Gluten Free Peach Coffee Cake

As the winter weather rages on I have taken to baking with one of my favorite summer ingredients….  fresh juicy peaches.  Of course it has to warm me up on the inside so what better way to use peaches than in a coffee cake?  And of course my peaches weren’t fresh off the tree either.  But I still love the taste of peaches and it reminds me of warm, sunny days.  I’m grasping at anything to save me from these crappy snowy bitter-cold days that never seem to end.  I did happen to see a groundhog the other day running under the trees out back.  Spring is surely on its way… it’s just taking its sweet ol’ time!!  I promise this coffee cake will make you feel better (at least for a little while)!! Continue reading

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DIY: Making Wool Dryer Balls

This is one of those projects that has been on my “must/want to make” list for some time now.  So during our latest winter blast, I stayed in and played.  I don’t know why I didn’t get around to these sooner, they really took no time at all to make and so far I’m loving them!

What are wool dryer balls?

Wool dryer balls are made from 100% wool and can be made in any size you want.  They go into the dryer with your wet clothes and help to separate and fluff them so that it shortens the amount of time you have your dryer running.  They also help to get rid of wrinkles and static.  And if you use some essential oil, make your laundry smell good without any use of chemicals.

Shorter dry time, no wrinkles or static, and pretty smelling.  Yay!  With wool balls you can use and reuse again and again!!!  Saving you money.  Yep, that brings a smile to my face.  A penny saved is a penny earned… I’m earning some serious pennies with this one!

How to make your own dryer balls…

The first thing you need is 100% wool yarn.  It can’t have any cotton or acrylic or anything else in the yarn.  And it can’t be pre-shrunk.  The wool has to be able to felt.  I wanted to be able to make quite a few balls and didn’t want to spend a bunch of money on the yarn.  So… I got really cheap (or thrifty) and bought some wool sweaters at a garage sale for a quarter a piece.  Then I bought a couple of skeins of yarn at the fabric store.  You’ll also need some old pantyhose and a crochet hook.  Don’t worry, you don’t need to actually know how to crochet (whew!) you just need it to pull the final piece of yarn through.

Wool Dryer Ball Supplies

Since you wanted to save money on yarn and are using a junk sweater, you need to cut the sweater into strips.

Wool Sweater Strips for Dryer Balls

Then you take two strips of your wool sweater and knot them together to form the base of your ball.

Knotted Wool Sweater Strips for Dryer Balls

Now you can take and wrap more of your sweater strips around and around until you get it to about the size you want.

Medium Wool Dryer Ball

Once you have a decent size ball, take your yarn and wrap it around the sweater strips.  This holds all the sweater strips in place and makes your balls pretty.

Start of Wool Dryer Ball

When your ball is the desired size, cut your yarn, take your crochet hook, and weave the yarn into the ball.  I made my balls the size of a large orange.  The bigger, the better.  Or so I hear.  The larger the balls, the more they bounce around and separate the clothes.  Just felt I had to clarify that a bit for those of you who have wandering minds.

Large Wool Dryer Ball

Now, I’m not sure this next step is necessary, but I thought it might help since I have a front-loading washing machine and wanted to make sure my balls got adequately soaked and shrunken.  So I filled my sink with really hot water and a bit of hand soap and soaked and swished my balls for a little while.  Okay, so I really just let them soak while I went about and made lunch.

Soaking Wool Dryer Balls

Before you pop them into your washing machine you want to enclose them in the pantyhose so that they don’t unravel and create a really big mess.  I suppose you could do this before you soak your balls in the sink too.  I did have one that I made earlier and never got around to finishing floating in the sink.  Doesn’t matter as long as you do it before they go into the washing machine.

Place a ball in the stocking, tie a knot in the stocking, put another ball in, tie another knot and so on.  You won’t be able to reuse the pantyhose once the balls are felted.  The pantyhose get kind of hairy.  Not a pleasant feeling.  So buy really cheap ones or use some old ones that you’ve had hidden in your drawer for 10 years.  I don’t wear pantyhose too often to go out and feed the animals here on the farm.  Although it might be kind of entertaining to the neighbors!

Wool Dryer Ball Worm

Now you are ready to throw your wool ball worm into the washing machine.  Wash in high heat with cold rinse.  Then pop them into the dryer and dry on high heat.  Now might be a good time to wash your sheets and pillowcases.  Just an idea.

