Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Shoofly Pie and Thoughts

I've heard a lot about Amish Shoofly Pie, but have never made one. I've been reading some Amish-themed books lately and with a name like that I had to finally try the pie out. So, I found a recipe for it at The Splendid Table website. I should have known when I read the recipe what I was in for. It has one cup of molasses in it.

See, molasses and me - we don't get along. Ever since I was pregnant with my first child molasses has made me a bit nauseous. It's gotten better over the years, but it still gives me the shivers. Well, somehow the molasses part got past me and I made the pie anyway. From the recipe description, my pie turned out great; a perfect balance between cakey and gooiness. I had me a big ol' slice and.... it was disgusting. But, I assure you, it was all me. My taste buds just couldn't take it. It's still sitting on my counter and every day I encourage my husband to eat another slice of it. (He doesn't mind molasses like I do.) You know, I like the idea of molasses, but for some reason the rest of me doesn't agree. So, I am resigned to a life of avoiding the sticky black stuff, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't try it. If you're a fan of molasses, or can at least tolerate it, then go for it!

This weekend we finally found a farmers' market that was open on Saturdays. (Granted it was 25 miles away in Annapolis, MD. We live near Baltimore. Oh well.) Out here in Maryland there are different markets open during different times of the week. It was good to get out to a farmers' market, be surrounded by people of the community and smell all the plants and baked goods. I got some honey soap, found a killer deal on local lettuce ($1.75 for 2 heads! Beat that Walmart. :-p), some spinach, and some amazing, amazing local strawberries. I forgot how sweet and delicate fresh non-shipped-from-California strawberries can taste!

Today I realized something. I was surprised how my bread-making has slipped into my weekly routine. I don't even think about buying sandwich bread anymore. This transition has really made me happy. I'm one tiny step closer to reaching my goal of self-reliance. It really does only happen with one little step at a time. In the somewhat distant future I see chickens, a huge garden, and maybe even some pigs. Can't wait for that day! But in the meantime I'm going to enjoy a slice of fresh bread with homemade jam. Oh yeah!

P.S. I just found a Mennonite recipe for Shoo Fly Pie that just uses "dark syrup" but doesn't specify molasses. Hmmm... Maybe I could use dark corn syrup? Too bad I can't get sorghum around here.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Makin' It From Scratch #8 - Cornbread Mix

I love me some cornbread. And when I say love, I mean L.O.V.E. I don't know what it is about cornbread, but it satisfies something deep down in my soul like meeting your true love. Cornbread and me were meant to be together. I'm just surprised it's taken me this long to think about making a mix so that I can have a handy go-to when I get the hankerin' for a pie slice of heaven in my hand.

I tried this recipe out today and was pleasantly surprised at how well it turned out. The thing I liked the most about it was that the mix is only dry ingredients, so it should have a longer shelf-life than similar recipes that have you cut in shortening. Here's the recipe from The Prepared Pantry website with my variations.

Homemade Cornbread Mix
6 cups all-purpose flour (or 4 cups white, 2 cups wheat or another variation)
6 cups cornmeal
1 cup granulated sugar
3 cups dry milk (I used 1/4 cup powdered buttermilk and 2 3/4 cups dry milk)
1 Tbsp. + 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup baking powder

In a very large bowl, mix all the ingredients thoroughly together. Store in an air-tight container (I used quart canning jars) in a cool dry place.

To make cornbread:

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Grease a 9" round pan or grease a medium-large cast-iron skillet.

Measure out 2 1/2 cups of mix into a medium bowl. In a small bowl, whisk together 2 eggs, one cup water, and 1/4 cup melted butter. Add the wet ingredients to the dry mix and stir until moistened. Do not over mix; batter will be lumpy. Pour the batter into the greased pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the cornbread is golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Make yourself some! It's good.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Make Your Own Snack Bag

My amazing friend Holly made up her very own fabric snack bags as a replacement for the plastic bag variety. You'll have to check it out. Her tutorial is great with lots of pictures that make following along really easy. Have fun! (And thanks, Holly!)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Laundry Soap Update

Yesterday I made my first batch of liquid laundry soap. I usually make the powder, but since I ran out I figured now would be as good a time as any to give the liquid a try.

