Ward House

Little ‘black’ jewels

IMG_1814Yesterday eve my neighbor gifted us with 1/2 gal of blackberries.  Since it was late in the evening, and energy was waning,I smooshed then cooked these for about 30 minutes.  These smooshed goodies then spent the night in a cheese cloth lined sieve so all the juice would drain into the bowl and I could do something else with the seeds and such.

Did you know that a 1/2 gal of blackberries will yield about 3/4 pint of juice?  After work today I hope to pick more of these little purple/pink jewels.  Any suggestions on what to create with both the juice and the ‘leavings?  If the hens were already here, a ‘what to make with the leavings?’ would not have been asked; my ladies would have devoured them last night.

Our regular garden continues to struggle and produce, despite the high heat and low water.  The last few evenings have seen some rain, though not enough to make up for the deficit.  Some is better than none, eh?

I hope to be out in the garden this eve (unless it rains again).  Cross your fingers.  I’ll take rain any night, without complaint!


July 23, 2010 Posted by | Cooking, self sufficiency | | 2 Comments

Cordials are brewing

Yesterday, Kathie inspired me with her cordial comments; so much so that before heading out to class I started two cordials, raspberry and one with lemon balm and lavender.  The lemon balm is only a half pint as the heat has caused the lavender blooms to turn brown (don’t think I’ve ever seen this happen before) and mint bugs have been munching on the lemon balm (planted next to).  No pix, sorry.  The recipes I am using can be found on the right side column under Must Remembers titled *Hic.

This morning, Ronnie harvested three cherry tomatoes from the garden – yippee!  This is a hybrid plant so there can be no seed saving – these little fruits are pretty.  And tasty.  Again, no pictures.  With classes consuming much of my time, garden time has been not as frequent as I would like.  The next semester, that begins the latter part of August, will have mostly at home studies thus allowing more time outside while the sun is shining and then study time inside when the sun sets.  Potatoes have not done much this year and we are not sure why – a load of manure, tilled under and allowed to sit over the winter, will correct many of our gardening challenges (or so I believe); dill is blooming, beans growing, grapes ripening, etc.

While on the cordial kick, JoyceAnn of Feather Spirits introduced this next website to me.  Her article about plantain reminded me that we have a slew of this herb growing in the yard and… I believe I can make some salve.  This recipe seems easy enough:

Healing salve: In large non-metallic pan place 1lb. of entire Plantain plant chopped, and 1 cup lard, cover, cook down on low heat till all is mushy and green. Strain while hot, cool and use for burns, insect bites, rashes, and all sores. Note: used as night cream for wrinkles.

Walmart carries lard; perhaps I can snag some this weekend.  Why not now, you ask?  Cause tomorrow we are headed out on the bike to ride; no particular destination, just ride and stop when we are ready.  Other bikes are joining us so it will not be quite as spontaneous as if Ronnie and I were going solo, still be a nice, cheap get-away.  We will return on Sunday, about the time when the girls are returning from spending a week with their dad.   I hope to have more soon, including my current knitting project.  Perhaps a delayed post for tomorrow or over the weekend.

July 15, 2010 Posted by | Cooking, Gardening, herbs, recipes | , , , , | 1 Comment

Pickled Burdock

Who doesn’t have this weed herb growing in the side or back yard?  Yes, some have maticulous gardens/yards – I am not one of those.  Growing weeds herbs outside is easy, it is when I bring them inside that the challenge begins.

Anyway, I was looking for ways to take advantage of this prolific herb and found this recipe for pickled burdock!  Pickling things is easy, assuming you can wait to open the jar.


