Orange Campfire Muffins

Our Bella has always been a strikingly capable child.  As she’s gotten older, she’s shown her talents in different ways.  One thing she particularly loves, and in which she excels, is cooking.

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The girl can bake just about anything.  And, being that she eats a gluten free diet, her baking prowess focuses on gluten free.  I stink at gluten free baking, so she never ceases to impress me.

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As we prepared to go camping this weekend, Bella scoured the internet for camp fire cooking inspiration.  She quickly zeroed in on a recipe that created campfire muffins in an orange peel.  She informed me of the ingredients and asked me to grab them from the store before our trip.  I was happy to oblige, because I wanted to eat muffins.

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Bella ended up making her orange peel campfire muffins for breakfast on our last day camping and they were so yummy!  She sliced and scooped out eight oranges.

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She mixed up a batch of muffins and filled one of the half orange peels with muffin mix and a generous sprinkling of blueberries (which she had picked from our bushes before we left home).

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She then replaced the other half of the orange peel and wrapped the entire sphere in tin foil.  The spheres were buried in hot coals to “bake” for about ten minutes.

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Amazingly, perfectly baked muffins, with a hint of orange flavor, emerged from each foil wrapped orange peel.  It was incredible.  And delicious.  And easy enough for your eight year old aspiring bakeress to create!

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Mother Earth News Fair

We just returned home from a wonderful camping trip, which included a day at the Mother Earth News Fair.  The Fair is something I’ve been wanting to attend for a long time and we weren’t disappointed.  If you’re at all homestead-inclined and looking for some inspiration and mountains of education, try to make it to one of these Fairs!

It’s always fun to connect to people you “know” only through social media, so Andrew was thrilled when Meredith Leigh was one of the speakers at the Fair.  He attended three of her talks and walked aways with a wealth of new butchering knowledge.  How often do you get to attend a talk where the speaker is cutting up a whole hog?

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We also added fancy new words to our vocabulary, like “charcuterie”.  And I only think we are pronouncing it correctly.  shar-koo-teri.

Joel Salatin was, of course, dynamic and inspiring.  I was only able to catch one talk, but it was excellent.  Although, when you talk about children, getting them out of doors, and inspiring creativity and ingenuity in them, it’s easy to grab me!  He emphasized that a homestead should spark the imagination of all the children who visit.  If they’d rather be in the house, then someone is doing something wrong!

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The learning opportunities for kids on a homestead can be endless.  He talked a bit about the small businesses that his children and grandchildren have started at young ages.  The ages of 8-10 are the magic time to grab the child’s imagination and empower him to take ownership of whatever excites him.

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Drone trapping, varroa mite prevention, cottage food laws, and using projector TV screens to melt pennies!  It was a weekend chock full of information.

We also camped and swam and generally hung out together.  It was fun to get away, cook over an open fire, and relax a bit.  Bella made some seriously amazing muffins on the campfire.  (Here she’s flipping pancakes)

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(Also, stay tuned for a really great giveaway later this week!)

Instant Pot, Magic Pot.

About a month ago on Facebook, I asked people to share their thoughts on that new-fangled Instant Pot.  The results varied from “Can’t live without it!!” to “Tell me more!  I want to love it, too!” with nary a “No thanks” in the bunch.

Intrigued, I hit the “Buy now with 1-click” button.  In just two days, it was on my doorstep.

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Guys.  I love this thing.

I do think that, like all new things, there is a bit of a learning curve.  I’d never cooked with a pressure cooker before, so it was an all new experience for me.  Since this cooker is all pretty automated, it was really easy and straightforward.  I started with a roast and it was good, but a little dry.

Since then, I’ve made some really fabulous ribs.  Everyone knows that ribs are an hours long endeavor.  Not so with the instant pot!  We had fantastic ribs in about an hour.

I’ve also made some lovely potatoes and tasty risotto, not to mention dried beans cooked and on the table in no time.

But the star of the Instant Pot is most definitely the stock.  It really floored me.  In the past, I’ve always made my stock in my crock pot.  It’s a long, slow, house-smells-like-chicken-for-days endeavor.  The Instant Pot is not only faster, but it definitely results in a superior stock.

To make the stock, I put the carcass in the pot, fill to the “MAX” line with filtered water, add a splash of Apple Cider Vinegar and a sprinkle of salt.  I then set The Pot to 120 minutes, using the manual option.

The stock is rich and golden in color.  It has a beautiful fat cap on top.  But the best part is that, due to the pressure nature of the cooker, you yield as much stock as water put in.  Add eight cups of water?  You’ll end up with eight cups of stock.  In fact, when filled to the max line, I generally yield a gallon or so of stock.  Nothing is lost to evaporation, as it is with the crock pot.

That right there is worth the price of the Instant Pot.

This thing is worth its weight in (liquid) gold (stock).

Putting Up Beanz

(I think Kateri hit the “z” key and added it to the end of the word Bean.  But I think it’s funny, so I’ll leave it there!)

Welcome, July!  Month of garden abundance.  My green beans have just started to take off and I have a feeling I’ll be buried in them soon.

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I don’t own a pressure canner, which makes canning green beans out of the question.  I know that all good homesteaders should probably invest in a pressure canner, but now is not my time.  The good thing is that it forces me to be creative and expand my limited horizons.

I couple weeks ago, I stumbled upon a recipe for lacto-fermented green beans.  I’ve fermented the traditional pickles a kraut in the past, but never ventured beyond that.  Green beans sounded curious and delicious.

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I experimented on a small amount of beans I had just harvested and set them on the counter, along with my other fermenting goodies. (I need some sort of huge fermenting station.  Or house.)

We tested the beans after about five days of fermenting and were not disappointed.  The beans stayed crisp, without any strange additions that pickles require.  These were so easy to make and had delicious results.  Kateri was thrilled with them and even slurped up the juice!

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Lacto Fermented Green Beans

Filtered Water

Sea Salt

Garden Fresh Green Beans, trimmed

Add ins: garlic, red pepper flakes, fresh dill, etc.

Mix salt and water to make a brine.  About 1T salt : 1 C water

Place any optional “add ins” into the bottom of a clean mason jar.

Trim the ends of the green beans and pack tightly into a clean mason jar.

Pour brine over the beans to cover.  Add a weight, if necessary.

Cover with a loose fitting lid or cheesecloth and place the jar(s) in a room temperature area.  Let sit for a few days and test for flavor.  When your desired fermented flavor is achieved, replace the loose fitting lid with a tight fitting lid and move the beans to cool storage, such as a refrigerator  to stop the fermentation process.

Easy!

What’s your favorite way to preserve beans for the cold months to come?