Saturday, September 25, 2010

Birthdays and Back to School on the Homestead

Since the end of August we have celebrated 3 birthdays… the first was for my beautifully sweet daughter in law, Lolot.  My son really gave her a great party.. lots of friends, food and fun. She really enjoyed all the attention and we all had a great time.  Below is a picture of Sierra and Lolot at her party..


The second was my beautifully sweet daughter Leanne! She is such a great daughter.. I just love her to pieces.. she is sweet, kind, loving, caring, respectful, giving, helpful, and a fantastic dancer. She has been taking ballroom dancing classes for about a year now and is an excellent student. Her instructors have told her she is making extremely fast progress through the classes and she hopes one day to maybe be a dance instructor herself. She is also working on her college degree and is in her junior year. She has been doing this at home. She is working on an English degree. She loves to write. She also loves kids and thinks she may use her degree to work as a teacher and one day do her own business as a help/tutor/test administrator to the homeschooling community wherever she may live. She turned 19 on the 6th of September.



The next birthday was just last week. It was an early celebration for my granddaughter Elizabeth Emma.. She is just the sweetest granddaughter ever.. but I know I am biased.. :) we had a great time celebrating her turning two. Before I left the party I kissed and hugged her good bye and then she made sure I kissed and hugged her baby doll good bye too..  so sweet.. :)




Back to School


This last week we started our school year. My kids began their first day of school and I began my 23rd first day of school! Can’t believe I have been homeschooling for this many years. As I look back some years have been so easy and some have been so hard.. but in the end I take the good and the difficult times and you know, I would not change ANYTHING! I have loved spending my days with my children.. I have loved the closeness and the time spent with them through the years. Homeschooling is a conviction for me and my husband and we have lived out our conviction and will continue to until the race is done. It occurred to me as I began school this year that this “race” will be done before I know it! I only have two students left. That is the smallest class size I have had in years and I like that. Sierra is in 9th grade and Isaac is in 7th grade. Since my children graduate by 16 or 17 years I know I don’t have many years left and I am going to enjoy them to the fullest.

That's all from the Homestead today!! Hope you all have a great weekend!  :)

 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Happy Fall, Garden Harvest and Kitties!

Happy Fall everyone!!  Are you enjoying fall like days on your homestead yet?  We have been for a bit now.  Hard to believe the end of September is here all ready.  Seems like a lot has been going on at home and I have not had the time to post much and I have lots of updates but only time this afternoon for these..  the rest will follow! 

I have been harvesting corn and tomatoes!  I picked about 40 lbs. of tomatoes.. I used 10lbs to make a batch of salsa. You can find the recipe I use here:
http://thefamilyhomestead.com/cannedsalsa.htm
  I got 15 pints. 

 
 

Then with the rest of the tomatoes...



I made spaghetti sauce which I canned up. I ended up with 15 quarts of sauce. I am really praying I will have enough tomatoes to do another round of both salsa and spaghetti sauce.  We will see.. so many of my tomatoes are getting mushy before ripe enough due to all the rain.  But there are some dry days in the forecast so there is still hope!

 

Then between the rain storms my boys and I picked the corn. Here is what we had when we came back to the house…



And here is what it looked like after it was husked…


 

And here is what it looked like after it was processed up…13 quarts off the cob and 9 gallon bags corn on the cob…..







We also got two new kitties.. both of them are girls. Their mama abandoned them and they are about 4 or 5 weeks old. Sierra is currently playing mama to them and feeding them 3 times a day with milk and little soft cat food.. soon they should be on solid food, but in the meantime Sierra is loving her job as kitty mama. Isaac named the all black kitty Midnight and Sierra named the black one with the white nose and paws, October. 



That's all the updates I have time for today!  Hope you are having a great week on your homestead!! 

