Monday, October 28, 2013

With the changing of the weather...

With the changing of weather... some things happen. We pull out the flannel sheets for the beds. We begin thinking all over again about how desperately we need a wood heater. We wake to frost on the ground. More and more socks are lost in the laundry and/or at the bottom of the bed. *snicker*
One thing that seems to happen for me, is that the needles come out, and the yarn seems to always be at my side and I begin stitching almost every time I get a free moment. It's almost instinctive. Like second nature. When days are shorter and time indoors are a bit more normal, my extra few minutes here and there are spent rhythmically stitching away.
Two of my latest creations have had to do with wee ones. One who is yet to be born, but due on Christmas eve. I, with high hopes of a Christmas babe, decided to go with a Christmas colored Elf Stocking Cap. These are one of my most favorites so far. I love the long tail and the big pompom on the end. I honestly am thinking of making one for myself. 

The second is a sweet little beanie with interchangeable flowers for a newly 1 year old. I am absolutely tickled about how this one came out. Although, I did have to make a second hat. *wink* 
 It is good to get an idea on what size head the little one has. If I had known how to make these things when my children were little... I am sure that my children would have had to have a toddler size when they were first born. :) My bunch has big heads. haha

So, as the week begins and I have nothing pressing too terribly hard this morning except for getting the kids up and starting lessons. I think I will grab me a cup of coffee and sit down with my yarn and enjoy a few moments of quiet and stitch. 

Have a great week, friends!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Real Hot Cocoa

This morning I woke early and it was COLD in the house. I started in there to make some coffee, but then thought that instead of making something hot that just Cameo and I drink, I would make something for all of us. Something with real ingredients and not from a packet (not that we have those anyways). Something that will warm everyone... all the way to their toes!

I made up a batch of my chocolate syrup and then added some to my mini crockpot.
To the chocolate syrup I added enough milk to bring it to about 3/4's the way full. I would imagine this would be about 3 cups if I were measuring.
Then I added heavy cream and mixed in right at the top.
Creamy, dreamy... by far the best hot cocoa we have had all year!
And with the crock, it will stay warm when we need that 2nd cup later on this morning.

Here's some loose directions for everything:

For the chocolate syrup
2 cups sweetener (I used honey)
1 cup water
1.5 cup cocoa
Warm honey and water til incorporated.
Mix in cocoa and vanilla.
Let cool.
(unless you are making hot cocoa... if so, use immediately!)

For the cocoa:
1.5 cup chocolate syrup
3 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
Warm gently

Serve with marshmallows.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Canning Greens

Have you ever considered canning your excess greens? 
It is a fairly simple process, but it does take a little time. 
What I have is turnip greens. I'm from the south. You eat your greens around here.
If you have your greens, a bowl of beans, cornbread, and some fried potatoes, you have got a meal fit for a king!

Here's how you can them.
You can use this process for pretty much any green. 
Collards, turnips, spinach, kale, etc.

Dump your greens into the sink and wash them.
You may have to wash them a lot to get the grit, sand and such off of them.

Once you have them fairly clean, start pulling off pieces of the leaf and putting them in a stockpot.
The stems can be saved for the livestock or the compost.
Once you get a nice full pot, run some water over them and put them on your stove. You want to wilt them down. You might be surprised at just how much it takes to fill a few quart jars!
Cook the greens til wilted and then fill your clean quart jars.
Like I said, that WHOLE sink full of turnip greens equaled 3 quarts for my pantry.
After you fill your jar with the greens, add a teaspoon of salt to each jar and finish the jar off with hot water. Attach lid and band and put in your pressure canner.
Process in a pressure canner for 90 minutes @ 15 lbs pressure(for here, check your canner manual) for quarts. 60 minutes for pints. 

Anything you can add to your pantry is food in your belly come hard times. It could be a sick day for you, or unemployment, it could be a disaster in your area, who knows. It is smart to be prepared. If you know that you won't be able to eat the food fresh before it goes bad... 
Then by all means, 
I've read many, many times lately... 
Some food in the basement is worth a whole lot more than money in the bank....
 And I agree completely!


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Pumpkin Patch 2013

Recently our church took our children and preschool departments to The Pumpkin Patch. We've been once before when my children were much younger... so it was a treat to get to go again.
There was a hayride, a corn maze, a corn-bin for the kids to dig and play in and a hayride to pick a pumpkin. 

You couldn't have asked for a prettier day. The sky was blue and it was really beautiful. 
And, this Moma is in awe of what big kids I have.

I'm glad they enjoyed the patch.

Even my youngest looks so big now, and my oldest... she opted out of the trip. 
My children are growing, and I know that it won't be too much longer before they are not children any more.  Cherish the moments now, while they are still here, friends. They change in a blink of an eye.


