Hidden Creek Farm

As I tour West Michigan farms, one thing I’m surprised to hear is that many of the farmers weren’t raised on farms. Crystal of Hidden Creek Farms falls into this category, telling me she was raised in the country but not on a farm. When I asked her how they learned so much if they weren’t raised on a farm, she replied they’ve learned along the way. And what a lot they have learned!

On my visit to Hidden Creek Farm, I was blown away by how much they have going on there, especially given their location, right off River Road. The first time I happened upon their farm, I was en route to a friends house, turning off Whitehall Road onto River Road. As I was driving, I saw their roadside stand and sign. Right there amidst family homes and small neighborhoods was an 18 acre farm, complete with chickens, goats, cows, pigs, quails and more.

 

 

Crystal started our tour with their mini-market they call their “Farmacy” (LOVE IT!), where customers can stop by and pick up some eggs, honey, and when available, maple syrup. They also have a fridge for their customers who purchase their goats milk, and freezer where they keep their broilers (and sidenote: we’ve purchased their broilers before. Delicious! Buy some, you won’t be disappointed!) I loved that in addition to the food products available for purchase, Hidden Creek also has an assortment of handmade earrings and necklaces made from molted feathers from their chickens. How cool is that?! On trend fashion that’s sustainable and local. Just as exciting are the tanks, t-shirts, handmade soaps and bows available for purchase. Ladies, bring extra cash when you pick up your farm fresh products, you won’t want to miss this!  And gentlemen, Mother’s Day is coming up. Imagine the brownie points you’d get if you made that Mom in your life an omelette bar brunch, adorned her with some fashionable jewelry and gave her some time to indulge in a shower or bath with some wonderfully smelling soaps. Just saying. (Wink wink, nudge nudge, dear husband of mine).

 

Next up was a trip to the barn where I saw some of their pigs. Unfortunately the piglets running around didn’t stop long enough for me to get a good photo op. But trust me, I wanted to squeal with delight (pun intended) at how cute they were. On the other side of the farm, I got to see more of their hogs, running around, being their curious natural selves. Crystal told me they raise registered Tamworth pigs, a heritage breed known for their great foraging abilities. The pigs at Hidden Creek are raised on open pasture and a woodlot and when fed grains, given only non-GMO locally milled grains. Coolest part: these pigs (and other animals on the farm) are fed pulp from Rootdown and Bodhi Tree, two local businesses. I LOVE this! ALL of this! From the humanely raised local meat to the local businesses supporting each other. It just doesn’t get much better than that.

 

After visiting the pigs, Crystal showed me their broiler chickens, cows, eggs layers and goats. They offer 1/4, 1/2, and whole cows, whole and half hogs, lamb, goat, turkey, and broiler chickens for those interested in filling up their freezers. (Coming from a someone who has ordered many sides of meat, you really should consider this. I absolutely love the quality of meat we get from local farmers, and the ease of always having meat to pull out of the freezer for dinners and cookouts). To learn more about their animals, check out their website and “like” their Facebook page. You will undoubtedly be impressed by how well they take care of their animals and be even more impressed by how amazing care and attention translates into better tasting meat.

 

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Of course a tour of Hidden Creek Farm wouldn’t be complete without touring their garden spaces, flower gardens and raised beds, prepped and ready for a busy growing season. During the growing season, you can stop by their roadside stand to enjoy some fresh produce and stunning flowers. You can also find Hidden Creek at the Sweetwater Local Foods Market each weekend, selling what’s in season on their farm, as well as those super chic pieces of jewelry and other handmade/homemade goodies. If you want even more farm to table goodness, Hidden Creek is partnering with local chef, Chef Damon Covington, to present a Farm to Table evening on July 14.  Hidden Creek is also hosting two FUN filled open farm events, May 19th and September 15. Check out their Facebook events to see all the other local vendors who will be present to make these events you won’t want to miss.

For a couple who wasn’t raised on a farm, Crystal and Lee sure have farming pretty well mastered. Their commitment to humanely and sustainably raised meats and non-GMO, chemical free produce shows their dedication to providing high quality and healthy foods to the community around them. Thanks, Crystal and Lee, for sharing your beautiful farm with me and for continuing to be honest and transparent about your food! Can’t wait to come back for your events and purchase more of your amazing food.

 

 

 

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Homemade Granola

Today I’m sharing with you my favorite granola recipe that I’ve been making for years. Did I create the recipe? Nope! Why don’t I try making my own recipe? Because why mess with perfection? I’m a busy mom and when I find a good recipe that my kids will actually eat, I stick with it!