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Pickled Beets and Beet Jelly

Beets were an after thought with my garden this year.  I had given up on root vegetables because it always seemed that the moles would push them up and out as they made their tunnels each year in my garden.  But I was at Walmart and saw beet seeds for a $1 a package and said, what the heck, for a buck I will give it a try again.  
 
On Friday I went to my garden and knew it was time to pick the beets.  They had survived the moles and I was curious to see how much I would get.  I picked them all and after they were cleaned up and the tops taken off, I weighed them...  and there were 15lbs!  I was pretty happy! :)  





 
So I pulled out my recipe for pickled beets and got to work.   I cooked them up in my big canner pot because they would not fit in any other pot I had.  When they were done cooking (about 25 minutes) I drained them (saving the beet juice) and ran them under cold water while I cut off the ends, slipped off the peels, and sliced them into a bowl.  I made the brine and put the beets and 2 sliced onions in the brine.   
 
I heated it all up and canned up my beets.  I ended up with 12 pints. 















But I was not done with beets.. well I was for that day because it was nearly 11:00pm.. So I put my beet juice in the fridge.  On Sunday evening I was finally able to get around to making beet jelly with the leftover juice (you know I just don't like to throw usable things away! :).  Beet jelly is really more of a novelty than a necessary staple in the pantry.  It is easy to make and my kids enjoy it as a break for other types of jams and jellies that I make.  It is made with beet juice, sugar, pectin and package of raspberry kool-aide.  All I could find at the store was strawberry so I used that instead.  I have heard of people using cherry as well.  I saved enough beet juice to make 3 batches.  I ended up with 18- 1/2 pints of beet jelly.  

All in all I would say it was pretty good from one little package of seed!  I will be trying this again next year. 

Here are the recipes..


Pickled Beets
12 to 15lbs beets with tops on
8 cups apple cider vinegar
4 cups sugar
4 cups water
1/2 cup salt
4 cinnamon sticks
1 t whole cloves 
2 large onions, sliced

Wash, cook, peel and slice the beets.  If you leave the tops on the beets while they cook the color won't bleed out. To cook the beets, cover them in water, bring to a boil and let them cook for 20 to 25 minutes or until fork tender.

In a large pot (mine is a 14qt pot) combine the vinegar, sugar, water, and salt.  Tie the spices in a spice bag and put those in the brine.  Bring the brine to a boil. Add the cooked and sliced beets and the sliced onion to the brine.  Bring it back to a boil and let it simmer for about 5 minutes. 

Fill pint jars with beets and brine leaving a 1/2 inch head space. Put a brand new lid on the jar and a ring and tighten this down.  Put the jars in a boiling water bath canner and can for 30 minutes.  Should make about 12 pints


Beet Jelly
3 cups beet juice
4t lemon juice
1 box powdered pectin
4 cups sugar
1 small pkg raspberry Kool-aid

Begin by measuring your sugar and putting this in a bowl. Open the packet of Kool-aid and stir it into the sugar.  Then, in a 6qt pot combine beet juice, lemon juice and pectin. Bring this to a full boil. A full boil is one that cannot be stirred down.  After it has come to a boil then add your sugar.  Stir and bring back to a full boil again.  Boil and stir for 1 minute (check your package of pectin, if it says to cook it longer than a minute then you would need to. I use Sure Jel brand and it only takes 1 minute).  Quickly ladle the jelly into 1/2 pint jars.  Put a new lid on and a ring..  Put the jars in a boiling water bath canner and can for 5 minutes.  Makes 5 to 6 1/2 pints of jelly.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Brats, Kraut and Potatoes


I really did not have any other great creative thoughts when I named this recipe.. so it has a little bit of a boring name.. but not a boring taste! :)

This morning when my hubby came home from work he saw my package of brats (Johnsonville brand from Costco) sitting on the counter. I was going to come up with something to make for dinner using them, but had not figured it out yet. He was hungry and said they looked really good.. Well you know I just never could say no my hard working hubby. So I did some quick thinking and cooked a couple of them up. Then I cut them in half (the long way) and put them on some toasted homemade bread that was covered with mayo and Dijon mustard. I piled sauerkraut on top and some sliced swiss cheese. I put them under the broiler until the cheese was melted. Well.. he was in heaven.. ;)

This little throw together meal for him gave me the inspiration I needed for dinner.