Take them out of the dryer and run your fingernail over the stocking/ball and see if the yarn threads have “felted” together.  You may want to put it through the wash/dry cycle one more time to be sure.

Your finished balls will look similar to this.  You can make them in any colors you like.

Close-up of Wool Dryer Ball

I made 7 of them using one and a half skeins of yarn.  The sweater insides really helped to save money on the yarn.  I put mine in a basket on top of the dryer with a bottle of lavender essential oil.  Place a few drops on the balls before popping them in the dryer and you have a healthy alternative to the chemical-laden dryer sheets sold in stores.  Much prettier and reusable too.  Be sure to use essential oil, not fragrance oil.  Fragrance oil will leave greasy spots on your clothes.  Pure essential oil will not.

Basket of Wool Dryer Balls

Now that I’ve had fun telling you all about my balls (tee hee), go out and try to make some of your own and let me know how much you love them!  Hmm, how do you use dryer balls when you hang your laundry on the line during the summer?  I’ll have to ponder that one!

If you don’t feel like making them, you can always buy some online at Etsy or Amazon .

 

Pickle Canning Day

Nik has been in charge of the garden this year.  The whole kit and caboodle.  All the tilling, planting, weeding, and harvesting.  I think I helped him weed once.  His main focus was on beans and peas and saving seeds.  So I didn’t expect much if anything to have for canning and putting up.

One morning Nik brought me in a small basket of cucumbers.  Too many to eat, too few to can.  I figured we could make quick refrigerator pickles.  Two, maybe three jars tops.  I took my time cleaning up the kitchen and piddling around for a while.  I suggested that he go out and make sure there were no more cucumbers because I only wanted to do this once.  So out he went with a basket.  Next thing I know he’s coming to the door with a full basket and tells me to empty it because he’s going to need it again.  And again, and again.  His grin got bigger and bigger with each basket he brought up.  I swear he was basking in my misery!  I didn’t plan on spending the day doing a full blown canning session!  His giddiness was disturbing.

We ended up with a giant pile of cucumbers for pickling.

Pile of pickles

So much for 2 or 3 jars and quick refrigerator pickles.  But I wasn’t about to waste them.  I gathered my handy dandy Ball Blue Book Preserving Guide and my trusty Bread and Butter Pickle recipe and got busy.

I gathered supplies for dill pickle spears first.

Pickling Supplies

I didn’t have any pickling spice so I mixed up some of my own.  You can get the recipe here.

Homemade Pickling Spice

I had quite a bit left over so I put it in a jelly-sized canning jar for later use.  Or maybe I’ll use it on the woodstove this winter, it’s woodsy and aromatic.  Sure hope it tastes as good as it smells.  I’ll have to let you know on that one.  I’d sure be really disappointed to find out I spent all this time on dill pickles to have them turn out grubby.  Not going to think about it.  I love pickles, they couldn’t be that bad!

Once the pickling spice was made I sliced the washed cucumbers up into spears.  I used all the larger-sized cukes for this.

Dill Pickle Spears

I combined 4 cups of sugar, 4 Tbsp salt, and 12 cups of vinegar in a large pot.  I tied my spices in cheesecloth and added it to the mixture.  I brought it to a boil and then let it simmer for 15 minutes.

Place the spears in a quart-sized canning jar, fill with hot vinegar mixture, add a fresh (or dried) dill head, and leave 1/4” headspace.  Remove air bubbles, wipe around the rim, add lids, and Walaa!!!  You are now ready to process for 15 minutes in a boiling-water canner.

Dill Pickle Spears in canning jar

I made 14 quarts of dill pickle spears.  With that done, I was ready to move onto the Bread & Butter slicesHalf way there.

I cut my smaller cucumbers into thick slices.  Then I added some thinly sliced onions,1/3 cup of pickling salt, and a few sliced garlic cloves to a large glass bowl.  Mix it all together and let it chill in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.

Bread & Butter Pickle Slices

Drain well.  In a large Dutch oven, combine 4 cups of sugar, 4 cups of apple cider vinegar, 2 Tbsp of mustard seed, 1 1/2 tsp turmeric, and 1 1/2 tsp celery seed.  Add your onions and cucumber slices and bring to a boil.  Pack into quart-size canning jars, leaving 1/2” headspace, remove air bubbles, wipe your rim, add lids, and process for 10 minutes in a boiling-water canner.

