Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Newest Homesteader

Things have been somewhat different over the past year at the Beaverdale Homestead. Instead of focusing on cooking and baking, I've been working on this little guy:

It's been almost a year since my last post, and in the last year I discovered how much parenthood changes life... Even before the kiddo arrives! I had a very easy pregnancy, but even so, I had nowhere near enough energy to spend a great deal of time on my feet in the kitchen. All of this was good preparation for when the little one arrived as I have found that spending time in the kitchen is quite the luxury now that we have a baby in the house.

I have always prided myself on cooking many things from scratch, not because I'm trying to win some foodie gold star, but because it's my therapy, my creative outlet. There are few things more satisfying to me than turning a basket of individual (real food) ingredients into a delicious creation! However, I have had to be far more creative with food as of late, and have found myself taking shortcuts that I haven't taken since college. Powdered onion and garlic? It doesn't involve washing and chopping, so, yes, please! I console myself by using shortcut seasonings from our favorite local spice shop, allspice. Our tiniest homesteader is too little to have any real schedule, so afternoon nap time could come at 1:30 or at 4pm. Or not at all. I have taken to prepping dinner ingredients at any hour of the day so that dinner can be thrown together easily. I've made a lot of soups recently that just involve tossing the pre-chopped veggies into the pot at the appointed hour.

Fortunately, I also prepared a bunch of crockpot freezer meals just in the nick of time. My mom and I spent the entire day working on them, and I went into labor later that evening. Phew! Who would have thought that I'd give birth on my actual due date?? And what does his punctuality have to say about our little guy's personality?!

These freezer meals have been a lifesaver for days when I can't do much more than dump a bag of frozen food into the slow cooker. Here are a few links to recipes that I (loosely) followed for our freezer stash:

Most of these recipes say to cook on low for four hours, which, in my experience is not enough. I'd say 6-8 hours on low if they are mostly frozen when they go into the slow-cooker. Otherwise, the recipes worked pretty well.

The fruits of our labor (no, not that labor! *that* labor comes later that night!) - ten crockpot meals ready for the freezer:

Have you had to adjust your cooking after the arrival of a little one? Have any suggestions for getting non-boring, real food on the table of first-time parents?

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Frozen Whipped Cream

My biggest fear, always, is not making enough frosting for the batch of cupcakes I'm preparing the frosting for. (First world problems, right?) Last night for New Years Eve, I made a batch of Kahlua Cupcakes (with homemade Kahlua, of course! Recipe from The Cupcake Project here). I made a chocolate cupcake, soaked with Kahlua. My favorite way to top these is with Kahlua-infused whipped cream.

In keeping with my fears, I made more whipped cream than I needed. I also made stabilized whipped cream for the first time - a great recipe from The Food Pusher can be found here. I added Kahlua to the recipe for this batch, and it worked beautifully for cupcakes.

Sidenote: I simply searched on Pinterest for stabilized whipped cream, and this post was pinned often. I followed the link and noticed that she was using Sheeder's Farm cream - a local creamery! Turns out she's a fellow Des Moines-ian! I love small world discoveries like that.

As I finished topping the cupcakes, and realized I had a little whipped cream left over, I suddenly remembered pinning something that suggested piping whipped cream blobs and freezing them. Visions of gourmet coffee danced in my head! Even though we were almost running late to the party we attended, I took a couple extra minutes to grab a piece of parchment paper, throw it on a cookie sheet, and pipe out a few blobs of Kahlua Whipped Cream. I stuck the cookie sheet in our freezer in the garage and off we went to the party.

Sadly, I only had enough to make 4 blobs! Fortunately, I actually remembered to pull them out to add to my coffee his morning. Oh. My. Goodness. Perfection.

I'm sure this is good with plain whipped cream, but the addition of a hint of Kahlua was divine! A great addition to New Years Day coffee.

Now that I'm caffeinated, it's time to start our annual New Years Day tradition: homemade Pho from scratch. The Architect already has the massive soup bones boiling on the stove, so I should probably pitch in! If you're feeling adventurous and want to try it, we use Andrea Nguyen's recipe from Into The Vietnamese Kitchen. It's very time-intensive, but so very worth it.

