"Gypsy gold does not chink and glitter. It gleams in the sun and neighs in the dark."

~ Saying of the Gladdagh Gypsies of Galway

Friday, September 30, 2011

Baby Food: The Tools of the Trade

As you may have noticed, I have started a new tab at the top of my blog regarding Homemade Baby Food.

This is something I am very passionate about. I have done a lot of research and reading on making my own 'baby food'. Though a lot of the recipes are simple, I know the hundreds of questions that can mill around in the head of a mom considering this, so I wanted to share what I have done, and maybe I can answer one of those milling questions for some other mom out there!

I am not a pediatrician, and albeit, haven't followed some things most ped's would say you should do (like feed rice cereal). The recipes I post here, and things I discuss regarding homemade baby food, are simply things that worked for me and my baby. Please, go with your gut! If you hesitate try to something for your baby, then by all means, don't. You do what you feel to be right! I've found that this is the 'mantra' that works best for me. You will have people coming at you in all different directions with what they feel is the 'right' way to feed a baby, what you should and shouldn't be giving them and at what stages - it will be completely overwhelming to the point where you will just want to throw in the towel and feed your 2 month old a Big Mac just to appease every one! But at the end of the day, you are the mom and you do what you feel is best for your baby.

So, for this first post, I want to show you the things I use when I make my baby food. It is easy to get caught up in the hype of all the 'special' products out there specially for making baby food. But, I bet, most of these items you might already have. Why spend the money you are saving on making your own baby food on unnecessary equipment? I realize some items out there might be more compact, are 2 in 1 type things, and may make life easier, but if you already have the following things, it's simple and cheap to just use them!

First, you will need something for cooking your food. If you are doing something that doesn't roast in the oven, like say, a Sweet Potato, you will most likely be steaming it. I have a 'steamer' very similar to the one below and it works like a charm. The strainer on the left I do not use when making baby food - that's more for pasta and things of the like.

Once you have 'cooked' your food, depending on the age of your baby, you will need to puree or mash up it some. I have found 2 things work best for this, depending on the food. For some, I can use my Cuisinart Mini Prep...which BTW, I purchased at a discount store in college long ago for $10!! Boy has this thing paid for itself 100x over!

The other one would be a blender with a puree setting. When I have a larger batch of something fairly smooth once cooked down, like peaches or pears, I can throw it all in the blender for a quick puree.

After you have completed the food prep, you need to store it. What has worked best for me are these 4oz. Ball Canning Jars. They hold up very well; you can freeze them, throw them in the microwave and dishwasher and you can reuse the lids* and bands. (*Note, lids can only be used in a hot water bath or pressure cooker for canning once, however, you can continue to use them just for plain old fridge or freezer storage!) I know some people like to freeze into ice cube trays too, but my experience doing that was a pain! So I switched to the jars!

And lastly, the utensil I use most when making baby food are my rubber spatulas. Perfect for wiping down the sides of your pans, blenders, food processors etc! Stock up on these bads boys! You won't be sorry!

I realize making your own baby food might not be for everyone. There are many reason why I choose to do so, which I can save for a later discussion, but at the end of the day, if you are cooking for your family anyways, it doesn't take much extra effort to make a homemade meal for your baby! So go ahead, give it a try!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Barnyard Chronicles: 'Bad' Horse

Horse & Boredom can be a bad mix!

And, keeping it real, my horses are probably bored right now. My time is sparse with the baby and apple orchard. Throw in a few rainy days where they have to stay in the barn and it's the perfect recipe for boredom!

And I have this horse named Apollo. I think I've mentioned him before :) If there is one horse who cannot tolerate boredom, it would be him. His mind has to be continuously stimulated to the point where he's tired and needs a nap - otherwise, he is bored.

And this picture is evidence that he is extremely bored.

 Excuse me while I CRY!

