Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Immune Boosting Tonic

This recipe was given to us by a friend a few months ago and this is the first time we have made it. He says it has worked really well for his family.....hardly ever a cold or flu in the house!

Immune Boosting Tonic

1 T finely chopped garlic
3 T finely chopped onion
3 T finely chopped fresh ginger root
3 T prepared horseradish (or finely chopped fresh)
1 t dried cayenne powder
apple cider vinegar

Sterilize a one pint jar.

Put all of the above ingredients into the jar, then cover with the apple cider vinegar, filling the jar to the brim.

Let sit 2 to 4 weeks. Shake every day. The longer it sits, the stronger it becomes.

Strain into a clean jar.

We take a small amount of this every day, diluted in some water. 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Using Our Solar Sun Oven

I can't stress enough how much we love our   Sun Oven . I use it almost every sunny day and have cooked everything from soups, breads, muffins and apple sauce to pasta dishes.

It's such a different experience cooking in a solar oven than in a regular oven. Some times the food cooks faster, sometimes slower depending upon the amount of clouds that pass by.

For us, the easiest things to cook are those that don't need careful watching; put all the ingredients in a kettle, place in the oven and point it towards the sun. Through out the day I simply reposition the oven towards the sun.

Today we have a pasta dish cooking. I put raw hamburg, raw pasta, seasonings, tomato sauce and a little water in the kettle and it's been cooking for the past few hours. I didn't measure anything, just threw it all together. Yesterday we made apple sauce- 3 batches.

Pasta In The Sun Oven
 The great thing about a solar oven is anyone with access to south facing sun and an outdoor area can use one, city or country, doesn't matter. It's one more way to become a little more self-sufficient. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Apple Recipe: Apple Chutney

We like this recipe because it allows us to make just one pint at a time. The recipe is easily doubled.

The chutney has a somewhat strong vinegar taste and is delicious with beef. The recipe is adapted from Home Made in the Kitchen: Traditional Recipes and Household Projects...

Apple Chutney

3 ½ c chopped apple (okay to leave the skins on if they are organic)
¾ c white vinegar
½ c honey
½ t turmeric
½ t ginger
pinch of cayenne
1/8 t crushed red pepper
½ t salt
1 T frozen orange juice concentrate

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan.

Cover and bring to a boil. Uncover and simmer about 20 minutes, until the liquid has evaporated and the mixture is thick.

While the mixture is cooking, sterilize either 1 pint jar or 2 half pint jars.

Once chutney is thick ladle into sterilized jars. Process for 5 minutes in a boiling water bath, or store in refrigerator.

Yield: 1 pint, or 2 half pints.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Latest Swarm of Honey Bees

We seem to get quite a few honey bee swarms around here, which is really bizarre because we have a hard time keeping our bees through the winter. This has lead us to believe that the bees prefer finding their own habitat; at least that's how we justify it.

These are photos of a swarm that was here last week.

We used to get empty hives to capture the bees into, but now we just let them do their own thing. Not great for honey production, but we are just looking to get enough for ourselves, which has been working out just fine. (Read here how we got our honey this Spring)

We set up empty hives and each year bees seem to move in on their own, with no help from us; sometimes they stay, sometimes not. There are always plenty flying around our apple blossoms and gardens.

We get great enjoyment out of watching the swarms; and we enjoy the bees doing their thing.

As my husband likes to say “Mother Nature has been doing a great job for all these years, why should we interfere”.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Recipe For Easy Rhubarb Jam Using Honey Instead of Sugar

 This is a very easy jam recipe, and quite delicious!

Rhubarb Jam

3 quarts of rhubarb, cut into apx 1/2” pieces
3 cups honey (or more to taste)
3 T orange peel

Combine ingredients in a large bowl, mix well and let sit at room temperature for about 3 hours.

Transfer into a large kettle and bring to a medium boil, reduce heat to a slow boil and cook until thick, stirring often. Mixture will thicken in about 2 hours.

To can, ladle hot jam into sterilized jars and process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Store any extra jam in the refrigerator.

Makes about 5 pints.


