Category Archives: recipes

Apple Pie Season

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The wee one and I made an apple pie. Now, I’m not known for my apple pies. Scott is. He’s the prize winning apple pie maker. But the other week, Alicia blogged about ‘the grand duchess’ of apple pies made with sour cream and eggs and ever since I couldn’t get the idea of a creamy apple pie out of my mind. I had to try it.

You probably know this already, but when you bake with a small child you need to stop for a minute beforehand, close your eyes, take a deep breath and say to yourself, ‘this is going to be a royal mess’. If you do that, baking with a child becomes completely enjoyable. If you go into the situation in a time crunch or with the thought that you don’t want a messy kitchen it’s bound to be a disaster. And, it’s taken me nine years of mothering to figure this out, but if you give your child their own bowl and give them a spoon full of flour, or baking soda or, butter or what-have-you in their bowl as you measure out your own ingredients, you’ll both be much happier bakers. In this case, she made her own pie crust and rolled it out with her little mini rolling pin.

Back to the pie though. It turned out great. A nice alternative to our usual pie. We have a granny smith tree in back and those tart, crisp apples were really fabulous contrasted with the sour cream. The crumbly, sugar topping is so good. It’s a rich pie and you’ll know that after eating a slice, so call all your friends over for dinner when you bake this. After I baked it for the allotted time, I stuck it under the broiler for a few minutes to give it more of a carmelized top. While this doesn’t top Scott’s pie, it will certainly make it into my recipe box for repeating next year. The only thing I’d do differently is cut the apples thinner, like an eighth of an inch thick and layer them in like a gratin. They way I did it was cut them about a quarter inch thick and just dump them into the shell. That allowed for big ‘air’ pockets for the cream filling to go into. Scott pointed out that if you cut the apples thinner and layered them then the cream to apple ratio would be in equal portions for each bite, rather than big chunks of apple & cream. Make sense?

That’s the dispatch from this Sonoma kitchen. Take a deep breath, get yourself in the kitchen, make a royal mess and give this pie a try (recipe here). It’s fall, we need to make sure our ovens still work, we need to pair the sight of colorful falling leaves with apples on our cutting boards and we need cozy comfort desserts for our now cooler autumn evenings. Now get baking!

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Baked Chiles Rellenos, Corn Harvest & Ponds

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The baked chiles rellenos turned out great! We have chili rellenos a few times during the summer and they are without a doubt one of my favorite dinners. But they are a lot of work! This was a nice alternative and I could make it early in the day and pop it in the oven after soccer practice. It’s especially nice when your husband comes home early and makes a peach pie to bake with it! Anyway, recipe for baked chiles rellenos here.
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We harvested all the corn this weekend. Five portions went into the freezer and the rest went into dinner.
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The sunflower plant growing next to the corn just fell over. Much to bees dismay we cut off all the blooms and brought them inside.
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Scott woke up yesterday and decided we needed a pond. A bunch of excited boys and a few hours later we have a pond. I’ll show you more pictures soon.
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While the boys were out digging, the girl and I decided to finally, finally sew this little top I’ve had cut out for months. Instead of sleeves I made it sleeveless (this was supposed to be a summer shirt!), with bias bounding. It turned out cute and if luck is on our side it will fit next spring too. She grew five (!) inches in the last year, so she’d better get as much use out of it now.

Don’t forget, today is the last day of the $50 Pharmaca giveaway. Enter, enter, enter!

How was your weekend?

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Filed under just picked, preserving, recipes

How to Make Hand Lotion with Preservative

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I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving! We had a very nice long weekend and I was so touched by all the ebooklet orders and the sweet emails that came with them. Thank you! Since I’ve been on a body care making kick I have a few things that I want to share with you this week. The first is about preservation.

About this time of year my Hand Lotion post becomes very popular for the DIY Christmas crowd. And for good reason, it’s a great lotion and so easy to make, don’t you think? However because of it’s relatively short shelf life, I started to research preservatives. And I found one that so far I like. Potassium Sorbate. But let’s back up for a moment. There are, as I have learned, three things that can go wrong when you mix water and oil. Yeast, mold, and bacteria can form. None of them are things you want in your lotion and especially on your skin.

To keep your lotion making as sanitary as possible you want to use clean measuring utensils. You want to use pure water, either well water, rain water or distilled water. You want the container you store your lotion in to be as clean as a whistle. Preferably just out of the hot dish washer.

As you go about using your lotion you want to scoop it out using clean dry hands. Even better, keep this lotion in a pump bottle. Store it in a cool place, preferably the fridge. Now personally, if I keep lotion in the fridge, I’d rarely use it as it would surely be hidden behind a jam jar and forgotten completely. So I keep it on the counter top during the winter, and during the summer, I still keep it out, but I make half the amount, so I use it faster.