I was baking bread when I started the whole process of melting the soap in the hot water. Lovely bread smells were wafting throughout the kitchen. That is, until I started to make my laundry soap. The two smells completely collided in my nostrils - like smelling fresh bread slathered with soap. It was disgusting! Note to self for the future: do NOT make soap while bread is baking.

Trying to ignore the conflicting smells, I melted down the soap in the hot water, added it to the 3 gallons of hot water in a 5-gallon bucket, and then added in the soda, borax and oxygen cleaner. I stirred it until everything was dissolved, set the lid on with a small vent for the steam and put it in a quiet corner to sit overnight. Today I checked on it because I was sadly behind in my laundry and the whole bucket had turned into a clear gel with a layer of white foam on top. I gave it a stir, scooped out half a cupful and did a load. When I say I scooped out a half-cupful, the liquid was more globules of gel in a soapy soup. Interesting. I broke up some of the bigger clumps of gel by squishing them in my hand.

Well, it seems to have worked! I'll check my laundry when it's dry. I think I'd like to add some citrus essential oil drops so our laundry will have a little bit of smell to them. I'm pretty proud of myself and I think my husband was really impressed too. The bucket cost $3 and the ingredients cost about $10 ($5 if you don't count the oxygen cleaner) and we have the makings for many more buckets of liquid laundry soap to come! I'd call that a smart investment and amazing savings!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Homemade WHAT?

Homemade VELVEETA? You have got to be kidding me. That is stinking awesome! I hope someone figures out homemade American cheese singles next, because I sure love them for grilled cheese.

Monday, May 10, 2010

First Official FRYday

After having my baby, I am now in the throes of losing the baby weight. I've already lost over 6 lbs (hooray!), so I'm on my way. When I was losing weight from my last baby I was trying to eat all fat-free food, I'd given up butter and even switched to low-fat cheese. For someone that loves cheese, let me tell you - that was agony! This time around I'm determined to make my weight loss work with foods that I enjoy eating - like butter and cheese. I realize that making life-time food commitments is part of keeping the weight off, but what's the point if I can't eat foods I like? We have to be practical now, don't we?

As part of my weight-loss and sanity I've decided to dedicate one day a month to frying something. *gasp!* (I can't have fried food for the rest of the month, though.) So, I've initiated my very own FRYday to be held the first Friday of every month. It gives me something to look forward to while I'm dipping my carrots in low-fat ranch and telling myself I should be switching to skim as I drink my 1%. Okay, so I have to have some fat in my life every day. It's all about moderation, people.

Anyway, for my first official FRYday I picked one of my absolutely favorite things on the face of this planet: the good ol' Southern delight of little balls of cornbread fried in oil - a.k.a. Hush Puppies. I've never had a restaurant-fried hush puppy in my life. I only have this one amazing recipe. And really, that's all it takes. Shall I share it with you? Hmm? I think I will!

War Eagle Hush Puppies
(adapted from some book I don't remember the title of)

2 cups stone ground cornmeal (the fresher the better)
3/4 cup all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
1 large egg
1 cup milk

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the dry ingredients. Set aside. In a small bowl, combine the onion, garlic*, egg and milk. Add the wet ingredients to the dry. Stir to combine well. Make sure to scrape the bottom of the bowl to incorporate all of the dry cornmeal. You should have a fairly stiff batter. If it's too loose, add a little more flour to thicken it.

Heat 1/4 to 1/2 inch of corn oil (I just used canola) in a heavy skillet until quite hot. Drop a tiny piece of batter into the oil and if it sizzles, the heat is correct. Dip into the batter with a tablespoon -- make it heaping -- and drop the batter into the hot oil. If the hush puppies brown too quickly, turn the heat down. Fry until crispy brown on one side; turn it over and brown on the other. Lift the hush puppies out with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Serve hot. And maybe with a bowl of chili.

