Thursday, July 12, 2012

Apricot Lane Farm Has Happy Chickens

I might have mentioned that I have chickens.  If I haven't, but you know me, you have heard it from my children, probably several times...Maybe even more than that, with details like names, breeds, eating and laying habits.  (Consider this my apology for all of that.)
It doesn't make me an authority on chickens by any stretch, but it does mean I have done some research about what they need and what it looks like when they are "happy".

Molly and John, over at Apricot Lane Farms in Moorpark, CA, are making their chickens- and cows and sheep and goats and WWOOFers and doggies- happy.  (The pictures on Molly's blog are really much better quality. Or check them out on Facebook.)

On a Thursday in early May, Molly was kind enough to give us a tour of the property that they have been working for just about a year.  I gotta say, I seriously can't WAIT until they are producing more food to sell.  I am so completely jealous impressed with everything they have going on over there!

Molly was hauling us around on a golf cart, perfectly sized for my troop, with her sweet sweet dog Todd in the front seat, sprawling across my lap.  Her husband John joined us about midway through the tour and shared some of his passion for the farm.

"I have never seen him happier." Molly said of John and this past year.  And it shows.  You could see the love for the land and the animals all over his face as he spoke.

While I told my children to pretend be well behaved while we were there, (so that maybe we would be allowed to come back), they soon took over the direction of the tour with their sweet respectful humble persistent requests demands to see the chickens.  Even the cute little baby goats could not distract them from their purpose.  Why in the world, when they can hold chickens every day, would they be so focused on seeing someone else's fowl?  I still have no idea, but it was unanimous.

We got to see two areas  of chickens.  One where they are already laying, only about 40 birds there.  And another where there were teenaged birds, likely to be laying in the next couple of months.  Both were in areas of pasture where the cute little chickies get to roam free and far, after a rotation of sheep and cows have been through.  They have access to lots of grass, bugs, worms and space.  We even saw one of them taking a dirt bath on the edge of the field, a favorite happy chicken pastime.  Based on my own experience, these are the things that make the egg shells nice and thick, with a strong inner membrane, and the yolks a rich, deep nutrient dense shade of orange.

This is a candid shot of Molly and John, after putting away the lone chicken that snuck out when we left the pasture.  Molly caught her with grace and ease, claiming John's words in her mind helped, "You have to WANT to catch the chicken."  I LOVE that.  

We did stop for a minute to see the gorgeous Scottish Highland Cows, including baby Flora, and had a fairly entertaining conversation about breeding practices.  Flora was right near the road when we pulled up but quickly got spooked by our presence and bounded across the pasture to hang out with her mom, Firefly.  I just have to say, it is something special to watch a young animal run.  They were really meant to have room to play and it settles something in my spirit to see it in action. (Again, check out Facebook for much better pictures!)

 We also stopped to check out the sheep and meet Basil and Sage, the friendly guard dogs. While we were there we got to see a group of dedicated people free a lamb who had gotten tangled in the fencing.  The lamb was fine.  And it was a moment of realizing the non-stop nature of farming, especially when you are doing it right!

The land seemed to go on forever, with the beautiftul orchards that the Chesters are expanding, but the tour ended way too soon.  There is such a peace on the farm that is just not present in the city.  It is like entering another world, for just a moment in time.  (Feel free to break out in song here.)

Our tour ended at the main house, where we had parked, but only after we got to see the former horse barn that has been converted to a multi animal housing unit.  It was all just stunning!

Roses in front of the main house.
I'll leave you with the rest of my insufficient photos and the reminder to go check them out on FB or on Molly's blog.  (Links above).  Also, if you ever have the chance to try some of their eggs, do it!  The yolk is the most beautiful dark orange.  I look forward to more real food coming from Apricot Lane Farm in the near future!
Front door. 

A picnic set in front of the main house.  Love this!
From the car, parked in front of the main house.

Little E loved the flowers by the farm office.
Pretty sure this is a canna at the barn. Had to look it up for John!
Gorgeous wisteria near the farm office. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

We Makin' Waffas!

Who doesn't love waffles?!

Just yesterday I was cruising through Facebook and came upon a delicious looking challenge from gfe-gluten free easily.  They posted this gorgeous picture of Mexican Hot Chocolate Waffles and suggested that someone make them GF and soy free and report back.  Well, I just happened to need a recipe for breakfast the next day so I decided to take it on!

A few changes I made make these more nutrient dense, but I still want to play with the recipe a little to make them perfect. 

So, for now, here is what I have:

Mexican Chocolate Sauce
1 cup water (I actually used coconut oil which worked but not great...)
1 cup honey or coconut sugar
1 cup cocoa powder (organic or raw!)
1/2 tsp cayenne
1/2 tsp. smoked sea salt

Cook the water, sweetener and cocoa in a saucepan over medium heat for about 2-3 minutes.  Remove from heat and add spices.