I started off with 3 ½ pounds of Brats (minus 2 brats :). Plus about 4lbs of potatoes..



I put the brats in large pan and added water. When they came to a boil I covered them and let them simmer for about 25 minutes.



While that was simmering I washed and cut up my potatoes…



I put these in an 11x15 pan and coated them with olive oil. Then sprinkled in a bit of salt and pepper…



I put the potatoes in the oven (at 400) to cook. While they were cooking, I chopped up a large onion..  I heated my small frying pan and added some olive oil. When it was hot I put the onions in the pan and added a big spoonful of minced garlic. I cooked this until the onions were soft.



By this time the brats were done cooking. I sliced them all up….



As soon as the potatoes were fork tender I took them out of the oven. I mixed in the brats and the onions. Then I added about 2 cups of sauerkraut and mixed this up real well…



Then I took about 5 slices (about 5oz) of swiss cheese and cut them in strips. If I had a block of swiss I probably would have grated it. But all I had were slices. I put the slices over the top of my mixture…



I baked this again at 350 for about 25 minutes. Just to heat up, let all the flavors blend together and melt the cheese.


I served this meal with extra sauerkraut on the side and a large tossed green salad …

The family's verdict?? ...  Yum!! :)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Updates from the Homestead

It has been a few days since I updated my blog. I have been swamped with online time. I opened up membership on my message board for one week. I got 115 new members! That is a lot of new faces to get to know! I hope to open it again in a few months, but for now that is all the overload my moderators and I could handle! :)

Between approving new members and dealing with life at home I managed to do so freezer cooking. I spent a few days this last week stocking the freezer. I was pretty much completely out of my typical freezer stash. I can’t say enough how convenient it is to have meal starters in my freezer. I love the ease of putting together a meal on a busy day when I have food ready to go in my freezer to create a big variety of meals. I tend to like meal starters better than whole meals in the freezer as there is so much more flexibility. A meal starter is a part of a meal that is already cooked and ready to go. I wrote a whole ebook on this very thing. You can see more about that here: http://crystalscountrystore.com/freezercookingebook.htm  . I also put a couple of meals in my freezer that were already to go.

So here is what I have in my freezer so far…


6 qt’s hamburger mix
3 qt’s ham mix (remember the ham sandwich post? Well this was what I did with the rest of that ham :)
9 qt’s bean mix
2 qt bags cooked brown rice
32 cups of veggie stock – I had a gallon size bag of veggie scraps in the freezer plus I had some sad looking carrots in the crisper to use up. I also found about ½ cup peas and about the same amount of broccoli in the freezer that I tossed in. I added a couple overgrown summer squash from my garden to the mix as well.
3 qt’s cooked chopped chicken meat
5 bags of chopped cooked chicken for hubby’s sandwiches for work
4qt’s chicken broth from the bones of the two chickens I cooked
3 qt’s of hamburger potato chowder (made a double batch so I would have some for the freezer)
5qt’s chili (made a major big batch so I could put some in the freezer)

I still want to add a few more items.. but first I need to go and organize my freezer better so all my packages of food are easy to find! :)

My son finally officially finished drivers ed! He just today took his final drive and passed! I am relieved to have that over with. Now for a little more driving practice to get a few things clear and then he can make an appointment with the DOL for his final test and get his license. Then I get a break. It will be over a year before Sierra is ready to get her permit.. I am looking forward to the break! Teaching two kids to drive in one year is enough for this mom!!

The weather here has turned cool and cloudy and rainy. My corn is not ready to pick yet and only a few of my tomatoes are just now turning red. I am praying that the veggies ripen up before fall officially begins. However my pumpkins are doing fantastic and I still think I should have a nice windfall of cabbage!

