Homemade “Storebought” Granola

A few years back I learned to make homemade granola. Boy, I thought I had hit the jackpot. I love granola, but it is rather expensive to buy storebought. I was thrilled to find out I could make it myself at a fraction of the cost. My enthusiasm waned before long because my granola didn’t taste like the storebought kind. Instead of bold exciting flavors, my granola tasted like dried oatmeal and honey. I set out to make a really yummy granola that I would want to eat everyday (ok, maybe not everyday, but at least several times a week).

I started out by reading the ingredients of the storebought granola and tweaking my recipe to include some of the ones I liked. I change it up a bit every now and then, depending on my mood and what I have in the cupboards. Here is the recipe of the moment, but I will include some delish alternatives at the end of the post. Enjoy!

The mix of honey and maple syrup gives the granola a rich flavor without overpowering the other flavors in the granola. I found that by adding in the 1/2 cup of ground flax seed, the granola stuck together a bit better and was clumpier. I like my granola to have chunks in it rather than it being loose oatmeal mixed with nuts and berries.

Like I said before, this is the recipe that tickles my fancy, but you can really change it up and come up with lots of different recipes. Here are a few suggestions to get you going…

granola ingredients @ponderthepath

Flavorings: vanilla extract, almond extract, cinnamon

Nuts: pecans, almonds, walnuts, pinenuts, peanuts, cashews

Dried fruit: Berries, Raisins, Coconut, Banana Chips

Yummies: Peanut Butter (add in with butter and oil), chocolate chips (add after granola has been cooked and is cooled), orange zest, cocoa powder

How ’bout you? What do like in your homemade “storebought” granola?

 

Turtles in the Snow Cheesecake Bars

{In our house, my 16 year old son is our dessert connoisseur. That is why I collaborated with him on a new recipe to enter in an online contest. Our favorite recipe was eliminated because it took longer than 30 minutes to prepare. I decided to share it with you all because I am sure you won’t mind waiting for this one to chill. It is definitely worth the wait!}

Turtles in the Snow Cheesecake Bars

Crust:
1 stick butter, melted
1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
2 tablespoons sugar

Filling:
2 8 ounce packages cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream

Topping:
3/4 cup milk chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped pecans
3/4 cup coconut flakes
3/4 cup caramel sauce (you can make your own by melting caramels with a dash of milk and a sliver of butter)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix ingredients for crust and press into a 9 x 13 inch pan.
Bake for 6-8 minutes.

In a large bowl, mix cream cheese and sugar until fluffy. Beat in flour, eggs, vanilla, and sour cream. Pour over crust. Top with chocolate chips, pecans, and coconut, pressing down slightly. Bake 25 minutes. Turn off oven and allow cheesecake to cool in oven with door slightly ajar for 45 minutes. Refrigerate 2 hours. Drizzle caramel sauce over cheesecake bars before serving.

Crayon Roll-Up Bag

Crayon Roll-up Bag @ponderthepath

I don’t know about you, but crayon boxes don’t last very long at my house.  Usually within a few days, we are putting crayons into zip lock bags or zippered pencil bags.  The problem with this is that it is difficult to find the color you need without either dumping the entire bag, or digging through it.

I decided to make a Crayon Roll-Up Bag for my girls.  The only thing sweeter than a new box of crayons is a new box of crayons in a bright new roll-up bag.  You should have seen their eyes light up when I told them the bag I made was for them!

These bags are great for keeping crayons secure and in place, while allowing you to see which color you want to use.  They also make super gifts–just fill with crayons, add in a coloring book, and you have a simply delightful handmade gift.

Let’s get started…

Here is what I used, but I did have a bit of the fabric left over.  Use what you have on hand and don’t be afraid to mix and match for a scrappy look.

Items needed:

1/3 yard printed fabric
1/3 yard solid fabric
10 x 14 inch piece of batting
24 inches ribbon

smmeasurements

Cut:

1 – 10 x 14 inch printed fabric
2 – 6  1/2 x 14 inch printed fabric
1 – 10 x 14 inch solid fabric
binding –  60 x 2 1/2 inch solid fabric

Note: Seam allowances are 1/4 inch.

