Cooking for One: Braised Beet Greens with Steamed Salmon

Beet Greens

I think beets are gorgeous. Regardless of the variety, they are filled with color. My brain has some type of instinctual attraction to them.

This recipe is just one more reason you should be cooking with beet greens.

The beet, the whole beet, is packed with nutrients. In fact, the beet greens carry more nutritional benefits than the root itself. They are packed with phytonutrients and antioxidants. Studies indicate eating beets can increase blood flow, reduce blood pressure, increase cardiovascular health, and improve eye health.

Cooking with Beet Greens

Braised Beet Greens with Steamed Salmon for One

Beet greens can be substituted for just about any green. But, this recipe is my favorite and is truly one of the easiest meals you can make yourself. Set it on the stove top and your dinner will cook as you take care of the rest of the evening’s chores. It really doesn’t get easier. It’s warm and fresh, fast and simple.

  1. Place a skillet on the stove. In the skillet, place a frozen salmon filet, skin side up, and fill the bottom of the pan with dry sherry. Cover the skillet and turn the burner to medium low heat. Allow to cook, covered until the filet becomes just tender (about 10 minutes).
  2. Once the filet is tender, fill the pan with beet greens, covering the filet. Sprinkle the greens with soy sauce, cover, and allow to steam for 3 minutes longer.
  3. Place the greens in a bowl. Use your spatula to remove the skin from the salmon. Lay the salmon on top of the greens. Pour the liquid from the pan over the greens and salmon. Sprinkle with additional soy sauce to taste.
  4. Serve with sliced avocado and sesame seeds.

Cooking for One

Posted in Clean Eating, Garden, Main Dish, Recipes | Leave a comment

How to Clean and Care for Cast Iron

Cast iron. It is the best kitchen investment you will make. Purchase cast iron and use it often. It is the most versatile kitchen tool you will own.

You can often find long forgotten cast iron skillets rusting away in a deep, dark corner of a thrift store or proudly sitting on an overcrowded rummage sale table. In these moments, they don’t show their best face. Their cooking surface may be filled with large hard spots of rust and their outer edges covered in dust. Buy that pan. You will not regret it.

How to Care for Cast Iron


Cast iron is indestructible. Despite the rust, that pan can become the hardest working item in your kitchen. You will never find another skillet that can manage to same workload as a healthy cast iron skillet.

You will season it and oil it and cook some of your favorite family meals in it. And when the time comes, you will pass it on for the next generation to cook more memories. Your cast iron will out live you.

People who own cast iron and don’t recognize its abilities aren’t caring for it correctly. A pan that is properly cared for is loved. It can make breads and pancakes; it will roast and sauté vegetables; and it can fry an egg leaving nothing stuck behind. Take care of your cast iron and it will take care of you.

Initial Cleaning

If you purchased that frightening looking skillet for $1 in the rummage sale, you have some cleaning to do. Cast iron is porous, so stay away from soap. Using soap will not only remove the oils from the pan, but it will also leave a soapy flavor in the skillet.

For the initial cleaning, sprinkle the pan very generously with salt. Add a generous helping of vegetable oil and scrub. I use an old kitchen towel; however, paper toweling can do the job as well. The oil will slowly be absorbed by everything and you may end up with a grainy, oily paste. Use this to scrub. At some point you may need to replenish your cleaning agents. Discard the now soiled salt/oil mixture and reapply. Do this as many times as necessary. By the time you finish, you should have a dark black, glossy pan.


That old pan was probably used in another lifetime, so I like to give them a good seasoning. After cleaning the dirty spots from the pan, I bake it at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. I then place the skillet on the stove, add a generous amount of oil and sauté some green onions. Once the onions are nicely browned, discard the onions. Use an old towel and tongs to rub the oil into the interior of the skillet. Return the skillet to the oven for another 5-10 minutes. Allow it to cool, and store it with the rest of your cast iron collection.


Since I mentioned storage, cast iron should be stored clean. I like to rub the pan with oil and allow it to heat up before placing it into the cabinet. When I remove it, my pans are always smooth and easy to work with.

I recently visited my father-in-law, who I noticed, stores his pans with a thin layer of oil and paper toweling layered between each pan. These come out clean and absolutely nonstick.

Use the technique that you prefer, but keep your pan oiled.

Day-to-Day Cleaning

If you have a properly cared for pan, daily cleaning is easy. Simply use a washcloth with only water that has been rung out and wipe the pan clean. Heat the pan to be sure no water was left behind (stove top or oven). Once the pan is dry, oil the interior, heat, and store.


To cook with the skillet, heat the pan and add a small amount of oil if necessary. Often times, I remove mine and nothing is needed. Clean as outlined above and store.

