recipes, Uncategorized

Rainy Sundays and Hearty Stews

Today was one of those perfect rainy Sundays. The kind where you wake up to rain pouring down the windows and onto the back patio. The kind that makes you want to pull on your coziest over-sized sweater, savor a cup of rich, black coffee, and spend the day curled up with your family at home. And for us, it was almost that kind of day.

This weekend, Phill and I were fortunate enough to travel across the state to celebrate a wedding. It was the first time that we were both away from our little guy overnight, but it gave us the chance to stay out past his bedtime (7 pm) and gave us the opportunity to spend some much needed quality time, both with each other and with friends from college.

In total, Phill and I spent almost ten hours together in the car. Ten hours where we didn’t have to worry about entertaining a baby or folding all of the laundry. Ten hours of just us, together, talking and enjoying one another’s presence.


It is so easy to get sucked into a routine that is lacking. We both get caught up in the stress of working full time, coming home to care for our little guy, and attempting to keep up with household chores that by Simon’s bedtime, we are exhausted. And then, we fall into the routine of watching Netflix until one of us starts falling asleep (it’s me – I always fall asleep first – I blame being pregnant) and then we head upstairs to go to bed. The two uninterrupted five-hour drives we had this weekend were so fulfilling that neither of us minded driving through the rain to get home.


Eventually, we made it back home to the chaos of baby toys, bottles, and diaper changes. And then,  we were able to enjoy this rainy Sunday as it was meant to be enjoyed – with cozy clothes, curling up together, and a hearty beef stew for dinner.

Because what better way to embrace this misty fall day, than with a stew?


Confession – I’ve never made a beef stew before. My go-to for soups are chicken or potato based, but a few days ago, we harvested the carrots and potatoes from our garden, so a beef stew sounded like the perfect way to enjoy what our garden gave us.

I read through half a dozen recipes and decided making a stew couldn’t be too difficult, so I gave it a try.

Turns out, beef stew is not only delicious, but incredibly easy to make. I’m excited to share this recipe with you – not only because I’m proud of myself for making a delicious dinner, but so you can have another staple to add to your list of winter meals.


Hearty Beef Stew


What you need:

  • 1 ¼ lbs. of stew meat – beef cut into one inch chunks
  • ⅓ cup flour
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4 cups of beef stock
  • 3 cups potatoes, cubed
  • 1 cup carrots, cut into one inch pieces
  • 8-10 asparagus spears, broken into one inch pieces
  • 1 teaspoon parsley
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 2 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 ½ ladles of broth
  • An additional ⅓ cup of flour


  1. Place your stew meat into a bowl. Add ⅓ cup of flour, salt, and pepper. Toss meat to coat in flour and spices. Heat your dutch oven or stockpot with olive oil and sear your stew meat on all sides. Remove the meat from the stockpot and set aside.
  2. Sautee the onion and garlic (add more olive oil to your stockpot if needed) until onion is translucent and garlic is golden. Add the meat back into the stockpot, cover with beef stock, and cook on medium heat while you prepare the vegetables.
  3. Prepare your vegetables. Peel and cube your potatoes. Chop your carrots and asparagus into one inch pieces. This should take just long enough for your child to completely empty the recycle bin all over the kitchen floor and for him to go for a swim in the dog’s water bowl.
  4. Stir your vegetables into the stockpot, along with the parsley, paprika and tomato paste. Cook on low heat for an hour (at least). I let my stew simmer throughout Simon’s dinner, bath, and bedtime – so it was closer to 1 ½-2 hours.
  5. Take out about 1 ½ ladles of the broth from your stew and pour into a saucepan. Add ⅓ cup of flour and whisk together to make a thick roux. The broth should be hot enough that it will mix with the flour without needing to heat the saucepan.
  6. Pour the roux into your stew and mix well.
  7. Ladle out a generous portion of stew into bowls and serve with fresh bread. Yum!


This stew recipe may look intimidating based on the number of ingredients, but I promise you it is worth every savory sip!


And with that, we’ve come to the end of another weekend. Time to make a cup of tea, cozy up with a good book, and listen to the rain beat against the roof and fall down the chimney. I’m going savor every last moment of this rainy Sunday before the chaotic work week begins again.


