Sunday, November 24, 2013

Laundry Gift Set

Well, as usual, life has been a little crazy around here. It's deer season, so the hubs has been gone a lot, we had the yucky stomach flu come through our house and my four year old had surgery to fix a couple of hernias. Told you it's been crazy! 

On top of all that we are getting ready for the holidays. I am doing a theme of "A Homemade Christmas" this year, so I've been busy crafting. I'll blog about that later when I have photos of everything. So, on top of the regular holidays that everyone is preparing for, I also have a mother turning 60. We are planning a surprise party for her. And I have a child turning 5! Like I said, life has been crazy! 

But, I have managed to get some more listings in my Etsy Shop. There's this really cute sheep print, as well as, some other farm prints I have listed before.



There is something totally new though! It's one of my homemade Christmas gifts that I am giving this year. I think it's such a cute gift I thought others may like to purchase it to give to someone they know. 

It's a natural laundry gift set...


You can read more about it in my Etsy Shop.

I hope the beginning of your holiday season hasn't been as busy as mine. Do you ever have a theme for your Christmas gifts? 



Thursday, November 7, 2013

Homegrown Pumpkin Puree - A No Waste Halloween


If you are anything like I used to be you probably buy a few pumpkins to set our as decorations. You probably carve one or two with the kids and then, they sit on the porch until the day after Thanksgiving only to be tossed into the garbage due to rot/soft spots/uselessness. 

Then you march on down to the super market and buy a can (or two) of pumpkin puree to make a pie. 

Well, that's what I always did. I was always told that making your own pumpkin puree was SO hard and SOOO time consuming that you might as well just spend a dollar on a can of puree. 

I am hear to tell you the truth. It is NOT hard. It may be a little messy, just like carving a jack-o-lantern is, but it is NOT very time consuming (especially if you do this on a rainy, cool fall day that would be spent indoors anyway).

The other truth about homemade pumpkin puree...

THERE IS NO COMPARISON TO STORE BOUGHT PUREE! 

What you will need:

At least one pumpkin (they say the smaller ones are better for pies, but you can use any size)

A blender or food processor (I used my Cuisinart hand blender)

Freezer bags (number will depend on how much pumpkin you are pureeing. I used quart size bags to store 2 cup portions.)

And that is it! So simple! 

So, like I said, "they" say using small pumpkins is better for pies, but this is the monster I first pureed...


Ha! Not very small, right? 

I chose this pumpkin because my husband's uncle grew it and he says these are the best type of pumpkins for pies. Through all my online research I could not figure what type of pumpkin this is, but it is pale in color compared to a normal orange pumpkin.

First, pre-heat your oven to 375.

To start the process you will first cut the pumpkin in half and clean out the "guts". This is so much easier than making a jack-o-lantern because you don't have to clean it out through a small hole. I only took a couple of minutes to clean this big one! 

I kept the seeds in a bowl and later roasted them. Stayed tuned for that AWESOME recipe soon! 


You will want to then cut the halves into half, making quarter size pieces like above. You can make them smaller if you need to for your oven. 

Then put as many as you can on 1 or 2 cookie sheets. I put them with the skin down. This way they do not loose all the juices into the oven and the pumpkin ends up being much more moist. 

Bake them in your 375 degree oven for roughly 45 min before you check the tenderness. Once they are fork tender they are done. The time will vary with each pumpkin. You want it to feel like a sweet potato that is ready to eat.

Once they are done, let them cool. Do not burn your hands! 

When they are cool use a metal spoon and start scooping and scraping all the flesh off of the skin. Put the pumpkin pieces in a bowl. They will look like this...


I pureed numerous pumpkins on this day. Some of them needed some of the juices drained while others needed water added to them during pureeing. Use your judgement to determine what yours need. 

I kept mine at the consistency of baby food. I've made a lot of that in my life, so that's all I can relate it too :) 

Like I mentioned before, I used my hand blender.


And pureed my pumpkins.



And pureed my pumpkins. 
LOL! Just kidding! It took just a few minutes per batch. 

When it was at a consistency I liked I just scooped 2 cup portions into quart size Ziploc bags. 

I labeled them with the year and where the pumpkin came from, as well as the portion size (in case I forget).


I like to label where they came from so I can compare tastes. Then I will know which ones are worth pureeing next year. This monster came from my husbands Uncle Tom. He grows them every year and lets us all pick them out to take home. We LOVE his pumpkins! 

Lastly, stick the bags in the freezer and use when you are ready. 

Use them for pies.

Use them for breads and muffins.

I am going to try pumpkin oatmeal! 

I hope you enjoy your pumpkin pureeing! 

Comment below on your experience. 

And Happy Fall 'yall! 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Homemade Candied Walnuts


As a part of our mission to live off the land and be as self sufficient as we reasonably can, we harvested the walnuts off our land.

We have just 3 acres and 3 (that I know of) walnut trees. And an UNBELIEVABLE amount of walnuts! 

This was the first time I have harvested walnuts. My husband watched his father and uncles do it growing up, but it was also a first for him. I used to think of walnuts as the giant annoying balls in the yard that left black stains on everything that touched them. But now, with my new mindset, I saw food. I mean seriously, do you know how much we eat store bought nuts? 

So, we started by collecting them. The kids loved this part, especially the younger ones. We went into the yard with a 5 gallon bucket and picked up all the walnuts we could find. We had to do this a few times over a period of about 2 weeks. It took that long for them to all fall off the tree. And yes, we had to wait for them to fall. Our trees are really tall. 

So, after we collected a few bucket loads I dumped them in the driveway. This works best on a gravel driveway since the colors can stain. Then we drove over them for about a week. This gets all the green outer coat off the nut, cleans them quite nicely and allows them to dry for a while. 

After they were clean we collected them again; this time off the driveway. And I left them in the 5 gallon buckets a few more weeks. 

After weeks they finally look like walnuts! 

Then it was FINALLY time to get crackin'. Literally, we had a lot of nut cracking to do! 

We borrowed my in-laws walnut cracker, which was a Godsend! 

It's probably an antique, but it sure works!

After all the cracking was done I had about 10 cups of nuts per 5 gallon bucket of shelled nuts.

And so... I made my very first batch of candied walnuts.

Mine are homemade and homegrown, but yes you can of course, buy your walnuts and candy them at home.

Recipe:

1 1/2 cups of walnuts

1/2 cup of sugar

A sprinkle of salt

What to do:
Prepare: Preheat the oven to 350. And spread a lay of wax paper out on a cookie sheet.

Toast the walnuts: Lay the walnuts out in a single layer on a cookie sheet (not the wax papered cookie sheet, but a plain cookie sheet. Toast the nuts for 7-10 minutes. Check them frequently and occasionally try one to see if they are done. You don't want to burn them! Once they are done, pull them out and let them cool.

Prepare the sugar: While the nuts are cooling, put the 1/2 cup of sugar in a sauce pan on medium heat. Once the sugar starts to melt you will want to stir  it frequently, then continually.

Candy the walnuts: Once the sugar is completely melted and is an amber color you can add the walnuts. Stir them pretty quick as the sugar will solidify very fast. Once the walnuts are coated you can put them on the wax paper. You will need to use two forks to spread them apart. They will clump and they will harden quickly. I had to actually brake some of mine apart.

And there you have it. Your own homemade candied walnuts.

They are delicious and addictive. You will be sure to make more!

These make excellent gifts. Just put them in pretty little jars and give to teachers, mailmen, family and friends.

Enjoy. And please comment below and let me know how your candied walnuts turned out.