Monday, January 30, 2012

Rendering Tallow

Well, I finally got a huge job that had been looming large over my head finished. I got all the fat from the 1/2 side of grass-fed beef that we bought rendered into tallow. It amazes that 1/2 of an entire cow only had six and a half quarts of fat on it. 

I basically followed the same procedure as when I rendered lard a couple of months ago, except I did it in a bit lazier way. Instead of chopping all of the fat into 1" pieces, I simply put the slabs of fat into my containers whole. They were pretty large and I just didn't have space to chop it.

Both crock pots and my 9 quart Dutch oven were completely full of beef fat. I set both crock pots and the burner on my stove to low and let them be.

As the fat began to melt, I strained it into quart jars through a cheese cloth. Eventually I was able to add the fat from the red crock pot to the Dutch oven to save counter space.

These pictures show the liquefied fat during the melting process. This is what I pulled out with a ladle and strained into jars. I kept at this until there was no more fat to be rendered.

The fat in the crock pot was finished first. Here you can see the hard bits left over after the fat was completely liquefied. I need to mention that this makes your house smell like heaven while it's cooking. The bits of meat that are left on the slabs of fat when the cow is butchered are irresistible to certain meat-loving husbands, too. :0)

The Dutch oven still had a way to go by the time the crock pot was finished. This could have been because it was so much larger. I actually preferred this pot because the cast iron is wonderful at holding in heat evenly, allowing me to use a lower temperature to render the tallow. This is preferable, in my opinion.  

All in all, it took 3 days for all of the fat to be rendered into tallow. There was very little I had to do during that time, besides occasionally ladling the fat into jars. It may have taken less time had I cut the fat into smaller pieces before I started. Since I didn't really have room for that and wouldn't have to touch it much while it was working it's magic anyway, I just didn't see the need for that extra step.

Now I have six and a half beautiful quarts of a traditional, healthy fat to cook with in addition to the lard I have left. Although, this took a long time - it took very little effort.  Even the clean-up was a breeze. After I emptied each crock pot and the Dutch oven, I filled them with water and let the water heat in them for a while. This pulled almost all of the fat residue off the sides and bottoms of the pots. I then dumped the water and washed as usual. There was no problem with bits and pieces stubbornly sticking to it.

Traditionally, tallow was used in soap-making and for candles as well as for cooking. I'm glad to know that I could use it for those purposes in case of an emergency, but think I'll stick to cooking with it myself.

So tell me - have you ever bought a share of a cow? And, if you have - did you save the fat for tallow? Do you think it's something you would ever consider doing?

OK...on to something else briefly. I want to give you a sneak peak of what's been keeping me so busy and away from my blog lately. Ready?

I'm linking up at Homestead Barn HopMonday ManiaThese Chicks CookedTraditional TuesdaysTeach Me Tuesdays, Fat TuesdayHearth and Soul Blog HopSimple Lives Thursday, and Real Food 101.

Friday, January 20, 2012


Ok, Folks! We have a winner generated by! Congratulations to Jenny on winning her very own copy of Jacinda Vandenberg's awesome new e-book, "Blog Design on a Dime".

But, don't despair if that's not your name up there in lights...Ok, maybe not lights per se, more like colored fonts...anyway...  Don't despair if you weren't the lucky winner.  You can have a copy of your very own for the low, low price of $4.99.  Yes! You heard that right! Just $4.99 will get you your own copy of "Blog Design on a Dime"!  Ok, enough of the Pitch Men razzle dazzle. You get the idea. If you'd like a copy of a very helpful for the technologically challenged blogger much like myself, go pick yourself up a copy. 'Nuff said.

Thanks Jacinda for the wonderful giveaway!  Congratulations, Jenny!  Peace out!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Gluten Free Pasta with Beans & Greens in a Creamy Lemon Sauce

Do you ever have days where you're, well, just hungry? You know, when cheese and an apple isn't going to cut it? You feel like you need something with some nourishment? That's how it was for me around lunchtime a couple of days ago. I didn't want to spend a lot of time cooking lunch, though. Quite honestly, I didn't think I really had anything other than a can of soup to even make for lunch. But, I started rummaging through the fridge and cabinets and found a few ingredients that I thought I might be able to turn into a decent meal. Necessity is the mother of invention, right?