Thursday, October 17, 2013

Homemade Convenience Foods: Sloppy Joes

Yesterday evening my husband and I were at the grocery store all by ourselves. My mother had asked to spend time with her grand kids before church so we were alone for a few hours! We ran an errand for the church and while in town, we stopped at the store. There was a big bin full of sloppy joe sauce. My husband said, "Mmm, I think I would like some of that for supper!" I looked at him with a sly smile... I said, "Ok, except we won't buy the sauce, I'll make it."  He laughed and said something like, "Oh yeah, we don't buy things like that." And so we finished our errands and went home. 
At home I browned up a pound of ground beef with a chopped onion. 
I drained the grease and then added
1/2-3/4 cup tomato sauce (or in a pinch use ketchup)
1/8 cup mustard or use 2 tsp dry mustard
4 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp brown sugar
2 Tbsp garlic powder
1/4 cup flour 
A dash of cayenne pepper if desired
Salt & Pepper
Mix well into ground beef and let thicken slightly. 
Serve immediately and on buns if you wish. 

There you go. One more 'can of stuff' you can eliminate buying because you can make it easily at home! 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The result: Sourdough Artisan Bread

I promised that I would fill you in on the outcome of my attempt to come up with a good 
Well, here it is...
The Good
The Bad
The Ugly

Look above... if you have ever dealt with bread dough, you know that looks very wet.
This was after rising for 24ish hours. In hindsight, I would have probably done well to leave it out til I went to bed and stuck the dough in the fridge, it might have firmed up much nicer.
Eh, live and learn, right?

Ok, so I've got a blob out. I had to add a good deal (around 2 cups) of flour... JUST to get it to a point that I could manage the dough without falling through my fingers.

This is not too shabby. I did get there. I let this rise for about 30 minutes while I let my Dutch oven heat til scalding in my oven. (450* if you don't remember the temp it needs to be)
The final product. Yes, it has a secondary growth to it. When I went to 'plop' the dough in, a bit stuck to my mat. So, when I scrapped it in, it formed its own blob. Oh well.
Not TOO bad, huh?

The outcome...
It had great flavor. 
Everyone liked the taste.
It was very crusty on the outside.
It was soft on the inside.
It needs improvement... Yes.
But, overall, it was edible and tasted very good with some butter and jam.
We will try again soon!
Til next time!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


Yesterday, I got my hands on some Scuppernongs.
Don't know what Scuppernongs are? Well, they are a variety of muscadine grapes that grow well here in the South. They have a slightly thick skin and are much larger than Concord grapes. They also have several seeds inside the skin. 

In this picture, you see there are some purple Muscadines as well as the Yellow/Greenish Scuppernongs. 

To render juice, it takes several steps.
First, wash your grapes.
Fish out all the stems, the parts of the vine, leaves, debris (as much as possible)
Fill a pot with your fruit and a tiny bit of water. My husbands grandmother says to put just enough in there so you have something to work with, but not so much that the juices are totally diluted. 

Begin heating the fruit and water. As it heats, you can use a potato masher to begin mashing the grapes so you are able to get all that juice.

As it goes, you will see that it takes on a bit of a purplish hue. This batch was the one with the Scuppernongs and the Muscadine mixture. 

It was the only mixture I had. The rest were fully Scuppernongs.
Then strain your fruit.
You want to separate the pulp from the juice. 
I used my handy food mill for this.
Sorry, I forgot to snap a pic for this step.

Once you strain add your juice to the pot. Now you are ready to proceed just like you would to make any type of cooked grape jelly.
Here's the link to how I make my grape jelly...
Several steps, but easy peasy.
If you can get your hands on some Muscadines, do it. They are delicious and make great jelly, cider, syrup, juice... the list is endless. 
My plans are to start several vines in the spring along the fence line here on the homestead. 
They are that good!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Trying something new... Sourdough Artisan Bread

Oftentimes I feel inadequate. 
Like right now.
I'm a bit worried.
I'm trying something new.
You know how I have made the 5 minute Artisan bread before?
Well, today I mixed up a batch with sourdough starter...
Will, it work?
Stay tuned to find out.

In my mind, I see NO reason why it shouldn't work just dandy.
But this is a first and I will tell you...
 YES! It worked great.
 NO! It was a big, fat, failure. 
I will give you truth here.

Here's the ratio I used, figuring I might get 3-4 smallish loaves of bread if this works.
1/2 cup sourdough
4 1/2 cups warm water
9 cups white flour 
1 Tablespoon salt

Mix til just combined. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit 12-24 hours. 
I plan on using this just like how I make my Artisan bread.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Applesauce, again???

Let's talk applesauce one more time, shall we?
I've been making applesauce and apple butter for a long time. Usually only one way. This year I have tried several different methods. All good, but I believe I have found my all time favorite way, and I am going to share it with you today.

What I have been doing recently is wedging the apple.
I used a tool like this one below. 

(you can click on the image)

It's an apple wedger. It will core and wedge the apple slices. The cores go in the compost or to your barnyard family and the apple wedges go into the crockpot or as I used, the roaster. 
(I've got 80+ lbs of apples to go through).
The picture below is the type of roaster I am talking about.

