Sunday, April 29, 2012

Menu Plan~4/29/12

Today is my Mister's 46th birthday. All month he has been reminding me that it's "my birthday month" so he can get his own way.

Problem with that philosophy is that if the birthday boy forgets to ask for his special day off from work, it makes the rest of the month null & void.

Okay, not really. But we are going to be celebrating this week. There will be cake. And there will be ice cream.

And because May 1st marks the beginning of my birthday month, I'm planning on cake and ice cream more than once. Gluten-free of course.☺

Here's what's cookin' this week...


Pennsylvania Dutch Baked Oatmeal (with pears and vanilla)
Tom Kha Gai Soup (new), steamed broccoli

Sweet Potato Casserole (new), Stir-fried garlic green beans, grilled trout


Breakfast Hash with deer sausage
Meatloaf, garden salad with Bleu Cheese Dressing, Gf Biscuits

Poached eggs over steamed spinach, Gf Biscuits
Roasted Rosemary Potatoes, grilled chicken sausage, creamed green peas

Chicken, black bean, & rice enchiladas with corn tortillas

This post is linked to Menu Mondays at I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Spicy Dreams

Before I head to the garden for a fun-filled weekend of digging and planting, I thought I'd share with you some spicy deliciousness I recently found on Pinterest.

At least I think they were on Pinterest.

As usual, I wrote the recipes for these 4 different popcorn spice blends, but failed to write the source. I also didn't "pin" the recipes, so they may not have come from there at all.

I really don't know as much as I think I do, but I'd appreciate it if ya didn't tell the family.

They think I'm a genius.

And I can live with that teensy-weensy little lie.☺

For my favorite popcorn recipe, go here. Omit the salt if using a seasoning blend; you can always add more later.

~Italian Blend~

1/4 c. canned Parmesan cheese
1/2 t. dried oregano
1/2 t. sea salt
1/4 t. black pepper
1/4 t. crushed red pepper

~Cajun Blend~

2 t. paprika
1 t. onion powder
1 t. garlic powder
2 Tb. sea salt
1/2 t. black pepper
1 pinch cayenne pepper

~Southwestern Blend~

1-1/2 t. chili powder
1 Tb. paprika
1 Tb. ground cumin
2 Tb. sea salt

~Curry Blend~

1 Tb. curry powder
2 Tb. sea salt
1 t. turmeric
1 pinch cayenne pepper

Mix and store in shaker style containers. Shake on popped corn. These would be great on pasta, rice, baked potatoes, or different meats too.

I wish I could tell you which was my favorite, but it was too close to call. I loved them all.

In order to declare a true winner however, I should probably taste these again tomorrow.

And Saturday.

Maybe Sunday...☺

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

We're That Family

Lately I've been hearing a lot about "unschooling." Afraid I was missing out on something important, I took it upon myself to Google "unschooling."

Watching the 1963 version of "Jason and the Argonauts" for Greek Mythology

Forget for a moment that the built-in spell check doesn't even recognize this word as one. Forget that the word "unschooling" sounds like some power-to-the-people-hey-I-don't-shave-my-armpits-hippie-free-lovin'-I-don't-remember-where-I-parked-my-Volkswagen kind of terminology. And try really hard to not think that "unschooling" may be just an excuse parents use to explain a child's unruly free-spirited behavior.

The boys rolling beeswax candles.

The official definition of "unschooling" is this: Unschooling is a natural learning method that is mainly based upon the life experiences that daily living provides.

Heather cooking lunch for Home Ec.
 That's it!?! You mean that everyday life experiences are considered school? Or unschool? Activities my children naturally enjoy or want to pursue are considered learning opportunities? Well, doesn't that make every parent (who is present in their children's lives) a homeschooling parent? Even if the kids get a more traditional education via the public school system?