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Starting Rosemary Plants

I read an article a few years ago about taking cuttings from a rosemary plant to start new plants. It's one of those things that has been on my "to do" list, which is crazy because it is so simple I should have done it the moment I read the article.

All you have to do, according to the article, is fill a pot with good soil, snip a cutting from your rosemary plant and stick it in the soil. Water well and often.

I did these three cuttings about a month ago. The first few days I left the plants in the shade so that the soil wouldn't dry out too much between waterings. Then I set them in partial sun, where they have been ever since. 

The article said that after a month or so give the cutting a little tug to see if it is taking root. All three of these are. I water them almost every day since the pots are so small and they do dry out quickly.

Rosemary is one of those plants that I have a hard time keeping alive during the winter, so that will be the real test for these plants.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Making Mint Sun Tea

There are some really great ways to conserve energy/power. One of our favorite is to make sun tea, since so many people have  access to the outdoors (and sun) and can make it.

Sun tea can be made with different herbs, regular tea bags and even with spices added for variety; imagination is a great thing when it comes to making sun tea.

For a simple mint sun tea we simply:

Pack a jar full of mint leaves (stems included). The size of the jar depends upon how much sun tea you would like to have.

Fill the jar with water, being sure all the leaves/stems are covered.

Set jar in the sun. The more sun, the stronger the tea is.

We usually let ours sit out all day and bring it indoors in the evening.

We then strain the water from the leaves.

To sweeten, we heat some honey and water together and add it to the tea. We have also added honey to the tea while it is in the sun and let it all steep together.

A friend of ours adds fresh stevia leaves to her tea as a sweetener and has had great luck.

Since sweetness is a matter of preference, it is good to experiment to see what you like.

Store the strained tea in the refrigerator and enjoy on a hot summer day!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Update on Starting Cucumber Seeds Under Plastic

A few months ago we posted about Starting Cucumber Seeds Under Plastic. This was a two-fold experiment- starting the seeds under plastic (which we have done in the past in raised beds) and growing the cucumbers in a large pot.

So far, success. We ate our first cucumber July 13th and have had one every day since. There are lots of blossoms and cucumbers still coming.

We are very happy with how this has worked out and will try it again next year in more planters, as well as in the garden.

As a bonus, we really enjoy having the cucumbers so close to the house!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Making Your Own Vanilla Extract

There many things that one can do to be more self sufficient and save money, and have a healthier product. Making your own vanilla extract is one.

I have read of a few different ways of making homemade vanilla extract, however we have found this to be the easiest. 

It is really incredibility simple.

All you need are Vanilla Beans,a jar and some vodka. We usually buy the cheapest locally made vodka we can find. I am sure a more expensive vodka would make an even better tasting vanilla, but for our baking this works.

Simply sterilize a jar by pouring boiling water into it. Let the jar dry.

Place vanilla bean in the jar and cover with vodka.

Let sit a few weeks for the flavors to develop. The longer it sits, the stronger the vanilla flavor will be.

As we use the vanilla we add more vodka until the vanilla looses some of it's flavor. You will know once you use the vanilla and get used to the flavor when you may want to add more vodka. We also have been known to add another vanilla bean to an existing bottle and continue the process.

We have been making vanilla extract this way for the past 15 years or so and have had great luck.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Making Rhubarb Vinegar

Since it's rhubarb season we have been trying to come up with new recipes and uses for rhubarb. A few weeks ago we thought of rhubarb vinegar.

We have had luck with raspberry vinegar and thought we could do rhubarb the same way.

Following directions from Herbal Vinegar: Flavored Vinegars, Mustards, Chutneys, Preserves, Conserves, Salsas, Cosmetic Uses, Household Tips we gave it a try.

We cut rhubarb into approximately 1/2" pieces and filled a pint jar. We decided to do only one pint in case we didn't care for the taste.

 Then we covered the rhubarb with white wine vinegar and put a dish towel over the jar. The book says to keep the vinegar in a cool, dark place and a towel was convienent for us.