Let's do the math...

(*Gluten-free Quinoa pasta, garbanzo beans, kale, lemon, Parmesan cheese and butter)


(half & half, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes)



*Let me give you a heads-up on g-free pasta... The rice pasta is not very good. It cooks up all gummy and nasty. This Quinoa pasta is awesome! You'd never know it wasn't regular pasta. It also comes in different shapes like rotini twists and macaroni elbows. I use that to make homemade mac & cheese. Corn pasta is also very good. And, if you live near a Trader Joe's, their corn pasta is only $1.50 a pack. That is awesome pricing for gluten-free pasta. Moving on...

This meal is an excellent example of why it's a good idea to have a decently stocked pantry. Even when you're in a pinch you can come up with something good. :0)

Here's how to make it:

Get water boiling and pasta cooking.

In the meantime, melt about 2 Tbsp. of butter in a skillet and begin cooking kale (or whatever green you have on hand) over med-low heat. This is the last of the kale from my garden and I probably only had about a cup.  I would have used more if I'd had it. You use as much as you like.

Once the greens have cooked for about 5 minutes, add your drained and rinsed chickpeas. Once again, this is the only bean I had on hand. Great northern beans would be excellent. But, use what you have. The key is to get some protein in there.

When the past is close to being done, add a few red pepper flakes (or a lot) to the beans and greens and salt and pepper it. If it looks dry, add about another tablespoon of butter. Next add about 3 ounces of half & half, cream or milk and give it a good stir. You want to give it enough of a sauce to coat the pasta without having it swim in it.

Drain the pasta when done.  Toss with the beans and greens mixture.  Squeeze the juice of one lemon over it and top with some Parmesan cheese.  Adjust seasoning if necessary.

Oh. My. Goodness.  This was so good!  Isaac's kept saying, "Mmmm.  Mmmmm.  This is so good.  Thank you, Mama." the whole time he was eating it. That makes this Mama's heart happy.

So, the next time you need some soul food, take a gander at your pantry.  You just might have more to cook than you realized.

Do you ever find yourself cooking on the fly?

I'm linking this post at These Chicks Cooked.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012


Since we've had to go gluten-free, it's been a little difficult to find snacks to keep on hand. This trail mix fits the bill and is stupid easy. A child could do this 'cause there's no cooking what-so-ever.  Just open, dump and mix.

1 bag banana chips (Trader Joe's is $.99)
1 bag almonds
1 bag sunflower seeds
1 bag dried cranberries, or fruit of your choice
1/3 - 1/2 box of Chex cereal
medium size bag of plain M&Ms

You could also throw in other nuts or gluten-free pretzels, if you like.

Once you dump everything in a bowl, all you need to do is stir it up and put it into containers like these mason jars, or plastic bags.  Stupid easy.

It's great to have on hand for a quick snack or to take with you if you're going to be on the go.

Not only is it easy - it's really good!

So, do you have a quick go-to snack option?

P.S. There's still time to enter to win a free copy of Jacinda Vandenberg's new e-book, "Blog Design on a Dime"!

I'm linking this post up with Teach Me Tuesdays and These Chicks Cooked.

Friday, January 13, 2012


I'm excited to have my first giveaway for you today! Whoo Hoo!

I don't know if everyone is as computer illiterate technologically challenged as I am or not, but this brand-spanking new e-book, "Blog Design on a Dime", will be a huge benefit to those of us who need a hand with blog design.  It's written by Jacinda Vandenberg, the author of the blog, Growing Home.

Unless you're a professional blogger who sees hiring someone to design and maintain your blog for you a necessity for business, then, you're probably like me and are left to flip and flail around, experimenting with blog templates to create something that says "ME".  Unfortunately, this can still leave a blogger disappointed in the results.  And, heaven forbid you need to create a button for something.  That's when I just throw in the towel.  