Speaking of fall, I have to say I am really sad to see summer coming to an end.. :( .. I am a summer loving girl all the way. I love the heat, the long days, the warm evenings. I love not having to start a fire each day and deal with the months and months of seemingly never ending rain. So I embrace fall with a bit of sadness. There is a lot of things I love about fall.. the leaves turning color (which in my part of the country is truly beautiful!!), pots of tea, baking, anything pumpkin from candles to soap to muffins! LOL.. but there is also a little bit of bittersweet that comes with it. It means that winter is not far away, and that is the one season I truly could do without. I tell my husband that someday we need to retire somewhere warm!!! :)

I will leave you with a new recipe. I made this today. I wanted something new and different and this is what I came up with. I did not get a picture because, well, the family dived into the meal and pretty much ate it all up with rave reviews.. so it is definitely a tried and true meal!

Italian Chicken Casserole
2T olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cups cooked chopped chicken
1 14oz can diced tomatoes
1 8oz can tomato sauce
1 ½ t minced garlic

1T Italian spices
½ t salt
1 cup milk
3oz. cream cheese
2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
8oz whole wheat spaghetti noodles, cooked and drained

In a large frying pan heat olive oil until medium hot. Add onions and sautee until the onions are soft. Add the cooked chicken, tomatoes, tomato sauce, spices and milk. Simmer for a couple of minutes. Add the cream cheese and half of the mozzarella cheese. Add the cooked spaghetti noodles and gently stir.

Lightly spray a 9x13 pan with non-stick spray. Spoon chicken noodle mixture into pan. Sprinkle remaining cheese on top. Bake at 350 for about 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly and cheese on the top has melted.

Serve with French bread and a large green salad.

NOTE: If you have my Freezer Cooking with Meal Starters ebook this would be an excellent addition! Use one bag of chicken mix for the chopped cooked chicken called for in the recipe.

That is all from the Homestead today!! :)

 

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Apple Peach Tea

This is a nice frugal way to stretch a 12 oz can of apple juice. With a little help from some tea bags I end up with a gallon of yummy apple peach tea. Here is how I do it..

You start with one 12oz can of frozen apple juice concentrate and 3 of your favorite bags of tea. I am use peach tea, but you can use any type you would like.



I put a pan of water on the stove and add my tea bags. I bring the water to a boil and remove it from the stove. I let this sit for about 30 to 40 minutes to get nice and strong.

 

Then I add some sweetener. I am use honey. I add about ¼ to 1/3 cup of honey. You can add sugar if you would like and I would suggest about ½ cup if you do. However if you don’t need your tea super sweet you can skip the sweetener altogether. The apple juice will sweeten it up some too.



Then I pour this mixture into a 1 gallon juice container



Then I add enough water to bring it to the 2 quart mark on the container

 

Then I add the can of apple juice


Finally, fill the container with water up the gallon mark on the container. That is it! Put it in the fridge to get cold and enjoy!



 

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Membership

I have been absent from the blog world for a few days due to some of my online time being spent approving new members to my message board.

For those who have emailed me or asked on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Family-Homestead/115582552812
when I was going open up membership on my message board.. well the time is right now! :) I have had the board open since Thursday afternoon.

I have had to work through a few glitches.. The process for membership to the
board is a 2 step process.. so I have had a lot of people doing step 1, but not step 2… OR doing step 2 but not step 1..

In the first few hours the board was open I had over 40 ladies join and lots
more since that point.... so I don’t have time to chase anyone down and let them know they missed a step…

If you are interested in joining the board you can read this webpage: http://www.thefamilyhomestead.com/membershipinfo.htm
for instructions. PLEASE follow them exactly.. :)

If you are not familiar with my message board you can view it here: http://www.homemakershomestead.com/smf/index.php