Thursday, September 29, 2011

Applesauce Day with my Eldest ~ And a Slow Cooker Recipe

We might not have come home with bushels of apples from apple-picking day, but the week's CSA box included a dozen gorgeous Granny Smith's and we were hankering for some applesauce.  My eldest wanted to help make it, which was a delight to the ears.  I was hoping for some quality time with her, and the other kids were either swimming (yes, it's still hot enough for that here) or playing with building blocks.  She decided to leave the peeling to me (the little darling), so I listened to her read out loud while I peeled away.

The grapes honestly have nothing to do with this post, but they just keep showing up in the pictures.  Silly grapes.

After peeling all twelve apples, we sliced away and dropped them in the crock pot,

added the juice of one lemon (for no real reason outside of wanting the tartness.  The apples will be brown from all the spices so we really didn't need to protect the coloring),

and stirred in the spices that are the very scent of autumn, in my book.

We turned the slow cooker on to low, put a lid on it, and four hours later...

a quick push or two with the potato masher, and we had six cups of delightfully spiced applesauce, just like that!

Our taste testers took to it right away and didn't want to waste any time finding a table to eat it on.  It was a hit!

It's so nice when there's time enough to realize that doing life with the little ones is what's important.  More important than getting the job done fast.  Even more important than getting the job done without a  mess.  Applesauce day with my nine-year-old ended up being quite the special day, and a very good reminder to slow down and remember that sharing life with the kids is the sweetest life there is.  It's poetry, I tell you.

Simple, Spiced, Slow Cooker Applesauce
Yields 8 cups
  • 16 apples, peeled and cored
  • Juice from 1 lemon (optional)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup grade B maple syrup or local honey (optional)
  • 1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  1. Place all ingredients in a slow cooker and stir.  All spices are optional.  Pick and choose; use all, some, or none.  Cover and cook on low for 4-6 hours, or until the apples are puffy-looking with small splits.
  2. Use potato masher to get the applesauce to the consistency you'd like it (it took us about 5 seconds, the apples fall right apart).  Store in glass mason jars and keep in the fridge, or maybe even put some away in the freezer if you don't think you'll mow through it in two days like we did.  It will keep for about 10 days in the fridge.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Apple Picking with a Raspberry & Cider Harvest

Everyone was looking forward to apple picking day.  We enjoyed a trip to the apple orchard with Nana and Papa last year so we held to this tradition over the weekend.  The weather was perfect!  Crisp, sunny, and breezy.  As we walked up to the stand to buy our box to fill, the boy told us that a late-spring hail storm destroyed all but a bit of the entire crop.  They harvested what they could salvage and some were for sale in bags and to make cider out of, but the only you-pick produce available was raspberries.  We all love raspberries, but little hearts were set on apples.  After the grown-ups did a bit of recovery prep-talking to the littles, (We still get to pick some treats!  Look how gorgeous it is today!  We will still be able to press cider.  Let's see how quickly we can fill our basket up...) off to the raspberry rows we went.

There were many honey bees enjoying the sweet, ripe berries and my youngest didn't like sharing with them so much, but she pushed on (for the first half)...

It really was a beautiful day, and the surroundings were simply detoxifying.

After we filled our raspberry basket and devoured a lovely picnic lunch, we made our way to the cider mill.  First, the apples were washed.

Then, my oldest took the job of crushing the apples very seriously, while the other three filled the hopper as fast as their little hands could.  It was quite the assembly line.

It was time to press the cider.  The oldest two used their muscles while the little girls looked forward to getting big enough to reach the handles and help.

Out came the cider!

Through the strainer the cider went, into our jug to take home and relish.

Sometimes, we get thrown a curve ball.  Everyone with children knows that last-minute changes can be hard for them to recover from.  It might have taken a while for disappointed little faces to point away from the ground and towards the raspberry canes filled with ripe, red berries, but it happened.  The picnic still went as planned though.  The much-anticipated treats were brought out and enjoyed.  There was an extra surprise of a petting zoo that really brightened the day of my five-year-old lover of all animals, and we still came home with a gallon of fresh, raw cider and a 10-pound bag of jonagold apples, perfect for snacking and cooking with.  Not to forget the large basket of raspberries that we'll do something yummy with tonight (perhaps a recipe post will follow).  