May your heart and your soup bowls be full.


Peach Butter and Preserving

It is finally fall. Finally time for apple picking, pumpkin patches, golden red leaves, and warm homemade soups. Finally time to grab your jackets out of storage and time to put those flip-flops away.

I’m ready for you, fall. … Even if it is still in the 80s – stubborn Missouri.

With the fall comes time to harvest. And with the harvest, comes my favorite activity: canning.

Yes, I would list canning as one of my favorite activities or hobbies. There’s something magical in taking thirteen pounds of ripe peaches, slicing them or cooking them down into peach butter, and sealing them in glass jars to save for a cold winter’s day. Nothing is better than a taste of summer when the temperature is below zero.

My idea of a perfect Saturday is spent in the kitchen. The window is open to let in a crisp fall breeze. Deano and Frank are playing in the background. Our little rugrat is playing on the floor, and my canner is working magic on the stove.


And here, my friends, is how to use a water-bath canner.

A quick side note – you don’t actually need a canner, just a big ‘ol pot – that’s what we used for years. This summer, we finally bought a canner. I love it because we can fit more jars in than a regular pot (check it out here).


What you need:

  • Something delicious to process and preserve (like peach butter)
  • A large canner, or stockpot
  • Glass mason jars with rings and new lids
  • Jar lifter or tongs
  • Canning funnel


To make Peach Butter, you really only need two ingredients: ripe peaches, and a sprinkle of sweetener (if you desire).


Start by slicing your peaches into quarters, removing the pits.

Place your peaches into a blender or food processor to process until smooth – our goal is a peach puree, not peach juice!

Pour your pureed peach goodness into a large cooking pot or dutch oven.


Cook on medium-low heat, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Your peaches should simmer for thirty five minutes or so, until they reach the desired consistency and become thick, smooth butter.

As you taste test your peaches during the cooking process, feel free to sprinkle in some sweetener (we’ve used white cane sugar or brown sugar).


While your peaches are cooking down, you’ll need to prep your canner and materials.

Fill your canner with water and add your glass mason jars. The jars need to sit in the water long enough that the water is simmering or lightly boiling. This allows your jars to be sterilized, and it safely heats up the jars so that when you pour in your deliciously hot peach butter, the jars don’t crack.


When your jars are warm and your peaches have melted into butter, you can start preserving!

One at a time, use your jar lifter or tongs to empty the jars of water and place on the counter top. Place your jar funnel in the jar and fill with peach butter, leaving  ¼ inch of headspace. Take a clean butter knife and run along the inside of the glass to remove any air bubbles lurking at the bottom. Use a clean, damp towel to wipe off the rim of your jar. You want to remove any stray peach butter left behind on the rim or in the threads of the jar.

Place a new lid on your jar. Screw your ring on securely and repeat this process until all jars are full.

Using a jar lifter or tongs, place your jars filled with summer goodness into the canner (which is still full of hot water). When your canner is full, cover with the lid and turn up the heat.

You’ll need to boil the jars – a hard boil, not a simmer – for 10-13 minutes. Don’t start your timer until the water in the canner is already boiling to make sure the peach butter has enough time to process – this allows the lid to seal completely and any pesky bacteria to be killed off.


When your processing timer goes off, turn off the heat and remove the canner lid. Allow the jars to sit in the water for a few minutes to settle. Then using tongs or a jar lifter, place your jars on a towel on your kitchen counter. Let them sit, undisturbed, for the next 24 hours. Soon your should hear the magical *pop* of the lids sealing!


And there you have it! A taste of summer sweetly preserved in glass jars. You are a canning, food preserving master!


Now that we’ve reached apple season, the canning opportunities are endless. Apple butter, apple sauce, apple pie filling, cinnamon apples. I think I’ll just sit here awhile, fresh espresso in hand, and brainstorm apple recipes to can.

— And with that thought, my baby woke up from his nap. I guess I’ll have to postpone my apple daydreams for a little while.


As always, may your heart and your pantry, be full.


