Our Mission

To live a self-sufficient and organic lifestyle for the next half century. With the Grace of God and the power of prayer, we will succeed. Nothing is impossible with His help. It wouldn't be us without laughter and joy at the Cockeyed Homestead.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Cooking with Chef Jo: Cabbage- Use It or Lose It

Now, if you're like me, I've got whole heads of cabbages in my cold storage bins leftover from my late fall harvest. But after four months, they are looking a bit rough.

I could have dug a hole, placed my heads in them, and covered them with heavy mulch. They probably been good for a few months buried like that. But I didn't. It's one of those would of, should of, could of things. The one where you make the best choice at the time.
I haven't found an old, broken freezer to bury in the ground like I describe in my book, Are You a Survivalist or a Prepper? Shameless plug (grinning).  I had this set up on my old homestead. Instead, I've got a well insulated storage building. It stays cool during our extremely hot summers and well above freezing during long, cold winters. I can run the small AC unit or plug in a small heater if I need to, but I haven't had to yet.  

Even though it sounds like an ideal situation, it's not. We've had periodic rodent infestations and maybe a snake or two with food supply to boot especially winter. They are enjoying the climate controlled, dry haven we built. Though we are diligent, with ugh- poisons and traps, we still have losses due to this. Bins of over wintering fruits and vegetables are a prime target. I've lost an entire case of sweet potatoes due to this in the past.

I was going through my cold stores this week, when I noticed greater interest (droppings and chew marks on the plastic bins) around my container with my four remaining heads of cabbage. It's a use it lose it situation. You know me, I chose use it.

I detest the taste of boiled cabbage. So I never can it. I've never frozen just cabbage before. Mel will only eats cabbage in eggrolls or spring rolls. I peeled the wrinkly unappetizing leaves away (the rabbits will love them) and gave them a good soaking a brine solution just in case there was any dirt or creepy crawlies alive in them.

My first though was to make cabbage rolls and stick them in the freezer. Mel could always unwrap them before eating them. I found these foil tins in my Dollar Tree that made for a perfect serving for two and there are 3 tins for a buck. To me it makes cents.

If you've ever made cabbage rolls before, you only use the larger outer leaves to make them. That leaves the inner portion of the cabbage in tact. I made up nine pans. Once cooled, I put them in the freezer for three hours. As an extra measure, I vacuum sealed each container. I used ground lamb and beef as the meat filling in these because that's what I had on hand.

Next, I took one of the leftover cabbages and corded it.  I mixed 3 Tbs of soft butter, 1 tsp sea salt, 1/2 tsp black  pepper , a pinch of red pepper flakes , and a splash of Worcestershire sauce and stuffed the core space with the mixture. I wrapped it with foil leaving a quarter sized vent hole. I baked this in a 350 degree oven for 15 minutes a pound. I let the cabbage rest for 5 minutes, and then cut into serving  size wedges. I poured the cabbage/butter mixture over top of each wedge. I froze the wedges on a parchment lined baking sheet for an hour, and then vacuum sealed them. Now I can nuke and eat them whenever I want.

The other three left over cabbages I shredded into fine pieces. This was destined to be half eggroll and spring roll filling. 

Jo's Fancy Eggroll/ Spring Roll Filling
4-6 cup finely shredded cabbage
6 pieces of shrimp, deveined and minced tossed with 2 Tbs corn starch
4 boneless chicken thighs, fat removed ground
1/4 lb red meat,(lamb, beef or pork) ground
3 garlic cloves, minced. Can substitute 2 tsp garlic powder.
1" knob of ginger, minced. Can substitute 2 tsp dry ground ginger.
6 green onions, chopped fine
1/2 medium onion, chopped fine
 1 cup mung bean sprouts
1/4 cup finely chopped mushrooms
1/2 cup carrots, shredded
1/8 cup soy sauce
 2Tbs oil
Salt and pepper  to taste

  • Prepare meats and vegetables.
  • In large wok or pan, heat oil. Add garlic and ginger.
  • Add meats in the following order: red meat, chicken, shrimp. Stir fry until no longer pink (except the shrimp) about two minutes for each meat. Remove meat from pan leaving oil and some garlic and ginger in the pan. 
  • Add vegetables in the following order: carrots, onions, mushrooms, cabbage, bean sprouts, green onions. Stir fry about two minutes after each addition. Do not wash the pan after cooking the vegetables.
  • Add soy sauce, salt and pepper.
  • Cover and let cook for three minutes.
  • Return meat mixture to the pan. Mix well, cover, and remove from heat.