What are your New Years' Day traditions? I grew up going to the movies on the first day of the year. My parents are headed to see Lincoln today, continuing that tradition. Too cute!

Happy 2013 to you and yours today!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Beaverdale Homestead on Facebook and Craft Fair Preview

Many exciting things are happening at Beaverdale Homestead! You can now find Beaverdale Homestead on Facebook, which is a great way to get quick updates, sneak peeks of new products, and other great gluten-free and natural resources. Like us on Facebook and share with your friends!

Beaverdale Homestead is also getting ready for the Westminster Craft Fair, where we'll have homemade gluten-free treats and handcrafted natural goodies available for sale.

Westminster Craft Fair
Saturday, November 10
9am - 3pm
Westminster Presbyterian Church
4114 Allison Ave.
Des Moines, IA  50310

We've been hard at work testing new recipes and products. Here's a preview of one of the newest treats - Pumpkin Spice Scones. Our quality control testers gave these a big thumbs up.

We'll also have new body care products including all-natural talc-free baby powder, baby balm, and hand cream. Look for more sneak peeks of products and packaging here and on our Facebook Page. And join us November 10 to get your very own Beaverdale Homestead Goodies in Des Moines!

Do you have any special requests for new products or treats for Beaverdale Homestead?

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Gluten-Free on Minnesota's North Shore of Lake Superior

The North Shore of Lake Superior is one of very favorite places to be. Fortunately for me, I married someone who agrees with me. We traveled to the North Shore on our honeymoon two years ago, and since we traveled overseas a year ago, we didn't make it back up in 2011. I come by my North Shore addiction honestly - I grew up coming to the North Shore quite often and my parents now are unable to go more than a year between visits. In fact, for our honeymoon, they put their collective knowledge on paper and created a guidebook for us as a wedding present. It's a fantastic collection of tips - so great that I think they should have it published. If you happen to know my parents and ever find yourself venturing "up north", ask nicely, and they'll probably share a copy with you.
As usual, I'm always concerned with finding gluten-free friendly places to eat while traveling. We rent a cabin when we come up so we have a kitchen and can make a lot of our own food. However, it's always nice to let someone else do the cooking while on vacation, so we discovered a few places with good, and in some cases great, gluten-free options.

Here are a few of the places we have discovered:

The Duluth Grill, Duluth MN (
PHENOMENAL GF menu. They do provide a disclaimer that the food is prepared in a kitchen that uses flour, so those with extreme sensitivity should use caution. However, it appears that they take more precautions than most place, since the waitress told me that the bacon was not gluten free because it is cooked on the same grill as the pancakes. I did chance it with the bacon, and ordered the Loaded Mac & Cheese, which is prepared with GF penne noodles. We took a piece of the pumpkin spice cake back to the hotel, and it was simply divine. I asked the waitress if she knew of any restaurants that prepare gluten-free Cornish Pasties. She said she didn't know of any, but said they should look into that since they make either own gluten-free bread. Wow. Yum. (For the record, it looks like I have to go to Michigan to get a GF pasty: The Architect did have a gluten-y Pasty, and declared it better than Betty's Pies' Pasties. We will definitely stop there again, especially since it is right off the highway, and it a quick stop on our way up the shore.

Black Woods Grill, Two Harbors, MN (
This restaurant was listed on a Celiac Support website as one that has a gluten-free menu. We stopped by for lunch, and the hostess provided me with the GF menu. We sat down, and as I looked it over, I realized that the GF menu only had dinner items listed. Thinking they had a separate lunch version, I asked our waiter, who informed me that the GF menu is "geared towards dinner". The GF options weren't overly impressive - mostly notes indicating "order without bun or roll", which is fine. But between that and only having $25 entree options to select from, I was disappointed. I promise, GF people *do* eat lunch, so if you're going to get our hopes up with a GF menu, please do just a bit more work and give us a lunch menu. I ended up ordering a salad and stealing chips from The Architect to get a little bit of carbohydrates. Frankly, I'm tired of salads, and ironically, my body gets very unhappy if it is deprived of carbs.