Things You’ll Need:
  • 3 lbs. burdock root
  • 3/4 cup salt
  • 7 1/2 cups water
  • Saucepan
  • 3 cups vinegar
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 4 slices of ginger
  • Canning jars
  1. Collect your fresh burdock root by foraging for it in the wild. The root can also be found in health food stores or Asian markets.
  2. Use a sharp knife to remove the rough skin from the burdock. Slice the root at an angle into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Set the root pieces aside.
  3. Mix the salt and water in your pan over low heat. Let the salt dissolve, and then pour it over the burdock until it is completely covered.
  4. Let the burdock sit in the salted water for 24 hours.
  5. Drain and rinse the burdock under cold water.
  6. Sterilize jars by filling them half full with water and microwaving them long enough for the water to boil for one minute.
  7. Fill your jars with the burdock root.
  8. In the pan, slowly bring the vinegar, garlic, and ginger to a boil over low heat.
  9. Fill the jars with the brine until the burdock root is completely covered.
  10. Cover and store your pickled burdock in a dark, cool place for a month before opening the jar. Your pickled burdock can be stored for up to a year.

There are many recipes online for cooking burdock root.  If I can dig some up, I’ll show you what it looks like.  Have you used burdock root before?

July 11, 2010 Posted by | Cooking, Gardening, herbs, recipes, self sufficiency | , , , | 4 Comments

A mini rant with some useful information at the end.

Something good happened in our community last night; the planning & zoning committee approved a request to rezone a parcel of land (from R2-B2) on which to build a Dollar General (see picture).  The family of the overpriced grocery store objected, along with a few of the affluent.  Keep in mind that out here, you can pay the inflated prices of the local grocery, drive 30 minutes South to the Walmart and Food Lion or continue driving to Roanoke to Kroger, Ukrops, etc.

Now keep in mind, both the location in question and I live on Route 220, which, before I81, was the main road to states north.  While I81 has taken most of the traffic, it has not re-routed all and 220 is popular for logging tractor trailers headed to the paper mill.  Dollar General was jacked on a request to build this business in a community north of here (Mitchelltown) and I am thankful they are pursuing a different location.

My original draft included more detail from the meeting and, well, I believe it would bore you; small town egos and illogic go a long way to creating an unsustainable community.  Yes,  I live in a logic vacuum; we are doomed to repeat the past.  I am going to fight where I can to save my little corner (you too, Pat) and sadly watch the rest slip away.  Wow, reading this now, it appears so tame; all the fire and brimstone are gone!  Guess I’ll save that for the Board of I-believe-I-am-god Stupervisors meeting (dang, it crept in anyway).

Ok, mini rant is over.

In other, more sensible news, I found this two-part series, from the American Preppers Network about lactofermentation: parts 1 and 2.  Some great information for those Nourishing Tradition’s fans (including me).

June 29, 2010 Posted by | Canning, Cooking, economy, politics, self sufficiency | , , , | Leave a comment


Getting ready for eggs of our own, I found this  Kitchen Tip relating to eggs.  In addition to posting several recipes, Sara explained the importance of room temperature eggs when baking – something I have read and ignored.

Eggs beat to a higher volume at room temp so your cakes will bake up better.  Another factor is that a cold egg won’t incorporate with fat like butter or shortening.

Who’d a thunk!

What I found especially helpful was, when separating an egg, saving the unused part (white or yellow) is as simple as freezing it in an ice cube tray.  Once frozen, store in a baggie in the freezer.  1 white (or yellow) = 1 Tbsp.

The hard boiled egg comment reminds me of a story that Grandmother shared about when she was a young and then older woman; they hard boiled eggs to eat as a snack.  Tastey!

June 19, 2010 Posted by | Cooking | , , | 2 Comments

Patty cake, Patty cake

K14 came home this afternoon and stated that she needed to make a Miss Havisham cake.  You are probably wondering, as I was, what is a ‘Miss Havisham’ cake?  As it turns out, it is the old wedding cake found in the book Great Expectations.  I’d forgotten that A16 made one last year.

Commercial cake mix is not something we keep at the house; We found  this one.  It mixed up nicely and cooked up easily. 

