Archive for February, 2012

I got this recipe from a friend many, many years ago.  While I enjoyed baking and cooking, at the time, I still consumed plenty of processed foods.  In retrospect, I think this recipe could be considered my “Patient Zero”; the recipe that started my aversion to process foods and my mission to avoid food out of a box. 

This is an easy way to start eliminating the boxes from your pantry.  Aside from Cheerios and Rice Krispies for our little one, we haven’t bought a box of cereal in ages. 


4 cups old fashioned oats

4 cups quick oats

1 ½ cups roasted sunflower seeds

1 cup packed brown sugar

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cinnamon

Pinch nutmeg

Pinch allspice

½ cup canola oil

½ cup honey

2 tsp. vanilla


Add Ins:


apricot chunks


Preheat oven to 300°.  Cover 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. 

Heat the canola oil, honey & vanilla in the microwave for 1 minute.  Pour over the dry ingredient and stir to combine.  Divide oats between the two prepared baking sheets. 

Bake for 20 minutes.  Remove from oven and stir oats.  Return to over and continue baking for 20 minutes. 

Allow granola to cool.  Pour into a large container.  Add raisins and apricot chunks.  Close container and shake to combine.


Yield: approximately 11 cups of granola

Happy Homesteading,


Tips & Tricks:

This recipe is easily adaptable and can accommodate different ingredients.  I’ve used nuts instead of sunflower seeds, maple syrup instead of honey, cranberries instead of raisins and dried pineapple instead of apricots.

We use blueberry or wildflower honey.  The darker the honey, the more antioxidants and vitamins.  The honey flavor is also more intense than common clover honey.

I like using both old fashioned & quick oats because of the difference in texture.  This is purely my preference.  Using all old fashioned oats will give a chewier and heartier texture.  Using all quick oats will give a weaker but crunchier texture.  In this picture, you can see the difference between both types of oats.  Quick oats are on the left, old fashioned on the right. 


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Mom’s Oatmeal Muffins

As a kid and teenager, I liked my foods plain.  Dry toast.  Hot dog – hold the ketchup & mustard.  Pancakes – no butter, no syrup.  Weird, right?  

When I would walk into the kitchen and see these muffins on the counter, I’d feel excitement, followed by a wave of suspicion.  See, I loved these muffins when they were plain.  Dad, on the other hand, liked them with jam on the inside.  If Mom wasn’t around at the time of discovery, I had to figure it out for myself.   I’d check the trash for discarded jelly jars.  I’d lightly poke the top to see if seemed squishier than usual.  I’d investigate the outside for signs of jam seepage.  Anything to avoid eating that jam tainted muffin.

What a difference 20 or 30 years make!  I never eat dry toast unless I’m sick.  On the rare occasion I eat a turkey dog, load ‘er up!  Pancakes without syrup?  That is foodie blasphemy.  And now, I love jam in these muffins.


1 ¼ c. quick oats

1 ¼ c. milk

1 ¼ c. flour

4 tsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 egg

½ c. canola oil

¾ c. brown sugar

Preheat your oven to 350°.   Prepare your muffin tin with liners.

Combine quick oats and milk. 

Let them rest for 20 minutes. 

This step might make you shake your head…  Add all ingredients to bowl of oats and milk. 

Stir to combine.  See, everything is OK.

Fill each liner 1/3 of the way with batter.  Drop in a teaspoon or so of jam. 

Cover jam with more batter. 

Bake for 16-18 minutes.

This recipe yields 12 muffins.  I made 6 plain and 6 with a vanilla rhubarb jam that I put up last year.  They are all sitting on a plate together.  And I’m not telling which one’s which!

Happy Homesteading,


Tips & Tricks:

In an effort to “health up” this muffin, I usually use ¼ c. canola & ¼ c. applesauce.  This does change the texture a bit.  I have also tried using all applesauce.  While a fine muffin, it ceases to taste like Mom’s muffins.

If you don’t have quick oats, you can grind old fashioned oats in a food processor.  Use 1 ¼ c. of the processed oats.

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I am not a girly girl.  I have no idea about the current fashions.  I don’t know the proper way to apply makeup.  I even cut my own hair in the winter time (long story).  But even I begin this experiment with trepidation.

I stumbled upon a blog a few months ago that espoused the benefits of making your own shampoo.  http://inashoe.com/2009/10/shampoo-update-7-months-counting/    This idea has stuck with me.  Since reading the entry, I anxiously awaited finishing our shampoo stockpile.  But folks, the stockpile is dwindling.

