Friday, August 7, 2020

Fried Rice: Most Universal Meal Ever??

A bowl of fried rice covered with a rich, cilantro peanut butter sauce
Fried Rice with Cilantro Peanut Sauce

If you are like me, then for the past few months you have been spending perhaps a lot more time at home and eating out a whole lot less than you used to. While these have been trying times, they have also provided moments of inspiration, and once the produce began really flowing out of the garden, I have to admit that inspiration often was found in the kitchen when I tried to figure out what to do with all this great, fresh produce.  

Which brings us to the topic to today's post and I want to offer up an opinion.  I think fried rice might be the most universal meal ever invented.  

Now, before the comment thread blows up with counter proposals (I can't wait to hear your thoughts actually) I want to make my case for the humble bowl of friend rice, especially for those of us who are homesteading, gardening, and looking to live a slightly more sustainable lifestyle. 

When I make fried rice, I generally follow a very simple approach. 

Fat, Fluff, and Rice with sauce  

Allow me to elaborate.  

Fat:  

I start every batch of fried rice with some version of fat.  Without fat, I don't know that you can really call anything fried, but I digress.  Now for me fat comes from generally one of two sources.  Either I start with some kind of oil, such as olive, canola, or coconut oil, or some sort of fatty meat like bacon or sausage. The point is you want a slightly oily base.  If I use a meat source that is lean, like chicken breast or lean pork, I will start by cooking it in oil.  It's that simple.  And before we move on, I usually season this starting point with my desired seasonings.  The sky is the limit here.  Cajun, Brazilian, Asian, garden herb, curry, it really doesn't matter as long as you are blending flavors that will play well together. 

Fluff:  

Okay, this maybe isn't the best name ever for this category, but bear with me.  When I say fluff what I mean is all the stuff that isn't meat, if your even using it, and isn't rice.  There is really no limit to the creativity you can have here.  Zucchini, Egg Plant, Onions, Peppers, Green beans, Garlic, Sweet Potatoes, Pineapple, Celery, Peas, Corn, Carrots, and so many more ideas can add be added to the flavorful oily base you have created.  And it doesn't matter if they are fresh, frozen, or even drained out of a can.  Your goal here is to add some bulk to the dish and its a great way to utilize those light harvest when you only have one or two of this or that from the garden and it isn't enough to make a full dish in its own right. 

Once the fluff mixture is nice and cooked through, I may or may not add in some delicate fluff.  These are things that don't take nearly as long to cook, but can really help the dish pop.  I commonly use fresh herbs here towards the end, maybe a beaten egg, or a really delicate fruit that doesn't need too much time to cook.  

Are you getting the idea here?  It's fluff.  There are no wrong answers as long as it tastes good when it all comes together. 

Rice with sauce:  

Finally, we are ready to add the rice.  My most common approach here is to cook the rice in the rice cooker a day or two before hand and then hold it in the fridge until I am ready to make fried rice.  What you should read there is this is a great way to use left over rice.  White rice, brown rice, wild rice, even other rice like grains such as quinoa are all fair game.  You can also make rice and use it fresh if you want.  Refrigerated rice is dryer to some extent, and seems to come together nicer than fresh, still sticky rice might, but I am not sure as I have only done it with cold rice. I add it to the hot, oily mixture and stir it all around to coat it evenly. 

Now we are ready for the last piece of this four part puzzle, and that is some sort of sauce.  Traditional fried rice is finished with soy sauce, but I find that we all really enjoy it when we use Memii noodle soup base.  Once again though, the sky is the limit here.  You are imparting flavor as well as giving the dish a good steam bath since this liquid will quickly evaporate while you stir the dish to coat it evenly.  I haven't yet, but I am debating how shots of other soup broth would shake things up.  It doesn't take much so go easy.  You can always add more, but it's hard to take it out if you get too much in there.  

Fried Rice with Spam, Squash, Peas and Carrots

There you go.  I think I have done my best to make the case for the extremely adaptable and versatile dish that is fried rice.  I recommend that you try a batch next time you have some left over rice.  Its such an amazingly easy way to bring together a small amount of varied ingredients into a delicious one pot meal with an infinitely variable flavor profile. Can you think of another dish that offers the same level of versatility and adaptability. 