 Bahhhh! Look what he did to this door!!!
He's done a lot of things in his times of boredom, but never to this amount of destruction. I think the baby put him over the edge! Every time I have brought home a new family member, he's rolled his eyes at me. But the baby, too much for him!

Gypsy, who is stalled next to him, is a 'chewer'. A chewer as in, a bad habit, she chews on wood. She'll do this whether she is bored or not. In the 6 years I have known her, she has always done this.

Sometimes, a horse stalled next too another horse with a bad habit, will pick up on the bad habit. I was a tad concerned Apollo might when they moved home with me. But alas, he did not. 

This is a wall of Gyspy's stall. Above is a photo from the inside, below, a photo from the outside of the stall. You can clearly see her bad habit and the peaks and valley's of artwork she has created for everyone to see in her stall!

This is a bad habit work of art.

THIS, below, IS NOT!
THIS IS 'I am SO FREAKING BORED and I am mad at your for letting me be bored so I am going to destroy things' work of art!


And to further prove my case, that Apollo is doing this out of boredom [and a tad of spite], this is an inside view of his stall. See how nice the wood is. No peaks and valleys like Gypsy's. He does not have a bad habit of chewing!! This I know.

And to top it off, he left me a nice chunk of tongue and groove wood, that he pulled OFF of the door he ruined, right in the middle of his stall!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Apple Harvest Party Week 5

Gosh - has it really been a week again already!
And once again, here I am, hosting a blog carnival, and I don't have anything to contribute!
I made an honest effort - I had the apples diced up and ready to go.....but then, I never finished and made anything with them! Tonight...tonight I will :)

What was I thinking trying to have a new apple recipe on a specific day each week during one of our busiest times of the year!?

But please, don't let my slack prevent you from sharing your apple recipe! Link up below :)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Homemade Roma Marinara

As I have unintentionally - at least, at first - have embarked on a more natural, real food diet for my family and I, there is one thing for certain I don't think I could ever buy store bought again. And that, my friends, is Marinara sauce! I do buy canned tomato's to make marinara with, but never again will I be buying processed marinara. You know what I am talking about. Prego or Ragu or whatever. Not only is the taste non-existent, but have you seen the ingredient label? And besides, convenience is a non-issue too when homemade marinara is SO easy!

On most days, I used canned tomato's and my other 'secret' ingredients, but now that I have an abundance of Roma's thanks to a co-worker, and not enough time to can them all, thanks to a harvesting orchard [!], I have been trying to ferociously use up as many as I can before they go bad. (We REALLY need to get a deep chest freezer!)

This really is so simple I can't imagine I am actually calling it a recipe, but it was SO good that I am counting down the minutes until I can eat the leftovers for lunch today! I didn't get any photos since I hadn't originally intended to blog about it, but the more I think about it, the more I think I must share. Especially for those still reaching for the Ragu - please, TRY THIS!

Here is how I did it with the fresh Roma's.

Approx. 15 Roma tomato's
One 8oz can of 'natural' tomato sauce - in other words, just plain old canned tomato sauce. Nothing with corn syrup and all that other garbage.
2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Unsalted Butter
4 or 5 garlic cloves, diced
1 shallot, diced
Tsp or so I dried oregano (or fresh if you have it - use enough to suit your taste)
Capers - I used about 2 Tbsp - we love capers :)
Sugar, Salt and Pepper

Bring a pot of water to boil - Score the bottom side of your Roma's - plop 6 or so at a time in the boiling pot for 1-2 minutes. Then, dunk them in cold water, peel off the skins and removed any other 'unappeasing' parts. Once you have done this with all your Roma's, put them in a bowl and crush them with your hands!

Place your Oil and Butter in a pot on the stove and warm it over med-high heat. Once hot, place your diced garlic and shallots in and saute for a minute or two. Then, throw in your hand crushed Roma's. Pour in your can of tomato sauce. Add sugar, salt, pepper and oregano to taste. I think I used about 1 tsp salt, 1 tbsp sugar and probably 1 tbsp cracked black pepper. Bring to a boil, allow to boil for a minute or two, then take it down to a simmer for AT LEAST an hour. Stir occassionally. Add your sundried's at this time too if you have them. They will break down as your sauce simmers, so long as you are allowing a decent simmering time - remember, at least an hour. And, add your capers if you choose to use them.