GF Waffles
1 cup almond flour
1 cup coconut flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice (or just cinnamon)

Mix all in a bowl.  In another bowl:

8 eggs
2 tbsp honey
1/4 c. grass fed butter or coconut oil, melted
1 1/2 c. coconut milk
1 tbsp pure vanilla (or homemade)

Mix until smooth.  Add wet stuff into dry stuff and stir until smooth.
Optional: add 1 cup crushed nuts (I used pecans)

Pour Hot chocolate mixture over the top of the waffle mix and swirl in.  Cook waffles according to waffle iron directions.

One word of caution:  The Chocolate sauce causes the waffles to burn easily so watch them carefully.

Otherwise, these were a big hit with the kidlets, (and with my visiting mom, who is a bit skeptical about the whole grain free thing.)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Toffee Rocky Road Bars

Last night my hubby-who really lets me go on my strange food explorations and restrictions without complaint- told me he really wanted some dessert. Now, I happen to have a very yummy date sweetened raw chocolate cake sitting in the fridge, but I knew that he really wanted something with a lot more sweet, you know, with straight sugar...(I just tell him that the coconut sap sugar we use is the same thing and he nods and goes along with it.)

So, I thought.

And I thought.

And I looked through my recipes.

And I looked through pinterest. (Did I mention that I am a little obsessed?)

And I thought some more.

And I decided to design a recipe that reminded me of rice crispy treats but without the rice crispy part. What ensued has almost no resemblance to those cereal treats, of course.

But it is good!

So here we go:

Toffee Rocky Road Bars

Start with a 15x9 inch baking dish, lined with parchment, (leave lips to pull the whole thing out by)

In a food processor, crush (leaving it chunky), 2 cups raw (soaked and dried) almonds

Make toffee caramel:

1 cup coconut sugar
1/2 cup butter, grass fed

In a saucepan, begin to melt the sugar, add butter cut up into small chunks and stir until it is well blended and bubbling.

When it is completely blended together and smooth, pour hot caramel over almonds and stir until coated well.

Dump the whole thing on wax paper or parchment to cool. When cool, break up into small pieces. Try not to eat too many of them!

In a double broiler melt,
1 cup soy free dark chocolate chips (or whatever choc you want!)

Then toss that into a bowl with your crunchy almonds and stir until well coated. Let that cool and dry.

Make the marshmallow cream. Check out Mommypotomus' recipe, which I used. It is SO easy!

When you are done mixing, quickly throw the almonds into the marshmallow cream and stir to coat completely. Dump that whole thing into the prepared baking dish and smooth it out so it is even.

Allow it to stiffen, about an hour. Take it out of the pan using that extra paper lip you left, lay it out and cut into little squares.

It looks a little messy, but it is oh so good! (And to tell you the truth, I am not a huge marshmallow fan).

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Gluten Free Caramelitas

Since going grain free, I can honestly say that I haven't missed the bread, or the pasta, or the cookies. It helps that I have found some alternatives, (can you say coconut oil and chocolate mint candies?! yum!) to meet those occasional cravings.

However, there was one thing that I couldn't figure out how to get around missing-our family caramelita recipe. It is a divine mixture of oats and freshly ground flour and caramel and chocolate and nuts...and it is so scrumptious that I drool just thinking about it. It is possible that there are some emotional ties to this recipe, as I can recall having them in my earliest childhood memories and making them without using the recipe before I was 11.

In the past week I have been playing with some yummy treats I have found on pinterest. (Did I mention my new obsession?) I made an absolutely delicious samoa cookie, (though I used cultured raw butter for the caramel. Not super impressed with that flavor). While talking to someone about them, I had a bit of an epiphany...I figured out how to do the caramelitas with some of the same ingredients, just tweaking a bit!

Today, I finally got to try it out.

Oh. My. Yes.

I think we have it. Not exactly the same, but a close enough match to make me happy. So, at the risk of having it stolen for use to sell, (um, I just want a kickback. I'm not greedy.), here we go:

Gluten Free Caramelitas
(for dairy free use the coconut)
1 3/4 cup almond flour
1/4 c. coconut flour
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/4 c. honey
1 egg
1/2 c. cold cut up butter (or coconut oil)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 c. toasted coconut, (cooled)

Mix in the ingredients in order, using a pastry blender or your hands when you get to the butter, mixing until is just past crumbly and starting to stick together. You should have a nice press-able dough once everything is in. Divide mixture in half.
Line an 8x8 baking pan with parchment paper so that when it is all cooked you can just lift it out.
Put half the dough into the pan and evenly press it until it fills the bottom. Bake at 350* for about 10 minutes.

While that is cooking make the caramel:

1/2 c. good butter (kerrygold is great!) or coconut oil
3/4 cup coconut sugar

1/8 cup liquid sugar, (honey, or coconut nectar or rice syrup or tapioca syrup)
4 oz. heavy cream or coconut cream
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp. vanilla (optional)

Cook the sugar and butter together until it starts to bubble just slightly, mixing well the whole time. Add the salt and vanilla and then the cream. Make sure this is in a tall pan as it will bubble up pretty high. Cook, stirring, until it hits 248*. (I actually went over because I was doing too much and let it hit the hard candy point, so that when it cooled it was crunchy. Still worked, just don't burn it!)
By the time it is done, your pan should be out of the oven. Immediately pour the caramel over the crust, smoothing it to cover the entire thing. Set aside the pan to lick when it is cool.

