Plantain-the perfect weed to find after being stung by a bee! Pick some plantain leaves, pop them in your mouth. Chew them up, but do not swallow. After they are masticated and wet, spit the leaves into your hand. Spread generously over the sting site. The plantain will ease the pain and reduce swelling.
We all know the saying “It takes a village to raise a child.” Was it Hillary Clinton that was so often quoted as saying that? Whoever said it first was right. And it takes a village to provide real and traditionally prepared foods to your family. I have learned this year that I am a good baker, a skilled food preserver and have certainly improved my wildcrafting skills. I love to garden, but it doesn’t come naturally to me. Just doesn’t. I’ll keep trying and broadening my experience level. But, if I want to have an abundance of garden fresh produce, I need to find a partner.
I found an organization that simply helps people with items to share connect with others in a similar “pickle”. Ha. Last spring, I really wanted some rhubarb. I’ve been waiting three years to harvest my own rhubarb, and of course, it just didn’t produce this year. I could’ve bought some at the grocery store, for $3/lb. That’s crazy. I could’ve bought some at the farmer’s market (ok, I did buy some there) for $2/lb. While I was considering whether I should just go knock on the door of some distant neighbors with a huge plant in front, I used this website to discover a woman who lived miles away from me with pounds of “surplus” rhubarb. I emailed her and two days later we met at a coffee shop. I brought along six jars of pickled vegetables and she brought 4 lbs of beautiful rhubarb. She took the veg with her and I came home with my stalks. We were both happy.
I chopped up that glorious ruby rhubarb and spread it out in a pie crust lined pan. Mixed up some custard, poured it over and popped that beauty in the oven. An hour later, heaven in a pie pan. Not the prettiest pie ever, but one of the tastiest!!
The recipe for the best pie ever follows, but my point is : Do you have something you could trade in exchange for something you want? It could be a skill or something more tangible. Perhaps you could mow the lawn of your elderly neighbor in exchange for being allowed to pick the apples from her trees? Do you have a coworker with a plum tree? Maybe they bring in the plums, you make jam and split it with them? Get creative. There is so much we can do TOGETHER. Bartering has been a part of our society for hundreds of years. It works. Let’ s get back to it!!
- 1 pie crust
- 4 cups rhubarb, chopped into 1 inch pieces
- 3 eggs
- 1.5 cups sugar
- ¼ cup flour
- ¾ tsp nutmeg
- Place chopped rhubarb in pie shell. In a medium bowl, lightly beat eggs. Add sugar, flour and nutmeg to eggs. Pour evenly over rhubarb, making sure custard fills in the gaps between rhubarb pieces.
- Bake at 400 for 45-50 minutes. I set the pie pan on a foil lined cookie sheet to catch any drips.
- Allow to cool for at least an hour before slicing. Store leftovers in a refrigerator.
In my mind, “the way things were done” goes hand in hand with the concept of self-suffiency. Many people equate “self-suffiency” with folks who wear tin foil hats, and build bunkers in the woods. I’m not one of those that fears an alien or zombie invasion. I do however, really like to have what I need, when I need it. I also like to extend the reward of working in a garden past the harvest season. Biting into a sweet peach in the middle of a howling storm in March makes all that time spent standing in front of the canning pot well worth it! In my ongoing effort to become more self-reliant, I have changed the way I garden. For the past four years, I’ve focused more on vegetables and fruits than ornamentals, and I have had some successes. My sons love to eat peas fresh from the vine. They sneak out and pick strawberries and blueberries as soon as they are ripe. Carrots have been ok. Unfortunately, our neighbor’s cat seems to have chosen our carrot patch as his favorite litter box. That’s been a bit of a downer. Green beans were another big success. I do not have a large yard, and with two kids, more space is dedicated to play time than to gardening. And that’s a good thing.
With my two long narrow garden beds and one 3X3 bed, plus some scattered pots, I am growing a lot of food this year. I did clear out one area of the assorted shrubs put in by landscapers years ago, and will convert that space to vegetable bed this week. In that limited space, I am growing: corn, green beans, cucumbers (pickling), blueberries, 5 tomato varieties, four kinds of peppers, two apple trees, pumpkins (the little kind), peas, 8 kinds of lettuce, garlic, miner’s lettuce, carrots, strawberries, raspberries, an olive tree, mint galore, a salmonberry bush, thyme, rosemary, oregano, basil, comfrey, horehound, sage, sunflowers, borage, calendula, dill, thyme, fennel, salvia, echinacea, chamomile, nasturtiums, marigolds, cilantro, a dwarf orange tree, and lavender. Phew. Some of those plants are new to me this year, and I am not sure they will be mature enough to provide fruit this year. That’s ok. I’m patient.
