Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Blanching and Freezing Broccoli

Broccoli is high in dietary fiber and vitamin C (something most people do not know); it provides a modest amount of beta-carotene which helps keep your vitamin D metabolism in balance. It also contains several nutrients with potent anti-cancer properties. 1 cup contains only 55 calorie.

With all that it can do for you it is a vegetable that is a must for the homestead garden. It is one of my favorites. 

My hubs does not like it so I only have enough of it for myself and I choose to blanch it and freeze it as opposed to canning it. Boiling broccoli (something the canning process does) reduces the levels of anti-carcinogenic compounds and leaches some of the vitamins so for this reason broccoli should be steamed or blanched if possible.

 Heat a large pot of water to a boil.  

In a large bowl, fill with half ice and water.

Cut up the broccoli while you wait for the water to boil. 

 Carefully, add in vegetables and cook for 1 minute, only until they’re slightly cooked through and tender.

Then scoop out vegetables quickly and immediately move to the ice bath.

Keep the vegetables in the ice bath just until they’ve cooled, about 20 to 30 seconds.

  Remove vegetables, drain in a colander, and spoon into freezer bags. I like to use my vacuum sealer so I spoon them into prepared vacuum bags.

I don’t seal them right away (the picture above is not frozen yet. I wanted to get the picture taken before I had to go to work but trust me I froze them first. You will not be able to seal them properly if they are still wet).
 I put the open bags in the freezer for about an hour. I then seal them after they are frozen. If you try to seal them before freezing the water left in the bags from blanching will prevent the bags from sealing properly.  

I then label them and put them back in the freezer.

That's it.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Rainy Days

Rainy days are the days spent inside either cooking or curled up with a ball of yarn making warm accessories for the coming winter.

Today is one of those days.

As it's pouring out I'm curled up watching a good movie and making boot cuffs for my Etsy shop. I wish I could be outside weeding the garden or walk through the flower beds taking in all the beautiful colors and scents but today I can't.

So here I am enjoying a cup of tea and a good flick. Later I'll get out my crochet hook and get some projects done.

Etsy Shop

KatyDid Krafts 

When I'm not gardening I can be found curled up in front of the TV with a nice cup of coffee and a ball of yarn. I like to wind down from my day by relaxing and catching up on some of my crochet projects. I have a shop on Etsy where I sell my projects when I'm done with them. Here are a few of them. Stop by and have a look, maybe you will find something you like.
Lovely Bright Crochet Dishcloths

Hand Crochet Baby Blanket

Boot Cuffs

Neutral colored Dishcloths  

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Wild Black Raspberries

Wild raspberries are much smaller and seedier than cultivated varieties. They tend to be a bit more tart but make really tasty jam. 

They can be found at the edge of most fields, along the side of the road and wooded bike paths. I am lucky enough to have wild black raspberries growing at the very back of my property. I anxiously wait for them to ripen every summer. I love when Mother Nature provides me with free food especially when it's so tasty.

My patch just started to ripen and should continue to ripen for the next 2 to 3 weeks. I like to go out and pick them every few days and pick a few at a time. The birds and chipmunks love them as much as I do so I only pick half of what ripens and leave some for the critters. I figure Mother Nature planted them for all of us so sharing them is the least I could do.

If you are lucky enough to find yourself with a patch of these and want to pick them I would suggest wearing thick gloves with long cuffs, they have tons of thorns.  Once you have picked a batch you will want to wash them. They can sometimes have little ants hitch a ride during picking.

I put them in a white bowl so I can see if any little buggers came in with them.

I then run them under some water and gently swish them around to dislodge any hitchhikers and pour the water off. If I find anything I will rinse them again just to be sure I got them all. They then go into a freezer bag and into the freezer. I will add to them as I pick them until I have enough to make jam.

Happy picking everyone.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

My Mom's Amazing Apple Crisp

I love apple crisp! It's a quick and easy way to have the goodness of apple pie without having to do all the work of making the crust. Now don't get me wrong I love apple pie too but sometimes I just don't have time to make pie.
My mom use to make this recipe for my sister and I when we were kids. She passed it on to me and I get to make it for my family now and I'm going to share it with you.

5 cups thinly sliced apples (any kind you like)
1 Tbsp cinnamon
¼ cup white sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats 
1 cup packed brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

1.    Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2.    Toss apples in a shallow 2 quart baking dish. Sprinkle with 1 Tbsp cinnamon and white sugar.

3.    In a large bowl, combine flour, oats, brown sugar, and salt. Mix to blend thoroughly. Cut in the butter or margarine until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Mix in walnuts. Crumble over apples to cover completely.

4.    Bake for 40 to 45 minutes until top is lightly browned. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Mmmmmm! Doesn't it look so yummy?!

I like to eat it while it's still warm with a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Damaging storm on the Homestead

So last night a storm rolled through here bringing with it hail, strong winds, rain and tornadoes. We faired well here, my neighbors had some downed trees, one lost their carport and sustained damage to their car, and 73,000 homes lost power. We by the grace of God did not have loss of life but some regions were not so lucky.

Now I live in an area of the country that is not known for tornadoes so most people around here are not verse on the proper safety precautions. I saw a woman outside during the storm trying to save her metal carport from collapsing while thunder and lightning is exploding around her. People driving around downed power lines. Knowing what to do in an emergency is crucial to survival. After the power has already gone out is not the time to wonder where your flashlight is.

