Savory Butternut Squash Casserole

Fun with Butternut Squash

Fun with Butternut Squash

 

I am constantly experimenting in the kitchen.  Moving to the farm only enhanced such experiments, and I want to share new recipes that I create here, with you all.  This summer, we baked, pureed, and froze a lot of butternut squash.  Aside from yummy spice cakes and other baked sweets, butternut squash is also a great accompaniment to savory dishes, from stir-fry to casserole.  Below is a casserole I created where butternut squash is the harmonious star of the dish.  It is delicious and quite easy to make.

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 chub Jimmy Dean Sage Breakfast Sausage

2 roasted gypsy peppers, diced

3-4 cups butternut squash puree

6-8 slices of bakery-style jalapeño cheese bread

1/2 red onion, diced

Salt/pepper (about 1/2 Tbsp ea.)

1/4-1/2 c. savory bread crumbs

 

I started by cutting the bread slices into cubes and toasting them on low heat while browning a chub of Jimmy Dean’s sage sausage in a skillet on the stove. ( It’s my favorite breakfast pan sausage, so as time goes on and I share more of my recipes, you will note that I enjoy cooking with JD’s sage sausage.)  The bread serves as a binder in the dish, and adds a nice surprise burst of warm heat.

After the sausage is broken up pretty well and almost completely browned, I added the diced roasted gypsy peppers.  You could roast a red, yellow or orange bell pepper, if you cannot get your hands on a delicious gypsy pepper.

In a separate bowl, you can fold the toasted jalepeno croutons (what they have become, through toasting) into your butternut squash puree.  Add the diced red onions, salt and pepper and continue to fold until everything is evenly coated with the puree.  You can use a white or yellow onion, if you do not have red onions on hand, but I prefer the flavor of the red onion in dishes like this.  The red onion counterbalances the sweetness of the butternut squash, taming it into a nice savory bite.

After the sausage/gypsy pepper mix is thoroughly browned, drain any excess grease with a strainer, and then add the strained meat mix into the puree mix and stir until nice and mixed.  Pour mix into a greased rectangular casserole dish, cover evenly with thin layer of bread crumbs, spray with coconut oil spray (or olive oil spray), and bake at 375F for 45-55 minutes.

If you notice the top is browning too fast, place a sheet of foil over the dish to protect the top.

Let dish cool for 5-10 minutes, cut and serve.  Great with a side of purple hull peas.

I hope you have the opportunity to enjoy this delicious dish with the ones you love, very soon!

Until next time, this is the Crazy Chicken Lady, signing OFF!!

Vaya con dios

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Progress is a Beautiful Thing

Pretty kohlrabi

Pretty kohlrabi

Another weekend is history and March is less than five days away! I never fail to question where the time went, but I can see through progress, that time is being spent well, here on the farm. We do piddle slower than some folk, not in too much of a hurry that we can’t enjoy a few minutes here and there just admiring the beauty that surrounds us. After all, it is well known that slow and steady wins the race, and though this human race is a long one, I’m sure the finish line will be sweet to happen upon one day.

Life is precious, in all it’s forms, and when it ends, suddenly, whether at the beginning of life or after much time on earth, there is reason to mourn. On the farm, we’ve experienced some failed incubating, and some peepers just weren’t strong enough to recover from the hard work of breaking free from their shell womb. We’ve lost a few heads of cabbage to a horrid pest that has to be uncovered, before the damage is realized. The same garden pest eliminated a few of our cauliflower heads as well. Alas, death is an avoidable part of life and serves it’s mysterious purposes as well.

Our 10 bunny rabbits are still hoppin’-happy. They are such a fabulous distraction from chores that I have accidentally added about 30 minutes to my daily rounds, just cuddling and giggling with the sweet babies. SuperMama is back in her own cage and getting geared up to be mated again. With Daphne and Ms. Bunny No-Name still expecting…note to self: It doesn’t do any good to mark the calendar if you’re going to mark it wrong!

SuperMama's SuperStar

SuperMama’s SuperStar


LillyBelle and a sampling of our first blooms

LillyBelle and a sampling of our first blooms

We’re hoping for plenty of chicks and bunnies to sell at the local Farmer’s Market for Easter. If all of my equipment comes in, I will also be selling a very special product that my Mom and I have been working on and honing. I’m still keeping this a secret, until I test a few markets, but personally, I have never had better! Ooooh, the mystery!!