Mandie learning to quilt.
YES. It does. Parents need to remember that learning starts at home. It starts at birth when the newborn learns which cry to use to be held, fed, burped, or changed. It continues during the toddler years when that same child is being trained to use the potty. Learning at home doesn't stop when the child goes to kindergarten; there are shoes to be tied, clothes to be put on correctly, even homework to be done. And as the parent of 5 adult children, the learning doesn't stop with them reaching the magical age of 18.

"Mom, how do you poach eggs?" 

"Dad, how do you rotate tires?" 

"Mom, why would the baby have a rash on her hand?" 

"Dad, how do I file my income tax return?"

Trust me, the learning process never ends. But now there's a term for it. And for once, I feel like I'm part of the in-crowd.

The Mister learning new nursing techniques~with his eyes closed.
 We're an unschooling family with homeschool tendencies.

We're that family.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Freezer Cooking~Turkey Sausage Pasta Sauce

In order for me to spend any time outside, sometimes I need to resort to drastic measures. This might mean that we'll eat 6 whole chickens in a week's time, or consume 4 pints of raspberry freezer jam in a matter of days. All with the purpose of clearing out some space in the freezer for other stuff. Important stuff.

Pasta saucy stuff.

I found this recipe in the cookbook, "The 150 Healthiest Slow Cooker Recipes on Earth." I didn't use a crockpot though. Because I'm an idiot. (Don't worry, I already knew this fact, so I'm not too upset.) In order to make a gallon of pasta sauce, one needs to make sure that their crockpot will hold a gallon's worth of sauce.

Mine is one quart shy of a gallon.

Of course. Somehow this doesn't surprise me either.

Never one to be outdone by idiocrisy, I retaliated with my trusty Dutch oven.

Because it holds 1 gallon, plus 1 quart.

I love the Dutch.

If you happen to have a bigger crockpot than I, please don't tell me. I don't want to know. I can't know. Because if I know that there are other, bigger and better crockpots out there, I will want one. And I must refrain from purchasing a new one. Because the sun is shining, and I'm holding out for one of these~

♥Cuisinart 2-quart ice cream maker♥
Just in case the nice weather decides to stick around awhile.☺

~Turkey Sausage Pasta Sauce~

~The Players~

1 c. sun-dried tomato strips in olive oil, drained, oil reserved
1-2 Tb. olive oil
2 large sweet onions, chopped
4 celery stalks, chopped
5 large grated carrots
2 red bell peppers, cored, seeded, and finely chopped
8 cloves garlic, minced
8 links Italian turkey sausage (I could only find mild, but the original calls for spicy.)
4 (28 oz.) cans crushed or diced tomatoes
2 t. dried oregano
1/2 Tb. Sucanat (can use brown sugar)
1/2 Tb. sea salt
1 t. cracked black pepper
1 t. dried thyme
1 t. ground fennel (I only had seeds, so I used a mortar & pestle to crush them.)

In a large skillet, heat 3 Tb. reserved olive oil (from tomatoes) over medium heat. Add the onions, celery, carrot, and bell pepper and cook for 6-8 minutes, until the onions are softened but not browned. Add the garlic and cook another minute.

Transfer the mixture to a crockpot or Dutch oven and add the sun-dried tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, oregano, Sucanat, salt, pepper, thyme, and fennel and stir gently to combine.

Using the same skillet, add the 1-2 Tb. olive oil and heat on medium heat. Carefully remove the sausage casing by cutting up the side of the sausage. Add the meat to the pan and crumble with a wooden spoon. Cook until sausage is no longer pink. Add to the crockpot/Dutch oven and stir well. 

If using a crockpot, cook on low for 6-8 hours. In a Dutch oven, cook on low (with a lid) for approximately 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Remove the lid and cook an additional 30 minutes longer to allow mixture to thicken up.

This makes approximately 1 gallon. Zucchini would be a great addition for summertime sauce.

Oh wait, I don't like zucchini...☺


Sunday, April 22, 2012

Menu Plan for 4/22/12

I'm having a moment.