Makes about 24 hush puppies.

*Feel free to add more onion and garlic

Oh, heavenly YUM!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

An Interesting Revelation

I've been baking my own bread now for awhile. I had bought some store bread during the week the baby was due since kneading was out of the question for a bit. A week or two ago I was out of bread and I opened up my freezer to find one loaf of store-bought bread I had forgotten about. Secretly, I was relieved that I didn't have to make any bread. (But that's a secret, so pretend you didn't read that.) I busted out that bread and... was surprised by how gross it was! Becoming accustomed to homemade bread was a slight adjustment, but going back to store-bought bread, even for a little while, was a shock to the taste buds. Ugh! I hope I won't have to do that again soon.

Unsecretly, I have been pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoy making bread, especially once I found some trustworthy recipes. I love that I can do that for my family and that I know what is going into their mouths when I make them a sandwich. What a wonderful sense of satisfaction! And I don't need to tell you how amazing freshly baked bread tastes. Mmmm!

A Book to Recommend: Homemade

I'm going to start showcasing on my blog homesteading books that I've read. (See the side bar for a list) There are so many out there, but it's not very clear how helpful they are or how good they are to read. As I read them I'll let you know what I think. Here's my latest acquisition:

Homemade: How to Make Hundreds of Everyday Products You Would Otherwise Buy

This book is awesome! It has recipes for all sorts of things from food to cleaning products to pet care. It's a dream come true! haha!

Here are the chapters:

1 - Replacements for Pantry Staples
2 - Pickled, Preserved, and Frozen Foods
3 - Baked Goods You Can Make
4 - Snacks, Nibbles, and Drinks
5 - Make Your Own Take-Out Food
6 - Easy-to-Make Sweet Treats
7 - Your Own Beauty Products
8 - Healthy Home Remedies
9 - Wholesome Natural Pet Care Products
10 - Spit-and-Polish Cleaning Products
11 - Useful House and Garden Products

Some of the things in this book are more obvious like baking your own rolls or canning your own jam. But there were some surprises like making your own ketchup and mustard and even a cure for hiccups!

I think the only thing lacking in this book are more recipes for dry mixes. (They only have two.) From all my research, there are so many dry mixes out there that deserved to be in the book, like cornbread mix. The other thing to take note of, is that switching from store-bought to making things at home requires a little bit of investment up front just so you have the ingredients you need on hand - something the book doesn't really mention.

Overall, this book is a lot of fun to read through and I think you'll be surprised, like I was, by all the things you can actually make yourself.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Cheapest Household Cleaner Ever!

I knew vinegar was good for food. And lately I've learned it's a great deodorizer to throw into your load of laundry (perfect for stinky kitchen towels.) Not only that, but you can use it for cleaning everything in your home, even windows. Plus, you've just got to love how cheap and non-toxic it is! Check out this post at Healthful & Homemade for a little more on the uses of vinegar!

Monday, May 3, 2010


It's a new look for Knotty Oak Homestead thanks to Blogger's new template design stuff. It's pretty cool! I hope my blog is easy enough to read. If not, please let me know.

So, shame on me, I never got around to freezing that spinach. In fact, it went rotten before I got to it. That's so frustrating! In my mind I went through the process, so the freezer in my brain has nice bags of frozen spinach sitting in it. However, that is not edible. Ah, well. I'm trying harder not to let things spoil in my fridge.

I remember that once a month my mom would go shopping for our food. I was in charge of cleaning out the fridge before she got back. I didn't mind it so much. And I even liked helping put the groceries away when she got home. Now that I'm the mom, I'm wishing I had a child at home prepping the fridge for my arrival with food. Somehow, I don't think my 3-year-old would like that job. But believe me. Some day in the imminent future he will.
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