Coho Cafe, Tofte, MN (é-bakery)
We ate breakfast here on our honeymoon a couple times, and I thought there were several breakfast options for me at that time. However, when we stopped for breakfast on this trip, all but one breakfast option was either innately gluten-filled - such as pancakes or breakfast pitas. They have a breakfast scramble with eggs, asparagus, and goat cheese, which I ordered. However, it comes with toast, and without the toast, it is a very meager breakfast option, particularly given the price. I think in 2010, I was able to order hash browns. This shouldn't be overly surprising, except for the fact that they offer a gluten-free pizza crust for lunch and dinner. It would be nice if they had a few more GF options beyond pizza.

Gunflint Tavern, Grand Marais, MN (
Great menu, and knowledgeable staff who were able to tell me which options on the menu were gluten-free or could be made GF. And they had two kinds of cider on tap - Angry Orchard and Woodpecker. However, I ordered the Bloody Mary that came with a whole assortment of pickled things and was very delicious.

Angry Trout, Grand Marais, MN (
There are not enough words in heaven or on earth to adequately explain how amazing this restaurant is. We discovered it on our honeymoon, and it was incredible enough that my parents created an addendum to the aforementioned guidebook in order to include this restaurant. A. Maze. Ing. Everything from the food to the tables & chairs is sustainable, and the food is beyond-belief-tasty. They are very accommodating to GF eating. It is a very popular spot, so you may have to wait for a table. But find chair outside, let them bring you a glass a wine while you gaze at the bay, and relax while you wait for a well-worth-the-wait spot inside or outside.

Grilled Whitefish with wild rice and veggies.

The Angry Trout's homemade maple cream soda.

The view from our table. You can see that some of the chairs have old recycled tractor seats integrated into the design.

Lutsen Resort, Lutsen, MN
We have not been there, but the menu included in our cabin's information binder identified the gluten-free items on the menu. They also use many local, sustainable, and organic items in their cooking.

There are a few more places we'd like to explore, but this keeps us happy for now! And if you haven't ever been to the North Shore of Lake Superior, just go. It will change your life. (And if you're anything like us, you'll spend time every visit trying to figure out how to live up there permanently!)

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Gluten-Free Cherry Gooseberry Crisp

We're lucky enough to have a cherry tree in our back yard. Unfortunately, it's been pruned up high to avoid the garage, so it means I can't reach too many of the cherries, even using a decently tall ladder. It's a sour cherry tree, and frankly does pretty well considering it gets a lot of shade. I actually made it out for more than one round of picking this year, and decided to make a crisp with the fruits of my labor...(har har).

The Iowa Food Coop ( had gooseberries from a local producer that week, so after googling recipes (and finding almost nothing with that fruit combo) I figured I'd just give it a whirl. I know, you're shocked that I'm not following a recipe. Again.

My biggest concern was with two sour fruits, making sure I had enough sweetener, without overloading on sweetness. I also wanted to use stevia extract for part of the sweetener, so I was really on my own. I'm trying to keep the Weight Watchers PointsPlus down without using all of the artificial ingredients that people turn to. As a bit of a side-bar, it hasn't been terribly difficult to be on Weight Watchers while eating whole, healthful, real foods. In fact, they have a system of "Power Foods" which are mostly whole, real foods (although it does include things like fat-free dairy products which often contain weird ingredients). The biggest challenge for me is listening to people at meetings talk about some of the things they consume, ie the Crystal Light & Sugar-Free Koolaid combo drink everyday. I realize it may be the only way they see to eliminate the sugary drinks they used to turn to. I just wish we (collectively, as a society) would work to shift our taste buds away from sugar or fake sugars. Granted, I've never had a big sweet tooth - I'll reach for salty chips over ice cream every time. But over the past several years, I have definitely retrained my taste buds away from really sweet things. I do stuff like turning to plain yogurt instead of sweetened, then topping it with naturally sweet berries. But it does take time. I just wish more people would see that as an option instead of dumping 14 packets of artificial sweetener on their ice tea.

Ok, editorial over. Back to the cobbler :-) I made a second batch using cherries and black raspberries from our berry patch.

The raspberry are wild - I transplanted some of the creeping canes from the ravine behind our house. They are VERY hardy, and have totally tried to take over. They are also brutal - the thorns are really sharp and exist all the way up to the berry. They are delicious, but I have scratches on my arms and pricks on my fingertips from picking.

