Saturday, September 13, 2014

We're Moving!

Our blog is moving to our new website! You can find new posts as well as all of archives at
Halfway Oak Farm   (

 I can't wait for you to see the new design!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

How To Treat Heat Rash - Naturally

It's been unseasonably cool for our area, and I guess I let that lull me into a false sense of security. Today was one of only a handful of days that we have seen mid to high 80 temperatures with very humid conditions, and I didn't prepare for it. I love the heat; I don't love heat rash.

The best way too treat heat rash is to prevent it. Cool, loose fitting cotton or moisture wicking "dry fit" clothing is the best. Tight or synthetic fabrics that don't breathe are not your best choice (like spandex riding pants with suede backside, inner thighs, and calves...)  

If that ship has sailed and you're already suffering from heat rash, here are some natural remedies. 

  • Cool bath or shower Try to cool your body and especially the affected area with cool water in a bath or shower. Stay as long as you can, but at least 20 minutes, until you feel relief and/or see the rash or redness beginning to fade. Try to air dry if possible. Rubbing the rash while drying yourself will only make it worse.

  • Baking Soda  A 1/4 to 1 cup of baking soda (depending on how much water you use) in the bath will make the bath more effective.

  • Aloe  Aloe directly from the plant works to cool the skin and moisturize.  I snip the tips of my aloe plants and place them in a baggy in the fridge or freezer. Once they are cool, I smear the cold gel on the affected areas and leave it for 15 to 20 minutes. Reapply as needed when the itchiness comes back until it heals. Topical gel aloe comes in a plastic bottle and can be kept in the fridge indefinitely. Be sure it is pure aloe vera gel with no additives.

  • Ice Wrap ice in a clean towel or cloth and place on the rash. The ice will cool the skin and alleviate the burning and itching.

  • Cornstarch Dust a fine layer of cornstarch over the affected area as if it were powder.

  • Peppermint tea  Peppermint tea drank as an ice tea (or at least at room temperature for those who can't drink cold beverages) will help lower your internal temperature and balance your body. Drink a small tea cup's worth every couple hours until the rash begins to subside.

  • Tea bags  If you're already preparing a peppermint tea, use the tea bags as a poultice. Cool the bags in the fridge or freezer and then place them on the rash. Chamomile tea bags work wonderfully, too.

  • Essential Oils  Lavender, Chamomile, Peppermint and Eucalyptus all have anti-itch and anti-inflammatory properties. For adults and kids over 12, add 4 drops of essential oil to the bath. Adding it with baking soda works even better. Youngsters need less, because you are using less water in their bath- 3 years and under, use about 2 drops; preschool through elementary age, use 3 drops. 

I've already taken my cool bath, have put on light, cotton jammies, and am drinking my peppermint tea. By tomorrow I should be fine, but I'll have to be careful not to spend too much time in the heat and humidity so the rash doesn't come back. I'll still go riding (which is what started this nonsense), but I'll be sure to change into my riding breeches right before riding and change out of them immediately after finishing!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Homestead Cooking With Carol Give Away

I'm so pleased to be able to offer you a give away of Homestead Cooking with Carol from author, Carol J. Alexander. 

I was excited to get a chance to read this book, and it did not disappoint. Carol has a way of catching your attention and keeping it. I sat down with this book intending to read the first chapter before bed, but I ended up reading the entire book cover to cover and staying up way past my bedtime!  I came back to the book the following day to take notes and read it through a second time.

I love cooking for our family, but I am not great at time management, so this book was right up my alley - especially with the make-ahead and calendar planner ideas. I am positive that as I continue to add Carol's tips to my weekly meal prep that dinner won't ever sneak up on me again.

I'm no stranger to canning, preserving, gardening, raising my own food, and we're getting pretty self sufficient over here at Halfway Oak Farm, but Carol shares a lot - a lot - of tricks that I never thought of. For instance, I always have more veggies than will fit in a freezer container or a canning jar, but it's never enough to fill another jar or freezer bag. I have always put them in the fridge and told one of the kids to cook them up for a meal when they're home alone. Sometimes (most times) those poor veggies end up shriveled and limp at the back of the fridge before I realize they never got eaten. Carol shares the technique of canning jars of mixed veggies with those extra veggies. I read that chapter, and it was like a V-8 moment!

And making yogurt in the crockpot?! Shut up! Carol gives recipes for the yogurt and other foods you wouldn't think of cooking in that particular appliance.

While this book does have recipes, this is not your average cookbook, which Carol tells you right off the bat. This is more of a how-to manual allowing you to use your own favorite foods in the preserving, preparing, and make-ahead planning for your family's meals. The recipes that are in the book are simple to create, but they would make any foodie swoon, they are so delicious. If you like cooking your own foods, finding ways to stretch meals, and making things with what you have on hand while occasionally throwing something new in the menu mix, this book will "do you good".

Excited to get your own copy?? To enter to win a free copy, simply comment on this post and you'll be entered in the random drawing. The contest is open for one week - until 11:59PM Eastern Time on August 31. 

The winner will be chosen via random drawing and will be announced at Halfway Oak Farm's facebook page and here on the blog on September 1 . Be sure to check back Sept 1 to see if you've won!

Can't wait for the giveaway or want a printed copy for your personal library?

I was provided a free copy of the book for reviewing. All thoughts about the book are my own. 
This blog post also contains affiliate links. When you purchase from these links, I receive a commission from the company at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting Halfway Oak Farm in this way; these commissions keep the website and blog running.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Spiced Applesauce

Applesauce has been one of my son's favorite foods since he was a baby.  I hate that the store brands are full of corn syrup, so I make and preserve as many quarts as I can throughout apple season.

