Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Bulk Taco Seasoning Mix


We are having taco salad for dinner tonight.  I always cook up my hamburger and add taco seasonings to it before adding it to my salad.  I realized this morning I was out of taco seasoning and it was time to make more.  This is another product that I make myself now.  We are not real big fans of the taste of the taco seasonings I use to buy from my health food co-op and I wonder about MSG in it as well (the grocery store stuff definitely is full of yucky things typically).  I recently was reading an article (wish I could remember where now.. maybe Dr. Mercola? If I find it I will give the link).  It said that if a product lists “spices” in their ingredient list and they purchase bulk mixed spices from a supplier that adds MSG to their spice mix then the company that uses the spice mix does not have to claim that it contains MSG. So basically something can say it is MSG free but still may contain MSG if they have the word "spices" listed in the ingredients.  If you have MSG sensitivities like my hubby does or you just want to avoid it for health reasons …  read your labels carefully!   

Taco mix is so easy to make. It takes less than 15 minutes to make up a batch, the recipe doubles easily.  I usually make a double batch but today I did not have enough dried onion, so I settled for a single batch.   

Bulk Taco Seasoning Mix

¾ c dried onions
½ c chili powder
¼ c salt
3T garlic powder
3T cornstarch
3T ground cumin
1T to 3T cayenne pepper (depending on how hot you like it) 

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well.  Store in plastic or glass container with a lid. 

It takes approx. 3T of this mix to equal one packet that you would buy in the store.   

This recipe makes about 2 cups.  I store it in a canning jar in my cupboard.




Monday, June 29, 2009

This Weeks Menu







Taco salad

Chips and homemade salsa

Homemade vanilla ice cream (I will post the recipe soon.. :)



Our 25th wedding anniversary!! 

(we are going out.. kids are handling the kitchen on their own)


Thursday (our holiday bbq):

Burgers on the grill

On homemade buns


Homemade ice cream (vanilla if there is any left.. if not we will make something else!)



Baked chicken legs

Baked potatoes




Tobin works so no holiday bbq for us.. already had it!

Chips and homemade salsa




Macaroni and Cheese w/ham


Fresh fruit



Friday, June 26, 2009

New: "Managing a Home" eBook from The Family Homestead

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The cost of this ebook is $12.00 and is an automatic download.




Thursday, June 25, 2009

Homemade Chocolate Ice Cream


 We made chocolate ice cream this week and it was delicious!! I promised to post the recipe so here it is!  This is a variation of my Strawberry Ice Cream recipe (recipe link at the bottom of this post).  As I try out new flavors I will post them here.. 

Chocolate Ice Cream
Makes 1 gallon  

6 eggs
3 cups cane juice crystals
¾ c cocoa powder
1 T vanilla  (only the real stuff)
2 c. whole cream
Whole Goat Milk, as much as needed to fill ice cream maker container (whole cow milk will work too..  :)
1 T arrowroot powder (helps make the ice cream smooth.. but this is optional if you don’t have any) 

In a big mixer (like a Kitchen Aid or Bosch) mix together (with the wire whip) the eggs and cane juice crystals until light and lemony colored.  Add cocoa powder and vanilla mix again.  Add cream and arrowroot powder (if using).  When all of this has mixed together completely pour it into your 1 gallon ice cream maker container.  Add whole milk until you reach the “fill line” on your ice cream maker container.  Follow the instructions that came with your ice cream maker or you can read here: http://www.thefamilyhomestead.com/strawberryicecream.htm  for basic instructions (the directions are for strawberry ice cream, but the basic “how tos” will work for any flavor). 


Saturday, June 20, 2009

Saturday on the Homestead


Today has been a fairly quiet day.  The weather turned cool and wet so I have had a break from watering and weeding the garden.  I am sure the next dry day I can get in the garden I am going to find that the weeds have grown twice as fast as the veggies! LOL..  I also need to get the unplanted area rototilled this next week.   