The end result was just perfect for our taste buds. We topped it with homemade ice cream - my mom's recipe made with skim milk and plain yogurt - which added a nice sweetness.

Everyone gobbled it up, and we enjoyed the leftovers for breakfast and treats the next week. I even used it to top plain Greek yogurt, and that was delish!

Gluten-Free Cherry & Gooseberry Crisp

5 drops stevia
1/3 cup agave (more if you like it on the sweet side)
1 tsp vanilla
4 cups sour cherries
2 cups gooseberries

1 cup gluten-free oats
3 TBSP brown sugar
Pinch salt
1/2 stick butter, cold and cut into pieces

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees. Combine the sweeteners and vanilla, then pour over fruit in a baking pan. Stir to coat fruit.

Combine oats, brown sugar, and salt in a food processor or blender (I used my trusty Blendtec) and pulse a few times. Add butter and pulse several more times until it pulls together into something that looks crisp topping.

Sprinkle topping over fruit. Bake at 375 for 50-55 minutes until topping the dish is bubbly and the topping is nicely browned. Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before serving.

It's worth noting that cherries naturally contain quite a bit of pectin, so I didn't add any corn starch or arrowroot to the fruit. If you swap out different fruits, you may want to add a little corn starch or arrowroot to hold the fruit together. This recipe worked just fine without.

What are your favorite summer fruits? Are you in the crisp camp or the cobbler camp?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Garden Beds v.2012

Every year since we've been in this house, I find myself saying "Next year will be so much easier because I won't have to do XX big project in the garden." Every year. And every year, I have a new project that takes over.

Like last year, we ended up building raised garden beds over Memorial Day weekend. We had big hopes for getting this done sooner, but life took over. I decided that I liked the raised beds quite a lot - it's one more obstacle for the creeping charlie that is trying to take over our neighborhood, I can amend the crappy clay soil that inhabits the yard, it limits the amount of weeding to be done (ha! like I ever spend much time weeding!), and it just looks lovely. So instead of taking over more of the yard, this year we framed out beds in the existing garden. The beds on the left in the picture below are the ones we built last year; the right side is this year's beds.

Beds are complete!
 Just to give you a little sense of how bad the weeds had gotten, here's a before shot:

Holy weed garden
I tried to tell myself that I was supporting native plant life, but mostly I was too busy last fall to do ANY garden clean up. And I truly mean ANY. My tomato cages spent the winter in in the same spots where they spent the summer. Good thing we had a mild winter!
More "before" native plant life
I had to get rid of a lot of the weeds before we could even put the beds in. I earned some serious WW activity points with my shuffle hoe. That's a crazy tool - it uses stomach muscles in a way no gym equipment could dream of.

There were some weeds that were already about 3 feet tall. The mild winter did nothing to prevent weed growth, that's for sure.

You can see my oregano plant that has really staked its claim. It's such an overpowering spice as a fresh herb that I think I'll dry it in the dehydrator this year to use throughout the winter.

We used the same approach to garden beds this year, using The Pioneer Woman's guide to raised beds. This year we used 2x12's instead of stacking 2 - 2x6's for height. Admittedly, this year was FAR easier since we weren't terracing, just leveling this time. Last year, the bulk of the work was digging into the side of the hill. We did have to do a little patching (see the top bed in the shot below) where we didn't dig quite far enough into the slope last year. Oh well... It's eclectic, right?

Beds in process of being planted

I've used this garden planning tool for the past few years - GrowVeg is the online tool, and now they have an iPad app called Garden Plan Pro. I went with the iPad app this year and I've been pretty happy with it. It still has a few quirks, but not bad. You can select with variety of plant for the plan, which helps me keep track of which tomato is what. Usually I have used it in advance of garden season, as a *plan*, and it sends you a monthly update with what plants should go in the ground that month for your zone. This year, I used it after the fact, but since it tracks plant location from year to year, it's very helpful for crop rotation. This plan is mostly accurate with what has been planted. The only bed I planted with the square foot method is my brassica bed - I'm covering it this year to keep the darn cabbage moths at bay. I'll post an updated picture of the garden with all of the plants in. I felt pretty legit when I put in the crop cover... I'll keep working to earn my urban farmer status!

