Monthly Archives: February 2013

Giveaway: Muir Salt

Muir salt!

Muir salt!

Well of course I’m going to do a Muir Salt giveaway! It would be so mean of me to tell you all about it and not share! So this week’s giveaway is for a jar of my homemade Muir Salt. Go back and read the blog I wrote about how hard I worked for this salt (if you haven’t already)! Then leave me a comment here on this post and next Thursday March 7, I will use random.org to pick a winner!
Yum!

Yum!


Good luck!

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Wordless Wednesday: The Boss

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You Can Make Salt?

I apologize. I meant to write this back in December. Obviously, it didn’t happen, but hey, better late than never right?

As you recall I went down to the Renegade Craft Fair in San Francisco right before Christmas. I had two reasons for that, the Fair (to buy crafty stuff I couldn’t make) and I needed ocean water to make sea salt for gifts.

I had read somewhere that is it was fairly easy and free to make your own sea salt. Since I am a foodie, I have like 6 different kinds of salt in my kitchen already; this project was right up my alley. I started buying gallons of water so I had clean bottles to bring my salt water back in, this worked great!

On our way back from San Francisco we took the long way home. We went over the Golden Gate, and went to Muir Beach to procure my seawater. This is where I realized I was not as organized as I thought. I didn’t think that I would literally have to wade into the ocean to get water, I forgot about a little thing called waves.

See? Trying not to get wet as I make a new animal friend. This did not work.

See? Trying not to get wet as I make a new animal friend. This did not work.

I couldn't get salt water in my boots and skinny jeans, so off with my shoes and socks!

I couldn’t get salt water in my boots and skinny jeans, so off with my shoes and socks!

The downside to skinny jeans is they are skinny and won’t roll up. Since I wasn’t smart enough to realize the ocean has waves and I should have brought shorts or a change of clothes, I had to flat out commit to get my salt water. It was cold.

When I get an idea in my head I am like a dog with a bone. Come hell or high-water, I finish what I start.

When I get an idea in my head I am like a dog with a bone. Come hell or high-water, I finish what I start.

Did I mention it was cold? And I pretty much was in the ocean from my waste down? COLD.

Did I mention it was cold? And I pretty much was in the ocean from my waste down? COLD.

We met kayakers that were crabbing (I totally want to do that!) and I met more animal friends.

We met kayakers that were crabbing (I totally want to do that!) and I met more animal friends.

After I got the salt water, it was still a four hour drive home. Plus I always have to stop at Whole Foods to look at meat and buy Lucero olive oil (even in wet pants). Let me tell you what, those 4 hours in wet jeans were not fun, but I learned my lesson and next time will bring a change of clothes.

I ended up with 6 gallons of seawater. I was very proud of those 6 gallons.

I ended up with 6 gallons of seawater. I was very proud of those 6 gallons.

I recommend straining your seawater through several layers of fine weave cheese cloth. Get all the sand and floaty things out.

I recommend straining your seawater through several layers of fine weave cheese cloth. Get all the sand and floaty things out.

I went to the second hand store and bought a big pan I wouldn’t feel bad about ruining. Since I had a woodstove, my plan was to place the seawater pan on my woodstove until it was all evaporated. It worked really well. But the 6 gallons of seawater took a lot longer to evaporate than I planned. My salt was not ready in time for Christmas.

My woodstove evaporation method.

My woodstove evaporation method.

The woodstove evaporation method was messy. I had to re-blacken my stove after doing it.

The woodstove evaporation method was messy. I had to re-blacken my stove after doing it.

It took almost a week to evaporate all 6 gallons. The really upsetting part was, it looked like this project was a complete fail until I started on the 4th gallon. I didn’t see any salt crystals forming. It just looks like murky gross water. I was sure that I had screwed up simple salt making and felt like a prize idiot!

Finally I noticed salt crystals forming. As I saw them I gently used a slotted spoon to remove them from the seawater and place in paper towel lined bowl to dry further. I kept doing this until just a small amount of water and salt were left. I was told not to use the very last salt and water because that is where all the impurities would be and since I love my friends, I didn’t want them getting anything but perfection.

