Welcome to the Ardent Homesteader blog! This is where you will hear about the latest news from our life here on the homestead. There will be lots of gardening, cooking, baking, family, and fun. Please subscribe to receive the latest updates!
Once upon a time my friend, Jill, told me about Carmelitas. It sounded like they would hit aaaaall my buttons, so I did a little research and found tons of recipes online. I picked three and kind of Frankenstein-ed them together. The results were just OK, but I knew they could be great with a little tweaking. Then I forgot about them.
My love for Girl Scout Cookies is strong. I am hard pressed to declare a favorite, as I worship both Thin Mints and Samoas. The former are tempting for their crisp chocolatey-ness and refreshing mint (And, have you ever eaten one frozen?!?!?! Oh man, so good!!!). Samoas, on the other hand, are chewy and decadent.
My husband, Dave, is proud of his Scottish heritage; his mom emigrated from Scotland as a young adult and most of her family is still there. For years, she helped organize a Burns Supper in VT, where she lives now. We loved attending and made the trip up each January. Disappointed when the Suppers were no longer held, we decided to take matters into our own hands.
A lot has happened here on the homestead since I posted about our first spring chore day a month ago. The new growth had me so giddy that I found myself constantly taking pictures with my phone. Here is a collection of some of those photos, so you can see what we've been up to.
Yesterday was our first real work-outside-til-the-sun-goes-down day of the year. The weather was perfectly suited to our labors, sunny, but not too warm, and with a light breeze. I took so many pictures with my phone, and didn't want to inundate Instagram, so I thought it would be fun to share them with you here.
Not too long ago I startedexperimentingwith cooking Cara-Sel down from a sauce to a candy, specifically, the "firm ball" stage. I first tried "soft ball," but felt a little firmer was best. This all began because I wanted to chop the caramel and fold it into brownie batter (um, yeah, the brownies are amazing!).
I kept meaning to post the instructions in case one of you wonderful folks wanted to try it, too, but, well, life got in the way. Fast forward to a few days ago when I saw on Instagram that one of my favorite bloggers (two sisters, one blog!) was playing around with baking caramel in cookies. Not being able to sit idly by, I sent her some sauce to play around with. We corresponded a bit via email about the method for the caramel and after further experimenting, Hannah came up with a complete recipe and had the great idea of us posting in conjunction. FUN!
From early fall to late winter we are rarely without a batch of homemade applesauce in our fridge. It's a great snack and since there isn't a lot of fruit in season here in the NE, it is nice to switch it up from eating apples out-of-hand or the trucked-in citrus we otherwise turn to.
After a bit of playing around a few years ago, I established what has become for ustheperfect recipe. I haven't strayed since. And since it containsonly the tiniest bit of added sweetener (honey), it is super healthy, too!
Every Christmasmorning, for as long as I can remember, I have eaten "apple stuff" for breakfast. My mom would fill the crock pot on Christmas Eve and we would wake up to the amazing scent of warm apples and spice. After we opened our stockings on Mom & Dad's bed, we would head downstairs to fill our bowls with the apple-y oat-y goodness, pour cream on top, and savor each spoonful. For me, it just wouldn't be Christmas without this delicious breakfast, so I have kept the tradition alive within my own family.
Why am I talking about Christmas breakfast in January? Good question. Well, I made Apple Stuff this snowy January morning -- the first time I have ever made it on a day other than the 24th or 25th of December.
When I first heard about The Four and Twenty Blackbirds Pie Book last fall I immediately requested it from my library system (overflowing bookshelves mean I always test drive cookbooks before making a purchasing decision). When I finally had the copy in my hands I knew this gem was going to the very top of my "to buy" list. In fact, I took the below photo with my computer's webcam and sent it to my "Pie Girls" to express how jaw-droppingly awesome it was (yes, I am a dork) and tell them that we MUST all grab a copy to use at our next Pie Day.
We decided to move the girls about a mile and a half away to enjoy the incredible grass in a neighboring field. They will move even further in a week, to an old overgrown pear orchard we discovered, before they come back to the house for winter. We had originally wanted them close now, with hunting season having begun. However, the location of the current field is such that bow hunters are not a concern (and they will be moved before rifle season starts).
