Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Halloween Crafts

With Halloween literally right around the corner, the kids are getting quite excited to dress up and go Trick or Treating! In the meantime, we found some ways to have fun all in the name of Halloween!

These printable masks from Mr.Printables were a big hit and so easy to help the kids make.

Same concept with the Build A Monster. Just cut out the pieces and assemble into your own monster! (The kids needed a little help as some of the eyes and arms were a little tricky for their little hands to try to cut around without lopping off a vital piece)

And just for fun I packaged up some of their snacks and added these joke toppers to them.


I also came across this gem of a recipe for candy corn and white chocolate cookies from Averie at Averie Cooks. The kids absolutely love the festive cookies, and I'll always look for a chance to put candy corn in just about anything!

 (Photo from Averie)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, soften
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons cream or half-and-half
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons corn starch
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch salt, optional and to taste
1 1/2 cups candy corn (1o to 11 ounces)
1 cup white chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Using a mixer, cream together the first 5 ingredients on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, roughly 5 minutes.
  2. Add the next 5 ingredients, and mix on low speed until just incorporated, about 1 minute; do not over mix.
  3. Add the candy corn and white chocolate chips. Mix until combined.
  4. Form heaping two-tablespoon mounds, I got about 20. Place mounds on a large plate, flatten slightly, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, before baking. *Do not bake with warm dough because the cookies will spread and bake thinner and flatter. Make sure the candy corn is not baking directly on cookie sheet - it will melt, burn, or turn runny if it is. The candy corn pieces need to be in the inside of the cookies, completely surrounded by dough.
  5. Preheat oven to 350F. Place cookies on greased baking sheet, spaced at least 2 inches apart. Bake for about 9 minutes, or until edges have set and tops are just beginning to set. Even if slightly undercooked (pale and glossy in the center), make sure to not over bake because they will firm up as they cool. Allow to cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooking. 

Happy Halloween!!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Chili!

It's that time of year when we start canning and really stocking up our food storage. When the weather starts to get chilly, I really start to crave warm, hearty soups and dishes. This is a friend's recipe for her awesome chili and it makes a LOT! 10 quarts and 7 pints to be exact. Great to have in the freezer for a quick meal down the road!


Ingredients
Brown 10 lbs of hamburger meat or turkey, set aside to drain
In Large pot add:
1 large red pepper chopped
2 large cooking onions chopped
1 regular size can of tomato paste
1 tiny can of tomato paste
3 cans of dark red kidney beans
about 8 small/regular size cans of various brands of chili beans
2 large cans of generic tomato sauce
about 4-5 large cans of various brands of chili beans
mix together and add about 2 cans of water (you don't have to if you don't want to) I wanted to and some of the water will cook off.
3 cans of Del-Monte Green Pepper and Onion

Spices: This is definitely an estimation.
2 tbsp of garlic powder
2 tbsp of paprika
1 tbsp of black pepper
1 tsp of Zatarain's Blackened Seasoning (this will give it a little kick)
2 tbsp of cumin
2 tbsp of chili powder
2 tbsp of onion powder
about 6-7 shakes of Worcestershire Sauce
about 2 tsp of fresh chopped garlic

Note: She did not add salt because she adds 1 tsp of canning salt to the jars before she processes it and cans the rest. Also, make sure you freeze any leftovers.

Let this simmer for about 45-60 minutes and then it will be ready to pack some jars. Once everything is mixed together process at 240 degrees, 10 lbs of PRESSURE and PROCESS for 90 minutes .

Monday, October 27, 2014

Freebies!

I love a good deal and who can beat free?! I'm always cruising Amazon looking through their freebie section for anything I can add to my arsenal. You can never read too much and there's always something to be learned. Here are a few great homesteading, canning and DIY books that you can add to your e-Library (just click the title below the photo of each book to be redirected to Amazon). Remember, these were free at the time of posting BUT always check the price before clicking "Buy Now" to make sure it hasn’t returned to full price :)


Canning & Preserving: All About Canning And Preserving Food In Jars
Pressure Cooking Cookbook For The Busy You
Urban Homesteading: Become A Self Sustainable Urban Homesteader To Get Off The Grid, Grow Food, And Free Yourself
Essential Oils and Aromatherapy

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Combating the Cold and Flu with Essential Oils


It's that time of year again! Colds and the flu are sweeping through schools, daycares and work places. The cooler weather makes you more vulnerable to viruses because these viruses thrive in cool, dry areas. We break out our humidifier to help keep moisture in the air to not only assist in preventing colds and the flu, but to help our keep our nasal passages from drying out (I know I'm not the only one that is prone to nosebleeds in the winter). We also add a few drops of eucalyptus or peppermint oil to the humidifier's reservoir to reduce germs and it also acts as an air freshener!

