Friday, October 20, 2017

To Every Thing There is a Season...

"To every thing there is a season,
and a time to every purpose under the heaven..."
~ Ecclesiastes 3:1

Dear reader, the time has come for me to step away for awhile. I don't know the length of my departure but I feel it is necessary at this time in my life. In order to practice what I preach (for I shrink at the thought of being a hyprocite!), I am going to take a rest from this keyboard. 

"a time to speak..." (Ecclesiastes 3:7)

Thank you for all the kind and encouraging words that you have shared with me over the recent years. I have really enjoyed the online fellowship and it was a balm for me during the past 5 years when a large change had come into my life. Another season is now brewing and my home needs 100% of my attention... As the late Jim Elliot had summoned up brilliantly, “Wherever you are, be all there!"

So for the present, it is "a time to keep silence"... (Ecclesiastes 3:7)

Until next time! -- Happy Homemaking!

With Love, JES

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Outdoor Wood-Fire Cooking ~ Proverbs 31 Preparedness Series {Repost Showing Pictures!}

"Nobody knows what will happen," Pa said. "Prepare for the worst and then you've some grounds to hope for the best, that's all you can do."
~ Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little Town on the Prairie

*** NOTE: We interrupt our little blog break to share a re-post! When I was away for the summer, a friend prepared this wonderful and resourceful article for our readers. Unfortunately, the pictures did not show up when it posted and all her hard work was left in shambles. Happily, we were able to rectify the situation when I returned and I am very pleased to share this post in it's full glory! :) ***

Welcome to another edition of our Proverbs 31 Preparedness Series! One important aspect of preparedness is knowing how to feed your family creatively without electricity and gas should the need ever arise. The neat part about this is that it can be practiced now and it may even be quite enjoyable to have these little outdoor cooking excursions. What better fun is a campout in your own backyard? A friend from Down Under does this often and so I asked her to share some of her outdoor wood-fire cooking experiences with us! Without further adieu, may I present (in her own words and photographs) some practical information and inspiration by the kind Rachel Holt of Australia -- (I can just imagine her sweet Aussie accent as I read this!):

'Little Green Lemon Jam'! It's gently flavoursome, and can be cooked and preserved - via hot water bath - using the heat of, mainly, sticks on a simple outdoor fire! 

Allow me to escort you through the beauty of basic outdoor woodfired cooking. I will show you the simple set-up in use at our place, along with instructions for beginners. Further, I'd like to explore cooking possibilities, and push the boundaries in regards to making practical use of the energy produced by an outdoor woodfire.

Now, let's begin by finding any camping gear, tucked away, that may be suitable for outdoor woodfired cooking! I have had this little stainless steel, lidded cooking set for years, and it is the smallest piece that cooks the fastest! They are wonderful for frying eggs, making any variation of French toast, steam-roasting pumpkin for inclusion in pumpkin bread, cooking the minced/ground beef for a 'steak sandwich', and making gravy and sauces. They do bend temporarily with high heat, but are otherwise durable and easy to care for. (That is a jar of my 'baking berries' shown. Actually, I have many jars of them! They are mulberries, cooked last year on our outdoor woodfire. There they were sweetened a little, and thickened with what we Australians call cornflour. Maybe Americans call it corn starch? Once ladled into jars, they were then hot water bathed in an olive oil can over a gas flame, for convenience. Take a look at this batch...)

I have also kept a stainless steel billy can for many years. It has a small insert which sits in the top, and the billy can thus be used as a double boiler. I like to make a small quantity of cheese sauce using the insert on its own. You will see this billy soon!

Further, I have my long-time 'Eco Billy'. Here it is... Since it runs on leaves and sticks, it also fits into the outdoor woodfired cooking theme, and it is very useful for heating water as a contained fire!

Now let me introduce you to our basic outdoor woodfired cooking set-up...

Dad found this old cast iron barbecue plate. Although we do not barbecue on it, the cast iron makes it ideal for conducting heat through to the cooking! If one is interested in making good use of the heat from even a small wood fire, the lesson of cast iron is a good one to learn. This is a 'making do' set-up, using old steel fence pickets for the frame. Options are numerous. Just don't use river rocks that, I have read, can explode!

Beginners can see that it is important to BUILD a fire. Starting with newspaper, loosely scrunched, fine kindling is used first, with gradually larger sticks being added. So as not to smother the flame, sticks are placed in one direction for the first layer, then across the first sticks for the second layer. Alternatively, a tipi shape can be built! Most of my outdoor woodfired cooking is done using just large sticks. This we call 'quick heat'!

Here is my current work table. It shows two of my most important cooking tools - the camping handle for lifting hot cups, plates (cum lids) and camping cook wear; and egg rings - for sitting cooking pots on for slow cooking! The nylon egg lifter is for use with enamelled cast iron ware, to prevent damage to the enamelled surface.

Trees are useful for hanging dry towels/oven mitts for lifting hot pots, and for holding a wooden spoon!

