Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Homestead Eggnog: Two ways!

Welcome back to the homestead!
Before we jump into this glorious eggnog recipe, I need to thank Gary for helping me with the filming. I have been strugling with the notion of making more cooking videos but I don't have the room to set up lighting and recording equipment, in order to do it justice.(type A personality here, do it right or don't do it.)
It seems that Gary also wanted me to do more videos about the things we are cooking here on the Homestead, so we agreed something is better than nothing, and off we went, I do hope you all enjoy the video and do watch at the end for an out take....

I found the recipe that I used as my guide while scroling through Facebook. It was providence I tell you! I follow Alton Brown, you know from Good Eats? Too far back for you huh? How about his more recent Cut Throat Kitchen? Okay, well Alton Brown is one of my all time favorite chefs/cooks. He is smart, funny and matter of fact, and I love that!
He has this amazing recipe for Aged Eggnog on his site. I read through the comments section for the reviews for about 45 min. I kid you not, I am kind of a review geek! I decided that the reviews were just too good to ignore.

We set about gathering all the ingredients we needed to assemble the concoction that gets better over time. We went to the store to retrive from it the bottles of liquor they were holding hostage, only to find out that they didn't have one type we needed. But as I read through so many comments I knew I could replace the Congnac with Brandy. So we did.

I normally like to buy all organic if I can find it. In this case I was not able to get Organic cream. (Boo Hannaford)
So with the ingredients in hand we went home and prepared our first batch.
Because I am LCHF/Ketogenic, I decided I had to do my best to make a no sugar version. I followed the recipe to the letter, but used Lakanto Monk Fruit Sugar replacement for the sugar called for in the recipe.
Since making and trying it, I would adjust the recipe to only using half  of the Lakanto sugar. It is extremely sweet. It may just be my non sugar eating taste buds, but If you are sugar free as well, then that is my personal suggestion!
I do not know how it will affect the consistancy of the nog yet, but I am going to make a non alcoholic version soon and I will report back on how that turns out. 

So on to the recipe.

If you want to try to follow it I say go for it.

Homestead Eggnog Sugar Free Version

  1. 12 large pasture raised egg yolks (store bought pasteurized if you need peace of mind)
  2. 1/2 pound Lakanto Monk fruit sugar
  3. 1 pint half-n-half
  4. 1 pint whole milk
  5. 1 pint heavy cream
  6. 1/2 cup Jamaican light rum
  7. 1/2 cup Jamaican dark rum
  8. 1 cup French Brandy
  9. 1 cup Evan Williams Honey (kentucky straight burbon whiskey)
  10. 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (plus more for serving)
  11. 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  1. Separate the eggs and store the whites for another purpose.
  2. Beat the yolks with the sugar and nutmeg in a large mixing bowl until the mixture lightens in color and falls off the whisk in a solid "ribbon."
  3. Combine dairy, booze and salt in a second bowl or pitcher and then slowly beat into the egg mixture.
  4. Move to a large glass jar (or a couple of smaller ones) and store in the fridge for a minimum of 2 weeks. A month would be better, and two better still. In fact, there's nothing that says you couldn't age it a year, but I've just never been able to wait that long. (And yes, you can also drink it right away.)
  5. Serve in mugs or cups topped with a little extra nutmeg grated right on top.
If you would like to get the microplane that I use, I have linked to it in my Amazon store Here.

So this recipe is only slightly tweeked, and only because we couldn't find the congac. While we were shopping another shopper over heard us talking about what we were going to put in our eggnog and kindly mentioned the Evan Williams Honey as the best in eggnog. We figured we should give it a try and we think it was a great suggestion!

This is our first time making homemade eggnog and if we can do it you can too! It is easy (if a little expensive, ingredient wise) But for a nice holiday treat I think it is worth it!

The time it takes to prepare right now is minimal. And if you make two batches and store one away for next year, your job is done untill next year when you do it all over again, starting a new holiday tradition for years to come!

Give it a try and let us know how yours turned out! If you used a different combination of alcohols. Or if you went by Alton's or my sugar free recipe. We would love to hear from you.
As always, sending out love from the homestead,
Gary and Victoria

Cheers to great food and good health!

