Thank you for stopping by! Here you will find a variety of things as I post whatever happens to be going on in our home - recipes, crafts, homeschool, birthday parties, travels, meals in muffin tins and more! I'd love to know what you think so please feel free to leave comments!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Making Homemade Butter

Since we made the switch to raw milk, I have also started making homemade butter from the lovely cream that rises to the top of our fresh milk. I admit, I was a bit nervous about making homemade butter - it seemed like it would be a lot of work. But, I figured that it was sort of silly to be drinking raw milk and still be buying pasteurized butter from the grocery store, so I decided to go for it. The first time I made it, I used my stick blender and it worked quite nicely. I only used a pint of cream the first time. It made a nice little ball of very tasty butter. The second time I made it, I also used the stick blender but it seemed that the stick blender wasn't too happy about being used for so long and it got a bit hot. I decided that I needed to find a new method of making my butter for next time. I remember reading someplace that you can use an ice cream maker but the ice cream make is a bit of a pain to drag out and set up. I also read you can use a stand mixer. So that is what I did. It came out perfectly! The big bonus is that I didn't have to stand there the entire time, holding a stick blender! After making butter the first time, I realized that while it does take a wee bit of time - maybe 20 to 30 minutes - it really isn't all that hard to do. Plus, it is so worth it because the butter tastes amazing. And now that I know I can use my KitchenAid mixer, it got even easier.

How to Make Homemade Butter from Raw Milk

1. Collect the cream. I try to skim about half the cream off my jars of milk the morning after we bring them home.The farm fills my half gallon mason jars from their large tank so it's mixed up when we first bring it home. Leaving it sit overnight gives it plenty of time to separate. I get about a quart of cream from 3 gallons of milk.  (*Note: Many states don't allow the sales of raw milk but that doesn't mean you can't easily make butter. Just use a carton of heavy cream from the grocery store.)

 You can easily see the cream floating atop the milk.

2. Clabber the cream. Clabber? Yeah, I had no idea what this meant the first time I read it. It means to let it sour. To do this, I let my jar of cream sit out on the counter for a good 24 hours. Some places suggest more time, but I will admit it, the very idea makes me nervous. In fact, my first batch of butter was made from fresh, sweet, unclabbered cream. After sitting out for 24 hours (give or take a few hours), I put it in the fridge for a day or two. When I take it out, it is nice and thick and smells a bit sour. At this point, you can use it as sour cream. I haven't done that yet. 

 My clabbering cream.

3. Beat that clabbered cream! I put the cream into the bowl of my KitchenAid mixer with the flat beater attachment and slowly bring it up to about half speed - 5 or even 6. The cream goes through several stages which are neat to watch. To really get an idea of what each stage looks like, click the picture. Then hit the back button to come back here.

I start mine as soured cream, so it's already thick and creamy. If you start with fresh cream, the first change will be to this sour cream consistency.

 Next, it will get a bit thicker. This stage reminds me a little of that non-dairy dessert topping - a thin but smooth textured whipped cream.

A bit thicker still - this is a soft peak stage.

Now it's nice and fluffy! Stiff peaks will form. You need to start scraping down the bowl a little at this point.

A couple minutes more and it starts to break down and look a little lumpy.

Then it gets really wet looking and grainy.

Then, almost suddenly, bam! Butter & buttermilk appear! You will want to turn the mixer down at this point (maybe a little before) or you and everything around the mixer will get a buttermilk shower.

After it separates, I let it go a little longer to allow the butter grains to come together into larger lumps.

I remove the large lumps of butter to a bowl and  pour the buttermilk into a jar (through a small strainer to catch any butter grains that didn't stick to the larger ball).

And I am left with a nice lump of fresh butter. But it's not quite done.
4. Wash that butter! Yep, wash it. It still has quite a bit of buttermilk in it and that needs to come out before you are finished because the buttermilk might cause the butter to spoil quicker. I take a couple of rubber spatulas and squeeze smaller amounts of butter between them, rinsing in cold running water or a bowl of ice water as I go. I could go out and buy some nice wooden butter paddles, but they're kind of expensive and my spatulas work just fine. I didn't take any pictures of this step because my hands get kind of buttery and I didn't want to butter up my camera.

Once all the butter is clear of buttermilk, I salt it (just a wee bit) and form it into a round cake and put it into the fridge. That's it! Easy, right?

Fresh butter!