I’ve found that this lotion stays stable for me for a good three weeks, however it doesn’t hurt to go an extra step and add a food safe preservative if you are giving this as a gift. Potassium Sorbate is an effective preservative against molds, yeasts and aerophile bacteria. It’s cheap (this bag cost me less than $4), it is easily soluble in water and you only need 1/4t. per lotion recipe. I would say that this extends the shelf life of this lotion to about 3 months.

So once again, my Hand Lotion Recipe with preservative!
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How to Make Homemade Hand Lotion with Preservative

1 1/4 cup hot water
1/4 cup emulsifying wax (Don’t use beeswax, here’s an easy homemade beeswax lotion recipe)
1/4 cup olive oil (I’ve been using grapeseed oil lately for an even lighter lotion)
1/4 teaspoon Potassium Sorbate
24-36 drops essential oil
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Combine olive oil and emulsifying wax in a microwaveable container and heat until just melted. About a minute in my case. Once it is melted, you may add your essential oils.
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Then heat water to approximately the same temperature as the oil (again about a minute in the microwave). Then add 1/4 t. Potassium Sorbate. Stir well.
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Pour water mixture into oil mixture and give it a good stir with a spoon.
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Pour it into a decorative pump bottle, let it cool and you’ll have a beautiful, longer lasting lotion to enjoy!

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How to Make Fruit Roll-ups : : A Picture Tutorial

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(a longer tutorial found here)
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1. Find a plum tree.
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2. Pick and rinse 24 plums.
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3. Put on a simmer with a couple tablespoons of water. Wait about 15 minutes.
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4. Remove 24 seeds. Blend with a stick blender.
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5. Add sugar to taste.
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6. Lightly oil two parchment paper lined cookie sheets.
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7. Spread or tip pan until covers parchment evenly.
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8.  Fruit should be about 1/8″ thick. Very pretty.
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9. Place into a warm oven for about 12 hours.
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10. Take it out when it’s done.
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11. Roll up while still warm.
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12. Cut when cool. Store in freezer in ziplocks, should last a year. Perfect for school lunches.

(if skins of fruit are bitter, it may behoove you to skin the fruit first, in which case, use 28 plums)

Enjoy! (again, more detailed fruit roll up directions here)

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A Whole Lotta Love Lotion Labels (free printable)

Whole Lotta Love Lotion Lotion
In previous years I’ve often dismissed Valentine’s Day. I aligned myself with the whole ‘it’s a Hallmark holiday’ mentality and brushed off the event almost entirely. But this year…I don’t know, I’m catching the Valentine’s spirit. Suddenly red and pink hearts look kind of cute. So while the spirit has caught me, I thought I’d make you a printable lotion label in case you are going to give your love ones either the Hand Lotion, the Winter Hand Salve or the Beeswax Lotion this Valentines.
Remember to print out at 100% on full label paper ( I use Avery Sticker Project Paper). Cut out and you are good to go.

Download the label here

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rain, cover crops, bare plants and ethiopian food

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It was rainy here…finally. What a dry winter we’ve had up until now.
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Scott ran around throwing out cover crop seeds down before the rain started (an old post about cover crops). The crimson clover and purple vetch are already sprouting.
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The favas I planted earlier are thriving.
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While I’ve been forcing roses into dormancy…
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…Scott’s been on the other side of the yard taming raspberries into neat and tidy rows.
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Six new bare root fruit trees await planting. Two cherries, one plum, one persimmon, and two more figs.
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The seedlings are coming along well. Now that we have a place to grow inside with warm southern sun, we can start our seeds earlier than before.
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All this winter weather has had us in the kitchen cooking with spices. Scott’s been making lentils and curried winter squash soup. Last night I made our favorite Beef in Berbere Sauce (taming the heat by paring the 1T of cayenne down to 1/4t.) with…
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injera. Reminding me of my high school and college days when we used to adventure into Berkeley to the Blue Nile for Ethiopian food. So sad to hear they are closed.