WHEW!!!!!

By dinnertime I had 30 quarts of homemade pickles.

Finished Jars of Homemade Pickles

Not too bad for one days work.  I figure we have enough pickles to last us a good year, maybe more.  If things get really bad, we always have something to eat.  What’s for breakfast?  Pickles with a rice cake.  What’s for lunch?  Duck and pickles.  Dinner?  Duck and pickles with beans.  Snack?  Leftovers.  Yep, we’re good to go.  Oh – to mix it up I still have some beets from last year!  Woohoo!!!

I almost forgot – thank you Nik for our bounty of pickles!  Couldn’t (and wouldn’t with the price of cucumbers) have made them without you!

Sweet Potato Casserole

Well, I figured I’d better get this posted before another holiday comes and goes.  I’ve been promising my Grammy to send her this recipe since last Thanksgiving and again since this Easter.  What can I say?  Time flies when you’re having fun, cleaning out chicken coops, planting a garden, mowing the grass….  living life.

 

This is one of those recipes that can just as easily pass as a dessert as it can for a side dish.  No marshmallows necessary!

For a printable copy, click on the link below:)

Sweet Potato Casserole

Melt 4 Tbsp butter in a 9×13 baking dish.  Add 3 cups of mashed sweet potatoes, 3/4 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp salt, 2 eggs, 1/2 cup milk, and 1/2 tsp vanilla.  Mix well.  Lumps are just fine.

Sweet Potato Casserole

Combine 1/3 cup flour, 1/3 cup melted butter, 3/4 cup brown sugar, and 1 cup chopped pecans in small bowl.  Sprinkle over the top of the sweet potatoes.

Sweet Potato Casserole 2

Bake in a 350 degree oven for about an hour.  Real technical, I know.

Sweet Potato Casserole 3

Allow to cool for at least 15 minutes.  Trust me.  Burnt tongue during a holiday feast is no fun.  But you’ll want to make this for more than just holidays.  An easy way to get your daily dose of veggies.  And a great way to use up all those sweet potatoes that we canned!  MMMmmm!!

It’s gonna be a great year….!

Okay, now that I’ve finally come out of hibernation… !  Not really.  Wish I could say that was true, but I’ve actually been very busy.  The good kind of busy.  The kind of busy that lets you know that you’re alive and good things will come of it.  I recently re-entered the work force after a dozen years of being stay-at-home mom.  Part-time, but it still gets me out of the house and feeling like I’m a real person again.  Yay!  So I’ve been working on finding my footing, trying to balance all the things I did before with working a “real” job.  I’m sooo not going there today!

Is it too late to talk about New Years Resolutions and such?  Nope.  This is my blog and I can talk about whatever I want to.  It’s all about me.  Me, Me, Me!!!  If you don’t like it, don’t read it!

Ha! Ha! HA! (my version of an evil laugh)  Where are my minions?!

Ahem!  Now, that I’ve had my little fit…

This year is going to be a great year.  Really!  We are in for a lot of changes.  Good changes.  When we first moved here we weren’t really sure what we were doing and not sure of the path that we were on.  We had a good idea of where we wanted to be.  A year and a half later, we get it.  Really get it.  We moved here taking things as they came along and not planning too far ahead.  We’d had a few setbacks and were a little gun-shy.   We leased this farm for 2 years (which seemed like ages back then!) and were hoping to buy it and make it our home.  We were meant to take a different route.  By September we will have to move again.  I really, really hate moving!  But that’s okay.  Because we are going to find our forever farm.  None of us can imagine life without animals, a large garden, or any of the things a farm has.  Farming is what we were meant to do.  Now that we know this, we know what to do.  Kind of… the path to getting there might be a little tricky, but that’s okay.  Life is an adventure and if you’re bored, you’re not really living.  So, our time has become consumed with researching how to make a living off of a farm.  Todd would love to be able to be a stay-at-home farmer.  Someday.  Both of the kids want to have farms when they grow up (which isn’t far off).  And I want to have my goats, ducks, geese, chickens, and fresh garden goodies.  They say the best job is to get paid doing what you love.  So this year we make it happen!