SO much salt. It made more than I imagined.

SO much salt. It made more than I imagined.

The 6 gallons of seawater made several cups of salt. This bowl is what I had leftover after giving out late Christmas gifts.

The 6 gallons of seawater made several cups of salt. This bowl is what I had leftover after giving out late Christmas gifts.

This was a fun and cheap project! The salt, which I call Muir Salt, is quite tasty. I have enough Muir Salt leftover to make truffle salt for late Christmas gifts (what I’m only 3 months late!).

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Wordless Wednesday: Ranchie and Her Buck

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San Francisco, The Tens and Meat

San Francisco. I've been to several major cities in the world and San Francisco is one of my favorites.

San Francisco. I’ve been to several major cities in the world and San Francisco is still one of my favorites.

I love San Francisco, love it. Whenever I can sneak down there I do. Especially now that my anxiety is under control, for the past 5 or so years I haven’t been able to fully enjoy City trips (but that is for another blog post).
San Francisco City Hall

San Francisco City Hall

I got to take a little day trip down to San Francisco to do some reconnaissance. I am currently trying to sniff out some different markets for my meat, especially since I am exploring raising pastured poultry and heritage pork. In addition to that there was an art show in City Hall, my friend had gone and told me how amazing it was, and I decided to kill two birds with one stone.

Fatted Calf. Dreamy. Expensive. Worth it.

Fatted Calf. Dreamy. Expensive. Worth it.

I spent the morning walking around the City. I saw Fatted Calf, had lunch at an amazing Thai place, did a little shopping, tried a new beer, it was glorious.

Tommy's Joynt - I'm going here next time!!! It was so cool, but I was too full of Thai food to eat there. http://www.tommysjoynt.com/

Tommy’s Joynt – I’m going here next time!!! It was so cool, but I was too full of Thai food to eat there. http://www.tommysjoynt.com/


Going to the City for me is like going to the country for “normal” people. San Francisco is soooooo out of my comfort level, there are so many people and buildings, and cars and things! It’s kinda sensory overload for me, but in the best way possible.
New beer from Africa! It was good.

New beer from Africa! It was good.


Shipping container house! I want to build one on the Ranch, but not like this, I want a courtyard!

Shipping container house! I want to build one on the Ranch, but not like this, I want a courtyard!


The art show I went to was inside of City Hall, actually it was inside of Supervisor Jane Kim’s office.
Harvey Milk! Thank you Mr. Milk!

Harvey Milk! Thank you Mr. Milk!


I missed the opening so all the photos were sold by the time I got there (I want one!!) but it was still super cool. The artist’s name is The Tens. The show highlighted the Tenderloin District of San Francisco (the “Loin” is the place my Mom told me to avoid). This show definitely gave me a new perspective on the community that lives there and how I feel about that.
Some of The Ten's photos

Some of The Ten’s photos


Such a beautiful building!

Such a beautiful building!


What impressed me the most about this artist is for a day job he is an attorney for the AIDS Legal Referral Panel. The ALRP protects the rights of people with AIDS and HIV; we are talking basic rights that most of us take for granted like the right to healthcare, the right to housing, the right to work. In addition to working for the ALRP the artist donated 30% of his sales from the show to the organization. Wow.
I come from the generation that was taught “if you have pre-marital sex, you will get HIV”; I have several friends living with HIV. AIDS/HIV has always been in my world – so to me this is something that is important and I’d like to support. Since I did not get to buy art – they came up with something I could and will buy! WINE! What a great idea! I’m ready for Christmas (I think my elected officials need a bottle of this delivered to their offices, don’t you?).
Buy a case of wine and ALRP gets $30 (or $2.50 a bottle) - guess who is going to buy some wine?!

Buy a case of wine and ALRP gets $30 (or $2.50 a bottle) – guess who is going to buy some wine?!


