Monday, July 28, 2008

Monday on the Homestead


I tossed and turned a lot last night. I do attribute my restless night to the two cups of black tea I drank in the evening… I love a cup of tea in the evenings and black tea is my favorite.. but I pay for it. I will have to be a good girl next time and drink some herb tea instead. Despite the lack of good sleep I was up at 5:30 this morning. I had a cup of coffee, checked my email and enjoyed some quiet time.  


Emily was up a little after 6 and she had her coffee and Bible time. I packaged orders and then it was time to get her to work. She has not gotten her drivers license yet.. that will hopefully happen at the end of the week. She has scheduled a drive test for Saturday morning and we are praying she passes. Then she will do the 5 minute drive to work herself!  But I have not minded.. she drives down the hill and after saying good bye to her I drive back up the hill. 


By the time I got back Tobin was home from work and we chatted for awhile and then he went to bed. The younger kids started waking up one by one. They spent the first part of their morning reading their Bibles and then had the last of the blueberry muffins (the ones I made on Saturday) and a pineapple smoothie for breakfast. 


Then it was on to a little light housecleaning. Isaac vacuumed the rugs by the doors, Sierra unloaded the dishwasher and reloaded it and also washed some dishes by hand. Then she swept the kitchen floor and with Isaac’s help they did a super duper scrub the kitchen floor by hand cleaning.. I went back over the floor with Mop and Glo.. My kitchen floor is quite high maintenance but it looking pretty nice right now.


I started a load of napkins in the wash and then pulled out the things I needed to grate up some laundry soap. I grated it (after it was cut up) and Jacob my capable helper cut up the soap and then bagged and labeled it all. 


Sierra and Isaac also picked up the living room, dusted it and vacuumed it. In just a bit they will both be spending some time cleaning their rooms.


I also worked a little on a baby blanket I am crocheting for my daughter Hannah. I think I made a mistake somewhere because it is not looking right on the sides… here I thought I was doing so well and now it looks like I will need to pull some stitches out!  


That is how my Monday on my little homestead has started out.. oh yes.. I also had another two cups of coffee amidst the morning busyness.


The rest of day I plan to go and look through some books on my shelves and in boxes. I am going to order a little curriculum and need to see what I have so I don’t order something I already own. After Tobin gets up him and I will head into town for our little date afternoon/night.. or maybe I should say our one on one time. Our first stop will be Starbucks (can you tell I like my coffee.. LOL). Then we just sit and enjoy some time chatting with each other before we head off to run errands. Sometimes we end the evening by going out to dinner and sometimes we are ready to come home and enjoy the evening with the kids watching whatever our favorite TV show is. Currently we have two going. We finished season 3 of Alias and I ordered season 4 but it has not come. So in the meantime I started ordering LOST through Netflix. I figured it would only be a couple of times and then Alias would arrive.. but my seller on Amazon is making me a bit irritated. No response to my emails and no acknowledgement from him that he even got my order.  So I think I will be filing a claim with Amazon and ordering from a different seller. 


Dinner tonight is leftover Hamburger Pineapple Bean Bake and leftover casserole from last night and some leftover coleslaw. I will add some tortilla chips to it and I think I will have Sierra bake some cookies and we will be set.. or the kids will be set if Tobin and I decide to have dinner in town. 


That all for Monday on the homestead.. Hope you all have a blessed Monday on your homesteads! 

Saturday, July 26, 2008

What’s Been Cooking in My Kitchen


I had a busy day today in my kitchen and took some pictures to share what I have been up to. 


I made a delicious new crockpot bean dish for dinner.  I called it Hamburger Pineapple Bean Bake. The family enjoyed it a lot.  I served it with homemade coleslaw and tortilla chips. Here is a picture of it in the crockpot:



I started cooking my beans first thing this morning. While they were cooking I ground up some soft white wheat and used it to make Blueberry Muffins. I purchased some more organic blueberries in my last Azure Standard order and wanted to use them. 



