Rhubarb in Reserve

rhubarb header

Although technically a vegetable, rhubarb is categorized as a fruit because it’s most often cooked as one in the United States. Rhubarb stalks are famous for their bright pink color, but they can also be light pink and even pale green. The color is not an indication of ripeness or sweetness, as with other fruits. The stalks are the only edible part of the plant; in fact, the leaves of rhubarb are poisonous.  In it’s natural state, it is incredibly tart so it’s not eaten raw.  Spring harvest season generally lasts from April to June and you may be anxious to preserve what’s left of your harvest.

Pie anyone?

Pie anyone?

Due to it’s tartness, rhubarb is most often used in recipes where sugar is added which is why it’s often thought of for pie.  From chutney, syrup, and jam to compote and so much more, fresh rhubarb can be a delicious addition to your table.  In my research I discovered there is actually a website exclusively dedicated to all things rhubarb!  Rhubarb Central offers just about every conceivable option and use.


Rhubarb is often combined with strawberries as their peak seasons coincide.  But wouldn’t it be nice to pair it with something else that isn’t ready until later in the season?


Rhubarb freezes well but becomes mushy when thawed; however, there is a way to work around this.  Cut it into pieces sized for the future recipe it will be used for in the future. Freeze the slices in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Once frozen solid, slip the pieces into freezer containers (it’s helpful to label with the recipe they are intended for: pie, muffins, etc. and the amount).  When ready to use it, add the rhubarb in its frozen state directly to your mixing bowl.  Once baked, the bits of rhubarb are just right.


To can rhubarb, check out this excellent step-by-step tutorial: CLICK HERE.

raw rhubarb


We are not a huge pie family (I know – gasp!) so I was intrigued by some of the other ways rhubarb can be utilized:

  • Popsicles – Enjoy a cool summer treat with these Strawberry Rhubarb Popsicles
  • Lemonade – Make double duty use of this Rhubarb Lemonade recipe by saving the unused solids to make jam
  • Mojitos – I love how creative this recipe is and starts with a simple syrup providing these refreshing Rhubarb Mojitos

You can also follow me on Pinterest to find my board: Rhubarb in Reserve for more ideas.
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Eight Excellent Recipes for Extra Eggs

Recently the laying hens have kicked into overdrive and the surplus eggs in our fridge are causing a real lack of culinary inspiration.  Although we love scrambled eggs there has to be a way to put a twist on the incredible edible egg.  My quest for some new recipes did not disappoint and I’m excited to share some of these amazing meal ideas.

Photo and Recipe from Lovely Little Kitchen

Photo and Recipe from Lovely Little Kitchen

Let’s start with a meal good enough for dinner … and it calls for a dozen eggs!  Linda from Lovely Little Kitchen has a yummy Breakfast Enchilada Bake.


Photo and Recipe from Recipe Tin Eats

Photo and Recipe from Recipe Tin Eats

Recipe Tin Eats has a fantastic idea with Ham, Egg and Cheese Bread Bowls – and they can be prepared ahead!  Just pop in the oven when you’re ready to eat.


Photo and Recipe from Flavorite

Photo and Recipe from Flavorite

Switch up breakfast for lunch with these Sausage Egg Boats.  This one is a double bonus for us since we just picked up some delicious pork links from the locker.


Photo and Recipe from Delish

Photo and Recipe from Delish

Eggs Benedict Skillet Casserole can be refrigerated overnight making it a simple solution for busy mornings.


Photo and Recipe from The Gunny Sack

Photo and Recipe from The Gunny Sack

Check out this twist with Tatertot Breakfast Pizza from Tonia at The Gunny Sack.  I love hash browns but honestly have a hard time cooking them just right (not burnt but not mushy) so this skillet dish is a perfect compromise for me.


Photo and Recipe from The Recipe Rebel

Photo and Recipe from The Recipe Rebel

A quiche made with Bisquick?  Yep.  Easy Loaded Baked Potato Quiche easily made the list of new recipes to try!