Many of the herbs and flowers I listed have medicinal qualities that I am curious about. My son loves to pick nasturtium flowers and leaves for our salads and discovered that he likes to eat the petals of the calendula. I plan to use the calendula for making an infused oil for minor scrapes and burns. We love to use the mint leaves in our tea, and I plan to enjoy a mojito or two this summer. I used to buy little “ice cubes” of chopped cilantro at the grocery store. No more. I will make my own with my basil, cilantro, mint and other herbs. Why not?
While we do not have the space to grow a ton of food, I am confident that we’re moving towards our goal of being reliant more on our selves than others. I will save as many seeds as I can from this year’s harvest and plan to put up the tomatoes, green beans, corn, apples, carrots, cucumbers, and blueberries. I’ll dry the flowers and herbs, or make them into ice cubes. This year’s bounty should be something we can enjoy well into next spring.
With every plant, I am learning something. My children are learning as well. I remember enjoying my dad’s spaghetti sauce and seeing the pride on his face when he explained to guests that the tomatoes came from his own garden. I am now experiencing that same sense of pride and accomplishment. My sons have discovered that while they don’t really like the peas that come in a plastic bag from the store, they do love the ones in our backyard. And they know they can grow them themselves too! What a lesson!
Last week, a friend of my husband’s posted an open invitation to pick apples from a tree in his front yard. My son and I went the next day and within 30 minutes had picked 54 lbs of apples. These were small, green apples. On the drive home, my son ate two apples. He said they were “sweet”, all while his mouth was puckering and his eyes were watering. In fact, they had a strong apple flavor, and were somewhat juicy, but tart. I spent the next afternoon coring and peeling apples. I got one small batch of applesauce made, which my apple-loving son ate within 24 hours. Yesterday, my husband and I spent the whole day working our way through the remaining 50+ lbs of cute little apples. We finished our marathon day with 24 pints of applesauce and 34 half-pints of pectin. Wowza. While I sometimes prefer to can alone, when you’re talking about this much fruit, you really want a partner. My husband and I make a great team, with each of us taking on specific tasks and trusting the other one to do their tasks. He is an excellent student of the peeling/coring device, while I had a knack for adding just the right amount of lemon juice to the cut apples to keep them from browning too much. While you don’t want applesauce that tastes like lemons, it is imperative that you add enough to create an acidic environment for water bath processing.
The beauty of applesauce is that there isn’t really a “recipe”. You make it up as you go. Some people prefer to leave the peels on until after the apples are cooked down, but we use a peeler/corer, so that work gets done in the beginning of the process. The cores and skins go in one pot, the meat of the apple in another. The “leavings” we used for making apple pectin. I’ll detail that process in a separate blog post.
We used large pots for the applesauce, each with about 10 cups of sliced and chopped apples. You can make a small pot of applesauce with just a few apples too. Adjust amounts of sugar and spice as needed. We added a little more lemon juice and a little water, then let the apples cook over medium heat for 20 minutes. When the apples started getting mushy, I added 1 -2 cups of sugar. 75% of my family prefers cinnamon in their applesauce. If you do too, add it with the sugar. Stir regularly, and make sure it doesn’t burn to the bottom of the pot. When the apples have really started to break down and become saucy, it’s time to blend. I prefer to use my immersion blender right in the pot to smooth the sauce. If you don’t have an immersion blender, you can certainly use a regular blender, working in batches. Be careful not to overfill the pitcher with hot applesauce, as it will splutter a bit and could hurt you. Blend to the consistency you like.
After blending each batch, we “canned” the applesauce. We used pint jars, and processed each in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. After allowing the processed jars to cool, I wiped removed the bands, wiped each jar and labeled with the name and date. Some of the jars containing the chunkier applesauce leaked a bit of sauce while processing. Therefore, their jars and bands were sticky. At first, I was concerned they hadn’t sealed properly. I tested each jar by picking it up only by the lid, and all six were sealed just fine. My sons are both thrilled that they can have homemade applesauce any time they want it now. I’m hoping it lasts until the main apple season in the fall, when I’m sure we’ll do this all over again!
My son has been asking me for weeks to make Strawberry Jam for him. It’s his favorite. He doesn’t like store bought jam, and doesn’t like “chunky” jams. This means that the only jam he really LOVES is my homemade strawberry jam. I made a basic strawberry jam recipe last year, but wanted to up the ante this year. Marisa McClellan’s book “Food In Jars” had just the thing! Strawberry Vanilla Jam. Yessiree, just what the nine year old ordered. I had read this recipe back when I was looking for a Blueberry Vanilla Jam recipe, so it came to mind as soon as I saw strawberries at the fruit stand.