So that’s kind of the direction that this blog will lean to.  The path to becoming farmers.  But that will still include things like lots of recipes (I hear farmers are really great cooks!), crafty projects like making soap, knitting, quilting (still working on my first quilt Grammy!), health tidbits (one of the reasons we want to grow our own food is to avoid GMO’s and all the bad things they fill up our food with these days – your body only functions as good as the fuel that you put into it), special diet recipes (gluten free, sugar free, corn free, soy free), animal care, and the list goes on.  I love learning and I can’t narrow this blog down to just one topic.  And I certainly don’t have the time to write more than one blog!  So this is just about life as an up and coming farmer.  The good and the bad.  Hopefully more good than bad!

From time to time I’ll pass on the blogging to one of the others (Todd, Nik, or Lexie) and let them tell you things from their perspective.  That should be interesting!!!  I’m really really really going to try to post on a more consistent basis – maybe once or twice a week.  Crud.  Just by posting that it makes me have to do it.  Don’t want to be that person who says one thing and does another.  Must be responsible and reliable!  Set a good example!

Thank you for letting me vent, preach, or whatever you want to call it!  I am stoked, excited, anxious, and all kinds of other adjectives for this year and what it will bring to our family.  And if you want, I’d like to invite you to come along.  Farmers are big on community.  That’s another reason to farm, meeting all kinds of great people with similar interests and cares.  I’ll try to keep the rants to a minimum but I’m making no promises.  I am what I am and that’s all I can be.  Was it Popeye that said that?

Mom&Lexie

Here’s to a fantabulous 2014 and a having a sense of humor!  A little humor is necessary to get through the struggles of life.  That’s a word of wisdom from someone who used to take life waaay too seriously! 

Gluten Free Pumpkin Muffins and a Batch of Really Bad Beans

Well, the holidays are in full swing now.  I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving!  Ours wasn’t too bad.  Except for that about every dish I made turned out grubby!  Really, holidays are not the time to try out new recipes that you’ve never made before!  Luckily it was just the four of us and I didn’t embarrass myself in front of lots of family.  I tried to make homemade baked beans.  I figured I’d get creative and combine 2 different recipes that I had.  The first was for plain ol’ homemade baked beans, the second was for a four bean medley that calls for a big can of baked beans.  How can you possibly mess that up?  Leave it to me.  Not even Nik would eat those beans.  This kid eats EVERYTHING!!!  That was my first clue as to how bad they were.  At least we got some laughs out of it.  I took all the leftovers out for the chickens and ducks. They’re still out there.  Composting.  Chickens won’t touch them.  Ouch!

We also skipped the turkey and roasted a goose.  I’m sorry, but Thanksgiving needs turkey!  The goose wasn’t bad, just not the same.  The rice stuffing was a tad too wet or juicy or whatever you want to call it.  Sweet potato casserole is a no-fail dish so I was spared with that one!  So our feast was a semi-dud but at least we were together and everyone was happy and thankful and healthy!

Sorry, I had to break away and chase the chickens and ducks away from the road.  Trouble makers – the whole lot of them!! The weather is warm (for December anyway) and we let them out to forage for grass and any other goodies they can find.  I wish you could hear them chattering because they are so happy!  There’s a group of Pekins right outside my window making all kinds of happy racket!

I thought I would share a pumpkin recipe with you.  Since I have all this pumpkin to play with.  Don’t worry – this one has been tested and tried many times and it’s a keeper!  Trust me – if you make it and don’t like it, just ship it off to me and I’ll eat it.  No questions asked.

Here is a link to the original recipe.  I made it gluten free so that we could all enjoy it.  And I don’t bother with all that “bowl for wet, bowl for dry” stuff either.  I make things simple – the less dirty dishes, the better!  Dump it all in and mix it up.  They still turn out delicious!

Gluten Free Pumpkin Pecan Muffins

Pumpkin Pecan Muffins

  • 1 cup sorghum flour
  • 1 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/2 cup tapioca flour
  • 2 tsp guar gum
  • 3/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 1/4 cup sunflower oil
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans

Combine wet ingredients in large bowl, mixing well.  Add dry ingredients, mixing well.  Fold in pecans.  Fill muffin cups three-fourths full.  Make topping in same bowl.