Photo and Recipe from Gimme Some Oven

Photo and Recipe from Gimme Some Oven

Another casserole option than can be refrigerated overnight is this Easy Cheesy Breakfast Casserole.  It’s a colorful dish fancy enough to serve for dinner too.


Photo and Recipe from The Stay at Home Chef

Photo and Recipe from The Stay at Home Chef

And what about deviled eggs?  If you are looking for a new way to serve a traditional favorite, you need to check out Rachel from The Stay at Home Chef.  Her BLT Deviled Eggs are easy to make and there’s even a video and some great information on cooking hard boiled eggs. 🙂

Do you have a favorite recipe for eggs?  Share your tips and ideas!

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Where in the World?

Life continues to change at a rapid pace and derailing even the best laid plans.  It’s been awhile since I last wrote – here’s a little glimpse at what’s been happening in our corner of the world.

The kids are experiencing some growing pains – and nobody is feeling it more than mama. Friendships have evolved into something more, the opposite sex is suddenly being noticed and there doesn’t seem to be a class I can take for navigating the teen years.  Somehow I thought the toddler years were going to be the hardest and that once I had moved past those, it would be fairly simple.  Silly me.  It takes time to consider my words and deliver them with wisdom and patience all the while hoping they are still willing to listen to my advice.

Our oldest gave us a bit of a health scare requiring doctor’s appointments with specialists over the course of several weeks.  The good news is that he is going to be just fine.  We did discover that his heart has a slight imperfection but nothing that we need to worry about at this point.

The school year should be wrapping up but we have made some decisions that will require summer school around here.  Additionally, our oldest is taking a course at the local community college to get a jump start on some college credit.  Getting that all squared away involved more time than I anticipated.  Again, I suddenly feel lost at this stage of life.  They are growing up so fast and what seemed like something in the far off in the distance is now staring at me clearly in the windshield.  I can’t help but feeling like the rhythm we’d just found is shifting quickly and I need to find my footing once again.

In an effort to maintain the various areas of my life, I’ve begun a new schedule which seems fairly rigid but is actually providing some unexpected freedom.  Getting up at 5 am was never something I thought I’d ever willingly do but it is proving beneficial.  Keeping up with the house has become a lot easier and the reward of a fairly mess-free existence is very motivating.  After about three solid weeks of de-cluttering, organizing and simplifying, life is less overwhelming.

We are learning to eat differently.  While we do eat a lot of our own healthy, homegrown food; we have been eating too much.  In January I began changing my habits and have subsequently lost twenty-five pounds.  To avoid this becoming another diet where I end up putting the weight right back on and to help everyone make healthier choices, it became my mission to change what and how the family eats.  Running has also become part of my routine and we are all giving more time to exercise.  Meal prepping looks different now and I hope to share some of my strategies with you.

It’s spring on the farm!  If you’re a homesteader, you know exactly what I mean.  Although we have experienced some frustrating weather, cold snaps and rain for days at a time, it seems spring has finally arrived.  Getting the gardens ready has consumed quite a few days and I am excited to say we are almost done planting.  There are a few more things to go in the big garden and the raspberry bushes definitely need some tending (thistles are officially public enemy number one).  It’s hard to believe that soon we will be putting up the first cutting of hay.

Lastly, I’m learning to rest.  It’s something I have struggled with for years but maybe my age is slowing me down on it’s own.  My soul needs some time to just exist.  Soaking up the sunshine on the deck or enjoying a nap on the couch is finally something I allow myself guilt-free.  It’s really sinking in that there is a season for everything; I’m actually more productive if I’ve had some time to unwind.

Life moves at the speed of sound most of the time but it’s important that we enjoy the fruits of our labor.  Perhaps it’s a homemade dinner provided from your hard work or a relaxing evening walk with your significant other.  Maybe it’s taking time to play a game with the kids while the dishes wait.  I will likely never be as productive as I secretly hope to be or conquer this twenty acres of my corner of the world but that’s not really the point. I want be sure I’m not striving toward your future goals so intently I forget to count my blessings.  It’s really sinking in that these years are precious and all too soon the kids will be out on their own.  The quiet will become deafening and things that suddenly seemed so important will be insignificant.  My world is here and now.