I served over Spaghetti noddles with some fresh Parm. It was FANTASTIC!! If you are a store canned marinara user, TRY THIS soon and let me know how you liked it!!

The beauty of this is you can adjust to whatever you like. Fresh basil would have been fantastic in this. And, if you have a teething baby by you side while you do this, they LOVE to teeth on a chunk of fresh parmesan cheese - just sayin'!

Do you make your own homemade marinara? What's your method?

Monday, September 26, 2011

An Important Piece of Plastic

Friday was one heck of a way to cash out the week for me! After spending the whole work week at another county fair, I was anxious to get home for the weekend. I guess I was a tad too anxious - I was pulled over...for speeding. *Dang*

Of course I can never catch a break and receive a warning. But this time, I can't complain. I should be happy for only receiving a ticket with a speeding fine. You see, when asked for my license, registration and proof of insurance, the only thing I could provide was the registration. I was told to hold on while the cop walked back to his cruiser [with a stick up his ass]. I frantically searched for my license to no avail and decided I must have left it at the bank earlier that morning - SUPER. Next, I searched for my insurance card. Found it -- expiration June of 2011 - Shit!

So, the cop comes back and first asks 'So what is your name now'? In his system, he was seeing my married name (which would have been on my license, had I of had it with me!) and on my registration, it was my madien name. Next question, did I find my license and insurance. At this point, I was striking out on all bases. No license and an expired insurance card. [I told him the new insurance card may have been in my laptop bag, in my trunk. He didn't want any of it] Luckily, I was handed my hefty speeding fine and sent on my way w/o issue over the license and insurance card!

So, naturally, after I pick up my child, I make a stop at our corner store to pick up something for dinner, and WINE! I needed that wine! I get to the register and as I am writing out a check, the [new] cashier asked me for my ID. I say "Oh, I have a check cashing card with you guys; I will put the # on my check for you" - not even thinking. She responds by saying 'Oh no, honey, I need it for the alcohol'. Instantly, panic sets in. Don't tell me I can't walk out of here with that WINE, LADY! I NEED THE WINE. So, without any hesitation, I sigh and lay it out there for here. 'Well, I don't have my license. Nope. I just got pulled over, got a speeding ticket and didn't have my license for the cop either. And at this time, I have no idea where my license even is. But (gesturing towards my child), I can assure you I am over 21'. How nice of her to think I wasn't and how crazy of me to think toting a kid around means I am old enough to drink alcohol! So she said she would need to call a lady from the service desk over since she didn't want to get in trouble for not carding me.

At this point, the line is growing, as I am holding it up, in protest for my wine. The lady in line behind me clearly felt my pain as she said to me 'Honey, you need to go home, open that wine up, and not go anywhere else for the night'. Just my plan lady, just my plan - provided they sell it to me! So, the customer service lady comes to the register, the cashier explains the situation, and the cust. service reps looks and me and says 'Oh, she's ok. She buys wine in here all the time!'

Moral of my story - don't loose your dang license; you can then purchase yourself alcohol without issue. And don't speed. Because it takes money out of your alcohol fund. *oy*

And no, I still haven't located my license. And it wasn't at the bank!

More stress insued when I got home, and before I could crack the wine, but I will save that tale for another day!!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Pumpkin Patch 2011

This weekend was our annual family outing to the pumpkin patch!

And it was this lil' cuties first time!

 This patch was more his size :)

And here is the whole family!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Drowning...in fruit!

I am drowning in fruit. Picking until my fingers bleed.
Maybe not literally, but none the less!