Crumble Topping

  • 1/3 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 1/4 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/4 cup cold butter, cubed

Combine sugar, pecans, and flour.  Cut in butter until crumbly.  Sprinkle over batter.

Bake at 375 degrees for 20 minutes.  Cool for 5 minutes before serving.  This will make 12 or 13 regular sized muffins or 6 jumbo.

 

So, anybody have any good recipes for homemade baked beans that are tomato free and low in sugar?  I know, what are baked beans without all the “good stuff” added?  Help!

Annual Pumpkin Canning Fiasco

We finished canning our pumpkin harvest just in time for “everything has to be pumpkin flavored” season.  Actually, we eat pumpkin all year long.  Why should I only enjoy it during the fall and winter months?  I make sure to have plenty stocked up so that we can nosh on pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin bars… you get the idea!.. all year long!

Last year we bought all of our pie pumpkins from a local market.  This year we grew all but 10 of the pie pumpkins.  We canned 42 pumpkins and only spent $15.00.  Woohoo!  We’ll be eating extra pumpkin coffee cake, pumpkin doughnuts, pumpkin lattes.. I can go on but I’ll spare you this time!  By growing our own, we know that we’re using heirloom seeds and growing these babies without any pesticides, insecticides, or any other “cides” that aren’t good for us.

Washed Sugar Pie Pumpkins

The first thing you do is wash your pumpkins really well.  You don’t want any dirt or grubbies getting into your hot liquid or pumpkin.

Clean out seeds from pie pumpkin

Cut your pumpkins in half with a sharp knife (cleaver, axe, whatever works – just be careful!) and clean out the seeds.  Save the seeds in a bowl to roast for later.

Cut Sugar Pie Pumpkin PiecesChop the pumpkin into manageable pieces. 

Boil Sugar Pie Pumpkin PiecesBoil the cut pieces in water for about 20 minutes until pumpkin is tender but not mushy.  It will be easier to peel the pumpkin rind.

Pumpkin LiquidRemove the pumpkin pieces and allow to cool a bit.  Save the water that you boiled your pumpkin in, you will use this as your “juice” for the canning.  I figure that it’s better than plain water, any of your vitamins and minerals that get cooked out from the pumpkin will be in this water.

Cooked Pumpkin PiecesWhen pieces are cool to the touch, remove the rind, and cut into cubes.  There’s all kinds of warnings about how you should never can pureed pumpkin, it should always be canned in cubes.  You can read what the National Center for Home Food Preservation has to say about it here.  They are funded by the USDA.  I feel much safer now.  (Can you feel the sarcasm?)  Wonder how anybody survived years ago?  I follow their advice for the most part.  Sometimes my pumpkin is a little “mushy” and the cubes fall apart and I really like to stuff that pumpkin in those jars.  Sort of like puree but I’ve never had a problem with any of my pumpkin.  Except for that one time that…. Just kidding!  The pumpkin turns out all good even if it is a little pureed.  Libby’s purees their pumpkin and expects everybody to eat it.  Maybe they don’t like the competition.  Just saying.

Pumpkin in Canning Jars

Fill hot, clean jars with your pumpkin cubes.

Hot liquid in Pumpkin JarsTake your hot pumpkin liquid and fill the jar almost to the top.

Air Bubbles in pumpkin canning jars

Slide a knife or plastic spatula along the sides of the jar to remove any air bubbles that may be hiding out in there.  Bubbles not good.

Headspace for pumpkin canningCheck to make sure that you leave 1 inch of headspace in your jars.  You need to leave this room due to expansion of the pumpkin while it is being pressure cooked.  Trust me, I’ve made this mistake before.  All your pumpkin juice from inside the jar makes its way out into the pressure cooker and you’ll get a little bit of dry pumpkin.  Leave the headspace.

Clean Jar rim before pressure cooking Wipe off the rim of the jar to remove any sticky liquid or pumpkin chunks that could interfere with getting a good seal on the lid.

Tighten lid on canning jarTighten the lid onto the canning jar (careful – it will be hot!)

Jars in Pressure CookerPlace a maximum of 7 quarts into your pressure cooker.  You have to use a pressure cooker, not a hot water bath canner.  The pumpkin doesn’t have enough acid in it to kill any little critters that might be in there.  Follow your directions for your pressure cooker.  Make sure that you check the vents to make sure they are clear (tee hee!  Chicken humor – check your vent!  I know, my joke was wearing thin on Lexie too.  She had to hear it every time I started a new batch.  Can’t take me anywhere.)

