The Best Dairy Free Ice Cream. Ever.

IMG_0932I love ice cream. Since I can’t have dairy, I end up wistfully dreaming of Bonnie Brae (I used to work there – best. job. ever) and wishing I could indulge in some creamy goodness. It doesn’t help that summer is in full swing here and the days are pretty hot.

Good thing dairy free ice cream is easy to find, right? Well, sort of. The kind you can buy in the store is tasty, but the texture just isn’t creamy enough for me. The cashew ice creams are the closest to that satisfying creaminess I miss so much, but they’re just not quite there.

IMG_0933Enter the ice cream maker.

Hubby is awesome and got me the ice cream maker KitchenAid attachment a few years ago for my birthday. It’s the gift that keeps on giving! If you don’t have one, I highly recommend getting one, it’s awesome! Mine did start leaking right after the warranty expired, but if I keep it frozen with the right end facing up it still works, and none of the magic blue fluid escapes. I’ve been using it that way for at least two years with no further problems.

Chocolate Ice Cream

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
1 can full fat coconut milk
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1/3 cup cocoa powder
3 egg yolks
3/8 cup sucanat
1 Tablespoon vanilla

  1. Warm the coconut milk, coconut oil and cocoa powder in a saucepan, whisking until no lumps of cocoa remain.
  2. Whisk the egg yolks into the sucanat until fully emulsified. You’ll know it’s ready when you lift up your whisk and get a nice, long ribbon of the mixture falling back into the bowl. The ribbon shouldn’t break until most of the mixture has come off the whisk.
  3. When the coconut milk is steaming, slowly pour 1/3 of the hot liquid into the egg yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Mix until the first 1/3 is incorporated before slowly adding the remaining mixture, whisking constantly.
  4. Add the vanilla and cover. Allow to cool in the fridge completely, overnight is best.
  5. Pour the mixture into your ice cream maker per the device’s instructions.
  6. Enjoy.
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Chickens!

We got chickens a few weeks ago from someone who was giving them away. We were supposed to take their coop as well, but it was decided that the coop was too difficult to move. I guess it would have had to have been completely torn down to move (it was a refurbished playhouse). So, we spent the Sunday we got them building a little coop in Grampop’s garage. By “we” I mean Hubby and Grampop. It took them about 5 hours to finish.

The coop looks small, but it serves as a hotel for our two chickens (who have been named Neville and Eville). All they do is sleep and lay eggs in there, the rest of the time is spent outside looking for bugs.

We let them free-range our yard unless no one is going to be home, and they seem to be pretty happy. So long as the dog isn’t chasing them, ha.

Chickens are not hard to care for. I thought they were going to be difficult, but they really aren’t any more difficult than a dog or a cat. You open up the coop in the morning, scoop out the poop and any soiled pine shavings, feed and water them. It gets more complicated if they spend their whole day inside of a large coop because there is more cleaning involved, but the system we’ve got is pretty nice.

We started out with an egg eating problem, however. That is a special kind of disappointing: go to reach for a freshly laid egg and the hen turns around and pecks it open! The little chicken ate two eggs total, but has stopped now. I blew out two eggs and filled them with mustard and we put a golf ball inside the coop for her to bruise her beak on. I’m not sure if either of those things were what made her stop, but she hasn’t eaten any more since the second egg.
Who knew chickens ate their own eggs? Apparently it’s a common problem, although it still doesn’t make any sense to me on a basic survival level.

The dog ate one of our eggs, so we lost a total of three to the animals. Now we know to keep the eggs where the dog can’t get them when we bring them inside. I wasn’t expecting it because I have fed our princess dog raw egg before and she wouldn’t touch the shells. It didn’t occur to me that a fresh egg smells different because it hasn’t been washed.

Now it’s time for math!

The feed we buy is $27 for 50# (organic, soy free mash).
Poultry grit is $10 for 5#. You have to mix 1# into 40# of feed or free feed. I’m going with the former method in the interests of making math easier.
Pine shavings are $13 for a huge bag. I haven’t gone through a third of it yet and it’s been 3 weeks.

So feed is $.57 per pound making 40# cost $21.6. Feeding expense per pound including grit runs at about $23.6 (or $.59 per pound). Each chicken eats 1/4 to 1/3 pound a day. Again, in the interest of easier math I’m going with the former number. We have two birds, so that’s 1/2 pound per day, 3.5 pounds per week. Weekly feed costs are $2.07 (rounding up). Assuming we use about 1/3 bag of shavings every 6 weeks we can add  $.72 a week making the total cost $2.79 per week.