After they were done cooking I cleaned things up did a little house work and then my beans were done. I assembled my bean dish. Then I made a dessert for after dinner and I know after you read the title you will think I have gone a little nutty with my beans.. but I have to tell you it was soooo good!!   I made Pinto Bean Cake. My kids ate it, knowing there were pinto beans in it (it is extremely difficult to be stealthful in this house LOL).. They took their first bites waiting to taste beans and they could not! J They gave it a “2 thumbs up” and Jacob (my bottomless stomach) had seconds. Here is a picture of the finished cake and then one piece I served up with a scoop of ice cream. The glaze topping is poured on while the cake is hot and it sinks into the cake making it so moist and yummy!  




Now for the recipes!


Hamburger Pineapple Bean Bake (crockpot meal)

Crystal Miller


2 cups dried pinto beans

1 cup dried black beans

12 cups water

1 T salt

1 lb hamburger

1 onion, chopped

½ cup chopped peppers (green or red or yellow)

2 T apple cider vinegar

2 T prepared mustard

2 T molasses

1 20oz can pineapple chunks

1 ½ cups bbq sauce

salt and pepper to taste


In a large pot combine the dried beans, water and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce and cover and cook until the beans are soft, about 3 hours. Drain beans saving some of the bean broth to add later. 


In a frying pan cook the hamburger, onions and peppers until the hamburger is no longer pink and the veggies are soft. 


Put the beans along with the meat and veggies into a 5 or 6qt crockpot. Add the remaining ingredients and cook on low for about 5 hours. Taste and add salt and pepper if needed. 



Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins

Crystal Miller


2 cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 t baking soda

1 ¼ cups buttermilk

1 egg

½ cup honey

1/3 cup coconut oil


In a medium sized mixing bowl combine flour and baking soda. In a small bowl combine the rest of the ingredients, melting the coconut oil slightly before adding.  Add this to the flour and baking soda and stir until just mixed.


Spay a muffin pan with non-stick spray. Spoon batter into each muffin cup. Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Makes 12 muffins. 



Pinto Bean Cake

Crystal Miller


½ cup butter

2 cups cane juice crystals

2 cups pinto bean puree (see below)

2 eggs

1 ¼ cups whole wheat pastry flour

1 t baking powder

1 t baking soda

1 t cinnamon

½ t ground cloves



1 cup sucanat

¼ cup milk

½ cup butter

1 t vanilla


In a mixer cream together butter and cane juice crystals. Add eggs mixing well after each one is added. Add pinto bean puree and mix well. Add dry ingredients and mix well. Pour into a 9x13 pan that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. Bake at 325 for 1 hour.


To make glaze combine sucanat, milk, and butter in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes and remove from heat. Add vanilla and stir. Pour over hot cake.


To Make Bean Puree:

Combine 1 cup dried pinto beans and 4 cups water in a medium size sauce pan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover and cook beans for about 3 hours or until they are soft. When the beans have finished cooking, drain them saving the bean broth. Put beans in blender and add a couple of tablespoons of the broth and blend until the beans are smooth. Add more broth if needed, but not too much. The beans should be the consistency of refried beans.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Woo Hoo the Winters Wood is In!!


After more than a month of working on the project we are thrilled to be able to say the wood is in for the winter!   Tobin and the boys worked tirelessly to cut down trees, limb trees, and clean up trees that had broken during the winter’s ice storm. All in all it is approx. 6 cords of wood. Our place looks great and the wood is in. What a great feeling.