You might be wondering why on earth I’m so eager to use a bunch of vanilla beans, when they’re so friggin’ expensive? Well, last year, my husband read about ordering them online and bought a pound. Yes, a pound of vanilla beans. As a little thank you gift, the company sent along an extra quarter pound of high grade beans. He had purchased the grade B beans, which are the ones most often used in baking. So, for under $30, we have a supply of 1.25 pounds of vanilla beans. The best smelling mail I have ever received!! If you’re interested in stocking up, I can recommend Vanilla Products USA.
Anyway, back to the jam. It’s a pretty basic jam recipe. The vanilla elevates it to a new level…The recipe says it makes four pints. As you can see in the photo below, I got a little more than three. My extra pureeing might explain that. I always prepare an extra jar, just in case. The jar with the white plastic lid went right into the fridge for that day’s lunch.
- 8 cups chopped strawberries
- 5 cups sugar, divided
- 2 vanilla beans, split and scraped (I used 3!)
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
- 2 packets of liquid pectin, 3 oz each
- In a large bowl, combine the strawberries, one cup of sugar and all of the vanilla bean goodness (scrapings and beans). Allow to sit on the counter for 30 or so minutes. At this point, Marissa recommends refrigerating this mixture overnight. If you don’t want to do this, even one hour of maceration is better than none.
- When you’re ready to make the jam, get your water bath started. You’ll need four or five one pint jars, with lids ready.
- Pour your strawberry mix into a large, nonreactive pot. Add the rest of the sugar (4 cups) and the lemon zest and juice. Stir to combine, and bring to a boil over high heat. You’ll need to cook this at a strong boil for 15-20 minutes. After this time, your strawberries will have broken down somewhat, and the jam should have a syrupy consistency. Using tongs, remove the vanilla beans from the pot. I use my immersion blender to puree most of the fruit at this point. You could also transfer some to a blender to puree it, then return it to the pot. If you like your jam thick, puree about one third. If you’re like my son and prefer no “chunks” puree more than half.
- Add the pectin to the fruit and bring to a rolling boil. You want the mixture to come to 220 degrees and stay there for two minutes. This is a good time to use a candy thermometer. Clip it to the side of your pot and keep an eye on it.
- Once the jam has spent two minutes at 220, remove the pot from the heat and ladle the hot jam into your hot jars, leaving ½ inch of headspace. Wipe the rims with a hot wet cloth, and place the lids on the jars. Screw on the rings. Process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Remove to a towel lined cookie sheet, and allow to cool.
- You will soon hear the “pop” or “ping” that tells you the jar is sealed. Enjoy!
You really could make this loaf every day, it’s just that easy. However, since the loaves are large, you can probably make it twice a week and still be feeding wholesome, homemade grainy goodness to your family all week. My son LOVES bread. All things bready. I usually make three loaves a week because both he and his brother will consume a few slices as soon as I give the “all cool” alert.
I make this delicious bread using my bread machine, just to mix and do the first rise. We’ve had it for about 18 years now and it still works like a charm. I also prefer to use my Pain Di Mie or Pullman bread pan. This is a long narrow bread pan, with a lid that slides on. It creates a perfect square when sliced. Now, I have made this recipe by hand. It’s certainly do-able. You could also use a stand mixer. Most breads need to rise twice, once after the ingredients are all mixed together, and again after the loaf has been shaped and is in it’s pan. My trusty bread machine does the manual labor part, and I love it for that.
So, you gather your ingredients (I like to start this bread in the late morning, so it’s out of the oven and a bit cool by the time my boys walk in the door).
In this photo, you see white whole wheat flour, bread flour, salt, brown sugar, yeast, butter and water. Pretty much basic bread ingredients. You might be surprised to see butter. I’ve used olive oil in place of the butter and that’s fine. Coconut Oil gave the bread a bit of a weird flavor. I won’t use that in this recipe again. I just like butter best.
Pour your warm water into the bread machine pan (if you’re making this by hand or mixer, please adjust the instructions to fit your situation). Add the yeast and the sugar. Let this sit for about 5-10 minutes. You want the yeast to “bloom” or become activated by the water and sugar. You’ll know this is happening because the cloudy looking water turns kind of bubbly, and the yeast starts to look a bit like tan curds floating on the water. This is all good.
Add the butter and flour next, then the salt last. Salt can slow the activity of the yeast, so I avoid putting the two together directly. Set your bread machine to “dough” and let it get to work. By hand or mixer, you’ll want to mix this until the dough is pretty much staying together in one mass and is somewhat elastic and smooth. Knead it a bit, and then let it rise in a bowl for about 45 minutes, until it’s about doubled in size. Be sure to rub some olive oil around the bowl first, so that the dough doesn’t stick later on.
