Ward House

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

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

Don’t be too hard

Today I am posting over at Homemaker’s Who Work about not being too hard on ourselves when an unattainable standard is not met.

All is well at The Ward House: the garden continues to do well, there are tomato, green & sweet pepper, and strawberry plants that need to go into the garden.  Right now would be an excellent time to get these little babies into the ground; it is cool, cloudy, and scheduled to rain this afternoon. If the rain will hold off until I get home from work then it’ll be done.

Remember the ramps?  We gave some of these with Ronnie’s mom and she called last night to share an off-the-cuff recipe with me: saute sliced carrots, celery, onions, and ramps in a sauce pan with some butter.  She then added chicken broth, rice, and leftover chicken to the mix and covered ’til the rice was done.  Sounds tasty, yes?  Well, since the chicken was already in the oven, I sautéed the sliced carrots, celery, and ramps with butter, covered and let them cook while the chicken finished up.  Add some salt and bring on the yum!

April 23, 2010 Posted by | Gardening, recipes | , , | Leave a comment

Brrr ramps


Now that the wood furnace is back on, we are in the kitchen baking bread, fixing dinner and… putting up the ramps that my fab neighbor gave us!  Thanks Kate!!  =)  For those that are not familiar, ramps are in the garlic family and can have a very strong taste; the white part more so than the leaves.  I am making some pesto and ramp butter to use over the summer; do not attempted this without at least a mini food processor – blenders are not effective.

Pesto: combine washed ramps, olive oil, and parmesan cheese (I did not have pine nuts) in a food processor and whirl away.  When the consistency is the way you like, then your done.  I froze some and the rest is in the fridge.

Ramp butter – chop ramps and combine with butter; refrigerate or freeze.

How do you fix ramps?

April 19, 2010 Posted by | Cooking | , | Leave a comment


Today I am posting over at Homemakers Who Work (HMWW) about using your resources to help keep life organized.  Unrelated to the HMWW, I posted about how the wood furnace was now turned off – that is now not the case.  With all the cold nights, Ronnie fired it back up so the evenings will not be to nippy.

Along the resource line, I found some sweet tutorials and wanted to share:

  1. How to make a vintage cake stand.  We do not have one of these and I love to make one – a little something on which to display cookies, cakes, etc.  I just need to find how to make a coordinating top!
  2. Second hand dresser turned Kitchen Island.
  3. Stark porch makeover.  So doable for my porch!
  4. How to make then hang Modge Podge lanterns.  And don’t go buy Modge Podge – make your own by combining equal parts of white crafting glue and water.
  5. How to make your own deodorant (cream style).

Last, but not least, a little sumpin-sumpin to sip – Mexican Sangria!:


1 bottle of red wine

1 cup of tequila

1/2 a cup of orange juice

1/2 a cup of brown organic sugar

1/4 cup of fresh squeezed organic lime juice

1 sliced organic red apple  (and other fruit if you desire – raspberries, watermelon, oranges, mangos, etc)


In a pitcher mix ingredients in this specific order.  Add ice to chill.  The longer it sits in the pitcher the more flavorful it will be.  Using a little lime juice, give the glasses a nice brown-sugar rim and then serve and enjoy!

Here’s to looking forward to more warmer weather and fun family times.

April 16, 2010 Posted by | Cooking, economy, self sufficiency | , , , , | Leave a comment


Easter was quiet at our house.  The girls were visiting their dad and it was just Ronnie and me.  I worked on some homework until the decision was made to head out on the motorcycle to pick up a part in the next town and then ride around and explore some of the back roads.  It was on the way home that the bike decided to turn off of its own accord.  Yup.  You read it right.  We are cruising down a back road, on the way home, and the bike shuts off.  This particular part of the road does not have cell service, though I did find a spot where I could call out.  Ronnie’s brother was going to come trailer us out of the ‘holler’ when the bike fired up and we took off.  Now that we are home, it is time to make arrangements to get the bike to Harrisonburg to the dealer and find out what is wrong.  I am said that Phelan is not closer – her hubby is a kick you-know-what bike mechanic.  Update:  we believe it was a combination of over heating and a loose battery cable.

My  next question was  “what’s for dinner”?  Looks like we are going to grill a few steaks with sides of tomatoes with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and deviled eggs.   In the past, when I’ve hard boiled eggs, they are either not quite done or too well done.  How does one cook an egg so it is not over or under cooked?  I remember reading somewhere:  Bring the eggs and water to boil, boil one minute then remove from the heat and let sit for an additional 10-12 minutes.  At that point drain and then add cold water, let the eggs cool and then peel.  Ok, that seems to work well.

What deviled egg recipe do you use?  I found a simple recipe that included Curry – Ronnie was not pleased with it at first but seemed to like it enough to eat most of them.  Not a recipe that made it into the book so it does not get posted here.  Do you have a special recipe?

April 5, 2010 Posted by | Cooking | | Leave a comment

Garden dirt and oven ashes

Great gardening today coupled with a short for exhilarating motorcycle ride.  In addition to the potatoes from last weekend, cabbage, yellow & purple onions, carrots, and lettuce are now planted/seeded.  I am very please with this years layout.  In addition to consulting Great Garden Companions, I found my copy of the The Garden Primer by Barbara Damrosch – two great books, imho.  *NOTE*  I am not being paid for mentioning these two books.

