Got a lot of blackberries? Then check out this recipe for Blackberry Mojito Fruit Leather.

I'm not a huge fan of fruit leathers, but this turned out super good! And, really, you can't go wrong with blackberries, mint and rum.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Gluten-free Pumpkin Gingersnap Cookies

Gluten-free pumpkin gingersnap cookies
I had some leftover pumpkin sitting in the fridge when I stumbled upon a recipe for Pumpkin Gingersnap Cookies over at Two Peas & Their Pod. I really wanted to try it out, but I also really want to make them in a gluten-free version.

So, after doing some research and cross-referencing the King Arthur website (for just their gingersnap recipe) as well as gluten-free gingersnap recipes versus pumpkin gingersnap recipes, I settled on just a few changes to the original recipe.

Basically, I switched out the granulated sugar for brown sugar, replaced the all-purpose flour with America's Test Kitchen gluten-free flour mix and added 1/2 teaspoon xantham gum. The only other thing I changed was I added cinnamon to the sugar for rolling. And, voila! They turned out perfect. Soft and chewy.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Buy Nothing October - Saving Tactics

We've been having a little personal Buy Nothing October to cut back our spending and, hopefully, save up a little for the holidays this year.

Now, to be clear, it's not like we aren't buying anything - my youngest child's birthday is this month, so I budgeted a certain amount for those gifts, but I've been trying to cut out extraneous purchases.

This last year has been chock full of expenses. We had a lot of car maintenance expenses on our 14-year-old vehicle, replaced quite a few single pane windows in our basement, got a new roof and refinanced our home. We paid for all of these out of our checking/savings and didn't finance anything. And that was on purpose.

The plan was to save the $500 a month we are saving from refinancing to recoup the closing costs and other expenses, but we just haven't really achieved that. Other monthly expenses have crept up and we haven't really been strict about "binge" buys.

So, I've been really trying to crack down on that this month and hope to continue through next month. My husband really likes going out to coffee so we haven't stopped doing that, just reduced what we buy when we do so (only coffee, no treats). And, we otherwise aren't eating out. At all. Which is pretty normal for us anyway but we've been ordering out a lot over the summer.

One of the techniques that we've employed is to create Christmas lists for ourselves on Amazon and, whenever we feel like we want to buy something, we put the item on our respective Christmas lists to be ignored for a couple months. Most likely the urge will pass and if, after two months, we are still dying for those purchases, they'll get budgeted into our Christmas gifts. So far it's working.

Another tactic I'm using is recording all our expenses and watching our credit card closely to keep us on track. That way, if we start falling back into old habits, it's easier to correct sooner rather than later.

What are your favorite ways to avoid overspending money?

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Keeping the Heat Low

Our super awesome new thermostat
with some laughable temperatures!
Well, it's that time of year again when the central heat kicks on and we decide how low we want to go. I wasn't planning on hosting a Freeze Yer Buns 2016-2017 unless I hear otherwise from y'all. If you want a more formal event to keep you on track, let me know! (I can't believe the last one was in 2011.)

The first thing we're doing differently this year is that we've kicked our space heater to the curb (aka storage). My older child was overusing the space heater rather than just putting on more clothes. The final straw was hooking it up to our Kill A Watt electricity usage meter. After a few calculations it looked like we were spending something like $600 a year running the damn thing! I know, you don't need to tell me.

Since my husband is off chemo for the next 3 - 6 months (more on that later), he's able to regulate his body temperature a bit better. So, the household temperatures don't need to be as warm. My youngest child walks around half dressed and is impervious to the cold, so that's not a concern there. I tend to be cold, but I have an arsenal of wool and down to employ.

Anyway, the heat first kicked on October 2nd. We chatted a bit about how we wanted to program our newish, more accurate thermostat this year and settled on the following. Our biggest limitation is that there's always someone home. Between working from home and homeschooling, we can't exactly set the thermostat low during the day like I'd want to:

9:00 am - 9:00 pm - set to 67 degrees

9:00 pm - 9:00 am - set to 60 degrees

Now, before you start arguing that these seem like sultry temperatures, let me remind you that our central heating isn't exactly efficiently dispersed and the thermostat resides in the warmest part of the house. So, if it's 60 degrees in the living room, it might very well be 52 degrees in the bedroom. Or lower. I honestly prefer sleeping in a really cold room so it works out fine for me. And everyone has super cozy, snug blankets so it's not an issue.

What about you? How low are you going this year?