Now when I say “they” I mean Mr. Bill Hirsh (the Executive Director of ALRP) and Mr. Jim McBride (the Director of Development of ALRP). I just happened to meet them while I was there. And I loved them, I really wish I could have spent more time talking with them. Mr. Hirsh had been to India and was telling me great stories! We also got to talk agriculture (who are we kidding, that is all I talk about!) and I got to share that 98% of farms and ranches are family owned.
Mr. Hirsh, his partner and Mr. McBride. They were a kick in the pants! And do excellent and needed work, thank you!

Mr. Hirsh, his partner and Mr. McBride. They were a kick in the pants! And do excellent and needed work, thank you!


Even though I didn’t get to buy any art and I didn’t sell any meat, I had a much needed break from my reality! I got to meet new people that work in fields totally different from my own. I got to see what meat like mine goes for in the City (I’m under-charging) and I’m getting wine! The Ten’s show runs until March 8th (I think), but you should go check it out if you get the chance!

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American Meat: Young California Ranchers

A few weeks ago, I found myself tagged in a comment by a facebook friend of mine, Glen Groth. It was on a page called American Meat. They were looking for young ranchers and farmers under 35 in California. Well sure enough I got an e-mail from them, asking about me and the ranch.
Things progressed and the director Graham, finally gave me a call. We chatted for a while and we set a date for American Meat crew to come on out to the Ranch. I got the morning off from my town job, cleaned my house and hoped I wouldn’t sound like a complete moron.

Graham and Andy.

Graham and Andy.


Graham and Andy showed up bright and early. It was kind of odd because they told me to act like they were not there and just do my thing. That is really hard for me to do. When people are here I like to talk and visit and tell stories. Any way I took them to check salt. Of course I got the truck stuck because they were filming and that is just how I roll. Then I busted a bag of salt (the bag was wet and I didn’t notice) and when we were doing the interview part I’m certain I had a snoticle coming out of my nose. Graham and Andy were lovely enough to edit all of that stuff out so I look like I am actually a coherent adult, thanks guys!
This is what getting video'd looks like.

This is what getting video’d looks like.


Here is the finished product, enjoy! (And go check out the other videos, there are some super cool farmers and ranchers out there!!)

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The “Appointment”

I’ve made the “appointment”. The pigs are going to be slaughtered March 8. I’ll admit I’m already a whisper sad about it.
I grew up raising my own food animals. I did 4-H and FFA. Every year I watch as our commercial calves are loaded into trucks to become food. I watch the custom exempt slaughter of our personal freezer beef. Heck I even worked in a slaughterhouse. I’m not new to this lifestyle, but for some reason I am already bummed out about the pigs.
Maybe because this was my project, my idea, my money, and my time. It was the first time a bright idea of mine worked out successfully (ask me about goats sometime). Since October, I have spent every day with these pigs making sure they were the happiest pigs they could be. In December I started making their food. I’ve cooked for these pigs more than I’ve cooked for myself.

Happy pig

Happy pig


I realize that is their “job” to be pigs and if they didn’t have a “job” they probably wouldn’t exist. I know I have provided them with the best pig life I could. I know they are happy and healthy. But I am still going to miss them; I think I would have no soul if I didn’t.
Treats!

Treats!


When I would have a bad day at work, or someone poked me with a stick, I would simply go out and hang with the pigs. They are always super excited to see me, even more excited when I bring treats and the most excited when I brush them and give belly rubs. They run and grunt at me when they see me, just like I sing them silly pig songs and talk to them when I am in their pen.
This project has been a success and we haven’t even tried the pork yet. It was wonderful doing adult 4-H and having so many visitors to the Ranch. It was great having something my Dad and I could talk about everyday, where I could ask for his advice. And best of all it was wonderful to bring awareness to this pork. I have a waiting list for next year.
This project reminded me that my place is on the Ranch, not in an office. Over the past three years I have worked in town from 8 to 5. I worked on the Ranch during my weekends and free-time; so I have not noticed how “soft” I have become until recently.
When we first got the pigs I noticed it was hard for me to pick up the 50 pound sacks of grower feed. My arms were sore after I started cooking their food all weekend (it takes my whole weekend to cook enough food for them). I had blisters on my delicate little office hands. I have to make two trips to feed them because two full five gallon buckets were just too much for me.
But after 6 months of taking care of the pigs every day, twice a day (except for like a month at night, when my Parents fed for me because it was too dark by the time I got home) I have upper arm strength again. I can pick up their 75 pound sacks of feed like it is nothing. I now fill their slop buckets as full as I can get them and “pump buckets” on the way to their trough. I have calluses. It feels good and I’m thinking of becoming a bouncer with these guns, lol.
My "man" hands. I've very proud. I missed them.