I was able to check several things off my to-do list today.  I packed orders, paid a bill online, started a batch of beef stock, caught up on my Quicken, made dinner and packed hubby’s lunch and got him out the door to work, did some laundry, and did a little writing.  Emily and Leanne were working today so it was just me and the younger kids.  I had them clean their rooms; they were a bit of a mess to say the least.  Now I am getting a little computer time and listening to Tim McGraw.   

Emily had mid-terms this week from her online college courses.  She had the tests proctored by the library so it was very convenient. But it was a bit of a stressful week for her and for mom too..  it always seems when my kids stress so do I!    

Tomorrow is Father’s Day and we are making chocolate ice cream and some oatmeal cookies for dad.. he will like that  .    Dinner will be chicken alfredo and a salad and maybe some dinner rolls.   

Now it is time to look to my week ahead and see what needs to be done.  The kids have their year end homeschool testing (CAT testing, officially).   Sierra is the only one left with school work to finish up but she should be done soon.  Jacob is glad to be done with his school work because he has several summer jobs lined up with the neighbors.  They appreciate a young man who knows how to work to help them with chores around their homesteads and he appreciates being able to make some money  

Tobin will be finishing up with Emily’s car maintenance this week; he is going to be replacing something that has to do with the steering.  He has replaced shocks, struts, brakes, and more (not being a mechanic myself I can’t remember all he has done.. but it has been a lot!).  The car should be set for another several thousand miles. Then he needs to work on his Jetta.  We still have wood to get in and house projects that need to be done so he is feeling a bit stressed by all that needs to be done before the summer is over.. and it just officially is starting!  

Well that is all from my homestead.  Hope you having a great weekend on your homesteads.. 


Friday, June 19, 2009

The Cost of Making Ice Cream


I had a comment on my last blog post on making ice cream and how expensive it is.  Perhaps some of it has to do with the ingredients you choose to use and the type of ice cream you make.  I think it is also important to note that the recipe makes a whole gallon of ice cream and that would be like buying 2 typical containers from the grocery store.  Ice cream is one of those foods that are so full of garbage ingredients and chemicals it is not funny.  It is hard to find really good quality ice cream.  I was even looking the other day at the ice cream my food co-op sells and was disappointed to see that it contained natural flavors (another name for MSG) and gums to help make it smooth.  And the cost was ridiculous.  So this morning I roughly calculated the cost in making a gallon of homemade strawberry ice cream with better quality ingredients.  I personally think that even if you used less than excellent ingredients (like sugar instead of cane juice crystals) you could cut the cost that I came to AND still have a much better quality product than what is typically in the grocery store.  In any case..  here is my breakdown of costs ..   

Eggs: $1.37 – right now I don’t have my own chicken eggs.  I buy free range, organic eggs from my food co-op for $2.75 a dozen.

Milk:  .50 cents -  I buy whole milk (rbst free) from Costco (about $4 for 2 gallons) normally (when I don’t have enough goat milk or it is not milk season.)  Since you pour the milk into the ice cream maker when you have added everything else I don’t have an exact measurement..  I am guessing maybe 2 to 4 cups of milk.  So I rounded the price up for 4 cups.  

Cane Juice Crystals: $1.44 

Cream: $1.25  (I buy cream in 2qt containers from Costco – it is rbst free and not organic, organic would bring the price up) 

Strawberries: $2.50 (I bought 4lbs for $4.99 from Costco and used about half of them.  I rounded up for this cost analysis) 

My estimated cost using the above ingredients for one gallon of ice cream is:


I think this is not a bad price to pay for the quality of ingredients put into it.  The best ice cream (ingredient wise) I can find in the grocery store is Haagen Daz.  They are over $4.00 per pint making the cost of a gallon $32.00..  haa.. haaa..  