*Warning - this post contains a link to an affiliate program that might make me money, wherein I use said $ for giveaways and suchlike.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Gluten-free Zucchini Muffins

My zucchini plants produced an obscene amount of zucchini this year. Fortunately, my youngest child has been on a zucchini muffin bender the whole time, so figuring out what to do with it (besides grilling it with olive oil and salt) hasn't been an issue.

And, when the muffins weren't being consumed or made fast enough, I was shredding the zucchini into 12 ounce servings and freezing it for use after the garden stopped producing. I didn't do any other preparation besides shredding and freezing so I wasn't sure if it would work as well as using it fresh.

Well, lucky for us, we have about seven 12-oz bags of frozen zucchini to alternate with gluten-free pumpkin muffins (another favorite). And, so far, using the frozen, shredded zucchini has turned out the same as using it fresh.

This recipe, adapted from King Arthur Flour, results in a muffin that you can't tell is even gluten-free. Why gluten-free you ask? Well, my kiddo has IBS and has less of a problem with non-wheat foods. And the fiber from the zucchini helps as well. This recipe calls for the King Arthur Gluten-Free Multipurpose Flour, but we prefer to use the America's Test Kitchen blend.

Also, if you are looking for uncoated, Teflon-free muffin pans, I highly recommend the Chicago Metallic Commercial II Uncoated 12-cup Muffin Pan. If you have questions about this type of steel, Kitchen Boy does a great job of explaining it. We have two of these muffin pans and use them frequently.



  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F; lightly grease a 12 cup muffin pan (or use compostable, unbleached muffin liners).
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, honey, oil, sugar, and vanilla until smooth.
  3. Add the flour, salt, xanthan gum, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon, mixing until well combined.
  4. Stir in the zucchini and let the batter rest for 15 minutes, then stir to redistribute.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared muffin pan.
  6. Bake the muffins for 30 minutes, rotating halfway, until the muffins test done (a toothpick or cake tester inserted into the center will come out clean).
  7. Remove the muffins from the oven, and let them cool for 10 to 15 minutes before turning them out of the pan onto a rack.

*Warning - this post contains a link to an affiliate program that might make me money, wherein I use said $ for giveaways and suchlike.

Monday, October 17, 2016

Collard Greens Gratin. With Bacon. And Cornbread.

Collard greens gratin
We're getting to that time of year where the collard greens I over-planted decide they want to produce more than we can possibly and reasonably eat (apparently four plants is too much for two people and the kids aren't interested). So, what is one to do? Turn those giant leaves into a meal, that's what.

I occasionally pick up this magazine called Southern Cast Iron (where I got this recipe from) which, I hate to admit, I really love. It pairs cast iron with a lot of garden-centric meals that tend to be not so much on the lighter end of the spectrum. But, then again, pork fat is good for you, right?!

Anyway, this recipe is a great combination of lots of collard greens, onions, garlic, milk, cheese and a little bacon. Oh, and some cornbread. Which really seals the deal for me. You cook it on the stove top in a cast iron skillet, but it gets baked in the oven for a really amazing, golden, crunchy finish. It's a nice alternative to the standard sauteed greens and it's a meal in itself.

If you're looking for an inexpensive cast iron skillet, we love our 12 inch Lodge pre-seasoned skillet that we use not only for making things like this, but for making cornbread as well.

  1. 11⁄2 pounds chopped collard greens, stems removed
  2. 6 slices thick-cut bacon, cut into 2-inch pieces
  3. 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  4. 3 cloves garlic, minced
  5. 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  6. 2 cups whole milk
  7. 1 cup shredded sharp white Cheddar cheese, divided
  8. 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  9. 1⁄2 teaspoon ground mustard
  10. 1⁄8 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  11. 1⁄2 cup crumbled cornbread
  1. Preheat oven to 400°.
  2. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add collard greens; cook for 4 minutes. Immediately drain, and rinse with cold water. Drain again; squeeze dry.
  3. In a 10-inch cast-iron skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp. Remove bacon; let drain on paper towels, reserving drippings in skillet.
  4. Add onion and garlic to skillet. Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Stir in flour; cook for 1 minute. Gradually stir in milk; cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Add 3⁄4 cup cheese, salt, mustard, and red pepper. Add collard greens, stirring until combined. Top with bacon, cornbread, and remaining 1⁄4 cup cheese.
  5. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes.

What's your favorite way to cook greens?

*Warning - this post contains a link to an affiliate program that might make me money, wherein I use said $ for giveaways and suchlike.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Post-Windstorm Harvest and Prepping for the Storm

Well, the windstorm predicted for the Pacific Northwest didn't turn out to be nearly as bad as originally forecast for our area, thank goodness. At the very least, it was a good reminder on how to be prepared for a long-term power outage.