How to make Homemade Yellow Cake Mix:

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 cup non-fat dry milk

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and non-fat dry milk. Store in an airtight container or baggie. Keeps well in the pantry for months!
To replace in recipes calling for a yellow cake mix:

Use in any recipe calling for a yellow cake mix as a base (add 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla to the recipe along with the cake mix as the recipe will assume vanilla was included in the store-bought mix).

Or to make a basic yellow cake, use the following instructions.

Cake mix directions:.

1 recipe Homemade Yellow Cake Mix
1 1/4 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup butter, softened
3 eggs

Place Homemade Yellow Cake Mix in a bowl. Add water, vanilla, butter, and eggs. Combine with an electric mixer then beat two more minutes. Pour into a greased and floured cake pan. Bake at 350-degrees, using these baking times (watch carefully as your oven may vary–test for doneness using a toothpick):IMG_1204

8″ or 9″ cake rounds — 25-30 minutes
13 x 9 pan — 40-45 minutes
cupcakes — 15-20 minutes
tube/bundt pan — 45-50 minutes

Don’t overbake! You’ll dry out your cake.

This cake was baked in the wood stove and even thought it is supposed to be an old cake, we still wanted it to be eatable.  Because we ran out of butter, she used one 13×9 cake pan and then cut the cake into halves and then one half into half again to create layers.  It turned out very nicely; K14 said it tasted like a sugar cookie – and it did!  The icing was a bit on the runny side since I ran out of butter and had to borrow a stick from the neighbor (thanks Pat!)

*whew*  Project complete!

June 8, 2010 Posted by | Cooking, recipes | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Almond Butter

I really enjoy almond butter; it is a food I miss since moving to Bath County.  We went to Food Lion this morning and they have almond butter in the health food section for $7  (roughly) a jar.  Too rich for my taste; instead we spent $3.?? for 12 oz of roasted nuts so I could make my own.

Blanching went well.  The naked beauties were then slipped some into the blender.  Well, that makes a nice almond meal.  This meal collects along the sides of the blender and does not turn into ‘butter’.  Hmmm.  What if I throw the mix into my mini processor.  This makes a finer meal, still no butter.  More reading resulted in the need to add a touch of oil if the butter was too dry – and that worked. I used canola – still not what I remember eating from the jar.

This ‘butter’ is light in color; the almond butter I’ve bought before included the skins so the next batch will not be blanched.

Hope your weekend was enjoyable!

May 17, 2010 Posted by | Cooking, recipes | 2 Comments

My fav for you!

Many many years ago I bought a cook book, Once a Month Cooking by Mimi Wilson & Mary Beth Lagerborg.  My book looks different than the one pictured in the link and I do not know if the recipe I am going to share is even included.  I bought this at a time when boxed and canned food was the way to go.  This favorite, even for my girls, is Crustless Spinach Quiche.  There are only two forms in which my girls will eat spinach: raw and this recipe.

  • 1 – 10 oz package frozen, chopped spinach
  • 1 bunch chopped green onion bulbs (without greens)
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 – 16 oz carton low-fat cottage cheese
  • 2 cups grated, mild cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 c crouton crumbs
  • Cook spinach according to the package directions, and squeeze to remove liquid.  Combine spinach, green onions, eggs, cottage cheese and cheddar cheese.  Put into a quiche pan or 10-inch pie plate treated with nonstick spray.  Bake uncovered in a preheated 325 oven for 1 hour, adding crouton crumbs the last 15 minutes.

Now this recipe is not, as written,  100-mile diet friendly.  Modify, modify, modify.

May 13, 2010 Posted by | Cooking, recipes | , , | 2 Comments

It’s what for dinner

While Ronnie is traveling with his bro (on motorcycles to bike week), I am taking the opportunity to torture err to try some new lentil recipes.   This one looked tasty, easy to fix and I had everything already on hand.  *sighs*  such grand ideas.  It is my belief that I am genetically predisposed to be unable to fix a decent red lentil dish.  Leftovers are in the fridge though I believe they will end up in the compost pile.