I mulched and watered our fruit trees and roses and all our greenhouse greenery, and anticipate pulling them all out very soon! We need room to start our tomatoes and peppers! Dad and the boys did more work in the garden, preparing the ground for corn and squash, tomatoes, melons and much more. Even though this weekend was best for weeding and pruning, they planted a long row of purple hull peas and I planted mesclun, spinach, and romaine lettuce. We weeded around the onions, and hilled around the cabbages. I still need to do more hilling of the broccoli and cauliflower. There is always more work to be done, but nothing is more rewarding than reaping the rewards of gardening.

IMG_5793

The past week was filled with dishes inspired by our garden and chickens. I made a divine butternut squash casserole, and will post the recipe very soon. Keep your eye out for it. We’ve enjoyed our broccoli and carrots and chickens in a delicious pasta bake, and salads, complete with boiled eggs and fresh lettuces, carrots, broccoli and radishes, also from our garden. And as usual, our chickens, rabbits, pigs, and ducks have reaped many healthy benefits from our greens and scraps, as well.

I see buds on the redbud trees and our flower gardens are beginning to burst with color, ah the signs of spring are always such a welcome sight. As I write, it is rather gray out, and it is definitely cooler than yesterday, where I noted many a drops of sweat falling from my brow, while weeding. The free birds are just singing non-stop, such joyful odes to the return of spring.

My Dad scored several free cedars for posts. These posts will flank the long chicken run. He has taught me that it doesn’t take much to cut costs. All you have to do is be observant and bold. Always be on the look-out for resources, and if they aren’t on the side of the road for trash, then just ask. The worst thing that can happen is that you’ll be told no. Our neighbor cut down many trees, clearing their land, and all Dad and the boys had to do was clean the cedars up and move the logs out.

He has a system going now that started soon after our arrival and my interest in working the garden with him. He has a carpenter that bags saw dust for him to pick up, he has tree trimmers dump mulch in our outer fields to season, and he then trades with the saw dust for other necessities…and/or extra chickens. This is the same man who bartered with the doctor who delivered me. The doctor was paid a nice smoker-grill for his services. That doesn’t happen anymore!

I realize not everyone is as skilled as my dad is in selling his perspective and goals, but I’ve enjoyed reconnecting with him and learning from him, as he pursues lofty dreams and visions of grandeur—farm style. If only everyone were on board, we might actually take flight sooner, rather than later. But there’s that pesky little element, called time, that has a way of changing and re-arranging things, so I’ll just go with the flow and learn what I can in the process.

Dad will pick up anything that he thinks he might one day utilize. I used to scoff at him, especially as a teen, when he’d make me wait in the truck while he jumped in the dumpster after a piece of lumber or scrap metal. But in getting the garden together, last fall, I began to see the method in his madness. He pulled out some rebar from one of his piles to use in mounting the low tunnels. I used to get in trouble for trouncing over the piles of those long metal rods, as a young child. He would warn me of snakes, and of the dangers of getting hurt or sick with tetanus, but mostly, he would get frustrated that I was going to somehow mess up his treasures. Fast forward 30 years, and he finally found the perfect use for a few of them.

He’s the tidiest of hoarders, and has running inventories, just as he had of his fittings and pipes during his plumbing days. I truly hope my boys learn all they can from him. He’s a big reason I moved my family to this farm. I knew he was just what the doctor ordered for my boys. It’s a messy world out there, and it is my hopes that my boys will be fully equipped to not only survive, but thrive, as grown men. So many skills are being lost in the wind. I want more for my boys than what a city could offer them. As a gal who started life in the country, I valued my upbringing, as it has served me well.

I’ve seen some progress in my sons’ growth and maturity, in the five months we’ve been here. A lot of resistance, but I think they’re wearing a little. It’s starting to sink in that the decision I made was made out of love and hope. One day, I believe that they will look back on this time in their life with nothing but gratitude. But until then…pray for us all! Ha!

And on that note, this is the Crazy Chicken Lady, signing OFF!

"You mess with me, you get the chicken!"

“You mess with me, you get the chicken!”

