Spring finds… and Pickle Tuna Pasta Salad! Yum!

Ah, what a beautifully freezing cold, crazy windy spring day. NOT!

Luckily today was my “day off” and when all was said and done, I was able to get in a little retail therapy and cook a delicious spring meal. 

Although temps are in the low 20’s today and the winds are whistling over 30 mph, I still had lots of chores to do outside today. 

The chickens and goats are completely stir crazy at this point. The temps vary day to day. 50 one day and 5 the next… I think it’s safe to say I’m not the only one dreaming of warmer sunny days. Collecting sap in high winds and below freezing temps just isn’t fun. It’s heavy, it’s cold. It’s booooo!!

Anyway- we have well over 50 gallons of sap and for our little Homestead, that is a great start!!!!

We should start to boil in a week or two! Bottles and yearly supplies came in today!

Michaels was EXTREMELY kind to me today. Crazy sales and I was able to forget about the winter warlock and mosey my way though the store and take advantage of killer spring sales. 
My house is now Easter ready. Score!! 

Can’t wait to cook Easter dinner again this year! 

Anyway- after spending my fair share of time on Pinterest the other night I decided to make summer rolls or spring rolls-whatever you like to call them- and the most delicious pickle and tuna pasta salad. 

I had seen a photo of tuna casserole and I immediately thought!!!! Tuna! Pasta Salad! Summer! Pickles! 

Boom. 

This stuff is so light and yummy and I finally got to use up more of my homemade pickles and sweet relish from our garden last year. 

Here’s how I did it- 


Pickle Tuna Pasta Salad|

serves a crowd

35 minute cook time—1 hour (more is better) chill time

  • 1-2 ribs of celery, finely chopped
  • 1/2 a red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 1/2 c dill pickles, chopped
  • 1/4 white onion, grated 
  • 2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped
  • 2 cans, white albacore tuna, in water-drained
  • A pinch of garlic powder 
  • 3-4 c mini penne pasta, cooked drained and rinsed with cold water

Sauce-

  • 3/4 c plain Greek yogurt
  • 3/4 c mayo
  • 2 tbsp dill pickle juice
  • 1/4 c sweet pickle relish 
  • A few dashes of worchesteshire sauce 
  • 1 tsp of Dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp of sugar
  • A good pinch of salt and pepper 
  • 2 tbsp Parmesan cheese

First get your pasta cooking and then make your sauce–

Next- chop up the veggies and dill. Drain the tuna and add all of it to your mixing bowl.

Toss in the cooked and cooled pasta and the dressing. Stir it completely and refrigerate for at least two hours! Over night is best. 

I love this stuff and could probably eat it everyday!

This Pickle Tuna Salad was perfect with yummy crab and avocado rolls. 

Come on summer. My kitchen is ready for you!!

The Best Crab Cakes-EVER

So these are amazing! Seriously. Everyone should make this recipe. Everyone. Period. Exclamation Point.

We’ve been battling a late winter storm here in New England. Wind gusts over 50 mph and 18″ of snow. 

We went from 50 degree weather and hardly any snow left to speak of to this…

Gross. Not my cup of tea. 

We have plans to breed our goats this spring and are looking at a late summer kidding. Piglets will be born soon and a good number of our seedlings have sprouted! I’m ready to plant the next few batches. 

Needless to say the snow and winds can stop any time now and I once again can’t help but cook foods that remind me of summer.

It gets me thru. 

I need my fresh and light foods. And maybe a margarita or two.

That helps too. 

I should preface the rest of this post by saying that there are a lot of ingredients in these decadent crab cakes, but the mixture is so delicious I’ve used it for crab cakes one night, and in crab melts the day after AND in cheesy crab stuffed mushrooms. Depending on how many you’re serving this recipe does make enough to do double or even triple duty. 

In my book that’s a total money and time saver and completely worth the effort!!

The Best Crab Cakes-Ever|

  • 1 small yellow onion, minced
  • 1/2 a red bell pepper, minced
  • 1 stalk of celery, minced
  • 2 cups of oyster crackers, crushed
  • 8 oz, lump crab meat (fresh no imitation meat)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 tsp old bay seasoning 
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp mayo
  • 1-2 sunflower oil, or canola oil
  • A good pinch of salt and pepper 
  • 1/2 of a good cheese blend. I used asiago, Parmesan and cheddar. (Use your favorite)

Start by mincing your veggies! Sauté them in butter over medium high heat until the onions are translucent. 