Strawberry Jam

In our house there is a great debate.

In this debate, there are no compromises. We both believe that we are correct and the other is sadly mistaken.

This great debate all centers around peanut butter – more specifically, what type of fruity, sweet substance you use to complete the “J” portion of your PB&J.

One of us, who is clearly mistaken and foolish in their ways, thinks you can only use grape jelly.

The other, who knows a thing or two about making delicious food and who has the correct answer in this debate, knows that the only way to top off your delicious peanut butter sandwich is with strawberry jam – particularly when it’s homemade.


Pssst… I’m the one who’s right.


And because I’m right, I’m here to share how to make your own strawberry jam! Beware, it’s sweet, sticky, and delicious. Perfect for your morning toast, biscuits, and, of course, making PB&Js.


Homemade Strawberry Jam


What you need:

  • 2 ½ cups strawberries, mashed
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 3 ½ cups sugar
  • ½ package of fruit pectin (7 ½ tsp)
  • A smidge (official term) of butter
  • 1 stalk of rhubarb, cut into small pieces  (I had a stalk of rhubarb left over from pie making the week prior, so I added it to my jam to give it a bit of a tangy taste. It’s not essential, but it’s delicious!)


This recipe yields four 8oz jam jars, plus a bit extra to enjoy on toast right away! I cut the original jam recipe in half to get the ingredient amounts above (hence the ½ package of pectin). We didn’t have five cups of strawberries lying around – they tend to go pretty fast in this house. However, if you have a bumper crop of strawberries, or you really love jam (or love gifting it away), feel free to double the above amounts to make eight or nine 8 oz jam jars.


Let’s get started!

Hull your strawberries and toss your fruit (including the rhubarb) into a large bowl. Using a potato masher, mash ‘em up real good. Measure out 2 ½ cups of the mashed strawberry goodness and add to a large pot or dutch oven.


Add in the lemon juice and whisk in your fruit pectin. Add a smidge of butter to the top – this helps reduce the amount of foam that will form on top of your jam as it is cooking.

a “smidge” of butter

Turn the heat on and stir as you gently bring your jam to a boil. Once it’s boiling, add all of the sugar at once; stir until the sugar is completely mixed in.  


Crank up the heat until you get a strong, hard boil. A hard boil is when you can’t decrease the boiling by stirring. Let your jam boil for a good two minutes and then shut off the heat.


Foam will start to form on the top of your jam. Take a regular table spoon and skim off as much of the foam as you can, without taking any of the jammy goodness.


Lastly, scoop out some jam to enjoy right away and then can the rest.

Look at you! You’re a jam-making machine! Not only do you have the perfect accompaniment for your peanut butter sandwiches, but you’ve also got a few extra jars to share with family or friends.


May your peanut butter sandwiches and your heart be full – and sweet!



Homemade Laundry Detergent

One way Phill and I like to spend our time is trying out new “DIY” projects. We have fun looking up new projects, trying them out, and then evaluating whether it is worth the time (and money).

Our latest project: homemade laundry detergent.

There are recipes for homemade laundry soap all over the internet. Every recipe we looked through had their own quirks, but all of them essentially have the same ingredients. After reviewing a dozen or so, we picked one out and gave it a go.



What you’ll need for this batch:

  • five gallon bucket with lid
  • ½ cup borax
  • ½ cup washing soda
  • 1 bar of laundry soap (found in the laundry aisle at your local supermarket), shredded with a cheese grater
  • A tall stirring utensil
  • Water
  • Essential Oils (an added bonus for a fresh scent)

Step One: Heat 2 cups of water on the stove and add your shredded bar of laundry soap. Stir and stir until the soap is good and dissolved.


Step Two: Add in the borax and washing soda. Stir, stir, stir.

Step Three: Pour the mixture into your five gallon bucket. Fill with water until the bucket is about three quarters of the way full (We found this was most easily done in the bathtub). If you’re adding in essential oils, now’s the time to add them (we used 10 drops of lemongrass and 10 drops of eucalyptus). Stir for a good ten minutes to make sure everything is well blended.