I think that blog design is a lot like home decorating - most of us can't afford to hire someone to do the decorating, but that doesn't mean that we still don't want our place (home or blog) to be welcoming and lovely.  Sometimes all it takes is having someone to hold our hand through the process.  That's just what Jacinda does in "Blog Design on a Dime".

Listen to what you can expect to learn from it in Jacinda's own words:

In Blog Design On A Dime, I will walk you through every step it takes to create a blog header, button, and social media icons without the use of expensive photo editing software. 

You'll how to create drop shadows, circle buttons, and position elements for maximum impact.  You’ll know all about color codes, how to make your own grab box, and link your Facebook page to an icon you make for it. You’ll learn how to create a properly sized header and how to center the elements on your sidebar.

By the end of this book you’ll have learned all the techniques required to make and install stuff that looks like this:

Plus! Enjoy a bonus chapter on how to use these techniques to create a Facebook Welcome Page and profile, eBook covers, and gift certificates!

Best of all, no experience is required!

Jacinda does a fantastic job at breaking each lesson down into a totally attainable goal. So, if you've struggled in this area like I have, this e-book would be a great benefit to you.

Jacinda has graciously offered to give one of my readers a copy of her new e-book, "Blog Design on a Dime".  That's a $4.99 value.  Even if you're not chosen, this is still a great value. I can honestly say that I've only ever bought 2 e-books, even though there are many out there that I think would be an asset. But, I live on a budget and have to decide where to get the most bang for our hard-earned buck.  This is one of only two e-books that I've ever let go of the cash to buy.

To enter the giveaway:  Leave a comment telling me why you would like to win "Blog Design on a Dime".  Please leave an e-mail where you can be reached if you don't have a blog.  For a second entry, 'Like' Growing Home on Facebook. Then, leave another comment saying that you did so.  I'll announce the winner on Thursday, January 19, 2012.

Good luck!

Give Away is now closed.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Get Rid of the Glow

Hey, Everybody!  I have been working my hind-quarters off on something really exciting that I can't wait to share with you.  That's why my posting has been a little sporadic lately - and will probably continue to be until I can unzip my lips on the big news. But...I have a cool tip for you today. :0)

Do y'all remember the days when we all carried around Cover Girl compacts and constantly dabbed at the oil-slick on our faces, more commonly known as the T-zone, until we looked like we had fallen into a bowl of pancake batter?  I carried around one of those things well past high school. You still might. Don't worry - I won't judge.

Well, several years ago my sister introduced me to her new bestie - oil blotting papers like these:

Just in case you're not familiar with them, they are kick-butt at removing the oil from the T-zone instead of caking on powder to absorb it. This brand runs about $4.50 for 50 sheets. There are several higher end brands of these papers, too.

Being the Frugalista that I am, I've never bought these for myself, though. Here's what I do when I'm out in public and need to get rid of the glow. Ready? Ok. I go to the bathroom. Say whaaa? Yep, I go to the bathroom. Here's why...

Did you know that the paper toilet seat covers so commonly found in the rest room work just like the oil absorbing blotting strips? Sho nuff. Try it next time you visit the little girl's room.  You don't need that center portion anyway. :0) You'll be amazed at how much oil one of those seat covers removes from your face.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

vegetable beef soup

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Shakespeare ~ from Macbeth

Yesterday I showed you my new cast iron Dutch oven and how to season it.  Today I want to share with you an old stand-by recipe that I made in it.  When I was growing up, Saturday's were marked by a huge pot of some sort of soup or chili on the stove.  As various family members or friends dropped by the house, there was always plenty to share. This is one of those recipes. It's one of those soups that I turn to all the time when the cold weather sets in. Keep in mind that if you don't like an ingredient you can skip it.  You can also add more of something that you love - or add another ingredient that you think would be awesome.  This is just a guideline.