Process quarts for 90 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure and pints for 55 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure.  You can fit 10 pints into the canner.  This is the long part.  Waiting for the canner to achieve correct pressure and then waiting and hoping nothing goes wrong.  I’ve heard pressure cookers can be quite dangerous.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds Since you have to stay close to your pressure cooker to keep an eye on it, might as well roast all those pumpkin seeds!  I just mix a little sunflower oil and sea salt and pop them into the oven at 250 degrees for about half an hour.  I think we got 2 gallon size bags of pumpkin seeds this year.  Pretty sure they won’t last too long.

Canned Pumpkin Quarts Now you have pumpkin to use for all those yummy treats all year long.  When you open a jar, drain out the water and mush the pumpkin up with a spoon.  Pumpkin puree!  We did pretty good this year.  There are 50 quarts and 27 pints in the pantry.  And it only cost us $15.00!  Hmm.  That would be about 19 cents a jar.  Plus I had a bowl of pumpkin that I just didn’t feel like canning anymore so we ate pumpkin muffins, pumpkin bread, … yeah, yeah, you get the idea!

Ducks and Noodles

Whenever Todd introduces himself to someone  he refers to himself as a “duck farmer”.  Sometimes we get curious looks as to how you can actually “farm” ducks.  I believe it’s an accurate description and one that I’ve taken to using also.  We love ducks.  We’ve grown our flock to over 100.  See, we “grow” our ducks to use for food.  Either by eating eggs from the ducks or the duck itself.  I wish I could say it is an economical alternative, but I’m not sure yet.  We put a lot of our time into the ducks.  And depending on which breed of duck we’re talking about, lots of feed.  Pekin ducks are dependent on you for finding the majority of their food.  Muscovy ducks, on the other hand, are great foragers and they supplement their diet with feed.  All of the ducks look forward to their treats of whole corn and scratch.

Muscovy Duck

Muscovy Duck

Pekin Duck

Pekin Duck

We’ve been busy “harvesting” ducks for the past month or two.  On my last count we were down to 8 Pekins and … okay, I don’t actually know how many Muscovies are left!  We’re trying to decide how many we want to keep over the winter.  I’m pretty sure we will reduce the Pekins down to 2.  I love the temperament of them, but they eat a lot.  The only reason I want to keep 2 is because the one hen is the “sister” of our hand hatched goose baby (I don’t want him/her to be lonely) and the other is Lexie’s favorite 4H hen, Elizabeth.  We have quite a few Muscovy ducks that we have named and want to keep to breed.  We know we will keep only one drake.

Our harvesting window is slowly closing.  Nobody wants to be slaughtering ducks in the freezing cold.  Heck, nobody wants to slaughter ducks at all!  We’ve been culling around 6 ducks each week.  It’s a family affair.  We all know what our jobs are and we work in a production line.  Warning:  some content may not be suitable for children or those with weak stomachs.  Read at your own discretion.  Lexie and I choose the ducks that are to be slaughtered and deliver them to the boys.  The boys get the awesome job of axing heads.  Okay, I know it’s not awesome – it’s gory, bloody, messy, and downright sucks.  But you suck it up and do what you have to do.  I don’t even cry anymore – I’m a big girl now!  The ducks are hung in a tree to bleed out.  We all start plucking down.  There’s a 55 gallon drum that is full of down and someday we’ll find a use for it.  Lexie and I also choose feathers that are pretty and interesting to save for making earrings with.  The boys finish off plucking feathers and gutting the ducks.  Everything is done by hand.  After the ducks are cleaned and prepped, they are put into the refrigerator for 3 days to “relax”.  When ducks are slaughtered they get stressed and the muscles all tense up.  Letting them set allows the muscles to relax and the meat to be more tender.  At the end of 3 days I do a final cleaning of the ducks and vacuum pack them for the freezer.  We are fortunate, this winter our freezer will be full!  OH, a farmers weather prediction:  the ducks have been packing on insane amounts of fat this year.  And it’s still early.  More fat means colder temps.  Ugh.

Muscovy Ducks

Muscovy Dinner, I mean ducks.

