Category Archives: Sustainable Living

Making Jam – First Harvest

Standard

On the hunt for Jam Recipes lately!  I need a way to use all that rhubarb that is coming up! 🙂  I love these adorable jelly jars!  Wouldn’t they make cute gifts?!

So, I tried three recipes yesterday.  The first is this reduced sugar recipe from Local Kitchen which is quite yummy, though I think I would decrease the lemon next time and add pectin.  It did not set up at all for me.  Maybe I can’t make jam, who knows!

Reduced Sugar Strawberry Rhubarb Jam

The second recipe I tried was this one from Rhubarb Central.  Rhubarb Conserves with Orange, Walnuts & Raisins.  It was AMAZINGLY delicious, but also needs pectin.

Rhubarb Orange Conserve

And the third, this one, also from Rhubarb Central.  Seriously an awesome site for all things rhubarb!  Again, didn’t set up for me.  Maybe I really can’t make jam.  Hmmm…

Rhubarb Orange Jam

I’m on a quest for jams with less sugar… any ideas?  The first one with all the lemon is decent on the sugar side, but the other two… yeah, too much sugar for me.  I know, it’s jam!  It’s supposed to have sugar, right!?  Well, I can’t have sugar but I still want Jam!!

All Recipe Nutrition Information calculated at CalorieCount!  Coolest thing ever!

If you have any links or recipe suggestions for reduced-sugar homemade jams, please do let me know!  I think for now I’ll be making the orangey ones with less sugar and added pectin.  We’ll see how that goes.  One reader suggested Pamona’s Universal Pectin found here… I have yet to try it.

Just another tip… I love these lids (wide mouth) or these (regular mouth) for my mason jars so I don’t have to mess with the rings when a jar is in use in the fridge.

Advertisements

A Garden Update

Standard

I am incredibly excited about our garden this year!  It’s growing beautifully and soon we’ll have loads of tomatoes.  I’ve already harvested the herbs so they won’t be pictured in this post as, well, they aren’t very pretty anymore!  But the tomatoes!  Ooooooh the tomatoes!  Check this out!

Here’s the two I bought at the Farmers’ Market… On the left is a Black Krim tomato… a GORGEOUS fruit (I’ll show you in a minute).  On the right is a Rose tomato – kind of like a grape tomato.  I stuck the kids tractor in there to show the size of these plants!  I’m not even sure how I’ll pick the fruit off the Rose because it’s so crammed full inside the tomato cage!  The Krim is so tall & heavy we had to tie it with a string to a the nearby lilac bush!  And they are both bursting with fruit.

 

 

Here’s the underside of the Black Krim!

Here’s a cluster of Rose Tomatoes… do you see how dense this plant is?  Amazing!

And here’s a picture of our first ripe Black Krim fruit…  Isn’t it gorgeous!  The outside goes from a forest green around the top & fades to a deep red.  The flavor was AMAZING!

 

Onward… these next two tomatoes we got from Costco, and had I been thinking straight when we planted them, I would have put them in larger cages!  The ones that came with the plants were decidedly NOT tall enough.  On the left is another Black Krim & on the right is a Sweet 100 Cherry Tomato.  These are also bursting with fruit & I hope they make it because the vines are bending all the way to the ground over the short little cages.  Live and learn.

 

A shot of the ripe Sweet 100… I think I’ll let the kids pick those for snack.  They’ve been checking the plants for ripe tomatoes every day for weeks!  They will be very excited!

 

And last but not least, the Bell Pepper!  Got this little guy at the Farmer’s Market as well.  I wish I had a picture of what he looked like in the pot.  I tried to grow him in a pot like the guy said, but he just never perked up.  Never even got another bloom.  My husband decided one day that we were going to just try putting him in the ground in our Back to Eden garden.  Since then he’s put on over 8 new blooms and has a 2″ fruit!  He’s quite a bit taller as well!

 

Said fruit…

 

 

At any rate, I’m excited about our wonderful garden & can’t wait for next years’ plans!