Vegetable Beef Soup and Gluten-free Cornbread


2 pounds stew beef
1 medium to large sized onion, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
3 large carrots, peeled and sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 potatoes, washed and diced
1 quart green beans, drained
1 cup red wine, optional
1 large can (49.5 oz) beef broth
salt and pepper

How to:

Heat your pot with some oil on med-high heat. I used lard. Once it's nice and hot, add your stew beef. Brown it on all sides, by stirring occasionally. Next, add your onion and garlic and just a bit of salt and pepper. If you add the salt and pepper in stages, the soup will have a richer flavor because one ingredient won't taste flat.  

Once the onion starts to become translucent, add the wine if you're using it. If not, use 1 cup of your broth. Although the wine is optional, I feel it really adds a depth to the flavor that you won't get otherwise. Turn your heat down to medium and let cook for about 5 minutes while you prepare your other vegetables. As they're cleaned and chopped, add the celery, carrots and potatoes in that order. Add the rest of your broth, cover and simmer until the carrots and potatoes are tender.  

Once your veggies are done, add the green beans. Taste the broth and add bit more salt and pepper and some thyme. I didn't measure the thyme, but I would start with a couple of teaspoons for this amount of soup. Let the soup simmer for about another half hour to marry the flavors. Just before serving, taste the broth and adjust the seasonings again, if necessary.


It's better to add seasonings a bit at a time. You can always add more, but can't take it out if you add too much.  

This is a huge batch of soup. I feel it's better to make more and then have extra to freeze for lunches or another dinner because it's no extra work. If that's not your bag, cut the recipe in half.

If you don't have a garden and can your own beans, use two cans of store bought beans instead.

Sometimes I add corn to this. You could also add parsnips, green pepper, mushrooms or any other veggie you love. Also, you could add rice, barley or noodles to the broth at the time you add your green beans.

If you make steak, roasts or ribs - save those bones and make your own beef stock. Not only will it save you $$, it doesn't get any more nutritious than homemade bone broth. We just bought a grass-fed cow and I have a freezer full of bones that I will be using to make lots of broth with with the next week or so. Unfortunately, I didn't have it ready for this pot of soup.

Do you have a favorite soup recipe that you turn to all the time?

I'm linking up with Simple Lives ThursdayThese Chicks CookedCast Party Wednesday and Homestead Barn Hop.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

How to Season Cast Iron Cookware

This baby was my (requested) Christmas gift from my parents this year.  It's a whoppin' 9 quart cast iron Dutch oven.  And, let me just say...LOVE!  

When I told my mom that I wanted a cast iron Dutch oven, she asked if I wanted an enameled one. Although cooks the world over sing enameled cast iron's praises - I just wanted a plain ol' basic one. Nothin' fancy, just hard working. I wish I could get back all the money I've wasted through the years on cookware with lifetime warranties that have disappointed.  Without fail, I turn to my trusty cast iron skillets for cooking.  The only time I find I use one of my other types of cookware is if I don't have it in cast iron.  So, when my mom asked me what I wanted, I decided to go with what I know.

Here's what I love about this type of cookware.  It heats evenly, eliminating hot spots.  When properly seasoned (which we'll get to in a moment), it's non-stick.  It is uber-easy to care for.  Just as you have to be careful about cooking in aluminum because of the danger of it getting into your food, cooking in cast iron also infuses your food with iron - but in this case it's a good thing.  Unlike other cookware's often false claims of lasting a lifetime, I know that this stuff will last for generations.  And, the last thing that I love about this cookware is that it is so durable that it can even be used to cook in a fire. Camping anyone?  Actually, my family lived in Florida in 2004 when the state was bombarded with hurricanes.  We were just fortunate enough to live in a place where the eye wall of 3 of the 4 hurricanes hit our house. :0) The first storm left us without power for several days.  I was so thankful for my cast iron skillets during that time because I was even able to cook green beans on the grill.  I wouldn't have been as confident doing that with a regular sauce pan.

If you find cast iron cookware at a yard sale or thrift store it can be brought back to life even if it is completely covered in rust.  All you have to do is remove the rust with steel wool and then re-season it several times.  The only time you want to stay away from second-hand cast iron is if the metal is cracked.