Actually, I've been having quite a few of those moments lately. While I sit here typing our meal plan for the week, I smell burnt hamburgers on the grill (that's okay, I'm allergic anyway and kids will eat dirt if it's covered in ketchup...and they weren't burnt after all~the grill just needs cleaned), the house is smoky from my over-broiled gluten-free bun (that mysteriously caught on fire), and there is a pot of cooked chickens on the stove that are surrounded by a moat of water from the over zealous boiling that magically occurred (because someone turned on the wrong burner and went outside to hang up laundry).

If Calgon doesn't take me away soon, I'm afraid someone might get the bright idea to cart me off to the loony bin.

At least the sun is shining, the kombucha and dandelion wine's are brewing, and the cows are grazing on the first grasses of the spring.

Life is good.

That may be the meds kickin' in.☺

Here's what's cookin' this week...and as always, it's gluten-free.

Cinnamon granola
Burnt grilled hamburgers, chips, salsa

Prep: Soak black beans for Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday.
Make extra dairy kefir.

Cinnamon Streusel Muffins, kefir fruit smoothies

Prep: Thaw 6 pounds ground beef in fridge.

Sweet & Sour Meatballs (new-freezer cooking), jasmine rice, broccoli

Prep: Soak pinto beans, thaw whole chicken.

Black & pinto bean chili, Buttermilk Cornbread

Black bean, rice & cheese enchiladas on corn tortillas, lacto-fermented salsa

Prep: Cook chicken for Saturday.

Poached eggs on wilted spinach leaves, toast
Thai Cashew Chicken, jasmine rice, broccoli

Banana Walnut Muffins, hot chocolate
Chicken Tortilla Soup, Buttermilk Cornbread

This post is linked to Menu Mondays at I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Farm Happenings

My plans for the week went slightly awry. Some of us have come down with a bad case of a little illness I like to call "The Crud." I'm sure it's just a common cold, but giving it a new name is more accurate to how we're feeling right now.

And it's sounds less lethal than calling it "The Plague," which is how I'm really feeling.

Before "The Crud" hit, we managed to accomplish a few things...

My Mister was kind enough to teach me how to scrape the sod off of our new garden area. This is where we'll plant sweet corn, potatoes, and sunflowers. The boys cleaned out the chicken coop and put all the brown gold on top of the new garden area, where we planned to till it into the earth in another month or so.

Here's what went wrong with our planning. The new garden area is located on the south-facing side of our house. It is right next to the house...directly under the living room that has the largest opening windows...and the sun was we opened the windows...

Now the new garden is getting tilled this weekend, before the sunshine comes back.☺

Our wine-making skills were taken to a whole new level this week. Before the strawberry wine could be bottled, we had to sweeten it first. If we were going for a taste much like lighter fluid, it was a success. But in order for it to taste like the sweet wine it was meant to be, we had to play mad scientist first.

My Mister numbered glasses 1-5, with each glass having 1/2 teaspoon more sugar than the last. I like #3. He liked #5. So we went with #4.

I like this part of wine-making.☺

I know Blynken looks innocent standing here in her pen, but she has become the goat equivalent of Houdini. See the wood chunks next to the fence? We had them everywhere thinking she was somehow getting underneath the fencing.

Here's the thing about goats....they're smarter than their human counterparts.

Our goats just use the gate. Because they think they're human.

But mostly, because they can.

We're adding fence repair to our list of weekend activities too.

Ostracized by the Bourbon Red's, our Chocolate Turkey decided to start her own family. She managed to hatch out 2 poults on her own. (The other eggs were duds.) This little discovery excited our middle son, so he stalked the other turkeys for a week, carefully gathered their ambitious dreams,

and is now starting his own turkey family. This alone doesn't concern me though. It's this.

Tanner's organizational skills. They surpassed mine.

I may be out of a job soon.

And finally, we celebrated a birthday this week. Our "baby" turned 12.

