Sunday, October 16, 2016

Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Walnuts & Cherries

A quick and easy way to prepare Brussels sprouts.  This is a great side dish for a meal or, if you're like me, it makes a great lunch.  It comes together quickly and is full of all kinds of good stuff.  Including butter!


1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 lb Brussels sprouts
1/4 cup dried cherries, chopped
Kosher salt


1.  Heat a medium pan over medium heat and lightly toast the walnuts.  While the walnuts are toasting, cut the stem off of the Brussels, discard the outer leaves and thinly slice. Once the walnuts are toasted, remove them from the pan and set aside.

2.  Heat the butter in the pan, add the Brussels sprouts and sprinkle with . Sauté for about 10 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the Brussels have started to brown.  Add the walnuts and cherries and saute for an additional 2-5 minutes, until everything is warmed through.  Serve and enjoy!

Bon Appetit!

~ Sara :)

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Our Chicken Run

We have slowly been transforming our back yard into our little paradise.  We've spent countless hours in our garden and on our chicken run.  Although, really, I can't take any credit for the chicken run - Jason is the one who has put in all the hard work for that.  I posted early in the summer about how he had created a chicken run that gave the chickens quite a bit more area to roam....

....a lot more sweat has been put in to their run and, to be honest, if I was going to be a chicken, I'd want to be a Hayes Homestead chicken.

We would love to let our girls free range and wander freely, but, unfortunately, that's not an option for us.  Between the neighborhood dogs in our yard and the hawks that circle overhead, our hens would constantly be in danger.  We want our chickens to have freedom, but not have to be concerned for their safety.  They deserve a good life just as much as anyone else!  Jason had a vision, put it together, and it's awesome!

The way he has set it up is in 'zones'.  This gives us the ability to close off areas so that we can grow fresh grass for them to graze and dig up.  First, he started by putting a fence up in their original run, off of their coop.  The door we use to get in and out of the coop is on the south side of the coop.  The chicken door is on the east.  So, he put up a fence that cuts the run in half running north and south so that we can still get in and out of the coop easily, but we can block off a chunk of the run in order to grow new grass.  The gate easily latches to the side of the coop if we want them to have full access.  This also comes in handy when cleaning the coop.  I'm able to completely lock them out of the coop so I can do my job without them at my feet looking for treats :)


 Next, he fenced off a small part of our garden that we weren't utilizing this summer, but was way overgrown.  We use this area when we need to give their first extended run (with the big pine tree) a rest.  When this area is open, the gate that lets them in also shuts off the entrance to the pine tree.

Once the garden was near finished for the year, Jason decided to extend the garden area a bit by adding more fencing.  This gave the chickens the opportunity to graze on some leftover crops and dig for all kinds of bugs that had been living in the garden throughout the summer.

I know this is a bit hard to visualize via pictures!  Here is a video Jason took over the summer to share with a few of his coworkers in Maryland (it was taken before the second zone was made in the garden):

Jason still has plans to create yet another 'zone' around our fruit trees.  Although the fencing may be up this fall, we'll probably wait until the trees are a bit more mature and offer more adequate protection from hawks before we let the chickens loose in there.

His more current project is moving/restructuring our compost pile.  He's using big logs/tree stumps that have just been sitting around our fire pit.  He's also moved it out of the garden to an area that lines part of the chicken run.  This will give the chickens loads of awesome bugs to eat.  More on the compost in another post!

And there you have it!  We give our chickens lots of safe space to roam and live and they give us delicious eggs.  Fair trade I'd say :)

~ Sara :)

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Apple Pie Filling

My parents apple trees were more than plentiful this year!  When my mom offered me a few buckets, I gladly accepted them, but wasn't quite sure what to do with them.  I knew I wanted to can them somehow.  We aren't huge applesauce eaters (in fact, we still have jars left in the pantry that I canned last year!) and figured I would just can them plain and then have them on hand to use for pies, crisps, whatever.

Why not just can them so that they are ready to use in pies or crisps!?  Genius!!  So, now, all I have to do is make the crust and throw in a jar of premade filling.  Lots of time peeling, chopping and canning, but now a delicious dessert is just a few steps away!  Also, if you aren't a canner, you could easily freeze this filling instead.

(Any type of apples will work for this recipe, but I prefer a tart apple such as a McIntosh or Jonathon.)

Apple Pie Filling
Makes 6-7 quarts


6-10 lbs apples (the amount will vary depending on how small you slice and the condition of the apples)
4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup cornstarch, sifted
1 tsp kosher salt
10 cups water
3 tbsp lemon juice


1.  Prepare and sterilize quart mason jars and lids and keep warm.  In a large stock pot or Dutch oven combine the sugar, cinnamon, cornstarch, salt and water over medium high heat.  Whisk frequently and bring to a simmer.  Allow to simmer for 3-5 minutes until quite thick.  Remove from heat and set aside.

2.  Start preparing the apples by peeling, coring and then slicing.  As you finish slicing the apples, place them into a warm quart jar and alternate the apples with the syrup.*  Take my advice and do not fill the liquid above the bottom ring.  It will ooze out.  Believe me.  :)

3.  Once your jars are full, seal with a canning lid and ring and place in a hot water bath.  Bring the water to a boil, cover, and process for 20 minutes.  Remove from the water, allow to cool remove bands and store. 

