Friday, December 31, 2010

Homemade Pot Pie

The ultimate comfort food.

I haven't made pot pie in years. 
I guess because of the dietary differences 
in our family,
it sometimes becomes quite tedious 
to adequately satisfy the individual requirements. 
The boys both eat poultry, I don't.  
My lil' guy can't have dairy or wheat and has many sensitivities to be wary of,
and I have a few things I avoid as well. 
Makes for lots of creativity in the kitchen! 
I usually end up making 3 versions of the same thing.  That way, no one feels deprived.  
It just takes a bit of planning and patience.

I got the idea for these personal pot pies from here:

I wasn't feeling adventurous enough to try them in the jelly jars, so I used some Corningware crocks we have.  This was another case of using what I had in the fridge. 
We had some leftover carrots that had been slow-cooked in the crockpot with a chicken and some leftover chicken too.  The boys got chicken pot pies, and I made myself a vegetarian version.  In went the leftover carrots and chicken (for the boys), sauteed onion, peas and white potatoes.  I made a roux in the pan by adding some flour (gluten-free for the boys), browning it and then adding homemade chicken stock
(veggie stock for me).

The pie crust was so easy! 
I got the recipe from the above website. 
That one's a keeper!  
The crust was so flaky and delicious! 
I could've eaten just that! 
For my gluten-free guy,
I used the new Gluten-Free Bisquick 
to make a quick crust. 
Can you tell which is which in the picture above? 

They all got baked in a 350 degree oven for 20 minutes (everything was already cooked, so it's just to brown the crust) and you are on your way 
to a lil' piece of heaven. 
It was the perfect meal for a dreadfully dreary day. 
You can bet your boots I'll be adding this to my once-a-month menu. 
Simple pleasures...

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Ricotta Cheese Cookies


I had some leftover ricotta cheese from our 
Christmas lasagna supper 
and I wanted to use the rest of the container.  
Part of living simply is using what you have.
I found this eggless recipe here.

I remember my mom making cookies with ricotta cheese when I was small.  
My mom was the best cook!  
She could make anything taste amazing!

These turned out delightfully light.  I guess when you use a cup of butter, they're bound to be yummy!  Several neighbors were happy to be part 
of my taste-testing crew. 
I've decided that these will be part 
of our Christmas tradition from now on.   
Hope you enjoy them soon!

Ricotta Cheese Cookies
1 cup butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
1 (15 ounce) container of ricotta cheese
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt 
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 cups all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Mix all of the cookie ingredients well until the dough sticks together into a big ball.
It will be sticky.
Drop by teaspoonfuls on an ungreased cookie pan.
Bake 10 minutes or until the bottoms turn golden brown.
Let cool for 1 minute and then transfer to cool completely.

Christmas Hop

homestead barn hop linky

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


It's a frosty mornin' here in Central Florida.
Most of the yard is brown, so I guess there won't
be much in the way of gardening posts for a bit.
It's one huge, science experiment
to see what bounces back from this frigid weather.
One word springs to mind as the lesson learned-

Even the grass is crunchy...

That's ice on the lantana.

I guess this is why they're called evergreens, eh?

This sago palm is probably wondering where it is.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Wrappin' It Up!

I don't know about anyone else,
but I always prefer a gift that is homemade. 
Whether edible, wearable, or useable,
those gifts that someone takes the time
to create just for me are treasured. 
With so many people facing uncertainty
in the workforce, 
it makes sense to rein in and start getting
back to basics with our gift-giving.  
It's not only more meaningful, 
but it makes fiscal sense.
As in life, it comes down to quality over quantity. 
A delicious loaf of home-baked bread 
still warm from the oven,
a hand-knit scarf or winter hat, 
or a fun cookie recipe in a jar
that the receiver can enjoy composing with others,
are all ways to show you care deeply about someone
while adding comfort 
and maybe even a little joy to their life.
Not much more comforting than freshly-baked bread!

I've been making these gifts-in-a-jar for years. 
 I've made bath salts,
cornbread mix, cookies, brownies, and soup mixes.  
The finished product ends up looking like sand art, 
as you layer the ingredients in canning jars.  
No one I've ever given one of these to 
has been less than amazed at the idea.  
It's not mine, but I'm happy to pass it along!

 I enjoy making my own wrapping paper 
for the holidays. 
Here I took some scraps of wrapping paper 
from gifts last year
and glued them onto butcher paper, 
making sure to cut around the "Pooh" characters
(our 9-year old friend would probably not appreciate it as much 
had they been included).

