Monday, April 28, 2008

Updates from the Homestead


Life on the homestead has been a little unsettling lately. We have spotted a coyote 3 different times, once it took a chicken. Sadly to say on the third sighting our sweet little Pomeranian Ellie must have challenged him. She would do this to other dogs no matter what their size. She may have been little in size but she had a big dog’s instinct to protect. The coyote killed our little Ellie.   I was just devastated. I don’t think I realized just how much she had worked her way into my heart. It was a very sad day at our house. The days since then are getting better but my how those pets become such a member of the family. 


Today is Monday and I have the typical amount of activities going on. The kids are working hard to finish up the school year and I have some writing papers to correct and should get a couple more books printed and bound for the kids. Jacob just finished the Personal Memoirs of General Grant and said he liked it and said he would much rather get his history from the source than history text books. My first year with the Robinson Curriculum is just about over and I have been really pleased with it and will continue to use it next year with maybe a few changes.  I have people ask me to give my review on RC and I will do that, but I wanted to use it for a complete year before sharing any more about it.


Bread Baking.. I have had a few blog posts about baking lately and with that came questions that I will attempt to answer here..


Someone asked me about what the filling was on my cinnamon rolls.. I have the recipe posted on my site that shares that  . I usually use Sucanat or cane juice crystals and cinnamon.


busybeemama  asked what I cover my bread with when it is rising. I typically put my bread in the oven to rise. I have a “bread proofing” setting on my stove and I don’t cover it with anything. Before I had a stove with this setting I would turn my oven on until it just started to get warm, then turn it OFF and put my bread pans in there and leave them their until they were about 1 inch above the pans. I don’t take them out of the oven, I just turn the oven on and let them start cooking. I start timing the cooking of them when I turn the oven on. If I let something rise on the countertop because my oven is being used I cover it with a towel.


Southernbelle asked how to substitute sugar in my regular recipes.. first I always have to say that I have not made my recipes with sugar and don’t know how they would turn out.. but that being said, you can sub sugar 1:1 in the recipes


I had two people ask if I could post on how I made the cinnamon bread.. it was very easy.. I made my regular bread recipe and added about 1 tablespoon of cinnamon per loaf of dough (for the 4 loaf recipe I added 4T cinnamon when I added in the flour). 


April asked what I was grinding for flour.. I use hard white wheat. I also buy organic wheat from Azure Standard. If your bread is not rising as much as mine is there may be other issues than just the type of wheat used. What recipe are you using? You can email me if you would like and I can try and help troubleshoot your bread baking.


And finally to DonnaJoy.. it was so very nice to see here.. I miss you too..  


Other updates.. Leanne is still working on fundraising for her missions trip but took a break from that this last weekend to participate in our churches 30 hour famine and went door to door raising donations for that. This is the second 30 hour famine she has participated in this year. I love seeing where her heart is at and her desire to help those in need. 


Emily started her first course with her home study college. She is doing interpreting literature and will be ready soon to take her first Clep test.  This is a 6 credit course. She is still working full time as a nanny for the little twins. Emily turns 18 in another few days. The day before her birthday we (Emily, Leanne, Sierra and me) will be having a girls day out… she wants to go to the big mall in the city for the day and then we plan to go and have a nice birthday lunch. Everyone is looking forward to that. 


In a few weeks Jacob and Sierra will be going for a visit to see my oldest daughter. They are excited.. it will be longest flight they have ever been on. Jacob can’t wait to play xbox with my son in law.. lol.. and Sierra can’t wait to play with Caden and help Carolyn out. She has been over doing it lately and has had to work harder on taking it easy so she said she would love having Sierra there. 


Tobin and I will be leaving on vacation next week  so I have been busy getting ready for that and getting things taken care of in my home to prepare for being gone. 


This week I really need to get some soap made.. we will see if I can make that happen with everything else that needs to get done!  But for today.. it is business as usual around our homestead..


