Are you ready to spice up the holidays?

How is your holiday spice cabinet?

With the holidays fast approaching, it is time to take stock of your spice cabinet.  Here at the Homestead, the herbs and spices we don’t grow and dry ourselves, we buy in bulk.  We keep small spice containers in the pantry – ready to use, and vacuum pack the rest for later use.  Ground spices only stay at their best for several months after opening (6 months or so).  Whole spices tend to keep longer.  Be sure that your ground spices are fresh – for the maximum taste benefit in your holiday dishes.  And – if you have never used whole nutmeg – and ground your own – fresh – you are missing one of life’s real treats.  The graters are quite inexpensive.  The traditional ones typically have a little box – or as my kids used to call it, a little house – to hold the nut.  Here is a link for Fante’s kitchen shop in Philadelphia (if you ever get to Philadelphia – this place is a real treat!)  They have graters starting at $2.99 and going up from there.  By the way – when we get to December – and the Homestead’s Amazing homemade eggnog tutorial – you are going to want to have your grater ready!  Don’t get caught this season without the spices you need!

Arghhhhhh You Ready For Halloween?

Skull & Crossbones Eggs editedBreakfast is my favorite meal of the day.  – But truth be told, having ‘breakfast’ for dinner is my ultimate favorite……so, when I found this way too cute egg mold, it had to come home with me.  It is from “Funny Side Up” and can be purchased online through Sur la Table, Amazon , as well as several other sites.  Funny Side Up also makes an owl mold that is very fun.   This was a real hit here at the Homestead.  Hope it will be at your breakfast table too!


Happy Valentine’s Day

Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries

Cheesecake Stuffed Strawberries


  • 12 ounces cream cheese - softened
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice (fresh is best)
  • Fresh strawberries - the bigger the better
  • Graham Cracker crumbs - optional


    For the Filling:
  1. Cream together cream cheese and sour cream.
  2. Add lemon juice and sugar and beat until well combined - and light.
  3. Place into a piping bag = using a large round tip - such as Wilton's 2A or 230.
  4. Set aside, or refrigerate until ready to use.
  5. For the berries
  6. Wash and dry strawberries, leaving stems intact.
  7. Stand strawberries on stem end.
  8. Starting at the tip of the berry, slice the berry nearly in half - stopping just shy of the stem.
  9. Rotate the berry 90 degrees and repeat - making a cross into the berry.
  10. The berry should separate just a bit.
  11. Pipe the cheesecake filling into the berry to desired fullness.
  12. Gently press the berry together.
  13. Serve as is, or on a bed of crushed graham crackers.
Schema/Recipe SEO Data Markup by ZipList Recipe Plugin

What could be more decadent than a plate full of fresh strawberries – stuffed with a no bake cheesecake filling?  After trying many no-bake cheesecake recipes and not being satisfied with the texture and/or taste of them, I finally came up with this recipe and 3 extra pounds (worth every ounce!). These are so easy to make, and can be put together so quickly, you will want to make them often during strawberry season.  The filling can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator for several days. . . if it lasts that long!  If you choose to serve them with the graham cracker crumbs, be aware that the juice from the berries will cause the crumbs to become soggy if they are left to sit on them for too long.  You might want to serve the crumbs along side – almost as a dip.  But trust me – the grahams put this treat over the edge!

Be sure and wash your hands before you eat these – because you will want to lick all of the cheesecakey goodness from your fingers when you are done!



Pumpkin Ice Cream

Sometimes pie is just a little too heavy.  This pumpkin ice cream is a perfect way to end your Thanksgiving feast!

Pumpkin Ice Cream 1

Here is the recipe.

2 large eggs                                                                                                                                         3/4 cup sugar                                                                                                                                     2 cups heavy cream                                                                                                                          1 cup whole milk  (can use 2%)                                                                                                          1 1/4 cups pumpkin puree                                                                                                                1 teaspoon ground cinnamon                                                                                                         1 teaspoon ground nutmeg (freshly ground is best)                                                                     1/4 teaspoon salt

In large bowl, beat eggs using an
electric hand mixer on high until light and fluffy,
about 30 seconds.

Measure sugar and, while beating on high, slowly
pour sugar into eggs. Beat until well combined,
about 30 seconds to 1 minute.

Pour milk into egg mixture and beat on low to

Measure 1 cup of the ice cream base (the milk sugar and egg mixture) and pour into a separate bowl.  Add pumpkin and spices to the bowl containing the 1 cup of base. Beat on medium or whisk well to combine.

Pour pumpkin mixture into the larger bowl containing the remaining ice cream base and whisk or beat well to combine.

Transfer the mixture to an ice cream maker and freeze according to manufactures’ instructions.

