Saturday, May 26, 2012

Dinner on the farm - Stratas

My 1st Ham and Zucchini Strata
before baking
I like to make things that burst with many different flavors in each bite. That isn't an easy accomplishment. I also love dressing made with hearty whole grain breads and real chicken broths and bread pudding with raisins and cinnamon made with left over bread.

So when I ran across this type of dish I knew I had to try it. Seems like Stratas are once again gaining popularity and I am glad to bring a basic recipe to you. Of course our recipes are healthier versions and good!

I must admit I got a little excited the first time and mushed my meat and bread ingredients together like you would dressing, but the true Strata is layered bread, meat mixture then cheese and repeated hence the name Strata. My first one came out just fine and quite delicious. They are very forgiving, you almost cannot mess up, not to mention healthy cheap eats for a family!

Strata's are great to use leftover bread, those little bits of cheese you have left and whatever else you may desire to throw in. They are quick to fix but take a while to bake. They slice easily, and leftovers can be wrapped individually. They also freeze well.


1 c. meat (chopped chicken, brisket, ham, sausage, etc)
1 c or so Onion, bell pepper, celery, your choice.
8 c stale whole grain bread
8 eggs
2 c milk

Saute the meat mixture with the veggies in 1tlb olive oil. Set aside.

Spray a 13x9 casserole dish with non stick.

In a bowl, mix together the eggs and milk until thoroughly mixed. Add in the bread and toss or mix until the bread has soaked up all the liquid. You can season this mixture if you want with herbs and pepper. I don't use salt

Layer 1/2 of the bread mixture in the bottom of the casserole dish. Spread 1/2 of your meat and veggie mixture on top and add the cheese. I usually used 6 slices of a low fat or 2% cheese but you could also use shredded mozzarella, also a low fat cheese.

Repeat the layers with the bread mixture, meat mixture and a little more cheese if you choose. Usually I just add the cheese in the first layer.

Let this mixture sit several hours before baking. You can make it the night before and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight. This allows the bread to soak up the eggs and milk and also allows the flavors to blend.

Bake 375 for 40-60 minutes


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Life on the farm - In a corporate world I am one of the 99%

Until recently I didn't disclose the nature of my 9-5 job. I choose not to for fear of rotten tomatoes and a decline in readership. Today however I came out of the closet. I am a banker for a large, corporate bank that has been in existence for over 100 years.  I am also a hobby farmer and one of the 99%.

This Occupy movement hasn't ever settled well with me. I suppose that is because I subscribe to another school of thought. That is, to continue as usual but have the skills to take care of yourself, mind, body and soul if the need ever arises. This is the basis of the Rural Living farm and hobby farming. I don't like to consider myself as one of them but for the sake of this blog post, and in reality, I am. Your probably are too.

We created the Rural Living farm to become partially self sustaining, to produce fresh food in an environment that I am sure is clean from pesticides or a multitude of other undisclosed chemicals, to save money and to be prepared in case I loose my job or in the rare event we have a terrorist attack on the grid, internet or any other vital infrastructure that would at the least cripple our normal way of life. Yes, it could happen.

Which brings me to the 99% and the Occupy Wall Street movement.

Last November when a loosely formed group decided in their infinite wisdom to promote a "Change your Bank" day it made my blood boil. Not because I am a corporate girl who defends what my employer does at every turn, I don't. Who in this world agrees with every decision that is made in the workplace? Very few I would guess but we go along with those changes and move forward.. I love what I do and am very appreciative to have a job that pays well and has good benefits but I also watch the clock on most days and can't wait to get home to get my dirt fix. The weekends can't come quick enough either but that has nothing to do with my job and everything to do with my passion.

What angered me was that the protests were aimed at the corporate elite without consideration for the rest of us. Those of use who are just like the 99% movement protesters.  The majority of the people who make up the corporate banks, the employees, low men and women on the corporate totem pole who just want to make a living.

Did the protesters consider that their actions could have potentially make the situation worse had a majority of Americans actually withdrawn their deposits from corporate banks and moved them to credit unions? It would have resulted in something much worse; hundreds of thousands of more people unemployed at a time when unemployment was unprecedented. I don't think they even gave that a thought. Had the event been a success, then what would the Occupy movement have accomplished?