When the mixture is cool enough to handle, Place a 2-cup measured scoop onto a parchment lined baking sheet and freeze for 2 hours. Place each mound in a vacuum seal bag. A 2- cup mound will fill 4 eggrolls or 8 spring rolls.

This mound of vegetable meat mixture can be added to three store bought ramen soups packages for a tasty dinner or lunch.

So that's how I handled my use it or lose it cabbage scenario. How about you? What dishes would you make?

Have a blessed day!

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Cleaning Out the Junk Room

After 4 hrs!
If your honest, everyone has one, or one spot that everything ends up there that one day, you promise yourself, you'll straighten it up. This week was this room's turn. Originally designated as an office/crafts room...it hasn't been used as that in a long time.

The picture is after FOUR HOURS of pulling stuff out of the room. At least you can now see the floor. The room also has a huge walk-in closet at the back left of the room jam packed with stuff. We still have a long way to go. Mel had made a shelving unit in her bedroom a few years ago for her yarn stash. She actually built three of them to hold all her yarn and yarn stuff. Here's her video on building and installing her first one.

Between the dogs and the cats (especially Flynn), they pretty much knocked the yarn off the shelves daily. We started storing yarn in tote bags. These tote and paper bags ended up in the office/craft room. Right place, but not the ideal storage solution. We could never find what we were looking for. The shelves Mel built are now dismantled.

So Mel started pulling out all the big, plastic tote containers, boxes, tote and grocery bags of yarn out of the room. I couldn't even walk into the room without the risk of falling. I had cleared the table in the breakfast nook and started sorting the skeins by color. I'll worry about the different types ( bulky, worsted, dk, fine) later when I put them away in the new shelving unit Mel's building. In the meantime, each color was put in plastic totes and paper bags until it will be installed. Not shown are 18 gallon totes filled with green, red/pink, and green yarns. Four in total. One tote is designated for Mel's UFOs (Unfinished or FUBARed Objects). One bag has knitting, crochet, and other needlework gadgets. Another reusable grocery tote bag has scraps of yarn leftover from finished projects. This alone took multiple hours.

We have tried doing all of this systematically. Next was tackling the office stuff. Most of this was in order, but stuffed into file cabinets, cluttering the desk in a dozen piles or more, and in paper boxes. Still, it all had to be gone through and sorted.

Next all the cookbooks formed three piles on the breakfast table. If I didn't see 20 recipes I wanted, the book was placed in a donation bin. I might mention here that I only brought three with me. Those three still are in the keep pile. Mel had moved them into the office on one of her tidying sprees.

Each day we have tackled one area within the space. After that was sewing stuff and miscellaneous stuff. There is much discussion over what to keep and why. 98% of all of this is Mel's stuff. I did this all before my move here. I simplified my possessions to the bare minimum. Mel carried it all (hers and her mother's belongings) with her when she moved here. A three bedroom house with an attic does not equate into a three bedroom double wide trailer. But I understand the sentimental attachments things carry. Most of the keep or donate is up to her. It just needs reorganizing. Marie Kondo's Tidying Up series on Netflixs has worn on her.

We wanted to try either laying wood laminate on the floor or brown paper bagging the floor as the first attempt of ripping out the ratty carpet in this house. I'm searching for cheap wood paneling to replace the falling/sagging ceiling tiles. Once we remove everything out of the room to remove the carpeting, we'll spackle and paint the worn wood paneling on the walls too. It should be a bright, light, well organized space when finished. A joyful experience to be in rather than dump and run. A place to craft, sew, and spin in, or plan and do recordkeeping in.

I'm not under any misguided notions. This project will take months to accomplish with all the goings on with the homestead. But little by little, it'll get done. In the end, we'll have a gorgeous multipurpose room that we won't cringe when we open the  door to enter. Then, the challenge is keeping it that way.

