Monday, April 21, 2014

Exciting Changes!

To all my dedicated readers (the handful of friends and family that tell me they read this!),

I know it's been a long time since I've posted anything on here. But fret not, it's because I've been busy working with (sister-in-law) Emily on a brand new blog! We've decided to combine forces to create the Penncroft Homestead, a lifestyle blog that will focus on things that embody sustainability, affordability and beauty. It will be a lot of DIY projects, upcycling goods, and making things from scratch. Additionally it will be a resource for thrifty living in the Philadelphia area, listing good consignment shops, farmers markets and the like.

I've kept up with this blog for about a full year now, my how time flies! I've enjoyed recording and sharing projects and interests. And it's probably the closest thing to a diary that I've ever kept, a modest accomplishment for me. But I'm looking forward to working with Emily, and focusing our efforts on projects that we're really passionate about. I hope if you ever enjoyed reading my posts here you'll start to follow us at the Penncroft Homestead!

Blogger Tricks

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Fresh and Local: Stryker Farm

For years I've been buying meat, like anyone else, from the supermarket. Always working within a tight budget, cheap cuts of meats were my go-to. And until recently I didn't really care about where it came from, or how it got to the supermarket, or how it was raised. I just didn't have the time to worry about that sort of stuff. Now, "that sort of stuff" is what I'm most interested in. "That sort of stuff" shapes and affects my health and lifestyle. In time, I've graduated from regular supermarket meat to organic meats. It was only last year I discovered I could get delicious, locally raised meat for less than, say, Whole Foods prices and support my local economy at the same time. Affordable and sustainable? Sign me up!

I learned that buying directly from the farm saves your wallet money and puts more directly towards the farmer's. Only one catch; most often you have to buy the whole animal or a large portion of it. Is that a grisly way of putting it? Oh, well. So, last December we bought an eighth of a cow for Verdant Farms and a quarter of a pig from Stryker Farm in Pennsylvania. Everything came portioned, labeled and frozen, how convenient? Our great meat adventure! We acquired a chest freezer and stocked it with a little under 100 pounds of the freshest meat we could get our paws on and we've been savoring every bite since.

Tonight I made beer brats from Stryker Farms in Saylorsburg, PA. As I pulled them out to defrost, I noticed the ingredients, "Pork ,Weyebacher Ale, Sea Salt, Spices, Turbinado Sugar". No nitrates, no fillers, no unrecognizable ingredients. And not only is the pork fresh and local, but the ale flavor is too!

So far, every cut that we've eaten from Stryker farm has been superb. This post singing it's praise is long overdue. The housemade sausages are fabulous. We've had the breakfast sausages (scrumptious), Irish bangers (bangin') and now the brats. I let them simmer in a pot of "quick" sauerkraut.

My Quick Sauerkraut:
  • A medium sized head of green cabbage
  • 4 strips of thick cut bacon
  • 4 tablespoons of butter
  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of juniper berries (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

1.   Start with a heavy bottomed pan. Cut the bacon up into pieces and fry it up.

2.   Slice the head of cabbage into thin ribbons.

3.   When the bacon is cooked, but not crispy, remove it from the pan... and leave all the fatty goodness in there.

4.   On a medium flame add the cabbage and saute for a minute. Add the butter and apple cider vinegar. Traditional sauerkraut is a fermented food, but the vinegar makes this recipe quick, giving it that sour flavor.

5.  There should be a good amount of liquid at the bottom. Add the juniper berries. Add a sprinke of salt and pepper. Let it simmer for a few minutes uncovered.

6.   Make a hole in the middle for the brats to simmer. Turn the heat way down and let the flavors do their thing for a half hour or so, covered. I don't think you can actually overcook this, but personally, I like when the cabbage still has the slightest crunch left to it.