3/4 cup dark chocolate chips-soy free. (you could use the dairy free, soy free, everything free chips here too.)
1/2 cup crushed/chopped raw pecans or walnuts (If you have prepared crispy nuts, use those!)

Sprinkle these over the caramel in order of listing.
Take the other half of shortbread dough and crumble over the top of everything, spreading pretty evenly.

Bake for another 18-20 mins or until the top is golden brown.

Allow to cool. Take out of the pan, using your parchment paper. Place on a cutting board and cut into small squares. Try not to eat them all at once. Everyone is going to want to try them...

(I'll make these again soon and have more pictures to post. I forgot to take pix of the process until they were already cooked! I wasn't sure enough!)

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Fun hair

I must confess to my new obsession, joining thousands of others equally addicted. Pinterest is my new favorite website! I set up a page as a tool for myself to have a central location to keep all those great recipes that I find and then can never find again, or to put those articles that I want to save, but not on my bookmarks, or even just to have an idea page for crafts and homeschooling ideas for the kids. And it started out fine! I was happily pinning away, saving what I needed and only spending about an hour a month browsing other people's pins. Then it happened. I discovered someone who had GENIUS ideas for storage solutions...and that connected me to someone else with AMAZING ideas for kids science and crafts...and then I saw someone else's ideas for kids art and parties...that's it.

I am officially obsessed.

This morning, after spending WAY too much time browsing through, I came across some princess hair styles.


I have three lovely little princesses! I must try these out!

My first two princesses acquiesced without complaint and were pleased with their results.

My oldest princess, however, is a bit more particular...

Since it is also Chinese New Year today, (the year of the dragon), she decided that she wanted something that would fit the occasion.

When we saw this one, we knew it was the one.

It wasn't even that hard!

But I loved looking at it all day!

At least today, my obsession was justified...we'll see if I can stay away tomorrow...

Oh wait, we are using it for crafts tomorrow. Nevermind. :)

What about pinterest obsesses you?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Juice and Detox and Grains, oh my!

Photo from Evoke blog.
A new year.

New chances for successes.

A quiet time for changes.

This is why I have decided to start off 2012 with some new, and not so new, beginnings.
This month I start school again, for a decidedly different second Master's degree. I will be doing the whole program online, which should allow me to continue to be present for my children in our daily lives. It is for holistic nutrition, which I am very excited about. The best part about the program, for me, is that each of the classes integrates a system of the body with nutrition. THIS is science I can get involved in. After watching my older sister go through all of the anatomy and physiology type classes for her PT program, I am very happy to be learning it all in a context that fascinates me.

My hubby and I are also doing a 21 day juice cleanse. There is not a program that I am following. We are just doing fruits and veggies in season, all juice for me, juice for him whenever he is home, but he will be taking the actual veggies and fruits to work to eat. (Being in his classroom all day is not so conducive for juicing and drinking juice that isn't fresh is just kinda yucky.)
There are many reasons we are doing juice instead of the 21 day sugar detox, or the 30 day paleo challenge. For one, I think it is good to give your body a chance to rest every now and then, allowing the digestive system to redirect much of it's energy into healing the rest of the body. While I strongly believe that going vegetarian is not good for long term, (there is just so much evidence that we need animal protein!), it seems to do really wonderful things for your health and physique on a short term basis. If you have never heard of Gerson's Therapy for cancer, check it out. It is a strong case for short term veggie based diet. Besides, if you have ever talked to someone who has just gone vegetarian, they can't say enough great things about how they feel and how they look.
Another reason we are doing juice is that abstaining from regular foods is an opportunity to add discipline into your life. I don't know about you, but by this time of year, most of my rules and regulations have exited quietly out the back door. (And then run screaming down the street, I think.) While I am anti-system as much as possible, even I have to admit that we all do a little better emotionally, physically and spiritually when there is SOME structure and discipline. This just reminds me of how little effort is really takes to make amazing things happen.

There are more reasons.

I might share some another time.

Photo from Slow Cook.

During our juice fast, I will slowly weaning my children off of grains for the next part of the challenge. Until the end of February, (with the exception of our Third Thursday night out and my birthday), I will be attempting to have my family go grain free. This means no wheat, no rice, no beer, no corn, no grain fed meats and no grain based liquor. Some of this will be easy since we have already been eating a Real Food diet for a few years, (and we don't really drink much). But I gotta say, I'm gonna miss my coconut oil popped popcorn....

I welcome everyone to try the grain free 60 days and share your experiences with me! My sister and some of her friends (and their families) are going to be doing grain free together and we will be posting recipes and ideas of how to make it happen with kids in an easy and affordable way. I might even host a couple carnivals! :) Stay tuned!