120 fruit trees and most of them are all harvesting NOW.
I know it sounds 'romantic' to live on an orchard and farm apples & pears and have more than you know what to do with at your disposal. But, it ain't so romantic when you are living it!!

Don't get me wrong. It is great, but it is a lot of work for a barely there pay. A lot of HARD, laboring work. That all takes place after you have already been at work for 8 hours. A lot of cranky husbands, and cranky me's. And sore joints, numb finger tips and more polishing apples than I ever though possible.

Our garage is filled to the brim with bushel baskets full of fruit. And we have MORE empty baskets waiting to be filled. I have beyond ripe pears waiting to be made into pear butter. And I am try to peddle out this fruit like no ones business! Cider anyone?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Apple Harvest Party Wk 4 & Apple MEATLOAF!

It's Week 4 for the Apple Harvest Party....right? Week 4?
Well, anyways, I have a recipe this week and it was shockingly delicious!

Add in your recipe using Apples (or Pears or Quince) in Mr. Linky below, check out those who've also participated, and then scroll down for my Apple Recipe this week!

Apple Meatloaf!!

I have yet to find a meatloaf I like...until now. I think I can finally say I found one I enjoyed and will make again! Last week I was a guest speaker at an event our local Metroparks holds speaking about being an 'Apple Farmer'. The main course of the meal served to those in attendance was Apple Meatloaf. I was skeptical because 1. I HATE meatloaf, and 2. adding apples didn't make it sound any more appealing to me.

I stand corrected!

You must try this meatloaf! The recipe comes from ECO-Chef Rae. It makes a pretty hefty portion; easily serving at least 4 people!

  • 2 Cups Ginger Gold Apples (or a semi-sweet apple with a nice, tart balance)
  • 2.5# Ground Beef
  • 1.5 C stuffing mix
    • Few notes: Don't use Stovetop - it has MSG in it.
    • I forgot to get stuffing mix at the store so I used Panko Bread Crumbs and threw in some dried Sage
  • 1 large Onion, minced
  • 5 tsbp prepared mustard with horseradish
    • I probably threw in a little over a tbsp of horseradish - just add enough to suit your tastes
  • 3 Eggs
  • 3/4 C Ketchup
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • 2 C cheddar cheese, shredded
Combine all ingredients, mixing thoroughly. Place in an 8" loaf pan and bake for 1h 15 min to 1h 30 min (depending on your oven) at 350 degree Fahrenheit.

I know this picture probably doesn't look too appetizing, but let's face it, there is nothing sexy about Meatloaf!

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Milestone

This cute

little boy

cut his

First TOOTH!

He's growing so fast!!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

[Busy] Weekend Homesteading

Lots going on here! I am keeping  busy, that is for certain.
and, in all my 'busy-ness', I am still trying to get my Halloween decorations out! This is WAY late in the season for me to still not have them out! The boxes are in the living room, though!

Market time is busy for us and we're pretty much into full fledged apple picking. This week I am making Pear Butter, Apple Butter and Apple Sauce for next weekend's market.

Yet, in all my 'busy-ness', I managed to pick 2# of grapes from our grape vines and made Homemade Grape Juice. After I saw the post on Mrs. Wheelbarrow's Kitchen, I knew I had to try it out!

I also made my first batch of Homemade Yogurt. After I read about Stacy doing it, I knew I wanted to try this too! I go through a lot of yogurt; I like to throw in my own jams and granola and eat it at work for breakfast!

I had a speaking engagement this past week and Apple Meatloaf was served. I HATE meatloaf! I have tried, so hard, to find a meatloaf I like. I have yet to be successful, however, this Apple Meatloaf might just have changed my mind! Stay tuned .... recipe coming!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Leaving your Husband Home Alone

Yesterday was an extremely busy day for me from before sun up until way after sun down! I was traveling for my day job and had a guest-speaking appearance to talk about our Orchard in the evening. I probably clocked 500+ miles driving yesterday.

