pasta as well.

 

Basil papardelle

3 cups AP flour

3 farm fresh eggs (I have eggs, so if you are local you may purchase form me)

3/4 cup of water (may not need all of it)

3/4 cup of freshly chopped basil (or any herb your like)

 

Dump the flour on a clean work surface and create a well. Break the eggs into the well and using a fork, whisk the eggs in with the flour to combine. This helps the eggs from running all over. Add  basil and more flour from the sides of the well and start adding a little water at a time to bring the dough together. Continue, until you have a ball of dough, which is not sticky. Start need the dough to get the gluten working. This takes about 5 minutes. Form a log and cut in 3 pieces. Wrap each piece in saran wrap and let it sit for about 15-20 minutes.

Take one dough, and start rolling out into a nice, even and thin layer. Dust with flour and turn over until it is to your desired thinness. If you are using your pasta maker, I am jealous, run it through from the thickest to the thinnest setting. If you like your pasty with a more of a bite, make it thicker. Just make sure to adjust cooking time as well. Once the pasta dough is the desired thinness, roll it from the shorter edge and then slice with a knife about 1/2 inch wide. These will expand in the water, of course. Or use your pasta maker adjustment for different pasta styles. This is perfect for any pasta you want to make. I don’t want to go all Bubba Gump on you here. (Forrest Gump reference LOL)

Separate the pasta and dust with flour to prevent sticking. You can cook the pasta right away, or freeze it, dry it, refrigerate it. I made an incredible pasta dish with it.

To those who just want to skip the process and get down to eating it, I sell these to order as well and can make the pasta plain or use various herbs. Just let me know.

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Basil Papardelle with sauteed turnip greens, kale, bok choy, garlic and a super light tomato sauce. All made from scratch, duh!

Next post will be about my new and amazing new toy, and outdoor pizza oven! Ok its not just a toy, I am writing a cook book for the manufacturer, so it is work. Hey, if all work included awesome pizza and everything else I can make in this lovely pizza oven, then I am ok with it.

Random picture of the day:

Peanut butter cookies. Yah, I wish I had some right now. And the pasta. No. I want pizza.

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Because cookies!

 

Till next time!

Simca

For orders on eggs, pasta and home-made bread please contact me at 407 718 0204.

The pasta and bread requires a 2 day notice.