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Raising Beef Cattle

My knowledge of beef cattle is fairly limited.  I remember the “Where’s the Beef” commercials from my childhood but don’t recall ever giving much thought to the hamburgers I enjoyed eating.  A few years ago I happen to see the movie Temple Grandin and was fascinated by the life of this inspiring woman.  Much of her work is driven by the desire to see animals treated well at every stage of life.  The importance of this mirrored our own beliefs; showing respect and ensuring that animals be treated well during their stay with us.  We added cattle to our homestead about four years ago and have found it a worthwhile endeavor.

Raising Beef Cattle

Recently we picked up our share of beef from the locker.  It’s the third time we’ve raised our own and consider it a very good investment with minimal work or expense.  The benefits are simple – nutritionally – we know exactly what we are eating.  It has been a habit of ours for many years to discuss dinner with our kids as we eat.  Gathering around the table to enjoy a meal that literally comes directly from our land and hard work gives an entirely new meaning to being thankful.  Our children understand that these animals provide us with dinner and until such time, we are responsible for providing theirs and caring well for them.

Getting started with beef cattle doesn’t need to feel overwhelming or impossible.  There are a few key elements to consider and can even be done with a relatively small parcel of land.  Taking time to consider a few key factors can go a long way to success.

Choosing & Buying the Right Kind of Animal

Generally, it’s recommended that if you are raising a calf to butcher, you choose a steer for weight reasons.  You’ll end up with more beef for the freezer.  However, heifers are more flexible; as you can later decide to breed them.  When considering what breed, it is a good rule of thumb to determine which ones are available locally as they will thrive well in your climate and are easier to locate and transport.  There are many other considerations including frame size, crossbreed options, and finishing time.

Once you have an idea of what to purchase, the next logical question is where to purchase.  While an auction is an option, it is the riskiest place – especially for a novice.  To put it bluntly, you simply do not know what you’re getting.  While an animal can be healthy when it arrives, others may not be and can spread disease.  A safer option is a purchase from a feeder calf sale in the fall or at a farm or ranch.  Buying direct from a local farmer gives you a much better chance to be satisfied with your purchase.

Our calves are from a local farmer.  One of the main reasons we’ve had very few issues is because we purchase from people who know what they are doing and are honest and respectful when dealing with us (since we don’t always know!) 🙂  Our neighbor works through his herd in the spring and we generally purchase calves that were born a little later than the rest making them less than ideal for their purposes and efforts.  They are healthy, weaned and easy-going.


Before bringing your new friend home, make sure you have a place to keep it.  As long as you’re purchasing a weaned calf, you should be able to keep it comfortable with a run in shed of some kind and a pasture area.  Our set up is just that – the back stretch of our barn, under the hayloft, is a run-in on both sides that we have divided in half (cows on one side and horses on the other) and each has it’s own outdoor paddock.  Keep in mind that these animals are strong and you will need secure fencing.

Care and Feeding

We’ve found it beneficial to raise a minimum of two at a time – they can keep each other company and generally seem happier.  While we won’t require that much beef for our family, we have city-dwelling friends who purchase the extra.  Cattle are herd animals and are happiest when they are in a group.  It’s not a lot more work and provides a good return on time invested.

Feeding your calf is an important consideration.  To provide the bulk that most desire in a reasonably quick amount of time, grass feeding, without any grain, takes longer to fatten cattle, when working toward butchering weight.  If grain fed beef, calves must be fed grain every day.  Cattle are ruminants and do well on a wide variety of feeds.  To some extent, what you feed your animal depends on whether it is being raised for beef or milk.