 After about a week we tasted the vinegar and thought it was delicious. The rhubarb flavor was strong enough for our taste. We could have let it sit longer (like we do for the raspberry vinegar) but we liked this.

The flavor is a nice rhubarb taste. So far we have only used the vinegar on a green salad, but I also think it would be good with fruit or chicken.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Dilled Green Cherry Tomatoes

Dilled Green Cherry Tomatoes

We usually make this recipe in the fall, when we have an over abundance of green cherry tomatoes, however it is so good that I have been known to make it early in the season. I like this recipe because I can make just one quart at a time.


1 quart whole green cherry tomatoes

1 carrot cut into 3 or 4 pieces

2 cloves of garlic

2 teaspoons of dill seeds

1 teaspoon pickling salt

1 cup of vinegar

boiling water (to cover ingredients once in the jar)


Sterilize quart jar(s). Pack in all the ingredients (except vinegar).

Pour in the vinegar then top off with the boiling water, leaving 1/4” head space. Tighten lid.

If refrigerating, let cool and then refrigerate. Let sit 4 weeks or so to let the flavors develop.

To can, process in boiling water bath for 5 minutes.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Chicken With Rhubarb and Maple Syrup

 Chicken With Rhubarb and Maple Syrup

This is one of those recipes to make when you don't feel like cooking, but want a decent meal. There are no set ingredient amounts, just wing it and throw it all together. Be sure to use enough maple syrup to offset the tartness of the rhubarb.

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Thyme, fresh or dried
Rhubarb, fresh (frozen would probably be fine, but we have never done this recipe with it)
Fresh, or dried ginger
Maple syrup

Place chicken in a baking dish. Sprinkle with thyme.

Cut rhubarb into 1/2" pieces and cover the chicken with them.

Add a little fresh ginger and drizzle maple syrup over the top.

Bake, covered, at 350°F until chicken  is done (about 25 minutes).

Chicken with rhubarb and maple syrup, ready to go into the oven

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Rhubarb Recipes: Rhubarb-ade

The perfect replacement  for lemonade during rhubarb season!


  • 4 cups rhubarb; chopped
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 cup honey



Simmer together rhubarb and water until the rhubarb is tender, about 25 minutes.

Strain the liquid and add honey.

Add more honey to taste if needed.

This recipe doubles, or halves easily.

Enjoy warm or cold. Is also good mixed with seltzer water.

rhubarb, simmering

Monday, May 13, 2013

Separating Cream From Milk

We are fortunate to live close to an organic farm where we can buy raw milk (since for now we are not milking any of our cows).  And one of the added benefits is that, left to sit in the refrigerator over night, the cream will rise to the top of the milk, making it easy to separate.

We have future plans to someday get a cream separator, but for now we do it a simple way.

The container of milk is set at a higher level than an empty container.

We use a piece of plastic tubing to start a siphon and let the milk flow into the empty container, being careful to stop before siphoning the cream.

If you look closely at the top of the milk you can just make out the cream, it is a slightly darker color.

Once we get to the cream we simply remove the plastic hose to stop the flow.

The cream can then be used however you like. For us it's usually made into whipped cream, one of my all time favorite foods.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Starting Cucumber Seeds Under Plastic

For the past few years we have started our cucumbers early in the garden and covered the newly planted patch with plastic. This year we thought we'd try something new.

We've had luck with many plants in big pots, tomatoes, peppers, greens, beans. So this year we're going to try cucumbers.

I planted the seeds yesterday in a large pot and covered it with plastic like I do in the garden. 

We use concrete reinforcement wire to make tomato cages and will use one as a trellis for the cucumbers to grow up.

Hopefully this will work. I will post an update later this summer.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Dividing Rhubarb and Making A New Planting Bed

Dividing Rhubarb and Making A New Planting Bed

If there's one thing I'm good at it's poor planning. Just ask my perennials that get moved year after year, even after I promise them 'this is the last time, I promise!'

This years poor unsuspecting fool was rhubarb.

When I made the first (yes, the rhubarb has actually been in the same spot about 6 years, possibly a record) made the rhubarb bed, I had no intention of moving it. But as the years have gone buy I realized that I want to move the cow pasture a bit, and the rhubarb patch is in the way. Hence, this Spring's overhaul.

