10
Aug
2013

Pig Pig

Posted by Nicole

My husband's family has an old, bald, wrinkly, crippled chihuahua named Jasmine. She's like, 14 years old now. Growing up, my husband would torment her and his other dogs all the time. One day, he discovered that if you pat her on the head while saying "Pig pig", she growled quite a bit. We don't know why "duck-duck", "elephant-elephant", and "velociraptor-velociraptor" weren't as offensive. He stuck with the swine themed insult. Many years down the road, I got my first teaching job in a little town in Texas. By little, I mean like... 1800 people. I'm not from Houston or anything, but my hometown isn't tiny. It took a LOT of adjusting to get used to small town life. Oh, we're shearing a sheep fifteen feet from marching rehearsal? Okay. Oh, we're going to see 3-hour-old calves during conference period? Alright. Instead of getting animal control to handle the snake outside of the band hall, we just call the science teacher? Mmmkay. I am NOT a country girl. I am like, the exact opposite. So when I came home and told my husband that our Ag teacher and my fellow band director had talked me into buying a piglet, raising it, and butchering it, he wasn't really buying it. Well, he was buying it in the fact that I used money to buy the pig, and the feed, and more feed, and more feed. Flash forward to mid-fall. I'm watching our ag teacher (Ag=agriculture by the way) unload four piglets into this shack-thing full of poopy hay. I was hoping for piglets...

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But instead, we got something more like these. There were four total split between a few people, and I officially became the owner of one-half of one of the pigs. I named him Pig-Pig. Image

This is everything I learned over many months of raising pigs, as told by a City Girl.

These are called Duroc pigs. They're reddish brown and have wiry hair/fur. Their ears all had notches along the edges which tell you what liter they were from a particular momma pig, along with the birth order. Pig guys have basically a triangle hole punch that they cut the notches with, and the position on the ear refers to a certain number. By the way, a momma pig is a sow, and a female pig who hasn't had a liter yet is called a gilt. When pigs travel from Iowa to Texas and sit in a trailer for a week, they tend to get sick. If you pour Pepto Bismol on their feed, it helps them not have such runny poop. When pigs are sick and are extra poopy, do not stand behind them when the cough, or be prepared to explain to your last period class of 5th graders why you're wearing left over XL band shirts because there is pig poop on your other clothes.

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Pig feed comes in different levels of protein that helps them bulk up for butchering. The higher the protein content, the more expensive, but the fatter the pig. Also, the feed store gives out free apples sometimes, and they're really friendly.

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They say pigs are really smart. No. No they're not. If their feed gets all caked together, they'll rip the feeder off the wall of their pen and STAND on it, bending it and putting it so they can't get any food at all. If you open a pen door for them to go in, they won't. If you chase them around the exercise pen, they'll run around in circles and sometimes smash into your feet. Three hundred pounds of pig doesn't feel good on your foot. A woman of my average-ish size and short stature can put all of my force into pushing a pig and the pig will always win. Image

The ultimate summation of my knowledge of pigs is this: Poop. Poop everywhere. But I did it. I helped raise four piggies. I didn't know anything when I started, and I could pretty much get those boys in and out of their pens, clean the pens, fill the feeders and water, and get the boys back in on my own by the time it was done. They were such a pain in the butt though, that when their kill date came, I wasn't sad at all. Pigs can be cut into all sorts of "cuts" of meat. The spine part is the backstrap, which becomes pork loin and pork chops. The shoulders are shoulder roasts, the ribs are ribs and bacon, the head and jaw are for tamales, the butt is ham, and everything else turns in to sausage. Yummy, yummy sausage. When it was all said and done, I "owned" half of one pig and ended up with right at 100 lbs of meat. Was it worth it? Uh... yes and no. It was an awful lot of work. I didn't save any money on buying pork. But it was worth it for the experience. I did something completely out of my comfort zone and lived to tell the tale. That being said, having your own meat butchered the way you want allows for some really tasty meat. I promise, the sausage and bacon from Pig-Pig is the best I've ever had. Image

By the way, this is only ONE FOURTH of one pig.

Today, I enlisted the help of my fabulous grandmother to make "Breakfast Bites." Grandma is the champion of finding these delicious recipes and sharing them on Facebook. This one in particular can be found on Heather Pettit's page. It reads as follows...

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Breakfast Bites--25 minutes to perfection. 1 package of pre-shredded potatoes (refrigerated section next to the eggs), 3 eggs, beaten, 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese, 1/4 finely chopped onion (optional), 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, salt and pepper to taste. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a mini muffin pan. Pour potatoes into a bowl, add the salt, garlic powder and onion, stir to combine. Pour in the egg and give it another stir, then add the cheese and mix it all up. Spoon into mini muffin tins and bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until golden brown and tops and edges begin to get crispy. Eat warm, or cool and freeze into individual packs and heat for about 20 seconds in the microwave. Breakfast is made for the whole week!

So of course, this sounds like a great plan! We substituted making our own hash browns from real potatoes, but followed the recipe exactly... sort of... We split the mixture into three batches and made one from the recipe, one without onion, and one with ground sausage.

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Do you see that sausage? In the words of my father-in-law, it's "Gosh dang flippin" good sausage. I'm a little partial, because I raised the pig it came from, but really, it's the best sausage I've had in my life. Wait, did she say she raised a pig? Yes. Yes I did, but that's another story for another day. He was and is delicious. Okay, so we filled up our muffin tins and stuck them in the oven for a while. They came out looking great, and pretty much like the picture. Don't look at that back tray..