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Three Garden Growing Methods

How Does Your Garden Grow? 


In this post we're going to look a three different methods for growing a garden that we have in practice here.  The first has been in place for quite a while now, and it just gets better year after year.  The second and third are both systems that we had familiarity with, but had yet to put into practice until this growing season.  Let's explore the three methods and I will share some short video that we posted over on our YouTube Channel detailing each of them.  

Deep Mulch Method: 


The first method is a deep mulch system.  We started our first garden here in the southwest corner of our property.  It was kind of a tucked away little corner bordered by the road, driveway, neighbor's property, and an old metal shed.  It just felt detached from everything and ended up being a decent space to start and grow a garden.  It was however, essentially a rock filled driveway for all intents and purposes, so we began what is now years worth of piling material into an ever evolving growing system.  Leaves, grass clippings, old hay, wood chips, pine needles, straw, and loads and loads of compost, along with manure have been added in various forms over the years.  Today it is a lush growing area that supports a wide range of perenial plants and is slowly evolving into my version of a food forest. It is one of the easiest ways to start gardening, since there is no digging involved....but it does take years to reach its full potential. 


Raised Bed Method: 


The second method is a raised bed system.  You will find many versions of how best to do this, but for us it was simple wooden boxes filled with yard scraps, old logs, and rough compost before adding a layer of finished compost that we purchased from the local landfill. The results in these beds have been amazing and we are very pleased with our results this season so far.  I would say that while being an expensive way to start, this method yields very quick results as you can literally start gardening the second you finish filling the beds with soil.  If you add in a simple irrigation system, this method gets even easier.  I personally find that the rigid corners and defined bed space increase my ability to evenly space plants which results in a much more tidy garden space.  I absolutely love this method and it is by far my most favorite. 


In Ground Growing: 


The third and final method for growing is perhaps the most traditional method for growing a garden, and that is growing your garden in the ground.  For me, this has always been an exercise (literally....lots of digging and physical labor involved) in adding soil amendments to help improve the soil before planting.  I usually add in compost, silage top, manure, old hay, grass clippings, dry chicken manure, worm castings, rabbit droppings, or any other organic matter I can find to help improve the soil structure and fertility.  This is all usually tilled and dug into the existing soil before adding a top dressing of finished compost.  The resulting beds will be heavily mulched once planted to help conserve moisture and limit the inevitable weeding tasks that will be associated with in ground growing.  After one season, I will move to a no dig approach for bed maintenance by simply adding compost every year for the remainder of the beds life.  


Over the years I have found success with all these methods and I am looking forward to an active growing season this year.  How do you garden?  Which method is your favorite?  Share your thoughts down in the comments and check back throughout the growing season for updates on our garden progress this season.  

Get outside and get growing, because life is better, when its live Outdoorz! 


Thursday, April 9, 2020

Using Plastic Mulch

Using Black Plastic Mulch for Soil Prep

Over the past year or so, I have been experimenting with a method for soil prep using plastic mulch.  The quick version is that when you cover the ground with plastic mulch, the weeds can't grow, and worms and other soil life can thrive under the protective layer of plastic and do amazing things to the soil.  I now believe this to be very true. 

In the short video below, you will see what we found when we moved our plastic after leaving it sit for I think over a year.  It did a great job keeping the massive amounts of morning glory in the space from making a huge mess, and we were very happy with the results.  We have big plans for this space, and I am excited to get this next garden adventure started. 



Simple Chick Starting Method

Starting Chicks the Easy Way

It will come as no surprise to anyone who has explored this blog that we have chickens.  Most people raise chickens for their eggs and maybe the meat you can get once an older bird has finished her most productive years.  Around here, I believe the biggest role my chickens have played is that of soil generator.  If you manage them correctly and learn how to compost, you can end up with an amazing amount of high quality growing material.  

But, in order for this to happen, you have to have chickens, and for most people, that. means starting with some chicks.  In the short video below I detail the system that we used most recently here in the spring of 2020.  There are certainly more elaborate methods, and I will likely have to piece together something on a bit larger scale for them here soon, but in general, this short video details just how simple it can be to get some chicks started.