Dear Friends, We Aren’t Crazy!

Some people think we are as crazy as the Mad Hatter!

Some people think we are as crazy as the Mad Hatter!

Dear family and friends,

Some of you may not understand why we plan to grow our own wheat, or why I developed my 1-2-3 flour instead of just going to the store and buying flour. Others think we are crazy for wanting to raise our own chickens. The idea of aquaponics and growing our own trout may sound like sheer lunacy.  Building a concrete house with “earth tubes” and being “off-grid” seems like a fad to you. Organic gardening and preserving our harvest may be thought of as a waste of time.

broccoli and chicken ravioli

1-2-3 Flour
1 part acorn flour  (we have lots of oaks on our land)
2 parts almond flour (we have planted several nut trees on our land)
3 parts wheat flour (apparently growing wheat isn’t all that hard to do! )

Let me explain ourselves.

We don’t want to hurt the earth anymore. We want our grandchildren and their grandchildren to enjoy nature and good food and excellent health.  We don’t want to worry about chemicals in our vegetables, hormones in our meat, or corn DNA in our blood.

The beautiful spring-fed pond

Raising trout in a small pond is one of our dreams

Our plan to build a concrete house with a metal roof on five acres in the forest comes from our want need to be more self-reliant.  Once the homestead is up and running, we won’t have a mortgage, we won’t be buying electricity and we won’t be purchasing fruits or vegetables, chicken or eggs, honey or wheat.  We will grow/raise our own and preserve our harvest for the winter.  This is our retirement plan.

The last of the beets and carrots

A beautiful bounty from our garden. Next year’s garden will be bigger and better!

With this plan, it will free up our pension money and savings to enjoy our golden years. Without a mortgage or a large utility bill, we should have extra money for entertainment, goods and services. Seeing Old Faithful, the Grand Canyon and the Canadian Rockies is on our bucket list. We enjoy going to the theater (both movies and live plays) and attending  local festivals, such as the garlic festival in Gilroy and the asparagus festival in Stockton.

We don’t count on Social Security to last much longer (do you?) and under-funded pension plans are constantly in the news.  So, by meeting our own basic needs (food, shelter, water, warmth), we won’t be severely inconvenienced if Social Security or our pension system collapses.  You see, we are building our own form of social security!

We will buy or barter for grass fed beef and pork from someone else because raising large livestock is something we don’t chose to do. But, in the same breath, we also eat less beef and pork for our own health and the health of the planet.  And for those nay-sayers who claim that we can never be truly self-sufficient, I say We Agree! Absolute self-sufficiency is not our goal. We certainly don’t want to cobble our own shoes, weave our own fabric or forge metal to make our own car.  Our economy would collapse if there were no consumers of goods and services and that certainly isn’t our intent

We love camping in our travel trailer and can't wait to see Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon and the Atlantic Ocean.

We love camping in our travel trailer and can’t wait to see Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon and the Atlantic Ocean.

Are we “Preppers”?  Not really.  But we do want to be prepared for an uncertain future.

So, this will be our retirement: gardening, taking care of chickens, trout and bees, camping in Yosemite and Yellowstone, going to the theaters, and of course visiting with friends and family.  Is that so strange?

 

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Chicken/Broccoli Ravioli

Making chicken/broccoli ravioli in cheese sauce

Two weeks ago I got a new kitchen toy – a pasta machine!  I bought it from my new favorite web store – Tanga – for less than $30.00.  I have seen pasta machines like this one elsewhere for much, much more, so when I saw this one, I snatched it up!  I am not an affiliate of Tanga – I just love the deals they offer!

One reason I wanted a pasta machine was because dear hubby and I plan to have a small wheat field when we move up to our future homestead, and pasta is one of our all-time favorite foods made from wheat, second only to sourdough garlic bread! 🙂  Growing our own wheat (an ancient variety, not sure which one yet) ensures that we won’t have the gluten problems that one can encounter with modern day wheat due to it’s gluten protein structure.  Apparently you can grow enough wheat in a 10 x 20 foot plot of land to make one loaf of bread every week for a year.

Sounds great!  However, if we have one loaf of bread every week, then what will we make our pasta out of?

chicken broccoli ravioli

Look! A baby almond on a baby almond tree!

As many of my readers know, I have been experimenting with acorn and almond flour.  Acorns are abundant on our future homestead.  In fact, if you aren’t careful, you can turn an ankle on the mass of acorns on the ground every fall.  We have very happy oak trees!