Our big problem is that everything in our house runs on electricity. So, if the power goes out, we are relegated to cooking outside and we don't exactly have a great heating source (except the fireplace). We generally don't have much wood on-hand because we don't use the fireplace very often and I honestly can't remember the last time we lost power. It's been at least 20 years.

Fortunately, it's not very cold this time of year and we're sort of used to Freezing our Buns Off. Additionally, we have a lot of down blankets and other warm and woolies to tide us over. I can always strap Paco to the inside of my wool sweater. He might not like it for very long, but at least I'll be warm.

I was mostly concerned of losing electricity because we have 50+ pounds of salmon in our chest freezer that my brother brought back from a recent fishing trip up in Alaska. We were trying to figure out how to keep that packed with ice. Again, since we don't generally lose power, even in the bad windstorms around here, I can't say a whole lot of planning went in to trying to curb that concern. Plus, salmon party!

Anyway, on to the trees... I was afraid some of my fruit trees weren't going to make it, but fortunately, they all survived unharmed. (I have a few new ones I'll post about shortly.)

I surveyed the backyard this morning and everything was in order. I also managed to harvest a few things:

  • some of the last of the blackberries
  • a few raspberries
  • the last of the green beans
  • a big bowl of green tomatoes
  • carrots
I'm hoping the tomatoes will ripen inside but, if not, I'll figure out something else to do with them.

The Swiss chard, spinach, green onions, collard greens and beets are still trucking along, but not enough of them to harvest at this point in time. The garlic and fava beans are starting to come up, which is always very exciting!

How's the weather in your neck of the woods?

Friday, October 14, 2016

Have Menstrual Cups Gone Mainstream?

It's been about 9 years since I first started talking about using menstrual cups as an environmentally friendly alternative to using tampons or disposable menstrual pads. I'm curious to get your input on the State of the Period when it comes to menstrual cups. Have they become more popular/acceptable?

So, just out of curiosity, tell me what you think...

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Raspberry Plants for Small Spaces

Some of our fall raspberries earlier this week, right before I stuffed them all in my mouth...

This year our thornless Raspberry Shortcake plants produced like crazy. They are producing a small fall crop as well. I was really tempted to plant a third plant earlier this year, but the two I have now were producing so much I didn't want to overdo it!

If you have a small yard, these are great raspberries plants to give a try. Not only are they not poky, but they are self-fertile, only grow 2 - 3 feet tall and are hardy down to USDA zone 5. They will work well in containers on a patio or even on an apartment deck. Just make sure they get enough water.

I know this sounds like a freaking sales spiel, but of all the random trees, plants, vines, etc. that I've attempted to grow (and cursed, killed or ripped out) over the years, this is one of the few ones I've been really pleased with.

Do you grow any berries in your garden? What's your favorite? Blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, huckleberries, snozzberries...?

*Warning - this post contains a link to an affiliate program that might make me money, wherein I use said $ for giveaways and suchlike.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Top 8 Ways to Preserve the Fall Harvest

Every year we go through the same routine - what to do with all those pumpkins, apples, green tomatoes and corn!

So, to keep a handy reference all in one spot, here are my favorite 8 ways to use up the fall harvest!

1. Processing sugar pie pumpkins - How to roast, process and freeze all those lovely pumpkins that you either grew or are buying from the farmers market, farm stand or grocery store.

2. Corn preservation methods compared: I compare different corn preservation methods and let you know how they all turn out.

3. What to do with all those apples: From canning, drying, freezing to making drinks, they're covered in this post.

4. How to ripen green tomatoes: From storing them wrapped in newspaper in a box to putting them in a paper bag, what's your favorite method of ripening green tomatoes?

5. Saucy apples: My favorite apple sauce recipe.

6. Hard apple cider: A link to how to make hard apple cider.

7. Preserving food for the winter: This post has my favorite method for drying apples.

8. Grilled pumpkin with rosemary and sea salt: This recipe is up over on my mostly neglected food blog (and at Mother Earth News). It's one of my favorite things to do with pumpkin.

What's your favorite fall harvest recipe or activity?

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Fall Garden Roundup 2016

Our fall garden is plugging along quite nicely. If anything, I'm getting a little tired of growing food and am itching for the garden to go to bed for the year. I'm looking forward to a winter's rest and where I can ignore the weeding and maintenance for a while.

But, I still have a lot of vegetables coming our way. We're still getting a lot of green beans, lettuce, green onions, collards and the occasional tomato and cucumber. I've got a handful of raspberries and a lot of blackberries still on the plants.