I will agree, when we clock in at 9:00 everyday and wear the corporate logo on our badges or in some cases pressed Polo's with the corporate logo embroidered on the front we are representing the corporation. However, in realty we are no different than those who are active 99%'ers. We are paid decent wages but we are no where near the elite 1%. Protest our corporation if you must but please keep us in mind as well.

Fortune for me and the hundreds of thousands of bankers just like me, Change your Bank day failed. However, I was ready. I was ready to survive because we created this hobby farm. I knew if there was a worse case scenario I could make it. Not by finding another job but because we have created a pretty strong self sustaining farm, with the tools and knowledge to move further if the need arises.

So protest as you feel you should but I am sticking my heels in the ground too. As a banker in a corporate bank and a pretty darn good one too, I am also a hobby farmer with enough rich soil and knowledge to at least move forward. Bring it on and we'll see who survives.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Rural Living - It's Monday

Today has been a long day. Glad it's over. Tomorrow my 9-5 job will be more stressful than a cow giving birth to a breached calf. I'll live!

This morning while John was gathering eggs and feeding the girls (hens) one of them escaped....He said she was immediately nailed by a rooster and I am sure it lasted all day. John tried but he couldn't get her back in the coop.

By the time I got home at 5 she was hovering close to the coop. She wanted back in. I bet she had a hard day with the roosters.

I considered putting her in the breed pen and gathering her eggs for the next week to incubate. Then I looked at the load of eggs we have and decided against it. We have enough hens and roosters and the market it getting saturated with them here that we might not can move them. Especially when the buyer asks "Who's the daddy?" and we won't know. We are occasionally given layers and roosters so this time, we'll let them it go. It is the perfect opportunity though to catch some fertilized eggs.

We are tractor shopping. We have a Ford 9N that was his dad's but it hasn't been started in quite a while and needs some maintenance. Actually lots of maintenance. Summer is just approaching and so are the rains and the pasture is already out of hand. I also want a disker so that I can create a larger garden area in half the time. Think it will work quite well if we can find one within our price range. Free would be better but I know that isn't happening.

John said if we get one it needs to be a tractor, not an "overgrown lawn tractor" like the new John Deere One series is. Those are very nice but I agree, I don't think it will do what we need it to do.

I have a 3 day weekend from the corporate world this weekend and plan to get a lot accomplished. I probably will get a lot of sunburn too. We'll see.

What plans do you have for this weekend?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Farm Sunday - Take it easy prescription.....

Hot Farm Sunday and we are inside, for the most part, in the air conditioning. I did venture out to the garden a little bit ago to check on everything and to see if there was anything that had to be picked today. It can all wait for a day or two. Either things are not quite ripe or can get a little bigger.

At least I am able to catch up on a little reading, a little research and planning. Sometimes, even with the best time management skills, you just need to set it all aside and take a breath.

I have thought before that the Rural Living farm needed a brand, not that we'd ever brand anything more than perhaps a steak but it is a tradition in Texas with a long history. Our county courthouse has volumes of recorded brands in the county. I just think it would be neat if we ever do get livestock.

So today I set out to get ideas, and looked at every brand that is or was registered in the county. You can find them online at the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association (TSCRA) Texas Brand Registration.

Some were quite fancy such as this one that was described as a "flying U 1 over a cross." I was amused at the descriptions and thought that there had to  be some well put time in the design. The Texas Brand Registration didn't list the owner but it's public record.

The other fancy one I ran across was described as "Flying US over Cross". Certainly this brand was designed for a very patriotic family, perhaps with veterans either living or dead and stories to tell or were told.

I thought this one was quite funny as it looks like a wild man. There is an urban legend in the county about The Wild Man of the Navidad who lived some years back in the woods along the Navidad River. Described as Lower Case R Lazy S Lazy C,

Then there were those that simply were initials. Others that Rocked or had a bar, plenty of those on their sides otherwise known as Lazy.

Taking all those in to account, what I envisioned, a Rocking R L that when drawn looks more like a Ralph Lauren logo than a Farm and Ranch brand, was not registered in the county. Not that I'll ever register it but one day, I just might.