Back a few years ago we put up a green house, and thought we might add a second one. We put plastic on the ground and weighed it down. That is as far as we got with those plans.

Along with most things around here, plans changed and we are not putting up a second green house, at least not in that spot.

The good thing is that the grass there has died and the dirt is nice and loose to dig. A perfect spot to move the rhubarb.

I started by digging up the ground and adding some compost from the cow stall. This compost has been decomposing for the past few years and looks great.

I dug up a large patch of rhubarb and divided it to make the replanting easier.

I dug large enough holes to plant the rhubarb and refilled with dirt.

I then added more compost as a mulch and watered well.

I will continue with this process until the rest of the rhubarb is moved.

I am not sure how much of a harvest we will get this year, but this is the last time I will be moving the rhubarb....promise!

Here are some recipes we've made using rhubarb

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Shortbread Cake

This is one of our favorite dessert recipes to make. It uses honey instead of sugar, and is not overly sweet. We serve it with fruits (and usually whipped cream because I am always looking for an excuse to eat more whipped cream!)

Shortbread Cake


1 cup flour
1/2 cup milk
1/4 cup honey
2 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon vanilla


Grease an 8” x 8” pan.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Mix all ingredients in a mixing bowl until well blended.

Pour into pan and bake about 20 minutes, until a knife comes out clean when inserted in the middle.

This makes a great shortbread for strawberry shortcake or any other fruit dessert, especially when served with whipped cream.

shortbread cake ingredients

shortbread cake, ready to go into the oven

shortbread cake, baked


Monday, April 15, 2013

Harvest Grains Batter Bread

 For Christmas last year we received many different types of King Arthur flour and have fun experimenting with them. However, please note that this bread can be made by simply using any flour. We have had good luck using an all purpose bread flour, as well as part whole wheat flour. We encourage you to experiment with different flours to see which taste you enjoy the most.  Instead of the Harvest Grains, additional flour can be used.

Harvest Grains Batter Bread
Makes one loaf

1c. all-purpose flour
1c. King Arthur European flour
1 1/4 c. King Arthur Sir Lancelot flour
3/4 c. King Arthur Harvest Grains
2 Tbs  dry yeast
1 tbsp. honey
3/4 tsp. salt
1 1/4 c. warm water
1 egg

In large bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups flour, harvest grains,yeast, honey and salt; mix well. Add water and egg, mixing well. Gradually stir in remaining flour to make a stiff batter.

Spoon into greased loaf pan (we also used greased parchment paper). Cover; let rise in warm place until doubled, about 1/2 an hour. Bake at 375 degrees for 35 to 40 minutes until golden brown. Remove from pan; serve warm or cold.

This is a hearty bread with a course texture.


Saturday, April 6, 2013

Fresh Honey Comb

Over the past 6 or so years we have had honey bees off and on. I say 'off and on' because quite a few winters we loose them but come summer we get swarms moving into empty hives. We are starting to think that they don't like Maine during the winter, but like to return in summer (maybe they are going to Florida for the winter like a lot of Mainers do)

Late fall we had two hives that we had acquired during the summer. Both were strong hives and had plenty of honey. Now the bees are gone. Still plenty of honey for them, so they didn't leave because of lack of food. I hope they will be back this summer.

One of the swarms had moved into hive parts that we had stored in a stack, no foundation in it, only empty boxes.

When this happens the bees will create their own foundation, but it is hard to get the honey. We weren't concerned about this, because we just figured we'd let the bees do their thing. Now that the bees are gone, the hive is full of lovely honey. Too much to leave sitting there waiting for critters to get it. We decided we should be the ones to enjoy it.

The flavor is wonderful. We chew on small pieces of the comb then spit out the wax (it's kind of like the wax teeth candy I used to buy as a kid, only so very much tastier.)

We now have a huge stainless steel bowl full of honey comb sitting on the kitchen counter. And the kitchen has the wonderful smell of honey to it.