Regardless of the missed apple-picking experience (and feeling so very sad for the farmers), the trip signified the arrival of autumn, and made us all the more excited to plant some apple trees of our own this November.  Happy autumn!

I'm sharing this at Barn Hop.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Water Kefir Grains WINNER!

Hi there!  The water kefir craze is spreading like wildfire!  Trust me, your gut thanks you.  For those who have been drinking it, have you noticed a flatter tummy and no bloaty feelings?  I love those probiotic perks.  Congratulations to the winner of some water kefir grains from Cultures for Health that was chosen by comment #29 which is Emily Murnen!  Please contact me and give me your mailing address so we can get those happy grains sent to you.  Enjoy, Emily!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Graham Gardens Gift Basket WINNER!

Good morning and happy Saturday!  I am pleased to announce the winner for that gorgeous Graham Gardens Gift basket!

Please remember to take advantage of this special coupon code to save 25% off your entire order!  This code expires September 30:

And the winner chose is...
Aaaaand, I shared this giveaway on my facebook page!
Congratulations and enjoy, Irene!  To claim your prize, please email me your address to so I can send your info over to Graham Gardens and they'll ship your basket on out to ya.

Have a happy weekend everyone, and give those around you some extra love, will you?  It's just a nice thing to do on weekends.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Country Girl

A girl born and raised in the suburbs, I might have been.  But I never felt truly at home amongst the cookie-cutter houses and endless shopping centers.  That's not completely true.  There were two instances during my homeschooled years as I child where my spirit felt peaceful and contented.  Once was when I read a Little House book in our backyard hammock as I listened to the three pullets clucking around that my parents encouraged me to have.  The other time was when we started a garden in the side yard and I'd work in it all alone, absorbing the quiet, sunny, earthy life that surrounded me as my hands dug into the earth, pulling food from it.

Now, my own family lives in Smalltown, Ruralville and I've realized something: I am a country girl.

It just doesn't get old waking up to all the neighborhood cockerels calling out and bragging to each other every morning at 5:15.

Our children's chores include collecting eggs twice a day, feeding and watering the sheep, and calling our dog up the hill, away from the chickens.  I love that they know what it sounds like when a pullet lays an egg and the proud expression on their faces when they give me the daily egg count.

The other day, my children were noticing the differences between "city kids" and "country kids" and they all decided they were glad to be the country kind.

I love spending some time every Sunday afternoon, making the list for our weekly errand-run to town (and the fact that the list always includes picking up real milk from a local dairy farm).

Cruise control only makes sense when driving to town because there's no such thing as rush hour or traffic of any kind, for that matter.

When we're home, we all stop to look down the road when we hear a car because that's a sound not usually heard unless someone has come for a visit.

Together, we dream about next year's garden.  The kids get to choose their favorite variety of a veggie of choice (usually because it sounds the sweetest or because it's purple instead of green).

Everyone's eyes sparkle as we sit around the dinner table, planning which fruit and nut trees to plant this November and deciding where they should set their roots.

Much discussion has been going on as to whether or not we should invest in a couple meat steers or a dairy cow and her half next spring.

I thrill to the sound of a million frogs and crickets in the summertime and scattered owls hooting along with an occasional coyote pack yelping in the winter as I fall asleep each night.

The night sky is noticeably darker on new moon nights and brighter when the moon is full.  This was something I could never enjoy in the city, with it's sky constantly polluted with the purplish glow of all the street lights and buildings.

Our favorite pastime (when the night is dark) is sitting on the porch, watching the magnificent sunset  and staying up to admire the millions of stars, then letting our breaths get taken away by an occasional shooting star.

Not all people enjoy the things I do, nor see life in the same way, and I'm happy about that.  If people love the city, they should live in the city.  But me?  I'm a country girl, thankful to finally call the country my home.