My “man” hands. I’ve very proud. I missed them.


Since this was a success my Parents have agreed to let me start raising pastured poultry this spring. When I take my vacation next month I am going to build a portable coop and get chicks. I have fond memories of being a small child and slaughtering chickens and turkeys with my Dad (he would always give me the sea glass from the turkey’s gullet). Very exciting stuff is happening for me!
Work. Lots of work. All weekend worth of work. I need a weekend from my weekend.

Work. Lots of work. All weekend worth of work. I need a weekend from my weekend.


Be prepared Dear Readers, even though I will probably be sobbing, I am going to video and take pictures of the whole slaughter process just like I did with my beef all those years ago (Industry groups, if you are concerned about this, please contact me NOW, I don’t want another Beef Council incident).
Thank you to all of you that have kept up with our pig adventures. I’ve really enjoyed all of your comments and feedback! I’ve even met new “friends” through this project, it’s just been such a wonderful experience. However I am a little excited that I can start to sleep in and have weekends again after these pigs are gone. It has been a lot of work balancing my town job and my pigs.

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Wordless Wednesday: Guardian Dog Nikki and Her Hens

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Giveaway: Mann’s Veggie Mac-and-Cheese

Remember last week when I wrote about Mann’s new product, Veggie Mac-and-cheese? Well this is the week when I tell you what I thought of the product.
First off a little about me.
I am a food elitist (but not the judgey, holier than thou, kind. More like the picky, mind my own business kind.)
In my defense, I can’t help it! I grew up in a home where all of my meals were prepared fresh by my Mom. We ate our own meat, always had lots of local fresh veggies and fruit. We rarely went out to dinner, but when we did, it was never fast food. In college, my friends would fight to come home with me for a Mom made lunch or dinner.

I loved the packaging. Maybe it's because I am in my early 30's, but I thought this kid was really cute (OMG, did I really just say that?! Quick get my cat!)

I loved the packaging. Maybe it’s because I am in my early 30’s, but I thought this kid was really cute (OMG, did I really just say that?! Quick get me my cat!)


Ok, back to the matter at hand, Mann’s Veggie Mac-and-Cheese. Like I said before, I got an awesome box of veggie mac-and-cheese sent to my office on a Friday. I scurried on home and invited my partner in eating, Daniel, over to help me taste test.
This was the bacon and cheddar and fiesta cheddar (my two favorites) and I added cooked chicken.

This was the bacon and cheddar and fiesta cheddar (my two favorites) and I added cooked chicken.


It was good. I mean really good.
Each bag (we tried all four flavors), have 55% vegetables (!), 25% cheese sauce (it was gooey, yummy cheese too), and 20% noodles. I also added chicken to my veggie mac and cheese because, well, because I like meat, a lot.
I actually wish I wouldn’t have cooked all the flavors all at once (they were so good I wanted some later in the week). Since I do work in town, write, work on the ranch, do adult 4-H and have a social life. I don’t have a lot of free time. In fact my free time is usually spent cooking because I am such a food elitist, I refuse to buy most convenience food.
Usually by the time I get home at night and finish my chores I am only capable of simply wiping the pig poo off of me and the snoticles from my nose (it’s winter!) and crashing on the couch.
This veggie mac-and-cheese is a perfect meal to come home after a very long day. It was ridiculously easy to prepare and it made me really happy because I got to use my cast iron skillet (I LOVE cooking in it). Even Daniel, who is not a cook (when I met him he “cooked” bread and tomato sauce for dinner) could make this!
Best of all, I felt healthy eating this. The vegetables were that perfect crisp cooked, the noodles were soft, yet firm, and the cheese was just right. It was a great way to get a complete serving of healthy veggies without me even noticing!
Perfectly cooked crisp veggies. SO GOOD.