Step Four: Snap on a lid and let your laundry detergent sit overnight, at least 24 hours. You should have a gloppy texture. When we made this batch, a good portion of the washing soap had formed a layer at the top of our detergent. Just a quick stir and it was good to go!

Step Five: Enjoy washing your clothes, towels, and diapers knowing that you are a self-sufficient woman (or man)!


In the end, making our own laundry detergent was enjoyable, super easy, and saved us lots of money.

Our cost analysis:

  • Bucket and lid: $4.65 – found at our local Home Depot
  • Borax: $3.97 for a box – $0.18 for ½ cup
  • Washing Soap: $3.97 for a box –  $0.35 for ½ cup
  • Fels Naptha laundry soap: $0.97 for a bar

Our grand total for four gallons of laundry detergent was $6.15 because we had the initial start up cost of the bucket and lid. Our next batch of laundry detergent will only cost $1.50. Typical laundry detergent runs around $10 and you walk home with less than a gallon. Y’all, we’re making 4 gallons for a buck fifty. Score!


I can’t believe it took us so long to get around to actually testing this out. Needless to say, this DIY project was a success! The whole process took less than half an hour and helped us save big on laundry detergent. I can also rest assured knowing exactly what is in our laundry detergent and knowing that by using homemade laundry detergent I am limiting the amount of chemicals we encounter on a daily basis.

Seriously, y’all – go buy some borax and get to laundry detergent making!


Until next time, may your laundry baskets be empty and your heart be full.




simple life, Uncategorized

Growing a Garden: From One Novice to Another

Sometimes you just can’t sleep, no matter how much you’d like to.

So today I think I’ll sit here, make myself an espresso and enjoy our silent house this afternoon as my baby, puppy, and husband all nap away.


This is our first planting season living in a house of our own with land of our own to till and to sow. We had simple plans for our first year. It was so so so tempting to jump right in and convert half of our backyard into a garden, but the husband (who tends to think more practically than I do) convinced me to settle on a 2’ by 10’ plot for our first year. The first day we dug our hands into the soil to plant our vegetable garden we thought we had an acre of land. Those seeds were so tiny compared to the vast (major exaggeration) amount of land before us.

The plan was simple – plant vegetables that we know we’d definitely eat: cucumbers, green beans, bell peppers, carrots, turnips, zucchini, tomatoes, and potatoes. We also planted basil, mint, dill, and cilantro in pots along the porch. Not bad for the first time around, right?


Our turnips, carrots, and zucchini are growing great! Most of our turnips are nearing two inches in diameter, carrot greens are growing tall and the zucchini plants have begun to flower.

We’ve planted our potatoes in a box so they grow vertically. The vines are tall and we’ve planted nine seed potatoes, making us hopeful for a large crop.


The cucumbers… well, they sprouted and, actually, that’s about all they did.

Of our green beans, six of the ten plants have grown and begun to weave around our rope trellis.

The bell peppers mimicked the cucumbers.

And now, finally, on our fourth attempt from seed, we have a tomato plant! It’s growing stronger each day and hopefully going to flower in the next couple weeks, yielding a late crop.


Now that we’re halfway through summer, Phill and I have been reflecting on our garden and it’s growth, or lack thereof in some plants’ cases (here’s looking at you, cucumber).

  1. Next summer we need to start our non-root vegetables indoors and much, much earlier than we did this year. Thankfully, both of our parents are growing peppers and cucumbers, so we have two additional sources for these vegetables this summer.
  2. We can use our “dead space” where there aren’t cucumbers or peppers and plant a late batch of basil (in one plot) and lettuce (in the other). Lettuce tends to grow better in cooler temperatures but hopefully, if we plant it in the back of our garden where it’s mostly shaded it will grow – even in the heat of summer. And more basil, because pesto. Do I really need to say more?
  3. We need to do more prep work with the soil next year. Our green beans are growing, but some of them are yellowing – a sign of nitrogen deficiency in the soil. We’ve been packing used coffee grounds around the roots weekly to try and compensate for the soil we’re using. Once we harvest this year’s crop, the plan is to add a thick layer of compost to our garden and mulch it heavily over winter. IMG_0506
  4. Speaking of winter, Phill and I are hoping to add in a fall crop of broccoli, garlic, and spinach. All of those are delicious and grow best in cool temps. Broccoli takes 60-80 days to mature, so if we plant our broccoli the in early August, it should be ready for us at the end of October, right around the time of our first frost. Spinach, which takes 35-45 days to mature, we can also plant in early August and get two full crops out before Jack Frost visits. Lastly, the garlic we can plant whenever; it will grow all winter long and be ready to harvest in July of next summer.