We have chosen, for the most part, to provide grain or cracked corn only at the beginning if necessary.  This is largely due to the fact that we don’t want our beef to contain any GMO feed and we can’t guarantee we aren’t purchasing modified feed.  We have about twelve acres in hay at our farm.  This feeds our little herd year-round.  They are kept in a dry lot with access to the barn whenever they choose.  Although our cattle won’t grow as big as they possibly could, our desired objectives are met.  The daily care requirements are pretty simple; (especially if you have a teenage son 🙂 ) make sure they are fed and watered and given a quick check to verify they are well.

Inside, we have a convenient water source and water tank for each side.  During periods of inclement weather (winter, spring rains) we feed directly into an inside hay bunk.  During the relatively dry summer months, we provide a round bale in the pasture.

Our current operation is really simple in comparison to the one my husband sometimes envisions for our future.  We have family and friends that raise cattle with herds of anywhere from five to five-hundred.  While I love the idea of raising our own and growing our herd, I have observed some things from others that make me reluctant to dive in.  The commitment level seems larger than what we presently have in both time, money and inconvenience.  Fitting all of that in with our current life is something I am reluctant to do without being sure we are ready for it.

For now, we will continue to grow our herd by one or two at a time.  Three new faces have already joined our farm and the cycle begins anew.

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Health on the Homestead

There’s always a never ending list of tasks to accomplish on the farm.  Heading into spring, it’s important to consider ways to stay safe and healthy on the homestead.

Health of the Homestead

Take Care of you so you can Care for your Farm!

Recently a relative landed in the hospital from what started out as a fairly innocuous matter that quickly escalated into quite the ordeal.  I had heard of cellulitis before but honestly never really knew what it was or what caused it.  I’m not overly curious about medical conditions so I never took the time to do any research.  However, after watching something that began so innocently result in a massive leg wound, I started rethinking my nonchalant attitude about my lack of knowledge.

When I hear other parents discuss their children’s laundry list of ailments, allergies, and the like I often wonder how that’s even possible.  We are exposed on a regular basis to all sorts of illnesses and germs based on the fact that my husband is a paramedic on one of the busiest ambulance services in our state, we farm and live off the land.  I haven’t purchased hand sanitizer in at least a decade nor do we use antibacterial soap.  And yet we are healthy.  We have been very blessed in our household – very rarely sick, hardly even a cold or flu.   But sometimes I wonder if I’m tempting fate with my lackadaisical attitude; overlooking common sense precautions.

On one hand, the homestead setting is a hot bed of potential illness but on the other hand, we are building up immunities.  Somewhere there has to be a balance.  Surprisingly, this is a topic not covered much in homesteading circles.  Many articles are written about animal health and the various ailments that may befall our livestock but little is said about the human side.  When one considers the ramifications of an illness or injury to someone who is self-sufficient on any level, it seems worth discussing.  If myself or my husband were suddenly unable to care for things around our small farm for any length of time, everyone would definitely feel the impact.  Self-sufficiency lends itself to an extra dose of care.

Here are some simple, common sense things to consider:

Health on the Homestead

Take time to be safe

  • Observe safety precautions.  Often times we are in a rush, trying to get too many things done in a day.  It is important to be clear on how to get the job done safely and take the time to do it correctly.
  • Properly maintain equipment and property.  From shovels to fencing, anything that’s not functioning properly has a higher likelihood of causing injury.
  • Be aware of animal behavior changes.  No matter how well behaved your horse or llama is, at some point, they are animals and will surprise you with their unexpected behavior.  Many people have been injured because they didn’t think Bessie would ever kick them.  Our daughter found this out a few years ago when she was thrown from her ride unexpectedly.  Feet get stepped on, animals spook and it’s important to be prepared.
  • Whenever possible, don’t work alone.  This can be challenging given the many tasks that need to be done on a daily basis but at the very least, let someone know what you’re up to and have them check up on you.

