How Our Days Actually Start, Plus Easy Morning Muffins

Every morning at 6:30 AM on the dot our youngest son wakes the whole house up crying for milk. Then it begins. Our older twin boys wake up. They too begin crying for milk. While I’m warming the milk of the first crying boy, the second boy says that he has to go potty. I tell him to go potty. He whines that he can’t unzip his jammies, so while holding the first crying boy, I kneel down and attempt to unzip the jammies without dropping the first boy that’s yelling “Mewk! Mewk!” that he can plainly see is ready from his vantage on my hip. Finally the jammies are off and the milk is handed off to the first boy. The third boy comes out of the bedroom half asleep and asks for his sippy cup of milk. I attempt to put the first boy down on the floor, he is having none of it and insists on laying in our bed. I pour one milk with one hand and I’m screwing the lid back on when the second boy yells “Mommy I need heeeeeeewp” from the bathroom. I hand the milk to the third boy, yell “hang on!” to the second boy, plop the first boy down on the couch and throw a blanket on him and go find out what could possibly be going wrong in the bathroom. The second boy is stuck on the toilet because the stool wasn’t pushed up correctly, I rescue him and while I’m helping him put on his undies the third boy comes in asking to watch a “show show show”. I put in The Land Before Time, while I’m skipping through all of the previews the second boy comes up to me and say that he needs milk, I push play. I’m pouring the milk when the third boy runs up to me shouting “potty!”. I hand the milk off to the second boy and tell him to watch the show, I help the third boy go potty. I’m helping him put his undies on when the second boy comes to me and says “mom….I can’t watch this” to which I reply “tough”. Crying ensues. I point out that the show has a t-Rex in it and all is well. I go back to the bedroom shake my husband to wake up, he gets up and gets around for the day (we take turns doing morning) and I get dressed, I shut both bedroom doors. I manage to have my bra on just in time before the first boy busts in the room and shouts “MOM! BOOBS!” I realize I forgot to lock the door. He climbs up on the bed and the stench of a morning diaper deuce hits my nostrils. I finish getting dressed and take care of the first boys dirty butt.

Blueberry Muffin

With mornings like this, I like really simple breakfasts with even simpler clean up. If the breakfast is hand-held and I don’t have to pick up and wash plates even better! For a while now I have been taking our families favorite recipes dissecting them and storing them for quick assembly. One of my favorites in the morning is muffins of any flavor or size. They’re sweet so the kids love them and I can sneak all kinds of fruits and veggies into them to make myself feel like a mom that’s got it together. I mix the dry ingredients in a wide mouth quart jar, write “muffin mix” on the top along with the cook temperature and time. On the underside of the lid I write the dry ingredients, so I can re-fill the mix without having to dig through my recipe cards. I realize coming from the “Jiffy Mix” state, this isn’t really earth-shattering new information here, everyone can make a muffin mix. It’s what I do with the muffin mix that makes it amazing. If I think about it the night before I will get out a 2 cup package of the pumpkin puree I have in the freezer and get it thawing. In the morning I can whip up a pan of spectacular pumpkin muffins. Want blueberry? Add 2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries, or whatever fruit you’ve got that’s muffinable.

The Mix:

2 Cups All purpose flour

2 tsp. Baking powder

½ tsp. Salt

¾ Cup sugar

Store in an air tight container (a quart jar works nicely)

When you’re ready to muffin preheat your oven to 375 and add:

½ cup melted butter

2 eggs

½ cup milk

1 tsp vanilla

2 cups fruit/berries of choice

Bake for 20-25 min

Makes 12 + regular sized muffins

Some of our favorite variations:

Pumpkin Spice Muffins– Omit milk and add ¼ cup maple syrup, 2 cups pumpkin puree, 1 tsp pumpkin spice.

Cranberry Orange Muffins– Add ¼ cup orange juice, 2 Tbs orange zest, 1 Tbs honey, 2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries. Sprinkle with raw sugar before putting batter in the oven.

Honey Oat– 1 cup rolled oats pulsed in food processor about 5 times, 1 cup chopped nuts if desired, ¼ cup honey, 2 Tbs ground flax, 1 tsp cinnamon, ¼ tsp nutmeg. Sprinkle with oats, nuts, & brown sugar before putting batter in the oven.