I'm sharing this at Barn Hop.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Riddlelove 2nd Birthday Giveaway Number Two: Water Kefir Grains from Cultures for Health!

We've talked about how easy it is to make and enjoy water kefir.

Pretty kefir grains
I've even shared a little kefir water flavor concoction of my own .

Piña Colada Water Kefir

Now, thanks to Cultures for Health, I offer you a chance to win kefir water grains of your own!  What are you waiting for??  Oh.  Probably how to enter.  Easy!

**Comments Closed!**

All entries are due by Friday afternoon, September 23, 2011, 4:00 PST.  Cultures for Health will choose and contact the winner.

Thank you for joining the Riddlelove 2nd birthday celebration!

GIVEAWAY~ A Gift Basket from Graham Gardens, Over $63 Value

Happy 2nd birthday to Riddlelove!  We are kicking off the celebration with a most lovely gift basket giveaway from one of my absolute favorite shops, Graham Gardens.  I just received my order from them last week.  It was like Christmas, I tell you.  The pure, herby fragrance of the box's contents could be smelled the moment I removed it from the mailbox.  I opened up the box with my five-year-old and she shrieked with delight at the organic candies sprinkled all over the top.  I shrieked with delight at the goodies inside.  My husband swiped the peppermint candy lip balm and made happy sounds as he tried it out.  I used the Coffee Break Lip Balm and it totally made this coffee-lover-on-a-coffee-maternity-leave one happy mama.  And no, it doesn't cause coffee breath.  No one can smell it but the one wearing it, and it smells like a nice, fresh cuppa.  I'm thinking these lip balms (and pretty much everything from Graham Gardens) will make for some delightful stocking stuffers in a few short months...  We ordered a sampling of their very pure, GAPS-friendly soaps so we could choose our favorite.  It's the cutest little bundle, don't you think?

I have always been one to swoon over pretty packaging.  This family-owned shop not only offers pure, high-quality, safe, hypoallergenic skincare, they wrap it all up in the sweetest tins and packages.  It made my day feel quite special to open it all up, I must say.

Graham Garden has very generously offered to give one of my readers the gorgeous gift basket pictured above, all prepared in a black gable gift box with the contents nestled on top of a bed of excelsior grass.  The contents of the basket comes to a $63 value which includes:
To enter:
**Comments Closed!**
  1. "Like" Graham Garden on Facebook and come back here to leave a comment saying you did so.  You'll enjoy Facebook friends-only special offers and coupons (trust me, they're good ones).
  2. "Like" Riddlelove on Facebook and come back here to leave a separate comment saying you did so.
  3. Share about this giveaway on Facebook and/or Twitter or email a link to this giveaway to at least five friends and leave another separate comment saying you did so.
Entries for this giveaway will close Friday, September 23, 2011 at 4:00 PST, and the winner will be announced on a new post here on Riddlelove the following day, so be sure to come back to see if it's you!  I will be posting the second Riddlelove birthday giveaway later today, so stay tuned!

Also, if ya just need some Graham Garden goodness right away, enjoy the coupon code "Riddlelove25" to get 25% your entire order!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Two Years

It's Saturday afternoon.  I'm missing my husband as he's on the longest trip we've ever had to endure apart.  There's definitely some extra sentimental emotion churning inside.  The kids and I made our way down to my folk's place yesterday.  As my children wear out Nana and Papa at the park, I sit here in a quiet living room, sipping tea, and eating a slice of (gluten-free) chocolate cake made by my mama.  It's cloudy and cool enough to wear a sweater which postures me in a most cozy, and even reflective mood.  Perhaps because it's actually quiet enough for the first time in a while to reflect?

Looking through some old archives a couple weeks ago, I came to the realization that this little blog of mine is turning two on Tuesday.  It's wild to think what has happened in our lives these past two years.  Riddlelove started shortly after we relocated to Shasta County, California.  We rented a tidy home that sat on one and a half gorgeous acres; more land than we've ever lived on.  It included a few fruit trees and seven raised garden beds, complete with a sprinkler system.  I do believe I weeded and seeded some of those beds the day after we moved in.