Sew Edges Together

Sew Edges Together

Turn Fabric Inside Out

Turn Fabric Inside Out

Pin to Fabric

Pin to Fabric

Sew:

Take one of the 6 1/2 x 14 inch printed fabric pieces and fold in half lengthwise, right sides facing together.  Sew together along the length of the fabric.  Turn inside out and press flat.  Repeat with the other piece of 6 1/2 x 14 inch printed fabric.

Sandwich together the 10 x 14 inch pieces of fabric with the batting in between.  Both fabric pieces should be right side facing out.

Pin:

Pin the 2 – 3 x 14 in panels (the ones you just sewed together and pressed) to the solid side of the sandwiched fabrics.  Start by measuring from the bottom 1/2 inch.  Pin one panel down, then measure 1 1/2 inches further up.  Pin the next panel down.  You should have 2 inches left at the top of this panel.

Sew Along Bottom

Sew Along Bottom

Mark Lines and Sew

Mark Lines and Sew

Trim Edges

Trim Edges

Sew:

Sew along the bottom edge of each panel.  (Make sure you are sewing the bottom edge.  I somehow turned mine around and sewed the top edge.  Not good.)

Mark:

With dressmaker’s chalk or a water soluble pen, mark the rectangle in 1 inch intervals from top to bottom.

Sew:

Sew along each line you marked.

Tip: Sew from bottom to top to prevent pucker at the bottom of each panel.

Finish:

Trim the edges slightly.  Add binding around the edges.  If you need help with your binding, please take a look at my quilt binding tutorial.  You will bind the crayon bag the same as a quilt, only smaller.  Last, tack ribbon onto the printed side of the fabric.

If you are a bit creative, you can create these bags for many different purposes.  I made one for my older daughter to keep her knitting needles in.  They would also work for drawing pencils or sewing accessories.

Crayon Rollup Bag @ponderthepath

Enjoy your new Crayon Roll-Up Bag!

Online Sewing Class

Oven Baked Potatoes

The potato was burned black outside, but inside it was white and mealy and a most delicious baked-potato smell steamed out of it. They let it cool a little, and then they gnawed the inside out of the black crust, and it was the best potato they had ever eaten.

~Laura Ingalls Wilder, Farmer Boy

One of my favorite foods is a baked potato smothered in butter, sour cream, and cheddar cheese (it is even better with bacon bits and chives). But for some reason my baked potatoes never tasted as good as the ones at the BBQ restaurants.

Until my mom stayed with us last summer…

I realized that most of my problem was the fact that I had only made them in the microwave, which is fine for a quick meal, but not so fine for a tasty one.

From now on, all our baked potatoes are made in the oven. It does take a bit longer (like 2 hours longer), but it is worth the wait. If you have never made oven baked potatoes, I would urge you to at least try them!

Oven Baked Potatoes

1. Wash and scrub baking potato. Poke it several times with a fork or knife.

2. Place on a rectangle of tin foil. Pour a bit of oil over potato, then cover with salt. Note: add more salt than you normally would so that it can penetrate the potato.

3. Place wrapped potatoes in baking dish. Bake at 400 degrees for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The time it takes to bake can vary greatly depending on how large the potatoes are and how many you are cooking. I check the potatoes by sticking a knife through them. When it is easy to pierce, I consider it done.

4. I let the potatoes sit for a while after taking them out of the oven.

Chickens from Scratch (part 2)

If you missed our humble beginnings, make sure and check out Chickens from Scratch (part 1).

It seems to be getting harder to blog about homesteading as we begin to practice homesteading.  It does additional time during our days to learn about and care for our flock.  I get impatient sometimes, wanting to have a complete homestead right now.  This has been a great lesson on taking it one step at a time.  There is a learning curve, and by growing our homestead slowly we can learn without getting overwhelmed and burnt out.

Housing

The chickens have been growing fast and quickly out grew their rubbermaid tub home.  We had a large wooden crate/box from our move, so I turned it into a chick box.  Because it wasn’t very tall, I put chicken wire over the top to keep them from jumping out (I didn’t realize how high they could jump!).

