homesteading book reviews

Here is a review of two of my favorite homesteady books:

can’t wait to get started!

Canning and Preserving with Ashley English is comprehensive guide to canning, pickling, and ‘putting up’ all types of fruit and vegetables, with both basic and fancy recipes for jams, jellies, and curds. I have never done any canning before- and while I was curious before I am crazy excited right now, wondering how I can get my hands on heaps of organic strawberries along with other cool fruits I can experiment with.

She makes very clear the whats, hows, and whys of canning, including jar selection, vegetable prep, issues about bacteria and pH and all sorts of important things you need to know before cutting up six pounds of berries or asparagus.

I have fond memories of heading to the local u-pick operation and digging in the dirt all morning for strawberries, then heading back to grandma’s house to wash, hull, and chop the strawberries that she then made into jam.  I had to give up the jam when I became a vegetarian- she faithfully used gelatin in all her jam, and would not change. It is my hope that I can make something similar- surely the results will be posted as soon as I can find some berries!

learn how to care for feathered friends.

I also got Keeping Chickens! Equally charming, cute, and practical as her canning book, dealing with all manner of chicken raising- including breed selection, feed choices, and building plans for housing your chicks.  I am especially charmed that she has a chicken-joy similar to my own, raising them for love and eggs, but not for meat.

If it seems odd for a mostly vegan blogger to gush about raising chickens then I imagine you probably have not spent much time with these goofy feathered friends. Personally, I had never thought much about these chicken creatures until I began on the farm with 20 resident chickens. Though I was initially ambivalent, ‘the ladies’ worked their charm on me and I fell deeply in love; in December we got six baby chicks and I was doubly smitten. I found so much joy feeding them kale and broccoli from the fields, often doing harvests just for the ladies. I brought stale rice, beans, bread, and not-perfect vegan baked goods for them, and soon they were eating out of our hands and jumping up to steal our foods. Every morning and afternoon they would come when called, wobbling and gobbling over to me so I could feed them their scratch. I look forward to a day when I can have a few little ladies of my own.

Lady English has a lovely way with words, the design is terribly cute, and her farmhouse lifestyle is very enviable- but also very do-able. And she has a likewise charming blog, and writes all over the place too. Follow her other work:

Small Measure Blog

A follow-up: while I was doing some canning research today I came across some warnings about the BPA in the lids of the canning jars.  Apparently only the seal has the chemical in it (the white part, specifically), and the chance of your homemade goodies getting contaminated is slight, especially if you follow her rules (and general canning rules) and leave a good amount of ‘head space-‘ so the food does not touch the lid.  If this freaks you out, there are alternatives available, including plastic lids (which look like they would fit on ball jars/mason jars, and another company that makes pretty all-glass jars (not interchangeable). Here is the link for the company that makes regular ball jars– so you can contact them and complain!

Utne wrote about it last year, Treehugger did too. For even more comprehensive information about BPA, check out Mother Earth News.

three years of food love

Today marks the third anniversary of my blog!  

Things have come quite a long way in the span of just a few years, and looking back it seems amazing that so many things have changed in such a short time. Not only have my cooking and baking skills improved since my sad, sunken Mexican Hot Chocolate Cupcakes, but my life has changed dramatically from those post-graduate school days. The lists below are my favorite foods, bloggers, and life events from the past three years! 

These are some of the most popular recipes from the past years– note that some have moved as the blog has shifted homes!)

Serious Food Love (some of my favorite bloggers; see my Resources page for lots of others!)

Thank you again and again for reading this blog, and sharing your thoughts with me! I look forward to sharing many more years of good food, healthy education and kale!

i (heart) food blogs!

Three years ago I became part of the vegan blogging community because I wanted to join the enormous crowd of cool ladies in their (virtual) kitchen. I was happy to be share space with Isa and Hannah and Gena. And the great thing about blogging is that the kitchen keeps getting more crowded with great, inspiring, fun bloggers. The following is a list of recently discovered blogs that make my heart happy.

  • Green Kitchen Stories might be the cutest family ever, and they have created an endearing blog about their food adventures. Great photography, gorgeous food, and lots of inspiration for living the good life can be found here. If you have an iPhone you should get definitely get their ap as soon as you can; it is awesome enough to justify the purchase of the iPhone itself. No, I have not made that leap yet, but thankfully my coworkers do, so I can share with them.
  • Barefoot and Frolicking is a lovely little blog I found via twitter. Marlie is a Toronto based chef and teacher (hey, like me!), and she features mostly raw, vegan, and gluten free recipes on her site, along with beautiful adventures. I can’t wait to begin working on the recipe list, especially the dessert section! I was especially impressed with her vegan and raw cake-pops.
  • My New Roots is the blog for vegetarian wondergirl Sarah Britton. She has been featured in Whole Living, works as a holistic nutritionist, and works at Noma’s test kitchen in Denmark- she kinda lives my dream life. Her blog is a mix of raw foods, vegetarian yummies, and nutritional insights (like eating for fertility and information about food combining). Her recipes are simple, delicious, and always feature things I love like healthy fats, greens, beans and other wholesome goodies.

Are you looking for more blog inspiration? Check out these posts (here and here) about new bloggers gleaned from the 2012 MoFo list. And for some more inspiration, check out the following links to see what I was up to in the past years!


BakeryManis featured on Healthy Living Blogs

I don’t know exactly what is happening in the worldwide web, but my blog has been crazy busy for the past few day- bad timing too, since I’m still on my little blog break! My hits have quadrupled for the past few days- and this is one of the sources: BakeryManis has been featured on Healthy Living Blogs. HLB is a great site for bloggers to connect and share inspiration for healthy living. I am happy to be a part of their blogger community.