Hope you all have a great Monday on your homesteads! 

Friday, April 18, 2008

Baking Day in the Homestead Kitchen


Well yesterday afternoon was another weekly baking day here on my homestead. We were out of bread and all baked goods for that matter.   So yesterday I (with a little help) made 6 loaves whole wheat bread, a pan of garlic cheese dinner rolls to go with our Navy Bean Soup that was for dinner, 2 loaves of cinnamon bread and 1 pan of cinnamon chocolate rolls. 


Here is how it went:


I started the morning off by grinding about 20 some cups of wheat:




Then in the afternoon Leanne started the baking day by making the 6 loaves of bread:




Then I made garlic cheese dinner rolls. I served navy bean soup for dinner. Whenever I have a big baking day I usually try and make dinner something in the crockpot or a pot of something that can be made earlier in the day so dinner preps and bread making don't end up needing to be done at the same time and resulting in a lot of kitchen chaos  . I don’t typically get to baking bread until the afternoon so I do most of my main dinner preps beforehand.




When the rolls were done I went on to make cinnamon bread. I did this by doubling my 2 loaf recipe for whole wheat bread. I divided the dough into 4 pieces. With 2 of them I put them in bread pans and let them rise and bake.




While they were rising and baking I took the other 2 pieces of dough and rolled out each one. To make my chocolate rolls I melted ¼ cup butter and added 2 teaspoons of cocoa powder and ½ cup brown sugar (I was out of Sucanat or I would have used that instead). I mixed this together and poured it out on my rolled out piece of dough. I spread it around and then sprinkled about a ½ cup of chocolate chips on the dough. I then rolled the dough up and cut it into slices just like I would for cinnamon rolls. I repeated this same process with the 2nd piece of dough. This filled up a large jelly roll pan. I baked them for 25 minutes.




Here are the recipes:


Monday, April 14, 2008

Updates from the Homestead


Well here it is Monday again.. the weeks just fly by. We were so happy last week to enjoy a few nice warmer days. One day was about 75! It was great, but today we are back to cool and wet..  Such is life.. and to top it off my hubby has to attend a mandatory class at work tonight so his weekend will be cut short.. date night will have to wait. That is ok as I have had plenty to keep me busy today.


Last week we had a little too much excitement on our homestead. Our dog Ellie was outside barking as is typical for her, so no one got terribly excited about it. She tends to stand in the front yard and bark at all the ducks that land in our pond. However this one morning she was doing a lot of barking and then Leanne ran downstairs and said she had just looked out the upstairs window and saw a coyote run past our pond and into the woods with a chicken in its mouth!! Right in broad daylight! They have never been so bold in the past. Must be slim pickins’ up in those woods this time of year.


The kids are winding down the school year. They hope to be finished sometime next month. So we have been doing a lot of focusing on school. Tobin and I will be leaving to go on vacation next month so I am also trying to make sure they get plenty done before that. 


Last Saturday night my daughters and I had a great evening together. We did feet soaks and painted our toenails (aw the fun of teenage daughters ). Last month for my birthday Emily and Leanne bought me one of those foot bath, whirlpool thingys.. and I had not yet pulled it out of the box. So the evening just seemed perfect for it. We watched some old TV shows and everyone pampered their feet. By the time we were done even the boys had joined us to check out mom’s new toy and soak their feet! LOL.. however they passed on getting their toenails painted..    Afterwards we all made ice cream sundaes. 


Update on Leanne: she has raised ½ the funds for her trip, her visa application has been filled and sent in and her plane reservations to Teen Missions and from the drop off point when the missions trip is over have now been made! I feel a great sense of relief to have made it this far and met all of our deadlines. The clock is ticking.. I know June will be here before I know it!


Dinner tonight is tacos. Easy enough… I will get Sierra and Isaac to help me with dinner preps tonight. 


Hope you have all had a productive day on your homesteads today! 