What did turn out well is the bread pudding made from some of last week’s  stale bread.  Teresanoelleroberts over at HMWW wrote about not wasting food; she is reading Sharon Astyk’s book, Depletion and Abundance.  This reminded me that after making bread last week, I have some going stale – what a perfect solution!  Off I went to the web to find a tried ‘n true recipe.

Now that is easier said than done.  I was hoping to find one published by one of the many blogs that I read – nope.  Not saying recipes are not there, I could not find ’em.  I ended up using this recipe.

Original Recipe Yield 1 – 8 inch square pan


  • 6 slices day-old bread
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup raisins (optional)
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups milk
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. Break bread into small pieces into an 8 inch square baking pan. Drizzle melted butter or margarine over bread. If desired, sprinkle with raisins.
  3. In a medium mixing bowl, combine eggs, milk, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla. Beat until well mixed. Pour over bread, and lightly push down with a fork until bread is covered and soaking up the egg mixture.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until the top springs back when lightly tapped.

along with the rum sauce recipe here:

  • Rum Sauce
  • 3 tablespoons skim milk
  • 5 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon rum
  • 1/4 cup white sugar

1. While the pudding bakes, prepare the rum sauce. Whisk together 3 tablespoons skim milk and the cornstarch in a small bowl. Melt the butter over medium heat in a small saucepan. Stir in 1 tablespoon rum and 1/4 cup white sugar; bring to a boil. Slowly add cornstarch mixture, stirring until sauce thickens. Remove from heat.

2.  Pour rum sauce over warm pudding. Let rest for 5 minutes before serving. The sauce will continue to thicken and form a beautiful glaze.

Sounds yummy yes?  It was sooo easy and made the kitchen smell of vanilla and cinnamon.  Mmmm.  I had some for breakfast this morning!

May 12, 2010 Posted by | Cooking, Homemakers Who Work, recipes | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tummy Luv

Kim, of The Inadvertent Farmer,  shared the most amazing Hummus recipe which incorporates almond butter and curry.  Back in the day, I used almond butter instead of peanut butter… that is until the store from which I found said butter closed – a sad day. Kim’s  recipe. . .

3 cups cooked garbanzo beans (chick peas) or 2 cans

1/4 Cup of the cooking liquid from the beans

1/2 Cup Tahini (sesame seed paste)

3 cloves garlic peeled (I often use more but I’m a garlicky girl!)

1/4 Cup + 1 TBSP lemon juice

3 TBSP Water

3/4 tsp sea salt (adjust to your taste)

1/2 Cup Almond butter (I make mine out of raw almonds in the Vita-Mix)

2 tsp Curry powder
Put it all in a blender and blend till smooth!

(If you leave out the almond butter and curry you can have plain hummus, but what fun is that?)

Serve to your kids with carrots, peppers, broccoli or celery to dip…what a perfectly healthy and easy snack!

And just for fun try different flavors, like hummus with spinach, or feta cheese, or my all time favorite…roasted red and yellow peppers.  Oh my!

Almond butter had slipped my mind until I read Kim’s recipe.  She makes her own almond butter – oh how I would love to do the same!  The hunt was on. . .  Kim, correct me here – from what I have read online, one needs to blanch the almonds first to remove the skins, which can lend a bitter taste to the butter.  The easy blanch is place almonds in a bowl, cover with boiling water, sit for one minute, drain & rinse with cold water, pat dry and slip off skins.

Making said butter appears to require more than just my mini food processor (great for making ramp pesto) – what I am reading says that it will burn this little one out quickly – can anyone confirm or refute that statement?  Some say not to use the blender at it does not produce a smooth butter and another says a blender is fine.  Basically you place the nuts (work in batches) in the blender/processor and process til smooth.  The almond butter I bought in the store was just slightly crunchy; ever so slight.

Does anyone have experience with this?

May 7, 2010 Posted by | Cooking, recipes | , , , | 4 Comments