Vaya con Dios

Succulent Pulled Wild Pork

So in my last blog, I mentioned the need to seek inspiration for the hog that recently blessed our freezer. Today, on the winds, came the idea to make pulled pork out of it. I cleaned the trimmings really well, and dried them and set them, full, uncut or trimmed, in a casserole dish. I then added the following:

1/2 bottle of Kraft’s BBQ sauce
1/3 bottle of Ketchup
1/5 bottle of Honey Mustard (all I had)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 small can crushed pineapple
2 sliced onions
10 drops of Habanero Tobasco sauce
A few dashes of Thyme
A heaping Tbsp of spices

I covered the dish with foil, after tossing all the ingredients together real good and giving the hog bits a few last stabs. And let it cook for 3 hours at 350F.

It pulled away from the fat so nicely, and after it cooled a bit I pulled it all apart and added the soft onions and sauce, mashed it all together real good and served it on dressed slices of bread.

It was as good as any pulled pork I’ve had and in some cases MUCH, MUCH better.

I hope you enjoy the recipes I share.

Until next time, this is the Crazy Chicken Lady, SIGNING OFF!

Vaya con Dios!

PS We are making a chicken costume…results will be posted after March 1st!

ATTENTION PARENTS OF YOUNG CHILDREN

Completely off the subject, but something all young parents and caretakers of young children should read.

Thank you for your readership!

Please feel free to share.

The World As I See It

The following is a public service announcement from one parent to another.

Please remember to enforce the buddy system with your children. If you cannot be there to keep an eye on them, as they play in the neighborhood or run the streets, be sure they are NEVER alone.

If you haven’t noticed, kidnappings are on the rise. Most kidnappings are linked to pedophilia, satanic ritual abuse and sacrifice, and child-sex-ring crimes. Because our country, on a whole, turned a blind eye in the 80’s and 90’s, claiming victims were relaying “false memories”, further victimizing the victims of such abuse, the practices have ever-widened in the darkness.

Fast Forward two decades and we have a giant web encompassing our country. Combine that with demonic possession, and filthy hands in the highest positions and one thing can be gleaned. OUR KIDS ARE NOT SAFE UNLESS THEY ARE SAFE WITH US!!!

Look…

View original post 1,118 more words

Spring Prep: Warm Weather Welcome

What a difference a day can make! We started this week with dreary, gray chilliness, and are ending it, shining in the sun! You’ve gotta love Texas’ two-step path to Spring, cold-cold-hot, cold-cold-hot… But hey, who can complain? (Most Texans!!) At least we’ve got a nice swinging variety to keep us twirling into the shortest season on a Texan’s calendar.

Chaca, the wild hog, has been retired from her position as roto-tiller and is now relaxing in a shady spot, south of the garden plots. The rafters of the future chicken coup/well house combo went up today, and we planted a nice long row of potatoes as well as red/white/yellow onions, radishes and nasturtium. We will be steadily plotting and planting in the coming days, getting a nice start on our spring/summer garden. It was so lovely today that we uncovered the low tunnels and watered the winter garden for the first time this year.

Our winter garden is still yielding nicely. Tonight I incorporated some delicious kale into a rich potato soup that included beer, cream, broth, sage breakfast sausage and bacon, and herbs and spices because, well, WE LOVE FOOD! Last night it was a tasty spinach quiche, using our spinach and our farm fresh free-range eggs. I feel like Popeye! I have the strength of 10,000 men!!

Okay, I don’t, but I know that I am feeding my family the best of the best, and in that, I feel very blessed.

Our broccoli is on tomorrow’s menu, as are our carrots. Every other day, I feed all of our free-range and caged chickens and rabbits some of our garden greens, whether they be our various lettuces, or kale, turnip or mustard greens, as well as radish greens. Our radishes are massive, and still crisp and tasty. I was lucky enough to get a picture of our turnips before I misplaced my phone. I have become a greens maniac, and love making a big ol’ pot of greens…with a lot of bacon, of course.

Giant, delicious turnips

Giant, delicious turnips


Speaking of bacon, our hogs have been processed and are now in bits and pieces in the freezer, awaiting my culinary finesse. I am awaiting some invisible form of inspiration!

I know I’ll be grinding again soon. We have some sausage to make with the hog and venison. But other things take priority, and right now, we have a garden to plant and a coop and run to build, and well, other things will surely pop up to attempt or succeed in thwarting best made plans, as per usual. Murphy’s Law or something, isn’t it? I’m not sure, but it has been the way of the day for quite a while now. It seems to be the season I’m in.