7.   Add the bacon. Did you forget about that bacon? Oh yeah, it's going back in there. I never said this was low cal.

8.   I try to pick out the juniper berries before serving because they're bastards to chomp down on.
I served this with some roasted carrots and onions and a dry white wine. These brats are flavored so nicely, tender and juicy. I'm sure they'd be great grilled on a toasted bun. With fried onions. And mustard. Mmm.

(As I write this Chris moans that I'm making him hungry again. He's threatening to go eat the leftovers before bed. Not on my watch.)

Our friends Mike and Gayla organized the group of people to share all of these wholesale meats, so they also went to the actual farm to pick up the piggie when it was ready. They had nothing but wonderful things to report about the farm and the owners. You can read more about the farm, here. I'm pretty certain there's no going back to "supermarket meat" for us. When we run out of pork, we'll be headed back to Saylorsburg!

Monday, March 24, 2014

The First Signs of Spring

“If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome."
- Anne Bradstreet

Friday, February 28, 2014

Paleo Cauliflower "Rice"

Since Christmas I've been eating and preparing paleo meals (check out this post to catch up on my paleo adventure). Generally it's not too different from how we already eat, and Chris even confessed he hasn't felt deprived of anything. However, I've had to learn a few paleo hacks, if you will, to make up for some previous staples. RICE. We ate rice all the time! It was our go to grain, cheap and easy. But rice isn't a option anymore. So, now what do we eat with our stir frys and curries?

Cauliflower "rice"!

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Paleo Grain-Free Granola

Why would I want to make grain-free granola?

Around Christmas time, way back when in December, I found myself on a paleo food blog. I knew the gist of the paleo "diet", but this blog had me consumed. Look at all of these wonderful things to eat! This doesn't look like a diet at all. And in fact, paleo folks don't call it a diet but rather a lifestyle. And as I read the science behind it, it started making sense. Enough sense that I decided to try it out. So here's the short and fast version...

Your body isn't designed to efficiently use a lot of the food we put in it; grains, sugars, most dairy, legumes, and chemically processed stuff. And evidence of that can be found in obesity, diabetes, peanut allergies, gluten allergies, and lactose intolerance (pretty common stuff, eh?). Instead you should model your diet more like that of our lean and muscular ancestors (cavemen). Eat meat, seafood, lots of vegetables, some fruits, nuts and seeds. Done.

After my varsity athlete days in high school, I learned quickly that my adult body's metabolism wasn't going to keep up with my eating habits. And honestly, since then it's been a bit of a struggle to keep my weight down. I've ate a loose paleo diet from Christmas to January and steadily lost 12 pounds. Even better, I have more energy, and I didn't feel hungry all the time. I felt so good I wanted to give the Whole30 challenge a go, and Emily joined in too! I'm days away from day 30 and I feel, dare I say, awesome.

I'm still no expert on it. But here are some people that are...
Nom Nom Paleo
Eat Drink Paleo
The Healthy Foodie
The Clothes Make The Girl

This fantastic granola came from Irey's kitchen at Eat Drink Paleo.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

February Hibernation

chickens in snow
Sorry, February, but I've never been a fan.

I've started to call this time of year my February hibernation, or slump, or depression. The joy and the shine of the holiday season is long past, and Spring seems too far off to be hopeful. The weather is usually crap, and this year was no exception. The Philadelphia area got hit especially hard with snow, and ice, and sleet, making it difficult to get on with the daily routine. The chickens are literally cooped up, the dogs are rammy because they're not getting their ya-yas out running around outside, and speaking of ya-yas I don't think I'm getting mine out either. Harumpf. I tell myself every year, "Jackie, you should schedule lots of fun things to do for that time and it'll go by so much faster! Great idea, Past Jackie, but Present Jackie isn't buying it.

Now that I think of it, February is more like my molting period. Chickens go through a yearly molt where they stop laying eggs, loose a bunch of feathers, okay a lot of feathers, and generally look miserable. I think the end of winter is like that for me. I'm not too creatively inspired, and it's a time to hole up and just be unproductive for awhile because Spring will arrive soon enough with plenty to do!

