home economics for the urban homesteader


I used to waitress at a place called The Silver Spur Ranch Restaurant. One of the owners, Art, used to make his Cincinnati chili every morning and served it “3-way” (or 4 or 5 way) at lunch. As an employee I earned tips and a free lunch and this was one of my favorites. Though this isn’t his recipe, it’s my version and my family loves it served over spaghetti noodles and piled with cheese and onions – Art’s was all of this plus served on top of Texas toast! True Cincinnati chili wouldn’t have the beans in it, they would be offered as an option on top (a “way”, as with the cheese, onions etc), Continue reading my skyline-style chili recipe


Store bought veggie burgers frighten me. Between the potential for GMO vegetable or grain product and that crazy hexane laced soy issue, I’ve sworn them off entirely. Luckily I’ve developed this homemade veggie burger made of lentils and barley with minced vegetables. It’s delicious and is actually the only veggie burger that I’ve made that stands up to the bun- I’ve tried black bean burgers, sweet potato burgers and various others that all tend to turn into paste when you grill them or when they’re bitten into. These burgers freeze well and this recipe makes a double batch; dinner for tonight and then a quick lunch or ready to grill dinner later in the month. Even my teenager loves them, so there you go. Continue reading homemade vegetable burgers


Potatoes are an amazing vegetable and have been a nutritional resource saving many millions of people from the blight of famine. They’ve been given a terrible rap by what we’ve done to them in terms of fast and snack foods, but as a baked treat with a little olive oil these couldn’t be healthier. Too many carbs is never a great thing, but that can be said about too much of anything. I love having a bag of potatoes in the cupboard for when I need a quick and filling side on the cheap. Organic is especially important in potatoes since they sit in the earth. Continue reading oven fries

  • get a knife sharpener

Every time I think I’m getting really sick of making dinner every night, I remember to sharpen my knives and suddenly it’s not so bad. I use an electric sharpener that has a coarse and fine wheel and keep my chopping and bread knives ultra sharp. I cut myself a lot, but I also make dinner really fast.

  • grating cheese

I abhor grating cheese but I eat a lot of it. If you have a salad shooter just cut the cheese into wedges that will fit inside the chute and grind away – you can grate a pound in minutes with no pain (though I still make my teenager do it most of the time). Alternatively you can often use a grating attachment on many food processors, I just like the salad shooter because it’s much smaller so there’s less to wash afterward. Continue reading my favorite kitchen tips and tricks


Raising chicks can be a fun way to start a backyard flock of laying birds and is also the best way to avoid illness and disease in your birds. The chicks will take at least 2 months to be ready for the great outdoors, depending on the weather, so make sure you’re ready for the house guests. Chicks generate an amazing amount of dust and dander so it’s best if you can keep them in a bathroom or low traffic room.

If you’re adding to an existing flock things can get more complicated, but on a basic level it’s important to remember a few key points: always raise chickens in groups of at least 2, birds will get too lonely on their own even if you’re around a lot. Introduce the birds to your existing flock slowly and keep them separated but able to see each other Continue reading how to raise layer chickens



Quinces are an oddity for most people. I had heard the word but never seen one until we bought our house in Portland, but even upon seeing one it took me over a year to figure out what the hell it was. It was actually at a baby shower I threw at my house for my brother that a guest remarked with drool on his cheek about what a lovely crop of quinces I had going to waste all over my yard. We had never been able to figure out what the weird fruit was, looking something like a golden delicious apple that’s been exposed to radiation and become shaped almost like a pear. They never seemed to be ripe, even when golden yellow; the hard flesh and acrid taste impossible to chew up. I let the guest harvest bags and bags, even got him a ladder to raid the tree; he said it was the best (and only) baby shower he’d ever been to and later emailed a thank you.

Of course now I was curious. Continue reading quince jelly


This simple cream cheese goes incredibly well with homemade bagels! There are several other ways to make cream cheese, but this is a great starter cream cheese spread. Drain times are essential for the right consistency and I prefer this served as a spread; if you try to whip this cheese it may become too watery. If you’d like to add an herb it’s best to do so prior to draining the curds to avoid over-stirring the end product (chives, honey, get creative). Continue reading how to make cream cheese


This recipe for ricotta is much simpler than traditional methods and the result is still incredible. I like to use it in lasagna and other Italian pasta recipes – a pound of ricotta from the grocery store usually runs about $8, so this can be a real savings and is far fresher. Continue reading homemade ricotta


Fresh bagels are easier to make than you’d imagine, I find they’re even easier than fresh bread because you don’t have to rise it as long or worry about it falling. There is one secret ingredient that will make your bagels irresistible and authentic that should not be skipped: barley malt syrup. I found some at Whole Foods that has lasted me through half a dozen batches of bagels so far with about 1/4 of a jar left. Make this with homemade cream cheese and gain a following for life. Continue reading homemade bagels


Chevre is one of the simplest and most rewarding cheeses to make at home. The hardest part of the recipe is getting ahold of goat milk that hasn’t been ultra-pasteurized. I was able to find some at a local food co-op which sells raw goat milk by the quart for the remarkably high price of $9 a half-gallon (plus $2 glass deposit). Make sure to read through the recipe before you intend to begin so you can be sure you have the proper equipment like thermometers, stainless steel pot and spoon, cheesecloth and some where to hang the cheese to drain.

As with most cheeses, you need to buy the starter in advance, either as a ready to use direct set pouch or as a reconstitutable culture. (I love Kookoolan Farms)   Continue reading make chevre at home



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