Anyhow, I used the roaster and tossed in my apple wedges, my sucanat and water.
I let them cook... low and slow.
The roasters can get very hot, and you don't want scorched apples. I cooked mine around 200*, you may even go down to 150*-175* if yours gets really hot.
Once cooked, I use an immersion blender and blend it thoroughly.
If you don't have an immersion blender, the food mill I showed the other day is another great alternative. 

This is by far my most favorite way. I have no problems with the apple peels, I think it even helps to thicken the sauce. The core is thrown out, so there is no waste.
Everything is blended together and you have lots of sauce. 
I love to find new and better ways of doing something. 
It's a very good thing!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Homemade Vapor Rub

I have been collecting supplies for my Apothecary cabinet for a while now. One section of supplies that I have gathered are my essential oils. The oils I have now, are not the top-of-the-line oils out there, but... they are what I have at the moment and what I can afford, so they work.
Anyone know what I mean out there?

Ideally, I will make this again, and take the time to melt some beeswax with this concoction so that it will be a bit more firm. But tonight my youngest daughter was struggling with a cough and I was in the middle of canning applesauce and I had to do something quick.

1/4 cup of coconut oil
10 drops of eucalyptus essential oil
10 drops of peppermint essential oil
5 drops of rosemary essential oil
5 drops of clove essential oil
5 drops of grapefruit essential oil

Honestly... that is not an exact recipe.
If there is one or another that you don't have or can't use, by all means go without it.
Here's just a few of the reasons I chose these particular oils.
 (although I just pulled out all the oils for the pic above)

The coconut oil is the carrier.
Eucalyptus oil is good for respiratory issues.
As is peppermint oil.
Clove oil has anti-inflammatory properties
Rosemary oil is an immune system booster.
Grapefruit oil is an antioxidant.

I added the coconut oil to my tin. You can use a small mason jar. An altoid can. Whatever you might have. I then mix in the oils thoroughly. 
I rubbed this on her feet and then had her put socks on.

Why in the world would I rub this on her feet, you might ask...
The feet have the biggest pores on the body. 
When you put something, with all these good properties, on the feet, they get into the body and begin activating very, very quickly.
As I sit her now and finish this post... there is a quiet in her room.
NO coughing.
Sweet sleep. 

Please do remember, I'm just a mom. 
I'm not a trained herbalist. I'm not a doctor.
I'm just trying to nourish my children with whole foods, natural remedies and lots of love.

Have a great day friends!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Easy Breakfast: Peanut Butter Banana Smoothies

I'll be honest. I got up really early today, like 3 am. I woke up and didn't feel great. I stayed awake for a while and then fell asleep. Then, same thing happened at 5 am. 
So here I am, rushing for breakfast in a bit of a fog. 
Thankfully, there are good things that I can make for breakfast that are very easy and very nourishing. 
A few nights ago I made 3 quarts of beautiful yogurt. It was so thick! I was very pleased.
I also had some overripe bananas. 
Overripe bananas are wonderful. I use them in ALL sorts of ways.

So not really a recipe, but here's what I used to make a pitcher of peanut butter banana smoothies.
4-5 overripe bananas
1 cup yogurt
1/2-1 cup peanut butter (depending how peanutty you want this)
2-4 Tablespoons of coconut oil
2 tsp vanilla
(you could also spice this if you like... adding cinnamon, nutmeg, etc... I didn't)
I poured everything in a pitcher and then added milk to make it smooth.
Add more milk for a thinner smoothie, less for thicker.
This is fairly thick. I would say I ended up using maybe 3 cups?!?! 
Something like that. 
Like I said, I didn't measure very well, I just added til it looked right.
The kids loved it. 
I felt good about breakfast. Sometimes you need something quick, easy and healthy! Especially if you don't keep cold cereals in your house... which we don't. 

This would be a great snack as well!
Hope you enjoy!!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Yes you CAN! Canning Sweet Potatoes

You may not be aware, but canning sweet potatoes is a very easy process. It is a bit time consuming in the fact that it takes 90 minutes (for quarts) to pressure in your pressure canner. 
Other than that, getting them ready for canning is very easy. 

First, take your sweet potato and peel. You can blanch these if you prefer or you can just peel them. My Mom is peeling these in this picture and I think it may just be easier to peel. 
Once you peel the sweets, cut them up in cubes.
Fill your jar and then fill with hot water and place your lid and band on top.
Fill your canner.
I love seeing my girls getting in on the work. It is a blessing to see them take interest!
Once you bring your canner up to pressure, you will pressure 90 minutes for quarts and 60 minutes for pints. 
What a beautiful sight to behold. Wonderful bounty to line your canning pantry shelves. 
(btw, a bit of water loss is not a big deal. When you raw pack, the veggies will absorb some of the moisture, so it looks a bit like you have lost water)