Monday, December 5, 2016

Homestead Crock-Pot Yogurt How To

I am relatively new to yogurt making. I just started a few months ago to be honest. But I think that is why I am so excited to share with you how easy it really is to make your own.

The reason I'm calling it Homestead Crock-Pot Yogurt is because we have a Dairy farm within walking distance from our Homestead. So our access to fresh raw whole milk is the basis to our yogurt. I get it for $3 a gallon. No It isn't Organic, but I know my farmer Ronnie and I know his philosophy and I know his cows are pasture raised most of the year and given grain at milking time only. I don't have a problem with that.
But if that is out of your reach, or budget, fear not. You can use store bought whole milk, as long as it is not ultra pasteurized.

Now I'll go over the list of supplies and ingredients you will need.

1. A crock pot.
You can use any size, but I suggest if you eat a lot of yogurt or have a large family, you need to have a large crock-pot. A 2 gallon/8 quart for a large family or 1 gallon/4 quart for a small family.

Here is my affiliate link to the smaller sized one I use, and one for a large family.


2. A thermometer.
I use a candy thermometer.

Here is my affiliate link to the one I use.
3. A couple of old bath towels or throw blankets that will cover the crock-pot to help it retain its heat longer.

4. Utensils: Whisk, Ladle, Scraper Spatula and Quart jar(s) to store your yogurt in.

5. Large bowl, flour sack towel and a large colander to
strain the whey from the yogurt.

Here is a link to the type of towels I use.
DO NOT Use Cheesecloth.

Ingredients for the Yogurt

1 Gallon of Whole Milk( raw if you can, butif using store bought never use ultra pasteurized)( you can use any milk, so long as it isn't ultra pasteurized, but why would you want a low fat yogurt?Bleck!)

8 oz. of greek yogurt per gallon of milk(try to get whole milk, organic, has to be plain/unsweetened yogurt)
This is your starter for your first batch. Each time you make your yogurt, you'll save what you need for your next batch.

Now that you are prepared with all of the tools and ingredients we are ready to start.

Here is the link to my Videos with the step by step.

Part 2
Part 1

Instructions :

1. Set your crock- pot to high.
2. Add the milk.
3. Set your timer for 2 hours.
4. Test your milk with the thermometer for a temperature of 165*F to 220*F. If it is in that range you are ready to shut it off and let it cool.
5. Set your timer for 2.5 hours.
6. Test yogurt again for 115* F. Keep testing till it reaches 115*F.
7. Once it reaches 115* F you can now add your starter culture Mixing it well with your whisk, cover with the lid, then cover with your towels or blankets. At this point I will leave it in a non drafty area, like my pantry and come back to it in the morning. 12 to 18 hours later.
8. It will be thick and have a watery looking liquid that is the whey. Drain off as much as you can now using a ladle and discard,( feed to plants, chickens , pets or put into smoothies)
9. Now you will place the yogurt into yogurt draining system.
 See mine below.

10. Now comes the part that is time consuming. If you like your Yogurt thick move to step 11. If you like your yogurt thinner and creamy for making recipes and smoothies and Yogurt pops, go ahead and jar it up now! You are done......
11. Okay so you like your yogurt thick. Me too. Not just Greek style thick but Mascarpone style thick. So thick it feels like your eating ice cream.  What you want to do now is set your timer for 1 hour. Now walk away.
12. Timer goes off, you now scrape down your towel sides and the bottom to loosen the thickening yogurt and allow the whey to drain. Set the timer for another hour if you want it to get thicker. Repeat this process until it reaches your desired consistency.
13. Now you put it in a jar and place it in the fridge.
Eat and enjoy!

I am really excited to share this process with you, and I know that if you like yogurt, and you eat it on a regular basis, you will want to try to make your own. It is healthier,and full of wonderful probiotics that you need. It is also one more cool thing you can do to save money and eat healthier.

Doctor it up with your homemade preserves or fruit and some homemade granola or cereal.

I love it, it is super easy and I know you can do it if I can do it!!

With Love from the Homestead
Gary and Victoria


Wednesday, October 5, 2016

End of the summer update and how to make batch cooking your new best friend!

