Author Archives: Nancy Wolff

coconut candyI know the holidays are over and we’re all try to make better eating choices but I had to share this recipe from my husband’s grandmother. For years I have been hearing about “Gram’s Coconut Candy”. I have a cookbook that contains all the recipes she had in her file and one of the recipes is for her famous coconut candy. As the Valentine’s Day approached my husband and I decided to give it a try.coconut candy


We knew it wouldn’t be the same for two reasons, first of all Gram always used fresh coconut! I didn’t have any fresh coconut on hand so I had to use dried coconut. Second all of many of Gram’s recipes didn’t have exact measurements and her recipe for coconut candy was no exception. For example she would say “add a bit of vanilla” or “add confectioners sugar”. I’m sure it made perfect sense to her as she had made the coconut candy numerous times before. I’ve had wonderful results with other recipes such as Beach Plum Jelly, which had very little directions or measurements, just an equal amount of sugar and juice.jelly, pantry


After some online searching I actually found a recipe very similar to Gram’s but with some measurements. By combining the two recipes we came up with a wonderful treat to enjoy for Valentine’s Day. When making these coconut candies you have to work quickly as the coconut cream part dries out very quickly.The coconut confectioners sugar dough is also very stiff to work with.  It helps to have another set of hands to work the dough and to roll the balls.coconut candy It would also help to have more chocolate melted that the original recipe called for as I ran out of chocolate halfway through the process. We were all pleased with the result and will try it again using fresh coconut.coconut candy


Alma’s Coconut Candy




3 Egg whites, beaten very stiff

2 pounds of confectioner’s sugar

¼ pound of grated coconut

1 Tbsp. Vanilla


2 boxes semi-sweet chocolate

2-4 Tbsp. Butter (Gram’s recipe actually called for paraffin wax but I opted for butter)




Mix the confectioner’s sugar, vanilla, coconut and egg white together. Roll into small balls and let stand for ½ hour.coconut candy


Meanwhile melt the chocolate and butter over a double boiler. When the chocolate is cool dips the coconut balls into the chocolate, Set the balls on a cooling rake to harden.coconut candy Once the balls cooled store in a cool place or in the refrigerator.


The flavor comes out if the coconut candies are allowed to sit for a day or so. I imagine if you used fresh coconut candies these would be even better.

Welcome to the Simple Homestead Blog Hop!


We’re so glad you’ve stopped by for a visit! Every week we get together here for another hop and I hope you’ll join us. The Hop runs from Thursday morning to Sunday evening. Have fun exploring all the great ideas that have been shared, and add your homesteading, homemaking and homeschooling posts with us if you’re a blogger. I’m sure you’ll be blessed and inspired by all these great ideas!

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Each week we’ll feature the most-viewed post from last week’s hop. Each host also features her own picks from the posts linked the previous week. Visit each of our blogs to see if you were featured this week.

This week’s featured post:
How To Use A Mason Jar Vacuum  Sealer


Our most-visited post from last week’s hop was:
Amish Chocolate Frosting

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Nancy On The Home Front

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As spring rolls around, we start to think of being outside, enjoying the wonderful weather. Now is also the time to think about establishing your vegetable garden – it’s a wonderful way to save money, get exercise, and help your family to eat healthy. And taking care of a garden is a never-ending and rewarding learning experience.


The most important thing to consider is where your garden will be located. Gardens need sun, the more the better. Locate your garden away from any shadows cast by large trees or buildings. Ideally, you would like to have level ground; if the garden is on too steep a slope, the soil will erode and nutrients will be washed away. Ideally you want to choose the sunniest, brightest spot in the whole yard. If you are limited for space you can also grow some vegetables in containers on a sunny patio or deck. I have a friend who lines their front walk with large containers planted with lettuce. It’s very pretty to look at, convenient and you are providing your family with fresh greens.


If this is your first year gardening, you also want to consider the size. It is better to start small and increase your garden size year by year. A 15 x 15 foot plot would be a good size to start with.establishing your vegetable garden


Once you have decided where to place your garden, the next thing to consider is the soil preparation. Well-prepared soil will help you have a successful garden. However, any soil can be improved. Soil quality is determined by three characteristics: composition, pH (its acidity), and fertility. All of these areas can be improved by adding generous amounts of organic humus: compost, peat moss, well-rotted manure or processed manure. Be sure to mix the organic humus thoroughly with your existing soil.establishing your vegetable garden


  • Composition: The composition of the soil determines a great deal about its growing potential. Soil is made up of clay, sand, silt and biological sediment. If the soil is too loose and sandy, or too heavy and clayish, aeration, drainage and nutrient retention will suffer. You can determine the composition of your soil by doing this simple test. Take a shovel and dig a hole about six inches deep and remove the surface layer. Spoon about one cup of the mix into a glass-canning jar and fill with 2 cups of water. Shake it up for several minutes to fully mix the contents. Let the jar sit for 24 hours and look at it. The small clay particles will be on the top; the silt will be in the middle and the coarse sand particles on the bottom. An ideal garden soil would be 40% sand, 40 % silt and 20% clay. Here is a handy graphic regarding soil composition.establishing your vegetable garden