The landlords were kind enough to allow us to keep chickens, so Jeremy built a sweet coop,

and we raised a dozen pullets.  Soon, we were eating only eggs laid from our backyard brood and most of the veggies prepared in the kitchen were grown twenty feet from it.  I always wanted to dabble in homesteading.  This little taste of it drew me right in and I remain hopelessly in love.

Two years ago, my three-year-old was a bald little anti-sleeper one-year-old, and I'd even share a picture or two of when sleep actually happened.  Sometimes, in the middle of lunch.

For the first time in a couple years, life felt settled, peaceful, and happy.  We all felt this region was our home.  We loved our first taste of a healthier lifestyle and the community around us that we were enfolded right into.

A year later, we made some severe choices to get out of debt that landed this family of six living in a fifth-wheel on our dear friend's beautiful mountain property where we continued to homeschool, cook traditionally (yes, even in a tiny kitchen), and hang clothes on the line. (No matter the appearance it gave.  Tehe.)

We expected our season in the trailer to last a year, but in eight month's time and with unexpected financial surprises, we were able to purchase what my husband now calls "Riddlelove Ranch," a five-acre bit of paradise, in desperate need to be dug out from ten years of neglect.  The once decrepit home that Jeremy transformed into our cozy cabin sits over three times larger than our trailer living quarters; a whopping 1,000 square feet!  On our new homestead, discovered a year ago and lived in for only the past eight months, dreams are already beginning to come true.

Last year.
June (shearing time)
Now I sit here, beginning a new season with a growing baby in my womb, four children who are now trickling into the living room with a couple of amazing grandparents trailing behind, happy that this is the last long trip my husband will go on, and a heart filled with memories and affection.  Thank you for sharing these past couple of years with me.  Thank you for listening to our processes.  Thank you for trying my recipes to see if they work for your family.  Thank you for your input during our journey into gluten-free, taking a peek at my menu-planning methods, coming along for the ride during our family adventures, and being encouraging in my homesteading endeavors.  You are truly a blessing to my life.  As a special thank you and to celebrate two years of Riddlelove, next week I'll be hosting two giveaways from a couple of my favorite shops.  Until then, friends, have a lovely weekend.

I'm sharing this at Simple Lives Thursday, Barn Hop & Gratituesday.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

$25 Gift Card to Savvy Tea & Herbs WINNER!

Thanks to everyone who entered this fun giveaway.  I'm not gonna lie, I'm a little jealous of the winner; I sure could use up that gift card in a jiffy.  I'm happy for you though, winner.  And that winner is none other than:

I subscribe to riddlelove by e-mail.
Congratulations!  Please email me at with your email address so I can get your gift card sent to you.
Everyone is invited to take advantage of Savvy Teas and Herbs' coupon code they are offering my readers.  Save 10% off your entire order with the coupon code SAV10.  Scrumptious!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Slow Cooker Chuck Roast Supreme ~ A Recipe

Picture this: You've been out all day, running errands and/or homeschooling.  It happened to be "one of those days" and you're finishing up school after conventionally-schooled children have returned home (not that I would know about those days or anything *ahem*).  It was a full-ish kind of day to say the least, and wouldn't it be nice if dinner would just appear on the table when it was needed?  Chuck roast to the rescue!

The way I see it, chuck roast was made for the crock pot.  I mean, when you get a nice, grass-fed roast, you don't need much to make the flavors pop, it's already pretty tasty.  Not to forget that it's usually on the cheaper side of the roasts department.  Let's hear it for chuck!  Here is a quick, GAPS-friendly, gluten-free recipe that can be started after breakfast with very little prep time.  It's aroma slowly envelopes the home throughout the day with a welcoming, enticing fragrance that is a blessing for hungry loved ones to come home to.  Once it's ready, you can fix it oh so many ways: on a bed of lettuce with grated cheese and creme fraiche as a meal-salad, use it instead of chicken in the easiest enchilada recipe, wrapped in a tortilla with beans as a hearty burrito, spooned atop a steaming baked potato, or thrown into a quesadilla to jazz things up.  Needless to say, leftovers are a joy because they can be turned into an altogether different dish than what was made the day before.  Cumin is included in this recipe not only for it's delicious flavor, but also because it's a potent stress-reliever and memory-booster (quite helpful after a long day).  Garlic and red pepper flakes boost immune function.  Always helpful.  Here's how it works:

Slow Cooker Chuck Supreme
  • 1 chuck roast (or 7-bone roast), 3-5 pounds
  • 1 jar of your favorite salsa
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 1 bell pepper (if in season, omit if not), chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
  1. Rinse off meat and place in slow cooker.  Add remaining ingredients and mix.  Cook on low for 6-8 hours.
  2. One hour before serving, use two forks to flake the meat by pulling it apart to bite-sized shreds.  Remove any clumps of fat and bones.  At this time, if you'd like to add beans to this recipe, do so now to warm them up.  Cover and let cook for the last hour.  Serve any way you'd like it (suggestions mentioned above).
  3. Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Anatomy of the Perfect Potato Wedge ~ A Recipe

Every preggers has her cravings.  One of mine happens to be... the potato.  The warmth.  The crispy edges.  The melt-in-your-mouth insides.  The sea saltiness.  Pardon me while I wipe some drool off the keyboard.  It's almost dinnertime; a tricky time of day to be writing about food.  Needless to say, I take potatoes seriously.  I've experimented with a number of different methods to contrive the perfect potato wedge, and in my humble opinion, this is the one.

As I long for crisp, autumn days, we are expecting Friday to hit 109º, so the oven and I are still painfully on sabbatical from each other.  This recipe, however, is cooked on the stovetop.  It's that perfect dish to periodically scrape and stir on the side burner of the grill while you flip some meats and veggies, leaving the house unheated by any food prep.

Before I delve into the recipe, I must share my personal preference on how the potato wedges should be prepared.  Like I said.  This is serious.  First things first.  Don't over-stuff the skillet with potato wedges.    I've learned from experience that too many potatoes leave some wedges barely cooked and others burnt.  I use a 10 1/4-inch cast iron skillet and about six medium red or Yukon Gold potatoes, max.

Next, cut the potato in half lengthwise, and then cut the wedges out about four per half of a potato, as uniform as possible.  You don't want them too thick or else they take forever to cook and you don't get that perfect crispy-on-the-outside, soft-on-the-inside thang goin' on.  That's what we're going for, here.  Okay, I think we're ready for the recipe now...

Perfect Potato Wedges
Serves about 6

6 soft-skinned potatoes (like red or Yukon Gold), sliced in about 8 wedges per potato
2-3 Tablespoons coconut oil (expeller-pressed) or ghee
Seasoning of your choice
Celtic Sea Salt (if your seasoning doesn't have salt in it)
4 cloves garlic, minced (optional)
  1. Warm the oil in the skillet on medium-high heat.  Add potatoes and stir to coat the wedges.  Sprinkle your seasoning of choice.  I usually use something from this brand (very clean):  Don't be afraid to use lots of seasoning.  You want flavor.  Here's what mine usually looks like when I've seasoned them enough:
  2. Stir well and cover.  Lower heat to more of a medium and less of a high heat.  On my burner with choices 1-10, I set it at a 6-7.  Uncover and stir periodically (about every 3 minutes), scraping the bottom of the pan and kind of flipping the wedges as you stir to get them browning evenly.  You'll know they're done once the outsides are brown and crispy but a wedge can be easily cut in half with your stirring spoon.  It usually takes mine about 20 minutes of cooking.
  3. Add optional garlic and sea salt, give it a stir, let it sit a few minutes, then serve.

Monday, September 5, 2011

$50 off How to Make Real Food eCourse

I was hoping to get this posted last week, but alas, schooling, basic homemaking, and constant nausea kept me from it.  Hooray for the second trimester beginning tomorrow!  Maybe I'll be almost like a real person sometime soon.