I really can't stress enough how wonderful this tastes. It adds such a lovely flavor when spread on pancakes and toast. I haven't baked with it yet because we use it up so fast on everything else. We stopped using margarine ages ago and have been using "real" butter for everything for a while. I am amazed at how much better this tastes. As an added bonus, I have buttermilk that I can use to make pancakes or biscuits.

Now, if you put the health benefits of drinking & eating raw dairy products aside, the best part about this is the cost. I am most fortunate to be able to buy raw milk for $2.50 per gallon. Each week, I buy 3 gallons at a cost of $7.50. From that 3 gallons, I get about 2 1/2 gallons of milk to drink, a pound of butter, 16 oz of buttermilk and 32 oz of yogurt. If you bought that same amount of organic dairy product in the grocery store, you would probably be spending real close to $30, if not more than that. Sure, making our own dairy products from fresh raw milk takes a little bit of time, but if you figure out the savings over the course of a year, we are looking at almost $1200! I don't know about you, but that's huge for us! I know that not everyone is able to get pasture fed, raw milk for such an awesome price, but that's where you figure in the health benefits of raw dairy and realize that even at a higher cost, it's totally worth it!

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Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Summer Fun Sensory Tub

In these final days of summer vacation, I decided to put together a summer fun sensory tub for the kiddos to play with as a last blast of summer. The days are getting shorter and the nights are getting cooler, but summer can live on inside our sensory tub.

I set the tub out on a brightly colored vinyl tablecloth for easy cleanup and as a bonus, it looks pretty. I also put out a cute mini metal bucket, plastic shovel and the flip flop boxes that I painted earlier this summer.

The tub contains: brown rice sand, decorative glass marbles as water, little wooden people, paper umbrellas, chenille stem seaweed, mini koosh balls & magic nuudles as water toys, a wood connector as a boogie board, seashells from our Florida trip last year, grape vine driftwood and a grapevine ball.

Laural and Micah were both instantly in love and wasted no time digging into it.

The only downside to these tubs is that I will need to schedule time for each of them to have a chance to play alone because otherwise, the newness of it makes them each want to have it all to themselves and that leads to unpleasant noises and a grumpy mommy.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Gluten Free Zucchini Brownies

These are some of the best brownies I've ever had. They are so moist & fudgy & chocolatey! Just writing about them makes me want to go downstairs and grab one (or two!) out of the freezer. I got this recipe from Gluten Free Goddess and made a couple changes to suit our needs and ingredients on hand. 

1 cup almond meal*
1 cup organic sugar  
3/4 cup brown rice flour**
1/2 cup unsweetened organic cocoa powder  
1 teaspoon guar gum (or use xanthan gum)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder  
3/4 teaspoon sea salt  
2 organic free-range eggs, beaten  
1/4 cup organic coconut oil  
1 tablespoon vanilla extract  
1 cup packed shredded zucchini, patted dry  
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350°F and line the bottom of a 9x9 pan with parchment paper.

In a large bowl bowl, mix together the almond meal, sugar, rice flour, cocoa powder, guar gum, baking powder & salt. Add in the eggs, coconut oil & vanilla. This will be a thick mixture. Add the zucchini & chocolate chips and mix well. Scoop batter into prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake for 25 minutes in order to get that really fudgy texture. Cool on a rack until cool enough to handle. Use a sharp knife to loosen edges and carefully remove from pan to finish cooling. Cut into 16 squares. These freeze wonderfully.

*Note:  I make my own almond meal using this method: Place 4 cups of almonds in a bowl or half gallon mason jar. Add water to cover almonds and then some. They expand while they soak and you don't want them to be out of the water. Add 2 tablespoons of sea salt. Allow to soak 7 hours or overnight. Drain & rinse. Dry nuts 12 to 24 hours in a dehydrator or in your oven at 150°F. Once completely dry, place almonds in a blender (I use a magic bullet) about a cup at a time and pulse them into a fine meal. Do not do this for too long or you will end up with almond butter. Remove any large pieces of almonds and put them in to pulse again with the next batch. It's a bit of a long process but a lot cheaper. This makes about 3  to 3 1/2 cups of almond meal at a cost of around $4. Bob's Red Mill Almond meal is $9.42 at my local Walmart for what looks like less than my batch made.

**Note: I make my own brown rice flour by grinding the rice in an electric grain mill on the finest setting. It works perfectly. Prepackaged brown rice flour isn't super expensive but this way is even cheaper.