Last winter, I had considered swapping bedrooms with this one, but changed my mind. I like my little room. There is less space for me to fall in. I only go in there to sleep and keep my clothes in anyhow. The bigger the space, the more possessions I feel I need. Also, the bigger the space the more you have to clean. Makes sense and cents to me.

Y'all have a blessed day!

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Cooking With Chef Jo- Homemade Sourdough Bread

Now I realize many of my readers aren't as back to nature extremists like I am. To make my flour, I'll buy Montana, non GMO wheat kernels from the Amish store or use my home grown Einkorn/Emmer wheat to start with. I'll soak it for two days in our spring fed water to sprout it, and then lay it out by the wood stove to dry completely before I hand grind it into flour. Yeah, I'm a dyed in the wool homesteading extremist for wanting to know where my food comes from. If this is not you, no worries any good quality wheat all purpose flour will do.

Do Not use municipal water supply in this. Use bottled spring water.

Day 1 & 2-To Make my sourdough stater is two ingredients 1/4 cup of flour and 1/4 cup of water. That's it. I'll place the mixture in a half gallon mason jar. To cap it off, I'll use the ring and screw over a piece of cheesecloth. I'll leave it to do it's thing for two days. You may notice tiny bubbles in your mixture. This is a good thing.

Day 3- Stir the mixture. You might notice a slight yeasty smell as you do this. Add 1/4 c of water and 1/4 cup of flour to your mixture. Stir well. Replace the cheesecloth cover. Return it to its spot on the counter.

Day 4-6 Repeat day 3's instructions. You may notice a dark liquid forming in your jar. This is the by product of the yeast eating the sugars in the flour. You will also notice the yeasty sour smell getting stronger. This is very good thing.

Day 7- Stir in 1/2 cup of flour and water.

By now your starter is inflating and bursting to the cheesecloth. Pull out a cup of this mixture and make bread or rolls with it.

My recipe for sourdough bread is this.

Sourdough Bread
Makes 1 large loaf
1 cup of starter
1/2 cup of water, lukewarm if fine.
1/4 cup melted butter
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2-3 c flour

Mix all ingredients until a soft, elastic dough forms. Knead about thirty to fifty times on a floured surface. Place dough in a greased bowl and lightly cover. Let dough rest and double. Depending on the natural yeast in the starter, this can take several hours.

Once the dough has doubled, fold one edge towards the center and continue around the bowl in this fashion. There is no call to punch the dough in the center to deflate it. The dough did nothing to you to warrant this kind of violent treatment.

Dump the dough onto a floured surface and knead it about thirty times. Flatten the dough with the heel of your hand. With a pastry brush lightly brush the flattened surface with water. Roll the dough into a cylinder shape. Place the cylinder into i generously buttered loaf pan tucking the ends underneath the loaf. Press the dough firmly into the loaf pan. Brush melted butter on top and cover with a damp cloth.

When the loaf has dough has doubled in size, it's time to bake your bread. 400 degrees for 20 minutes. You'll know your bread is done when you thump it with your knuckle and you hear a hollow sound.

Although you'll be tempted to cut into it right away wait. Let the bread sit in the pan for 5 minutes. Brush the top with melted butter. Turn it out onto a cutting board and lay it on its side for 10 minutes. After that, cut yourself a slice. Before you slather it with butter taste it. If the bread is sour enough to your liking slather away and enjoy.

I cut slits in the top of mine
If your want it more sour, Continue doing doing Day 3 for a few more days and try making bread again. Repeat until you get the taste you enjoy.

To feed your starter add 1/2 c flour and water weekly. If you do not make bread every day or every other day, your starter can be stored in the refrigerator.  If you do, keeping your starter on the counter is fine. Remember, your starter is a living organism. Feed it and care for it lovingly and you will be rewarded with years of sourdough.

Y'all have a blessed day.