We kept the heating lamp on them until they were about 1 month old and had plenty of real feathers.  Our nights have been pretty mild lately and they are now kept in the garage, so it has been warm enough to remove the lamp.

We continue to change out the shavings/bedding as needed, making sure it stays dry.

Feeding

We are continuing to feed the chicks the same growth feed that we bought when we got the chicks.  We have also began to feed them scraps such as veggie peelings, left over cornbread, etc.  The girls have been so excited to find grasshoppers to bring to the chicks.  All the chicks flutter and fight for the little critters.

We had to nail a small piece of wood across the box to hang up the water.  The chicks are scratching more, kicking up the shavings into the water container.  Keeping it off the floor has helped it stay cleaner, longer.

Training

We have been taking them out for a bit each day, letting them peck and scratch and look for bugs.  They seem to enjoy it, but I now know where the term “chicken” comes from.  They get scared at the slightest things and all huddle up together.  If one of them gets separated from the group, you can hear her calling out to the other chicks with a “crying” chirp.  She frantically looks for the group and they look for her.  Once they are reunited, all is well.

Up Next

We have been working on a real chicken coop, so I will keep you posted on how we did it!

 

Science Project: Edible Cell

I had good intentions of using Apologia’s Exploring Creation with Anatomy and Physiology for science this year. But time has slipped away from me and here it is May and we are just now getting started with it. Science is one of the things that gets put on the back burner with life gets too overwhelming. And really, most of what the (elementary age and younger) kids learn about science should come from Nature Studies, hands-on exploration, and really good “living books” (like Pagoo).

The girls have been asking to do science, so I believe that is a good indicator that their minds are yearning for a little more. I ordered the experiment kit to go with the books, because at this point in my life I just don’t have the time to brain capacity to run around making sure we have toothpicks and marshmallows and vinegar all at the same time. When I opened the experiment box you could hear the choir sing. It was filled with zip lock baggies, neatly labeled for each chapter. On the labels, the list contained the items in the back, noted which ones to save for future projects (gotta love that!), and then listed the few items we would have to supply ourselves (like pencils, or cups).

Every day the girls have been asking, “Is it time for science?”

And they are loving it!

And I am learning it (did I ever tell you I am studying to become an herbalist? Anatomy and physiology are good things for an herbalist to know.)!

Despite our mishaps…

This is our edible cell. The big white ball is the nucleus. The yellow jello is the cytoplasm. Looks like the perfect cell. Everything is in it’s place. We have talked about each one and what they do.

We turn the cell over just like the directions stated. The nucleus falls out. Not too worried because we can always slip it back in.

Then plop. Out falls the cell, completely discombobulated. Older daughter (who is working through her high school anatomy and is much further along than the rest of us) states that it is a holocrine secretion — the whole disintegrating cell is secreted from the glands along with the secretory product.  What an amazing elementary science lesson!

All’s not lost. Mom scoops the cell back together. Kids get their once a year dose of jello. Life is good.

Simple Hospitality

With my husband being in the military for the last 19 years, we haven’t had the chance to live near family.  And as our own family grows, it has become more and more challenging to visit our family as often as we would like.  Thankfully, the Lord has always blessed us with friends that have become as close as family.  Our family has been through many trials over the years — births, illnesses, miscarriage, and many moves — and through it all we have had loving friends by our sides.

One of the reasons our friendships have developed so deeply is due to hospitality.  Honestly, I feel like we have been on the receiving end of most of the hospitality.  I have learned so much from so many wonderful families who have opened up their homes and their hearts to my family in times of need.  Most of what I will share with you are ways that others have shown us hospitality.  What a blessing they have been to us!

Hospitality Ideas

Hospitality doesn’t always mean having people over in your home for a meal.  Hospitality can can take on many forms.  I like to think of hospitality as “loving thy neighbor as thyself”.  If you desire to become more hospitable, pray that the Lord would open up doors for this to happen.