God’s been working on my whole “control freak” persona. He’s steadily remodeling each of us, and in this case, I think He’s teaching me to “roll with it, baby”. Several things have popped up in the past six months, that in the past would’ve sent me into a foot-stomping, my-way-or-the-highway tizzy. I really am a girl who has always liked controlling my surroundings, and I never really so readily recognized the personality flaw until I faced getting to know and help the chickens!

Just saying “No” to things such as butchering venison and cleaning chicken poop/beheading chickens, seemed utterly non-sensical, if I were to become a true farm-person. Time to toughen up Nelly in a whole new way. And time to let go and go with the natural flow, instead of creating unneeded waves.

God seems to be using a friend of mine in this plan of His to elevate me to the next level of servitude and gratitude. Her visits alone bring about a form of forced domestication, of which does not come natural to me. But during this most recent visit, she began, what became a sudden increase in creatures on the farm.

You see, I’m not sure she even realized how crazy she was, until I reacted to the gift she brought to my youngest son. Recognizing my son’s love for animals, she saw no reason not to get him the perfect gift. I mean after all, he had captured an alligator turtle and kept it for a time as a pet for a time…and Pawpaw brought a wild hog to live on the farm. These people are running a happy little menagerie. They’ll barely even notice the addition and it will bring even more joy into their home.

She was right by the way…but the adults’ collective initial reaction was enough to scare my friend away for good. She brought my son a rat. A cute little baby rat named Coconut, complete with a cage and food. She brought my son a R-O-D-E-N-T. All my life, I only saw rats as a nuisance and believed the only place they belonged was stuck in a trap. I have even poisoned a few.

Yes, I had a very poor reaction to my friend’s thoughtful, but insanely crazy gift idea! My Dad’s reaction was even-keel with my own. He even told her, in jest, (we hope-ha ha) that she wasn’t allowed back on his property again.

But I must say, Coconut is a source of enjoyment for the boys and he’s survived his first week on the farm, fat and happy.

Speaking of fat, my Dad, who is also pretty crazy, brought home a year-old pot-bellied pig named Patty. Obviously, this is not an edible, or in my personal opinion, a useful creature, and yet, it is here, I suppose for the same reason as Coconut—free(ish) entertainment.

Personally, I didn’t miss the pig squeals after Dad had to put his last pot-bellied bellower down, due to chronic pain from being crippled during a surgery. I must admit, these additions have me scratching my head, but I’m rolling with it. I’ve seen smiles produced due to both Coconut and Patty the Pig, and I’m all about happy family members. So let the smiles continue. I am not going to put my foot down…at least not for now.

On the feathered end of the farm, we’ve welcomed a Buff Orpington hen, a Black Orpington hen, and a supposed Cuckoo Maran hen. Her feet are orange and Cuckoo Maran’s feet are supposed to be black. She looks exactly like Old Mama, who is believed to be a Barred Plymouth Rock.

The original owners were duped and thusly attempted to unknowingly dupe my dad. We’re keeping them caged, separate from our other flocks for a bit, just to make sure they are healthy. There are a lot of chicken illnesses out there, and our birds are happy and healthy, so we’re gonna make sure we do all we can to keep them that way.

My crazy friend's sweet and brave daughter loving on our khaki quackies

My crazy friend’s sweet and brave daughter loving on our khaki quackies

The ducks finally have their quacks! Little changes like this are so easy to notice when you’re in a place teeming with life. From the bunnies and their ever-elongating ears to the bees buzzing around the broccoli blossoms, I love the ever-changing cycle of life and it’s just absolutely magnified here. Spring is definitely in the air, I can feel the power of new life whizzing in the breeze like electricity. This has been a long, cold winter, and this bear’s ready to get out of the cave to stay!!

Speaking of bears, my cubs are demanding my attention. They want to make chocolate-covered bananas. If anything is going to pry me away from writing, it’s chocolate. So until next time, this is the Crazy Chicken Lady, signing OFF!

Vaya con Dios!

PS Plant root crops when the moon is waning, or decreasing.