Picture from last fall in our woods.
Fall 2015 
It is now Autumn here in the great soon to be white north.
It surprises me every year. It comes on so fast and lasts only a couple of weeks. I mean it, really. One day it is green and 3 days later it is full on color, and a week and a half later it is bye bye leaves on the trees!
So I am making plans for a series of videos for this fall and it includes a couple I have already added to the channel.

Garden tour part 1

I am doing a tour of the homestead series. 
I want you all to see what we have done in the gardens, coop and our orchard! As well as a few projects and new infrastructure we have been working on.
I hope you all like it and feel a bit caught up on all that we have been doing here this summer.

Now we have been harvesting our tomatoes and making some wonderful products for our food storage.
We made a pineapple peach salsa last year that we are planning on making again. I have made a small batch of low sugar catsup, and I am hoping to make another batch of piccalilly and zucchini relish.
I only grew two zucchini plants this year but I got a great abundance of fruit from it. I am still processing it to this day!
We grew some sweet corn and some jewel dent corn, but I planted the dent corn too late , so I won't be getting any seed from it. I am going to use it as an ornamental on my mail box and for an Autumn wreath!
I hope that you all had as wonderful and productive summer as we did here on the homestead... Let the planning for next years gardens begin!

Triple batch, all ready for the freezer!
Salted Caramel Pecan Bars

This made enough for three meals for two people!
Zuppa Toscana(LCHF) 

Now as for all this produce and putting up food for the winter and hopefully beyond, it got me thinking.....about batch cooking.
What? you don't know what batch cooking is?
Well for me and my new way of eating(LCHF,Paleo,Keto) I batch cook as much as possible.
Like the things pictured above and the following:
  • Main Courses ie; Soups, Stews and Casseroles
  • Ingredients for quick meals: Bacon (for meals but also to get a large quantity of grease)
  • Hamburger ( patties, crumbled, meatballs etc.)
  • Hard boiled eggs( for salads and quick on the go snacks)
  • Muffins, biscuits and pancakes(all low carb)
  • Veggies( for snacks or dishes I am going to make)
  • Yogurt (from fresh raw milk)
  • Cereal( I have an amazing recipe)
  • Snack bags ( nuts, seeds, chocolate, dried fruits)
  • Fat bombs, No"grain"ola bars and Crumble topping

The list could go on and on, I just want you to get a feel for what I am talking about.
I would have a very hard time working here on the homestead if I didn't have a system for meals. I mean we have to eat.
We like to eat a couple times a day, and snack in between.
If I didn't make batches of food to have at the ready I would have a hard time making my new way of eating work for me.
I try to spread my batch cooking days out, one day I will do all the meat, one day I will do the yogurt and no grainola bars and snack mixes. another day I will make the baked goods and yet another day I will make the veggies and fat bombs. I may go a month between batches of fat bombs or no grainola bars, because they are snacks and when I make them I make 2 or more batches.
I do the same thing with the cereal and crumble topping but I do have to make those more frequently. I make yogurt 2 times a week, and I will make my meats about once a week.

What this does for me, is it gives me fast, healthy and delicious foods that I can grab in an instant. I don't have to agonize over what to eat because I have it all in the fridge, shelf or freezer waiting for me to grab and be on my way to my next project.

The homestead just runs better when I have done my batch cooking.
I maintain my weight loss and health journey.
I get to do the things I need to do on a daily basis, without missing meals or worrying about the time it takes to prepare an entire meal from scratch, multiple times a day.

If you have meals, snacks, deserts, breakfast items or even breads and cookies that you prepare on a daily or weekly basis. Consider making double or triple and putting it away for next week or next month. Create a stockpile that you can fall back on and save yourself some time in the future. It doesn't take that much more time to make two batches when you have everything out to make the one batch.
If you're short on time, make the doughs for two batches of cookies and only bake half now. Freeze the other batch in pre formed shapes so you can take only what you need for the next time. 