I included this coupon for his mom so that she can spend one day  just doing something for herself. 
 She is a single mom and an avid reader 
who doesn't often get time alone
with her thoughts and loves being surrounded 
by great books!

This is the stamped paper 
I have been making for years.  
It's so easy and a great project for kids to help with.  
One year we had a distinct stamp 
for each person's gifts under the tree
so that at a glance, 
everyone could tell which presents were theirs!

 These stamps have been collected over the years 
and come in a myriad of shapes and sizes.
They can also be used for greeting cards, 
decorating shirts or bags
and creating a table runner for the holiday table.
It's a fun way to keep the kids happy 
while they await company or the first course!
Just lay out the white or brown butcher paper 
and let your creativity flow!

We don't have a fireplace (yet), 
so hubby created this makeshift hearth.
I think Santa still has to use the front door, 
but at least we don't
have to worry about our stockings burning!

Have a wonderful holiday however you choose to celebrate.
May you be "wrapped up" in blessings this holiday season!

simple saturdays

homestead barn hop linky

Motivation Monday Linky Party Sunday 6:30 pm at

Goodbye House Hello Home

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The First Resolution

This word says it all. 
Who doesn't want more joy in their life?  
It seems to me that it's eluded me for too many years now.  
I don't know if it's been so scarce because I've been 
caught up in the world of autism, 
or just trying to find where I fit 
in the grand scale of things, 
but it's been gone for too long. 

Thinking back on this past year, 
I can name less than a handful of instances 
where I truly felt joyful.  
Well folks, I'm here to tell you 
that I aim to change that.  
The first resolution on my list this year 
will be to have more fun.  
Feel more smiles emanating from my own face.  
Laugh and giggle until my belly aches.  
It's been too long since I felt that.  
I'm the only one who can change it. 

I tend to think too much.  
The best ideas usually come about 
when one is relaxed.  
The creative juices just flow better.
Let the games begin!
Wishing you and yours a joyful new year!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Homemade Holiday

I've always enjoyed crafting. 
Alas, my lil' guy prefers building,
so we've gotten away from it.  
It's especially rewarding to repurpose
everyday items found around your home.

Here are a few relics from the past.
It's fun to rediscover these valuable
family treasures each year when the time
comes to festoon the tree.
Enjoy your holiday memories.

Candles made from cardboard tubes and colored paper

This was a kit I got at a craft store.  Took no time at all!

Rub-on stickers repurpose an old bulb.

These are knitted booties with paper clips (a family heirloom).

Snowflakes can be as simple or elaborate as you like!
Using specialty craft scissors changes the pattern.

I treasure my lil' guy's snowman.
(I call him Jimmy Durante.)

This one's not homemade, but it is one of my favorites.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Gluten-free Cinnamon Rolls


This cook book is amazing.  
Not only does it include all the sweet goodness you could ever ask for, the recipes are simple and easy to follow.  
I even adapted it to my lil' guy's needs 
and the results were impressive.  
This cookbook is a must-have for anyone 
following a restricted diet due to allergies, but it's also
great for vegans who feel the need to quench that craving. You can find moreinformation on the author and her creations at:

I've never before made cinnamon rolls from scratch, 
but I always get the urge to bake on cold days.  
This would be a great homeschool activity if your kids
are mini-bakers.  Mine just likes the eating part. 



"Batter" risen in the mixing bowl.

It took some extra flour to get to this state.

Smother in brown sugar and cinnamon.

Ready to rise in the pan.

Gluten-Free Cinnamon Rolls
(The Allergen-Free Baker's Handbook)

2 1/2 C gf flour
2 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
2 t cinnamon
1 C rice milk
2 t yeast
3/4 C sugar (or sucanat)
1/4 C light olive oil
1/2 t xanthan gum

Combine milk, oil, and sugar in glass measuring cup.
Heat 1 minute to 110 degrees. 
In large bowl, whisk flour, gum, salt, 
powder and yeast.
Add rice milk mixture to dry and blend well. 
Cover and let rest 10 minutes.

Turn out dough onto floured board and roll out with floured rolling pin into a rectangle 
16" X 9" X 1/4" thick.
Use oil to brush onto dough and sprinkle with cinnamon and brown sugar.  Roll dough into log.