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The tray on the right is my cram-packed version, and the left one is my grandma's not-crammed version. The only difference was I squished mine down. The things in the front are potato "chips" and I'll talk about those at the end of this post. Verdict: These little guys are pretty dang good. We followed the recipe and got 36 bites out of it (we used 3 potatoes I think). There was just a little bit of mix left over, but only enough to make one or two, so we didn't bother and just left it on the counter. Just so you know, once you peel or cut into a potato, the air makes the starch turn dark brown/black. After sitting on the counter for a while, the leftover bit was this awful nasty color and just flat out gross. So, I'd advise you clean up quickly when you're done. Bites without onion-These aren't bad at all, but they felt like they were lacking something. Regular bites- These were pretty good. I think the onion really helped. You could add something else like bell peppers too.  Sausage bites- Oh mah goodness. Let's just say these didn't make it to the freezer to eat next week. In a good way.

Potato Chips So, here's a double-header recipe for today. I developed my own potato wedge/chip recipe by combining a bunch of different ones from Pinterest. Normally, I will peel a potato and slice it as thin as I can. I average probably 1/8 inch thickness, but it's very inconsistent and doesn't really matter. I dump the slices in a big bowl and either put a tiny splash (maybe 2 tsp?) of oil in there, then dump a generous helping of seasoning salt on top. I give it a good mix with my hands, and spread them on an oiled baking sheet. Pop those bad boys in the oven at 350 for 15-30 minutes depending on thickness and level of crunchiness you want. OKAY. Now you have two options. Either eat these delicious French fry-circles plain, with ketchup, or dunked in left over Chick Fil-a sauce that you have because you always ask for like, four extra packets so you can eat it at home. Seriously, if they would just go ahead and bottle that stuff up, that'd be great. Option two, pull the potatoes out 1-2 minutes early and put toppings on. What toppings? Whatever you dang well want. I've done shredded cheese and bacon bits, Italian cheese and imitation crab meat (don't judge), or more seasonings. It's your job to get creative here. Today, as you can see in the pictures, we attempted to make a chip consistency by slicing the potato really thin. My grandma has all sorts of fancy kitchen tools that can do that, and I do not (except now I do because she had an extra Salad Shooter just lying around). Same prep method, timing was more of a "keep an eye on it." They came out either kind of squisy or burnt. Still edible, but I think I'm going to stick to the thicker wedgie version. Heh. Wedgie. I know you want a recipe to share on your Facebook page, so here you go.

Nicole's Potato Circley Things Ingredients:

  • However many potatoes you want
  • Seasoning salt, or whatever seasonings you like
  • Oil, whatever kind you prefer to cook with, but not rotor oil, because that only goes on French horns and trigger trombones, it does NOT go on your trumpet, okay? No. Put it back. Make sure the bottle says VALVE oil. No, not key oil. V-A-L-V-E. Now go sit down.
  • Toppings

Preheat oven to 350. Spray your baking sheet with cooking spray. Slice the potato fairly thin, between 1/8 and 1/4 inch. Those annoying half-slices that you get as your cut gets more and more crooked are fine and will work just fine. Dump the slices in a bowl and either pour a little splash of oil in or spray them really good with cooking spray. Add in however much seasoning you want. I'd go a little heavier than you think because some of it manages to disappear during cooking. Spread them out on your sheet and put them in the oven for 15 minutes. Check on them occasionally as some may be done and turn brown quicker than others. You may have to leave some in a bit longer as well. They're done when you start to see browning on the tops and edges, but before they shrivel up into a brown flake.

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08
Aug
2013

Illegal Broccoli

Posted by Nicole

Surely a vegetable can't be illegal, can it? There's been a recent trend of people using Facebook as Pinterest lately. A page will say "Share this so it saves to your page!" or something along those lines, so people are saving all sorts of great recipes on their page... and my news feed. This is all fine and dandy, but when I see the same cheesecake cookie 45 times, I begin to have cravings. (Side note, you could always take a pen and just write the recipe down like they did in the early days...)

Anyways, a recipe for "Broccoli So Good It Should Be Illegal" has made multiple appearances on my feed lately. It's hosted on the Mommy Made Facebook page. Here's the recipe that has been posted. 

Preheat oven to 375°
Chop a head of broccoli (do not rinse immediately prior to preparing!)
Mince 2-3 cloves of garlic
Put broccoli, garlic, 2 tbsp. olive oil, and a few shakes of salt and pepper in a ziploc bag.
Shake it up (my daughter loves to do this part)
Spread out on baking sheet, place on top rack, and bake for about 30 minutes.
Broccoli will be crunchy and delicious! I make this at least 3 times a week and have to control myself once I take it out of the oven, I could eat this alone for dinner! 

Well, I don't have fresh broccoli, but I do have about six steamer bags in my freezer. They say to microwave for 4-4.5 minutes, so I stuck them in the microwave for two. They were still pretty cold, but not frozen anymore. I prepped my oven as I did this. As for the garlic, I love it but HATE garlic breath, so I opted for a few shakes of garlic salt. I put the broccoli, garlic salt, and 5-8 shakes of Mrs. Dash (I could write a whole post on Mrs. Dash) in a gallon sized bag. Instead of using that much oil, I just took some butter flavored cooking spray and sprayed the mix in the bag really well. I shook it all up and everything seemed to spread out evenly.

I then spread out the broccoli on a cookie sheet and baked at 375 degrees for about 25 minutes.

Verdict: Sorry, I didn't take a picture. The time in the oven sucks out the moisture from the broccoli, so it had a little bit of a crunch on the ends, but not all the way through. I thought it tasted great and ate nearly the whole bag. I sprinkled some Italian shredded cheese over the top as it came out of the oven, and it was delicious. 

Don't feel like you HAVE to use fresh broccoli. Use any seasonings you want, add any toppings. This recipe was really versatile, and I'll be making it again!

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