We also planted an All-In-One almond tree last year from Peaceful Valley Nursery (my favorite) and that baby tree has two almonds on it!  So cute!  Along with our purchased almond, our volunteer almond that we have in our current backyard has spawned several other volunteer almond trees.  I potted up those seedlings and we will plant them next fall on the future homestead.

broccoli and chicken ravioli

1-2-3 Flour
1 part acorn flour
2 parts almond flour
3 parts wheat flour

Anyhow…   I have developed a mixture of flour that I find absolutely wonderful, and I call it my 1-2-3 flour.  I call it this, because it uses 1 part acorn flour, 2 parts almond flour and 3 parts wheat flour.  The almond flour offsets the bitter tannin taste of the acorn flour, and with the wheat flour being 1/2 of the mix, I usually get enough gluten to be able to make just about any recipe successfully, including bread!

So, I started with 3 cups of my 1-2-3 flour (you can use all wheat flour), added 3 eggs and 2 teaspoons of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and mixed until a dough ball formed.  I turned out the dough onto my lightly floured counter and kneaded it for a few minutes, until it started to get just a bit elastic.  Wrap the dough in plastic or, better yet, place in an air tight container and let the dough rest.

Homemade ravioli chicken and broccoli

Ingredients for the filling of the ravioli: cooked chicken, broccoli and cheese – one cup of each

While the dough was resting, I made the filling.  I used a jar of the chicken I had canned a few weeks ago.  I chopped up 1 cup of the chicken, to which I added 1 cup of chopped broccoli and 1/2 cup cheddar/jack cheese.  A little salt and pepper, and your filling is ready to go!  This is the mixture I have always used when I make Chicken/Broccoli Manicotti, and it usually fills about 8 manicotti.  However, in hindsight, I found that ravioli does not take nearly as much filling as the manicotti does, and I only needed about 1/3 of the filling that I made.  I also realized that the next time I make ravioli, I need to chop the pieces a LOT smaller!

homemade ravioli

My new pasta machine – I love it!

So, now it’s time to try out my new kitchen toy!  I cleaned the machine just as the manufacturer suggested (with a piece of dough that you will eventually throw away) and boy, did I make a mess!  Apparently my dough was just a bit too sticky!  I had pasta dough in every nook and cranny that the machine had, and let me tell you, it wasn’t very easy to clean out globs of pasta from inside the machine!  Once that was done, I had to try again. This time I figured out that all you have to do is lightly dust each side of the pasta before you insert it into the rollers, and sure enough, it doesn’t stick.  So I started out at the #1 setting and gradually rolled the pasta to a #5 setting, when I thought the dough was thin enough.

After I had several sheets of the pasta lined up, I used my ravioli edge cutter stamp thingy (no idea what it’s called) and measured out the size I would need for each ravioli, and using a ruler, I cut the pasta into 2″ squares.  More or less.

Homemade ravioli

This is the ravioli edger/cutter crimping thingy. Whatever it is, it works well!

I bought that ravioli thingy quite a few years ago thinking it looked really cool, thinking that I would someday make ravioli.  Well…  here we are!

how to make ravioli at home

The filling piled into the middle of the pasta squares. Next time I will chop the filling into smaller pieces.

The filling was placed in the middle of each square, I lightly moistened the edges of each filled square and then placed another pasta square on top.  The ravioli edge thingy was then pressed on each ravioli, sealing the edges and making them look pretty!

Wow, this wasn’t so hard to do, it just takes a bit of time!  I can imagine buying a bottle of muscat (our family’s favorite wine), inviting my sisters Deana and Machell over, and we could have a wonderful party drinking wine and making ravioli!  How about it, dear sisters?  We could make enough for dinner and also for each of us to take home for our freezers!

How to make ravioli

Here they are, taking a bath in the boiling water! Not one of the ravioli broke open! Wahoo!  I call that success!

So now it was time to cook the ravioli and eat it!  Apparently all that is necessary is to place them carefully in barely boiling salted water, and cook them for 6-8 minutes.  So, that’s just what I did.  While waiting for the water to boil, I made a simple cheese sauce for the ravioli by first making a rue with 3 tablespoons of butter and 3 tablespoons of flour and letting that cook just a bit (gets out the floury taste), then slowly, while whisking, add 3/4 cup of chicken broth.  The sauce will get pretty thick, so now add 1/2 cup of milk, whisking all the while.  When the milk is incorporated, add 1 cup cheddar cheese.  Lower the heat to just simmer and stir frequently until the cheese is melted and the sauce is nice and smooth.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Once the ravioli are cooked, carefully toss them in the cheese sauce.

How to make ravioli recipe

Here are three ravioli, one split open, in the cheese sauce. Yummy!

Holy cannoli, it was really good.  It was fun, too! Hubby gave the ravioli a two thumbs up.

What will I do differently next time?  First of all, as mentioned, the filling needs to be in smaller pieces so it is easier to dollop in the middle of the pasta.  Also, I will go one step further on the pasta machine so the dough is just a bit thinner.  Everything else was perfect!

Do you have any good ravioli filling recipes?  Please – do tell!

 

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