Since we could only put one candle on the cupcake, Matty decided to use his fingers to make the number the picture would show that he was 12.

Numbers may not be his thing after all.

While he may not be 21, he was pretty excited to open his gift.

Now if we can just pry it out of Grandma's hands....☺

This post is linked to The Homestead Barn Hop.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Gluten-Free Buttermilk Cornbread

When I found out I had gluten allergies, I cried. Oh yes I did. A lot. See, it wasn't just going to affect how I planned and prepared our meals, or limit what I could eat, this allergy was going to be messing with my heritage.

A few years ago, I found out that I have some Pennsylvania Dutch roots. It was the same time I found out that I wasn't really Irish like I was led to believe. (I'm Scottish, and we don't have our own special beer-drinking holiday. That's probably good since I'm newly allergic anyway.) What we (see how I assumed the role?) Pennsylvania Dutch people do is eat. And cook. And eat what we cook. And because I always immerse myself in whatever role I'm playing, I live to eat what I cook.☺ 

Oh. That explains a lot.
I'm assuming my love of cornbread stems from those Pennsylvania Dutch roots. Have you ever seen an Amish cookbook that didn't have at least 6 different cornbread recipes in it? Giving up cornbread was like losing a little piece of myself, so the hunt began for a gluten-free version. I found a recipe for a gf cornbread that called for jalapenos, sour cream, and frozen sweet corn that had to be whirled in the food processor before it could be added to the other 40 or so ingredients. I'd start putting it together at 4 and it would be ready to eat by 8. It was delicious, but after a 4-hour prep, I was too dang tired to eat it. So I searched some more. Then I tweaked other people's recipes until we had a winner.

It's a good thing too~I think my Pennsylvania Dutch membership was about to be revoked.

It's all about the cornbread.☺
~The Players~
2 cups yellow cornmeal (I use fresh-ground popcorn.)
1/4 cup tapioca starch
1 Tb. sucanat (or Rapadura)
1-1/2 t. baking powder
1 t. xanthan gum
1 t. sea salt
1/2 t. baking soda
1 cup buttermilk
2 eggs
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted and cooled
Preheat the oven to 400F. Grease an 8 x 8 pan and set aside. In a bowl, combine the cornmeal, tapioca starch, sucanat, baking powder, xanthan gum, and sea salt. Whisk together.
In a separate small bowl, measure out the buttermilk. Add the baking soda and whisk together. Set aside. (Make sure that the bowl isn't too small~the buttermilk will "grow" with the baking soda.)
Make a well in the center of the cornmeal mixture. Add the eggs, then the buttermilk mixture. Pour the cooled butter over the mix and whisk until just mixed. Do not over mix or the cornbread will not be as fluffy.
Pour into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake for 25 minutes, or until lightly browned. Because there is no flour, the toothpick trick isn't very reliable, so make sure that the bread doesn't jiggle like jello before taking it out of the oven.
Slather with plenty of butter and raw honey.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Meal Plan for 4/16/12

Madison helping Great Grandma to the car.
This week I'm planning on going a little crazy in the kitchen. A few years ago, I tried my hand at once-a-month cooking. We were doing foster care at the time and seemed to always be in and out of the house, shuttling kids to appointments, visits, school, etc., so having extra meals in the freezer saved my behind on more than one occasion.

That was then, this is now. Back then, before I knew better, my freezer meals consisted of foods that used processed ingredients. I'm not talking beans from a can either. I'm talking about chicken pot pie "packets" using canned crescent dough, canned chicken, and cream of everything soups. (And yes, they were delicious!) However, once I started learning about whole foods, I couldn't in good conscience go back. Not that I've arrived or never eat processed food anymore mind you. Now it's just not normal for us to do that.