Around here, we eat duck 3 or 4 times a week.  We eat duck like most people eat McDonald’s.  One of our favorite ways to eat it is Duck with Noodles.  Reminds me of those Bertolli frozen meals that I used to eat way back when.  When we weren’t gluten free and worried about what was in the food we were eating.

Duck with Noodles

  • 1 duck
  • spaghetti or fettucini noodles (I use Tinkyada brand gluten-free spaghetti noodles – made with brown rice only!)
  • olive or sunflower oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 4 oz sliced mushrooms
  • garlic powder
  • salt and pepper
  • Bragg’s nutritional yeast
  • basil or oregano, to taste

Place duck in turkey roaster.  Sprinkle with choice of herbs, salt, and pepper.  Roast at 400 degrees for about 1 hour.  Remove and let cool.  Prepare noodles according to package directions.  While noodles are cooking, saute onions, garlic, and mushrooms in large frying pan until browned.  Place onion mixture in large bowl.  Drain noodles and place in frying pan with a little bit of oil, spices, and nutritional yeast.  Slightly brown or “fry”.  Remove from skillet and add to onion mixture.  When duck has cooled, remove meat from  bones and shred into the noodles and onions.  Sprinkle with spices and additional nutritional yeast.  Mix well. Our family of 4 can get 2 meals out of this.

Duck with noodles

Duck with noodles

The whole meal, hands on, doesn’t take long.  Once the duck is roasted, everything else comes together within 30 minutes.  Which is why it’s one of our favorite go-to meals.  Serve with a side of veggies, some homemade applesauce, and you’re good to go!

Duck with noodles and broccoli

Duck with noodles and broccoli

Farmers do eat well!  We feel really good when we sit down to eat, knowing that we put work into what’s on our plate and that we are capable of providing for ourselves.  It makes you appreciate your food, and a side of appreciation makes anything taste even better!

Blueberry Baked Oatmeal and Bunnies

This past weekend we attended the Loudonville Street Fair.  Street fairs are better than regular fairs (if that makes any sense).  First of all, they’re free!  Second of all, they’re free!  Okay, I know I repeated myself but you’ve gotta love free.  Sometimes I get a little aggravated paying $6.00 per person to get into the fairgrounds to walk around and see a few animals, get bullied by the crowds, pay an extra $2.00 per ride per person, and go home hungry because you can’t find any good food to eat.  Not that I’m bitter or anything.  But with a street fair, you walk in and enjoy.  After you’ve spent an hour or two and there’s nothing left to see, you don’t mind leaving because you don’t feel like you’ve wasted your money.  Call me frugal.

Amy at Loudonville Street FairA rare (really rare) picture of me.  Usually I’m the one behind the camera.

That’s me, standing by the Porta Potty.  Yep.

We went to the fair on a mission.  We were watching our friends show their rabbits. Both of the kids went home with a ton of ribbons and a few trophies.  Just another day on the showing circuit for them.

Rabbit show at Loudonville Fair

Winning rabbit of the show!

We had a little fun “posing” the fluffy bunnies too!

Rabbits at Loudonville Fair

Posing the show bunny

Lexie managed to get in a little bit of training on how to properly hold a rabbit.

You should hold them like a football, with their head tucked into your armpit (poor bunny) and your arms supporting them underneath.  This makes the rabbit feel secure.  Not quite sure what it has to do with a football, but I suppose that’s why you’ll find me baking instead of watching the games.  I’m pretty sure I’ve never taught my kids how to hold a football either.  Oops!  See, you just never know what skills to teach your kids and what they might need them for.  Football = Rabbit shows!?

Rabbit showing at Loudonville Fair

Learning how to hold a rabbit like a football!

Congratulations to the kids on their winning bunnies and winning showmanship!  And thanks again for all the tips!