For any new readers (or those of you who might want to learn a bit more about the baker lady behind BakeryManis), check out the Friday Feature from Healthy Living Blogs! Here is a snippet from their site:

1. What is your name, blog name, and how did you create your blog title?

My little blog is BakeryManis. I am really excited about whole-foods baking and cooking, but I want my goodies to be sweet and tasty; manis means ‘sweet’ or ‘cute’ in the Indonesian language. It was maybe not the best idea to choose a foreign language blog title, but I think it’s working pretty well! It’s always a conversation starter!

2. What’s one goal you’re working towards right now?

I have recently begun teaching vegetarian and vegan cooking classes, and I love sharing recipes and tips with students and friends. But I really want to expand my knowledge of nutrition and health, and so I am thinking about taking some courses for nutrition education.

there is lots more to learn… check out their Friday Feature with BakeryManis! yea!



trying out the veganomicon: quickbreads

i got the ultimate vegan cookbook as a gift from a dear friend, and i have finally gotten around to trying some of the recipes. naturally i turned right to the baking sections, separated into breads, muffins, and scones; cookies and bars; and finally, desserts. this post is a review of (most of) the quickbreads in the book; some don’t interest me at all so i am just going to stick to the ones i would like to eat.

almond quinoa muffins:

this is first recipe from the breads section that captured my fancy.   though i often used cooked quinoa, millet, and/or brown rice in hearty muffins, i was excited to try a new version of this trick. but i was quite disappointed.  the resulting muffins were not terrible, just kind of bland.  even with the spicy love of cardamom and cinnamon and the goodness of agave, almond meal and red quinoa, they were really just too simple for my tastes. 

how i would make them tastier:

  • more spice! the recipe calls for equal amounts of the two spices, but the cinnamon is erased by the strong cardamom, so triple the amount of cinnamon and double the amount of cardamom.
  • Toast the almond meal; the recipe doesn’t specify so I used raw almonds ground in my food processor for the batter and to top the muffins; I think toasted with a touch of salt would add a nice depth of flavor.
  • Try mixing spelt and whole wheat pastry flour; the recipe calls for whole wheat pastry or all-purpose, so I used a mix, but I think the spelt would bring a more grain-y taste to the muffins.

banana wheat germ muffins:

i was pretty happy with the results from this little muffin.  it is definitely not a knock-yer-socks-off muffin, but tasty enough.  i toasted the wheat germ before use, and also used some on the tops, which made them look really cute and crackly when they came out of the oven.

cranberry orange nut bread:

this bread was not a winner, but i don’t know why.  true to the book it did smell heavenly in the oven, but the flavor was very flat.  i followed the recipe correctly but there was something not quite right about this one; the boyfriend said it tasted great (isn’t that what boyfriends are supposed to do?) but i was not convinced.  i fed the chickens.

banana date scones:

oh. my.

these were sooo good- good enough to stand up to the spelt scones i always make, and that is saying a lot!   i made two versions of the scones, and both turned out excellent.  i halved the recipe and used half following directions (i CAN do it sometimes!) and used the all-purpose flour and the whole wheat pastry flour;  i then made the second half using spelt instead of ap flour with charming results.  the spelt looked a bit whole-grainy, and the texture was a teeny bit lighter than the ap flour, but both winners in the taste department.

though this recipe is a bit time consuming because of the date chopping and banana pureeing, it is so very worth it when you take a bit of these nicely-textured (dense-in-a-good-way) scones.  the bottoms got a bit crispy but i really liked it that way.  i also substituted almond milk for rice milk and was out of cinnamon- so, well fine, i MOSTLY followed directions!  either way, these turned out so good.  these are the incontestable winner in the list of veganomican goodies!

an afterthought: though these scones were totally yummy on the first day, by the second day they were very dried out already- both the ap and spelt versions lost all of their moisture, in both plastic containers and baggies.  they are still yummy, but i would recommend eating them all right away (it’s possible, i suppose: have a party!) or freezing the others.  i’ve generally had good luck freezing baked goods if they are frozen as soon as they cool, and if i let them come to room temperature and eat asap.  i bet these would be the same.


i don’t know if cornbread is really considered a quickbread, but it doesn’t use yeast… so here it is.  cornbread is apparently hard to make, because i have never been able to find THE RECIPE (either at my house or elsewhere) but this one is pretty close- and that is saying a lot!  i have to admit that the best cornbread i remember is those awful blue jiffy boxes of lard-filled muffin mix that my mama would make up every few days; i stopped eating them fifteen years ago when i stopped eating other dead things, and i have been on a cornbread hunt ever since.   isa and terry have created something quite close to the cornbread i want to believe in.

these are my suggestions should someone else attempt this recipe:

  • there is a good moisture which comes from soymilk + apple cider vinegar and 1/3 cup oil; i think that it might be tasty if the oil was replaced with earthbalance for a better creamy texture.
  • i also think it needs to be sweeter and saltier (from the grrl who doesn’t like salt!);
  • i used corn kernels inside, but those could use some earthbalance too;
  • i also think the combination of corn + jalapenos and/or cheddar cheese might be yummy (though, obviously, not vegan).

basically, if i am going to make cornbread again, i am going to stick with this recipe as my base!

i skipped making the banana bread (i have so many versions of banana bread) and the pineapple sunshine muffins cause i am just not that into all that chunky stuff in my muffins.  and i skipped the low fat everything; i am a skinny girl and love some fat in my muffins!