Keeping in mind the 4 generations (and different dietary needs/restrictions) that are living under this roof, I'll be trying my hand at freezer cooking again. This time without the canned dough and soup. And this time, it won't be for the entire month. (Regardless of what a once-a-month cookbook tells you, it never takes just one day!) I've decided to add a couple of freezer meals each week to the menu. My hope is that I'll get 3 meals from each recipe and will be able to stock 2 away for those busy days that always rear their ugly heads when we least need them to. This week, I'll be cooking Pineapple Chicken, and Spicy Turkey Sausage Pasta Sauce for the freezer. I'll be sharing those recipes along with the gluten-free Buttermilk Cornbread this week.☺

Here's what else is cookin'...

Crockpot Shepherd's Pie (inspired by this recipe), garden salad w/ Bleu Cheese Dressing

Cinnamon Spice Granola with yogurt
Boston Baked Beans, GF Buttermilk Cornbread, garden salad w/ Bleu Cheese Dressing

Scrambled eggs, GF Cranberry White Chocolate Hazelnut Muffins

GF Coffee Cake, yogurt with blueberries
Pineapple Chicken (new), brown rice, steamed broccoli

Spicy Black Bean Soup, GF Buttermilk Cornbread

Brown rice spaghetti with Spicy Turkey Sausage Pasta Sauce, Caesar Salad w/ GF Croutons

*This post is linked to Menu Mondays at I'm an Organizing Junkie.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Frugal Fridays~Hair "Conditioner"

In my quest for all things au naturale, I've found a beauty of a hair conditioner. In the past, I've used every commercial conditioner on the market. Not only did I get mixed results depending on the brand, I was also relieved of the extra weight I was packing around in my purse.

I'm talking money honey.

These days, unless you're packing a stack of coupons, hair conditioner will cost $4/bottle minimum. The salon stuff will set you back at least $12. And it's not quality we're paying for, it's chemicals. Lots of nasty chemicals that leave waxy build-up, cause dandruff, and yes, even rob the hair of it's moisture. Many hair products claim to repair damaged hair and recover split ends, but if you have half a brain, you know that this is false advertising at its best. Here's the skinny: Hair is made up of dead cells. It is not a living organism. It cannot be resuscitated with chemical promises, and commercial products will not create long, luxurious locks while you sleep.

Although, I'm pretty sure there are evil hair fairies sprinkling gray pixie dust on mine while I sleep.☺

After ditching the commercial products, I started using an apple cider vinegar rinse on my hair. (1 cup water and 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar.) It did a great job of keeping my hair mousse from making a permanent home on my scalp, but did little by itself for keeping the dry scalp at bay. Between winter and the wood stove, this year was unusually bad. Like I-can't-wear-my-favorite-black-shirt bad.

A few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a recipe for homemade hair conditioner. And honestly, I cannot tell you where I got it. I think I had found it through the link of a link of a link of a link to another blog. Or the link of a link of a link of a link through Pinterest. Or the link of a link of a link...oh, never mind. If this is your recipe, I thank you. My hair thanks you. And my wallet thanks you.

~Hair Conditioner~

~The Players~

3/4 C. water
1/4 apple cider vinegar
2 Tb. aloe vera gel
1 Tb. honey
8 drops peppermint essential oil
8 drops tea tree oil

Combine all ingredients into a squirt bottle or condiment bottle. Shake well to incorporate the honey and aloe vera into the mix.

To use: After shampooing hair (I use a natural shampoo bar.), squirt conditioner all over scalp and hair being careful not to get any in the eyes. Gently massage conditioner into scalp. Allow to sit for a minute or two before rinsing well.

Be sure to shake before each use to reincorporate the oils and honey back into the mix. Style as usual.

Here's what each ingredient does:
*Apple cider vinegar balances the ph in the hair, and removes build-up from hair styling products. It is also an effective treatment for dandruff and itchy scalp.
*Aloe vera gel is an effective treatment for dandruff, dry scalp, and psoriasis.
*Honey is an antiviral and antibacterial that moisturizes the scalp.
*Peppermint essential oil reduces excess oil that can cause hair to fall flat and soothes skin irritations and itchy scalp.
*Tea tree oil kills bacteria, combats dandruff, and is an effective preventative for lice.