Sunday, January 27, 2019

Homestead Canning- A Lesson in Economics

I scurried around the kitchen today searching for clean half pint canning jars. I found more mushrooms reduced in price at the grocery store again. I grabbed ALL that were marked down to $0.99 a lb marked down from $3.98. A whopping savings, I paid $8 instead of the regular $32! As any 'shroom lover out there, Mel and I are these delectable fungi  biggest fans.  Not only were there boxes of button mushrooms in my haul, but Criminis, Portabellas, and Oysters in there too. An abundance of earthly flavors.

 I've got 5 qt jars dehydrated in my food storage already, as well as a year's worth of cream of mushroom soup, but how could I pass up such a steal?  The catch was that these tasty morsels were close to past there prime. Whatever I wanted to do with them, I had to do it quick. I'd never canned mushrooms alone before. Sure, I've canned them in a recipe, but never alone. I'd bought canned mushrooms,so I knew it could be done.

I pulled out everyone's favorite canners guide, The Ball Preserving book, and was disappointed to see, ''Not Recommended for Canning " notation beside the mushroom. They suggested freezing or dehydrating them. I do not like the texture of frozen  mushrooms. So, as always, I researched the web and YouTube. Other canners were canning these delicacies safely so I knew I could too.

So I set about brushing off my mushrooms and slicing them.  In a large pot halfway filled with water, I set it on the iron to heat. I'll add 2 tsp of salt to season. After I finish slicing the 'shrooms, I added them to the now boiling water. I'll heat it back to boiling, reduce the heat to simmer. Cover and simmer the mushrooms for 5 minutes just like the videos I watched.

But unlike the videos, I chose to strain the remaining cooking liquid through a wire strainers lined with a coffee filter. Many videographers commented that liquid was brown so they chose to use clean, boiling water into the jars. I beg to differ. The liquid is brown because of the mushrooms. It full of vitamins and minerals from the mushrooms.  I strained it well in case I missed any compost the mushrooms  were grown in. Sure, the mushrooms  aren't floating in clear liquid after canning, but you can add the liquid into a dynamite gravy for an extra mushroomy taste.

Since I was pressure canning half pint jars, The timer after it comes to pressure is 45 minutes at 15 lb of pressure based on our altitude. I used my small pressure canner for 9 half pint jars.Now this won't be the last time my grocer will have a deal like this. I fully expect to get several cases of half pint jars by the end of the year. I can even add to my dehydrated mushroom stores.

In case you were wondering, canning my own mushrooms averaged out to $0.88 a jar. In the grocery store I can sometimes find a deal on canned mushrooms for close to this price, but those are just button mushrooms not Criminis, Portabellas, and oyster mushrooms too.  Canned or frozen Portabellas range closer to the $4 price point.

So as this example illustrates, homestead canning gives you a bigger bang for your buck both in health benefits and in value. In the long run, even the cost of canning jars depreciates down to zero over time. I've had some jars since the 1970s and they are still good today. Rings can be used over and over again for years if you clean and dry them well. About the only thing you replace is the flat lids. Buying them in bulk is cheaper at about 2 cent a flat lid. For me, canning about 1,000 jars costs me $20 per year if I only used new flat lids which I don't. That's dirt cheap in today's economy. It home canning is an essential part of homestead economics.

You can buy cheap if you don't have a garden, but what homesteader doesn't have a garden of some sort? Sure, you can't grow everything, but you can by in bulk from other homesteaders that do grow what you do not. The pea pods, corn husks, snapped ends of green beans and the like of the things you buy can be composted to enrich your own garden soil so you even reap added rewards.

Yes, home canning makes good economic sense and cents.

Y'all have a blessed day.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Cooking with Chef Jo: Canning Beef Stew

Everyone knows how to make beef stew, right? It's a no brainer, right? You chop some meat and vegetables and throw it all into a pot of water with some seasonings, and simmer forever. But it's a year around comfort. Especially now when it's cold and blustery outside.

What really makes my beef stew a stand out winner is my seasoned salt blend. Don't worry. The recipe is coming now.

Jo's Seasoned Salt Blend

4 TBS Sea salt, fine
1 TBS black pepper, I use the coarse ground
2 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp onion powder
1 TBS paprika
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp thyme
6 bay leaves, ground

Mix well. I store mine in a half pint jar in my cool, dark pantry. Shake before using. You can double this recipe for pint jars. These tend to be the herbs and spices I add to most of my recipes. feel free to change them up for yours. I use on everything!