Remember, what happens in the skillet stays in the skillet. Foods with strong flavor will leave behind the faintest indication that they were there. I have two skillets for this purpose. Things with strong flavors such as fish, roasts, or taco meet are cooked in one skillet, while foods like pancakes, eggs, breads, and desserts can be cooked in the other.

Care for Cast Iron


Posted in Self-sustaining | Leave a comment

Build a Better Financial Plan

Last month, I shared our permanent solution for money. In that post, I shared that we have increased our overall net worth by $27,515 and reduced our overall debt by $13,679 in six short months.

I shared our plan one year after beginning. The first three months were awful. I doubted our plan, I couldn’t see our progress, and I was not convinced we were making the right choices.

After six months, we reflected on what we were doing and made a few changes to our design, which ultimately allowed us to increase our net worth by $27,515 in 6 short months.


Extra payments need to be treated like bills. During those first six months I was doubting our design because we were still struggling to follow through. We had created an environment where are basic bills were doing the work for us, but those extra payments were our responsibility. It was far too easy to use that money for something else when it wasn’t being applied automatically.

Our change: All of the money that was to be used for an extra debt payment was transferred with the rest of our money for bills.

Track your progress. I learned there is a fine balance between tracking your progress and obsessing over it. On any given weekend, you could find me analyzing our net worth spreadsheet and suggesting changes to our design. I needed to trust our plan. We would never be able to track success if we were constantly making changes. Now, we measure our progress biannually. We use the spreadsheet below to measure changes and track our progress. I’ve included this as a free link below.

Net Worth Spreadsheet

Our change: We began monitoring our net worth as a measure of progress every six months.

Create a picture: We needed something to look at to understand our situation. Take our mortgage for example, we have a 30 year mortgage. That sounds average. We created a picture by mapping out what that really meant.

In our situation, that meant we would have been tied to that payment until 2040 if we never made additional payments. Since our goal is debt repayment, we created this picture for each of our debts and calculated how additional payments would affect our picture in 5 years. This allowed us to see what our financial design could do for us. So now, instead of looking at 2040 as the end date for our mortgage, we’re looking at 2018, and that feels very different. You can find a great template for this here.

Ideally, this would be something that would be done during your initial planning for our financial design; however, we had to pay off some credit cards, which we both agreed were a priority. We used that time to create a picture and plan for the rest of our debts.

Our change: We created an Excel workbook that created a realistic picture of what we would be connected to and for how long. This put everything into perspective.


I like to believe we all secretly want a small cabin in the woods with unlimited WiFi, and that is going to take a little bit of cash. Our lifestyle is about sustainability, and for us, a large piece of that includes financial sustainability.

Cabin in the Woods


Posted in Financial Sustainability | Leave a comment

How to Keep your Hens Laying in Winter + The Perfect Poached Egg

The day you reach into the nesting boxes and find one lonesome egg is a sad day.


Many people with short winter days report egg production that slows, or in some cases, stops during winter. It’s not uncommon to hear the cold days blamed for this slow production, but really it is the short days that cause egg production to change.

Hens need light. They have a gland called their Pineal Gland that regulates their body functions. The Pineal Gland sits behind their eyes and is responsible for the production of Melotonin. Melotonin is used by their body to regulate body functions such as sleep and egg production.

As the days become shorter, access to light become decreased, and their egg production is slowed. Laying hens require 16-18 hours of light each day to maintain maximum egg production. Once the days shorten and we begin seeing days with 12 hours or less, egg production slows.

Many chicken keepers recommend fooling the hen’s body into laying with alternative light sources. Here on the Ranchette, we prefer using more self-sustaining methods.


Create an environment with a lot of natural light. We designed a coop that faces Southeast and added a wall of windows. The coop becomes filled with light at daybreak giving the ladies access to 10 hours of light on even our shortest day of the year.

Also consider increasing their access to outside. Many chicken runs are positioned where they catch shade for a portion of the day. By giving the hens access to full sun throughout the day, you will increase their access to natural light.


Diversity guarantees stability. Diversify your flock for stable egg production year round. Keep more than one breed of chicken and keep chickens of varying ages. In our flock, we have six breeds and three age groups. We also keep a few extra hens in the winter months to offset the slowed production.


Keep those ladies properly fed and watered. I feed my ladies an all natural layer crumble. Every few weeks, I will mix it up and give them a meat bird feed, which has a higher protein content. This seems to make them happy.

Our flock uses the feed as a supplement. Most of their food comes from roaming the land so their feed just helps make sure they’re getting enough to eat in the cooler months.


When you make a change to your flocks environment, be patient. The effects of those changes won’t happen over night.

Slowed egg production is a natural process. Plan for it. Use these tools to ensure egg production from your flock year round, but still expect to receive fewer eggs on your shortest days. Plan to utilize other food sources over your shortest month when planning your food for the year.