Saturday, April 12, 2008

You DonĂ¢€™t Like Beans???

Beans are an excellent food source. They are full of vitamins, minerals and fiber and they are inexpensive as well. They are a wonderful food source for your body and your budget. One comment I hear often from ladies is that someone in the family does not like beans. I have come to wonder for the most part if this comes from past bean eating experience. Most bean types, by themselves, are rather plain tasting (intrinsically not really enough there to actually dislike). They are not overly sour, hot, sweet, bitter, tart, etc. So how you cook and how you flavor them will have a lot to do with how they taste and ultimately someone’s overall opinion about them. A lot of bad bean dishes made by well meaning people of your past, equals a lot of bad opinions of beans. But a well cooked bean dish may be able to sway those dislikes to likes. ~smile~

I have been serving beans to my family for years and have learned how to cook some really good bean dishes (at least my family, friends, and ladies I hear from via email have told me this). I do have a few tricks and recommendations when you are learning to cook beans. Once you try a really good bean dish your feelings about beans may just change (and/or hopefully your family’s as well).

A few tips…
~Never use canned beans. They are yucky, in my opinion.
~Always add salt at the beginning of cooking them. That is what helps bring out the flavor in a pot of beans
~Never add tomato products (sauce, paste, diced, stewed, etc.) until AFTER the beans have finished cooking. The acid in the tomatoes will cause your beans not cook.
~Soaking is not mandatory. It is great for the optimal nutrition, and I try and remember to do it, but usually don’t succeed well at that task so I cook the beans right from the bag to the pot, no added steps.

Other considerations:
Worried about beans causing gas? Yes they will if you are not use to eating them. Once they become a regular part of your diet your intestinal flora will adapt and the gas problems will diminish.

Best types of beans to try?
My first choice, especially for someone who is new to eating beans is the pinto bean. It is mild and adapts well to a large variety of recipes. I wrote an article on what to do with 25# of beans (buying in bulk is how you save the most money! :). After that I suggest, red beans, black beans and navy beans.

How to Cook a Great Bean Dish:
In the following pictures you will see how I cook one of our favorite bean dishes, Italian Pintos. It seemed I was always seeing how to turn beans into chili and at one point I set out to try something different and this was what I came up with and my family has loved it ever since.

The actual recipe can be found here:

The recipe gives directions on how to cook this meal by fist soaking the beans. I, as mentioned above, forgot to do this so the water amount is different (beans expand and soak up water during an overnight soaking). The recipe also calls for optional green peppers. I would have added them except when I went shopping yesterday and Costco was out of the mini peppers that I love to buy. So they are not part of this recipe.

Here are the ingredients needed to make Italian Pintos (I forgot to add the parmesan cheese and garlic to the picture):

The first step is to cook the beans. This will take 2 ½ to 3 hours or more if you live at higher elevations.

Add the beans to your soup pot:

Add 12 cups water (this is the adjusted amount of water because I did not soak them. If I had soaked them I would have followed the recipe accordingly).

Add 1 tablespoon of salt (my standard measurement is 1 t salt for each cup of beans and this recipe calls for 3 cups beans):

Bring the beans to a boil leaving the lid off. After they have come to a boil slowly bring turn the temp down over the next 5 minutes. I usually set a timer for this:

I have found that if I bring the beans to a boil, cover them and turn the heat down they always boil out over the pot making a big mess. When I do it slowly over 5 minutes and then put the lid on and finally turn it down on low, nothing boils over.

Now go ahead and think about any other dinner preps you want to go with this meal. I served a salad and the second loaf of French bread that I made a couple of days earlier and froze. Or go and do something else, as other than side dish preps, there really is nothing more to do until dinner time.