Oh, and by the way… I am eating bread that I just baked on the front porch IN MY CROCK POT!  Here’s the recipe.  It really does taste quite good, and is apparently fool proof.  I didn’t have any eggs left so I substituted flaxmeal for the egg.  Simply put 2 Tablespoons ground flaxmeal in a one cup pyrex.  Add  boiling water until mixture reaches 1/4 cup.  Whisk until the consistency of an egg!  Easy peasy.

Anyway… substituted for the egg, and accidentally heated the milk way too hot so I cooled that with a couple ice cubes!  Pathetic… I’ve never made such a mess of bread.  But it tastes DELICIOUS and is a nice texture.  I’d probably have a hard time slicing it thin for a sandwich, but that could be my tom foolery with the egg bit too!

How’s your garden growing this year? 

 

 

 

Unconventional Cooking

Standard

I have a confession to make… until this week, I’d never started a campfire by myself!  I know… crazy.  Well, I’ve made some improvements, and to date I have started THREE fires… and not just fires… COOKING fires!

Back in April my husband built us a lovely fire pit in our back yard.  If we wanted barbecue, this is how we did it.  Traditionally, I would have a meal ready, he would come home from work, start the fire, wait for coals, cook dinner.  Not exactly my favorite thing ever since I like having dinner ready when he gets home so he can relax.

The fire pit started out as an occasional way to have a BBQ treat, since we don’t often barbecue.   As the temperature increased, we became less and less thrilled with cooking indoors in a home with no AC!  You can imagine why!  So, we started grilling a lot more often.  Which meant more late dinners, more hubby having to cook after arriving home from work.  Not ideal.  But, at the same time, we were becoming better and better at cooking over a fire!  Yea!

So!  The beginning of this week I had a meal planned that would take a little too long to wait for my Mr. to come home.  So… I mustered up as much courage as I had, built a wood tee-pee in the fire pit over some torn up egg carton, and lit a match!  Eeek.  But, check it out!  It’s a pretty good first fire!  And it was reduced to perfect coals by the time Mr. got home!  I was so proud!   And, yes, that’s a snow sled in the background… we use it to haul wood!

Even after building such a beautiful fire, I still wasn’t brave enough to cook with it.  So, I left the grilling to the pro.

Fast forward a couple days, and I did it again.  Built a fire, Mr. cooked dinner.

Fast forward to last night… I built a fire… AND I cooked dinner!  This is where things get interesting!  Dinner HAD to be Craveable Taco Dip, from the Costco cookbook.  I was craving it.  However… it was H.O.T outside… which, of course, meant it was around 84 in our house.  Oven?  Yeah, not a chance!

Okay, so we don’t have a dutch oven … technically (Update: Now we do and I Love it!).  But, in case you don’t have one, if you have two cast iron skillets, one somewhat larger than the other you can make a “dutch oven”!  Since we’ve been campfire cooking all week anyway, I figured why not branch out & do something other than grilling?  Experiment a little… I experiment for a living (mom’s do that), and dinner is no exception in this home!  Here’s what I came up with as a “dutch oven”…

Yep… it is actually two skillets one stacked on the other!

I set a few rocks up beside the fire, spread the coals around, stabilized the grill on the rocks, laid some foil out on the grill so as not to smokify my marvelous cast iron, and put the smaller pan on the grill on top of the foil.  Then I stacked the larger pan on top, lined it with foil, filled it with coals, and timed it for 20 minutes!  I looked at the clock seriously every 3-5 minutes, I was so anxious to see if it worked!

The whole time we were waiting for dinner, the kids were riding on their little outside cars.  They’d come up to me every thirty seconds giving me pretend money and asking the “gas lady” to fill up their car with gas!  So, I took imaginary money, and “Ffffffssssshhhhhh”ed my way all the way till the timer went off!

Finally it went off! I got some pot holders and practically ran to the pit.  When I lifted my giant pan off the top of my “dutch oven”, I saw bubbling cheese all around the edges!  Oooooo, was I excited… not just because I LOVE this meal, but mostly because I COOKED ON THE FIRE ALL BY MYSELF!!!!!  Okay, I know that doesn’t sound like a lot, but to me, this is a huge milestone!  I’m so excited!

