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Paleo Turkey Gravy

White sweet potato fills in for the flour, you can add a dash of cream if desired.

Ingredients

  • 1 large white sweet potato, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 quarts chicken stock with fat, divided
  • pan drippings from the turkey
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon sea salt to taste

Directions

  1. The day before Thanksgiving, simmer the sweet potato in a small saucepan until soft (about 15 minutes).
  2. Drain, cool and place in refrigerator uncovered overnight to dry out.
  3. Bring chicken stock to a simmer, reserve 1 cup for deglazing.
  4. Using an immersion blender, add sweet potato a little bit at a time to achieve desired thickness.
  5. Once the turkey has been roasted and removed from the oven, deglaze the roasting pan with 1 cup of chicken stock, strain and add to gravy.
  6. Salt to taste and keep warm on stove.
  7. If the gravy separates, blend before serving.
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Roasted Brussels Sprouts

These can be squeezed in to any space in the oven shortly before the turkey is finished cooking. If you cook them in a pretty pie dish they can go straight to the table while still hot.

Ingredients

  • 1 1⁄2 pounds Brussels sprouts
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil 
  • 3⁄4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cut off the brown ends of the Brussels sprouts and pull off any yellow outer leaves.
  3. Mix with the olive oil, salt and pepper in a sheet pan and roast until crisp on the outside and tender on the inside, about 40 minutes. Shake the pan from time to time to brown the sprouts evenly.
  4. Serve immediately.
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Slow Roasted Turkey with Herb Butter

Cooking a turkey that is raised on pasture low and slow, beginning the night before Thanksgiving, yields a flavorful and tender final result.

Ingredients

  • 1⁄2 cup butter, softened or ghee or coconut oil
  • 1⁄4 cup fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1⁄4 cup fresh sage, chopped
  • 1 pasture-raised turkey, about 16 to 18 lbs, giblets removed and reserved for another purpose
  • 2 large yellow onions, quartered
  • 2 large lemons, quartered

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 225 degrees. 
  2. Combine butter and herbs.
  3. Rinse the turkey and pat it dry. With a butterknife, loosen the skin of the turkey from the flesh of the breast. Spread the herb butter between the skin and the breast meat. Season with unrefined sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. 
  4. Stuff the turkey’s cavity with lemons and onions.
  5. Truss the turkey and slow roast for approximately twelve hours, tented with parchment paper or foil or in a covered dish.
  6. Baste every 2 to 3 hours. Increase the heat to 375 degrees and continue roasting for one and one-half hours or until the skin is a rich brown and the meat has reached an internal temperature of at least 185 F. Allow the turkey to rest for 30 minutes prior to carving.
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Pumpkin Custard

The pumpkin purée can be made ahead of time and refrigerated or frozen until you’re ready to use it.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups pumpkin, cooked, puréed, strained 4 large eggs
  • 1⁄2 cup cream or coconut milk
  • 5 tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 pinch unrefined sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon ginger, ground
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon nutmeg, ground
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon cloves, ground

Directions

  1. Pour into greased oven-proof dishes (ramekins, small Pyrex dishes or a pie pan). Bake at 350 degrees until the
    center is set, about 45-60 minutes depending on the size of the baking dish (less time for tiny ramekin dishes).
  2. Tip: to test whether the custard is done, remove it form the oven and hold the dish on its side. If the face of the
    custard slides at all it needs to cook longer. Do not overcook, though, or it will become tough. A slightly undercooked custard will still be tasty while an overcooked one will not be as good.
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Apple and Mushroom Stuffing

You may be surprised that there is no bread in this stuffing. It looks and smells exactly like a classic Thanksgiving stuffing. After making this the first time, we never looked back and make it every year!

If you don’t have poultry seasoning you can make it ahead of time or use fresh herbs, use three times as much fresh herbs as the recipe calls for in dried herbs when substituting.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound each ground turkey and ground beef
  • 2 teaspoons fresh sage leaves, freshly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons coconut or olive oil
  • 3 cups celery, chopped
  • 2 cups onion, chopped
  • 3 granny smith apples, cored and chopped
  • 1pound mushrooms, chopped
  • 1-2 tablespoons poultry seasoning
  • 2 eggs
  • 1⁄4 cup turkey stock or drippings from turkey

Poultry Seasoning

  • 2 teaspoons ground sage
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground thyme
  • 1 teaspoon ground marjoram
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large skillet, brown ground meat along with sage, thyme, rosemary, cayenne pepper and red pepper flakes.
  3. Mix well and remove to bowl when cooked through.
  4. In the same skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add in celery, onion, apples and mushrooms, and cook until onions are translucent and celery and mushrooms somewhat softened. Mix in the poultry seasoning, and add salt and pepper to taste.
  5. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and turkey stock. Set aside.
  6. Combine the meat with the sautéed vegetables in a large baking dish, and pour the egg/stock mixture over.
  7. Bake, covered, for 30 minutes, uncovering for last 10 minutes to brown the stuffing on top. (you can also stuff your turkey with some as well).