Ahh, next summer – I’m already dreaming of a garden three times the size of this year, full of our current crops plus sweet potatoes, butternut squash, asparagus, snap peas, cantaloupe, rhubarb, and pie pumpkins… and let’s be real, probably some more  – after all, I do have a few months to keep adding to my list.


This is the life, y’all.

The life the gives purpose to the summer heat and teaches you to lovingly embrace a good rainfall. The life that will encourage my children to eat fresh foods, get their hands dirty, and explore the outdoors. The life that inspires us to dream big, baby!

And in the midst of those dreams there is lettuce and basil to plant, sweet potato puree to clean off my baby’s face, and dinner to thaw.


Until next time, may your home and heart be full.







Freedom and Fruit Pies

It’s Independence Day weekend, which means the days are filled with the smell of barbecues and the loud pops of late night fireworks. And in this home(stead), that means pie.

Because what says freedom better than a fresh fruit pie? Nothing; the answer is nothing.

Okay, you’re right; I can think of a few other things.

But right now the 4th of July means hot, sticky summer – and this hot, sticky summer we are celebrating by devouring a tart but sweet peach and blackberry pie with a melt in your mouth crust.

Peach & Blackberry Pie

What you need:


  • 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ cup shortening
  • ½ cup cold butter
  • ⅓ cup plus 1 tablespoon ice water


  • 2 ½ cups peaches, fresh is preferable but I used peaches that we canned last summer
  • 2 ½ cups blackberries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon almond extract
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt


  • Heavy cream
  • Sugar

My favorite pie crust recipe comes from The Joy of Cooking. It’s simple, easy to make, and delicious.

Mix together your flour, sugar, and salt. Then, add in your fats, aka cold shortening and butter, which should be cut up into cubes.


Work the fats into the dry ingredients using a pastry blender. If you don’t have a pastry blender, you can use two knives (one in each hand) and cut across the bowl in opposite directions. While blending the fats and the dry ingredients be sure to scrape up any rogue flour at the bottom of the bowl so that the butter in incorporated thoroughly.

You know you’re finished mixing when there are a few pea-sized chunks of butter in your dough, but for the most part your dough has the consistency of crumbs. Those bigger chunks of butter and shortening will melt into the dough in the oven, which gives your crust a flaky texture. Mmm yum!


Drizzle the ice water over your dough and mix using a rubber spatula. If your dough forms a ball and sticks together you have enough water; if not, add another tablespoon of ice water.

Divide your dough in half (top crust and bottom crust), wrap tightly in plastic to refrigerate for 1 hour before using. The reasoning behind refrigerating the dough before using it is that it gives the fats a chance to firm up again. The colder the butter and shortening are the more likely they will stay cold and firm when you are working with your hands, which are quite warm, to form the dough into a pie plate. Ideally, the butter won’t melt until it is in the oven and surrounding a delicious fruit mixture – hence, the hour (at least) wait time.


Now you have an hour to do other fun, freedom-related things! After all, you have the freedom to:

Drink a cup of coffee at four in the afternoon;

Put your washed clothes out on the clothesline;

Make your own laundry detergent;

Change your baby’s diaper and outfit for the third time today because they are a drooling, teething, (adorable) mess;

Love on your husband as he tries to sneakily take pictures of you making pie crust;

Dance around the kitchen listening to Frank Sinatra.


At least, that’s what we did for an hour.


Once your dough has had time to chill out you can roll it and press it into pie plate. With the top layer, you can roll it out to place a full sheet on top of your fruit (remember to cut four lines as vents), or you can cut out fun designs and lattice. I opted for stars and stripes – it is 4th of July after all!