I have been doing batch cooking/freezing for years. It is a great time saver and helps you to be more prepared for times when you don't have a lot of time in the day to make your family a healthy home cooked meal.
Don't go out or order in, go pull out that extra tuna casserole you made two weeks ago and pop it in the oven!
It's also nice to have things put away for others in need, or loved ones you may want to support in a time of need. Often we want to take a fresh meal, but if many people are taking someone fresh meals, you can take a premade and frozen meal that they can reheat or cook for the first time weeks later, when people have moved on to the next needy individual.

Thanks for being here and reading /watching our story unfold.
We really appreciate you all!

Love from the homestead, Victoria


Monday, July 25, 2016

3rd Vlog : The 5 most important traits of a successful homesteader!

July happenings and my 3rd Vlog : The 5 most important traits of a homesteader!

For many people July is their vacation month. But as a homesteader, July is an all out , beat the heat and ramp up your gardens and (for those who raise their own meat birds) A BUTCHERING MONTH.
It is fast paced mornings, to get the chores done before the heat sets in, and you have to take your siesta in the mid day, then get back to it in the late afternoon and evening.
That's how we do it here. I am sure that's how it's done everywhere there is no AC. 
We have been experiencing an abnormally hot and dry spring and summer here in Maine. Between keeping all the garden beds and animals and newly planted orchard watered, there really isn't time for much else.

We had my mom visit with a truck load of stuff she brought us all the way from VA. Things she can't use and want's us to have, here on the homestead.

While she was here we had Melissa of Frost Hill Farms and her family over for a BBQ. It is so nice to have Homesteading friends near.

We got a few things out of the garden, like Greens, radishes, snow peas(we planted them late), squash and zucchini, herbs, an early onion, a few strawberries and I got my first yellow carrot when I was thinning them out. It was so good and sweet.

Did you know that you can eat the carrot greens too?  I just learned that. They go well in soups and stews too! I just love learning new things.
Our outdoor shower is in use!
I can not tell you how much I enjoy this. 
I will do a video on it soon, I promise. but for now I will say it is a solar heated hot water shower, and I am in love!!!

I am happy to say that this month brought us many wonderful things, and that we got some more rain!
Bring on August, and if you want to come for a camping visit on your vacation, we would more than love that!!!

My newest Vlog #3 : The 5 most important traits of a homesteader!

1. Patience
This journey is not a race to the finish line. Nothing about homesteading goes to plan. When you think you have something figured out, or your project almost done, something almost always happens to change it in some way.
Be patient and able to go with the flow. Eventually things come together and work out in the end.
2. Compassion
For yourself, your spouse, your family and all the life on your farm.
Indeed you have to have some compassion to be married or a parent or a farmer. Compassion is the ability to sympathize, have pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others.
without this trait you are not going to care about the treatment or handling of others. The conditions your animals live in, how they live and survive. How to care for them when they are sick. this includes yourself. You have to be able to care for yourself when you are sick, tired or worn out. 
3. Empathy.
the definition of this is :
the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
Sounds similar to Compassion, but it is very different.
Since I was little I was always very aware of the pain or sadness of others. I would often become depressed because of a death of people I didn't even know.  It was very hard for me to be around people in pain or suffering in some way. I would feel it so deeply.
I eventually learned to control my empathic nature. 
As an adult I am able to manage my depressions and the stress and anxiety that can come from major disasters. 9/11, Katrina, Sandy hook, Superstorm Sandy, and most recently the Night club shooting.
The reason that I mention all of these events is that in farm life as well as life in a community, and as a citizen of this country, we are often bombarded by media. In a small town it might just be the plight of a neighbor. In your community it may be the church you belong to that has a member in need or is sick or suffering. As a citizen of the United States it comes in the form of a major disaster.
All of these events and situations can and should cause you to feel empathy. 
On your farm you should feel empathy toward your animals and the life they are giving for you to eat. It should cause you to feel.
You should know what the cost is. It is a life.
4. Perseverance
Even the best laid plans change. No matter how prepared or how much planning you have done, there will be times when things fail or fall through. That's okay! It happens. You have to just keep at it.
Gardening, music, art and even building your dream cabin, all need you to persevere.  Push through the heat( don't kill yourself) push through the ups and downs. Push through the doubts and fears. 
You have to remind yourself why you are doing this. This is not for the weak or the lazy. This is for those who persevere and believe they can do it.
5. Self Forgiveness
Most importantly you must be able to forgive yourself when you are just not able to get it all done in a day.
Maybe the weather won't allow you to do what needs to be done in the garden. Maybe the car broke down and you can't get to the feed store like you planned. Maybe you are sick and things are just not done to your standards. It's all okay. You are only able to do what you can do. Physically, mentally and even emotionally. You are human. You are only one person. Forgive yourself.