Tobin and I were both quite proud of the youngest three kids as they worked to help with this task. Jacob especially has really done a lot of maturing in the last year. He is a hard worker and knows how to put in a man’s days work, not a bad thing for a 14 year old to know. He is even sought after by the neighbor to do work for him. This year Jacob has learned to use a chainsaw (it is a smaller electric one).. he used it to cut up all the small pieces of wood that were brought in (and there was a LOT of them). He made a stand to hold the tree limbs in so he could easily cut them.  He also learned how to drive Tobin’s tractor and use it around the property to bring in wood, move piles of leaves and sticks and any other task Tobin needed his help with. He is proficient with mowers, weed wackers and a host of other tools. Just had to take a moment here and share with you about my boy   Here are some pics of him driving the tractor during one of the wood gathering days. Sierra and Jacob are also helping with the clean up of a tree that Tobin took down..






Here is one pile of the many piles of tree limbs he cut up…



And a picture of some of the many, many pieces of wood Tobin split…. by hand... 




This was the first year he mentioned that maybe getting a log splitter in the future might be a good idea!



Winter may still be a ways off.. but it is great to know we can look forward to warm cozy days and evenings inside while the wind and rain and the snow do their thing outside! 



Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Simple Meal: Pinto Bean Tacos


Pinto Bean Tacos


Ingredients Needed:

WW Tortillas

Pinto beans

Hamburger Lettuce or spinach or any type of greens




I made these for dinner last week and they were so yummy! I cooked up 3 cups of pinto beans and then made refried beans from them. Then cooked my pound of hamburger and seasoned it with taco seasonings and mixed it with the refried beans. This made a LOT of taco filling. Fed my crew for dinner and for lunch the next day and still had a little left that was finished up the next day for lunch. This could also be frozen in meal sized portions for smaller families or the recipe can easily be cut down in size to fit your family’s needs.


I used ww organic tortillas and had a salad leftover from the night before for the greens, a small amount of cheese, a dollop of organic sour cream and some yummy fire roasted salsa. It was a delicious meal and no one minded eating the leftovers! 


Here is a picture of Emily’s taco.. she has to get creative with all her food! Haa.. haa! 





Saturday, July 19, 2008

Making Kefir From Powdered Cultures

Kefir is a cultured milk product similar to yogurt only thinner and much easier to make and reculture. If you would like to know more specific information on kefir I have an article written by a friend of mine on my site to give you more info. You can read that HERE. It has all the wonderful qualities of yogurt with the good probiotics your body needs to stay healthy.

Kefir can be made in two ways. One is to purchase kefir grains (you can read more about this in the above mentioned article). You soak milk in the grains, strain the grains and put the grains back into a clean jar and fill with milk, let it sit on your counter overnight and the next morning it is ready. I have made kefir with grains in the past. There were a few things I did not care for. One was it was a lot of maintenance. Unless you stop making kefir you have to strain it out daily and that adds up to a lot of kefir to use every day. Also the longer I made it the stronger the taste became and my family was not too thrilled with it. So I purchased some powdered kefir cultures and made it and was so much happier with the results. This is the method I will show you how to make.

I like making kefir because it is so easy! It is much easier to make than yogurt. You don’t need a lot of equipment other than a large stainless steel pot, a thermometer and a few canning jars. I use 2 2-quart jars but you can use 4 1-quart jars if that is what you have.

Besides that you will need one gallon of milk (I use whole milk) and a package of powdered kefir culture. You can purchase your cultures online at Leeners . I have purchased cheese cultures and rennet, kefir cultures, yogurt starter, buttermilk starter and more from them many times. They are a GREAT company with excellent prices and I highly recommend them.

After your cultures arrive in the mail you can gather your needed items together and get ready to make kefir!  This pictures shows the jars with their lids (I buy plastic lids from Walmart or Azure Standard, they are made by Ball), a thermometer, the packet of culture and one gallon of milk.

Pour your gallon of milk into the stainless steel pot and put it on the stove.

Set your oven at medium high IF you will be watching the pot. If not you can set it on low and stir occasionally as it heats up. In any case stir now and again and check the temperature of the milk

As soon as it reaches 86 degrees remove the pot from the stove.   Open the packet of kefir cultures, sprinkle over the milk and stir until dissolved

Now it is time for pour the mixture into your canning jars. I like to use a canning funnel for this job. It is not absolutely necessary but helps keep the mess at a minimum.