To fill the pie, toss your fruit in a large bowl. Mix in sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, almond extract, and salt. Fill your pie crust and top with lattice. Last step is to brush your top pie crust with a bit of cream and sprinkle on some sugar. Bake at 450 degrees for thirty minutes; then, place a cookie sheet under the pie dish and continue to bake for an additional thirty minutes at 350 degrees.  Eat and enjoy!


And there you go, a taste of summer in pie form. Take this delicious pie with you to your next holiday gathering and you’re sure to be crowned Pie Queen of the Neighborhood.



May your holidays and your homes be full of love and pie this weekend.


simple life, Uncategorized

For Love of Cloth

Our son was born seven months ago and he is the happiest baby on the block – well, the only baby on the block, but still. Just look at this adorableness!



 We have been joyfully diapering this little monkey with cloth diapers for the last seven months, and I couldn’t imagine it any other way!

To live in the homesteading mindset means to live modestly and to also be stewards of our planet. When you find a way to frugally be stewards of the earth, it’s a double victory! Cue cloth diapers.

The initial reason my husband and I fell in love with the idea of cloth diapers was their cost – or rather, lack of cost. Cloth diapers are a one time purchase, unlike disposables that we would have had to buy over and over again. Research says the average cost of (disposable) diapering a child through potty training is around $2,000! That’s a crazy amount of money to throw away, literally.

We were blessed to be given two sets of cloth diapers as baby shower gifts, and we have spent an additional $55 out of pocket for diapers and cloth wipes. That’s right. Only fifty-five dollars! We purchased additional inserts for one of the diaper sets we were given and bought an additional diaper set at a used cloth diaper sale, where we got seven diapers with inserts for $10. Score!

That means we’ve spent three percent of the average cost compared to disposables.

Okay to be fair, let’s add in the cost of the two sets of diapers we were given – an additional $60 and $100. Our new total is $215. Compared to $2,000. And we can continue to use these diapers as our family continues to grow.

Three cheers for sustainable living!

Another reason to love cloth diapers is that they contain everything. Even now that my baby is starting to eat solid foods and his poo is quite explosive, his cloth diapers always catch it all without leaking onto his clothing. I’ve had a few major blowouts and all of them have been in disposable diapers. My worst experience with leaking diapers was when our little guy was just over a month old. It was my first time taking him out in the world by myself, so I packed him in a disposable diaper thinking that would be easiest to handle. Oh Lord, was I wrong. The speaker had just begun and baby man was laying across my lap when all of a sudden – blow out. The worst part? My little guy was wearing separate shirt and pants, not a onesie. That means his poop-splosion landed all over me. I then had to walk from the front of the hall, mid-speech, covered in newborn poo. Talk about a mess!

Given all the messiness of childrearing, cloth diapers are (surprisingly) easy to maintain and care for. Sure, you can just throw away disposable diapers, but then they sit and rot and stink for years and year and years. Talk about an expensive way to litter our planet! To care for the cloth diapers I rinse, wash, and hang ‘em up. Just like all my other laundry. And if you’ve ever been around a teething baby (much like my little man), you know they soak through three outfits a day (at least) with drool. And really, what’s an extra load of laundry?

All else aside, the main reason I love cloth diapers is that they are made of, well, cloth. I know exactly what my diapers are made of and I can rest easy knowing there aren’t any plastics or chemicals surrounding my sweet baby’s bottom. Why expose my baby to harsh chemicals if I don’t need to? Cloth is healthier for the little guy, and more comfortable.

Have you ever thrown your towel in the dryer before taking a shower? I love that feeling of wrapping thick, warm, fresh-scented cotton around me after freshening up. It’s glorious! The same thing goes for my little baby man when I change is diaper and wrap him up in some freshly laundered love.

Hmmm, warm thoughts.


For our family, cloth diapering was a no-brainer. It’s the all-natural way to care for my little one and it keeps me focused on living a simple life. And there’s something about seeing cloth diapers drying on a clothesline that makes you forget about the surrounding hustle and bustle.


For the love of cloth, may your hearts – and not your diapers – be full.