After the machine is done, or the rise is done, pour the dough out onto oiled parchment or an oiled board. After oiling my hands with olive oil, I knead it a little to soften it, then use the heels of my hands to spread it into a rough rectangle. It doesn’t have to be precise or pretty at this point. Cover with a clean dishtowel or a piece of parchment and allow it to rest for about 10 minutes.
Again, oil your hands and press the now puffy rectangle into a little bit more precise rectangle. Roll the long side nearest you over, and press into the body of the dough. Roll it over again and press it in. You want to roll the whole thing until you have a long, tight roll. Be sure to press the rolled up section well so that it stays tight. Place this roll into your prepared (oiled) bread pan and cover with that clean dishtowel or parchment. If you are using a Pullman pan, put the (oiled!) lid on, but leave it open about one inch. Cover that inch with a dishtowel. After the dough has risen to the top of the pan, pull the lid closed. Give it five more minutes, then pop it into the hot oven. Bake for 25 minutes, then remove the lid. Bake for another 10 to brown the crust. Remove from the oven and cool on a cooling rack. Cover with a dish towel while it cools. It will be easier to slice after it has cooled.
- 2 tsp yeast
- 1⅓ cup warm water
- 2 TBS brown sugar
- 2 TBS butter
- 2 cups bread flour
- 2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 tsp salt
- MIx yeast, water and sugar in bread machine pan. Allow yeast to “proof” for about five minutes.
- Add flour, butter and salt. Set machine to dough cycle.
- When cycle is complete, turn dough out onto a oiled sheet of parchment. Stretch gently into a large rectangle. Give it 10 minutes to rest. Push gently into a larger rectangle, then roll the long side over and press it evenly and tightly into the larger piece of dough. Keep rolling until it’s all rolled into a tight log. Place it into a Pullman pan and slide on the lid. Leave it open about an inch. Allow it to rise to the top of the pan, then pull the lid shut. Give it five more minutes, then put it into the oven. Bake it for 25 minutes at 350, then remove the lid. Bake for 10 additional minutes, then remove to a cooling rack to cool. Cover with a clean dishtowel while it cools.
Remove from the oven and cool on a cooling rack. Cover with a dish towel while it cools. It will be easier to slice after it has cooled.
When I was in my late teens, I decided I wanted to learn how to make bread. It seemed like a good skill to have. I found what seemed like a good starter recipe in a cookbook published by my parents church. My dad is a baker, so I talked it over with him and we made some modifications. I made the bread many times over the next few years, often to the delight of my friends. I hadn’t been baking much around the time I met my husband. After we’d been dating for several weeks, I baked this recipe. He loved it! Later that night, he proposed to me. Now, he says he had been planning on “popping the question” long before he took a bite of this warm, chewy, flavorful bread. However, to this day, we call this recipe “Proposal Bread”. I’ve had friends and family members ask for the recipe, sometimes in hopes it will inspire another proposal!
This bread is somewhat dense, and doesn’t rise as much as a sandwich bread. It’s great still warm, with a dollop of butter. My son loves it spread with peanut butter. Feel free to play with the flours you use. I’ve used varying amounts of all-purpose, whole wheat, white whole wheat and have added wheat germ, oatmeal and flax seeds at different times. Honestly, though, I keep coming back to the original recipe. Enjoy!
- 2½ cups water, warm
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- 5 tsp yeast (2 pkgs + a little)
- 2 tsp salt
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 6 cups of flour (at least 3 of whole wheat)
- Preheat oven to 200°. Prepare bread pan with cooking spray.
- Mixer: Stir together the water, yeast and brown sugar in the mixer bowl. Allow to proof for five minutes. Add the oil, salt and three cups flour. Mix well, adding an additional two cups of flour. The dough should be really coming together now. Sprinkle in some of the remaining flour, and switch to the dough hook on your mixer. Continue to knead the bread in the mixer, while adding in as much of that last flour as possible. When the dough is smooth, and pliable, scrape it on the counter and knead it once or twice by hand. Shape it into a nice smooth loaf shape, and place in prepared bread pan. Place in warm oven for 20 minutes. After that time, raise the oven temp. to 350° and bake for 30 minutes. Do not remove the bread from the oven when you change the temperature. Allow the loaf to cool on a cooling rack for ten minutes, then turn it out to cool longer. Cover with a clean dishtowel while it’s cooling.