Take Care of You

  • Stay physically fit.  Although this lifestyle lends itself to a lot of physical activity, that doesn’t always mean we keep our bodies in top condition.  During the winter months, we may be doing far less and come spring, aren’t quite  as limber as we recall.  Additionally, winter months provide more opportunity for slip and falls.   Strengthening and stretching activities can help build up your muscles so you’re fit for the tasks and less likely to sustain injury.  Aerobic exercise can also help improve your stamina.  Since we are often do a wide variety of tasks each day on the homestead, we don’t always work certain muscle groups sufficiently.
  • Wear appropriate clothing and work gear.  Consider the season as well as the task you’re doing and make sure you are outfitted properly.  This is a difficult one for me because I basically hate shoes and would live in flip flops if I could but it’s not always a smart footwear choice.  Having items, such as work gloves, ready and easily accessible also helps create good habits.
  • If you do have an injury or cut, ensure adequate care and caution.  Cover the wound, watch for early signs of infection and don’t wait too long to seek medical attention if you aren’t sure about the severity.  Many complications can be avoided if treated in a timely manner.
  • Adequate nutrition is also important.  I assumed that because I knew where our food comes from and we avoid chemicals and pesticides, we were eating right.  However, we often eat far too much and too often.  Taking time to learn more about nutritional requirements goes right along with a self-sufficient lifestyle.   Dietary needs also change throughout our lives and its important to consider what your body may be lacking at various stages.

Sometimes Things Just Happen

Even with care, sometimes we experience challenges we didn’t anticipate.  A few years ago we watched several issues combine to create an unlikely event when our hay loft collapsed.  Recent wind storms had caused some structural shifting  (unbeknownst to us at the time), we were in a huge hurry to unload wagons so they could be used for the next round and another storm was looming.  My sister and I rose early to unload the wagons from last night’s baling before my husband got home from his 24 hour work shift.  I’m not sure how it all happened but somehow the loft, half-filled with hay, ended up at a 45 degree angle on the ground and some of our livestock trapped underneath.  We were very lucky that day as neither man nor beast suffered any major injuries but it was definitely an eye-opening experience.

No one is immune to accidents or injuries but with some basic precautions and a little bit of planning, we can avoid many possibilities.  Take care of you so you can take care of your farm and family!


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Fill the Pantry: March Edition

Spring is in the air around here!  The seed catalogs are dog-eared and we are planning to get very busy soon.  Before we head out the door, tho, let’s check in and see what great deals we can find in March!

Frozen Food Month

If making your own freezer meals right now just isn’t on your radar, you can still be prepared.  Grocers will be discounting many frozen food items this month including:

Stock Up in March!

Stock Up in March!

  • Frozen meats & seafood
  • Frozen family sized meals
  • Frozen beverage mixes and juices
  • Frozen pizzas
  • Frozen diet meals

Holiday Sales

St. Patrick’s Day (17th) and Easter (27th this year) bring special deals on food products as well:

  • Ham (and cold cuts)
  • Potatoes
  • Corned beef
  • Chips & salty snacks
  • Fruit & veggie trays
  • Cheese & crackers

And after the holidays, look for markdown clearance pricing on décor and related items.  Grab ’em quick tho – they are usually only left out for a few days!

Household Goods & Clothing

For bigger items, keep in mind the following are usually on sale this time of year:

  • Small electronics from last year (new models generally come out now)
  • Snow blowers and winter-related items

Summer seasonal items are also being rolled out.  Get your pick (and grab a deal at the same time) on things like swimwear, workout wear, and summer clothing.

Staying Organized

Resources from about.com

Resources from about.com

Now is also a great time to tackle an inventory of what’s left in the pantry from last year’s harvest.  You can create your own checklist or grab a great resource from about.com here.   This helps realistically plan what your growing needs are this season.  Don’t forget to get those orders in soon for chicks as well!  You can check out this post for more information on getting started with chicks.