Some tips from the FEMA website:

Thunderstorms and lightning

  • Avoid contact with corded phones and devices including those plugged into electric for recharging.  Cordless and wireless phones not connected to wall outlets are OK to use.
  • Avoid contact with electrical equipment or cords. Unplug appliances and other electrical items such as computers and turn off air conditioners. Power surges from lightning can cause serious damage.
  • Avoid contact with plumbing. Do not wash your hands, do not take a shower, do not wash dishes, and do not do laundry. Plumbing and bathroom fixtures can conduct electricity.
  • Stay away from windows and doors, and stay off porches.
  • Do not lie on concrete floors and do not lean against concrete walls.
  • Avoid natural lightning rods such as a tall, isolated tree in an open area.
  • Avoid hilltops, open fields, the beach or a boat on the water.
  • Take shelter in a sturdy building. Avoid isolated sheds or other small structures in open areas.
  • Avoid contact with anything metal—tractors, farm equipment, motorcycles, golf carts, golf clubs, and bicycles.
If you are driving, try to safely exit the roadway and park. Stay in the vehicle and turn on the emergency flashers until the heavy rain ends. Avoid touching metal or other surfaces that conduct electricity in and outside the vehicle.


  • Go to a pre-designated area such as a safe room, basement, storm cellar, or the lowest building level. If there is no basement, go to the center of a small interior room on the lowest level (closet, interior hallway) away from corners, windows, doors, and outside walls. Put as many walls as possible between you and the outside. Get under a sturdy table and use your arms to protect your head and neck.
  • In a high-rise building, go to a small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible.
  • Put on sturdy shoes.
  • Do not open windows.
If you are not in a sturdy building, there is no single research-based recommendation for what last-resort action to take because many factors can affect your decision. Possible actions include:
  • Immediately get into a vehicle, buckle your seat belt and try to drive to the closest sturdy shelter. If your vehicle is hit by flying debris while you are driving, pull over and park.
  • Take cover in a stationary vehicle. Put the seat belt on and cover your head with your arms and a blanket, coat or other cushion if possible.
  • Lie in an area noticeably lower than the level of the roadway and cover your head with your arms and a blanket, coat or other cushion if possible.
In all situations:

  • Do not get under an overpass or bridge. You are safer in a low, flat location.
  • Never try to outrun a tornado in urban or congested areas in a car or truck. Instead, leave the vehicle immediately for safe shelter.
  • Watch out for flying debris. Flying debris from tornadoes causes most fatalities and injuries.

I am no expert so you should consult FEMA or emergency services for expert advice. Please be smart and stay safe! Material goods are not worth your life! Leave it and find a safe place to ride out the storm!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Compilation of garden photos

Some pretty pictures I took this morning on my walk through the garden.

These flowers just showed up a couple of years ago. I don't know what they are but they are pretty. They are a bit invasive. If anyone can tell me what they are I would love to know.

Bee balm 


More bee balm

My tomatoes are coming along nicely

Cucumber flowers

Very health cucumber plant

More yummy tomatoes

The peppers are doing well too



Sunday, July 6, 2014

Picking and Freezing Strawberries

I love strawberries!

I've had strawberry shortcake for my birthday cake for as long as I can remember. My mom made it for me every year. We would go strawberry picking together and then come home and make warm biscuits and homemade whipped cream. It's one of my most favorite memories.

We would get up early and go to this farm a few miles up the road from our house. When we got there the workers would give us a flag that we put at the end of the row we were picking to indicate which ones have been picked. We would then put another one where we stopped picking. They were very efficient, they kept track of where everyone was picking and rotated the patched every few days. You paid by the quart and they made sure you didn't pile the berries to high in each one.

Now I go to a farm just outside of the city to pick my berries. This farm does things a little bit differently than the one from my childhood. You show up with your own bucket, have it weighed and then they direct you to the field they are picking in for the day. Everyone just wanders around picking on their own as long as they stay in the designated area for that day. Now it doesn't seem to be to organized but I can tell you it's a lot less stressful for the customers. I like it much better this way. When your done you carry your bucket back up to the barn to have it weighed again and pay by the weight.
A few tips to remember if your going to go picking yourself. Remember to take water (it's going to be hot), wear a hat to keep your head in the shade, and take something to kneel on ( I use an old towel ) your going to be kneeling on the ground and you will at some point kneel on a smooshed berry. No need to ruin your jeans.
Here is one tip I want to share if your picking at a place that you pay by weight. This may seem a bit nit picky but trust me it will save you money. When your picking remember to snip the berries off the stem as close to the berry as you can.
Can you see that little stem? That is what you do not want.

This is what you want.

Now I know your thinking " that's just petty" ok maybe it is but I tested this out. Why would you pay for stems? You can't use them. I would not remove the whole cap because this might make the patch owner mad but you can snip off the stem as low as you can.
Ok. Now take your strawberries home, take the caps off and wash them. Strawberries don't hold up for long so use them or freeze them within a few days.
I'm going to freeze mine this time. I normally make some jam but I still have a few jars from last year so I'm freezing them for now. I'll make jam later if I need some.

All I do is wash them and put them in freezer bags. Press out and much air as you can.
I don't care too much about smashing them because I'm going to be using them for smoothies for jam anyway. Then just put them in your freezer.

 That's it.