Shiny hair, more money in the wallet, less exposure to unnatural chemicals, and very frugal.  
What are you waiting for?☺

This post is linked to The Homestead Barn Hop and Vicariosly Vintage's

Retro Momma, Vintage Wife

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Introducing a New Bee Colony, Part 2

Just in case you're wonderin', this is the second half of the story. For the first half of this post, you'll have to go here because my typing skills ain't what they used to be.☺(And if you are introducing a new package of bees to your hives, Part 1 is a step you don't want to leave out!)

Once you've recovered from day 1 of installing your packaged bees, it's time for day 2. But first, remember to put all of your bee gear on before heading to the hive.

Even if it's a sunny day and you just really, really, really wanted to wear your blue tie-dyed skirt.

A little known fact: Bees can fly faster than a human can run. Especially if that human is wearing a skirt. Just so ya know.

Very carefully, open the hive. Use the 1:1 sugar water spray to calm the bees. (A smoker can be used instead of the sugar syrup, it just takes a little longer.) It's a good idea to work with the bees on a nice day because they'll be out and about. Just remember to never work with them when its hot outside. Bees get cranky when it's too hot. In our (limited) experience, it's best to work with the hives between 10 a.m. and noon.

Carefully remove the queen cage. When we picked up our package bees, there was a small marshmallow attached to the outside of the box. If you are installing packaged bees and do not have one, bring one with you to the hive.

It's important to inspect the action between the queen and the worker bees. If the worker bees seem aggressive toward the queen, they could kill her. It's best to wait another day before proceeding if this is the case.

Gently sweep off the bees that will be covering the queen's cage. The bees instinctively know to surround their queen, so there will be a few. Remove the cork from the queen's cage and stuff the marshmallow into the hole. Be sure to keep the hole covered with your thumb so she can't fly away. Don't worry about being stung; queen bees only use their stingers to fight off rival queens.

To be sure, don't make eye contact, bow humbly, and use the term "Your highness" while stuffing the marshmallow in the hole. That should keep her from seeing you as a rival queen.☺

Tack the queen's cage back into the hive. The bees will eat through the marshmallow to release their queen. My own theory is that the queen will be so grateful to be out of her cage that she will want to stay in her kingdom forever and they will all live happily ever after.

I prefer the fairy tale version over the horror story any day.

Remove the box that the bees arrived in. Add 4 or 5 empty frames to the hive. Shake out any bees that might still be in the package. For stubborn bees, just lay the box in front of the hive entrance and the stragglers will walk in on their own. Replace the hive cover immediately.

~Day 3~

Open the hive. Remove the empty queen cage and replace the last frames in the hive. You should notice the bees clustered together, this is a good indicator that the queen is in the middle of them and all is well. Refill your feeder with the 2:1 sugar water and replace your cover.

Wait one week before checking for any drawn comb and eggs. This will show that the queen has been bred and she's doing her job. Remember to check the feeder and refill as needed.

Now it's time to let the bees do their jobs. We usually check our bees weekly during the spring. Sometimes just a quick walk past the hive and seeing the activity around it is enough. Other times we check the feeder and remove any dead bees from the opening.

This post is only meant to encourage you in your own beekeeping journey. We are by no means "experts" in beekeeping and have made a lot of mistakes along the way. If you can, take a beginning beekeeping class, and read everything you can get your hands on.  Our favorite book is "The Backyard Beekeeper." But the best advice I can give you is to find someone in your own area who keeps bees. They know things. Good things. Important things. And they are more than willing to pass that knowledge along.☺

Monday, April 9, 2012

Introducing a New Bee Colony, Part 1

My Mister with the packaged bees and their traveling cage.