We get a dozen eggs a week (each hen takes a day off of laying). A comparable carton of eggs from the store runs $4.99 and up. That saves us $2.2 per dozen, so about $9 a month.

It doesn’t seem like that much  on paper, but it’s more than worth it. We’re getting nutritionally superior eggs for $.20 less than what I normally pay for eggs from the store.

Not only that, but chickens are good workers! They till your soil, fertilize your garden (or grass) and keep pests in check.

I’m looking into ways of growing your own chicken feed to cut costs even more, so I’ll keep you updated!

Two Pot Beef Shepherd’s Pie!

IMG_0915Shepherd’s pie is a staple at our house. It’s hearty, it’s easy to cook, and it’s delicious, so I make it often. Not to mention the amount of leftovers we get out of it. This dish is a great way to stretch that expensive grass-fed ground beef.

I also take this to friends who are in need of a meal. I’ll pick up one of those disposable barbecue pans and bake it in there. If you’re going to do that, just cook everything in a large pan and transfer to the disposable pan for baking before adding the frozen veggies.

Beef Shepherd's Pie

  • Servings: 6-8
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print
1 lb grass-fed ground beef
4-6 medium carrots, diced
1/2 large red onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup green beans
1/2 cup broth

6 large potatoes
1/2 – 1 cup broth
1/4 – 1/2 cup butter
salt and pepper to taste

  1. In a 3 qt cast iron dutch oven melt your cooking fat over medium heat. When it starts to shimmer add the onions. Cook until the onions are slightly translucent and add the carrots. Cook for 1 minute before adding the beef. Cook until all of the beef is brown, about 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, bring water to a boil in a large pot. Cut the potatoes (and peel them if you like). When the water is at a rolling boil add the potatoes, reduce heat to medium-high and set a timer for 20 minutes.
  3. Right after adding the potatoes pour broth into the dutch oven with the meat. Add the garlic and fresh green beans (if using frozen green beans, do not add them now). Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer while the potatoes boil.
  4. Preheat the oven to 420°F when your timer is at 10 minutes.
  5. When the timer goes off strain the potatoes. Let them cool for a second in the strainer while you add your frozen veggies to the dutch oven.
  6. Return the potatoes to the pot with butter and broth starting with the lowest measurement. Mash, adding butter or broth as needed for a creamy, spreadable consistency. If you need this to bee 100% dairy free you can use lard or olive oil instead.
  7. Spread the potatoes over the shepherd’s pie mixture in the dutch oven. Start at the edges and work in.
  8. Pop the dutch oven in the oven once it’s preheated and bake, uncovered, for 20 minutes, or until the peaks of the potatoes start to brown.
  9. Allow to cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Notes:
If you’re avoiding nightshades you can try mashed cauliflower, parsnip or sweet potato instead of regular potatoes.

Kombucha Revisited.

IMG_0927Since I last wrote about the strange and wonderful art of brewing kombucha I’ve switched brewing methods. I switched from container brewing to a continuous brew system. I like the continuous brew system better for a few reasons: we drink a lot of kombucha in this house, so the container brewing actually occupied more space because I needed to brew at least two jars at once; continuous brew allows you to hit all of the enzymatic sweet spots during the brewing process whereas if you let a container brew go for 30 days, you basically have vinegar; Hamling can access the kombucha on his own which encourages him to drink it more often; the process itself is much easier.

Continuous brew kombucha needs the same ratios of tea, water and sugar. So, for 64 ounces of kombucha you need 1/2 cup sugar and 4-6 bags of tea. I’ve split the tea and sugar (sucanat) into two jars so that I can use cooler water to dissolve the sugar while the tea is brewing. I do this in an effort to leave the minerals in the sucanat as undisturbed as possible, it’s really just a preference thing.

All you do is brew the sweet tea, take out the tea bags or strain your tea leaves out, allow the tea to cool and then pour it over what’s left in the continuous brew container. Easy-peasy.

To maintain the brew I take everything out to clean the glass jar about twice a year, or as needed depending on the amount of yeast that settles on the bottom. Also, the SCOBY can get adventurous and start growing in the spigot. When it blocks the spigot enough to be annoying (and I can’t get it out with just a toothpick), I’ll clean it out.

Make sure to always keep a thin cloth (like muslin, or even a coffee filter) secured over your SCOBY home to keep fruit flies and debris out. It’s important to use a cloth rather than a lid so that the SCOBY can breathe.