100 DAYS OF REAL FOOD GRANOLA <—Click Here for the Recipe

What I like about this recipe is it’s versatile and works with whatever you have on hand. You can easily tweak it to fit whatever nuts and seeds you have in your pantry. In fact, I’ve made this recipe completely nut free, instead doubling the pumpkin and sunflower seeds. And there are times when I haven’t had the right amount of spices so I subbed in pumpkin pie spice with no problems. Best part is this recipe makes a LOT, so you can make it once and have it on hand for awhile (if it lasts). This granola is super filling, so you won’t need much to feel satisfied.

After I make this granola, I employ a super secret mom trick: I put it in a half gallon canning jars with an easy to open lid and set it in plain view on the counter. Then I wait and watch as little (and big hands) snack on it throughout the day, pouring milk over it for breakfast, adding it to trail mix, sprinkling it over a yogurt parfait, made with some local fruit, of course. (Another unrelated super secret mom trick- the bread box in the top photo, also serves as a hiding place for the things I DON’T want to share, like my dark chocolate bars).

What does this recipe have to do with local eating, you ask? Quite a few ingredients can be sourced locally! Here’s the rundown:

Honey- I bought mine from B&K Bees of Hesperia. I’ve also purchased some from Crisp Country Acres before. The fun thing about trying different local honey is the taste changes depending on the plants the bees were frequenting! How cool is that?! Click here for my (growing) list of where to buy local honey.

Butter- My family loves the butter from Country Dairy! I may have gotten a funny look when I bought like three pounds of butter and several pounds of cheese at once. But we just freeze what we won’t use right away.

Nuts and Seeds– I shop at Montague Foods for my nuts and seeds. I love that they have these available in bulk. Less packaging waste that way. The bulk nuts and seeds are sourced by a company out of Grand Rapids named Ferris. I do understand that they are not grown locally. However, when it comes to items that don’t grow in our climate or aren’t readily available from a local source,I choose to at least buy them from a local store.

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Oats- Oats are like nuts and seeds in that it’s pretty difficult these days to find a local source of oats. I like heading out to Whispering Pines Country Store in Fremont, Michigan to buy bulk oats. What I like is you can buy small bags of oats or 50lb bags. They generally have a variety to choose from. Again, if I can’t buy a locally grown product, I’d at least like to give a local store my business. One note about Whispering Pines: bring a check or cash. They don’t take credit cards.

Hope you enjoy this recipe! If there are any ingredients listed above that ARE available from a local source, please let me know in the comments. I will update this post to include those local sources.

 

This post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission at no cost to you if you choose to make a purchase. 

One Whole Chicken, Four Meals

Most of us have grown accustomed to purchasing our meats in the exact cuts and weights we desire from a chain grocery store, with the most popular cut of chicken being the ever-popular boneless, skinless chicken breast. Having chicken so readily available to us, pre-cut and pre-packaged, means many people have no idea how to a) cook a whole chicken, b) cut up a whole chicken c) or  what to do with a whole chicken once it’s cooked. Fear not, my chicken loving friends! Today I will show you how to make the most out of a chicken, even making that chicken last for four meals!

Before I go on though, allow me to make the case for buying a locally raised chicken. Some might see the cost per pound of a locally raised chicken and see that as too expensive for their budget. Around here, the going rate per pound for a whole chicken is $3.50/lb. You can expect the average size to be about 5.5 lbs. This makes the total cost of a chicken to be around $19.25. Now let’s crunch some numbers and see how that $19.25 chicken can be affordable for a family of four:

$19.25 divided by 4 meals = $4.81 per meal

Now let’s break it down by serving:

$4.81 per meal divided by 4 people = $1.20 per person, per meal! 

(Spoiler alert: One meal doesn’t include meat. But it does use the broth made from the chicken. This helps stretch out the cost of the chicken. Don’t know how to make your own broth? People, it’s sooo easy and foolproof. Click here and I will show you.)

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Speaking of the cost of broth, let’s include that in the cost of the chicken. If you go to the store and buy, let’s say, organic store brand chicken broth, you’d expect to pay about $2.50-$3.00 for a quart. I contend you can make at least 4 quarts of broth with one chicken. Allow me to do that math for you: $2.50 x 4 quarts= $10 in chicken broth. That’s more than HALF the cost of your chicken already! However, just the other day, I used ONE whole chicken, put it in a huge pot, and got a little over 7 quarts of broth.