Perfectly cooked crisp veggies. SO GOOD.


Is this a product that will be included in my weekly shopping cart? Yes, it is. I’m grateful to Mann’s for giving me this opportunity to try something new. And really excited to support such a great company (remember womann owned, 3 generations of a family growing AND packing veggies). AND Elena said if any Beef Jar readers would like to receive discount coupons, they can email Mann’s at info@mannpacking.com (OMG – how cool).
One dirty skillet, no prep or clean-up, its really good and I felt healthy. This product is a winner in my book.

One dirty skillet, no prep or clean-up, its really good and I felt healthy. This product is a winner in my book.


And now for the giveaway! Mann’s is giving the winner of this giveaway 7 days worth of veggie mac-and-cheese (coupons of course)! When Elena told me that I’ll admit, I got a whisper jealous! This is a great prize! All you need to do is leave me a comment and next Monday, February 18, 2013, I will use random.org to select a winner! Good luck!!! And thank you Mann’s!

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Mann’s Veggie Mac-n-Cheese

Once upon a time, a long, long, long time ago, I dated an almost vegan (my Dad and I were fighting, naturally him being a cattle rancher, I dated vegan as a punishment). It was a rough few months of no meat eating for me, before I could start enacting my catch and release program.
If you are unfamiliar with my catch and release program, I’ll fill you in. I date a vegetarian/vegan, show them the ranch, provide facts when I can, and cook delicious meat based meals, therefore converting them back into omnivores, then I release them back into the wild (I have an 100% success rate).
During the few month transition phase of this relationship, I flirted with vegetarian and vegan cooking because, if nothing else, I am supportive of diet choices. My college friend noticed what was going on, and was cool enough to send me some coupons for her companies’ products. She just happens to work for a vegetable company.
Mann’s, the company my friend Elena works for is really great. Not only are they a vegetable packer, they are growers as well! Their farm has been family operated for 74 years (that’s 3 generations!) My favorite part though? Mann’s is WoMANN owned! That’s right a female run family farm, BAM! How can I not love this company? It’s everything I want to support.

I love this product. LOVE it. It's a major part of my diet.

I love this product. LOVE it. It’s a major part of my diet.


To be fair, when Elena sent me those coupons years ago, I became a huge fan of Mann’s products. Their pre-cut and washed vegetables became a staple in my diet. One of my favorite meals to make myself is Mann’s vegetable with greek yogurt dip, fresh fruit, cheese, a baguette, last night’s leftover meat and a glass of wine. I could eat that almost every day and be pretty happy about it.
Imagine my excitement when Elena e-mailed me to ask if I would like to taste their new product. Um……heck yeah! Sign me up! Their new product is Veggie Mac-n-Cheese! She told me that they have 4 flavors, and they are currently being sold in Safeway Stores (including Vons and Tom Thumb). The favors are classic cheddar, bacon and cheddar, fiesta cheddar and white cheddar. Each flavor has a mix of either cauliflower, broccoli or carrots.
My special delivery!

My special delivery!


Elena had each flavor shipped to my office so I could taste test them. Can I tell you how special I felt when I got a big box of food sent to my office? It made me really happy and my poor co-workers had to hear about it all day.
YES! Veggie mac and cheese!!!!

YES! Veggie mac and cheese!!!!


Of course, I scurried on home to play the taste test game. It was fun! Are you curious how they tasted? You should be. Stay tuned for next week when I will share with you what we thought of this product and maybe (hint) have a giveaway!

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