Today, I felt like I was getting my mojo back, or to keep with the molting analogy my feathers have grown in and I've laid my first egg in awhile. I even felt like writing this post, and updating an old one. Hopefully crabby Jackie is ready to get on with the year. We'll see.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Homemade Whiskey Beef Jerky

I have a confession. I love jerky. There's something about a dried piece of salty meat that I find so satisfying as a snack. But as much as I love it, I rarely buy it except on the rare festival or camping trip, where it's dried nature actually fulfills it's purpose. I came across this recipe for homemade jerky and I gathered my supplies to make it the same day. Whiskey infused jerky.

Because I also like to eat my alcohol.

homemade whiskey beef jerky

Thursday, January 30, 2014

DIY Beauty Oil

It looks like beauty oils are getting a lot of hype recently at the beauty counter. The initial idea of applying oils directly to your face probably horrifies most, but the big secret is: using oils as a moisturizer doesn't make your skin oily. Period.

argan oil on your face


Monday, January 20, 2014

Penncroft Attic Photoshoot

Back in June of last year, sister-in-law, Emily, and myself started a vintage Etsy shop. After a few sales and a lot of New Years motivation we are kickstarting the shop! Today we took a little trip across the street to the State Park by my house. We wanted to showcase this beautiful fox fur collar coat we picked up at a vintage warehouse in Philly. A simple dress form didn't do this stylishly mod coat justice, but Emily is rockin' it!

Want it for yourself? Hurry up before it's gone! Penncroft Attic

vintage fur collar coatvintage fur collar coat
vintage fur collar coat

vintage fur collar coat

vintage fur collar coat

Friday, January 17, 2014

Recommended Listening: Travis

Generally when I write these sort of music posts it's about new music, or newly discovered by me. But I just listened to an interview with the Scottish band, Travis, on Philly's WXPN. I was suddenly reminded of one of my favorite bands from my young formative music years. Travis was one of the first bands that I "discovered" as a freshman in high school when I realized I wasn't obligated to listen to Top 40 Pop. The first song I ever heard was the single, Why Does it Always Rain on Me, something about the sweet melancholy and jangly banjo had me hooked.

I specifically remember buying their first album, Good Feeling, with bestie, Julia, from the secondhand shop we'd frequent in Ambler, Geeks and Gods (sadly no longer in business). I think there were two copies so we each got one. Ah, remember CD's? I'm such a tactile person, but I succumb to the ease in which I can devour music online. I sort of miss the ritual of buying CD's. I loved the booklet in the front with all the lyrics, like a musical cheatsheet. Surely I wasn't the only one that immediately set out to memorize each song right away?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Two Dogs Are Better Than One

We adopted Dante, our chihuahua mix, last summer and I think it only took 2 months to decide I wanted another "because two dogs are better than one." And while that reasoning does seem a bit juvenile, there is some truth to it. Dante is home alone during the day while we're work and surely he gets lonely. Dogs are naturally pack animals so being on their own isn't ideal. Having two dogs doesn't necessarily mean double the work. You're already taking one out for walks and to do their business, what's another tagging along? At some point in the past few months Chris agreed that a second dog would be a good idea...

Meet Dexter!

fawn chihuahua fawn chihuahua

Friday, January 3, 2014

Adult Hot Chocolate

Today is the first snow day of 2014! I love snow, but I knew I became a real grown up when I no longer prayed for giant snowstorms to blanket the roads so that school would be closed. Because unfortunately when you're adult and it snows you still have to go to work. You have to dig out your car, or shovel your sidewalk. Or help your neighborhood shovel their sidewalk. And shovel your driveway. Ugh.

So, after an hour of shoveling this morning I made us some hot chocolate as a well-deserved reward. Not Swiss Miss packets with fake marshmallows, no no. Real hot chocolate, with a kick.