In any event, yesterday was my moms day to watch the babe while I was at work and she was able to watch him into the evening as well. This, I figured, would be easier for my husband so he could get some picking done in the Orchard when he got home, and hopefully accomplish a few other things, since our to do list is as long as the miles I clocked yesterday.

So, hubby is home alone all evening. All he has to do is turn out the horses (and bring them back in for the night with some dinner), feed and walk the dogs and at the least, pick.more.apples.

When I got home, around 10ish, the sink, which was empty and clean when I left in the morning, housed enough dirty dishes for a dinner party for 3-ish!? And I guess he thinks the dishwasher houses boxes of food because he clearly doesn't get that it holds DIRTY DISHES.

This morning, he came in frazzled (whats new!) after he fed the horses; seems the donkey was sharing a stall with Romeo (because someone forgot to lock their divider door) and Romeo was still wearing his halter and lead from being brought in from the pasture last night!!!

Now, all I need to do is figure out what the heck could have caused such chaos for the husband, being home alone last night, for him to have left things in such disarray! I assume it was because I wasn't home to hound him ;)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Getting over the Hump [Wednesday]

Looking for a snack before bedtime!

I know today should be the Apple Harvest Party, but once again, I haven't had time to do anything with apples other than pick and sell! If you did though, leave the link to your apple post in the comments, and then I will add them to the post!

Happy Wednesday!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Method: Sun-Dried Tomatoes

My co-worker came through with more tomato's! And of course, pressed for time as usual, I decided to try and make 'sun-dried tomatoes' this time since the majority of the process all happens while I sleep!

I can't take credit for this idea - I spied it over on Food in Jars! And Marisa's defintely look nicer than mine, that is for sure :)

One thing I learned, that I believe Marisa touches on in her post, is to try and keep the slices uniform in size so they 'cook down' at the same rate.

I had some slices that took longer than others, which turned out to be a tad of a pain in the morning, when I was expected to just take them all out and store them! I had to keep waiting on a few to schrivel!

As Marisa suggests, I put these in a 200 degree oven for 12 hours (like I said, a tad longer on some if the thicker slices). I didn't see any issue in running my oven overnight but some people gawked when I told them I had my oven going all night long?? Who knows, maybe I will gawk too when the next electric bill comes!


Once they cooled, I threw them into a Mason jar and into the freezer. I suppose I could have zipped them into baggies with the FoodSaver, however, this is my first time doing this and who knows what portion sizes I will need when. So, though my freezer space is at a premium (read: we have no freezer space!), one quart sized mason jar seems to be fitting just fine!

Do you dry out any tomatoe's? What is your method?

Monday, September 12, 2011

Recipe: Homemade Cornbread

There was just enough of a chill in the air this past weekend for me to convince myself to make some Chili! So of course, chili calls for Cornbread. This is a slightly adapted recipe from on I found by Cat Cora.

Homemade Cornbread

5 tbsp butter, melted
3/4 Cup Cornmeal
3/4 Cup AP Flour
1.5 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
1 Cup Kefir
2 Eggs
Mix your dry ingredients in one bowl, and mix your eggs and kefir in another. Then add the melted butter to the egg/kefir mixture. Now add in the dry ingredients just until mixed in. Pour into a 6-8" cast iron skillet and bake on 425 degrees for 20 minutes or so...remove from the oven as soon as it starts to get golden on top and tooth pick comes out clean!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Never Forget

