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?
the baker gets the butts // chocolate orange walnut biscotti recipe from @bonappetitmag // my Christmas cookie lineup doesn’t change much, as I have a large roster of “can’t live withouts”, however, I’m looking to switch out one or two this year, so if you have a favorite please please please tell me 👂🏼
I’m all done with events for the year, but you can fulfill your #CaraSelCaramel gifting needs at select retailers (full list on my website) and some amazing holiday pop-ups, like this one at @hudsonriverexchange headquarters and in NJ at @montclairpopup. // 📷: @silkejacobs
chocolate espresso crinkles from @kingarthurflour, a Christmas staple in my home
I came up for air after a crazy week of caramel production; now in full on Christmas cookie mode // delicious brown butter coconut from @smittenkitchen #twodownmanymoretogo
Best helper here at the @bethelwoodscenter Holiday Market. We’ll be here today and tomorrow from 11-4, come on by!
exquisite tiny nest spotted on our traditional Thanksgiving Friday family hike
amazing root vegetables from @bloominghillfarm 🙌🏼
the ham has arrived!
two minute walk through the woods to a Thanksgiving service at St. John’s-in-Arden before heading to Mom’s for our family feast
chocolate bourbon pecan slab pie from @smittenkitchen’s new cookbook awaiting its lattice 🙌🏼
20lb ham out of its cure, ready to hang until tomorrow’s smoking
these guys are getting more comfortable with us / eye to eye for the first time
Its day two of the @hudsonvalleyhullabaloo and we are having a blast, come on by, we’ll be here til 5pm!!!!
✨GIVEAWAY✨ the #CaraSelCaramel packaging has gotten a little update; first person to come to my table at this weekend’s @hudsonvalleyhullabaloo and tell me what’s new will walk away with a free 6oz jar 🔍👀
20lbs of home raised & cured bacon: smoked ✅ trimmed ✅ wrapped ✅ in the freezer ✅ (and then he went to his real job)
Time to make your weekend plans, folks! Come have some fun and start your holiday shopping at the @hudsonvalleyhullabaloo! 75+ amazing handmade small businesses, great music, delicious food, and more - seriously, the portrait options alone are worth the trip! For more details 👉 hvhullabaloo.com. See ya there!
gleaning for local food pantries in @soonsorchards with Cornell Cooperative Extension this morning / more in stories
golden hour belies 30° temps
today we took the kids out of school to listen to this amazing woman speak about behavioral principles and reducing stress in animal handling #parentingwin #templegrandin
First ever (!) pallet shipment of #CaraSelCaramel on its way to a company in Georgia for their holiday gifting. Huge thanks to @ardentfarm for the packing and shipping expertise (and 📷). #bigday #smallbusiness