Breyers is another ice cream with pretty good ingredients and they don’t even sell half gallon containers any more..  they have been downsized.  I think I paid about $2.80 awhile back for 1 1/2 quarts (but I have seen the price over $3 per 1 1/2 quarts). At the price I paid that would make it about $7.50 for a gallon (if my math is off it is because I have only had one cup of coffee this morning and my brain is still foggy! LOL)..   

The cost for a 1/2 gallon of organic ice cream from my food co-op comes to a whopping $11.63!!  making it over $23 for a gallon.   

Another thought I had on the price is that this price includes strawberries.  If you were to make vanilla or chocolate ice cream the cost of vanilla extract and/or cocoa powder would be less than the cost for strawberries. So the type of ice cream you choose to make can also influence the price.   

In the big scheme of it all I had not really considered that homemade ice cream was a huge expense, especially for the quality of food my family gets for the money. I do know that it is also not the most frugal of all desserts either, but still sits somewhere around reasonable in my thoughts and sure makes for a great family treat once in awhile.  

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Strawberry Ice Cream



Strawberry season is in full swing here in the PNW.  I have been buying them every week now and the kids eat them as fast as I buy them!    I have been making a lot of strawberry shortcake.  But the other day a friend of mine was making ice cream and that gave me some inspiration to make some for my family.  I remembered that one of the treats we love is strawberry ice cream and that was something I had not made yet during this wonderful strawberry season.  I made some on Tuesday.  It was delicious!  I pureed the strawberries and found that it was more enjoyable to eat than when I have just chopped them up. 


If you would like my recipe and detailed instructions on making ice cream you can find that here: http://www.thefamilyhomestead.com/strawberryicecream.htm

I have a pretty basic 4qt ice cream maker made by Rival.  I have had it now for several years and made a whole lot of ice cream with it.  This basically is the ice cream maker I have (my bucket is round, an older model I guess! ):     

Rival 8804-BL 4-Quart Oval Ice Cream Bucket, Blue

They are not very expensive and will give a family a lot of gallons of delicious ice cream and a lot of fun making it as well!!     

Now onto chocolate ice cream this weekend..  I will keep you posted on that one too… 


Saturday, June 13, 2009

Updates from the Homestead

This last week the weather has been cooler and cloudy.. with a little sun.  But despite that the garden seems to be thriving quite well.  There were enough sunny afternoons that allowed for us to get some weeding, watering and mulching done.  I have found that the stirrup hoe is my best friend!     My mother in law was the one to show me her stirrup hoe several years ago and I went out and bought one (I think I bought it at Home Depot).  It makes quick and efficient work of hoeing between the garden rows.  If you are not familiar with them you can see a pic of one here: http://www.acehardware.com/product/index.jsp?productId=1334167&CAWELAID=109366885  and read a little more about them here: http://aces.nmsu.edu/CES/yard/2005/010105.html   Here you can see Isaac using it.. 


And in the above picture you can my little plants have all come up.  The corn and green beans are doing great.  Speaking of hoes..  I accidentally hoed up half of a little section of flowers..    I was so frustrated with myself.  I had been hoeing up the weeds between the tomato plants and there was one section between the tomatoes I had planted flowers and I guess I was not thinking..  I started hoeing it!!  I will try and replant some flowers there but it might be too late..  but I will try.   

Last week I also spent one whole day in town.  I took the kids (Leanne, Sierra and Isaac) and we were gone for 7 hours, which is not unusual.  I try to limit my trips into town and when I do go I typically have a lot to take care. Sierra had her bangs cut (I think the lady could have taken off a bit more), the dentist, grocery shopping at two different stores, Walmart, Game Stop, and of course a trip to Starbucks was squeezed in there.  The kids thought it would be fun to take pics of our day along the way.  They took several but got tired of picture taking about half way through the trip..  but here are a few of us that were captured …   

Leaving (The ice chest holds everything cold for the long drive back home)

Sierra getting her bangs cut..