I subscribe to many food magazines. Perhaps I should also say "too many," as I seem to always be backlogged. This does not speak at all to my interest in the subject matter. It is simply the result of me falling asleep midway through articles, bedtime being my only opportunity to read these days. I do not let myself skip ahead, but read the issues in order, cover to cover. However, when the Thanksgiving issues start hitting my mailbox, all bets are off.
I have been asked that question A LOT lately and when I was telling Dave about it one night he (rightly so) called me out for not having an answer. So, at 9:30pm on a school night, clad in pjs and longing for bed, I warmed some Cara-Sel and played around.
We love cabbage here on the homestead. To the point where it is a rare occasion that we do not have a head in our crisper drawer. During the winter we mostly cook with it, though I always try to keep a big ziploc of the red variety, roughly shredded, to add to our salads. The extra crunch, color, and nutrition is always a welcome addition. In the summer, we mostly enjoy this brassica in good 'ol cole slaw (more on that later), and this year we finally grew our own.
This summer a friend of mine came by to pick berries and brought me zucchini from her garden (thanks, Debbie!). This was very appreciated, as ours never made it into the garden this year due to our master gardener putting his back out during its planting window. I didn't realize this until I asked why we weren't overrun in late July like we had been in past years. D'oh!
Yesterday I helped Dave move the cows to a new pasture. This happens whenever they consume or trample most of the good grasses in their pen (typically between a half and full acre). As we clear the fields of brush, improving the grass quality, the pens will get smaller and the moves will be more frequent.
Today I realized that I had NO IDEA what I was going to make for dinner. At 3pm. Ack! I had gotten caught up in work/kids/chores and then...well...it was 3pm. I had a few things in the freezer, but it was too late for that to help. When this sort of thing happens and I have no direction in mind (except that it needed to be pretty simple and fast) I try to pick one ingredient and go from there.
A lot has been going on here on the homestead since my last post. Spring is always a busy time here, but add in some new family members* and include getting this company off the ground (We are Incorporated! We have a kitchen! It passed inspection! I ordered jars! I am designing labels! More stuff!) and you can pretty much get an idea of why it has taken me so long to get back here.
A few years ago I decided to tackle homemade naan to accompany a veggie curry I make several times each winter and haven't looked back since. Is it more complicated than buying some at your local grocery or specialty store (if they even have it)? Of course it is. But if you have the time and a sense of adventure, making it from scratch is totally worth the extra effort. You could have incredibly delicious, chewy, flavorful, fresh naan bread with less than two hours of actual active time and at a fraction of the cost. Pretty sweet deal if you ask me.
Here on the homestead, we love St. Germain in our summer cocktails, but it sure is pricey. Why not make our own? That's reasonable, right? We could make our own elderflower liqueur AND harvest tasty berries that have more vitamin C than oranges!
Well, we planted bare root elderberry starts two years ago, but apparently the deer work for the local liquor store. Sigh. Well, this year we are going with a higher fence in hope that the plants will finally bush out and give us lots of flowers and berries to play around with. Before any of that is even possible though, we have to clean out the mess that is the elderberry bed.
My amazing friend, Allegra, makes THE BEST chocolate chip cookies on the planet. I know, I know, you have probably read a million such claims, just as I have. In fact, I cannot count how many times I have switched favorites, but this time it is different. I have reached chocolate chip cookie nirvana and I shall never stray again. Try it yourself: go to her site, get her recipe, and make these cookies. You won't be sorry.
My eight year old is in second grade this year and birthdays in school are handled differently now - there is one party at the end of each month instead of individual parties. My guy, being a March baby, has his party tomorrow. A few weeks ago an email went out to the parents looking for contributions and I happily pounced on the cupcakes.
A few months ago, while eating pretzels and Cara*Sel, I had a pie epiphany - I remembered being intrigued by a recipe in November's Bon Appetit and it struck me that I should alter it to recreate my snack in pie form. I planned on trying it out at the next "Pie Day" (a quarterly bake-fest with three of my friends) which happened to be the winter one. Perfect! However, once our list was finalized, I realized it would be too complicated to actually get this pie done along with all of the others. Weep! So, I decided to make it for a birthday party I am attending tomorrow, as I simply cannot fathom letting this dream go unrealized any longer. Dramatic? Perhaps. But the proof will be in the pudding, won't it? Sorry, couldn't resist. Ha!