In 'make do' style, I will be using odd pieces of sheet metal for wind protection around the sides of the cast iron plate. At one stage, a rather rugged piece will serve as a lid. This is the Aussie way!!

Now let's cook a hearty outdoor woodfired meal, and, for those new to cast iron, I will introduce you to French ovens - which are enamelled variations of Dutch ovens, and wonderful for picking up heat, even that from a weak fire!

Here is our hearty stew, the minced/ground beef hidden under an assortment of flavoursome vegetables and herbs. The thing is not to shock cast iron with extreme changes in temperature. In this case, the cold French oven will begin on the cold barbecue plate. This is good. Having water or oil/butter inside also helps balance the temperature of the pot. Alternatively, if the fire is already going, I would first sit the French oven on egg rings, over a cooler part of the fire, for a few minutes or until the French oven is hot and ready to sit down on the cooking surface.

Once steam is being released from under the lid, the French oven is ready to go into slower cooking mode - that is, up on egg rings*. This stew takes only twenty minutes to cook, after which time it is nice to add herb dumplings (I used fresh basil) to cook. Finally, the stew is thickened with a mixture of cornflour/corn starch and water.

*Note from JES: U.S. readers can use canning rings for the same result! :)

The stew can be served on toast, made by placing bread across egg rings over a considerably hot part of the cooking plate, like this...

Now, French ovens are an investment, which we afforded over a decade by buying at sales of at least forty percent reduction in price. These days, online purchases offer considerable value. Le Creuset is the first brand of French oven we bought. They are quality ovens, and do a wonderful job. Food tastes so much better cooked this way. Mind you, the old orange Le Creuset shown below is responsible for extra wonderful flavour, on account of the steam vent in the lid! (There's the billy can!!)

It cooked these potatoes to serve with pre-cooked meat and gravy made from Aussie Mite!

This red multi-function pot is also a Le Creuset, and very useful!

Chasseur is the second brand of French oven we bought. This gave better value for money. They use thicker cast iron, and are ahead in the aesthetics! The large, white French oven that I use for preserves is a Chasseur. (Just in case you're wondering, I found a recipe which calls for cooking the lemons whole to start a marmalade. I made my own version!)

Then there is the Staub French oven. It was an online purchase, and a good buy. It has a painted matte inside surface, with dimples under the lid to promote self-basting. I cook meat in this - roasts, corned beef, .... Apart from minced/ground beef, I tend to slow cook all meat in cast iron, even if it's a couple of lamb chops cooking in the steam on top of a winter barley soup. This way, the meat falls off the bone, and gelatine and nutrients collect in the meal being cooked! It is nutritious!

My outdoor woodfired cooking utilises a variety of other bits and pieces, too, and they each have their place.

An old oven rack, or cooling rack, makes wonderful 'tiger toast'!...

A kettle and tea strainer afford my husband his brew of tea, just as he likes it!!

An old aluminium saucepan, with only an inch of olive or rice bran oil can make superb hot potato chips! This way, once the oil is at 100 degrees Celsius/212 degrees Fahrenheit, the potato is added, and kept at this temperature until soft.

The oil bubbles up to cover the potato! 

I have found that I can then crisp up the potato by placing the saucepan directly onto the hot ashes (not coals!!)...

and they can crisp up into beautiful, sweet, roasted chips (at a reading of only 117 degrees Celsius/243 degrees Fahrenheit).

An olive oil can may contain simmering kitchen cloths...

...while an old-fashioned flat iron can be quite useful!

Even an op shop* sheepskin is proving useful. If I bring my billy of brown rice and water to steam, and then remove the billy from the fire and wrap it in a single layer of sheepskin, it will be beautifully cooked when I unwrap it a few hours later!

I intend to make an insulated billy bag for this purpose, using this sheepskin! This is what my trial looked like!....

*Note to U.S. Readers from JES: I believe an "op shop" is a second hand store. 

Now, what about cooking with the hot ashes? There are potatoes in their jackets (these ones were cooked indoors)...

I've tried breads, and am still working on that! A few hot ashes, and leaving overnight... gave these - the ones on the left of the pumpkin bread!...

Today, due to a delay, I had over-risen dough to work with. After time on the hot ashes, I had this light, dumpling-like... er... not what I had been aiming for!! It was supposed to be a plain artisan loaf, flanked by scrolls of 'little green lemon jam'.

But wait!! If I turn this over-risen dumpling up-side-down, I have this!... I find it delicious, and cut off the photo where I had tasted a bit! Yum!!

So, my dear readers, whilst outdoor woodfire cooking is a versatile occupation, it also requires that we be versatile users! Really, while the whole process is basic (even if challenging!), it is a wonderful option for beginners and experienced woodfire cooks, alike. I have shown you a little of my outdoor woodfired cooking world, and different ways in which I push boundaries to get more beauty from an outdoor wood-fire.

My woodfired cooking now moves indoors for the winter, where I can make another batch of beautiful 'little green lemon jam', and relish the efficiency of a sealed firebox!