Stir in the garlic powder, old bay and salt  and pepper, cooking for a minute longer.

Transfer the veggies into a mixing bowl and refrigerate for a few minutes to cool down before adding your other ingredients. 

Next crush up your crackers!

When your veggies have cooled, stir in your egg, crab, crackers and cheese. 

At this point you could make stuffed mushrooms OR add in your mayo!!

In a non stick skillet heat your sunflower oil. 

Form your Crab Cakes in 1/4 c measurements. Form them into balls and place in the hot oil, flattening the tops with your spatula to your desired thickness. 

Cook for 1-2 minutes per side until each side is dark golden brown and the center is warm but still creamy. 

I like to top these with a siracha mayo– just a tbsp or two of mayo mixed well with a tsp of hot sauce. 

Serve immediately!! They are seriously the Best Crab cakes I’ve ever had!

Eat these with a delicious Chicken Saltimbocca (I’ll post that recipe later)


Or be sure and try this delicious crab mixture in Cheesy Crab Stuffed Mushrooms!

Buffalo Chicken Meatloaf with Mozzerella, Ranch Dipping Sauce

  
Well! my girls are back to laying in full force! 

This photo is just this weeks supply so far!!! 

I get so excited when winter slows down and I notice an egg or two pop up (or should I say, out) each morning. The lull always seems to take too long. 

Hens–especially fully matured hens don’t like to lay eggs during the cold winter months!

It was 72 and sunny yesterday! Crazy warm for a March afternoon in New Hampshire. 

My chickens were so happy about the temps and sang the day away. I like to call it the “the egg making song”.  

 Low and behold, I awoke this morning to a whole coop full of fresh eggs!

I was grateful and of course spoiled them with a delightful lunch of blueberries, lettuce and sweet potato.  

 Being a chicken mother is very important work you know? (I’m such a dork)

Anyway… With all the eggs in our basket, I’ve been trying to incorporate them in as many dishes and treats as I can. 

As much as I like breakfast for dinner, breads and cookies… I got a little sick of the same ol’ routine this week. 

I saw a recipe for meatloaf a few days prior and thought… Meatloaf!! That needs eggs! I’ll make meatloaf. 

Then I thought….more ketchup? Ugh!

More beef and bread? Ugh!

And so I went with something that applies to my fussy palette… Buffalo Chicken!!! 

Mmm one of my favorites!

This meatloaf absolutely has that yummy buffalo sauce flavor but isn’t too spicy. My kids will eat it and love it! I’m sure yours will too. That is… If you have kids?

Anyway! Here we go:

Buffalo Chicken Meatloaf with Mozzerella, Ranch Dipping Sauce|

1 hour + 30 minutes, serves 4-6

  • 1-1.5 lbs of ground chicken
  • 2 eggs
  • 3/4 c Panko bread crumbs 
  • 3/4 c herbed stuffing mix (I use PF)
  • 3/4 c white cheddar cheese
  • 1 packet of ranch dressing mix, divided–3tbsp and 1tbsp
  • 2tsp Olive oil
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped fine
  • 1/2 a sweet onion, chopped fine
  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced or grated
  • 4 tbsp buffalo hot sauce, divided–3tbsp and 1tbsp
  • 3 tbsp ketchup 
  • 2/3 c sour cream
  • 2 tbsp freshly grated mozzerella (or bagged if that’s what you have)
  • Salt and pepper

First, let me say that my kids don’t love the idea of blue cheese. The traditional buffalo dipping sauce doesn’t always bode well here.

Hence, the mozzerella ranch. I only add the cheese for texture similar to a blue cheese dressing, however it really just tastes like ranch with an extra kick! 

Mix 3tbsp of the ranch seasoning, with the sour cream and mozzerella. Chill and use when ready.  

 Next- cook your celery and onions over medium heat, in a good glug of olive oil. 

Season with salt and pepper.

Grate in your garlic once the onions are starting to become translucent.  

 Once the garlic is in, only cook for about 30 more seconds. 