These are wonderful with a tall glass of ice cold, farm fresh raw milk. Even my super picky, 3 year old little boy scarfed these right down and didn't even notice the zucchini. My 6 year old daughter knew the zucchini was in there and gave me the "wrinkled up nose look" but once she took a bite, she was sold. I think the biggest problem I will have with these is keeping them around long enough to save some for later.

Monday, August 8, 2011

I Love These Garden Days

Since my garden is finally starting to give me goodies, I decided to have another salad for dinner tonight.

Tonight's salad was lettuce, snap peas & parsley - all from my garden, organic carrots, cheddar cheese, a slice of bacon leftover from breakfast, leftover roast that I shredded and mushrooms sauteed in bacon fat. SO yummy, though not quite as fantastic as yesterday's chicken salad.

Since I've been talking (typing) so much about my garden lately, I figured it was time to write a quick update on it. Parts of it have done remarkably well and other parts, eh, not so well.
The side bed, against the house has done beautifully. I was certain that the lettuce wasn't going to make it because that darn stray cat kept digging in there and doing it's business. Grr. He managed to move all the seed to a somewhat concentrated area so the lettuce is in a big patch rather than the rows I planted it in. At least it grew. Behind the lettuce is my potato patch. The plants closest to the lettuce are purple potatoes and behind them are yellow potatoes. They are growing like weeds! I'm thinking about digging in there a little to see if I can find any fingerling potatoes. They're my favorites.

The other end of the side bed has a red variety of lettuce which is also doing well despite the cats endeavors to destroy the garden. On the right are watermelon plants. No sign of flowering on them yet, but I'm still hopeful. We should still have a good month of heat left to give them a chance.

The crib rail trellis for the snap peas has been wonderful! The snap peas have been giving us loads of peas which makes me & Laural quite happy. Sadly, one of the vines broke shortly after putting the trellis up. It is the sad looking light green and brown one on the right. I keep hoping it will make a comeback. We shall see.

My peppers never really took off. So far, we've had one pepper and it was a little funky looking.

Laural didn't mind. She was super thrilled to be eating something that she loves and that she got to help plant. I saw a flower on another plant while I was taking pics, so we might just get a second pepper before the season is over.

The purple beans have been doing wonderfully! We have been able to pick bunches of them and there are plenty more coming. The green beans in the front never made a huge comeback from the bean leaf beetles, though we have had a couple dinners worth.

My zucchini plants have finally kicked in! In the past couple days they have more than doubled in size. There are several flowers and baby zucchini on this plant. 

See that wee zucchini in there? Yay! There are a couple others in there too but not seen in this particular angle.

I had one lone cucumber plant survive whatever it was causing them to die off. It has a few flowers but no signs of baby cucumbers. I'm hopeful, but not holding my breath.

The broccoli & peppers in this bed are pretty pathetic. The broccoli in the middle was looking better until the cat came back and dug the entire middle area out a few nights ago. What wasn't destroyed by the cat appears to be getting eaten by something. There are a couple plants on the right that might still produce for me, but I'm not getting my hopes up. The peppers seem to be getting stripped by something as well. I think one of the main problems with this bed is just not enough sunlight. I need to find a more shade loving plant for that bed for next year.

So that's what has been happening in my garden. I'm not getting a great deal out of it, but I sure am enjoying what we get. Goodnight garden. Goodnight moon. Goodnight friends.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Chicken Salad Supreme

Steve and I used to love going to a local diner for their chicken salad supreme.It was a ginormous salad made with iceberg lettuce, tomatoes, green peppers, onions, cucumbers, mozzarella & cheddar cheese, bacon, curly fries, boiled eggs & chicken. Over the years, the salads got smaller & the price got higher. Once having kids (especially once they were old enough to start wanting their own meals from the kiddie menu), it just got too expensive to go out for chicken salads plus, a pile of iceberg lettuce isn't exactly a nutritional dynamo. So we started making our own salads at home. I usually use spring mix salad in a bag but tonight, I used lettuce picked from my own organic garden that I picked right before dinner. With other fresh veggies from my garden, this was easily the best chicken salad supreme I've ever made!

Starting from the top middle and going clockwise, our chicken salads consisted of: Cucumbers from my parent's garden, organic green & red lettuce from my garden, cheddar cheese (yes, I put a little much on there... lol), grilled chicken breast, sauteed purple potatoes, boiled egg, organic snap peas, green beans & purple beans from my garden with some sauteed white potatoes in the middle. I topped it with my favorite french dressing (store bought this time but I usually make my own and will continue to do so once I use up all the store bought). If I wasn't so full already, I'd have no problem eating more!


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