Here in our home, I do a lot of laundry. A lot. It’s constant. We also have a variety of skin issues that require avoidance of many common cleaning agents. I did some research on Pinterest and discovered many DIY laundry recipes. Most were pretty much the same as the others, but the one that I happened to use was from www.rickabamboo.com. My husband was skeptical, and my kids wondered why I was using the food processor to grate soap. I am pleased to say they are now converts. When your tween hugs a towel and says “Wow, this smells great!” , you are onto something good!
Like with most DIY “recipes” I was able to adjust ingredients to what works best for my family. Fragrance is usually verboten around here, but I tried the Purex crystals I saw in some blog posts and they have proven acceptable (so far!). I use Arm and Hammer Super Washing Soda, Borax, and I have discovered I prefer Kirk’s Castile soap over Fels Naptha. Not sure why really, but I do. Last, but not least, I have found that I can add a small amount of oxygen booster (non-chlorinated-I get it at Whole Foods) to the detergent as well.
So the recipe I use is:
3 bars of Kirk’s Castile Soap (you could use Dr Bronner’s too!)
3 cups of Borax (one for each bar of soap you’re using)
3 cups of Super Washing Soda (this is NOT baking soda!)
about 1/2 cup Oxygen Booster
about 1/2 cup Purex Crystals
First, I grate the soap bars in a food processor. You could do this by hand too. I empty the processor bowl into another large bowl, then switch the grating blade for the usual processing blade. I run the soap through again to chop the grated strands into something more powder like. To this I add the Borax and Super Washing Soda. Depending on the size of your bowl, you may need to do this in batches. The soap will process into smaller and smaller granules after the dry powders are added. After these three ingredients are well mixed, I add the fragrance and oxygen booster. I store this in a large OXO container (that I picked up at the thrift store for .99¢!).
I add about two TBS to each load of laundry.
UPDATE: July 2013
This laundry soap has been great! I’ve been using it for several months now, and can not express how much better it works than any store bought detergent I’ve used! It’s easy to make, cleans extremely well, and leaves my washing machine smelling better. Plus it’s super cheap! Love it.
I had the baking bug yesterday. With my kid home, feeling under the weather, it seemed a perfect day to putter around the kitchen. Both of my kids have been asking me to make bread lately. I found two recipes that I had made before, but I couldn’t remember which (if either) I liked better. I made both, and in the afternoon, we had a blind taste testing. Now, you have to know, nothing can compare to the taste of ANY bread fresh out of the oven, spread ever so thinly with butter.
Both of these breads were delicious! However, they turned out quite different. The top loaf was dense and chewy, full of whole oats. Lovely, but not really what I was looking for in a “sandwich” bread. The lower photo shows the loaf we all thought was the winner. Still chewy, but in a more gentle way. Full of oat and honey flavor, just a little easier to enjoy. For the denser loaf, I used the King Arthur Flour Oatmeal Honey Pain De Mie recipe, baking it in a standard 9X5 loaf pan. The second loaf was a recipe I’d jotted down years ago from an unknown website or friends cookbook. Not sure where it came from really. The recipe can be found here:
Oatmeal Honey Bread
In the pan of your bread machine, add 1 cup of warm water (about 100°-105°), 1/3 cup of honey or brown sugar and 1 1/2 tsp of yeast. Allow that to sit for about five minutes while you gather the rest of your ingredients. Add 1/2 cup oats (whole, not instant), 2 1/2 cup bread flour and 1 tsp salt. Set your bread machine to “Dough” setting and let it go. When it’s finished, turn the dough out on to a floured work area. Knead it a few times, and shape it into a log. Prep your bread pan by rubbing it generously with olive oil, or spray it with baking spray. Lay the dough log into the pan and cover it with a clean dishtowel. Allow to rise for 45-60 minutes, until the top of the loaf is rising up a little over the edge of the pan. Preheat your oven to 350°, and bake for 30 minutes. When you remove your bread from the oven, be sure to rest it on a cooling rack. You want to be sure air can flow underneath it whilst it cools. If the top does “mushroom” up over the sides of the pan a bit, I find it easier to slice if I lay it upside down on the cutting board. Enjoy!
I know, it’s just March and I’m already thinking of pumpkin. I love pumpkin. I read a recipe on Pinterest today that reminded me of these muffins and I thought perhaps I’d just post it now and then head into the kitchen to bake some. This is a two ingredient recipe. Yes, you read that right. Two ingredients. You need one box of Spice cake mix and one can (15 oz) of pumpkin (not pie filling). That’s it. Mix the two together and scoop into muffin cups. Bake for 8-10 minutes for mini-muffins or 15 minutes for standard muffins. That’s it. Deliciousness in minutes.