Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sausage Party

No I don't have a party going on right now at casa England, unless you count 1 male working from home, 1 male painter, 2 male cats and me making cured meats a "Party" but I am trying out a sausage recipe so that my husband can take advantage of the meat grinder/sausage stuffer that he so desparately wanted to add to our registry.

Even though nothing about this comes from things I grew, it will be mixed in with fresh tomato sauce come summertime. The recipe yields about 6 lbs of a basic meat mixture of pork loin and turkey (can easily be cut in half or doubled) and then each lb of the mixture can be made into a sausage of your choosing.

• Lean Chorizo
• Lean Country Sausage
• Lean Kielbasa
• Lean Italian Sausage
• Lean Andouille Sausage

Today I made the 3 lbs of the Basic Meat Mixture, and used 1 lb of it for Italian Sausage to go with my fresh tomato sauce. The other two lbs I used for the Chorizo and the Country Sausage. The only equipment you need for the Basic Mix is a food processor and browning sauce (found in most grocery stores by the packaged spices)

The Italian Sausage was perfect, just like regular sausage from the grocery store. We couldn't belive it was turkey and pork loin, instead of the regular fatty pork mix. I like mine a little on the spicy side, next time I will def. add something to spice it up (red pepper flakes, hot sauce etc.)

The Country Sausage tasted great too. I added in some extra sage and salt before blending. I rolled it into a log, and then put it in the freezer for 20 min so it was hard enough to slice into patties and cooked it for 3 min/side, it tasted so much like regular Bob Evans Breakfast Sausage patties from the grocery store, I was in heaven.

Having such amazing success with these two, I thought the Chorizo would be fantastic. wrong. I disliked it greatly, perhaps I blended it too long in the food processor, but it looked like dog food and didn't taste much better. Oh well 2/3 isn't bad :)

Adapted from
Basic Meat Mixture

2 pounds boneless, skinless turkey breast
1 pounds boneless pork loin
1 Tablespoons browning-and seasoning sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt

Position knife blade in food processor bowl; add the turkey, pork, and seasonings. Process until smooth. Repeat procedure with remaining ingredients.

Yield: 3 pounds
Nutrition: 585 calories (24.6% from fat) per pound

Country Breakfast Sausage
1 pound Basic Meat Mixture (above)
2 teaspoons rubbed sage
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
1 teaspooon Salt
Vegetable cooking spray

Combine first 4 ingredients; roll into a log, wrap in plastic wrap and freeze for about 20 min or harden. Slice into 8(2-ounce) patties. Coat each patty in cooking spray; place in a preheated nonstick skillet with over medium heat. Cook sausage patties 3 minutes on each side or until browned.

Yield: 4 servings
Nutrition: 172 calories (23% from fat) per patty, 30.3 g protein, 4.5 g fat (1.4 g saturated), 0.3 g carbohydrate, 0.1 g fiber, 88 mg cholesterol, 158 mg sodium, and 16 mg calcium.

Italian Sausage
1 pound Basic Meat Mixture (above)
1 teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
1 teaspoon of Red Pepper flakes (adjust to your liking)
3/4 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed
3/4 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
1 yard sausage casing (optional)
Vegetable cooking spray

Combine first 8 ingredients by pulsing with food processor (do not over process) or by hand;

Cook in nonstick pan for crumbled loose sausage
Cut casing into four (8-inch) pieces; slip one end of each casing over sausage funnel tip. Force each portion of meat mixture through funnel into each casing; twist ends. Coat a large nonstick skillet with cooking spray. Place over medium heat until hot. Cook sausage until browned, turning occasionally.

Yield: 4 servings
Nutrition: 174 calories (23% from fat) per link or 2 patties, 31.3 g protein, 4.6 g fat (1.3 g saturated), 2.1 g carbohydrate, 0.9 g fiber, 88 mg cholesterol, 304 mg sodium, and 23 mg calcium.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

When to go "Organic"

**Update: The list has been recently changed due to new studies. Check here for the most recent list:

Organic always seemed like such a marketing ploy for me, I mean do we really benefit from eating organically? On top of that, it is more expensive, and not always readily available. However, pesticides paralyze the nervous system of bugs that attack plants, so one would guess that it could have similar effects on humans when consumed in greater quantities. These pesticides are often sprayed multiple times over the life of the plant and can penetrate the outer shell, or skin of many of the fruits and vegetables we regularly consume.

Even if you don't home garden or shop exclusively organically, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) has issued a list of the top 12 fruits and vegetables that contain the highest pesticides when brought to the market, they call them the dirty dozen.

Therefore these are foods you should consider buying organically or growing yourself:
In order of most residue to less
1. peaches
2. apples (just think about how many of these we eat in a week?)
3. bell peppers
4. celery
5. nectarines
6. strawberries
7. cherries
8. kale
9. lettuce
10. imported grapes
11. carrots
12. pears

Even by pealing the skin, studies have found pesticides penetrating the insides of some of these fruits, and in the case of the peach, they found traces of pesticides all the way to the pit!