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Spiced Cranberry Sauce Three Ways

Homemade cranberry sauce can be an exceptional flavor addition to your holiday meal. Canned cranberry sauce lacks the flavor and texture of homemade cranberry sauce. You can also add just enough sweetness to offset the tartness of the fresh cranberries for your tastebuds, and spare yourself the unnecessary sugar.

Cranberry sauce tases best when made at least a day ahead of time so the flavors meld, and can be refrigerated for up to 5 days or can be frozen as far ahead of time as you need and then defrosted for the holiday.

I usually make at least a triple batch and defrost jars throughout the winter to add to meals. If using dried spices simmer them with the cranberries, if using essential oils add them after the sauce cools.

Base Ingredients

  • 12 ounces fresh cranberries
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp minced fresh ginger or 1 drop Ginger Vitality
  • 1 cinnamon stick or 2-3 drops Cinnamon Bark Vitality
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice 
  • 1/8 teaspoon cloves or touch spoon to top of Clove Vitality bottle and stir in
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup honey, optional

Pear and Ginger Ingredients

  • 3 Bartlett pears, peeled and chopped
  • 1 additional tsp minced fresh ginger or 1 additional drop Ginger Vitality

Fig and Rosemary Ingredients

  • 16 dried black mission figs, stems removed and very finely chopped
  • 1 four-inch sprig rosemary or 1 drop Rosemary Vitality

Mandarin and Star Anise Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed mandarin juice
  • zest from one mandarin
  • 1 whole star anise

Directions

  1. Rinse the cranberries in a colander and pick out any mushy ones.
  2. Place all ingredients except honey in a covered saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer.
  3. Once the cranberries start to pop, turn the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries have all popped and the mixture has turned into a chunky sauce, about 20 minutes. If it gets too thick, add a little water. Pluck out the star anise if using.
  4. Allow to cool completely. Add honey to taste if desired and essential oils if using. Store in an airtight container in the fridge until ready to use. Serve cold for the best flavor. 

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Trusting Self-directed Learning

In the last couple of months, Little Peter started wanting to write labels on his drawings. He started asking me how to spell some words and write the letters. I tried to give the least amount of assistance needed to begin with so that he could be in charge of this new area of learning. He had learned how to write his name a couple of years ago so I started from there. For eg,

Mama, what does dump truck start with?

D

What does a D look like?

It’s like a P, but the round part goes all the way to the bottom of the line.

Etc.

Today he took me by surprise when he asked:

Mama what’s the letter that is two mountains? I mean two valleys?

W

Okay, so what’s W O R K S H O P spell?

Workshop

Oh, see this is the workshop!

I couldn’t believe how quickly he rattled off all the letters.

I didn’t “teach” him a single thing about letters. I just answered his questions.

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Feathers! (Or fuzz?)

As part of our preparations to moving to WV, we are working on expanding our flock of chickens from three to about 30. On Christmas Eve we set a dozen eggs in an incubator. I was told to only expect about a 50% hatch rate since the eggs were shipped. We ordered 9 Cream Legbars and 3 English Buff Orpingtons.

Day 1

We set the incubator up on the buffet in our dining room, with a plant next to them for fresh oxygen and we made a paper chain for little Peter to visualize how long it would take the eggs to hatch. He has really enjoyed removing a link every morning when he wakes up.

Eggs in Incubator
I was disappointed to realize our incubator only fit 9 eggs in the automatic turner

I had tested the incubator for 24 hours to confirm the temperature and humidity would be right for incubating, but I didn’t think about testing the size of chicken eggs in it. I was disappointed to realize our incubator only fit 9 eggs in the automatic turner, and even that was a stretch. I kept 3 eggs off to the side, started turning them manually and placed an order for another incubator.

Day 2

While we waited for the second incubator to arrive, I opened the top 5 times each day to rotate the eggs manually and moved them around occasionally, in an attempt to mimic mama hen moving the outer eggs to the middle.

Day 3

I was so disappointed when I realized I had put the rotating arm inside of the egg turner (see the metal bar in the top right of the photo below?) and it cracked two Legbar eggs. It was too early for me to see if they would have grown or not. I removed one divider from the turner and moved the eggs around, only needing to leave one outside of the automatic turner.