  • pH: Vegetables require a pH range of 6.0 – 7.0, anything above or below that and optimal growth will be affected. pH measures the acidity or alkalinity of your soil. Basically it is a measure of the amount of lime contained in your soil and the type of soil you have. An acid soil has a pH lower than 7, and alkaline soil has a pH higher than 7. You can test your soil yourself with a pH soil tester which you can purchase at your local garden center or online. Your local extension bureau will also test your soil for a modest fee. Once you have determined your pH you can amend your soil. To have your soil tested by your local Extension office you purchase a kit, which includes a mailer, sample bag, and information form. The fee for the basic test in Vermont is $14.00, this incudes the pH and your potassium, phosphorus and calcium levels as well as Magnesium, Sulfur, micronutrients, CES (carbon exchange capacity) BS (basic saturation percent), organic matter and will give recommendations for one crop. When you are filling out the form you can say that you are growing mixed vegetables. This is the best way to find out exactly what shape your garden is in and what the recommendations are to improve the soil.establishing your vegetable garden



  • Fertility: The fertility of a soil refers to its ability to supply nutrients for plant growth. Insufficient fertility cannot support healthy crops. For a soil to be healthy it must have nutrients readily available and a pH value at a recommended level for the plants that will be growing in the soil. The nutrients that should be available for the plants are nitrogen (for leaf growth), phosphorus (root growth) and potassium (overall health). In addition to the essential nutrients there should also be trace elements like calcium and magnesium. Plants growing in a fertile soil will be very strong and healthy and produce well.


No matter what type of soil you have the addition of organic matter will work wonders. Organic matter is plant and animal residues in varying forms of decomposition. Compost is an excellent way to help amend your soil. Compost is already decomposed and can work wonders in the garden. If your soil is lacking nutrients and you don’t have access to compost you can purchase various fertilizers at your garden center.establishing your vegetable garden


Now that your garden plot is laid out and the soil is ready, it is time to decide what vegetables you want to plant. Before you decide what to plant in your garden, determine the eating habits of your family. You want to grow vegetables that your family will eat. There are many sources online that will help you determine just how many rows to plant of each vegetable. One source I found is this simple seed-planting chart: If you want a rewarding, productive garden, do some research to find out what grows well in your area. An excellent resource is your state’s agricultural extension office. You want to make sure you know what growing zone you are living in; when your last frost date is expected in the spring, and when the first date of frost in the fall is expected. These dates will determine when you can plant outdoors, what you should try to grow, since the days to maturation will need to fit in this last frost to first frost window, and when you should be harvesting your vegetables.


You have now decided on your garden location, figured out which vegetables and how many to grow. You must now figure out where the plants will be placed in your garden. The taller crops should be planted on the north side of your garden so they don’t shade the other plants. At the southern end of the garden plant your shorter vegetables, like your carrots and lettuce. By taking time to plan out your garden now you will be rewarded with a bountiful harvest later this summer.


My first goal was to update my goal list each week.  I have to say having a post on goal setting has helped me to stay focused on what goals I want to accomplish this year.

The biggest drawback is to remind myself that I have the whole year to work on accomplishing these goals.goal-setting week2


  1. Find a new hosting site for my blog and make the site secure. Done!! Everything seems to be running smoothly. Still waiting for the site to be secure.
  2. Monetize my blog.  Still waiting to get this started. I’ve had several advertisers reach out to me recently and I’ve also had one company that wants to pay me to promote one of their posts. Now to figure out which advertisers are legit and whether or not the post promotion is real! I’ve always said if it sounds to good to be true it probably is!
    goal setting
  3. Create a cookbook! I have been writing my blog for over six year and have accumulated many recipes online. Time to make them available in a cookbook form, either as a downloadable PDF or in a hardcopy or both! This is in the planing stage and really I just have to start!
  4. Be diligent about getting 10 K steps in 5 out of 7 days each week.Still finding this goal to be very challenging. However this past weekend we were in Connecticut visiting my mother-in-law and the roads and sidewalks were clear and we actually were able to get two walks in! Haven’t made the five day goal yet but I’m getting there!goal setting week 2
  5. As we continue to prepare for an eventual house sale continue to de-clutter. Get rid of at least 250 items from the house this year! As I said this is not going to be a hard goal to reach. I pulled three books from the shelves and I now have a box going in the garage for all the things we are getting rid of. 230 items to go!
  6. Read more books this year!  Didn’t finish a book this week but I’m working my way through an interesting novel called Under the Wide and Starry Sky Not a favorite but I’m this far into it so I want to finish it!goal setting week 2
  7. Have a consistent meal plan each week and prepare ahead!  Haven’t done a lot of preparing ahead with out meals but I’ve been right on track with the planning, except that we were away for the weekend and when you stay with someone else you don’t have total control over what you’re eating. We did bring Friday nights dinner with us and planned a very special dinner with good friends. I was celebrating my birthday and nothing beats celebrating with good friends!
  8. Finish 4 3 knitting projects.  First project completed, I made a hat for my daughter. Second project has begun. Over the holidays one of our neighbors was making the cutest little sweater ornaments. I took a look at the tiny sweater and figured I could make these. What a fun gift idea for the holidays! First attempt was a little rough as I wasn’t exactly sure what I was doing nor had I ever knit with #2 needles! I should get the hang of it and be able to make several of these to give away next year at Christmas.goal setting week 2
  9. Clean out our freezer. First step was to take inventory which I did. I have the inventory now on my kitchen desk so I can see what I have and plan how to use the food up.
  10. Take a few road trips and visit family and friends on the east coast that we will not see so often once we make a move to the west coast. We came up with a list of three people that we would like to visit while we’re still living on the east coast. Now to take a hard look at the calendar and plan these trips. Probably won’t happen until April at the earliest.goal setting