In a large bowl… Add your ground chicken, bread crumbs and stuffing, 1tbsp of ranch seasoning, 2 eggs, the cooked veggies, 3tbsp of hot sauce, cheese, salt and pepper. 

 Mix completely and shape into a free form loaf. 

Turn the loaf onto a sheet tray lined with parchment paper and sprayed with non stick cooking spray.  

 
Next, mix your ketchup and the 1 remaining tbsp of hot sauce.

Spread it all over the top of your meatloaf.

Bake in a 350 degree oven for 50 minutes and allow to cool for 5 more minutes when done, before cutting. 

  This meatloaf is so flavorful and has a kick that will satisfy grown up tastebuds and kids alike! 
Here on the homestead, we raise broiler chickens and laying hens. We grow our veggies and bake breads…. This is a perfect example of the many many yard to table meals I prepare for my family! 

Minus the hot sauce!! (I don’t know Franks secret)

Please give this a try! I just know your family will love it!! 

    
 

Bacon Stuffed Deviled Eggs

  You know it’s funny… Not too many years ago I can remember going to a party and saying to my husband…”Ugh, who brings deviled eggs to a party?! I mean, they just look so bland… And watery… And EW!!”
Ha! Then I became a farmer… Hens lay eggs man. And we have to figure out ways to use them up! 

Don’t get me wrong, I REALLY appreciate the summer abundance of eggs. Over the winter my hens barely produce at all. They hate the cold and I’m happily surprised when I find an egg or two each week. 

But summer time… I can’t give away enough! 

Anyway, my prejudice against deviled eggs quickly went away when I started experimenting with different recipes to use all our eggs and when I came up with this one!!

These days people put just about anything in a deviled egg. I’ve seen guacamole deviled eggs, buffalo chicken deviled eggs, even curry chicken deviled eggs !! I can’t lie…. Those all sound pretty delicious but when I think eggs… My next thought is ALWAYS bacon!! 

This is totally one of those keep it simple stupid type of recipes. 4 ingredients, boom done!!! However, as simple as they are, they are flavor packed!!! They have become a family favorite! You can’t eat just one… These deviled eggs totally win the Pringles award- once you pop the fun don’t stop!! 

Yeah… I just said that.

Anyway, start with your hard boiled eggs. Cut them in half and plop all their beautiful yellow yolks into a mixing bowl. 

 
Slice up 1/2 a lb of bacon. I find this is easier if you put the bacon in the freezer for a half an hour or so first… Makes for easy slicing! 

 Fry it up!!!! Make it all crispy and AMAZING! 

Move the bacon bits to a paper towel covered plate. 

Don’t forget to save all that glorious bacon fat!!! (That post will come on  another day) 

 Now things get even yummier!

Mix the yolks with 1 HEAPING tbsp of Dijon mustard, 2 HEAPING tbsp’s of mayonnaise and a pinch of black pepper. 

 then…. Add the bacon!! 

 Put all that super tasty filling into a piping bag or large zip lock bag.  

 Pipe the filling back into those eggs and garnish with a little paprika for added color! 

   A-Mazing!!!!!
Give these a try…Betcha can’t eat just one!!!

Bacon Stuffed Deviled Eggs|

30 minutes, serves 8, 2 per person

  • 8 eggs, hard boiled and peeled 
  • 2 heaping tbsp’s mayonnaise 
  • 1 heaping tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 lb bacon, chopped and fried into bacon bits
  • Black pepper and paprika to taste 

Cut hard boiled eggs in half. Remove yolks and mix with remaining ingredients till smooth. 

Place the filling into a piping bag and fill the eggs. Garnish with a pinch of paprika for color. 

Refrigerate until ready to serve. 

Enjoy!!

Mind Your P’s & Q’s

 Pigs and common Questions about raising them|

Believe it or not a couple years back when we first began our homesteading adventures, I would have never dreamt of raising pigs for meat. 

I was scared of their smell. I was scared of slaughtering them. And for whatever reason that scene from Animal Farm always really stuck with me. 

 
Photo credit deviantart.com

As time went on I became pretty decent in the garden. I learned to can a large portion of our harvest and my hens were laying a couple dozen each week. I realized it was time to expand my horizons, and so the discussion began between James and I. What would be a realistic next step? 

Our dreams of raising a dairy cow or two just seemed too large of an undertaking at the time.