Speaking of our little urban homestead, I have to give some reciprocal love to The Architect, who mentioned my crazy gardening in his TedX Des Moines Guest Curator blog. He makes my gardening sound so nice and normal... (we know better, right?)

How does your garden grow? What have you harvested? (Assuming you got your garden in earlier than mine!)

P.S. As I finish writing this post, I think I just heard a mouse scampering around a few feet away. Shockingly, one of the cats - Tipper, for those of you who know our furballs - actually woke up from her spot asleep at my feet. She's investigating, but doesn't seem overly excited. I don't hold out much hope for her protecting me from the mice. The irony is that there is a pile of cat toys, including a toy mouse, in exactly the spot that made noise. Figures.

P.P.S. No mouse, just a beetle bug making its fair share of noise in the cat toys. Tipper is stalking it, but doesn't look like she'll do anything productive with it. So much for contributing to the household, cat. Eesh!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Please, sir, may I have Samoa?

Who needs gluten-filled Girl Scout Cookies when you can have gluten-free Samoa Cupcakes??

As I said yesterday, I have a serious weakness for Samoas, aka Caramel deLites. When I stumbled on this idea for Samoa cupcakes, I was sold. Not only is it a brilliant idea, but I loved the special touches, like the "caramel" sauce made from dates, agave, and coconut oil. I didn't use her chocolate cupcake or frosting recipes, but I did follow the general idea. I toasted my own coconut, and used it for the coconut-goo and mixed it into the butter cream. Also, I loved her idea of the caramel center, although I was lazy and just injected the caramel instead of cutting out the center of the cupcake.
I had way more caramel than I needed, so I just let it ooze out the top. If the cupcakes had been a little warm still, the caramel would have been infused more thoroughly into the cupcake, but there's nothing wrong with the caramel on top! Next came the toasted coconut butter cream.
Everything is better toasted, right? It's true for coconut, certainly! I toasted it on parchment paper on a cookie sheet, and that made it much easier to transfer. Finally, a dollop of gooey-caramel-toasted-coconut, and a drizzle of dark chocolate, and VOILA!

I also experimented with a dark chocolate-filled red velvet cupcake tonight. I started with a non-gluten-free recipe and swapped out the regular flour for Jules Gluten Free Flour. I'm not a fan of the absurdly red color of many red velvet cakes, so I went easy on the food coloring, and used gel instead of liquid. The history of red velvet cake is somewhat contested, but I don't think the original was insanely red. The recipe made 12-13 cupcakes, but next time I would do a lot less chocolate for the filling. The chocolate balls were too big for the cupcakes, affecting the structural integrity. Maybe this is only a problem because I was making them gluten-free.
Ready to be topped with more batter
Not quite enough batter left to cover the massive chocolate mounds!
They turned out pretty well. I used dark chocolate for the filling instead of milk. I liked the contrast of the slightly bitter chocolate with the sweet cupcake and frosting.
I topped them with a standard butter cream instead of the traditional cream cheese frosting because they are going to an outdoor event tomorrow.
Quite tasty, although I may recommend that they be eaten with a fork.

The only semi-fail of the night was the mint chocolate chip frosting. I waited until last to frost the minis, and by that time, the kitchen was 88 degrees! (I brought a thermometer into the kitchen out of pure curiosity.) The frosting looked great in the container, but as soon as it warmed up a little, and I wrapped my warm hand around the pastry bag, the chocolate pieces in started to melt. For all of you art majors out there - what happens when you mix light green frosting with dark chocolate? You get a funky color.
I was going for a soft-serve ice cream look, but next time I won't pipe this frosting. I'm thinking a melon baller will create a lovely hand-scooped effect. The good news is that the frosting still tastes divine in spite of its somewhat bizarre color!

Looks like it's time to clean out the fridge, or else find a cupcake fridge, (is there such a thing??), because the cupcakes barely fit inside. I love my cupcake carriers, but they are rather bulky.
All good things must come to end. A great night of baking, but the 9-5 (er, 8-5) job awaits me in the morning. Considering all three of the animals are zonked out on the bed, only opening an eye occasionally as if to say "Why are you still awake?", I believe it's time to sign off.

Now that I've made my Girl Scout Cookie confession, what's your favorite Girl Scout Cookie? And which camp are you in - Samoa or Caramel deLite?

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