Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Live in the Moment

I hope everyone survived the Second Winter Storm of 2014! Chris and I got blissfully snowed in for 4 days. We cleaned our garage, and got lots of work done with school, preparing for a presentation, and professional learning. We also slept in, cuddled and ate lots of good food. I felt so good after those 4 days that it made me realize I should allow myself to rest more. Or, to put it better. I realized I should have more focus, and less distraction. To fully work when I need to work, and then fully rest and allow myself to enjoy a movie with Chris or few minutes of extra sleep before the days starts. I have always been a driven person, and working hard has never been a problem. Maybe I should shift my focus a little, give rest a chance, and learn to fully enjoy each moment without worrying about the next. It is true that the simplest things are often the hardest. 

I really liked this 'working from home' scenario. Especially with such a great view. *wink wink*

Besides getting snowed in for 4 days, there are some other exciting things have been happening around here that I want to share with you. 

First, I got published in a magazine!! I wrote an article about doing a Kombucha Detox and it got published in OR Today. 

You can read the article here

Also, a friend of mine asked me to give a presentation at her church where they are doing a weight loss competition. She wanted me to talk about how to make healthy food taste good. I jumped at the opportunity! I always love to talk about cooking and eating good food. 

The presentation was on Sunday, and it was a day of many firsts. I spoke in front of a bunch of people about nutrition, I used an over the ear wireless microphone, and even used one of the powerpoint clickers. Talk about using a microphone and clicker to make a person feel important. ha! 

The talk went so well, and I couldn't believe how receptive and open everyone was about what I had to say. I even got to answer a few questions at the end. It was an honor and it gave me a little glimpse into what the future might hold. 

In fact, I enjoyed the experience so much that I am thinking of other ways to get more practice speaking in front of people. I am thinking of setting up some nutrition classes at the local library or something like that. Well, maybe I will wait for the summer until I do that. Especially after my spiel about learning to rest and not adding more to my plate. haha I am a work in progress.  

Ironically enough, this brings me to my last piece of news. I am starting another school, an herb program specifically, to learn about herbal medicine. It is on the weekends (once a month) and it goes from March-December of this year. I am thrilled about this opportunity to connect the science I have learned at school to the herbs and how they work together to improve our health. I am sure you will hear more about it as I go through the program.

It is neat to see God working and giving me so much grace in my life. I haven't wrote about it much here on the blog, but school has been ROUGH this semester. More than any other semester, I have been feeling antsy and just ready to be done. Done with the whole university thing, and done with having to commute to class, having deadlines and tests and homework and constant studying.  

Despite my failings and frustrations, God has been meeting my needs in special ways. He has given me opportunities to see how my education and time in school gives me the scientific knowledge and understanding to be able teach others about health and nutrition. The excitement of getting published, presenting to a group of people about healthy eating, and learning about herbs has given me renewed passion and energy for my studies at school. I want to make the most of my year and a half left, and learn as much as I can!

This brings me full circle back to the title of this post. LIVE IN THE MOMENT. That is what I am reminding myself daily these days. With so much struggle and so much excitement, my head is spinning. I want to live fully, in each moment I am given, and be thankful for the lesson and the blessing of each day. I have so much to learn and so much to do and I want to really experience each moment without worrying about the present, regretting the past, or wishing for the future to come more quickly.

So, this is me right now. Always learning, growing and adapting and living life the best I can with the information I have. 

What lessons have you been learning lately? Do you struggle with living in the moment? What are your strategies for being present?

Sunday, February 9, 2014

How to Render Beef Fat into Tallow

So, in case you guys didn't think I was weird enough with making soup out of beef neck-bones, washing my hair with coconut milk and aloe vera gel, and using magnesium oil as my deodorant... then this will surely convince you of my craziness. Like I have said before, I get my  pasture raised beef from a local farmer. You can check out their website here. They are wonderful people and truly care about their animals and their profession. Recently they saved some beef fat for me to render into tallow. 

Yep, that's right. I rendered huge chunks of beef fat into tallow, and I eat it, and it is delicious. 

I admit that in the middle of the process, I thought to myself, what the heck did I get myself into?? But, I found a rhythm and in the end it was totally worth it. I will walk you through the process. 

Intimidating? Yes. 

I had to look at it from all angles. Then I just had to cut off a piece and jump in. 

I took little chunks at a time, trimmed off any meaty pieces or veins. 

Then, I chopped it into small pieces. Since it is pure fat it was easy to chop. Just like cold butter. 

I put a little bit into my new dutch oven (thanks Mom!) on low heat and let it slowly melt, and let the fat render out of the tissue. 

This is after 45 minutes. I think from start to finish each batch took about 2 hours. But I had plenty of things to do, so it wasn't a problem to keep an eye on the stove and stir occasionally. 

Working at the pile slowly. Trimming, slicing and dicing.

I finally finished all the trimming and have a few big pieces left to chop. On the right I have all the extra pieces of meat and bones. There was still good fat on the meat, so I put it in a separate pan and let the fat render out as the meat cooked. It still produced good tallow, just with a very slight beef flavor, which I am using for sautéing. The bones I roasted in the oven, drained off the tallow from the pan and put the bones in a crockpot to make broth. 