Fill both jars to the top

Put the lid on them and let them sit out on the counter for 12 to 18 hours. I try and make this in the later afternoon and then just let it sit on the counter till morning.

When the time is up you can open the lid and there is your kefir! As you can see it is nice and thick.. but not as thick as yogurt. The consistency is more like thick buttermilk.

When you start to run out of kefir it is even easier to make more.

Fill a clean canning jar ¼ full of kefir. Pour milk to the top of the jar. Cover and leave out at room temperature for 12 to 18 hours. And that is it!!

Kefir can be used in place of milk or yogurt in smoothies. That is how I like to use it most often. I have used it also in place of buttermilk for baking. But my favorite use is in smoothies.

Here is a delicious and simple strawberry kefir smoothie recipe that is perfect for these warm summer days.

Strawberry Kefir Smoothie
Crystal Miller

1 heaping cup fresh strawberries (frozen will also work)
1 cup kefir
Honey to taste, optional


Gather your ingredients together

Put kefir and strawberries into your blender.

Turn your blender on high and mix until all is smooth (taste to see if you want to add a little honey for sweetener at this point).

Pour into a glass

Serve to your eager and appreciative family!  :)

And enjoy!




Thursday, July 17, 2008

Thursday on the Homestead


This week has been another busy week. Tobin and the boys have been working on firewood and we have over 2/3rd’s of our wood in now and hope to have it all in by the end of the month.


The beautiful and warm summer weather means we all have spent a good deal of our afternoons cooling off in the pond and enjoying the sun. 


I have been keeping up on the house and laundry and doing a bit of packaging and labeling of my products and filling orders. I try and get my dinner all done or in the crockpot in the morning which has left my afternoons free and that has been so nice. 


Today looks like another warm day so the same program will continue.. housework, meal preps (I really need to do some baking but don’t want to heat up the house to much.. the weekend may be a bit cooler according to the weather man and I can catch up), help with the wood stacking if needed and time at the pond with kids and hubby. 


Tomorrow Emily and I will head into town so she can take another CLEP test. This one will be Western Civilization I. She has been studying like a mad woman for this test as it has a lot of info to cover but she feels she will be ready for the test tomorrow. When she is done then we will go and do the weekly grocery shopping (need to finish my grocery list today too). 


Updates on my daughter Leanne

She is in Egypt! She arrived on the 11th of July. She called me from the airport before they left the states. She sounded happy and in good spirits and was excited that boot camp was over and they were on their way. Communication from Egypt is not as good as it was from Florida (mail is so slow and no pics to share.. etc…) so I only have the Teen Missions web updates to go on now. If you would like to read what her team has been doing since arriving at the orphanage you can read that here:  


Creative use of Leftovers

Now onto budgets and saving money in the kitchen! One way I try to be frugal and save money is by using up all my leftovers. The other day I had made rice and baked chicken legs. We had a good amount of rice leftover, maybe 3 to 4 cups. Two days later the rice was still in the fridge and still good so I thought about what I could make with it. I made Salmon Patties. I did not use a recipe but having made salmon patties and other types of similar patties I was familiar with the best consistency for them. I added 2 cans of drained salmon to my rice (tuna could also be used. I buy canned salmon when it goes on sale and often have several cans in my pantry), 3 or 4 eggs, a little flour to help hold it altogether and some salt and pepper. I heated up the griddle with some olive oil and scooped out quarter cupfuls and fried them on both sides. They were delicious! I made some homemade tartar sauce (mayo, pickle juice, onions, salt, and pepper) and served it with a big green salad.  