Unless it comes pre-seasoned, new cast iron is grey in color.  It will turn black with seasoning.  So, just how do we go about seasoning cast iron?  Very simply.  

Rub the entire piece of cookware with oil.  I did both the pot and the lid on mine.  I used lard from the pastured pig we recently bought because A) I had it on hand, and B) it has a higher smoke point than many other oils.  I would stay away from olive oil, but coconut oil or tallow would be great.  And, honestly, though I don't use it anymore, for years I used plain old canola oil.

Put the oiled cookware in a 300 degree oven for an hour or two.

When it's done, rub it down with coarse salt.  That's it.  Honestly, sometimes I do the salt step and sometimes I just wipe off the excess oil with a paper towel.

The more you use cast iron the better it performs.  Since iron is a porous material every time you use it, more of the oil will saturate the pores creating a better non-stick surface.  It's like a fine wine - it just gets better with age. :0)

So, are you a fan of cast iron?  Have any pieces that hold a special history or story for you?  Do tell.  

Tomorrow I'll share the recipe that I tried out my new Dutch oven for the first time with. See you then!

I'm linking this post to Healthy 2day WednesdaysSimple Lives ThursdayHomestead Barn Hop and Your Green Resource.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Kickin' Crab Dip

I'm baa-aack!  I feel like I've been gone for stinkin' ever!  I had a wonderful extended stay with my family in Michigan over Christmas and the New Year.  My entire family spends Christmas Eve together and then Christmas Day is a little more intimate at my sister's house with both of our families, our parents and her in-laws.  I was able to get in some quality 'cousin' time during the week.  Then, New Year's Eve is always a big bash with the entire family and friends that also qualify as family.  It was really nice.  I haven't been able to be a part of the New Year's Eve shin-dig since I was a teenager.  Isaac was overjoyed to be saturated with cousins for a week and a half.  And, he still wasn't really anxious to get home. :0)  My hubby had to come home to his J.O.B. during the week, but still had two long weekends up there.  Though I missed him during that time, it was still nice to log some family time. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and New Year as well!  

I'm ready to get back into the swing of things here on the blog.  I have a couple of exciting things in the works that I'll share as the time comes.  But, I'm going to be working my buttocks off on one of them in particular over the course of the next 4 to 6 weeks to get it going.  I'm really stoked about it and can't wait to share it with you!  But, enough about that.  Today I want to share a recipe with you.

This is a crab dip that is so creamy and yummy.  It's really easy, especially if you have a small crock pot.  Although, it would be perfect for gatherings like Christmas and New Year's Eve, eh-hem (slightly late for that), it would still be great for something like a game night.  I've even made it as a snacky lunch.


2, 8 oz. blocks cream cheese
2 sticks of butter
1/4 c. chopped green onion
6 oz. can of mushrooms, drained and chopped
1 pound of crab meat, finely chopped (can be imitation)
Tony Chacheres Original Creole Seasoning, to taste

My original recipe says to melt the cream cheese and butter on low in a small sauce pan, then to add the rest of the ingredients and allow to meld together for 15 minutes.  That is certainly fine.  But...I find it much easier to just throw them all together in a small crock pot and let it do it's thang. :0)  

Once it's all nice and melty (some of the butter will float on the top), stir it and serve it up with French bread, toast points or your choice of crackers.  This stuff is so good it would be awesome served over top of pasta for a hearty meal as well.


This recipe can easily be halved for a smaller amount.

Although I left a link for the Tony Chachere's seasoning, it is usually carried in the spice isle at the grocery store.

Since my family has had to go gluten-free, I was thrilled to come across these crackers.  I first spotted them at Whole Foods, but have even seen them at Meijers.  I think any store that has a semi-decent selection of gluten-free products would carry them.  And, they also come in several different flavors.

Happy 2012, y'all!

I'm linking this post with Teach Me Tuesdays and These Chicks Cooked.