In Memory of those Loved & Lost

We'll Never Forget

Friday, September 9, 2011

Freestyle Friday

  • I have more Cabbage than I know what to do with right now. I don't have enough crocks to make it all Sauerkraut. But I could eat it all as Sauerkraut..make no mistake :)
  • So...I was trying to blanch & freeze using my FoodSaver bags. But, I must say, any time you want to use your FoodSaver for something that has been blanched, it is a big PITA! Because the veggies are moist, the bags don't seal right, so then you have to wait for them to dry out, or flash freeze them.
  • I got too tired to wait for either of these at 10 pm last night so I threw all the blanched Cabbage in Ziploc's and I will deal with it tonight -- I guess -- after I pick fruit until my fingers bleed ;)
  • Are these dogs for real?!
  • Looking for a 'new' car will be the death of me
  • Looking for a new car, in which this time my husband has a say too, will be the double death of me. Last time I bought a car, I can't even remember if we were engaged. So the decision was mine all mine.
  • My husband likes rough trucks with loud, obnoxious mufflers and obscene tires. I am looking to tote a kid around...and some hay bales, feed bags and other misc. items. I am not looking to join in the Muddin' Militia. You can see how this may be a problem.
  • We do put a truck to good use here on the farm. Our current one is one my husband bought in, I believe it was 2000, and you currently need to make sure you have an up-to-date Tetanus shot before you touch it. And it isn't running, again, at the moment.
  • God I miss this kid -- why do I have to work all day and send him to a sitter :(

Have a Good Weekend!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Sunflower Smile

Hubby's Handywork...after my mom gave him the idea! Something tells me this will turn into some kind of competition for them; who can make the better Sunflower face!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Apple Harvest Party - Week 3

Here we are, Week 3 of the Apple Harvest Party, and already I can't keep up! Ha!
I didn't have a chance to get to a new recipe for this week yet, because I was too busy dealing with Peaches all weekend ;) So I will work on getting an apple (or possibly Pear) related recipe done at some point this week and for now, I will share this old link, which is really not even a recipe, on making Applesauce ;)

And in the mean time, please share your post on something you do with Apples....or Pears or Quince!

Monday, September 5, 2011

The 'Season' Begins!

Where there is no imagination there is no horror.

- - -Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The beginning of September marks the beginning of a 'Season' for me - Halloween!
Yes, I realize Halloween is a holiday [I am sure some may beg to differ!], but it is MY FAVORITE and I just don't think the month of October is a long enough time to enjoy it!

So, the season's begun over here! Hubby picked our first pumpkin of the season - grew straight out of our manure compost at the back of the farm :) I smell pumpkin seeds roasting in the oven in the near future.

And apple dumplings...
And candles burning...
And crisp, fall air...perfect for flying the broomstick!

Do you like Halloween? What are your traditions?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Ain't No Rest for the Wicked

I heard it's labor day weekend...something about taking time to 'relax' for all the labor you do year round.
But, I say, 'there ain't no rest for the wicked...'
And we all know money don't grow on trees ;)

Busy weekend none the less. We've been slanging apples (and pears) like no ones business and it consumed all but dinnertime out of the day yesterday.

Today I spent 97.9% of the day in the kitchen...but that's ok since I enjoy it ;) My son will probably grow up to be a Chef since he watches me every move, while I cook, with serious concentration. And then he shoots me that grin of his!

Celery from the garden with fresh eggs from a fellow farmer for Egg Salad.

She must think she is a Peach....

Baby Food!
Pureed Peaches

Today I put up 5 quarts of canned Peaches and 6 half-pints of Peach Butter.
Who has a fruit/veg strainer attachment for their KitchenAid? Can we Skype because I splurged and bought myself one today to make my life easier when canning and it just made me more frustrated. It JUICED my peaches...but more on that later. And I have 9#'s left to do something with, so if you have this attachment and know HOW to use it, let's chat!

And, ta-da! Another box of 'maters from my co-worker. And they are smelling heavenly roasting in the oven right now.

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Unofficial End of Summer

Clearly, Mother Nature took the word 'unofficial' literally!!
Doesn't she know I have bushels upon bushels of apples to pick in the next 24 hours!!

Happy Labor Day Weekend, Everyone!

Image stolen from Seven Gates Farm blog :)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Lazy Days

The 'unofficial' end of Summer comes this weekend. The horses are enjoying the brief cool down in humidity and those last, lazy days of Summer!