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How to Get Started with Bread Baking

A few years ago I tried homemade honey wheat bread for the very first time.  So fresh the wheat was ground right in front of me and the flour was made warm from the process.  I was fascinated with the idea that baking bread myself was possible.  I certainly wasn’t a wiz in the kitchen (my husband still says he taught me how to cook 🙂 ) and the process seemed complicated.  But I was determined to give it a try and surprised at how simple it really was to accomplish.  Bread making was the beginning of a desire within me to pursue a homesteading lifestyle.  The unmistakable aroma of fresh bread rising fills a home with comfort and creates a sense of accomplishment.

If bread making and grinding your own wheat is intriguing to you, here’s some valuable information to help break down the mystery.  Starting the journey does not have to be complicated or require a lot of specialized equipment.  A basic understanding of wheat, storage methods and the variety of recipes available will have you off and running in no time.


The first thing I had to understand was the difference in various types of wheat and what to use when.  Wheat is divided into several types based on the hardness of the kernel, color, and growing season.

  • Hard wheat is produced in areas that have dry-temperate climates; kernels are usually small, red, and have a hard texture.
  • White wheat is generally grown in areas where winters are relatively mild and there is adequate moisture. White wheat kernels are fuller and larger than red wheat kernels and have a softer texture than hard wheat.

Wheat kernels are also known as wheat “berries”.  In general, hard red spring, hard red winter and hard white spring are recommended for bread flour due to the high gluten content.  Gluten is a wheat protein that giving flours the ability to retain gases produced by bread yeast to permit dough leavening.  It can be added to poor quality flour or to a recipe in general to produce better quality bread.

There are a variety of sources for purchasing wheat.  Many local supermarkets will even order it for you or you can order online direct from the producer.  It is important to know what you’re getting, however.  Some sources may not clean it prior to sale and you want to make sure you’re not purchasing seed.  To help you determine how much to purchase, it is estimated that approximately 150 lbs. will supply an adult for one year.  A three-week emergency supply is approximately 5-10 lbs. per adult.  Children 8 years old or younger would need half those amounts.  Personally, we don’t use this much each year and I currently have about 150 pounds stored.


Once purchased, store wheat in moisture-proof, food-grade packaging, such as Mylar-type bags, polyethylene bags, plastic buckets, or #10 cans.  Storage at 40-60°F is optimal for most home stored grains.  Freezing or sub-zero temperatures don’t damage stored grains. Storage at temperatures above 60°F causes only a slightly faster loss in food value.  Moisture levels of more than 15% will allow molds to grow.  When the moisture reaches 20% some bacteria can start to grow and the result is spoiled grain unfit for use.  Additionally, store containers off the floor – especially off concrete floors.  Concrete can wick moisture to stored containers very easily.  Inspect grain often for insect activity.  A good rule of thumb is to rotate wheat so that no stored product is older than 5 years.  However, older stored wheat will make acceptable bread and various studies indicate it can be stored for twenty years.  I keep my wheat in 5 gallon food grade plastic buckets with gamma seals on a shelf in our pantry which is relatively cool and dry.  I also add several bay leaves to the wheat berries to ward off insects; however, there are varying opinions of the effectiveness of this method.  Since I’ve never had a single issue, I’ve decided to continue doing what works.

If you are interested in purchasing wheat, storage buckets or other bread baking supplies, click here.

Whether you grind your own wheat or purchase ready-to-use flour, there are an assortment of recipes that you can try.


Delicious topped with honey!

  • 3 1/2 c. hot water – 95 degrees
  • 1 c. oil
  • 1/2 c. honey
  • 3 T. dry yeast
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 T. salt
  • 1 tsp. ascorbic acid
  • 3 T. gluten
  • 1 tsp. lecithin
  • 13 c. +/- whole wheat flour



Place ingredients 1-4, in order, into mixing bowl.  Mix briefly – WAIT.  When yeast is active, add ingredients 5-9 at about speed 2 on Bosch.  Add four – about halfway increase speed to 4.  Add flour slowly until it pulls dough clean from sides.  Mix for 8-10 minutes on speed 4.  Prepare 5 loaf pans by spraying lightly.  Oil hands and remove dough from bowl, divide dough into 5 equal parts and shape to fit pan.  Place dough in pans and cover with towel.  Let rise 30 minutes.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place on middle rack 25-30 minutes.  Remove from oven and baste with butter.  When cool enough, remove from pans and place on cooling rack.  Store in bags (can be frozen for future use).  Loaves will only last two or three days so watch for signs of mold (if they last that long with your family!)