EWG also issued a list called the clean 15, which contains the top 15 fruits and vegetables that contain the lowest levels of pesticides because of their ability to withstand absorption and because many of these do not require pesticides to be grown successfully.

In order of least residue to more
1. potatoes
2. avocados
3. sweet corn
4. pineapples
5. mangoes
6. asparagus
7. sweet peas
8. kiwi
9. cabbages
10. eggplants
11. papayas
12. watermelons
13. broccoli
14. tomotoes
15. sweet potatoes

As suggested on EWG's site, keep this list handy at the grocery store (you can download the PDF off their cite below or download the iPhone app with the list on it) and I suggest if you plan to grow a garden, consider the list as well. I know it has persuaded me to grow more peppers and lettuce and to try to start buying my apples and strawberries at a farm or farmers market

Monday, February 1, 2010


I can usually keep flowers or herbs alive for a few weeks, but it won't be long before life gets in the way, and I tend to neglect my watering duties, or sometimes I just don't know how to save a plant that does not appear to be faring well.
Now that I have decided to take on this adventure, I am going to give it my all and have my husband help keep me accountable. I don't claim to know what I am doing, I am in every way a novice at gardening, but thought that my journey into this world might help others find a place to start if they also felt so inclined. There are large amounts of data online regarding gardening, and it can be hard to know where to start, so hopefully my successes and failures can help others navigate the world of home grown. I also will post recipes, which I have had much more success with in the past.

Why you should consider gardening

~Know what you are putting in your body - if organics are important to you, this is the best way to know that you are getting food that has not been chemically treated
~It saves money - some vegetables are very expensive, hello red peppers! Gardening supplies vs. the cost of grocery stores are no brainers, not to mention the benefits of extending the life of your fresh produce by learning how to can.
~Gaining a fulfilling hobby/skill that you can keep for life and pass on to others

Starting with A

My wise and talented gardening Grandfather and I sat down recently to talk over some basic gardening. I wanted my very first crop to be something Hardy that would be tough for me to screw up, and something that I know my husband and I would enjoy. After listening and asking 1,000 questions to my Pappy, I decided my first attempt at gardening will be asparagus. He says that it needs alot of sun, and is one of the earliest to plant. The thing I found most exciting thing about it is that it grows back every year, no need to replant!
Unfortunately after doing some research I found that the asparagus should be left alone the at least first year to develop so that future years produce strong crops (some sites suggest waiting til the third year before harvesting). I still plan to plant them, but in the mean time I need to pick a second crop to plant this fall to appease my inner gardener.
Since I'm starting with A, I've decided my second choice is Arugala.

Arugala Planting Directions
Plant ¼ inch deep and 1 inch apart in rows, partial shade is ok
Make new plantings every 2 to 3 weeks for a continuous supply until a month before your anticipated first frost, seems simple enough.

Other things to consider planting in March: Chives, Shallots, Endive, Potatoes

Sources: Online research led me here

A site that lets you know what time of year to plant each vegetable according to your region, and gives tips for how to succeed.

Why I want to Garden

Most people shop at the grocery store. Some go organic, others get delivery and plenty visit the farmers market. I love walking amongst the booths at the farmers market seeing the people that work so hard to grow beautiful fresh produce and all the fruits and veggies lined up on the tables. While I don't want to quit my day job and start farming full-time, I crave the fulfillment of starting something from scratch and reaping the fruits of my labor. My grandfather always grew a large home garden every year and I loved peaking over the fence seeing all the rows of plants meticulously planted in little rows peak up at out the soil, growing up vines and smelling the fresh herbs along the perimeter, basil and mint still stir this childlike emotion deep in my memory. Even more exciting for me was to play in his cellar with my cousins amongst all of his canned produce. We would play "grocery store" at his house, lining up all the cans and jars on the shelves. He still plants a garden every year and is a master gardener. My father started his own garden a few years ago with zucchini, red peppers, hot banana peppers and wonderful sweet and delicious heirloom tomatoes. As a very picky child I disliked tomatoes on their own, and would rarely eat them if not in sauce form, however after seeing how hard my dad worked to get his garden up and growing, I decided to give it a try. I was amazed how sweet it was, I felt I could just eat slice after slice on it's own, and after the crop was over I craved more! I couldn't believe how tomatoes could taste so different, than the ones from the grocery store, I became a total convert.
Now ideally I would have no hesitation, however I have very little inherent follow through in my personality. I often set goals, or get excited for projects and then loose my enthusiasm quickly. Because of this, and the fact that I seem to have a black thumb with house plants, I am going to try really hard to stay committed to my goal to at least produce three crops successfully. Further down the road, I would love to adventure into canning and build my gardening knowledge to all sorts of plants.
So hear I go, wish me luck!