Everybunny’s Doing Swell

I took a minor trip, to break away from the animals. No, not the farm animals, my own hatchlings, aged 11-17. The farm animals have nothing on the animals that live beneath my roof. From the smells to the yells, I just had to fly the coop for a few days, if only to regain perspective.

looking into the great unknown

looking into the great unknown

I can’t say that I was gone long enough to get anywhere with perspective, but at least I got to see other members of my family who make me feel sane. I was also blessed to be able to visit with my life long best friend, and meet her precious baby. Yes, it was a fabulous get-a-way, but I have to admit, I missed the animals.

I found myself talking chicken with anyone who would listen. This is obviously an epidemic, this chicken raising scheme. The chickens have a master plan to rule the world, and I am obviously just a pawn in their grand plan. Okay, maybe I give the flocks a little too much credit. But there’s power in numbers. And chickens practice voodoo…I know they do!

Look into my eyes...

Look into my eyes…

While I was away, the bunnies and hatchlings continued to grow. I am amazed what can happen in a few days time, growth wise. The kits are so active now, and will come right to you, as you open their hutch. They have needle-sharp claws, which they use to climb up your sleeve, if you’ll let them. I’m mesmerized by their cuteness. I try not to think about their actual purpose, because it’s such a joy to play with my food.

Huey, Dewey & Louie

Huey, Dewey & Louie

SuperMama and her Super Babies!

SuperMama and her Super Babies!

My husband came home last week with an interesting chicken horror tale.

His father and mother began raising chickens four or five years ago. At last count, they had a small flock of 16. The morning after the big freeze, my father in law went out to their coop to check on his flock. What he found both startled and disturbed him. Right in the middle of the coop, were all 16 chickens, laying dead in a pile.

Later that evening, he went back out, to clean up the sad loss, and the chickens had all neatly been moved to the corner of the coop. Still dead. (For some reason, as Mike told the story, at this point, I half expected the chickens to be alive and well when my father in law went back the second time. Sadly, I was wrong.) As he bagged each chicken, he noted that they did not seem scathed at all. That is until he came to the bottom of the pile, and there was a headless chicken awaiting him.

They live in south Texas, about 45 minutes north of the coast. Even though through research, I found that ringtail cats aren’t generally prevalent in that area, it is what his friend and he surmised to be the predator at large. His friend informed him that ringtail cats kill for sport, not unlike humans, and that the way he described finding the chickens, lined up with the nature of the ringtail.

What a horrible way to learn about a predator. We live about 3 hours north of them, and we definitely have a mess of predators to deal with here. In November, Dad shot a possum that was perched behind our chicken cages. Luckily, he did not get one of our chickens before his surprising end. We have hawks and a bobcat that lives right across the dry creek bed from us. We constantly keep the cages clean and food and water fresh, to deter unwanted pests and predators from sniffing their way to easy pickin’s.

While I was gone, the inevitable happened. Dad whipped out the incubator. But another thing that happened is that further construction took place on the future chicken “megaplex” that the boys are working up for our ever-growing feathered crowd. Too many generations are crowding the one tiny coop we have, which leads to laying boxes that resemble port-a-potties, and odd roosting situations, and unnecessary fights. Luckily, with our still-thriving winter garden, we are able to supplement with greens and nice scraps, to keep their health up in the more stressful environment. Just like us, they don’t do crowds well for long.

here we go again

here we go again

So I’ll leave you today with a few pictures of our roosters. With Mr. M hanging in a cage, the other roosters are finding their pecking orders have slid up a notch. So enjoy our farm studs and have a lovely day in the Son.

Chief Rainbow, Precious and widower Mrs. D

Chief Rainbow, Precious and widower Mrs. D

I think Mr. White might be racist...here he is with his harem which includes Lavender the white guinea, and Super Girl, the red-headed flying beaut.  She's only with him until her man is released from the infirmary.

I think Mr. White might be racist…here he is with his harem which includes Lavender the white guinea, and Super Girl, the red-headed flying beaut. She’s only with him until her man is released from the infirmary.

Leonerdo and the ever-social Lavender (who believes herself to be a white chicken)

Leonerdo and the ever-social Lavender (who believes herself to be a white chicken)

Mr. Kellogg Wellsummer

Mr. Kellogg Wellsummer

As you can see, it’s hard to sleep in, around here.

Until next time, this is the Crazy Chicken Lady, signing OFF!

Vaya con Dios