Easy Homemade Apple Cider

DSC07277Friday afternoon I plopped down on to the bed next to D and said, “I’ve just made apple cider from scratch for about a dollar. I’m never buying apple cider again.” He replies, “Knowledge is power, ignorance is expensive.” For years I’ve wanted to make apple cider every time I came home with two bushels of apples from the orchard, but alas I don’t have the money to shell out for a cider press or a juicer. So I thought, what would Carla Emery suggest? She knows how to do everything. Sure enough she said to make cider without a press you simply chop up the apples, put them in a food processor, process till you get a mushy pulp and then strain in a fine mesh sieve or cheese cloth. So I did just that. And guess what?! I made a pint of raw organic local apple cider for the cost of something like 60 cents. An 8oz bottle of local raw cider is $9.99 here.

I get that not everyone WANTS to do all these things from scratch but, people, knowledge is power! Just taking myself one more step outside of the commercial food system.

DSC07276To make a pint of apple cider:

  • Take 8 medium apples, chop them in big chunks.
  • Place the apples in your food processor or high power; blend and blend until it turns to a mush. About 30 secs.
  • Scoop the apple mush into a cheese cloth or nut milk bag and squeeze out the cider into a clean jar or bowl. Reserve the apple pulp for the chickens or compost.
  • Enjoy!

DSC07280I used some of the cider to make apple cider donuts! Next up I’ll try hard cider. At the suggestion of a friend who is an experienced brewer, I am going to try a small batch of hard cider.

Happy Monday!

Posted in Cooking and Food, homemade/handmade | 14 Comments

Chopping Wood and Mindfulness

DSC07275 DSC07272 DSC07271 DSC07270 DSC07267 DSC07266 DSC07263 DSC07262 DSC07261 DSC07257We went camping this weekend at 8,000 feet. It was cold and we loved every second of it. This time my friend C’s husband came along and gave us the same lesson in fire starting from scratch that he did back in June. This time I got to really work at making the fire starter and chopping wood. And he showed me just how to use a flint so now I can indeed start a fire without matches.

As C and I were out there hacking away at dead logs trying to own our strokes (easier said than done) I said to her, “this is real feminism! knowing how to start your own fire and keeping yourself warm in the cold.” Don’t get me wrong I am super happy I can vote and be out in the workforce if I want, but typing on a computer is nothing compared to the power of chopping firewood. At first I felt afraid of the machete we were using to slice thin chunks of wood off an old stump, but then I decided to own it and swing my arm like it really mattered. What a difference that made. Suddenly the wood was slicing off like pieces of cheese. Then it made me think what if I went through life really owning all my actions. I suppose that is the root of mindfulness isn’t it?

I came home with a sore right arm, but it was good sore.

When I wasn’t chopping up kindling, I was out looking closely at the ground taking pictures of all the lovely things leftover from the summer: flowers, mushrooms, and fuzzy leafed plants. I put my phone away for the whole of the weekend and it was a good thing as I lived those two days with just the sun to tell time. I think we could all do with that sometimes.

Posted in Life Notes, Travels | 1 Comment

Welcome Fall

DSC05660 DSC02872 DSC_0171I’d like to tell you that we welcomed Fall by crunching in the golden leaves, but really nothing has turned here, not even on the mountain. However the light has changed. Oh how beautiful it is now. The sky is so vibrant and clear and the light warm and low all day.

I wrote last year about how we welcome fall and this is a good post the from another year. Last week I shared some tips for celebrating Fall in your own home over on the Sparkle Blog.

Today we are welcoming fall with a yummy home grown dinner, a walk outside, and playing this neat game I just found. We’ll try and remember what it was like to crunch those beautiful leaves that were sent to us all the way from Vermont and Kansas a few years ago.

Happy Equinox everyone!

Posted in Life Notes | 6 Comments

In My Garden

DSC07233DSC07239DSC07238DSC07237DSC07236 DSC07232 DSC07231 DSC07230 DSC07228Here is my late summer garden, lush as can be and filled with spiders and flowers and eggs!