Quick side note: When I have lots of broth and don't have a use for it right away. I will take the strained broth, put it into a stove pot and cook it down to a concentrate. Then I pour it into ice cube trays to freeze and use like bullion cubes. It is so convenient and great for incorporating more broth into your diet because you can pop a cube into tomato sauce for pizza, or into a pot of mashed potatoes, or in soup. It also saves space in the freezer! 

This past week, after the move, I got sick with a cold. For three days I drank broth with chili and garlic in the morning instead of coffee and I think it helped me get better faster! It was so nice to just pop 2 cubes in a pan with some water and spices and have it ready 5 minutes later. 

There is a lot going on in this picture. I have strained out the first batch from the dutch oven and have crackling's in the colander. I have a pot halfway done on the back of the stove and filled the dutch oven with a new batch. In the pan under the colander I have the meat trimmings rendering as well. It was at this point in the process that I considered myself crazy and decided never to initiate this greasy messy process again.

Word to the wise: put down wax paper where you are pouring the strained tallow into jars. Or else it makes a big mess. Don't ask me how I know this. 

After straining out once, I added the cracklings to the pan to cook down some more. I got at least another cup of tallow from cooking it down a second time. 

Before I was using a pyrex measuring cup to go from bowl to jar and that just caused more of a mess. So I found a bowl that allowed me to pour straight into the jar without running all over the sides of the bowl. After that things became a lot easier.

 I finished rendering everything and filled all my jars. The tallow hardened into a beautiful creamy white color (which is not shown well in the poor lighting of this picture). I finished this process after it was dark outside and the coloring in the photo is very yellow. I ended up with around 15 lbs. of pure grass-fed tallow. After everything was done and I made Chris a batch of homemade biscuits with the tallow I decided it was all completely worth it. 

So far, I have used the tallow for seasoning vegetables, sautéing, cooking eggs, and making biscuits. I also use it as a lotion on my hands and legs. It doesn't smell as good as coconut oil, but it absorbs better and is full of fat soluble vitamins such as E, K, A, and D that are SO good for our skin. Eventually I will make a balm with essential oils to cover up the tallow smell, but for now it works great to simply scoop some out with a spoon and rub on my hands after washing dishes. It is also one of the main ingredients used for soap making. Which I plan on dabbling in this summer. 

All in all, this was a great experience and I learned a lot. I hope this was helpful and I encourage you to find a local butcher or beef farmer and see if they have any extra beef fat that they will give you or sell you at a low price. Many times it just gets thrown away, and with a little bit of work you will have a wonderful, healthy and economical cooking fat to add to your kitchen and to your skin care routine!

I don't want to cause confusion, and wanted to mention that I rendered the tallow several weeks go in our old house. That's why all the pictures show our old kitchen. 

Have you ever tried tallow? Did you like the taste?

Friday, February 7, 2014

We Bought A House!

I have wonderful news!! Two weeks ago, Chris and bought a house! We looked for 3 years and it was more than worth it to wait for this beauty. I am so excited to show off our new place to my faithful readers :). 

When house hunting, we really wanted to stay in the same location and this house is literally on the same street we lived while we were renting. It is true, miracles happen :).

My Dad and brothers, and Chris' sister and Dad and some friends came out to help us move. We ate chicken soup and grilled cheese as our first meal in the new home. I can't even describe the feeling!

I will probably show way too many pictures of my new kitchen but I love spending time there. This is our first breakfast together in our new home. We love eating together and looking out the window.

A few days ago Chris hung the our prized stained glass window that my Grandfather made and also hung our fruit basket. Just when I thought it couldn't get any better :).

Off the kitchen is a half bath/laundry room. 

Look at all that cabinet space! I am in heaven.

We want to paint the beadboard but keep the trim/chair rail the original wood. Also, we are debating over painting the wall a different color too. Any suggestions on colors? 

Our bedroom is on the main floor off the living room. All the rooms in the house get a lot of natural light and it is great!

Our master bath has double vanities. Woot woot!

There are 2 rooms and a bathroom upstairs. 

This is the only room we haven't unpacked yet. But it will be our office and probably my workout room.

There is a jack/jill bathroom between the two rooms. Perfect!

The guest room is set up and ready for my sister to come visit this weekend!

Chris quickly got to work our second weekend here and built a fence so we could let our dog outside to go to the bathroom without having to put him on a leash.

I was sick when all this was going on but I managed to take a few pictures :). That counts for something right? 

After getting home from work, he worked after dark 2 days in a row to get it done. 

He finished!

On Sunday I was feeling better and raked up a bunch of leaves to fill up the pen so our dog wouldn't get muddy every time he went outside. I love how it turned out!

We are on a whole acre and I am standing at the back of the property behind the house. WOAH. It is a huge blank slate and I am imagining all the things I want to grow and plant. I am thinking I want to build swales and berms to catch rainwater, cut down trees, build pathways, fence in a garden space, create themed herb gardens, replace landscaping with edible perennials, etc... haha 

My to-do list is crazy long and it is tough to focus on school and work when I have so many ideas for decorating and gardening that I want to do NOW. haha I guess it is a good thing it is February and it is too cold to plant. 

Those are all the pictures for now. I can't wait to show more as we update and personalize our house and yard. This is going to be such a fun journey and I honestly couldn't be more thankful or blessed that we can now call this house our home :).

Thanks for sharing in our blessing. My prayer is that we would be good stewards of our new home and that it would be a place of peace and refreshment for our guests to come.