Bonus Trait #6
Asking for and receiving help!
That's right, you will need to be able to ask for and receive help. Like when you are sick or any of the many things that come up on a day to day basis on your homestead.
Sometimes we can't see the forest for the trees.
I am running very late planting in the garden because I just could not get all the compost we needed to get our garden beds built. I went to all the stores in town that sold compost and most of them could not get the quantity we needed, or it was very cost prohibitive.  
So after a good week of searching, I asked our dairy farmer if he could spare some of his composted cow manure and he was more than happy to help us with that. Help is there if you are willing to ask for it, and accept it.

 I know that most of this is common sense, but you would be surprised how many people I have met or watched online that seem to be the antithesis of all of these traits.
They should not be telling other people how to go about homesteading or animal husbandry.
I hope that I am able to show you all what it is we do here. That we do it with all of these traits and that you may want to homestead in a similar manner. 
Beyond that I hope that you just want to be a decent human being to others and to yourself.

With love from the Homestead, Victoria


Monday, July 18, 2016

A day on the Homestead in Pictures

This summer has been very hot here (in Maine terms) reaching into the high 90's according to our digital thermometer.  It may not be recording accurately, but it sure does feel like it is.
We have worked in the mornings till about noon time, then it is too hot to stay out there for long. We retire to our much cooler apartment, (Inside is about 12 to 15 degrees cooler than outside) , for the heat of the afternoon. At about 5PM we head back out to the gardens, animals and chores, until it gets dark.
Some nights we have a bonfire. Some nights we just sit and watch the chickens and their silly antics.

Today we are having strange weather. One minute it is bright and sunny and the next it is windy and cloudy and threatening rain and storms.
But we managed to get some good stuff done.
A couple of garden beds filled and ready to plant.
I took lots of pictures of the flowers in bloom and the gardens.
I also made one of the best meals I think I have ever made.
Please enjoy the pictures and the recipe for the fabulous BBQ ribs I made.

Flower bed

My favorite colors of Lilies

More Beautiful Asiatic Lilies 

Orange Lilies
 Double Petunias
 Day Lilies
 Yellow Dinner Plate Dahlia
Dahlias by the coop run

Bee Balm flower


My first herb bed. Planting another tomorrow!

Garlic bed

Snow peas.

Sweet Potatoes

Yellow summer squash

Three sisters bed

Corn and Zucchini 

Garden beds

Tomatoes are so behind, but at least I have some coming on!

Watermelon and Cantaloupe 


Cabbage , Greek Basil, Broccoli and red onions.

Asparagus bed with radishes and carrots 

Lots of radishes.

Strawberry bed companion planted with yellow onions.

Meat birds.

Potato bugs and larval stage.

Harvesting Radishes for our stir fry. The greens go to the chickens!

Radish, eaten by something, goes to the chickens now!

BBQ Ribs

I made my own Brown sugar substitute. 1 Tbsp Molasses mixed well with 1/8 cup Pyure

Now mix the spices together with the "brown sugar"

Use the best ribs you can find!

Slather with your dry rub all over.

Get all the nooks and crannies.

Sear the meat on your grill, about 3 to 5 min. per side.

Love those grill marks....

Once it is seared on both sides, move to your top rack or an indirectly heated area of your grill. Make sure there is something under the meat to catch all the drips.

Once the meat is almost done, slather the meaty side with your BBQ sauce of choice, cover and grill for about 5 min. more.

I also cooked sweet potatoes and red skinned potatoes on the grill.
We made a veggie stir fry as well.

This is the recipe that I adapted for my ribs. You can also do them in the oven.
I hope if you give it a try you'll comment below and let us know how it turned out for you.

With love from the homestead, Victoria