Thank you Rachel for the variety of ideas and inspiration! There is much "food for thought" here!

Your homework for the month:
  • Prepare dinner outdoors a few nights each month (or more!) and see what you can make without using electricity and gas (i.e., without using your modern stove). 
Extra Credit:
  • Make up a few outdoor meal menus that your family would enjoy and add it to your Proverbs 31 Preparedness Binder. Make sure the ingredients you use are basic ones found in the pantry and/or garden in order to practice preparedness more honestly.
All the fine print. This post may be shared with some or all of the following link-ups: The Art of Home-Making MondaysModest Mom Monday'sMonday's MusingsGood Morning Mondays,  The Scoop, Tuesdays with a TwistRaising HomemakersWise Woman Link UpHomestead Blog Hop Wow Us Wednesdays,  Coffee and ConversationHomemaking ThursdaysHome Sweet HomeOur Simple HomesteadAwesome Life Friday Link Up and Create, Bake, Grow & Gather. Thank you lovely ladies for hosting these. This post may contain affiliate links (which are merchant links that help to support this site at no additional cost to you if you purchase an item through them).

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Art of Home-Making Mondays ~ Please Join Our Final LinkUp

Dear reader, Thank you for visiting with us and linking up with us each week these last few years! I have really enjoyed hosting this little get together and it makes me sad to end it for I dislike good-byes very much! Unfortunately, it is something I need to do at this season in my life... Thank you for understanding!
Love, JES 
There are so many wonderful features in the making of a home. This is a place where I would love for you to share your love for anything home-related. Homemakinghomeschooling and homesteading are all a part of the lovely art of home-making!

~~Please link up posts in the spirit of Titus 2 and Proverbs 31 (such as recipes, godly encouragement, DIY's, frugal living, child-raising, medicine making, preparedness, gardening, home decoration, school lessons, sewing, crafts, etc).~~ You are welcome to share as many posts as you like!

For the sake of our readers, please link up appropriate and wholesome home-related articles and leave out any giveaways, advertisements, etc. Thank you for understanding! I can't wait to see what you all have to share!

Please copy the button below (html code is in box below it) and share on your blog post or side-bar so others can come and join in the link up as well!

Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth

All the fine print. This post may be shared with some or all of the following link-ups: The Art of Home-Making MondaysModest Mom Monday'sMonday's MusingsGood Morning Mondays,  The Scoop, Tuesdays with a TwistRaising HomemakersWise Woman Link UpHomestead Blog Hop Wow Us Wednesdays,  Coffee and ConversationHomemaking ThursdaysHome Sweet HomeOur Simple HomesteadAwesome Life Friday Link Up and Create, Bake, Grow & Gather. Thank you lovely ladies for hosting these. This post may contain affiliate links (which are merchant links that help to support this site at no additional cost to you if you purchase an item through them).

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Apple Crazy Cake (No Butter, Eggs, Milk or Mess) ~ Inspired by the Depression Era Recipe (aka Wacky Cake) w/ GF Option

“In Heaven, it is always Autumn".”
~ John Donne

This is my most favorite of our crazy cake creations yet! The brown sugar sinks a bit to the bottom giving the cake a "layered" caramel apple taste of fall! And what better way to use up those mealy apples than in a seasonal surprise for your family! It is easy to make in 7 steps -- and don't forget that it is frugal, egg-free, butter-free, milk-free and can even be gluten-free (meaning you will most likely have all the ingredients in your basic pantry!).

Dry Ingredients: 
  • 1 1/2 c. + 2 tbsp. flour  (all purpose or gluten-free flour blend)
  • 3/4 c. white sugar
  • 1/4 c. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. baking soda (use 1 1/2 tsp. is using gluten-free flour blend)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
Wet Ingredients:

  • 5 tbsp. vegetable oil (we use sunflower)
  • 1 tsp. white vinegar (use apple cider vinegar for gluten-free version)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 c. water
  • 1 1/2 c. shredded apples

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease an 8 by 8 inch square baking pan.

Measure out and mix all the dry ingredients together in your prepared baking pan. Make three wells in the baking pan (making sure one is large enough to contain the oil). Pour the oil into the largest well and the vinegar and vanilla separately into the other impressions. Pour water over all the contents, add the shredded apples and carefully mix your ingredients until combined and smooth. 

Bake for 35 - 40 minutes (it is finished when a toothpick inserted inside the center comes out clean). Cool on wire rack. Once it is completely cooled, you may frost it. Recipe can be doubled – just use a 9 by 13 inch baking pan.

You will find your free printable recipe HERE! Happy homemaking!

For other recipes featuring PANTRY ONLY ingredients, you may also be interested in our Zucchini Crazy Cake, Chocolate Banana Crazy Cake, Banana Crazy Cake, Carrot Crazy Cake, Old Fashioned Pie Crust and for more inspiration -- Frugal Homemaking Lessons from the Great Depression.

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