Of course this doesn’t include the other ingredients in your recipe, but generally speaking, we pay the most money for the meat we put on the table. (And if you keep checking back with my blog, you will see how you can buy produce in bulk and make these meals even more inexpensive).

Cooking the Chicken:

Some people are intimidated by the idea of cooking a whole chicken. If this is you, check out my post about making chicken broth in a slow cooker, because you can literally cook the whole chicken in the slow cooker and get meat AND broth at the same time. It’s very easy!

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Making a whole chicken and broth in a slow cooker

You can roast the chicken in the oven, put it on the grill, or, if you’re pretty grill savvy, get yourself a rotisserie attachment for your charcoal grill and cook it that way. With the power of youtube and Pinterest, you can find lots of tutorials for cooking a whole bird. Orrrr……ask your grandma. Really. I just had a conversation with my grandma about how once a neighbor called her over to show her how to carve a chicken before her mother-in-law got there. I laughed. But to be honest, I had NO clue how to carve a chicken until a few years ago.

 

Meal Ideas:

Meal 1: Chicken Soup and/or Ramen Bowl- My kids aren’t a huge fan of the ramen bowl. Instead we make a little of each at the same time. Chicken soup for the boys. Ramen bowls for mom and dad. All using about 2-3 quarts of the broth we make from the whole chicken.

Meal 2: Chicken Tacos with rice, beans and corn- Take the leftover chicken, dice it up, throw it in a pan with some homemade taco seasoning (Click for the recipe I use). Add a side of beans made in the slow cooker (Click here for bean recipe), rice (recipe coming soon!) and some corn. I freeze corn during the summer to have on hand all winter. Check the “corn” section this summer for tips and tricks for freezing local corn.

Meal 3: Chicken with noodles– This recipe is a crowd pleaser! It calls for 1 pound of chicken, but I’ve found it’s just as pleasing with less chicken. What I love most about it is you can buy a LOT of the ingredients locally: carrots, onions, mushrooms,celery, onion, butter, corn and even the half and half! Use of quart of your homemade stock and it’s even more local!! If you already have the chicken cooked and diced, this recipes is really easy to whip up and get on the table.

Meal 4: Vegetable Minestrone (using the stock or broth from the chicken) with fresh homemade bread, and side salad with homemade vinaigrette. (RECIPE COMING SOON!)

Okay, I know, you’re thinking, hey, the last one is meatless. But, this meal uses the chicken for broth, not the meat, making that chicken last a little longer. Trust me, the minestrone is ridiculously easy to make and very filling.

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Yep. That’s ketchup. A universal dip to my son. But hey, he eats his broccoli. Keepin it real, people.

Sometimes in our house, mom and dad get a fancy meal and the kids get this. A small hunk of chicken, steamed broccoli (I blanch and freeze a bunch during the summer to use all winter), and quick and easy to make home fries. Of course, with ketchup. And the broccoli is topped with that “cheesy” popcorn topping that’s really not cheese. Just trying to be real people. If my kid will only eat chicken with store bought ketchup and his broccoli with “cheese” topping, so be it. I pick my battles.

Other Meal Suggestions: white chicken chili, chicken “fried” rice, chicken stir fry, taco soup, chicken gyros, Asian chicken salad. 

Of course these aren’t the ONLY meals you could make with one chicken. The possibilities are endless, especially in the Pinterest age where you search chicken recipes and get thousands of recipes at your fingertips. But do you see what I did with the recipe layout? I didn’t serve the chicken plain, as the star of the plate. This might take some getting used to if you usually plan your meal around the meat as the center piece. If you instead first consider it as an ingredient in the whole meal, you can make that one chicken last a lot longer. Throw in some things on the side like homemade bread with your soup. Or don’t be afraid to think a little outside of the box and eat carrot sticks and apple slices with your chicken tacos. My kids aren’t always sold on beans and rice, so they always have the option of a piece of fruit and something like celery with peanut butter.

If you’re now feeling super inspired and ready to break out your apron and get cooking, first, CLICK HERE and learn where you can buy a locally raised chicken. Even if you just started with ONE locally raised chicken and give these recipes a try, it’s a start and it WILL help out that farmer. Every time we buy local, we’re voting with our dollars for how we want our food to be raised. And we’re pumping money back into our local economy. Buying local is ALWAYS a win!

ENJOY! If you liked this post, be sure to leave me some love in the comments below!

This post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission if you choose to make a purchase, at no extra cost to you.