Now for my beef stew recipe. Again, I'm canning most of it. I also lucked out out at the grocery store. I found the beef and frozen stew vegetables on sale. No chopping for me except for potatoes, rutabagas, and turnips. Is it just me, or is there never enough potatoes in these premixed bags? I love me some tators! Also I'll buy a good looking chuck roast and have the butcher remove the silver skin, most of the fat, and chop it into chunks. In the old days, pre strokes, I would have done myself. It's cheaper that way. Yeah me! It was also on sale! My total bill for the beef and frozen vegetables was $20! But I'll do this recipe for canning the regular way with actual vegetable amounts.

Jo's Beef Stew for Canning
Makes 27 pint and a half jars plus dinner for two nights
5 lbs of stew meat
1 lb potatoes, washed, large dice about 1"
2 lb carrots, washed, large diced about 1"
4 large onions, diced about 1", or 2 lb pearl onions, peeled
2 rutabaga, peeled, diced about 1"
4 turnips, peeled, diced about 1"
1/2 bunch celery, chopped about 1"
1-2 lb bag frozen peas,thawed
6 cloves garlic, minced
Jo' seasoned salt
Worcestershire sauce

* Notice I say plain water not beef broth. This is a semi raw pack canning method. The beef will make the broth while it cans. I love my Vidala Onion Chopper!

  • Brown the stew meat in a skillet. This is why this is a semi raw pack. By browning the beef first, you get a little better end product and there's less shrinkage of the meat while canning. Set aside in your staging area.
Now for the easy part. Loading your jars. I thawed my frozen vegetables and moved them to my staging area with my other chopped vegetables and meat. I washed and air dried 3 cases of pint and a half jars (27). With some of my garden produce from cold stores added it averages out to about $0.75 a jar of good, wholesome, convenience food with no additives or chemicals.

  • Fill each jar with 1/2 tsp Jo's seasoned salt, 1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce and 1/8 of tsp minced garlic.
  • Half fill each jar with water.
  • Place 8-12 pieces of meat in each jar.
  • Add about 1/2 a handful of each vegetable  in each jar.
  • Top off each jar with water to 1" of top if needed.
  • Wipe rims, lid, ring each jar and place in COLD pressure canner filled with manufacturer's recommended amount of water.  Can for your altitude and time.For me, it's 15 lb for 90 minutes.
To Serve
Stir 1 Tbs flour into 3 tBS water. Add to the sauce pan of stew, heat and eat.
Alternate Recipes
Serve over rice or noodles, or add dumplings.

The great thing about bulk canning is that there's always seems to be (on occasion) one jar that doesn't seal. Like this time. How's that for ready to eat meal? I'll throw it and any leftover meat & vegetables in a pot of water with Jo's seasoned salt to taste. Since it's early in the AM, I'll just throw it in a crockpot, or put it in my the Dutch oven cast iron pot on the wood stove to enjoy it later. Tonight, I'm adding dumpling.

Another yummy for tummy and for next time. Enjoy.

"Y'all have a blessed day!

Sunday, January 20, 2019

A Workable Outdoor Kitchen

The plastic is down because of winter rains.
As a former chef, I have some definite ideas of what I want in an outdoor cook place should be. For Mel, what's pictured is workable.  But Mel may grill five stars meats on the Webber, but cooks very rarely.

With my disability, holding anything and climbing up or the two steps is almost impossible. I want and need to make some changes before spring and I start using  it again. So I'm making it more to my liking. It will be my summer cooking and canning station.

I found an 'L" shaped Formica counter top at the ReStore which I snapped up. A double sink was attached for $15. It was bought with the intention of being a butchering counter. Plans change. Now, I'm searching for free or cheap base cabinets. It's almost tax time. Somebody will be re-doing their kitchen and I'll pounce. I'll be painting them anyhow to weatherize them somewhat. Under this makeshift table is where we store our canning equipment, and large pots.