Some ideas for hospitality include:

~bringing a meal to a family

This has probably been the biggest blessing to our family over the years.  There have been so many times that I have not been able to cook and others have stepped in and brought meals to us.  Bringing a meal to someone can be as simple as picking up a rotisserie chicken, a bagged salad, and a loaf of French bread.  Or you can add a personal touch and make your favorite casserole (many of my recipes come from other women who brought us delicious dinners).

~watching a family’s children

We don’t leave our children with others very often (and now we have older children to help), but there have been times when it was necessary.  Several years ago my husband was hospitalized with a serious staph infection.  He needed me by his side, but my children were young and couldn’t spend long hours at the hospital.  My sweet friend took my children, watched them, fed them, and played with them like they were her own.  This can really take a burden off of someone’s shoulders, especially if they are not accustomed to leaving their children with others.

~offering your services to a family (mowing lawns, cleaning the house, helping to move)

Oh boy, do we know how hard a move can be.  There are so many things to think of and plan for.  It never fails that we are cleaning stoves and edging lawns right up until the last minute of every move.   It is a wonderful help to have others take care of some of the chores for you.  Sometimes it might mean moving heaving furniture and boxes, other times it might mean helping a family get organized.

Don’t overlook serving elderly people as well.  There are many widows and widowers who may need a handiman 0r woman to help then around the house.  Things as simple (to most of us) as changing light bulbs can be a real challenge to older people.

~lending items

I remember after one move all our things were packed up and a friend brought over sheets and towels, something I had forgot to leave out.  It is little things like this that really bless a person!

And let’s face it, most of us are not overflowing with money.  We need to be frugal and willing to share what the Lord has blessed us with.   I once had a friend (who was the epitome of hospitality) that was constantly offering anything that others needed, and I mean anything.  If she had left over party invitations and goodie bags, she was finding someone that needed them.  If she knew that a friend was attending a wedding, she was digging through closets finding dresses to lend them so that they didn’t need to go buy new ones.

And not only did she give, she gave her best.   She didn’t pull things out of a “going to the thrift store” pile.  She went to her closets and pantries and looked for the best she could offer.  That is true hospitality!

~and of course, having families over

It has been a while since we have had families over for dinner.  After being displaced for almost a year, then getting settled into our new home, I am slowly feeling the “urge” to have others over.  This is something I really need to work on, so this section is more for me than anyone.

I love having others over, especially the fellowship.  I just get this overwhelming feeling in my chest when I think about making sure the house is clean, preparing the perfect menu, and then making sure our guest are comfortable.

So here are some reminders to myself…

1. The other families aren’t going wearing white gloves and checking for a speck of dirt.  Besides, if the house is too clean, it may make them feel uncomfortable about their own homes.  Reality check:  most of don’t live day to day in a spic-n-span home.  Especially if we have children at home!

2. When it comes to meals, keep it simple.  A few weeks ago we were invited over to a family’s house for hot dogs.  We had such a relaxing time…I loved it!  The kids roasted hot dogs on the fire outside, while the adults sat around the fire chatting.  I thought to myself, “this is true hospitality, true fellowship with other believers”.

3. As far as being comfortable, others are comfortable when we are.  So relax and enjoy the fellowship!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I am looking forward to getting some ideas from the other moms this week!

Brandy at The Marathon Mom

Keri Mae at The Happy Home

Stacy at A Delightful Home

Andie at Happy Andersons

Cooper One Year Later

Last Sunday was Cooper’s first birthday. First birthdays are always somewhat bittersweet, especially for the mama. We celebrate an entire year that the Lord has given us with our child. We are joyful for the milestones they have reached and their growth and their health. But there is also a bit of sadness as we see our baby leave the days of infancy and move into toddlerhood.

This birthday was also a time of closure. As I look back over the last year of Cooper’s life, his birth and crippled feet seem lifetimes ago. He runs and grabs the bowl of dog food quicker than I can get to him, and gone are my fears of him not walking. He kicks his feet in protest of getting his diaper changed, and gone are the worries that he won’t be a normal little boy. He toddles to me and lifts his hands for me to pick him up, and gone is the sadness that filled our hearts just one year ago.

It seemed only fitting that for his birthday, he should get a pair of shoes.