If you want to try your hand at a simpler bread that doesn’t require a mixer or the ability to grind your own wheat, this is a great recipe.  I make this also as my husband still prefers this white bread.  The recipe below is for 2 loaves but can easily be increased to make a larger batch (I make 5 loaves at a time) once you get the hang of it.


Goes great with fresh raspberry jelly!

  • 5 1/2 – 6 1/2 c. flour
  • 3 T. sugar
  • 2 t. salt
  • 1 pkg (2 1/4 t.) dry yeast
  • 1 1/2 c. water
  • 3 T. butter





In a large bowl, thoroughly mix 2 cups flour, sugar, salt and yeast.  Combine water, milk and butter in saucepan.  Heat over low heat until liquids are warm.  Butter does not need to melt.  Gradually add to dry ingredients and beat 2 minutes at medium speed, scraping sides of bowl occasionally.  Add 3/4 cup flour to make a thick batter.  Beat at high speed 2 minutes, scraping sides of bowl.  Stir in enough flour to make a soft dough.  Turn dough out onto lightly greased bowl, turning to grease top.  Cover, let rise in warm place 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.  Punch dough down; turn out onto lightly floured board.  Cover; let rest 15 minutes.  Divide in half, shape into loaves.  Place in 2 greased loaf pans.  Cover; let rise in warm place about 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.  Bake in 400 degrees oven about 25-30 minutes.  Remove from pans and cool on wire racks.

A Few Tips

I’ve found it is best to have my ingredients at room temperature when I begin.  Since I store my yeast in the freezer, I always set it out about an hour before.  Eggs should also be room temperature to avoid causing a problem with activating the yeast.

If you are new to baking with yeast, it can take some time to find the right level of activation.  There are several factors involved in this including water temperature, allowing adequate time, and freshness of the yeast itself.  A thermometer is very helpful to successful bread baking.

Raising bread also requires the proper room temperature and can take a little trial and error.  If your house temperature varies a great deal as ours does with woodstove heat, pay special attention to what temperature brings the most successful raises and plan accordingly.

Want to get started?

For a great tutorial and recipe variation, check out this video link from Fifteen Spatulas.  She does a an awesome job walking you through the process with minimal ingredients needed.

For more bakery goodies, check out these recipes:

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ABC’s of Fruit Spreads

What’s the difference between a preserve and marmalade? 

Is it easier to make jam or jelly? 

What tools do I need in my kitchen to get started?

If you find yourself wondering some of these things, you’re not alone.  Many products are derived from fruit and I’ve always been a little confused by the differences when I walk down the grocery store aisle.  Let’s take a crash course in fruit preservation methods by defining the criteria of each product.

Fruit Butter:  made from the fruit pulp and sometimes spices that are cooked slowly to a thick, smooth consistency similar to ketchup.

Conserve: made using a combination of fruits, nuts, raisins, and sometimes spices that are cooked until the conserve is thick enough to mound up.

Jam: made from whole fruit (except large seeds or pits) that has been mashed up or chopped finely.  The product is a thick spread that is not clear and will not hold its shape.

Jelly: made from only the strained fruit juice ideally with no hint of pulp, so that it’s crystal clear.  Unlike jam, jelly has a slightly gelled consistency so that it will hold its shape yet spread easily on bread.

Marmalade: made of small pieces or bits of fruit (most often citrus and citrus rind) suspended in a transparent jelly.  Most like jam in it’s consistency.

Preserve: made from large chunks of fruit or whole fruit (rather than the mashed or finely chopped fruit found in jam) that is preserved in a medium to thick sugar syrup.  The fruit pieces keep their shape and become transparent, shiny and tender.

