Monday, March 3, 2014

Spring is Here: Go Forth and Homestead

Growing Vegetables and Herbs, Home Harvesting and Keeping Honey Bees

Backyard Farming - Make Your Home a Homestead Series
by Kim Pezza
Published by Hatherleigh Press

When it comes to books, I have two main areas of affection. My first love is cookbooks, of course.
But, my newest infatuation is homesteading books which I suppose may also fall under the categories of self-sufficiency and pioneering. I've truly moved away from reading food blogs and spend most of my time on lifestyle blogs which feature back-to-basics ways of living such as gardening, preserving, and raising chickens. Raising backyard chickens is quite in vogue now.

As my homesteading library builds, I've discovered a wonderful little series to add to the subject. I say it's a little series because each book is around 100 pages, costs $5.95 retail, and focuses on one area of homesteading. Currently, there are five books available in the Backyard Farming: Make Your Home a Homestead series by Kim Pezza. There are also two more books on the way later in 2014, Raising Cattle for Dairy and Beef and Growing Garlic. 
Raising Chickens, Raising Goats, Raising Cattle for Dairy and Beef (coming May 2014)
Not pictured, but coming in September 2014, Growing Garlic

Currently, I own and will be reviewing four of the books in this series: Growing Vegetables and Herbs, Home Harvesting, Keeping Honey Bees, and Raising Chickens. Each book begins with basic information on the subject. Growing Vegetables and Herbs transitions naturally into Home Harvesting with the first book showing you how to plan and maintain your garden. Home Harvesting shows you how to take those fruits and vegetables that grew in your garden and preserve them through canning, curing, pickling, and dehydrating. The end of Home Harvesting contains about a dozen pages of recipes.

As we are currently raising about a dozen chicks, I am interested in any tips that I can find on raising chickens. Raising Chickens contains information on different breeds and types of chickens and offers expert advice on feeding, breeding, incubating, keeping and culling, and preventing diseases. Since last year's chicken raising venture was a bust for us last year, I'm hoping that we'll have more success this year and will use this book as one of our guides.

While we have not ventured into the realm of beekeeping, I'm fascinated by the idea of it. Keeping Honey Bees is the first book that I've added to my collection on the subject. The book begins with the history of beekeeping and explains the hierarchy of bees. It also describes the equipment needed to start and maintain your hives, the process by which hives and pollination work, and, finally, the finale of harvesting and storing your honey.

If you're like me and are just beginning to dip your toe into the pond of homesteading and self-sufficiency, then this series of books is a great starting point to begin your reference library. The fact that each subject is published separately makes it perfect to select the area that is of the most interest to you. I do plan to acquire the whole series because you just never know when a garlic-eating goat will show up on your front porch and need a home.

Disclaimer: The publisher provided me with review copies; however, the opinion expressed here is my own.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Good-for-You Everyday Meals: A Gooseberry Patch Review and Giveaway

Spring is in the air and that means that this year's Gooseberry Patch cookbooks are hitting the market. The first one to arrive on my doorstep is Good-for-You Everyday Meals, a perfect cookbook for those of us who want to make healthier decisions in the kitchen.

It can be so overwhelming to look at all of the healthy-living cookbooks on the market: vegetarian, vegan, paleo, and anti-inflammatory just to name a few. So, it's nice to see that Gooseberry Patch has released some healthier recipes, recipes that are submitted by readers from across the country which means that the average cook can tackle these recipes. These recipes show that small changes can help you make healthier choices, changes such as using more fruit, vegetables and whole grains in your cooking, adding wheat bran and flax seeds, using reduced-fat dairy and reducing the amount of sugar is your dishes.

The book opens with breakfast recipes such as smoothies, freshly-squeezed juices, eggs dishes, and whole grained baked goods. We can get easily bored with salads. Salads hold my interest for about a second. But, this cookbook offers some unique choices such as Minted Tomato-Cucumber Salad and Arugula and Nectarine Salad. The chapter on healthy snacks and desserts features dips, spreads, sorbets, and fruity pops. The most unique feature to this cookbook is the final chapter, A Homemade Pantry, which features recipes for spice blends and condiments. Making your own spices and condiments is the perfect way to control the amount of sodium and preservatives in your food. 

I've highlighted Chicken and Orzo Soup from the Hearty Soups and Fresh-Baked Breads chapter and Sisters' Baked Harvest Vegetables from the Fish and Vegetable Mains chapter. 

Chicken and Orzo Soup
Submitted by Jen Thomas from Santa Rosa, CA

1 tbsp. olive oil
1 leek, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/2-inch thick
1 stalk celery, sliced
3/4 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs
6 c. low-sodium chicken broth
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c. orzo pasta, uncooked
1/4 c. fresh dill, chopped
Garnish: lemon wedges

Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add leek and celery; cook, stirring often, until vegetables are tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Add chicken and broth; season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer until chicken juices are no longer pink, about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove chicken to a plate, reserving broth in soup pot. Let chicken cool; chop. Meanwhile, return broth to a boil. Stir in orzo and cook until tender, about 8 minutes. Stir in chicken and dill; let stand several minutes, until heated through. Serve bowls of soup with lemon wedges for squeezing. Serves 4.

Kim's Take: I diced the chicken before cooking to save myself a step of having to remove the thighs to chop and return to the pot. I love orzo so added an extra handful (or two). But, it was that dill that really put this soup over the top and made this soup unique instead of an ordinary chicken soup. The work that kept coming to mind as I was eating it was that the dill "livened" up the soup. Don't leave out the dill!

Sisters' Baked Harvest Vegetables
Submitted by Stacy Lane from Laurel, DE

4 potatoes, or 2 potatoes and 2 turnips, peeled and cubed
1 bunch broccoli, cut into bite-size flowerets
2 c. green beans, trimmed
3 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch rounds
1 zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds
1 yellow squash, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds
1/2 c. olive oil
1.35-oz. pkg. onion soup mix

Combine all vegetables in a lightly greased 13"x9" baking pan. Drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. Sprinkle with soup mix and toss again. Bake, uncovered, at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes, until all vegetables are tender. Makes 8 servings.

Kim's Take: The potatoes are the barometer for this dish. The dish must cook until the potatoes are done. I suggest cubing the potatoes much smaller than the rest of the vegetables so that  they can cook within the same time frame as the rest of the vegetables. Also, this recipe is easy to customize to your vegetable preferences.

Gooseberry Patch provided me with a review copy of Good-for-You Everyday Meals and has been generous enough to also provide a copy for one of my readers. If you would like your own copy of the cookbook, please enter through the Rafflecopter widget below. Please be patient as it takes a few seconds to load.

***GIVEAWAY ends March 22, 2014!***

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