So, here’s the final product.  I give it to the littlest in a bowl with a spoon, and to the bigger two in a tortilla shell.  Can you believe I cooked this in such a fashion!? Next time I’m trying pizza!

I just gotta say, I know this post is a little strange, but I’m just so proud of myself I had to share it somewhere.  It makes me happy to know that I’m saving money by cooking outdoors, and it’s kind of empowering, in a weird sort of way, to know that I can cook the same outside as I can inside!  With some creativity and improvisation, anything is possible!  I only wish I had a real Dutch Oven so I could cook a cobbler! (We just planted our very own berry patch, so I have cobbler on the mind!).

One of my favorite bloggers is Kelly over at The Morris Tribe.  She’s been blogging a lot lately about sustainable living, cooking outside, raising your own food, breadmaking!, and many other things relating to living more simply.  We started our fire pit as a way to just have fun… but Kelly’s influence, and my own desire to spend less and not heat up the house, has made me think a lot more about the things we take for granted.  What if my stove broke?  What if natural gas was rationed in our country?  What if the power went down & I hadn’t cooked dinner yet?  It’s not only fun to explore other options, but now I’m seeing that it’s actually practical.  It’s good for me to know that I don’t have to depend on someone or something else to prepare food for my family.  I can do it with a fire pit and some scrap wood scavenged from construction site dumpsters!  I can cook for free!

Cloth Diaper Rash Troubleshooting

Standard

Finding the cause of rashes can be a daunting task.  Some rashes I’ve found out right away, and some took a week or more.  I have compiled a list of troubleshooting ideas to help get you started finding that pesky problem causing your little one’s rash… I hope this list helps you find the source of the problem so you can continue to Cloth Diaper successfully.

Here’s some ideas:

1. Are you using a good cloth diaper friendly detergent?  Either something specifically for cloth, or this homemade detergent has worked well for me.  Perhaps the detergent is building up in the diapers or maybe baby is sensitive to the detergent in the first place.  Ruling out detergent sensitivity is simple: wash her clothes in it for a while, if the rash doesn’t show up anywhere else, this probably isn’t the issue.

2. Your diapers need disinfected because there is bacterial buildup… run them through a load with some bleach, then rinse rinse rinse.  Or hang in the sun for several hours.

3. Has she started solids?  It could be a reaction to a new food that she may be sensitive to.  Sensitivities that I’ve noticed causing rashes are wheat, dairy, eggs.

4. Do you need to strip your diapers?  Have you done this recently?

5. Could be a yeast infection… but if it goes away & comes back, maybe not?  At the same time, maybe there is yeast in only some of your stash.  If that’s the case, you NEED to strip them & disinfect them.  Here’s an article on yeast in diapers.

6. That being said, did you buy the diapers used?  I’ve haven’t known many people who buy used (from people they don’t know) who have success with the diapers… they usually end up infecting their whole stash with something or other.  Yeast being the major culprit.  People who get rid of their cloth diapers before the baby is out of diapers are probably running into recurring rash issues and need to de-yeast their diapers – if they can – or toss the whole lot.

7. A word about rashes… is the rash on her bumcheeks or inside the labia & around the anus?  If it is on the cheeks, you most likely have a DIAPER issue (try the stuff above), if it’s inside the cracks, you most likely have a FOOD issue.  That’s not 100%, but it’s a great place to start.

8. Do you use disposable diapers at all?  Are the disposables scented?  Some babies are really sensitive to fragrances and some are just sensitive to paper diapers in general.

I really hope this list has been helpful… I know it is not complete… mostly because I just found this AMAZING troubleshooting guide by Cheeky Bums Blog.  It is the most thorough troubleshooter I’ve found to date!  Head over there & take a look.

Please, if you have a tip I have not listed here, leave a comment & I will add your tip to the list.
I would like this list to be as comprehensive as possible so we can help
as many people as we can have success with Cloth Diapering!