*If you're not canning, just fill quart or gallon sized bags with the apples and syrup and freeze.

Happy Canning!

~ Sara :)

Monday, October 10, 2016

Fresh Tomato Juice

Tomato harvesting is going down here at the Hayes Homestead the past few weeks.  I have been a canning fool!  I actually love canning.  There is just something about preserving your fresh ingredients you grew yourself (or even if you didn't!) and being able to eat them all winter.  It's so satisfying to see all those jars neatly lined up on the shelf when you're done.  Such a great feeling!

I feel like one of the basics when it comes to canning is tomato juice.  It's the base for any type of tomato sauce and is a great addition or base to Gazpacho, chili, or my crock pot Minestrone.

When making pizza or pasta sauce, you need a lot of fresh tomato juice.  There are two different methods I use, depending on if I am chopping tomatoes for salsa or just juicing the tomatoes for sauce.

When I need lots of fresh tomato juice, this is how I do it:

Wash and halve all of the tomatoes you're turning into juice.  You can leave them whole, but cutting them in half not only makes the process a little faster, but also lets you know if anything funky is going on inside your tomato.  Even though it may look beautiful and red on the outside, it may be hiding a disgusting secret on the inside.  Trust me.  I've been there.  If you have any bad spots, just cut those out.

Once you've got all your tomatoes halved, put them in a large stock pot or Dutch oven.  Put a lid on the pot and place it over medium heat.  Let the tomatoes warm up for about 10 minutes.

Remove the lid and begin gently smashing the tomatoes with a potato masher.  They should smash fairly easily.  If they don't, put the lid back on for another 5-10 minutes.

How much you smash is completely up to you.  I like to get as much juice out of them as I can while they're still in the pot.  Once they're smashed to your liking, transfer them to a food mill or strainer in small batches and process, squeezing as much of the juice out as possible from the flesh and seeds. If you're lucky, you have an awesome food strainer/sauce maker like this amazing one by Victorio.  It's on my wish list!

The second method to getting all that good juice from your tomatoes is what I do when making salsa or canning tomatoes.  When I scoop out all the insides of the tomatoes so I can chop them, I put all the seeds, cores, and pulp into a strainer over a bowl or large measuring cup.  Once it's full, I use a spoon to help it strain out into the measuring cup. 

Once you have all your juice, compost your pulp and either use the juice to make pizza, pasta, or any type of tomato sauce, or just can it as is.  If you aren't quite ready to use it, that's okay.  Put it in a container, seal, and store in the fridge until you're ready to use it.  I wouldn't let it sit longer than 5 days though.

Fresh tomato juice can be stored long term by either canning or freezing.  If you are freezing, fill quart or pint freezer bags, label and store.  If canning, you will want to add 1/2 tsp Citric Acid per quart or 1/4 tsp per pint and process at 11lbs of pressure for 25 minutes.

Happy preserving!

~ Sara :)

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Summer Recap

It's finally feeling like fall here in Michigan - summer just does not want to let go!  We've been enjoying our endless summer and, even now, in October, we have days of near 80 degree temperatures in the forecast!

We had a great summer.  We were busy doing a lot and doing nothing at all.  One thing that I definitely didn't do all summer?  Blog.

So, I'm going to do a little recap of some of the highlights from our summer.  Be prepared for lots of pictures.  Nothing tells a story quite like a picture does :)

I posted a bit about our garden back in July, but our garden did excellent this summer!  We had an abundance of tomatoes, cucumbers, jalapenos, watermelon, zucchini, kale, and more.  In fact, it's now October and we're still harvesting!



Jason and I celebrated our 7th anniversary.  We spent the day in Lansing, did some shopping, and had a great dinner.  Love is grand :)

We had lots of play dates with our friends.

Many weekend days were spent on the lake.  The hot dog got a lot of use!

The kids had a golf lesson.  Yes, only one ;)

Between my mom's fruit trees and our garden, I canned.  I canned a lot.  Cherries, tomatoes, sauces, relishes, jams, peaches, apples. 


We found that we have wild black raspberries all throughout our property.  Ashlyn loved hunting them down and eating them!

We spent Fourth of July at the lake, too!

We had lots of family come visit us!  The whole month of July we had different family members coming and going.

In the midst of family visiting, Hand Foot Mouth disease also visited :(

We hosted our annual 'Bounce n Play' party!

We discovered SnapChat!!!

We went to the beach...

....and took swim lessons...

Jason did a ton of work on our chicken run.  I hope to get a full post up on this soon!

We went to our 4-H Fair (twice).

Ashlyn started gymnastics!

The kids and I tagged along with Jason to Maryland for a week.  He had to work, but the kids and I did back to school shopping, park exploring, swimming, and relaxing.  The kids watched entirely too much television, ate lunch in bed and made HUGE strides in their swimming.  It was a great trip!

Ashlyn gave us a lesson in the proper way to eat spaghetti....

While in Maryland we also went for a hike and had Jason's summer party.  The kids ate too much cotton candy and decorated t-shirts and Frisbees.  Jason's boss hosted an after party and he has goats!!  GOATS!!!!

A week before school started, I surprised the kids with a trip to local-ish Children's Museum.  They loved it!

I bought these adorable signs from Personalization Mall for school.  And, before I knew it, it was time to fill them out!

And that, was our a nutshell.

~ Sara :)