I worry not because I think my hair will be dirty.  Worrywart that I am, I fret that my hair might begin to take on new characteristics.  I had a friend who had straight hair until she had got a perm in 8th grade.  (Yes, a perm.  But in fairness it was 1988.)  Her hair was never straight again. 

At nearly 38, I’ve come to like my hair and I’m used to its quirks and benefits.  I love that just a quick comb through after a shower will “style” it for the whole day.  The strands of silver that adorn the top are endearing themselves to me.  I know that although it is baby fine, it loves to shine.  So, I wonder, will my mop change?

So you may ask, why am I doing this if I’m happy with my hair?  Doesn’t that mean the products I’m using are working?  I have no doubt that the shampoo and conditioners that I buy do what they are supposed to.  I’m just concerned about what else they may do.  Jon and I significantly restrict the amount of processed foods we consume and purchase mostly organic foods because we don’t want chemicals in our bodies.  When possible, we avoid inhaling smoke and chemicals to maintain the health of our lungs.  Shouldn’t the next step be to address the chemicals we put ON our bodies?    That being said…

Here is my before picture.  I must say, it is very difficult to take a picture of one’s own hair.  But you get the gist.


For both the shampoo and rinse, just combine the ingredients and you’re ready to rock. 

Homemade Shampoo Ingredients

2 quarts hot water

½ cup baking soda


Homemade Rinse Ingredients

Equal parts:

            apple cider vinegar


I will keep you posted on my progress.

Happy Homesteading,


Source: Life In A Shoe http://inashoe.com/

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I love mason jars.  They bring me back to a simpler time.  There is something so homey about them.  In fact, if it comes in a mason jar, I’ll probably like it.  I have candles in mason jars.  We store leftovers in mason jars.  I’ve converted our soap dispensers into mason jars.  My junk drawer is organized with mason jars.

And of course, our cabinets are littered with preserves, fruits, vegetables and snacks stored in mason jars.  Today, I figured out a new way to use my jars.

While I prefer to make my own cleaning products, I do keep a few commercial cleansers on hand for those “now what?” emergencies.  I like to keep a container of Lysol wipes around just in case I need to obliterate any nasty germs that have infiltrated our home.  You can always find regular bleach in our home – good for an occasional whitening load of laundry – but more importantly, it’s a necessity for purifying water in an emergency situation.  Lastly, I always have a can of Bon Ami.  Although it’s a commercial cleanser, Bon Ami is probably as natural as you can get.  I use Bon Ami when extra scrubbing power is needed. 

I was about to toss my empty can of Bon Ami into the trash when I noticed the lid.  “Isn’t that close to mason jar size?” I said to myself.  And lo and behold, it is!

While it is slightly too large to fit upon the jar rim, it fits perfectly upside down upon the band.  A little tacky glue and…

A perfect way to keep baking soda under my sink for cleaning!

Happy Homesteading,


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Our garbage truck is operated by a team of 4 people, 3 men and one woman.  The guys are great.  They wave to our son when he watches the truck.  They bring our can back and put on the lid.  Nice guys.  But goodness gracious, the woman hates us.  When Jon and my father were tearing up our carpet, she had some choice words to say when they came to pick it up – a service for which we paid extra.  Ever since, she has been very unpleasant during our garbage pickups. 

I try not to notice.  But sometimes I am unsuccessful.  For example, a couple of months ago, I was folding laundry upstairs and I heard her yell at our house “You better LIGHTEN IT UP”!  Lighten it up?  Not knowing exactly what Jon had thrown away, I quickly stole a glance out the window to see our one and only trash can being emptied into the truck. 

One trash can.  One.  It is not an unusually large trash can.   Just the ordinary size.  From that point on, I became fixated on the weight of our garbage.  Is our garbage heavier than everyone else’s?  Do we throw out too much?  Do we throw out abnormally heavy objects?

I started watching what I threw out.  And I was amazed and disgusted.  Do you know how much food you actually discard?  I had no idea.  We would save our leftovers and never use them.  Into the garbage.  I would forget about produce in the fridge.  Into the garbage.  What a wake up call.  We then became more conscientious about what we weren’t using and guess what?  Our garbage did get lighter.

Tonight, when I roasted a kabocha squash, I decided to save the seeds to roast as well.  Tasty on a salad or right out of the jar, this was a good way to put more of that squash to good use.  Waste not, want not.