Isaac showing off his Strawberry Cream Frappuccino

The dentist (teeth cleaning for me and Leanne)

Smile mom…

Bagging groceries…


And the day continued…  but without the pics..    Next time they say they want to do this again.. and make a movie.. LOL..  Kids.. they are so funny!!   

We came home and I made chicken enchiladas for dinner and while they cooked we watered the garden.  I was definitely ready to put my feet up and relax by evening time.   

Hubby is back to work now (he had an extra day off this last week which was so nice) and it is back to the regular routine for us..  Today the plan is to do a quick run through the daily chores, clean out the fridge and wipe down the shelves, do a little laundry, and water the garden if it does not rain (and right now looking outside at the dark cloudy skies it looks like we may not have to water today).  I am making navy bean soup with the leftover ham bone I saved from last week, a salad and maybe some dinner rolls or bread sticks.   

That is all from the homestead..  hope you all have a great weekend!! 

Friday, June 12, 2009

An Afternoon in the Kitchen


Yesterday I had a wonderfully unscheduled afternoon and decided to spend that time in the kitchen.  It was productive and enjoyable as well!   

I started off by making 6 loaves of bread.  We were completely out of bread and were in crisis mode! LOL.. 


Then while the bread was rising and baking I started working on making a gallon jar of sauerkraut.  I used one green cabbage and half of a red cabbage and 2 onions.  I thought the addition of red cabbage sure made the kraut look pretty. 

Then while the kraut sat in the bowl with the salt and whey I began making a gallon of salsa.  I love utilizing all these fresh veggies and knowing that fermenting means they will last longer and have more vitamin content than if I did not ferment them.  The salsa looked great too.  Here is a pic of both….


For dinner we were going to grill hamburgers and hot dogs.  So after the bread, salsa, and kraut were done I made up a batch of my oat dinner rolls and turned them into 10 hamburger buns and 12 hot dog buns.


Finally Leanne made shortcake, Sierra sliced up the berries and we had strawberry shortcake for our dessert…


Working in the kitchen and making good quality food for my family is very rewarding..  now today.. it is on to laundry and chores!!   

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Make Your Own Salad Dressings

I use to buy all my salad dressing from the grocery store. I thought that was how everyone did it. I felt like making salad dressing myself would just be one more kitchen job to do and I wanted the convenience of store bought dressing… Then I became health conscious and started reading labels and well, most of the dressings I found, were, well, yuck as far as ingredients go. Sugar, bad oils, hydrogenated oils, MSG, fillers, thickeners, etc.. When I try and find better quality dressings (which I can find at health food stores and through Azure) I find them to be very expensive, especially considering the rate at which we consume salad in this house (we eat fresh green salad every day).

Sometimes our perception that something is going to be hard or time consuming is just that, a perception. I eventually began making my own salad dressings and found that not only are they a frugal and healthy, they don’t take any time at all to put together. Last night I made a batch of Oriental Salad Dressing and timed myself.. it took less than 5 minutes for me to mix up the recipe and it yielded about 2 cups of dressing. Our favorite dressing of all time is still Ranch. But we also make Italian and a few others when we are in the mood for variety.

Here are my favorite recipes:

Ranch Salad Dressing
Bleu Cheese Salad Dressing
Catalina Salad Dressing
Italian Salad Dressing
Oriental Salad Dressing

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Breakfast and Lunch Menu Planning

I received a question after posting my menu yesterday about menu planning with breakfast and lunch. Here is the question with my reply…

Just curious. I have big menus for all my meals and I get very tired of cooking all the day long... seems all that I do at times! Just curious what your method for those other meals is... 

Well I am pretty lazy when it comes to breakfast!  And.. my kids are older now and have different schedules so breakfast around here is a pretty simple affair. I don't plan these meals like I do dinners. 