Summer varieties we love for applesauce include Lodi, Melrose, Mutsu, and Vista Bella.  Later varieties include Akane, Macoun, Granny Smith, Northern Spy, and Rambo.

Use any of these to make your applesauce and you can't go wrong.
Pictured are Lodi - left, Melrose - bottom right, Lodi/Melrose - top right.

Spiced Applesauce
makes 1 quart.  (I use a peck of apples and make 4 - 6 quarts)

3lbs apples
sugar (optional)
Poudre Douce

Prepare jars for canning.  Wash and drain apples. Core, slice, and peel. Add apples and a thin layer of water to a large pot. Cook apples until they are soft. Puree- do not liquify- using a food processor or blender. Return apple puree to the pot and add 1/4 cup of sugar per pound of apples or to taste. Sugar is optional.  Stir regularly to prevent sticking while applesauce thickens just slightly. In the last 5 minutes of cooking, add Poudre Douce. Stir until completely mixed. Ladle hot applesauce into hot jars. Using a butter knife or bubble spatula remove air bubbles by running the utensil between the sauce and jar. Clean jar rims with a clean paper towel dipped in white vinegar. Place lids and bands on the jars and process in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes.

Crab Apple Butter

We have two beautiful crab apple trees on the property. Last year we had crab apples coming out of our ears. Unfortunately this year the late spring freeze killed most of the blossoms so I only got a couple pounds of apples. 

I shrunk my original butter recipe in half on account of the lowered apple harvest, and it worked great! If you find yourself with only a small amount of apples (I had a cereal bowl full), this recipe works, but if you find yourself with oodles of crab apples, this recipe can safely be doubled or tripled.

You can stick the jars directly in the fridge and skip the canning process if you plan to use the apple butter quickly, but I always process my canned goods so I can preserve them for up to a year. 

Crab Apple Butter
makes 3 pints

1-2 pounds (2 cups) crab apples
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
1tbsp Poudre Douce

Prepare jars for processing. This is important even if you choose to skip the canning process. The jars must be clean, and they must be hot when adding the hot apple butter to prevent shattering the jar. 

Wash and drain apples. Slice apples in half. With the peels on, combine the apples and 1 cup water in a saucepot. Cook until the apples are soft. Pulp the apples and skins in a food processor, food mill, or blender. Completely mash and pulp the apples but do not liquify. Return the mashed apple pulp to the saucepot and add the 2 cups of sugar. Mix thoroughly. Add the Poudre Douce a little at a time, mixing completely and taste testing. Continue adding the spice mix until you reach a favorable taste. Cook mix on low to medium heat stirring regularly to prevent burning or sticking. Cook until the mix thickens to the consistency of applesauce or slightly thinner. Ladle hot sauce into jars leaving 1/2" headspace. Using a butter knife or a bubble spatula, remove air bubbles around the sides of the jar. Wipe rims of jars with a clean paper towel dipped in vinegar. Place lids and bands onto the jars. Process the jars in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.

Easy Apple Butter

Apple Butter in two varieties. Top jar Lodi, Bottom jar Melrose
Apple Butter is my favorite spread. I love when tart apples are paired with spices and turned into thick, textured apple butter. YUM!  I really love an easy recipe for that apple butter.

This recipe allows me to make my own apple butter in less than an hour using only a few ingredients and a few dishes. You can stick the jars directly in the fridge and skip the canning process, but I always process all of my canned goods so I can preserve them for up to a year. 

I made two different apple butters using Lodi and Melrose apples. Lodi apples are very, very tart and have a Red Delicious type of mealiness. For apple butter, the mealy texture of Lodi was okay but they needed watched carefully in the cooking process as they go from uncooked to mush in no time.  Melrose are slightly tart and have a firm texture. Melrose is sweeter than Lodi and has a perfect texture for cooking without completely breaking down.

Easy Apple Butter - makes 1 quart. The recipe can be doubled or tripled.

8 - 10 medium apples
2 cups sugar
1 - 2 tbsp Poudre Douce

Prepare jars for canning. This is important even if you choose to skip the canning process. The jars must be clean, and they must be hot when adding the hot apple butter to prevent shattering the jar. 

Wash apples. Core, peel, and quarter apples. Place apple slices and 2 cups of water in a large sauce pot. Simmer until the apples are soft. Puree using a food processor, mill, blender, or by hand with a potato masher. DO NOT liquify the pulp. 

Combine the apple pulp and sugar into the large saucepot. Add the Poudre Douce in small amounts, mixing thoroughly and taste testing as you go. Add the spice until you like the taste.  Stir regularly to prevent sticking and burning until the mixture thickens to your liking. I like mine to be applesauce consistency. Ladle hot butter into hot jars leaving 1/4" headspace. Remove air bubbles with a butter knife or bubble spatula. Clean the rims of the jar with a clean paper towel dipped in white vinegar. Place lids and bands on the jars. 

If preserving, process the jars in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes. If not, allow jars to cool and place in the refrigerator. 

Poudre Douce

Poudre Douce is a medieval spice mix that translates to "sweet powder", and sweet it is!  Once you try this you'll never go back to pumpkin pie spice, pre-spiced canned pumpkin or using plain cinnamon on your cinnamon toast or in your cinnamon bread.

Mix together:
1 tablespoon powdered ginger
2 tablespoon good quality cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground grains of paradise (or clove)
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup raw sugar (or whatever sugar you wish to use)

Store in a spice jar or glass canning jar. Use in any recipe calling for one or more of the ingredients.

NOTE: Grains of paradise can be found in specialty stores like Whole Foods. You can also replace the grains with clove.