Last night I made Blueberry Baked Oatmeal for dinner.  Yes, you heard right – dinner!  Todd had a late night at work and I wanted something easy with leftovers.  I heart leftovers!  And since my Grammy got me thinking about baked oatmeal…

Blueberry Baked Oatmeal

Blueberry Baked Oatmeal

Blueberry Baked Oatmeal

  • 4 1/2 cups of oatmeal (Not instant. We use certified gluten free oats)
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar (I use coconut palm sugar)
  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • 3 cups milk (we use Silk Almond unsweetened vanilla)
  • 2 eggs, beaten (fresh duck eggs, of course!)
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 to 1 tsp cinnamon (depending on how cinnamony you like it!)
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen blueberries

I’m a lazy baker.  SOOOO… I take a glass 9 x 13 baking dish, put my 2 sticks of butter in there, and pop it in the microwave for a minute to melt the butter.  Then I throw all the remaining ingredients in there and mix it up right in the baking dish.  You don’t even really need to measure the baking soda, salt, cinnamon, or nutmeg.  Sprinkle it in there and don’t worry about it.  Bake it in a 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes or so and enjoy!  You can even mix it all up, throw it in the refrigerator, and bake it in the morning.  That’s my idea of baking!

Blueberry baked oatmeal

Piece of warm fresh-from-the-oven blueberry baked oatmeal

If you look really close at the picture, you can see the steam coming off the oatmeal!  This stuff doesn’t last long around here.  Nik says he could eat it every day.  The great thing is that you don’t need any additional sweeteners or toppings.  Okay, I like to add a little more cinnamon and a dribble or two of milk.  Everybody else eats it just the way it is.  I’m thinking of trying it with apples and cinnamon or maybe peaches.  Like those little packets of instant oatmeal.  Only better.

Speaking of oatmeal, it’s snack time and I’m pretty sure there was a piece left over in the frig….

Have you made a different variation on baked oatmeal?  I’d love to hear some of your recipes and suggestions!

Pheasant with Homemade Crockpot Applesauce

I love this time of the year.  All the preparations for winter, a myriad of colors, a crispness in the air… and canning.

Fresh garden beets for canning

Beets from our garden

We harvested the remaining beets, tomatillos, and carrots from the garden.  The carrots were juiced for us and the leftovers were fed to Buster Bunny.  Tomatillos were made into salsa verde, which we all agreed wasn’t as good as our friend Dave made it.  I’ll work on it for next year, and maybe steal his recipe.

The beets were washed, boiled, peeled, and cubed in preparation for canning.  They would have to wait until canning day.

We took a day and went to visit my parents.  While we were in the area, we stopped at our favorite apple orchard and loaded up on apples.  We bought 4 overfilled brown paper bags of #2 apples.  These are apples that have fallen off the tree or that have a bruise or other minor flaw.  Perfect for homemade applesauce.  We bought a mixture of Gala, Macintosh, and Jonathon.  And a big bag of Honey Crisp just for munching on.

Peeled apples for applesauce

Large bin full of peeled apples

Super Easy Sugar-Free Crockpot Applesauce

  • peeled, cored, and chopped apples (enough to almost fill your crockpot)
  • lots of cinnamon
  • dash of nutmeg
  • water
Homemade crockpot applesauce

Crockpots full of homemade applesauce

Put everything in your crockpot, add a little water, and let cook on low for about 6 hours.  Or turn it to high for 4 hours.  You can add more water depending on how thick you like your applesauce.  You can also add a few more apples halfway through so that you get some apple chunks (if you like it chunky) in your applesauce.

Applesauce should be canned using the boiling water method.  Leave 1/2 inch of headspace in your jars and process quarts or pints for 20 minutes.

I spent the next day canning beets in the pressure cooker and applesauce in the boiling water canner.  We made 8 batches of applesauce over a 3 day period.  My kitchen smelled like apple pie.  It was also quite messy!

Canned Beets and Homemade Applesauce

Canned Beets and Homemade Applesauce

I now have 35 quarts of beets and 27 quarts of applesauce.  That doesn’t include the beets and applesauce that we’ve already eaten.  It’s looking to be a good year for canning!  I love the feeling I get from having a well-stocked pantry.

We had a surprise in the poultry pasture.  Nik was collecting eggs and came running back to the house.  I was sure something had happened to one of our ducks.  Instead, we saw this guy standing there…

Pheasant

Pheasant

Not what I expected with the ducks, geese, and chickens!  Nik and I herded him into a corner and he flew out.  I think he probably stopped by for a snack and wasn’t sure which way to go to get out.  Luckily for him, it wasn’t pheasant season!

To top off our day, we were treated with a beautiful sunset.  It makes me think of that old sailor saying:

Red at night, sailor’s delight

Red in morn, sailor’s take warn.

Colorful Sunset

Colorful Sunset