During the summer I make granola.  I quadruple the recipe and it fills up 4 gallon size jars.  My 4 teenagers and 1 one pre-teen go through this in about 4 to 6 weeks.  I also have kefir always in the fridge that is used to make smoothies.  I use kefir, fruit, and a little maple syrup to sweeten. My older girls sometimes just like to have a piece of peanut butter toast and a smoothie or a piece of fruit.  My younger ones will eat the granola and fruit, and a smoothie.  Once or twice a week either I or one of my daughters will whip up a batch of scrambled eggs and bacon or maybe some pancakes.   Occasionally we will make a coffee cake or muffins.  In the winter we eat lots of oatmeal (instead of the granola) and the rest of the menu stays about the same.   

For lunch, the main rule is..  leftovers..  if there is anything left from last nights dinner it needs to be eaten up first.  And most of the time there is, in fact often I will make a little extra of whatever it is we are having for dinner (soup, chili, spaghetti, etc) so I will have some for lunch the next day.   

Other lunch time food:

Whole wheat tortillas used to make wraps
Sandwiches: egg salad, tuna salad, ham salad, pb&j, etc..
Hot dogs (yes I am guilty of buying these unhealthy things now and again..  )
Nachos (tortilla chips topped with cheese and served with homemade salsa)
Homemade soups: Chili bean soup (meatless), taco soup (meatless), corn chowder, vegetable soup, tomato soup.  Soups can also be frozen so if you make one batch it can last for a few lunches.  

I also add fruit to the lunch meals..   

I guess I have always been of the mindset with breakfast and lunch that “variety is NOT the spice of life”..  haa.. haa..  I think simple, simple so I can get on with my day.  My time spent in the kitchen is usually focused on bread baking and making dinner or other projects like making fermented veggies and so on.

Any other thoughts on how you plan breakfast and lunch to share with this mom?? 

This Weeks Menu




BBQ Beef in the crockpot

Potato salad

Green beans

Green Salad







Chips & salsa




Hamburgers on the grill

Potato chips

Fresh fruit




Chips & salsa




Baked chicken

Garlic baked potatoes




Navy bean soup w/ham

WW oat dinner rolls




Baked spaghetti

French bread


Saturday, June 6, 2009



The other day I wanted to make an apple pie for our dessert. I made up my Bosch pie crust recipe, which makes 4 crusts. I love that recipe! But I only needed one crust. So the next day Leanne made a peanut butter pie.. oh my that was delicious! I still had 2 pie crusts left. So this morning I decided to make quiche. 


I meant to get pictures but everyone ate it all before I had a chance. In any case here are the recipes…




Peanut Butter Pie

 1 cup creamy peanut butter

1 (8 oz.) package cream cheese, softened

1 cup cane juice crystals or sugar

2 T butter, melted

1 cup whipping cream

2 T sour cream

1 T vanilla

1 graham cracker crust (or you can use a regular pie crust like I did)

Chocolate sauce for drizzling



Cream together peanut butter, cream cheese & sugar. Whip cream until thick. Add to peanut butter mixture with butter, sour cream & vanilla. Pour into crust. Chill for 2 hours. Drizzle some chocolate sauce over the top of the pie. Serve to your eagerly waiting family..    



Now the quiche…. I did manage to get a picture of these when they came out of the oven….




Crystal’s Spinach Bacon Quiche

1lb bacon, cut into small pieces

1 onion, chopped

3 cups fresh spinach

3 cups grated cheese, your choice of type; my family likes cheddar

8 large eggs

2 cups half n half

1t pepper

2- 9 inch pie shells, unbaked


Cook bacon and onion in a frying pan until the bacon is browned and well cooked. Drain. While bacon is cooking wilt spinach. You wilt spinach by putting a small amount of water in a frying pan and add spinach and cook on medium high until is starts to wilt. Remove from pan and drain excess moisture.


In a blender combine eggs, half n half, and pepper. 


Layer spinach and bacon/onion mix between two pie shells. Sprinkle cheese evenly over the top. Pour egg mixture over this, dividing it between both pies. 


Bake at 375 for 40 to 45 minutes. Allow to sit 10 to 15 minutes before serving.