Lost two eggs
Sadly down to 10 eggs after two were damaged

Day 5

When the second incubator arrived we candled the eggs and saw some beginning to develop; blood vessels looking like spider legs, stretching from a dark spot near the center. Some were very clear and others not, the Cream Legear eggs were much easier to see through than the Orpingtons. We moved the three eggs that didn’t seem to be growing to the second incubator once it was warmed up. What a relief to be able to take advantage of the automatic turner for all the eggs!

Day 6

I have been trying to maintain a constant humidity, and finding it a bit challenging. I think it was partly due to opening it to turn the eggs (our house is at about 30% humidity right now). I figured out that I needed to add less water more frequently (usually 3-4 times per day) to keep it more consistent and now that I am able to use the automatic turner, I’m just cracking open the top a tiny bit to add the water.

Day 8

One of our cats discovered a warm place to nap. I was really worried when I saw her on top of one of the incubators, covering up the air exchange hole in the lid. Fortunately the temperature only went up to 100.2, not enough to do damage. After that, I started covering the incubator with an upside down wooden crate. Now she can enjoy her warm spot and the eggs are safe, with plenty of air space around the incubator.

Cat wants to hang out on the incubator
Keeping the incubator safe from our cat while she enjoys a warm spot, only 5 links left on the chain

Day 10

We checked the eggs in the second incubator with the candle again and we could not see any development (we cracked them open and confirmed). We’re down to 7 eggs and back to one incubator.

Day 16 (Today)

We checked them with the candle again. I keep forgetting to take a photo when we candle our eggs, but tonight was really exciting because I was surprised to clearly see the silhouette of feathers (or fuzz?) on one of the eggs!

It was so amazing to see how big they are getting. We did have one Buff Orpington that stopped growing. We opened the egg shell to get a closer look (after checking, rechecking and comparing it to the others with the egg candle to be sure). It looked (to my novice eye) that it was about 5 days along when it stopped growing. I think it may have had a blood ring, indicating bacteria got inside the egg.

So, we are just a couple of days away from lockdown and we have one Buff Orpington and 5 Cream Legbars that appear to be growing beautifully. We’re excitedly awaiting hatch day and hoping for a successful hatch! They should hatch on Saturday.

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Tiny house

Could we be a tiny house family?
Could we be a tiny house family?

This weekend we looked at houses for rent near our land and didn’t find anything that would work for us. Peter said he just didn’t feel right renting someone else’s house when what we really want is to get to our land. So we then drove out to rural MD and looked at a tiny house on wheels.

The tiny house was awesome. It was a deep green stain on the exterior, had very large windows and a completely open floor plan. I loved that the kitchen was a galley the width of the trailer and the bath and bed were at the opposite side of the long end, leaving a large open space in the center.

Tiny house

We really think this tiny house could be an awesome place to live until our big house is built. Though we really love the asethetic of this particular house, I’m hesitating with it because it’s not off-grid ready and I don’t know how we would get it set up for off-grid given our distance and lack of know-how, not to mention our time constraints with Peter working full time and me having two little ones to take care of full time.

I’m beginning to feel like I have turned over just about every stone trying to find something that is move-in ready and ready now. I have started to think it is time to cut our losses and order something that will be ready in a few months. We could still get there in early spring and start working on some projects and be there while the big house is under construction.

It’s looking like spring is going to be the time {thyme}.

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Getting There

It’s been just over a month since we purchased our land. During the last month, we have visited a couple of times to walk the property and to start getting to know it better. Since we live five hours away, we have been exploring ways we could spend more time on the land and stay longer than a few hours at a time. We  looked at everything from cabins to tiny houses. I was hopeful that we could get something ready in the last few months of 2016 before the really cold weather comes.

Unfortunately we have not been able to find anything we could build on our land that will be ready for us to live in this year. I contacted builders for cabins, tiny house trailers and I looked for a used tiny house and couldn’t find anything local. So then we started looking at RVs. There sure are plenty of options for RVs – so many that I became overwhelmed by the choices (and some of the price tags!). Little Peter is fascinated with RVs and really wants to live in one. I’m less enthused. I prefer the aesthetic of a tiny house and I’m concerned about heat and water since we would be totally off-grid.

This week I had the idea to look for a rental apartment or house in the area. I think it will be easier with the kids and all the muddy laundry they make at this time of year and it will be more economical than an RV. We won’t quite be on our land, but if we can be within a short distance we can definitely spend more time on the land than if we stay in NY.

As excited as I am to get to WV, there is part of me that is overwhelmed and wants to just hunker down for the winter in NY and wait till spring to make any changes.

Let’s see how the rentals look.