Chocolate Zucchini: ¼ cup cocoa powder, 2 cups grated zucchini, 1 cup chocolate chips + more for tops.

Banana: 3 smashed ripe bananas, 1 tsp cinnamon.

Curing Bacon At Home

For hundreds of years people have been salting, curing, and smoking bacon to preserve it. In the days before the refrigerator nearly all meats were cured in some way shape or form and it was common for households to have their own smokehouse. These days with the convenience of grocery stores, the art of home charcuterie has gone by the wayside in favor of paper thin, limp, boring bacon. The good news is it’s making a comeback with folks who want to take control of their food, and it is way easier than you think! With a few basic ingredients and a pork belly you have the chance to experiment with flavors and bite into some of the most delicious bacon that has ever graced your plate.

Bacon fresh from the smoker.

If you don’t raise your own pork, call or stop by your favorite butcher shop and ask for a pork belly. You may find that you need to place an order, but a few days wait is a small price to pay. I recommend a 5 pound belly for your first try. While you are at your butcher, ask them if they sell Pink Curing Salt (Cure no. 1 is what you will need for this bacon) This is what cures the bacon and it is necessary to ensure the safety of your final product. Some butchers will sell it to you in a 4 oz package, which is more than enough to cure a 5 pound pork belly. If you cannot find Pink Curing Salt in a store, you can easily find it online in any quantity you desire.

Belly, spices & cure
Rub and press the spices & cure into every crack and crevice in the pork belly.

Pink Curing Salt is tinted pink to avoid confusion with table salt (Do not confuse with Pink Himalayan salt!) It contains sodium nitrite and sodium chloride which staves off food-borne illnesses like botulism & listeria. -You’re probably thinking ”aren’t nitrates supposed to be bad for you?”. According to the FDA so long as they are used in the correct amounts these nitrates are proven to be safe. You also may be thinking: “Why can’t I do this without nitrates?”. The recipes that say they are nitrate free utilize celery juice in the curing process. (Those gray nitrate free hotdogs at the store look really yummy don’t they?!) Celery contains naturally occurring amounts of nitrates, so they aren’t really “nitrate free”. Secondly, the amount of nitrates in celery isn’t standard. The nitrate levels in one bunch of celery can be different from the next due a number of factors: where it was grown, the nutrient level of the soil etc. all effect the quantity of nitrates it contains. This variance in nitrate levels is why I value the consistency of commercially produced Curing Salts when curing meats safely for my family. Unfortunately botulism is a horrible thing that really does happen, and I take it seriously.

I’m really excited to share my recipe for homemade meat candy…um…I mean bacon with you. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do. I also hope you will discover a new hobby!

Maple Bacon Recipe:

The amounts of Salt, Sugar, and Curing Salt are absent since the amount of these ingredients varies depending on the actual weight of your pork belly. BEFORE BEGINNING to ensure accuracy I recommend weighing all ingredients. I got a digital scale from Amazon for a very reasonable price. Head on over to this fantastic cure calculator to convert your pork belly’s weight from pounds to grams then simply enter the new number in the cure calculator to get accurate weights for salt, sugar, and cure, then continue.

  • One pork belly (about 5 pounds)
  • In a small bowl combine the following:
  • Maple Sugar
  •  Kosher Salt
  • 2 Tablespoons Ground Black Pepper
  • 2 ½ teaspoons paprika
  • Cure no. 1
  1. Rinse the pork belly with cold water, pat dry. Rub the curing mixture over the entire surface of the pork belly.
  2. Place the rubbed pork belly in a 2 gallon zip-lock bag, rest it on a rimmed cookie sheet and pop it in the refrigerator.
  3. Once every day flip the bag of pork belly to rest on its other side and give it a good massage. Repeat this process for 7 days.
  4. On day 8 remove the pork belly from the bag and rinse it off in cold water and pat dry. Place it on a rack on top of a cookie sheet to catch any possible drips and return it to the fridge, uncovered for another 24 hours.
  5. Smoke the now cured pork belly (I like to use maple or apple wood) until an internal thermometer reading reaches 150 degrees (it takes about 2 -3 hours, check it frequently)
  6. While the bacon is still warm from the smoker, sprinkle it with a very light dusting of maple sugar.
  7. Allow the bacon to cool completely in the refrigerator before cutting. It makes it a lot easier to cut. Cut to preferred thickness by hand or with a meat slicer. Package in desired amounts, store in freezer for future use.