For our anniversary, we bought a second beehive. Some people might think we're nuts, but in my book,  harvesting honey from your own hive ranks right up there with meeting Joel Salatin. Last fall, we pulled 4 gallons of the sweet stuff out of our hive. It was our first harvest and we didn't expect much, but were thrilled with those 4 gallons!

To put things in perspective~To buy 1 gallon of raw, unpasteurized honey would cost approximately $45/gallon. That would be a total cost of $180 for 4, if we could find it. Once our hive was set up, our only expenses have been in sugar (for late winter feeding) and some mite medicine. (This is a must. Mites can settle in and take out an entire hive before you even know there's a problem.) An established hive can produce 5-6 gallons of harvestable honey and still leave plenty in reserves for winter feeding.

For our first hive, we purchased a nuc kit. This is a hive that has already been established. The beekeeper introduces the bees into the hive and allows them time to set up their "home" before transferring them to the new owner. This was a great way to go as beginning beekeepers since we didn't have a clue as to what we were doing.

And, we were a little scared if truth be told.

With hive #2, we decided to go with packaged bees. This is what a person would do if they already had all the equipment, or needed to replace a dearly departed colony. (Swarming or loss to illness.) Even though we've had a little experience now with our bees, buying packaged bees was a new experience.

And yes, it was a little scary too.

If you are planning on starting hives, now is the time to pick up your bees. Most bee supply companies require a pre-order, but sometimes there are extras available. Check to see what is available in your area. Packaged bees are available now, with nuc hives coming soon-after. If you get your hives set up now, you'll be able to start harvesting honey next year! (The bees need time to build comb and get their winter food supply in.)

~How to install packaged bees~

Day 1:
Before picking up your bees, make sure your hive is painted. Because it is out in the weather, it can leak (as we learned the hard way!) into the hive and cause mold.

Use an outdoor latex paint and stick to light colors.
Make enough sugar syrup to fill your feeder. We also fill up a spray bottle and squirt the bees while we're working with the hives. It keeps the bees from flying around and doesn't cause an asthma attack to the beekeeper like the smoker does.☺Use a 2:1 sugar/water ratio for the feeder and a 1:1 ratio for the spray bottle. Heat the syrup on the stove until the sugar is dissolved, usually an hour or two before you need it.

Beekeeping in the dark~NOT the way it's supposed to be done.☺
Make sure there are at least 5 frames in the hive (this will depend on the type of feeder you use). The queen bee is in her own little box that will need to be tacked in the middle of the frames. To remove the queen cage, bounce the box of bees on a hard surface to knock the cluster to the bottom of the cage. Remove the feed can and the queen cage. Replace the feed can to keep the bees in their box while you settle the queen.

They like her!
The queen nestled down in the box for night 1.
 Once the queen's box is tacked in place, shake the bees down again, remove the feed can and pour a handful of bees over the queen cage. Place the package of bees into the hive with the top up and feed can removed.

Setting the bee cage into the hive
Before placing the lid on the hive, be sure that the feeder is full of sugar water. If you have a pollen patty, now is a good time to add that too.

Then walk away. Even if you want to stay out in the dark all night to make sure none of the bees try to fly away...

Introducing a New Bee Colony, Part 2

*This post is linked to The Homestead Barn Hop.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Meal Plan for Week of 4/9/12

I am the queen of grand ideas. Lots of planning and good intentions, but there seems to always be a road block or two in my way. Case in point: once-a-month meal plan and shopping. The road blocks? 


And my food allergies.

Meal planning was so much easier when the world was my oyster. Now oysters make me break out in hives. Planning meals around cuts of meat that our lovely steer so graciously offered is now a thing of the past. Unless, of course, I don't mind my throat closing up after dinner. Which I do. Even the act of taking communion at church is off limits, just in case the "bread" has gluten, or has touched anything with gluten, or touched anyone who may know someone who has touched gluten. Even if those glutenous people are in the neighboring county.