Hope these winter days are going well in your part of the woods.

p.s. As often as I can remember, I thought I’d post back to previous years around the same date. January 26, 2009 More Edible Weeds

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Two Favorite Bread Recipes

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Last week a few of you asked for my bread recipe that I had shown. Why I’d be happy to share. However that isn’t the bread I make most of the time, mostly I make another kind of bread (above), so I’ll share that recipe too. The one you asked for is a dark whole wheat molasses bread that is great for morning toast. I got the recipe from a booklet called Old Fashioned Bread Recipes we bought at the mill we visited last year, remember that beautiful place? The booklet is filled with sorts of amazing early American bread recipes like Vermont Maple Syrup Bread, Cracklin’ Bread, Butterscotch Biscuits among others, totally worth the $3.50 I think! Anyway, I’ve adapted their Gingery Wholewheat Bread to work in my bread machine and I also leave out the ginger, because I dunno, ginger first thing in the morning in toast doesn’t sound like my cup of tea.

The other recipe I got from the back of some Bob’s Red Mill package and again I’ve adapted it too over the years. But this recipe is our very favorite. It is the kind of bread recipe you can use everyday. Partly because it works great both as toast and for sandwiches but also because it’s so flexible. I substitute out things in it all the time and it always turns out great. I don’t know about you, but we always have all sorts of strange types of flours in our pantry. Rye, spelt, graham, wheat bran, wheat germ etc. from various projects. Lately in place of the 1 c. of whole wheat flour I’ve been mixing a third of a cup of various flour like substances to use up those odds and ends and the results have been fantastic! The bread picture at the top there is what I made the other day using wheat bran and Bob’s Red Mill 10 Grain Cereal instead of the whole wheat flour.

In most cases, when I bake bread I try and take an extra minute before I stick it in the oven to brush a little milk over the top and sprinkle oatmeal on if it seems appropriate. It’s a tad fussy, but half of eating is with your eyes, right? And us, being bread lovers, always look so forward to cutting into a beautiful loaf of bread.

A note about the recipes, these are notes for folks who have bread machines. If you don’t have a bread machine and you bake by hand, I think you’ll easily be able to figure out how to adjust the recipe accordingly. I’ve even doubled both recipes before and mixed and ‘kneaded’ them in my kitchenaid successfully.
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Gingery Wholewheat Bread (without the ginger)
put into bread machine in this order:
1/4 c. water
1 c. milk
1/4 c. molasses
1/4 stick room temperature butter (1/8 c.)
1 T. brown sugar
3 c. unbleached flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
1 1/2 t. salt
(1/2 t. ginger – optional)
2 1/2 t. yeast

Set on dough setting. When finished take out and form. Put into a greased loaf pan and let rise 40-ish minutes. Brush top with milk, slice top with serrated knife. Bake for 35 minutes at 350 degrees.

Everyday Oat Bread
put into bread machine:
1 1/4 c. water
1 1/2 T. sugar (either white, brown, turbinado even honey has worked)
1 1/2 t. salt
1 1/2 T. vegetable oil or butter
1/4 c. oatmeal
2 c. unbleached white flour
1 c. whole wheat flour (or various other flours that you find at the back of your pantry)
2 t. vital gluten (or if you don’t have use flour instead)
2 1/2 t. yeast
Set on dough setting. Take out and form. Put into greased bread pan. Let rise 40-ish minutes, brush top with milk and sprinkle with oatmeal. Slice top with serrated knife. Bake for 25 minutes at 425 degrees.

Happy Baking!

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Making Local Bacon

A few weeks ago we got an email from a farming friend of ours. Her fellow farming husband had raised some pigs that were ready for harvest and would we like a whole or half? Why YES! We could only commit to half a pig now because our freezer was still full from this summer’s beef order. While we are far from perfect in our eating habits, we do try our hardest to ‘vote with our dollars’ by buying as much of our food as locally as possible. There are a thousand and one reasons why it’s beneficial to eat locally and I’m sure you know most of them yourselves. But lately for us it’s been mostly about the health and safety of our food (too many recalls and ‘outbreaks’ lately!) and supporting local people in their business and agricultural enterprises. In our small community there are many entrepreneurs and it only makes sense that we buy from each other, we’re all in this life together after all. Buying pork raised about a mile away from people we trust fell right into that line of thinking.
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As soon as we hit ‘send’ on that email Scott started researching. He had a flurry of lists spread all around him, cookbooks open, websites up, youtube videos running of all things pork. He used to be a chef, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned, so to get a project like half a pig on his hands was like Christmas morning. Our first meal was of ribs, then homemade sausage for the Thanksgiving stuffing, and then pork chops. All preparations were delicious. So much more flavorful and juicy than any store bought pork we’ve ever bought. We brought home about 140 lbs. of pork from the butcher and one of the biggest packages was of the pork belly. Our first big project was, oh yes, bacon!
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It was quite a process. First Scott rubbed the pork belly with generous seasoning and put it into a brine (he used this bacon recipe) for three days.
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Then it was onto cookie racks to dry in front of a fan for an hour. This apparently makes something called pellicle develop on the skin which makes the smoke better adhere to the surface.
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While this was happening Scott was busy out back trying to get his homemade smoking contraption rigged. He has a little smoker but that produces hot smoke and what you need for bacon is cold smoke. Growing up he spent his summers at his family’s cattle ranch deep up in the Sierra foothills. There they had a smoke house and over the years I’ve heard many a story about the smoked sausages that were produced there. He was all too eager to set up his frugal smoking get up using bricks we found around the property, a $10 dryer vent pipe, an old grill and an old piece of tin from the bottom of an old barbeque we once had.
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Despite the extreme wind that day, he got a good fire going and once we could see that the tunnel of smoke was working, in went the pork belly. Over the course of six hours, he kept the fire going with a combination of fruit wood trimmings, charcoal and soaked hickory wood chips. That evening we took the bacon out and sliced it up and cooked it.
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This recipe has a fair amount of sugar so it cooks up dark, but boy is it good! This recipe is more sweet than salty, but it’s delicious and what a great thing to eat bacon that Scott cured and smoked from a pig that was raised and tended to a mile away from good people we know! I’m sure there will be more pig stories to come. Next up on the project list, three kinds of linked sausages!
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Printable Labels for your Gift Giving