When ice cream is finished, transfer into a freezer safe container, cover tightly and freeze until ready to serve.  (Allowing the ice cream to sit at room temperature for several minutes before serving will make it easier to scoop.)

This ice cream will store nicely in the freezer for a month or more – that is if no one knows it is there !

pumpkin ice cream2

Happy Thanksgiving,


Spiced Carrot Pumpkin Cake

Pumpkin carrot cake - slices_final

This is the ultimate carrot cake!  The pumpkin puree adds a layer of moistness – without making the cake taste like pumpkin.  My husband, the carrot cake devotee, gives this one double thumbs up.  What he didn’t know – is that the last time I made this, I was out of carrots – and substituted an equal amount of grated sweet potatoes in place of the carrots.  It was amazing!  The cream cheese frosting recipe is one that I use almost exclusively.  It uses half the sugar generally called for in most cream cheese frosting recipes – and yet is plenty sweet.

This cake freezes well – which is what we usually do!  After we have gorged ourselves on cake, we cut what remains into portions, wrap them in plastic wrap and freeze for future late nite foraging excursions on the part of the tall one at our house :)

I hope this cake makes you as happy as it does us!



Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.  Spray three 9-inch round cake pans and set aside.

Combine in a bowl and set aside:

2 cups flour (I always use whole grain flours)                                                                                1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon                                                                                                         1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt (kosher salt if you have it)

In a separate bowl combine:

1/2 cup brown sugar (try coconut sugar!)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup oil (I use coconut oil – melted)
1 cup pumpkin puree
3 eggs
1 cup buttermilk ( or 1 cup milk combined with 1 Tbl. vinegar)

Mix together and add to the bowl of dry ingredients.  Stir until combined and add the following:

1 cup each – raisins, grated carrots (or sweet potatoes) and flaked coconut (I use unsweetened)

You could also add 1/2 cup of well drained crushed pineapple.

Put equal parts of the batter into each cake pan.  Bake at 375 degrees for about 20 minutes – or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cool completely and frost (or not) as desired.

The Homestead’s Favorite Cream Cheese Frosting

12 ounces cream cheese – at room temperature                                                                         1/2 cup (1 stick) butter – softened
2 cups sifted powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch salt

Beat the cream cheese and butter together until well blended and fluffy.  Add the remaining ingredients – all at once – and beat at slow speed until sugar is incorporated.  Turn up the speed of your mixer and beat until desired consistency.  No matter how tempted you may be to add liquid to this at the beginning – DON’T DO IT :)



Autumn Dinner under the trees

This late autumn dinner party was one that won’t soon be forgotten.  More photos and details to come.  dinner party

Thanks to all who made it possible.  You know who you are – and I love you dearly!

Gluten Free Apple Oat Scones

Sticky Fingers Apple Oat Scones 1 Gluten Free Apple Oat Scones with butter 2

I am always pleased when I can find a ready-made gluten free product that meets the approval of the head gluten-eater at our house.  Sticky Fingers Bakeries has a winner here.  These scones are moist and cakey, with a good crumb and great flavor.  They are great warm, but are surprisingly equally good after sitting for several hours – that is – if they last that long. Easy to make, all you add is oil and water.

No, these are not the same as scones made with  grains containing gluten, but for those who for whatever reason are trying to limit or eliminate gluten from their diets – these scones are sure to be a hit. There is a store locator on their website – to help you find a location in your area where you can purchase their products – or you can purchase online.



Easy Minestrone Soup






There is something about a pot of soup, simmering away on the stove, that says home.  This soup is a rustic, homey, comforting version of minestrone – that is very versatile.  It is one of our go-to soups and after trying it – I am sure it will be one of yours as well. 
What follows is the basic recipe.   The beauty of this soup is that it can be adjusted to incorporate what you have on hand.   The recipe calls for meatballs.  I usually have them in the freezer – because when our favorite organic grass-fed beef goes on sale – we buy a bunch – and make, bake and freeze meatballs – and lots of other good stuff.  You can use store-bought frozen meatballs – to save time – or make your own.  I am including a quick and basic meatball recipe.                
Here is where I will confess.  I will let you in on my secret weapon.  When my kids were little – the soup did simmer away all day on the stove.  Now that I am running a farm – and spend most of my day not in the kitchen I use one of my favorite time savers.  My electric pressure cooker!  I would be lost without it.  I can prep the ingredients in the morning, go about my day, and then put them all in the cooker (frozen meatballs, uncooked pasta, fresh veggies, canned beans) when I come in – and dinner is ready in about 30 minutes. . . veggies and pasta perfectly cooked – and it tastes like it has been cooking all day!  Fagor is the brand I love. The 3-in-1 cooker does triple duty – rice cooker, pressure cooker, slow cooker.  They are available many places online, are not expensive – and would make a great gift. . . . hint, hint!  I use mine for everything from  rice to barbeque ribs – to frozen pot roast – dried beans – whole grains  – and soup, soup, soup!  Honeyville is just one of the places you can purchase online.  Here is their link:


The Soup

8 cups beef broth or stock                                                                                                               4 large carrots, cut into 1 inch chunks
4 ribs of celery, cut into 1 inch chunks                                                                                            1 large onion – chopped into 1 inch chunks                                                                                    3 cloves of garlic – peeled and cut in half                                                                                       1 – 15 oz can of whole peeled tomatoes                                                                                           1 – 15 ounce can of kidney, cannellini or garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained                            1 Tbl dried basil                                                                                                                                  1 Tbl dried oregano                                                                                                                    Meatballs – fresh or frozen – amount to be determined by you:)                                                   1 cup pasta – shaped – your choice                                                                                                 1 pkg fresh spinach – washed and drained  ( can use any green – kale, chard, whatever you prefer)                                                                                                                                           salt and pepper to taste
Fresh Parmesan Cheese

Combine the broth, carrots, celery, onions, garlic and tomatoes in a large kettle.  Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer.  Cook, covered, until veggies are almost tender.  Add the meatballs.  (They will take about 10-15 minutes for it to cook – because the soup is not boiling  – the larger you make the meatballs – the longer this will take).  When the soup returns to a good simmer, add the pasta.  When meatballs and pasta are cooked/warmed, add drained beans.  Heat for a few minutes- just to warm the beans.  Taste the soup and add salt and pepper to taste.  Turn off the burner and add the greens (you just want them to wilt and retain their color- not to cook into a dark mass of nothingness)

Serve with fresh Parmesan Cheese on top and a crusty loaf of bread.

Mangia!  (Which means Eat!  in Italian – just so you know)

Here’s how I do it -

Chop the veggies.  Put the broth, veggies, frozen meatballs, spices, tomatoes, beans and dried pasta into the pressure cooker.  Cook on high pressure for 12 minutes.  Release pressure, season with S&P – stir in spinach – eat.  All in about 25 minutes. . .no stirring, no fussing with the stove/burner( because it is electric), just turn it on and walk away.  And if I get busy doing something – it will keep it warm and perfect until I get back to finish it! . . I know – this almost goes against my inner Italian – but it works – and makes fabulous soup – in a very short amount of time!  Trust me – you should try this!  You will love it!

Basic Quick Meatballs

1 lb. lean ground beef                                                                                                                        1 cup dry bread crumbs                                                                                                                    1/2 cup milk                                                                                                                                     1/2 teaspoon salt                                                                                                                             1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Combine all ingredients.  Shape mixture into 1-inch balls.  At this point – you can drop them into the soup mixture – or pan cook them – in a single layer in a large skillet – over medium heat until browned.

If you want them to have an Italian flavor – add 1/2 teaspoon crushed, dried oregano (or 1/4 tsp. ground) and 1/2 teaspoon crushed, dried basil ( or 1/4 teaspoon ground) and 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder.

Crockpot Pumpkin Apple Pie Cake

Crockpot Pumpkin Apple Pie Cake - plain - edited_edited-final_edited-final      Crockpot Pumpkin Apple Pie Cake - sauced - #45_edited-final_edited-1


This recipe is super simple – and bakes away in the crockpot.  Although it is not overly sweet, it is a very moist, comforting cake – one sure to become a family favorite.  Serve warm with sweetened whipped cream or ice cream – or – if you live on the wild side, drizzle it with your favorite caramel topping – warmed of course.

1-21 ounce can apple pie filling  – about 2 1/2 cups                                                                      2 cups flour (whole grain is best)                                                                                                      1 cup brown sugar                                                                                                                        1/2 cup granulated sugar                                                                                                                1 cup pumpkin puree – or canned pumpkin                                                                                    3 eggs  – beaten                                                                                                                                 1/3 cup oil                                                                                                                                         2 teaspoons baking powder                                                                                                              1 teaspoon ground cinnamon                                                                                                        1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg                                                                                                           1/4 teaspoon baking soda                                                                                                                 pinch salt

Butter a 3 to 5 quart crock pot.  Spoon pie filling into crockpot.  Spread evenly over the bottom of the crock pot.

Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl and beat to combine.  Pour batter over pie filling.

Cover crockpot and cook on high for 2 hours – or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Serve cake warm with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

(Depending on your crockpot – it can take up to 4 hours. . . )



Our favorite Caramel topping -      Trader Joes Caramel Sauce - edited_edited-2