I've just finished my last plantings of the year - I put in the garlic and fava beans last week. I am, however, debating throwing some shallots in as well but that will depend on whether I get around to it.

Here's everything that's currently growing/producing:

  • Blackberries
  • Raspberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumbers
  • Basil
  • Swiss chard
  • Pac choi
  • Green onions
  • Carrots
  • Radishes
  • Rattlesnake pole beans
  • French green beans
  • Collards
  • Parsley
  • Russian kale
  • Broccoli
  • Romaine
  • Red lettuce
  • Beets
  • Chives
  • Oregano
  • Thyme
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Fava beans
  • Garlic

I planted a few new fun fruit trees this year, but that will have to wait for another post!

Are you done gardening for the year or do you still have fruits and vegetables growing in your garden?

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

What's growing In the garden - May 2015

I have gotten a really late start in planting my food garden this year, but I'm finally making some progress after a few weeks of weeding and planning. I know it's always fun to see what other people have growing, so I thought I'd compile a full list for you.

So, to make a long story short, here's what I've got planted and growing so far in my Seattle urban backyard:

Sweet cherries
Pie cherries
Columnar apples - Golden Sentinel and Scarlet Sentinel
Mini dwarf Honeycrisp apple
Pear - 2 varieties: I finally have my first pear this year (damn rust)
Blackberries - I pulled out one bush as I get waaaay too many berries every summer
Pineberries - kind of like white strawberries that taste like pineapples
Plums - Hollywood
Grapes - 3 varietals - not great for eating, but good for jelly!
Arbequina olive
Lime (indoors)

Green onions
Green lettuce
Red lettuce
Green beans
Shelling peas
Collard greens
Sweet corn
Yellow summer squash

Italian flatleaf parsley

Chickens (2) - my old ladies are still producing about a half dozen eggs a week

To be planted / transplanted this weekend

Phew! I think that's it. I still have a 4' x 4' raised bed of space to do some more planting in a few weeks. How is your garden going so far this year? Anything producing yet or is it still too cold?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

RIP Sarah, 2/10 - 9/14

RIP, Sarah, you big, white fluffy butted chicken. May you forever peck at delicious cabbage worms in the big hen house in the sky.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Full time homeschooling middle school

Howdy! Sorry I've been MIA this last week. School started on Wednesday and, on Monday, I made the executive decision (with support from my husband) to full time homeschool my 7th grade son.

He was scheduled to do 2 classes at his middle school this year, but the times they wanted him to take classes messed up my work schedule too much. So, I figured adding 2 more subjects didn't matter in the grand scheme of things. But, it did leave me scrambling a bit to cover my work schedule with a sitter and add a few more things for him to work on.

As far as our decision to homeschool our son, we meet about 8 of the reasons shown in the graphic at the right. I'm still freaking out a little bit about this decision, but I know he could step back into the part-time schedule at school if it doesn't work out. However, at this point, I don't think he's going to want to.

I've spent a lot of time reading about different homeschooling techniques. Last year we basically did school at home. We followed the 6th grade curriculum for the most part. I think it was good for a transition, but ended up being relatively uninspiring and there was still a lot of struggle and resistance. I have become much more interested in the idea of unschooling, but have settled on something in between for now. More of an eclectic, student-driven homeschooling within the general guidelines of a 7th grade curriculum. In other words, I'm going to offer the material and let him spend as much time on something if he's interested and sweep quickly over things he's not interested. Plus a whole lot of other fun stuff that doesn't involve sitting at the kitchen table all day.

My son's big resistance is with math, which is surprising because he's naturally extremely adept at it. I don't know what happened in public school that made him hate it so much, but we are taking it slow. I'm using the Life of Fred math books and I've already determined that he's going to need a lot of review work. I, frankly, don't think he did any work in 6th grade math at school last year, so we have a bit of catch up to do. But, that said, I want it to be a positive experience. It's also a huge lesson for me to give up the fear and control of having to do "such and such work in x amount of time".

So far, the first couple of days have gone well. I think I've got things organized enough at this point that it will get easier as we go along. And, with more of a gradual focus on unschooling, it should get easier altogether. Most importantly, he seems to be much more relaxed and happy about school. And, for once, I don't have to worry about issues at school for the first time in 8 years, which is a huge relief.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Drying laundry indoors and out

I'm so excited! I got the new laundry drying rack I ordered. That's 79 more feet of drying space, baby!

You see, I've been exclusively drying all our clothes outside for the last month since the weather has been so nice and dry. And warm. Of course, it's August so that helps considerably.
We were going to install something more permanent outside, but I wanted something that could be used both indoors and out. Mostly because we live in Seattle and 9/12 of the year, it's too cold and drizzly to successfully dry outside.

I've tried drying our clothes indoors during the winter, but generally give up because it takes so long to dry (several days) and I run out of rack space. So, in order to keep the air drying going, I figured I'd solve that problem by investing in more laundry drying racks. And, I've also decided that putting the racks not in the laundry room (which tends to stay fairly cool) but in the family room downstairs (with the vent opposite our oil heater) should make the clothes dry faster.

In any case, I'm pretty excited to continue line drying, even throughout the year. I'm very interested to see how it affects our electricity bill as well. Seattle City Light started sending us comparative reports on our electricity usage and I'm embarrassed to say that it's much higher than I'd like. A lot of that is because my son does part-time homeschooling so the space heater is going a lot during the day. And everyone likes to leave the lights on in the house wherever they go.

Anyway, I'll report on the impact of reduced dryer usage on our bill as time goes on.

What about you? Do you line dry at all? If so, is it yeare round or just during the summer?

Warning: There be affiliate links in this here post to help support giveaways and such like.

Monday, August 25, 2014

A week of canning, gleaning and baking

For those of you readers who don't follow me on Facebook or just don't like Facebook, I wanted to give you a wrap-up of what I've been up to the last week. Or, if you're on Facebook and you missed it, here's what's been going on around our homestead. Well, aside from the usual gardening business of being inundated with tomatoes, basil, blackberries, lettuce and green beans.


1. Apples (Round 1) - from the neighbor down the street. I've gotten apples from them in year's past and this year, they let me pillage their tree again. These apples are small and not very attractive. I ended up making applesauce as well as juicing them and making apple jelly (see below). I got about 8.5 pounds.

2. Apples (Round 2) - from the next door neighbor. These apples are much larger and tend to have less scabs and other problems. I used some of them for the apple jelly and still have a fridge full of apples. This is the first time I've asked these guys for their apples. They don't speak English very well and it took a bit of back and forth before they understood what I was asking. I got about 20 pounds.

3. Tomatoes - I walk by a house down the block that has a parking strip vegetable garden, so I get to check out what's growing every day. I've spoken with the owner a number of times before. I was noticing that they hadn't been picking their large yellow tomatoes so I decided to see if they'd be willing to trade tomatoes for some apple jelly. My neighbor was more interested in giving the tomatoes away as she was getting sick of them. She was also in the middle of making apple butter from her own tree and asked if I wanted some apples. Since I already has a fridge full of them, I reluctantly passed. But, I did score more tomatoes than we could reasonably eat in a day or so with the promise of more to come.


1. Bread and butter pickles - I had a ton more pickling cucumbers lurking in my fridge after making two batches of spicy relish. I love bread and butter pickles, so I decided to finish off the cucumbers making them.

2. Brandy applesauce - I used the crockpot for making this. Since the gleaned apples were small and I was planning on running them through the food mill, I just tossed a ton of them in the crockpot with some cinnamon sticks, vanilla beans and water and let it break down overnight. After milling them and bringing it back up to temperature, I added 1/3 cup apple brandy and canned them. Yum! (my Courvoisier Applesauce recipe is here).

3. Cinnamon brandy apple jelly - Yes, I like brandy with my apples. I really didn't feel like peeling and coring all those tiny apples, so I juiced them in my Breville Super Juicer. I added 2 teaspoons of ground ginger and 1/3 cup apple brandy to the final creation. I'm making more of this since it turned out so amazing.

4. Smoky blackberry rum jam - I spent far too much time running our backyard blackberries through the food mill to remove all the seeds, but the end result is well worth it. Dried chipotle chiles and rum give this jam quite a kick!


1. No knead honey sandwich bread - After reading a bunch of sites on no knead bread and how to adapt it to sandwich bread, I tweaked it a bit to include honey and whipped it up. It doesn't rise as nicely as kneaded sandwich bread, but it's so easy, who can complain?

2. Blackberry pound cake - My husband actually made this one, but I helped, so I'm going to include it. I'd take a picture, but there are only crumbs left. Here's the recipe though and the picture of what it should look like :) We didn't use basil, but home grown lavender instead.

Blackberry pound cake perfumed with basil

Picture courtesy of Kitchen Vignettes

3. Pumpkin chocolate chip bars - Yes, I made this again, this time without the black bottom and just milk chocolate chips throughout. My son loves it so much I'm going to make it again tomorrow after work cause it's so easy.

Whew! It's been a busy week! What have you been up to?