I want access to running water even if it's a hose attached to the faucet. It's essential rather than touching the door jamb and walls to get back into the house to wash my hand. I'd have cabinets under one side and open shelves on the other side. I could get away with only two or three base cabinets. A small refrigerator would be a luxury for drinks, but we basically live out in the porch all summer long. If I can find one cheap enough, I'll get one. The microwave, the toaster oven do work and so does the electric burners. I want to change the burners for my Coleman propane stove. I've bought the connector that changes the gas input from those little canisters to a 20 lb tank so that's ready.  The propane tank will supply a better source of heat under the canners. So really all I need to put it all together is the base cabinets. I can't wait to find some. I can paint them with my kitchen ones.

I just want to have what I need and convenient access to it. I really dislike going back and forth while cooking. Trudging everything outside only to have carry it all inside again. Sure, this may mean having duplicate items, but everything will also have a home too.

Plus the extra counter space won't go to waste in the off season like now either. Remember all those fruit trees we started? They'll have a winter time place to live instead the floor, or our glass top table. I can mount lights and have them hang from the ceiling. More light and warmth for them, and with a quick summer time changes of bulbs more task lights for me. When it's time to start my seeds for spring, summer, and fall plantings the counter will be filled with starters too.

 It will be a more functional space. I can cook, can, and grill to my heart's content. It has the option for multiple uses, which is very important when dealing with smaller  spaces. It's utilitarian. It will be neater and more organized which is always a plus. We won't have to come inside to wash our hands after dealing with the animals. By using mostly what we have on hand, it will be a frugal, sustainable project for very little cash out of pocket. A winning prposition no matter how you look at it. I'll be working smarter not harder..

Y'all have a blessed day!

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Cooking with Chef Jo: Chili Con Carne

On the menu is Chili con Carne. Whether your chili has beans or not, the chili powder recipe I gave you last week will work for today's  recipe.  I thought I'd give you another use for it this week while it's at its ultimate freshness.

I was going through my store list program, Mel's Master List Food Inventory on sale now under the "For Sale" tab, on this rainy day, and found only five pints of chili left! Time to make some more to eat and put away for later. This recipe will make12 pint and half jars and dinner. Once again, I'll give you standard grocery store alternates too.

5 lbs of ground meat (I do half beef and half turkey)
3 large onions diced
1 qt salsa (your preference as to heat)
3 bell peppers, diced
2-6 jalapeno peppers, cored, seeded and minced
4 ribs celery diced
5 pints kidney beans or 5 cans 15.5 oz cans
4 pints tomato sauce or 2 jars 16 oz of spaghetti sauce of your choice
4 pints diced tomatoes or 4  15 oz cans of diced tomatoes
1/4 c corn flour, if you do not have corn flour take corn meal and grind it fine with a blender or mini chopper.
1 Tbs salt, or to taste*
2 tsp black pepper
12 cloves garlic, minced*
3-5 Tbs chili powder, depending on how hot you want it.
1 tsp oregano*
Water as needed

*I know there is oregano, garlic, and seasoning in spaghetti sauce. But trust me, you want more in this recipe.

  • Brown ground meat in a 16 qt stockpot. Season the meat with half the chili powder, half the salt and pepper. over medium heat and drain the fat after cooking.
  • Add onions, garlic, peppers, and celery. Cook until tender. 
  • Add remaining spices to the pot. Except the salt.
  • Stir well.
  • Add diced tomatoes, salsa and sauce. Juice and all.
  • Stir well.
  • Turn heat to low and continue simmering for two hour, stirring occasionally.
  • Taste it. Add salt if needed. Add water if needed.
  • Drained and rinsed the kidney beans. Add them into the pot and stir well.
  • Mix corn flour with 1/2 cup of water and stir well.
  • If you are canning a portion, now is the time to fill your jars. Pressure can pints for 65 minutes and quarts for 90 minutes.
  • Now bring your chili to a boil while stirring. If your chili is going to stick to the bottom of your pan, the addition of the beans and corn flour will do it. Cook until the chili con carne is the thickness you want.
Serving with a topping of chopped green onions, sour cream, and some sharp cheddar cheese.Oh my, Chef Jo now you're talking! Or, even over a bed of fluffy rice.  Or, make some corn tortillas. It's sure to be yummy in the tummy. Enjoy!

Y'all have a blessed day.