Seriously, it's enough to make me go to intravenous feedings and just forgo the real food altogether.

But then I remember my aversion to needles or anything poky, and my sanity returns. 

Even sporadic sanity is better than needles.

Because I rely so heavily on fresh produce and dairy for my meals, my trips to the grocery store need to be on a weekly basis. My hope is that when the garden starts producing and Tilly-mook freshens,  trips to the grocery store will be less frequent. For now, I have to do what I have to do. 

Which will be dodging the road blocks as best as I can.☺

Here's what's cookin' this week...

Cranberry Walnut Scones
Pecan Coconut Muffins
Fruit Smoothies with homemade kefir

Chicken & Bean Enchiladas w/ corn tortillas
Korean Beef Bulgolgi,  roasted asparagus
Southwest Soup (new),  GF Cornbread
French Green Lentil Soup w/bacon (new?), garden salad with Bleu Cheese Dressing (new)
Roasted turkey, Wild & Brown Rice Dressing (new), Raw Cranberry Relish, steamed broccoli


*All of these meals are gluten-free. Since I can't have most meats, I always keep baked or shredded chicken in the refrigerator for those meals that have beef, pork, or venison.

This post is linked to Menu Mondays.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Crunchy Salad-tons

Since going gluten-free, I've been having a lot of salads.

Naked salads to be exact.

Let me define what a naked salad is. It is lettuce. On a plate. There is usually some other stuff on it, but it is always missing the one thing that takes a mediocre salad and catapults it to greatness.

The croutons. 

The word crouton is derived from the French croûton, itself derived from croûte, meaning "crust". Being gluten-free doesn't leave a lot of room for anything with a crust.Which leads me to obsess about anything pertaining to crusts. Like pie. And pizza. And volcanoes. Recently, my need for crust became so bad that I actually caved and purchased a loaf of gluten-free bread. I salivated at the thought of having a toasted cheese sandwich again. 

Then I actually tasted a toasted cheese sandwich with gluten-free bread. 

Now before anybody starts telling me that I must have purchased a bad loaf, or that there are other brands out there that are actually edible, let me just say, I don't care. No offense, but a loaf of "bread," any bread,  should never, ever, ever have an expiration date that is one year away from the date of purchase. Especially if the "bread" was sitting on a regular grocery shelf and not in a freezer case. That is not bread and it is not a whole food. It's a science-experiment-pseudo-food. Because it had absolutely no flavor at all, it was very hard for me to eat it "as is". Considering the almost $5 price tag, it was also very difficult for me to just throw it to the chickens.

So I fixed it.

Now I'm back to enjoying salad greatness instead of salad mediocrity's good to be back.☺

~Homemade Gluten-Free Croutons~

 ~The Players~

12-14 slices g.f. bread (I used EnerG/Seattle Brown Bread.)
1/2 c. plus 2 Tb. extra virgin olive oil
1 t. sea salt
fresh cracked pepper, to taste
1/2 t. garlic powder
1/2 t. dried basil
1/2 t. dried oregano
1/2 t. dried thyme
2 Tb. Parmesan cheese (from the can)

Preheat oven to 350F.

Cut the bread into 1-inch cubes. Put cubes into a large bowl. Drizzle the olive oil while mixing with a wooden spoon, making sure to lightly coat all the cubes. Add the spices and Parmesan cheese. Stir until all the pieces look seasoned.

 Spread croutons onto cookie sheet or broiler pan. Bake for 30-45 minutes, stirring often. When the croutons are crispy, remove from oven and allow to cool.

Store in an air-tight container.

The finished color of the croutons will depend upon the type of bread used. Mine ended up fairly dark, but they were so very tasty!

*This recipe will also work for regular bread too.


A New Career?

Farmgirl by day~

Checking the baby bump.

"Doctor" by night~
Administering Grandma's antibiotics through a picc line.

Just in case the farm gig doesn't work out.