Perfect Poached Eggs

One of my favorite books, by Tamar Adler, says “an egg can turn anything into a meal and is never so pleased as when it is allowed to”.

I believe this to be especially true in winter. During the cold, dark months of winter our fridge becomes filled with roasted vegetables. And, it is the eggs of our chickens that turn them into a meal.

Perfect Poached Egg
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Poached eggs happily top roasted vegetables, oatmeal, and pasta and are often a part of some of my favorite winter creations.
  • 1 farm fresh egg
  • 1 T. red wine vinegar
  • water
  1. Fill your pot with enough water to cover the egg.
  2. Bring the water to a gentle boil.
  3. Add the red wine vinegar.
  4. Crack the egg into a small bowl and gently add to the boiling water. Adjust the stove temperature so the water remains at a gentle boil.
  5. Allow the egg to cook for approximately three minutes.
  6. Remove the egg from the pot with a fish spatula, allowed the excess water to drain. Give the egg a slight shake and check that the egg white is set. If not, cook slightly longer.


Posted in Breakfast, Chickens, Clean Eating, Recipes | 2 Comments

Our Permanent Solution for Money

I’m talking about money, because nobody talks about money. Not enough people tell you that the farm you dream of owning or the tractor you need for that land is going to cost you so much more than the sticker price.

Everything we do on the Ranchette is planned using permaculture design. We both work full-time jobs that keep us busy much more than full-time, and we need everything to be efficient and self-sustaining. Our money is no different.

This design does not break down techniques that may be specific to your situation. There are just too many financial techniques to review. This design is about sustainability, efficiency, planning, and balance.

I attribute all of our success to our financial design. We created our design in January 2014 after realizing we would never reach our goals in our current financial situation. We have been applying it to our finances for a year now. Over the first six months there was a learning curve; we didn’t see much progress.

Over the second six month period, we were able to get the reassurance we needed. From July 1- December 31, 2014, we were able to pay $13,679 down on our debts, reduce our student loan debt by $11,500 and increase our net worth by $27,515.


We knew we needed to develop a positive relationship between ourselves and our money by making our money work for us. We developed this flow of accounts. Money gets deposited into our main account weekly, it is then automatically transferred to our other various accounts: loans, bills, savings, and cash. Those accounts then use automatic bill pay to transfer funds where they need to go. Day-to-day spending (food, spending, animal supplies) gets withdrawn in cash each month keeping us committed to our budget.

Notice that our emergency savings account isn’t even included in this design because we don’t consider it in our design. The account is fully funded and we keep that money out of sight (at a different bank) and out of mind (so it’s there for a true emergency).

Financial Flow Chart


Our plan is aligned with our goals. We will be debt free by December 2018. We found a debt repayment plan that we are both comfortable with, and we included those additional debt payments as an automatic payment withdrawn from our loans account each month.

At the end of each month, extra money sits in our main checking account. That additional money is transferred to our discretionary savings account, which we can use for whatever we’d like. We keep a small prioritized list of what we’d like to do with this money (vacations, remodeling projects, extra fun money, etc.).

In our plan and design, there is no place for credit cards. If we need extra money it comes from our discretionary savings account. If we have a disaster with our house, it comes from the emergency savings account. In the end, we’re only responsible for paying ourselves back, which is a lot less pressure than having another bill to pay.

There are several steps to creating your plan:

  1. Establish a goal– What is your main goal? Your answer should guide your plan.
  2. Find a plan– Your goal will determine what type of plan you need to settle on- a debt repayment plan, a saving plan, an earning plan.
  3. Make a budget– You can find a great resource for creating a budget here. Consider the sustainability of everything on that budget. How does each item contribute to your end goal?
  4. Develop your design– Make your design fool proof, and you will not fail. Consider your relationship to your money and what you want each dollar to do. Make it automatic.


During the first three months, I was not convinced this was what we should be doing. In fact, I checked our accounts almost daily obsessing over little things. Thankfully my other half is patient and continued to remind me daily that we needed to be patient, let the savings accounts grow, and have faith in the plan. One year later, I can say he is right. But, the first couple of months are the hardest.

As we move into our second year of this design, I will begin sharing monthly reflections on the first Friday of each month. I know talking about money is boring to most, so I won’t bog down the blog with more than a monthly reflection. For those of you looking for our more traditional gardening, preserving, permaculturing, animal raising posts, you can look for a monthly post in the middle of each month.

It’s going to be a great 2015. Thank you to all of you that remained faithful followers in my many absences. I hope this helps you start the New Year on a positive foot. Happy New Year!

Posted in Financial Sustainability, Self-sustaining | 7 Comments