Rendering Beeswax

 

“Crush and strain” is a perfect method for a small scale beekeeper to extract honey.  This method also yields a higher quantity of wax than standard capping and extracting methods since the entire comb is used and not just the caps. It requires little to no investment, and believe it or not, top quality honey and wax can be extracted/produced with items you already have in your kitchen. After a horrendous first year of beekeeping bloopers back in 2012, I have found some items that have helped to resolve my crush and strain woes.

Here are a few tips from someone who has learned the hard way:

  • Always use cold water when rinsing beeswax before processing. Never hot. While hot water may seem like a quicker way to remove honey residue from crushed comb it only serves to compound the mess. Beeswax melts quickly and can and will ruin all of your utensils and your kitchen and your life..which brings me to my next point.
  • Have a dedicated wax rendering tool set. That ugly pot in the video up there? $4 at bargain mart. Wax is it’s sole purpose. I’ve been using it to render beeswax for years now, and this thing has seen some serious abuse. Abuse I would never ever put my daily kitchen set through.
  • Wax rendering is a job left best in the garage or the barn, or outside, just not in your kitchen.
  • Beeswax is highly flammable so use caution. Do NOT let kids do this.
  • Yes…you can use a microwave but it takes for-eh-ver, the heat is uneven, and in my opinion it doesn’t smell as “bee-like” as it does using the hot water bath method.

Now that we have all that cleared up, lets get to the tutorial!

Crushed and rinsed honey comb ready for rendering.

*This tutorial begins assuming you have already crushed your honeycomb, strained the honey and are now in possession of a pile of crumbled comb free of honey. (A honey crush and strain tutorial is on the docket for spring)

  • Rinse and dry comb that has been strained of honey and place in a pint or quart sized jar depending on how much comb you have
  • Bring a small sauce pan ½ full of water to a boil, then place the jar of comb in the boiling water and allow it to melt. You may have to poke it down and stir it every now and then. (I like to use a chop stick for this.) until is it totally melted, it can take some time depending on the quantity you are melting.
  • While all of that is happening, grab an old pair of panty hose and cut the toe end off at about 6 inches. Slide the hosiery over a vessel you wish to strain the melted wax into. (I use silicone measuring cups for an easy pour spout and simple clean up).
  • Once melted, pour wax through panty hose. We are straining the wax to remove impurities such as straw or bee fragments…it happens every now and then. You’ll also get teeny tiny amounts of propolis and pollen. You can toss it or you can save it to make a propolis tincture when you have enough.
  • Pour strained wax into prepared wax molds. You can buy molds that say “beeswax” in pre-measured sizes or you can use silicone molds, or an old muffin tin (FYI: 1 beeswax muffin puck weighs approximately 2.5 ounces in case you were wondering.)
  • Let wax cool completely before removing from molds. And SNIFF! Ah! Nothing smells better! Store in a cool dry place.
  • After some time passes you may notice that your wax develops a cloudy coating as it cures. This is called “bloom” and it is perfectly harmless.

The average going rate for beeswax is $5.00 per ounce…if you can bear to actually sell any.

Since some of you may be wondering why I “rinsed the honey residue” from the crushed comb when many people like to place their comb on a pan in the apiary and allow the bees to clean the comb for them.  My reasoning is simple:  This action promotes a behavior called “robbing”, it’s when bees from other hives come and steal resources from another hive.  Robbing also calls attention to our rather large population of Bald Faced Hornets we have in close proximity.  Bald Faced Hornets come and rob the crushed comb intended for the honey bees, then when they have exhausted that pile of free food they wage war on our bee hives, killing and eating the bees, the larvae, and the honey.  Bald Faced Hornets have killed a few of our hives in the past (hives that were new and trying to establish themselves), for this reason I forego the gesture and clean the comb myself.