Beeswax Lotion Labels

Finally blog friends! A label for the beeswax lotion recipe I posted a few months back! Hopefully this will make a cheerful addition to your lotion jar and those you give out to friends and family. As with all my labels, print this pdf at 100% size on Avery Sticker Project Paper and cut out with scissors. These labels fit wide mouth jar lids.

Download free printable beeswax lotion labels here.

Speaking of the beeswax lotion recipe, I finally (finally!) weighted the beeswax. 1/2 c. of beeswax pastilles equals 2 oz. I will update the recipe. Also someone left a very helpful comment saying that if you add 2 t. of cornstarch to the recipe, it will cut the grease! What a great suggestion, I’m going to give that a try this afternoon.

I wanted to mention, if you haven’t already noticed that I have Christmas label downloads too. Fun to add to canned goods or to print onto card stock and use as gift tags. Happy Printing!

If you use these labels for your lotion, I’d love to see! Take a picture and send me a link in the comments!

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Natural Dying with Walnuts

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We have a number of walnut trees at our new house, but there is this one in particular that grows huge walnuts. State Fair prize winner sized walnuts. I mean, look at that thing! In the past week, those green hulls have started cracking open, almost like flowers to reveal the walnuts inside of them. We’ve been having great fun collecting them, my youngest son and I. One of his favorite activities at school is the nut cracking activity and knowing that his teacher is always in need of walnuts, he runs out there to collect her a bag as often as he thinks of it.
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The other month, when we took the day to go to Point Reyes, I came across the book Harvesting Color: How to Find Plants and Make Natural Dyes by Rebecca Burgess. Have you heard of her? She started the Fibershed project where she challenged herself for one year, to wear only clothes that were locally produced. And I’m not talking about just sewn locally, but that the fibers were actually grown locally too! Incredible! Well a new friend of mine (and you’ll see why we’ve been keeping in touch if you click over to her blog) recently took a workshop by Rebecca and reading about it left me totally inspired. As if I need another hobby, I wanted to try my hand at natural dying. After some research I found that walnuts are a great and easy start. A gateway drug, if you will.

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With walnuts, you don’t need a mordant or anything fancy to make the dye work. From one tutuorial I read, you just place a handful of walnut hulls (doesn’t matter the variety of walnuts) into a jar of water and leave it for a week. Which I did. A mold started to grow on the top by day 7, which is when I scooped off the mold and strained the dye. I had a whole slew of Cascade Eco yarn that was left over from a Shalom gone very wrong. I had been wanting to dye it for ages. So I cut off a little bit of yarn and tossed it into the dye for about 20 minutes or so. Maybe longer or maybe less. I didn’t keep track, it was about as long as it took to clean the kitchen with a ‘yank-everything-out-of-the-cupboards’ baby following me.
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And this is how it turned out. I liked it, so I threw about half of my stash into the jar. Ran off to go pick the kids up from school, ran another errand and came home and took it out.
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And this is what I had. Pretty, isn’t it? I rinsed it out and hung it to dry.
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Now I have this incredible autumnal looking yarn to work with. I left half of the yarn undyed so I could make something that was striped. I’m thinking maybe a striped Oatmeal? I don’t know, any knitters have any pattern/design suggestions?
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Do any of you dabble in natural dying? What have you learned? Now I’m eager to learn more!

p.s. You can find me here on Ravelry, and I’m now on Pinterest!

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