Coming into the house with garden dirt covering my feet and under my nails, it felt good to clean up and start up the cook stove.  From this stove the Broiled Perch with Lemon Mustard would be baked and carrots roasted.  Mmm, typing this out is making me drool!  Anyway, I was also searching for kefir recipes and found this post from Sondra over at Dairy Goat Info.

Here is the softest, yummiest bread. It keeps well on just the countertop wrapped in a plastic bag or tinfoil. It slices great and makes really good sandwiches:

Kefir Yeast Bread (compared to Buttermilk Yeast Bread)

4 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 cups Kefir
2 cups whey or warm water
1 packet of quick dissolve yeast (SAF Instant)
1 tsp Rapadura sugar or regular sugar

Mix in large glass or porcelin bowl with wooden spoon. Cover top of bowl with cling wrap or a clean dish towel. Set in your oven and turn on the light. Leave until it bubbles, about 1-3 hours and the yeast and Kefir has a chance to activate.

Melt 1 stick of butter in small saucepan, cool. Remove bowl from oven, and add 1 Tbs sea salt. Stir with wood spoon. Pour almost all the butter into the dough (I pour in a corner, so if the butter is too hot, it won’t kill the yeasts, except maybe in the small corner). I stir slowly and gradually then quicker until all is incorporated, the butter.

Start adding, one cup at a time, more unbleached all purpose flour. At 4 cups, it’s thick enough to handle. I sprinkle about 1-2 cups more onto a clean counter top, and scrape dough onto top of this ‘bench flour’. I gently fold and turn the dough, until the counter top flour coats it…I gently knead this dough to absorb most of the flour, until it’s just managable and not too sticky. I shape into a ball, and let it rest while I clean up, 5-10 minutes.

Cut dough in to 4 portions. I lightly oil and sprinkle corn meal on two baking sheets. I shape each portion into a ‘log’ and place 2 logs side by side on each sheet, with some space in between. I cover them with a clean dish cloth and set in the oven again for about 30-40 minutes. I remove them from oven and preheat to 400 deg F. I brush the remainder of the butter gently over the tops of the loaves. I can fit both sheets into my oven, by placing one low, and the other shelf upper mid way. I rotate them at the half way baking point, and brush more butter if there is any left. Bake for ~28 minutes (adjust for your oven and altitude.)

If you cover the fresh baked loaves with a soft, clean cloth once baked, the crust is softer and more like store bought (good for kids). Use a serrated knife for slicing.

The dough mixed up so easily and it helped me to use some extra kefir – the girls are not eating as much of it as they used to so I must find creative, tastey ways to incorporate it into our diets.  Sondra includes recipes that use vanilla kefir; never heard of vanilla kefir before.  Do I just add vanilla extract?  For some reason I am thinking not.  Will let you know what I find.

The perch is ready to go into the oven – catcha soon!

April 3, 2010 Posted by | Cooking, Gardening | , , , , , | Leave a comment


The Grist Mill purchases its breakfast pastry’s from a bakery in Staunton.  Over lunch, Ronnie and I were talking about my baking those pastries here.  Hmmm.  Croissants and scones are the usual fare.  Scones are fairly easy and could be whipped up in no time.  Croissants are another matter.  There are several articles online about how to make croissants ranging from those that look like canned biscuits to the buttery, flakey ones that I have tasted from a French bakery – these would be the ones to make.  After speaking with one of the managers, we would not be allowed to make pastries for biscuit1the Inn as we are not FDA approved.  *rolls eyes*  How ’bout we just make sure that cottage industries die before they get started?  Anyway, while I am here, thought I would post a few pix of our wood cook stove biscuits.  These puppies are about 3 inches in diameter and 1-1.5 inches thick.

Biscuits under glass

Oh and Riana with Those Days in French Life talks about food storage in her March 1st post including oilcloth sandwich bags.  From here I Googled and found this article on how to make oilcloth.  Seems simple enough.  When I am ready to try, I’ll post the outcome.  =)

March 5, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , | 4 Comments

Root crops & classes

Something I had not really thought of before that Throwback posted on Simple, Green, Frugal Co-op – growing root crops to feed not only the human family, but the dog and our up-coming chickens and maybe rabbits.  I am used to the spring/summer gardening with fall/winter gardening being something very new and outside the box!  I do not work at the restaurant tonite so this will be my project – planning a fall/winter garden while waiting for the washer to finish.

Participating in Causabon’s Book’s Adapting in place class has me kind of snowed at the moment.  I have taken online classes before (university of phoenix) but used Outlook Express to keep the class organized.  I may need to do that there, which means I cannot read during slow times at work.  Yahoo Groups is the not the best at organization. *bleck*

Cool articles I don’t want to forget and that you may find interesting:

March 4, 2009 Posted by | Cooking, Gardening, self sufficiency | , , , | Leave a comment

I did it!

I realize this is elementary to most of you and for some reason it filled me with such satisfaction I just had to share.

Several weeks ago I asked about how my boiled down chicken broth in a jar should look – it appeared to be all gelatenous.  Well, last nite I made some white chili with navy beans and used my gleatenous chicken broth (it liquifies with heat) and made the most awesome chili.  There were no leftovers!  Means I did good with dinner; however, back to the lunch dilema.  Ho hum.  =)

February 27, 2009 Posted by | Cooking | , | 3 Comments