So we’re now into February and I’m looking at my goals and working on them. Having this post has kept my goals in the forefront of my mind. I just have to remember the key is to keep looking forward!



Do you love English muffins? Did you know you could make your own English muffin bread, which tastes so much like a real English muffin? I’ve been making this English Muffin Bread ever since I was first married, long before I ever made my first loaf of “real” bread. It is perfect toasted for breakfast especially smothered with some of my own jam. It also freezes well, the recipe makes two loaves so enjoy one today and put the other loaf in your freezer to enjoy later.

This recipe comes together quickly. Mix the ingredients; place the dough in your loaf pans, let rise and cook. That’s all there is to it. There is no kneading and even if you have never made bread before you will have success with this recipe. When we gather for the holidays I am always asked to bring a loaf or two of this delicious English Muffin Bread. Don’t be surprised if your family falls in love with this bread and you find yourself making it regularly!english muffin bread


English Muffin Bread




5 cups flour
5 tsp. yeast (2 packages)
1 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. salt
¼ baking soda
2 cups of warm milk (120-130 degrees)
½ cup warm water (120 to 130 degrees)




In a large bowl, combine the 2 cups of flour, yeast, sugar, salt and baking soda. Add warm milk and water; beat on low speed for 30 seconds, scraping the bowl occasionally. Beat on high for 3 minutes. I use my Kitchen Aid mixer to make this bread using the regular paddle not the kneading hook.

Stir in remaining flour, the batter will be stiff. Do not knead. Grease two 8 x 4 inch loaf pans. Sprinkle pans with cornmeal.english muffin bread

Spoon the batter into the pans and sprinkle with a dusting of cornmeal on the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about an hour.english muffin bread If I cover with plastic wrap it helps to lightly spray the plastic wrap with nonstick spray.

Bake at 375 for 35 minutes or until golden brown.English muffin bread Removed from the pans immediately and cool on a wire rack.




During the cold winter months there is nothing I enjoy better than a warm bowl of soup. Whether we’re enjoying soup for lunch or making a dinner out of it you will find soup on the menu at least once a week! One of my favorite soup recipes is the Smokey Butternut Squash Soup.smoky butternut squash soup


The recipe is very simple and the only has a few added ingredients other than the butternut squash. One of the ingredients is bacon, which gives this soup a smokey flavor.

Next time you want to try a new soup make this smokey butternut squash soup, you’ll be glad you did. I’m sure it will freeze well but we managed to enjoy it and didn’t have time to put it in the freezer!


Smokey Butternut Squash Soup




1 butternut squash, 3 pounds. Peeled, seeded and cut into chunks

12 onion, chopped

1 red pepper, chopped

4 slices of bacon, diced

2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

Salt and Pepper to taste


4 slices of bacon

½ tsp. Thyme

2 ½ homemade chicken broth




Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil a baking sheet with nonstick spray. Place the butternut squash, onion, pepper, bacon and garlic in a large bowl. Drizzle it with the olive oil and toss to coat gently. Put the mixture into your baking pan. Place in the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the squash is tender.


Meanwhile cook the remaining 4 slices of bacon until brown and crispy. Drain on a paper towel lined plate and set aside.


After the vegetable mixture is done, heat a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the butternut squash mixture and thyme and cook one to two minutes more. Season the soup with salt and pepper. Stir in the chicken broth and use your immersion blender to puree.


Bring to a boil and then simmer for 5-10 minutes or until the soup is slightly thickened. If it is too thick you may add some more chicken broth.smoky butternut squash soup


Serve this smokey butternut squash warm. Leftovers can be frozen or enjoyed another day.smoky butternut squash soup

This recipe is an adaptation of a recipe I found on Damn Delicious.

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