When the time is up, check to see if the beans have cooked enough. Use a slotted spoon and pull up a couple of beans. Blow on them, the first thing that should happen is the skin on the beans should split. This is a good sign. Then taste one. They should not be hard in any way. They should be soft. If they are hard, let them cook a little longer. Another test I do is when I stir the beans is that they should not feel “clicky”. That is my own term (at least I have never heard it used before) and one that I don’t really know a better way to describe, but you should not feel them bumping up against each other when you stir them. Try stirring them when you know they are not done yet to get a feel for “clicky”.

When your beans are done go ahead and cook up the sausage and onions. Begin by chopping up your onions (and peppers, if you are using them):

Get out your frying pan and let heat up:

Add the onions and sausage (this is where you would also add the optional peppers):

And cook these until the meat is no longer pink and the onions are soft.

Now add the rest of the ingredients to the pot of cooked beans:

The sausage and onions:

Diced tomatoes:

Chopped Garlic:

Italian Seasonings:

Mozzarella cheese:

Parmesan Cheese:

Stir and taste and add a little salt if you think it needs it, I never do..  they taste delicious! :)

Serve this up in soup bowls with a nice salad on the side and maybe some French bread, dinner rolls, or even some good quality whole grain crackers:

Then enjoy your dinner!!!! ~smile~

***Last thing I should mention about this recipe is it makes a lot! So if you are a small sized family, feel free to cut it in half or freeze half of it for another meal.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

An Afternoon with My Bosch

Yesterday I spent my afternoon baking. I took pictures along the way to share how I was able to get it all done. I baked 6 loaves of bread, 2 loaves of French bread and a large pan (jelly roll size) of cinnamon rolls. I did this in about 2 ½ to 3 hours (due to the fact that most bread recipes only need one rising time when kneaded with the Bosch). I will share the links to the recipes at the end of the post.

Here is how it went:

I started earlier in the morning grinding my all my wheat in my Retsel grain mill. I had other things to do in my day so I did not get back to the baking until later in the day (about 2:00). When I started I began with our weekly 6 loaves of bread. I kneaded up the dough and divided it into 6 bread pans.



While my 6 loaves of bread were rising I wiped out my Bosch bowl and made the French bread. This is one of my favorite recipes. It is actually a pizza crust recipe but I have found that it makes a delicious bread as well. I wanted to have this to go with our dinner last night which was streak that we grilled out (under the cover of our carport as it was raining  ), coleslaw and French bread. I divided the dough into 2 loaves and put them in my French bread pans. 



By this time the 6 loaves of bread were coming out of the oven:


While my French bread was rising, I mixed up the dough for my cinnamon rolls. 


While the French bread baked I rolled out the dough and made cinnamon rolls:


I set them on the counter, covered with a dish towel and let them rise. While they were rising the French bread came out of the oven:



When the cinnamon rolls were done rising, I put them in the oven. While they were baking I cleaned out the Bosch bowl and used the wire whips to make some icing to spread on them when they came out of the oven:


When I had moments to wait in between all these steps I cleaned up the kitchen so it did not become a big disaster to deal with when I was done. When the cinnamon rolls were done I pulled them out of the oven and frosted them:


By now it was time to switch gears in the kitchen work and think about dinner. The only other prep that needed to be done was make coleslaw. I washed out the Bosch and Leanne came to help. She used the Bosch with the peeler, slicer attachment to slice the cabbage and grate the carrots:



And here is the finished project:

If I had gotten an earlier start to it all I would have also tried to fit a batch of cookies into the baking day and make a gallon of instant oatmeal (I use the blender to blend my oats for this).   But today is another day and hopefully I can get to that.

I freeze the bread that won’t be eaten in a day or so and I would freeze the cinnamon rolls too.. if they ever lasted that long! I freeze my bread in gallon size storage bags (not the zip type). The brand is Hefty Baggies. My bread is never stored for long periods of time and that is why I don’t use freezer bags. If I was to store it for a month or more I might switch to the freezer bags instead. 

The recipes:

My Italian Pizza Crust recipe that I used to make French bread:

Oatmeal Dinner Roll recipe that I made into cinnamon rolls: