My sister-in-law’s wedding is coming up and I wanted to prepare for the family flying in and staying with us by cooking lots of delicious food ahead of time, freezing it, and popping it in the oven each night. This was my mom’s brilliant idea earlier today and I started planning my week’s worth of recipes straight away.
Now, the obvious one - I’ve gotta make my favorite lasagna!
I've got all the ingredients but Ricotta! And I’m feeling lazy tonight- I'm already in my PJs, the kids are settled in watching a movie, and I really don’t want to run to the store. So I call my mom back again because she’d mentioned before how she’d made her own ricotta from scratch using whole milk and her Instant pot. Below is the recipe she shared with me, but she doesn’t remember where she got it from originally so the source is unfortunately unknown. My mom and I both however can vouch for its greatness (and easiness)!!
Follow these instructions and you’re in the ricotta:
You’re done! The cheese curd left over is the beautiful fresh homemade organic ricotta! Keep it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
I used to love wrapping presents. I worked at Restoration Hardware during college (terrible idea btw - I shopped more than I worked and ended each shift in the negative $$). I learned the fancy retail way of gift wrapping using sharp edges, double sided tape, and folds along the edges. I spent hours wrapping a handful of beautiful gifts for my boyfriend/fiance/husband back in my roaring 20's.
Now we've got two kids and what seems like thousands of thousands of gifts to wrap each Christmas. This situation led to me dreading Christmas gift wrapping time. I'd put it off, get all stressed about it, it was no good.
I was so grateful when I got a few of the ugly blue Amazon cloth gift bags - I reused those over and over. It got me thinking. I could sew these bags in cute Christmas fabrics - spend 2-3 hours sewing them and then re-use them every year; saving myself hours of effort and stress every Christmas.
I downloaded a Jo-Ann's Fabrics coupon and bought a yard of fabric in practically every Christmas fabric they had. It did take an initial investment of about $100 I think (but over the years I'll save $$ by hardly ever buying gift wrap again!). I did a mix of vintagey older looking fabrics and cartoon/disney fabrics for the kids.
Look how great these came out! I adore the vintage old-timey look and feel of these under the tree. Let's not forget all the landfill fodder and poor sad trees that are wasted in every house as wrapping paper is ripped, wasted, and trashed every Christmas.
Scroll below the pics for a link to the tutorial (it's so easy, it's basically sewing a pillow case with a ribbon added):
- Buy as much fabric as you'd like bags. I did about half a yard of fabric per a pattern which gave me 1-3 bags depending on how large or small I made them. I didn't really measure anything out because I wanted a million different size bags.
- about 30” of ribbon per bag (a little more or a little less depending on bag size obviously)
- All the sewing basics; sewing machine, thread, scissors, pins, etc.
I'm not going to try and tell you how I did the sewing. Mainly because when I tried writing out I found it incredibly boring to try and originally re-write a blog that I followed for help on this. Spool of Thread's tutorial is better than anything I could put together. Very detailed. The only thing I'd add is not to sweat perfection. I left raw edges on the inside to save myself a few minutes effort (gasp) and I don't regret it for a minute!
See the Spool of Thread gift bag tutorial HERE.
In 1862, Louis Pasteur discovered that he could destroy bacteria and the microbes responsible for souring alcohol and milk by boiling and then cooling the liquid, This process became known as pasteurization.
Fast forward a few years to the second industrial revolution in the U.S. (1870-1914). New farming machinery had enabled large scale farming operations which distanced the connection farmers had with their land and animals (remember Grapes of Wrath?). It was the beginning of poor cows being forced to live in over-crowded, inhumane, and unsanitary commercial-scale dairy "farms." There was also no regulated oversight or sanitary standards for the dairy process from milking, packaging, or transportation. This led to unhealthy cows, unsanitary handling of dairy products, and inevitably to outbreaks of milk-borne diseases such as scarlet fever, typhoid fever, and diptheria. This is when Raw Milk, which humans had been drinking for thousands of years, got a bum-rap.
Our well-meaning federal government stepped in to protect the people from "dangerous" raw milk and began regulating the supply of dairy products and requiring that milk be pasteurized. As best they knew at the time, pasteurization was the perfect solution. As Louis Pasteur had discovered, the process killed off all the bad bacteria that was making people sick. Their jobs were done- drop the mic!
But then again... What do they say about good intentions...?
What they didn't know was that when milk is heated past 150 degrees the nutritional value is negatively impacted. It damages the milk's vitamins, minerals and healthy enzymes (probiotics) that are good for our guts and helps our bodies digest the milk. This is what leads to lactose intolerance and inflammatory bowel disease!
Here's a great infographic that illustrates the negative affects of pasteurization on Milk perfectly.*
What you want to do is buy Organic Raw Milk or Organic Low-Temp Pasteurized Milk. Raw milk has all the enzymes and nutrients still intact that support digestion and absorption. Depending on your state laws (see map below) you should be able to get Organic Raw Milk from a local dairy farm. In my area we have Lucky Layla Farms. Or you can at least find Organic Low-Temp Pasteurized Milk at you local Whole Foods.
I'll end with this note about organic milk - it comes from cows that have access to the outdoors and are fed 100% organic feed. This ensures residue from pesticides, fungicides, or herbicides don't transfer into their milk. Also, they are not given antibiotics, added growth hormones., or GMO's (genetically modified organisms). You don't want any of that getting into your family's bodies. I know it costs a lot, but I value the health of my family above anything else and am willing to cut corners in other places to continue our organic shopping practices. So you want milk that is both Organic AND Raw/Low-Temp Pasteurized. Just one or the other defeats the purpose of intentional healthy living.
Pasteurization, Homogenization and Raw Milk Resources
I signed up to host my daughter's first class social last week and had to come up with an idea for something for 10 kids to do... I was chatting with some co-workers about it, looking for ideas, and one particularly clever woman suggested Halloween sugar cookie decorating. What a perfect idea! Even though, normally I'm not the biggest fan of feeding kids sugary treats - but the cooking/decorating part was so fun it over-ruled my angst about that. I tell myself that the organic/whole grain version makes it slightly nutritious at least. The kids had a fantastic time! Here's my recipe (adapted from my fave woman Martha Stewart!):
Sugar Cookie Recipe:
Lemon Icing Recipe using Essential Oils:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Mix the dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl mix the wet ingredients and then combine both bowls. Sprinkle flour on the counter, roll the dough out. Using Halloween cookie cutters let the kids cut out the cookies. Bake for 12-16 min (until edges are brown). Let cool completely before icing.
For the icing you just whisk the confectioners sugar with the milk until it's smooth. Add any spooky colors like orange and black (I use all-natural, vegan, non-GMO food coloring). Spread over cookies with a small spoon and add any of the sprinkles/decorations if you chose to. Icing will harden in ~20 min.
Making your own sausage is actually a pretty easy to do. Get yourself the meat grinder attachment for your KitchenAid Mixer. If you don't have a KitchenAid Mixer... go out and get that too! You deserve it.
On your way home, stop by the grocery store and pick up the following ingredients.
Homemade Italian Sausage Ingredients (using essential oils):
It's pretty simple really. You combine all the above ingredients and mix the herbs in thoroughly. One thing I'd note is doing get too diligent about cutting the fat out of the pork. I spent forever cutting all the fat out and then the sausage was a bit too dry. A little fat is a good thing.
Products in this blog:
My husband and I made Martha Stewart's Witch and Cat silhouette lawn ornaments about eight or nine years ago. We put them out every year and we still love them! They're popular in the neighborhood and just make me happy. I highly recommend this project if you've got one weekend day to dedicate to it.. It's an easy one for beginners. I'm going to share how to get this done right quick:
To get started, here's the list of what all you're going to need to do this project:
2. Now use the spray adhesive to adhere the whole which onto the plywood. Do the same for the cats. Use your jigsaw to cut out the design. When you're done you peel off the templates. We sanded the edges slightly and then painted them all black. Let them dry for about an hour.
3. Now you attach the conduit to the back of the witch and each cat using the conduit straps - 3 for the witch and 2 for each cat. We cut the witch's conduit 6' long and 3' long for the cats using a saw.
4. Don't forget to screw the cup hook into the witches' left hand so she can hold her lantern. Screw one more conduit strap on the back of the witches' right hand for the broom to slide into.
And you're done!! It's time to put them out on your lawn. You just hammer them in using a rubber mallet. Slide the witches broom through the conduit piece on the back of her hand and hang the lantern from the cup hook. I highly recommend a solar lantern, because then you're guaranteed that it will go on every night. I tried candles - which blew out within seconds of course (and probably broke fire laws) and led battery tea lights that you have to remember to turn off/on. Which obviously you don't ever remember. So solar is definitely the way to go! Place a cauldron at the witches feet for the full affect.
Back light the witch and her cats using a yard stake-flood light like this one. You'll be the hit of the entire neighborhood. I highly recommend this project!
Have Any of These Fall Diffuser Blends Going:
Party Gift Ideas:
*This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
I had a real life epiphany today.
I've always loved the holidays. Christmas and Halloween are tied for my favorites. It was only today that I realized why it is that I love Halloween so much! Because I'm from Maine! And in Maine we like old things. Scary things. Haunted things. Our state treasure is Stephen King. You can see a flash of my hometown in Pet Sematary as the trucker who hits the boy in the beginning is driving along. Pretty much everyone I know back home will swear they've seen a ghost (myself included). We were often doing creepy teenage things like seances in cemeteries and communing with spirits through the Ouija board. Our homes, and churches, and graveyards date back to the 1700's.
I came across this article from a friend's facebook post today that my hometown in Maine (Bucksport) is officially "the most haunted town in Maine." and I'm pretty sure that Maine is the most haunted state in the U.S. The tomb of our town's founder is cursed by the witch that he burned at the stake (that graveyard is... maybe 6 houses down from my mom's house). Ghost Hunters have done several shows there (and found it haunted of course) and at Fort Knox across the river.
It's all a lot of fun. The crisp fall air, piles of leaves, dressing up and trick o'treating. It's just pure FUN. Just watch Hocus Pocus and you get an idea of the joy that is a New England Halloween. So I try to bring a little bit of Maine to every place I've lived. If I had unlimited time and funds my whole house would be a walk through horror fun house. Each year we do a little more- this is last year:
We hung the skeleton using fishing wire. A spider hangs above by fishing line as well.
I've always got to add a nautical theme. Eventually I'd like a whole graveyard with wrought iron fencing... I'll likely work on that this month!
I dress up every year- because it's fun! Last year I was Maleficent and the kids were Hiccup and Astrid from How to Train your Dragon.
Anyway, come back soon for a tutorial on how me made the Martha Stewart inspired large witch plywood cutout with her two cats. I'll also share the holograph how too. There are so many fun things you can do!
Here's a share of my favorite scary front yards. Enjoy!
I was born and raised in a small town in Maine. My family's lived in New England since the mid-1700's. I would've been the 4th generation to work at the town paper mill if I hadn't up and joined the Navy right out of high school. I was still just 17 when I shipped off for a life of travel and adventure. A whirlwind of foreign lands, new cultures, and lots of hard work sped by as I served my six years. All the while, I'd occasionally feel the pang of homesickness.
One of my remedies to assauge those feelings? My Grammy's Whoopie Pies!!!
Now, you might not know what whoopie pies are if you're not from Maine. They're our official state treat.. and that's an understatement. They're at the register of every gas station, five and dime, or grocery store in the whole darn state.
Over the years I've made a few modifications. I don't use Crisco as a rule (the main ingredient being partially hydrogenated vegetable oil is listed as a food additive to avoid by the center for Science. in the Public Interest). I've added whole wheat. Anyway, I'll stop gassing on and give you the recipe already!
WHOOPIE PIE CAKES RECIPE
- 2 cups Organic Whole Wheat White Flour (I use King Arthur's)
- 1 1/2 cup Organic Whole Wheat Flour - I prefer to mill my own from a soft white wheat grain like spelt)
- 1 tsp Himalayan pink salt. I use Himalayan pink salt because it's loaded with tons of essential minerals. It hasn't been refined and processed like white table salt that's so common in America and completely lacking in any health benefits.
- 1 1/2 cups of unsweetened organic cocoa powder. Choose a brand like Frontier that is Fair Trade and organic because most commercial cocoa powders contain high quantities of Cadmium, a metal linked to kidney damage and bone softening.
- 1 cup (2 sticks) of organic butter at room temp
- 2 cups organic sugar
- 2 large organic, cage free eggs NOTE: you can tell how "free" the chickens were by the variations in the eggs. If they range in size, color, and markings that is proof that the chickens diets varied from each other depending on what they ate out in the yard. If they're raised in a factory farm you get eggs that are all exactly the same because there's no natural variation in diet/exercise.
- 2 cups organic buttermilk. Buttermilk's pretty pricey and I never seem to have it on hand. So I just make it. Combine 1 cup of milk with 1 Tbl vinegar or lemon juice (double that for this recipe obviously) and let it sit 5 minutes. Voila - buttermilk.
- 2 Tsp organic vanilla (see blog post to make your own organic homemade vanilla HERE)
WHOOPIE PIE FILLING RECIPE
- 1 cup (2 sticks) of organic butter at room temp
- 2 cups confectioners powder sugar
- 7 1/2 oz. jar Fluff (there's nothing organic/healthy about this particular ingredient - but it's so delicious I make a personal exception)
- 2 Tsp organic vanilla (see blog post to make your own organic homemade vanilla HERE)
I had my eye on Anthropologie's "A Real Hoot Canister" cookie jar for ages. It was so darn adorable. But who buys a cookie jar that's $68? I mean, they're basically ornamental right?
No. No they're not. Let me tell you about this. The most fascinating, riveting, enchanting tale you'll ever hear.
So I was in Target one day, A delightful 1 hour staycation escape from the demands of urban working motherhood. All of a sudden I came across an adorable (cheap at $20) all-white owl cookie jar that was remarkably similar to the Anthropologie cookie jar I'd been coveting for months.
I can be a little crafty. Not a lot. But I figured I had the medicore amount of artistic talent that would be required to transform that boring white cookie jar into a look-alike Anthropologie Real Hoot Canister. So I hit up the Hobby Lobby for some $1 craft paints; I got blue, pink, brown, and black. I had some fine tipped paint brushes already. I channeled my inner-Bob Ross and copied the Hoot Canister as closely as I could. It's not perfect... but I kind of like it even more because I made it. And I saved money.
It makes me happy every time my adorable perfect little children put their cute tiny little hands in the cookie jar. It's just quintessential Norman Rockwell childhood memory material that makes my heart happy. Saving $50 is just the cherry on top.