Friday, March 27, 2015

Recipe Organization

When cooking, I prefer to use recipes that are written down or onto something, rather than from a computer tablet or phone. I like to be able to see a recipe simply and clearly and it's important that I can access it very quickly. I still like to use the internet as a source for finding great recipes, but if it becomes a regular favorite I will write it down eventually. 

I tend to have a lot of recipes stored in different places. Some are in my little family recipe box, shown below, some are from magazines stashed in folders, and some are saved to my pinterest board for recipes.

My mother-in-law gave me this recipe box with family recipes inside as a wedding gift :)

I will say I find it easiest when I see a recipe online to save it to my Pinterest board first so that I don't forget about it and at least I have it saved.

recipes from magazines to try out by season
As for the recipes in magazines, about every six months or so I will go through the magazines we have and tear out all the recipes I've dog-eared, then I arrange them by season (according the the ingredients that happen to be fresh) into folders that I then gradually will use to try out each one. I keep all the file folders in a big expandable folder.

I also use a lot of recipes from cookbooks. It's tough to remember to try new recipes from my cookbooks, because we tend to get into a habit of making certain dishes and forget about Below is a picture of our cookbook collection.

an open shelf in our kitchen holds all our cookbooks in one place

Some of my favorite cookbooks I'm using right now...

Only the best recipes in the folders that I continually come back to again and again make it into the wooden recipe box. My recipe box mostly holds family recipes, but every now and then I add some new favorites that we tend to make often. I do this by reprinting the recipe on an index card and then placing it in the box according to the type of dish. I just hope I don't run out of room!

I'm thinking about finding another little antique box for favorite recipes that are real-food based organized by season and leaving the smaller one simply for family recipes.  Do you have any tips on how you organize recipes?

Friday, March 13, 2015

Homestead Basics: To Buy or DIY?

There is so much out there on making DIY products--everything from cooking staples to beauty products to cleaning products.  While I love the notion of making so many homemade products and homegrown food that aren't tainted with preservatives, additives, or chemicals, I've often wondered whether it is worth my time to simply purchase an organic, natural/wholesome version of the product instead of making my own.

For example, there is a local grain/flour mill that is probably 15 minutes away from where we live. Their products are organic and wholesome, and they make a sprouted spelt flour that you can purchase in 3 lb bags (only $3!) or buy in bulk 25 lb bags. Is it wiser for me to purchase the sprouted spelt flour from them or to try and make my own, having to invest the time, effort, and resources into milling my own grain, soaking, it, etc.?  Would you really be saving money when these days so often time is money?

The same is true for sweet potatoes in our region. North Carolina is one of nation's top producers of sweet potatoes, and you can find them in the grocery stores for most of the year and when in season they are SUPER cheap. Should I invest the money in buying slips and the time in planting and harvesting sweet potatoes when I can get them local, organic, and inexpensively right here in my state?

I've made a list to sort of help myself figure out which things are worth making and which products it might be worth just to buy. Since my time is very precious (I'm usually busy raising 16-month old twins), it doesn't make sense for me to DIY everything! 

Things to DIY:

- chicken and beef bone broth
- homegrown produce (except in the cases where it is cheaper to purchase a local and sustainably grown product)

- Household cleaners
- laundry detergent
- jams, jellies, pickles, sauces, and preserves

- butter, yogurt, buttermilk, and some cheeses from local dairy
- eggs from our chickens and guineas
- limited amount of meat from our chickens guineas
- dried herbs
- firewood

Things to Buy:

- flour, sugar, and other dry goods staples
- deodorant
- shampoo and conditioner
- beauty products
- local cheeses that are harder to make
- local milk and cream products (until we have a source of our own)
- local pork products (NC is a top pork product producer and we aren't ready to get pigs just yet!)
- local grass-fed beef
- local poultry
- local seafood when available
- local honey (until we get our own honeybees!)
- local fruits when in season (until we have our own fruit trees and berry bushes)

So, what can you add to these lists? I'm sure there is lots more I can DIY that I'm not thinking about that isn't too time-consuming!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

NC Historic Sites: My Top Picks

North Carolina has so many wonderful historic sites open to the public. While it is difficult for me to narrow down my favorites, I have chosen my top picks that I think are well worth a visit if you happen to be in the Old North State!

1.  Biltmore Estate  (Asheville, NC)

You must visit this late 19th century grandiose one-of-a-kind mansion belong to the Vanderbilt family and designed by Richard Morris Hunt. Just go. It's amazing! Between the house, gardens, grounds, vineyards, and breathtaking views all across the estate you will not be disappointed.

2. Old Salem (Winston-Salem, NC)

Discover the everyday life this early Moravian community in Colonial North Carolina. This early Moravian community settled the Wachovia tract in the mid eighteenth century near today's Winston-Salem, NC and brought with them their customs, religion, architecture, and simple, beautiful decor. To learn more about Old Salem's history, programming, and other offerings, visit

3. Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum (Gibsonville, NC)

Explore the state's rich African American history at the former Palmer Memorial Institute. Founded in 1902 By Charlotte Hawkins Brown, the institution educated thousands of African American students during the twentieth century. 

4. Island Farm (Manteo, NC)

This is one of my personal favorite living history site offering a look into what 19th century farm life was link in Manteo. It offers lots of hands-on activities and demonstrations, there are farm animals living on the property, and the authenticity of the place truly helps to bring the past to life. While you are in Manteo, be sure to visit Roanoke Island Festival Park too!

5. Somerset Plantation (Creswell, NC)

This mid-19th century rural plantation gives visitors an authentic look at 19th century farming on a large-scale plantation in eastern North Carolina. Learn about the Collins family and visit a full array of dwellings, outbuildings, and other structures that were necessary to operate such a property and produce cash crops for market. Visit for more information.

6. Historic Lighthouses on the Outer Banks

These iconic structures of our state's coast are so unique and if you are anywhere near the Outer Banks you must go and visit at least one of the lighthouses. Located all along the outer banks, each one is beautiful and most of them are open for tours.

A couple others of note are Tryon Palace and North Carolina's Civil War Battlefields and related sites. I'm sure there are many more noteworthy sites I have forgotten to include on this list. What are your favorites??