Cut into 12 pieces and place in greased pie plate.
Cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Place pan in another pan and pour hot water up sides to 1/2 way.  
Let rolls rise 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Bake 45 minutes.
Drizzle with a glaze of powdered sugar mixed with
vanilla rice milk.  Let cool in pan.
Makes 12 rolls.

Mary’s Kitchen

Gluten Free Fridays Sharing glutenfree recipes for all

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

No Kiddin'?

I have always been amazed at how folks 
who live up north do it. 
The cold, the snow, the frostbitten fingers, 
the cold, the howling winds, the cold. 
 I'm a transplant from Chicago, 
but I've been in Florida over 40 years now. 
That takes its toll on tolerance 
of these sorts of strange occurrences. 

For the second night in a row, we are projected to get below freezing, as in below 32 degrees.  
I guess this is good practice 
for when the big move happens. 
Hats (and skirts) off to those of you 
who handle it on a regular basis 
and wouldn't have it any other way. 

The temperature this morning...I thought this was Florida?

I wonder if birds ice skate?

Thar she blows!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Unwavering Inspiration

There is strength in putting your dreams down on paper. 
Any real dream only becomes reality when a plan is followed through. 
It starts with recognition, then verbalizing,
and taking it step-by-step. I was so enthralled
the first time I found out about this amazing organization.

But it was more than that. 
Everything just seemed to come together. 
My love for kids, teaching, learning, animals, farms 
and a deep-seated need to help others. 
Green Chimneys was the dream awakened in me almost a year ago. 
It's why I started this blog. 
Maple Hill will someday be my reality. 
This morning I visited the website again
to prompt the yearning to show its head. 
It's still there, stronger than ever.

Maybe it's the frigid weather outside 
and not being able to tend the garden, 
maybe it's the holidays approaching faster than I'd like. 
Whatever it is, the need to refresh my longings 
was how I started this day. 
I'm still discovering others 
who share the same type of simple living philosophy 
that seems inborn to me. 
For their company, I am more than grateful. 

The ingenuity and self-determination that some folks share 
is a source of never-ending wonder for me. 
To use our God-given gifts and abilities to better our world 
and connect with even just one other person 
in a way they have never been reached before, 
this is what it means to have a meaningful life. 
Money, material things and overabundance 
do not feed one's soul.
It is family, time, health and a sense of purpose that really matter. 
I pray that anyone coming across this blog 
will find what their life's purpose is. 
And then go for it...


Saturday, December 11, 2010

How to Start Homesteading

farm pictures - Vintage farm or ranch picture

Homesteading in the modern sense means 
going back to the land 
without necessarily going anywhere -- 
you can start homesteading even if you live in the city, 
as long as you are willing to take a few risks 
and get a little dirty.

1 Start thinking in terms of self-sufficiency. 

How much of what other people do for you 
can you do for yourself? 
This is a whole different way of thinking, 
but once you get in the habit you will see 
more and more ways to be self-sufficient.

2 Don't worry if you live in the city or suburbia 

-- there are tons of ways you can start homesteading 
even if you live in an urban area.

3 Start by thinking about the food you eat. 

You can supplement the amount you need to buy 
by growing your own, and this doesn't just mean outside crops. 
You can grow mushrooms in the cellar, 
and make wine or beer as well. 
You can make yogurt from milk with little effort, 
and bread from wheat 
you either buy or grow yourself.
farm chicken  pictures - Hillary's chickens IV picture

4 Think about growing chickens for eggs 

or rabbits for meat. 
Both are easy and require relatively little room. 
And chickens can eat your table scraps!

5 Heating or cooking with wood. 

Even if you do not have a fireplace, 
you can still begin cooking outside on charcoal
 -- in other words, a bbq! 
There are also solar ovens that work better 
than you might think -- and you can make these yourself, too. 
Free heat!

clothespins pictures - the day after laundry day picture

6 Set up a clothesline and cut out the energy 

and expense of using a dryer. 
Save money and wear and tear on your dryer.

7 Knit or sew your own clothes. 

Even if you are not much a seamstress (or seamster), 
there are plenty of ways you can make
 or at least repair your own clothes. 
You can even use them to make rugs, aprons or artwork. 
And if they are beyond hope, donate them. 
That is part of homesteading too, 
and someone out there will be happy to have them.

farm pictures - iron bell picture

8 Always think along the lines of 

repurposing or recycling items. 
Begin homesteading and you will find 
lots of other ways to do it yourself.