James is a hunter and I admit, having a freezer full of venison for the winter, along with our fresh and canned vegetables made for a rewarding season. It seemed that raising our own meat would be the next step toward true homesteading and self sustainability. 

I read and read, and read some more… I mean, I really did my homework people! I had so many questions but when push came to shove we just lept in… Figured it out- and now I can’t imagine a spring that I won’t be raising pigs. 

I can honestly say that it was one the the most rewarding experiences of my life from start to finish. It was emotional at times, but I learned that it should be. Quality of life for any animal is what makes the difference. Whether they be a household pet, or livestock that you raise to feed your family- providing a happy and healthy life will produce a wonderful product, and give you peace of mind and heart. 

Saying goodbye in sacrifice or illness is inevitable on the homestead, and  will always really hit you in the feels. 

But let’s get back to the rewarding part shall we??

I can remember writing down question after question about raising the pigs before we picked them up for the first time. I was a little embarrassed to even ask fellow farmers because I felt like I should already know the answers. WRONG!

You never know everything there is know until you experience it first hand and even then, nature will probably throw a curve ball at you. It’s just natures way. 

So if you’re considering raising pigs to feed your family or sell for profit on your small farm, I’ve compiled a list of commonly asked questions before you get started.

Q: how much space do you need to raise pigs?

A: our entire homestead sits on just three acres and the pigs barely seemed to take up any room at all. Our pigs had a simple 8×4 shelter, equipped with hay for bedding to keep warm, and a 30×60 double fence. I call it a double fence because it really is. The inner fence being an electric fence that is solar powered.  Pigs can be escape artists so it was important to us to run the electric fence first. Two feet around the perimeter of the electric fence, my husband and I built a wooden fence for extra stability and to keep our free range children, chickens and dogs from any shocking encounters.   

  
We only had four pigs this past year and this was more than enough room for them. They will dig up the earth and eat all of the grass and roots. Make sure they have a pasture like this to root up and keep busy.  

 
Q: can you only raise 1 or 2 pigs?

A: two is better. There is a sense of safety in numbers plus having a cuddle buddy will help them to stay warm at night. They love to lay on one another and one little baby alone would be sad to say the least. 

 
Whether they are approaching slaughter weight or still young, they WILL fight over food a bit, however in my experience- if you give them plenty they learn to figure it out on their own.  

 
Q: what is the cost of a piglet?

A: it will vary depending on your location but I would bet $100.00 to $150.00 for a wormed,  35lb piglet is pretty accurate. 

Q: how old will the pig be before it is fully grown and ready for slaughter?

A: pigs are ready for slaughter once they reach the 250 lb  to 275 lb mark. There are different measuring techniques out there for you to research but for us… Our 35 lb babies from April were fully grown and ready by October 25th-November 1st.

Q: what vaccinations will they need?

A: they should come to you wormed and at least have been given an iron shot. It’s important not to introduce too much into their system as it will change the quality of the meat. Pigs are not immune to infections such as pneumonia. If you notice your pig is not interested in their food or seems sleepy and withdrawn they may be sick. In most cases penicillin can be administered to help. Call a veterinarian or a fellow homesteader at first suspicion of illness. 
Q: what should we feed our pigs and how much per day?

A: pigs need a constant supply of water. Make sure you have a system in place that is easy to access so you aren’t hauling buckets of water to them all day, everyday. Pigs love to roll around in water and mud to keep cool and protect from bugs and pests, so havering a watering system is key!!

We fed our pigs all natural pig and sow grain. This will range anywhere from $10.00-$15.00 per 50 lb bag. Go for the good stuff. You are what you eat as they say!

Pigs will eat around 6-8 lbs of grain per day. I got into the habit of splitting it up into two feelings per day. Morning and night. I was also fortunate enough to supplement with old fruit and vegetable scraps from my local grocer. I highly recommend researching your options for this as well. Your pigs will love you! 

 
Speaking of love…

Q: how can I avoid becoming attached to my pigs?

A: you can’t….

These guys and girls will steal your heart.  

   
Try not to name them, that’s my best advice. Give them a good life and take heart, not every pig is so lucky. 

All in all these animals are a delight to raise and they provide a surprising  amount of meat. One 250 lb pig gave us 170 lbs of lovely organic pork for our family. It is well worth the effort…. And the feels.