All of these types of spreads share four essential components: fruit, pectin, acid and some type of sweetener.  The combination and how they are utilized determines both the complexity of the process and the end product.

FRUIT – when preserving, it is always important to use the freshest produce available.  Fruit can be frozen, however, so don’t be afraid to store anything you don’t have time to utilize immediately and go back to it at a different time.  Make sure to wash produce and eliminate any bruised or damaged pieces for the best final product.

PECTIN – a naturally occurring substance in the non-woody portions of many plants – especially fruit.  Pectin helps preserve food as it does not provide an environment suitable to support microorganisms that cause spoilage.  The amount of pectin found in fruits can vary depending on type and ripeness.  This does not cause a problem with preservation, due to the fact that pectin additive is easily available.

Pectin is available in both liquid and dry options.  It is important to follow the recipe directions precisely as they are not interchangeable.  Additionally, the timing matters – be sure to follow instructions noting when to add pectin.

ACID – in soft spreads, acid is necessary.  It adds flavor, helps with gelling and the preservation of the spread because it lowers the pH level.  Lemon juice or sometimes vinegar are called for with some recipes for fruit that has a low natural acid level.

SWEETENER – sugar is needed to help the gel spread and assists with preservation.  Some recipes may allow you to substitute other sweetners for sugar but it is important to research this as it can greatly impact the outcome.  In general, jams, jellys and the like are not known for their low calorie attributes due to the high sugar content.

Let’s talk equipment – what do I need? 

Having what you need in your kitchen before beginning a canning project is critical.  If you’re like me, sometimes figuring out what the gadget or gizmo is (and then where to find the dang thing) can be a project in and of itself.  I recommend taking a few hours to familiarize yourself with what you will need, purchase what you’re missing and then make sure you know how it all works in advance of trying to preserve.  It can be very frustrating to think you’re ready to go and then be surprised at the last minute.

Tools to get the job done:

  • 8 to 10 quart pot with either an enamel or stainless stell interior
  • large pans, bowls, colander, masher, knives, cutting board
  • measuring cups and food scale
  • long handled stainless-steel spoon for stirring
  • long handled skimming or slotted spoon for removing foam from syrup
  • candy/jelly thermometer
  • jelly bag for separating pulp and seeds from juice
  • spice bag for adding seasoning in some recipes

Of coarse not all jams and jellies utilize fruit.  We are addicted to hot pepper jam when we want a quick snack.  This was my first attempt at jam a few years ago when we were inundated with an abundance of hot peppers and I was determined to find a use for every last one.  If you are new to this kind of canning, jam is generally a very easy place to begin.  Here is the recipe I used:

Easy Jalapeno Jelly

  • 12 oz. jalepeno peppers, stemmed, seeded and deveined
  • 2 cups cider vinegar, divided
  • 6 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 pouches (each 3 oz.) liquid pectin
  • green food coloring (optional)
  1. Prepare canner, jars and lids.
  2. In a blender or a food processor fitted with a metal blade, puree peppers and 1 cup of the vinegar until smooth.
  3. In a large, deep stainless steel saucepan, combine pepper puree, remaining 1 cup vinegar and sugar.  Bring to a boil over high heat and boil, stirring constantly, for 10 minutes.  Stir in pectin.  Boil hard, stirring constantly, for 1 minute.  Remove from heat, stir in food coloring, if using, and quickly skim off foam.
  4. Quickly pour hot jelly into hot jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Wipe rim, center lid on jar.  Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.
  5. Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water.  Bring to a boil and process for 10 minutes.  Remove canner lid.  Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.

*Makes about five 8-ounce jars (Pour over a block of cream cheese and serve with Ritz crackers for a yummy snack!)

This recipe is taken from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, which contains excellent recipes for jam, jelly, preserves and much more.  I love the easy to follow recipes and great photos.  The raspberry jelly recipe I used can be found by clicking here.

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