How the Lord is working all for good…

Beyond the blessings Cooper has brought to our lives, I believe the Lord is also using Cooper’s story to bless others. Last month my mother, who is working as an OB nurse, noticed one of the patient’s was due to have her baby on Cooper’s birthday, April 1st. As my mom was looking at the patient’s records, she realized that a sonogram had revealed that the baby had club feet.

My mom began to talk with the lady about her grandson Cooper, who was also born on April 1st with club feet. She passed along my website to a very grateful couple. I hope that they have found their way here and are encouraged by Cooper’s story. I pray that they will be further encouraged by the Lord.

Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.
For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called:
But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;
And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are:
That no flesh should glory in his presence.
But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:
That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.

1 Corithians 1:25-31

Should Christians Use Herbs? (part 3)

Should Christians Use Herbs? @jasminejlucero

Should Christians Use Herbs? (part 3) has been moved to my new herbal site, The Christian Herbal.

Chickens from Scratch (part 1)


We have been planning on getting chickens for a while now, but for some reason I just kept holding out.  I guess I was a bit nervous.  It is one thing to have a dream and a plan, but actually putting the plan in motion is a different story.

It all started with a harmless trip to the Tractor Supply store.  It was a rainy day and I thought it would be fun to just take a look at what they had.  We were doing good as we stop at the chicken supply aisle.  We checked out the different items and I looked at the different feeders.  Then I heard one of the girls squeal, “Look at the baby chickens!”

That was it.  I was struck with chicken fever.  They were all so fuzzy and yellow and you just wanted to squeeze them they were so cute.

I have never had chickens before (although our landlord did have them in Spain..they weren’t my responsibility though, I just reaped the benefits of them).  And even though I have several “homesteading” books and have read through them many times, when the time came to actually  get the chickens my brain started going fuzzy.

What do we need?  What types of chickens to we want?  Layers?  Pullets?  Sexed?  Too much information, too quickly!  I really needed a checklist!

Here is the crash course on buying baby chickens.  Please note that this information will only take you through the first few weeks of owning baby chicks (we haven’t gotten any further than that).

What You Will Need to Buy (or make or get from craigslist)

  • a box (or something to put the chicks in) – We chose a rubbermaid tub, but it wasn’t the best choice for 2 reasons: 1) We had to be very careful and make sure the heating lamp didn’t melt the tub, and 2) The chicks quickly outgrew it.  We then found a wooden box outside that is working much better.
  • chicken wire – Depending on the depth of the box, you may need some chicken wire to keep the little guys in.
  • bedding – We are using pine shavings for our bedding, but I have read that you can also use newspapers.
  • food and water dispensers – Make sure you have ones that are meant for chicks.  They can drown in larger water containers.
  • heating lamp – Little chicks need to be kept very warm (95 degrees the first week).  We still have our lamp on around the clock at 3 weeks old.  Their box is large enough that they can get under the lamp if they need to, or move to a cooler part of the box if they get too warm.
  • thermometer – Like I said before, young chicks need to be kept at 95 degrees the first week.  Each week of their lives they heat can be reduced by 5 degrees.  I just set the thermometer inside the box near the heating lamp, since this is the warmest area.
  • chicken feed – So far just bought a bag of chick feed specifically for chicks.  At some point I know we should change feed, but I haven’t gotten that far ahead yet.

Care Routine

  • change bedding daily – If the bedding gets wet or very yucky, you can change it more often.  You want to make sure the chickens have plenty of dry bedding to scratch around in.
  • change water daily – Wash out the water container with soap and hot water each day to help prevent bacterial growth and sickness.  Also, check the water throughout the day.  Our little guys kick up the pine shavings into the water.  I have to take a stick and clean it out so that the water will be available to them.
  • feed – We have self feeders, so I just make sure there is plenty available.

Our chicks are now 3 weeks old and we are starting to see their color change a bit.  We have taken them out in the grass some, but watch over them carefully (I feel like a mother hen).  The girls have caught several small grasshoppers and the chicks go crazy over them.  I can’t tell you how much fun we have had with them.  What a wonder is God’s creation!

Here is a quick video to chronicle our learning.  I am hoping to post more as we learn.