Back to this eCourse.
You guys.
This is so much more than just a class.  Jenny over at Nourished Kitchen has invested countless hours imparting her hands-on, tried and true wisdom in this course, helping us turn our kitchens into a haven of real food goodness, imparting scrumptious scents, gorgeous colors, and rich and nutritious flavors to all who visit them.  This class includes 100 recipes, 45 interactive videos, and tools to create super helpful lists, like kitchen inventories, shopping lists, and menu plans.  Watch Jenny describe her offerings in this video here:

What do I love about this class?  Well, I've been preparing foods the "real" way (soaking, souring, fermenting, etc.) for several years, but outside of reading Nourishing Traditions, I've taught myself everything I know (which can be scary).  Jenny's class:
  • helps fill in any of my know-how gaps and provides really helpful tips and tricks to aid speeding up some steps and getting my end result to taste even better.
  • shares only in-season recipes, which is a huge help for those who grow their own produce, are subscribed to a CSA, or just wants to enjoy the countless health benefits of eating foods when harvested.  How lovely to find nutrient-dense recipes for all those veggies to go straight into!
  • keeps it cheap and simple.  Ever tried making real food?  Then you know as well as I do how it can destroy your grocery budget.  Jenny guides you through the process of transforming your working space into a real, working kitchen, stocked full of goodness without braking the bank.  Hallelu.
  • provides kid-friendly recipes, without compromising health or taste.  Jenny is a mother and is in no way a stranger to preparing real food dishes children will also enjoy.  I could use a few more of those recipes in my life...
  • shares new, delicious recipes that aren't found in Nourishing Traditions, like 
Fresh Fig Tarts

Orange Creamsicles

and Sourdough Foccacia

I think this course would make a wonderful home ec. class for home schooled families, as well.  How fun would it be to go in on a class with a couple other families and learn together, co-op style?!  Not only would we save money and learn with our children, but we would apply what we learn by preparing the next meal of the day!

Also, if you purchase your membership for this class before September 15th, you can get $50 off.  Bonus!

I hope you find this a helpful resource.  I only share on this blog what we personally use and appreciate here on our homestead, after much research and scrutinization.  Enjoy browsing Jenny's offerings!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

GIVEAWAY! $25 Gift Card to Savvy Teas & Herbs

A few months ago, I stumbled upon an herb and tea company that caught my attention.  Intrigued, I signed up for their newsletter to receive coupons and especially their free e-book on how to use herbs.  After devouring the book, I decided I wanted to open an apothecary shoppe (you have to spell "shop" the old way when you're talking about apothecaries, you know).  The world of herbs is fascinating, and really much simpler than imagined. It just makes sense that there would be certain plants and flowers that were created to aid our health, you know?  After being so inspired to delve into the wonderful world of herbs and teas with real, health-promoting benefits, I'm excited to share with you an opportunity to give it a try for free!

Not only does this family-owned and run company carry nutritionally potent herbs and pre-mixed teas of all kinds, they offer a wide variety of culture starters if you'd like to start making your own kefir, yogurt, or kombucha.  They also carry a wide variety of sprouting kits & seeds,  herbal healing salves, handmade soaps, lip balm, and accessories for making tea and your own herbal capsules.  You better believe I'm thinking about Christmas this time of year, and I plan to buy several Christmas presents for the tea lovers and natural health kindreds in my life.

Why order specialty teas from Savvy Teas & Herbs?  Because you are guaranteed to receive herbs and teas that still hold their potent, health-promoting properties, unlike most teas and herbs that have been sitting on the grocery store shelves for too long and have not only lost their rich flavor, but their healing properties.  If I'm going to invest our carefully budgeted money on something like this, I want it to count.

 Savvy Teas & Herbs has graciously offered to give one of my readers a $25 gift card to their amazing shop(pe)!  There are several ways to enter, but first, the mandatory one:

Visit Savvy Teas & Herbs and come back to leave a comment telling me what you'd get with your $25 gift card, should you win.  This might be hard, there are so many fun choices!

For extra entries, choose to do one or more of the following:
Entries can be left here, as individual comments, until Saturday, September 10, 2011 at 4:00 PST.  I will announce the winner here on Riddlelove Saturday night.  This giveaway is limited to US residents only, please.



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