My mom's meatloaf is famous in our family. It was always a favorite when we were growing up and when I had my own family I made it just like her - ground beef, Lipton's onion soup mix, eggs, milk, and oats. I have since come up with my own adapted version, while still borrowing from her. I sauté onions, garlic, and finely chopped mushrooms, seasoned with salt + pepper. I add that to the beef along with soy sauce, Worchestershire, and Mom's eggs and oats. I don't follow a recipe, so I can't give you exact amounts, but here is a shot of the mixture so you can get a sense of what the oat ratio should be.
My middle son turns eight today. He is, of course, super excited about his birthday, and so am I - well, my excitement is tempered by the whole how-on-earth-is-my-baby-eight thing, but still. While we are not extravagant gift-givers here, I do go the extra mile when it comes to their cakes. I love collaborating with the kids on the theme and design (the internet is a huge help, especially Pinterest), and will let them help with the baking if they want to, but I do try to keep them out of the kitchen when it is time to actually decorate, so that there will still be some fun in the final reveal. I guess the big question is, who is it more fun for?
Dave told me not to get excited about this new growth on the almond tree because it doesn't mean the transplant was successful. #ignoranceisbliss 🙉
dinner tonight: our first asparagus of the season sautéed in ramp butter with mushrooms & spring onions, served over ricotta spaetzle browned in that same butter #ilovespring
waves of thread, at last
scratchy and freshly scented
line-dried towels, aaaaaaahhhh
Oh, @bloominghillfarm, how I adore you. #cilantro #springgarlic #scallions #springonions #ramps #bokchoy #redrussiankale
Many years ago we planted our first fruit trees, two sour cherries amongst them. The next season, as evidenced by the almonds that grew on one, we realized the nursery made a mistake. We laughed and kept it for fun. The tree became an issue, however, when it became clear that it was a semi-dwarf, not a dwarf like our others. Dave talked about removing it ever since, but always acquiesced when I protested. Knowing he was right that our cherry crop would be forever diminished by the shade of the almond tree, I eventually gave in. Still, when he unceremoniously ripped it out Sunday, it was a huge bummer. The boys and I pleaded that we find it a new home (no small task & no guarantee it wouldn't die anyway). Dave agreed to try as long as we all pitched in. It was tough work, but no one complained. Hopefully we were successful, only time will tell.
If you want to see how we did it check out my story 👆🏼😀
Halfway done weeding the elderberry hedge when the birds infiltrate the freshly loosened soil to scratch up a storm. 🕷🐛🐞🐜
#peepsmilk #why #🤢
84° in early April. It would be wrong to not hit @bellvalefarmscreamery, right? #ifimwrongidontwanttoberight #blackberryblackout
On this day last year I couldn't wait for the sun to rise. Maple had given birth the night before and we hadn't been able to see her new calf. The excitement we felt as we ventured out into the chilly pre-dawn was nearly palpable.
Our new additions were greeted with quite a buffet thanks to @dottieaudreysbakery. #zerowaste
garden bed beer is the new snowbank beer #weeding
A ton of milk and no time to make cheese, so why bother boiling tatties in water for mash? Aside from two boil-overs, it was such a spectacular success that I may never do it the standard way again. The addition of whole garlic cloves didn't hurt either. // nothin but s+p, potatoes and garlic from @bloominghillfarm, and our own raw milk #ftw
out of the oven at daybreak, ready to greet the bleary eyed / date coconut muffin recipe from @juliasforza's fabulous blog (a few tweaks to use up items I had on hand turned them into tropical banana muffins) #bakingbeforethebus
Another day, another ricotta toast breakfast #ifitaintbrokedontfixit // granary bread from @dottieaudreysbakery, ricotta from our own raw milk, Kiwi Kumquat Grand Marnier jam from @mayasjams
Oh man, check out what Anne, the @accidentallocavore, made with her jar of #CaraSelCaramel: crunchy caramel granola! The recipe is on her awesome blog (link in her profile), just search "granola"
Join me this weekend, April 1-2, at the Hudson Valley Wine & Chocolate Festival in Patterson, NY, where I will be sampling and selling #CaraSelCaramel and other tasty treats alongside some of my favorite vendors (@cardoso_cookies! @mayasjams! @fruitionchocolate!). There are still a few tickets available for this wonderful charity event (but Saturday is close to selling out, so hurry!!!). Details can be found at hvwineandchocolate.com