Here's a few of our go-to essential oils for colds:
Peppermint
Eucalyptus
Oregano

These oils are great for helping to combat the flu:
Tea Tree Oil
Eucalyptus Oil
Lemon Oil
Lavender Oil

A steamy bath or shower helps, too. Drip about 10 drops of essential oil into the tub or onto a washcloth placed on the shower floor and breathe in deeply. Nothing makes me feel better than a nice soak with a good book in a steamy hot bubble bath - I could also easily live in a bath tub and the hubby has threatened to set a timer to kick me out.

Essential oils have more than one purpose. While they are great for medicinal uses, I also use essential oils to scent candles and soap, make multiple cleaning supplies, and lots of other things!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Fermented Chicken Feed



As many of you know, we have a brood of about 15 chickens. I have heard that fermenting chicken food results in lots of eggs, which was my primary reason for trying it out on our chickens.  We keep dual purpose chickens but our main reason for having them is for the eggs. Unfortunately, if they aren't giving us eggs or we have too many roosters hatch we butcher them. I really shouldn't say we, I don't do any butchering, I can't quite stomach it...yet! I will help butcher eventually!

Fermenting chicken food will improve the chicken's enzyme content and increase vitamin levels. Fermenting will also make it more digestible AND boost usable protein level. With all the good lacto-fermentation bugs in the food, the chicken's immune systems are given a boost and they have an easier time keeping disease at bay.  Healthy and robust chickens are happy and happy hens lay eggs.

Anyway, to ferment chicken feed, all you need is a container, chicken feed, water, and time. Right now, I use a quart sized mason jar and fill it half-way. Then I fill the jar with water until it covers the feed by about an inch or two. Seal it and let it sit for 3 days. That's it!

A three-day fermentation seems to work the best for us. Two days doesn't seem like quite enough time and anything longer than 3 days seems to create a more sour feed. You will know when the feed is ready when it is nice and bubbly.  The feed will have a sour smell, but shouldn’t smell rotten or putrid.  

If you want a steady rotation of fermented feed, start the same process in a new jar on day 2 and again on day 3. Also, on day 3 you will empty the first jar, feed it and refill it to start the fermenting process again. This way once you get going, you will have a container of fermented feed ready every day.

Please, keep in mind this is not my primary feed, the chickens still have access to regular chicken feed as well. If you will be using fermented feed only, you may need to go through some trial and error to figure out exactly how much is enough for your chickens.

Homemade Butter

We decided to try to make our own homemade butter, both for saving money and for health reasons (no reason butter should have more than 1-2 ingredient). And it is soooo simple to make!
Get heavy whipping cream and shake shake shake... No really, you're shaking for about 25 minutes then you drain, rinse and shake some more.

1.  We used mason jars to mix ours, fill the mason jar about halfway with heavy cream. Close it up shake.
2.  After about 5 minutes, the cream will turn to whipping cream. Keep shaking!
3.  The mixture will start to thicken and make a "shook shook" sound while you're shaking it.
4.  Now the fun part, it's going to separate into two parts. The solid piece should be a slight yellow color, this is the butter. The liquid is fresh buttermilk.

And people spend $20+ for a shake weight...they should just try making butter! 

5.  Now you'll want to pour the buttermilk into your extra container (if you're saving it). Take the butter and squeeze out the excess buttermilk. We simply pressed ours into a strainer with small holes so the butter didn't fall through as well. 
6.   Rinse with cold water and repeat until the water you're squeezing out runs clear. 


 That's it, you now have fresh butter (pictured above) and buttermilk.

Monday, October 13, 2014

"Pregnancy" Cookie Dough

I have been craving cookie dough for weeks but refused to let myself eat any because of the uncooked eggs....until I found an egg-less recipe that is great for pregnant mamas!


Ingredients
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup softened butter
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/4 cup milk
1 cup flour
1/2 cup chocolate chips
pinch of salt

Directions
Mix together and savor the aweseomeness of cookie dough!