Seeds of kabocha squash (butternut or acorn squash work well also)

Olive oil


Remove the seeds from the squash.  Rinse and remove the bits of squash from the seeds.  Lay the seeds out on a towel to dry for 1 to 2 hours. 

Preheat your oven to 275°.  Toss the seeds in a bowl with olive oil and salt.  Lay the seeds on a cookie sheet lined with foil.  Bake for 10 minutes.  Increase the temperature of your oven to 300°.  Continue baking 10-15 minutes.  If you hear them POP in your oven before the time, take them out.

Though not your intent, thank you garbage lady.

Tips & Tricks:

Kabocha is actually a Japanese pumpkin.  These seeds will be fibrous like pumpkin seeds.

Jon likes to eat these seeds whole.  I prefer to open them like sunflower seeds and just eat the meat.

Happy Homesteading,


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I’m not a huge fan of ironing.  I think it’s because I’m still learning the proper way to do it.  When I was a kid, my mom seemed to always be ironing.  When I was old enough to be trusted to wield a heavy, incredibly hot object without damaging everything, she taught me how to iron my dad’s handkerchiefs.  Does anyone use handkerchiefs anymore? 

I quickly mastered the art of handkerchief ironing.  But the tutelage stopped there.  As the years have gone by, I’ve picked up some skills.  I iron our linen napkins for company and holidays.  I also became responsible for Jon’s work shirts about a year ago when we decided to stop using the dry cleaner for everything but suits. 

When the dry cleaning switch occurred, we investigated getting a new ironing board.  Jon bought the one we have when he was in college.  It was not a great one to begin with and has just gotten worse with age.  I can’t tell you how many times I ironed a waffle pattern into a shirt.  Not to mention the fabric was dis-gus-ting! 

We were shocked at the prices of ironing boards.  Some of these things cost $100 or more.  So, I sucked it up and learned to iron around the waffles.  Until today.

A few days ago, through the wonder that is Pinterest, I stumbled upon a tutorial on u-handbag for re-covering your ironing board.  She even discussed a way to fix the waffling issues.  Perfect.  Here is the link for her tute.

I purchased a heavy cotton upholstery fabric from the remnant bin for $5.00.  The color doesn’t matter because it will be used as the bottom most layer in your project.  I also have about 1 yard left for future projects.  Using a coupon, I also purchased a beautiful patterned fabric for the cover for $3.49.

After no more than 30 minutes I had a beautiful like-new ironing board for a fraction of the price of a new one.  And it has a bit more pizzazz than a new one would, don’t you think?  Does anyone say pizzazz anymore?

Now to tackle the ironing…

Happy Homesteading,


Source: u-handbag

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It is unseasonably warm in the Northeast.  To my delight, we are expected to reach a high of 60°.  This temperate weather has given me a taste of summer.  I figured I’d make the most of it and plan my meals accordingly. 

In our house, I cook everything.  But outside the house, Jon is in charge.  He is our resident pit master.  Last summer, after a near disaster with our gas grill, he decided to switch us over to a charcoal grill.  Ever since, he’s been having fun and great success experimenting with direct and indirect heat, wood chips and the like.  Today would be a perfect day for grilling.  But, alas, he teaches a night class once a week at our local university which happens to be tonight. 

So what is a girl craving barbeque to do?  Get out her crockpot, of course!

My first step was to whip up some barbeque sauce. 


2 cups ketchup

1 cup apple cider vinegar

¼ cup packed brown sugar

¼ cup sugar

3 Tbs. honey or real maple syrup

1 tsp black pepper

½ Tbs. onion powder

1 Tbs. mustard

1 Tbs. soy sauce

Zest of one lemon


Combine the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. 

Reduce the heat and simmer for about an hour, stirring frequently. 


After my barbeque sauce cooled, I put 1.5lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the bottom of my crockpot and poured the sauce on top and set the timer for 4 to 6 hours on low. And, voilà…


So, with a wee bit of summer under my belt, I’ll be eager to see what the groundhog says on Thursday.

Happy Homesteading,


Tips & Tricks:

We only use Grade B maple syrup as it is less refined.  It has a deeper maple flavor than regular Grade A. 

Whenever I use a lemon, I freeze the zest.  That way I always have it on hand and don’t have a bunch of naked lemons in my refrigerator.

If you like a little heat in your barbeque sauce, you can add a pinch of chili flake to the sauce before simmering.

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