Dinner tonight will be leftovers again. I made a pot of Spicy Beef and Beans over Rice last night and I think we have enough for tonight’s dinner.   If not I will mix the beef and beans with the rice and add broth and a few veggies to make it into a soup. Either way I will serve the meal with a green salad, tortilla chips and salsa. 


That’s all from my homestead today! I hope you all have a wonderful day on your homesteads!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008



After my last blog post on pineapple I shared a smoothie recipe and was asked by Kat if I had any other smoothie recipes. 


Yes I do! 


You can find my page of smoothie recipes here:

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Fresh Pineapple

Why to eat, How to choose, How to cut ‘em up and eat ‘em!
By Crystal Miller

We love to buy fresh pineapples. The taste is so delicious especially when compared to canned pineapple. But I serve my family fresh pineapple for more reasons than just the fresh sweet taste. They are incredibly nutritious!

One of the best health benefits you will get from eating fresh pineapple is the enzyme bromelain. This is a power packed enzyme. If you are dealing with digestive issues then you may find adding fresh pineapple to your diet helps with this. Bromelain works by breaking down the amino acid bonds found in protein making them easier to digest. Just remember that your pineapple must be fresh in order to get this benefit. Bromelain is almost entirely destroyed during the canning process.

Bromelain also helps to reduce swelling and inflammation. If you have a bruise or a sprain you may want to increase the amount of fresh pineapple you eat to help ease the swelling.

Pineapples are also very high in vitamin C. Eating fresh pineapple can help build and repair body tissue and metabolize fats and cholesterol. Vitamin C can help if you have a cold or virus by increasing your body’s ability to fight the bad bacteria.

Now that you know why adding fresh pineapple to a diet is a good idea it is time to learn how to choose one, cut them up and use them!

Pineapple, unlike other fruits, does not get sweeter the longer it sits on your counter. This is due to the fact that natural starch/sugar in the fruit is only taken up into the fruit through the stem at the final stage of ripening while on the tree. So find them as ripe as you can in the store and eat them soon after bringing them home.

To choose pineapples begin by picking one up. It should give just a little bit. Smell it, it should have a nice pineapple smell. Now take a hold of one of the leaves at the top and pull. If it comes out with ease it is ready.

I thought it would be rather complicated to explain how to cut them up so I found this YouTube for you to watch. I viewed several YouTubes on how cut a pineapple and this man does it most similarly to the way we do it at our house. He also gives other good bits of info along the way.

I realize that most people won’t have a problem figuring out how to use a pineapple! Just eating them fresh is the way we do most often. However here is one idea for you. This makes a great breakfast, goes well with a simple lunch or mid-afternoon snack.

Pineapple Banana Smoothie

1 to 2 ripe bananas
¾ to 1 cup of fresh pineapple chunks
¾ cup milk or yogurt
honey to sweeten, but this is optional as both bananas and fresh pineapple are VERY sweet as is

Combine all ingredients in blender until smooth. Enjoy!  

Happy Birthday to My Honey!


Yesterday was Tobin’s birthday.  He turned 47 this year! When we met I was 16 and he was almost 19.. Where have all those years gone!  It was a beautiful sunny and warm day and we celebrated his birthday in the late afternoon. We had pizza and salad.. a little time at the pond.. and a nice visit with Tobin’s dad who had come to help us celebrate.  




Emily made her version of an ice cream cake or maybe it was a mud pie. But whatever it was it was delicious and had been Tobin’s request instead of a birthday cake.  Emily had made one for him on Father’s Day and he liked it so much he wanted it again. 


It is made of layers of chocolate ice cream, peanut butter cookies, fudge sauce, vanilla ice cream, crushed graham crackers all put in a large bowl. You let each layer freeze before adding the next. When it is all frozen you flip it onto a large serving plate and spread peanut butter over it all and then slice. She drizzled chocolate and caramel sauce on the bottom of the plate before setting each piece on (presentation is everything to Emily! ).. it did look impressive!   




Happy Birthday Tobin.. I love you!!