We got our first egg last Saturday. It’s as tiny as can be. We split it between the four of us by putting it in our Sunday morning pancake batter. Funny enough I found out who laid it and it was our Jersey Giant, Marta. The one that was a meat bird but we couldn’t leave her all alone at the feed store. Since then we’ve gotten three more eggs and all have been eaten. Today there are no eggs and I am trying to not keep going out every twenty minutes to check on them.

As for the plants, well summer’s heat is finally dropping and blossoms are coming back on the green beans and peppers and even the tomatoes. The nights are cooler now at 68 degrees and when I open the door to the garden early in the morning I almost get a chill.

The view of the garden from the blue gate looks much the same, but if you look at the garden from the purple gate you’ll see in the back that the okra has grown higher than the roof of our house! I feel like I should really call it a season. How many bags of frozen okra and jars of pickled okra do I need? At 90 pounds of tomatoes I kind of want to call it there too and start planting carrots, radishes, beets and chard but there are hundreds of little yellow flowers all over the plants and well, I can’t help thinking we could still have fresh tomatoes into October. Didn’t I tell you we’d have a second growing season after the summer was over.

As for that second picture that’s cumin sprouting. I’ve tried all summer to get that cumin to sprout and it took several tries but it’s finally up. I use a lot of cumin in my cooking and so I figured it would be well worth my time to plant some and save the seeds.

And that poor butternut squash plant. It was attacked by squash vine borers. But I managed to control them quick enough and save most of the vines. I lost one whole plant though. But I do have ten nice sized squashes. Maybe I can get just a few more out of this plant before November.

How are your late summer gardens doing? Any fall planting yet?


Posted in Garden | 7 Comments

Preserving the Harvest

homegrown canned tomatoes|kathrynpagano.com homegrown heirloom popping corn|kathrynpagano.com homegrown canned peaches|kathrynpagano.com homegrown pickled eggplant| kathrynpagano.comThis season has kept me so busy in the kitchen. As you can see from all the square photos, I’ve rarely picked up my camera, just using my phone! Between harvesting daily from the garden, putting up jam, peaches, tomatoes, pickling veggies and now making apple sauce- I am always making something. The canner and various jars are always at the ready.

I haven’t been writing here all that frequently because of all of this. As of writing this, I have harvested 90 pounds of tomatoes and preserved them in various ways via freezing, canning or drying. I can’t tell you how many pounds of okra we eaten, frozen or pickled. I think I might like pickled okra better than pickled cucumbers.

I’m feeling mighty proud of that pint and half jar of homegrown heirloom popcorn. Should get me through to December maybe… Next year I’ll plant way more.

DIY shelf and homegrown butternut squash| kathrynpagano.comI built this small shelf  and put it in what S so lovingly calls the “larder”. It’s really our laundry room/pantry with terrible lighting. I hope to have it filled with winter squashes by November.

canning apples| kathrynpagano.com prepping tomatoes to be canned| kathrynpagano.comAbove is my stove two times this week. The girls are getting sick of seeing me always in the kitchen. I’m not sick of it yet though. Maybe when I top out at 100 pounds of tomatoes I”ll say enough is enough.

Honestly there is no greater satisfaction than looking in your pantry and seeing a shelf full of food that you know exactly where it came from, what went into growing it and where it’s been. Homegrown for the win!

Posted in Cooking and Food, Garden | 7 Comments

Drip, Drop…

DSC07208 DSC07206 DSC07205 DSC07200Raindrops

Softly the rain goes pitter-patter,

Softly the rain comes falling down.

Hark to the people who hurry by;

Raindrops are footsteps from out the sky!

Softly the rain goes pitter-patter,

Softly the rain comes falling down.


We’ve been reading A Child’s Book of Poems. This just seemed appropriate for all the rain we’ve gotten lately.

Posted in Garden, Life Notes | Leave a comment

Mossy Desert

DSC07163DSC07199 DSC07197DSC07191DSC07194DSC07189DSC07187DSC07192DSC07184DSC07185 DSC07183 DSC07181 DSC07177 DSC07172 DSC07168 DSC07166Every Thursday is Nature Day at our house. Whether we go for a walk around the block, venture further out to surrounding nature trails, or visit one of our favorite outdoor gardens, we get out-rain or shine.

This past week we headed out with our good friends to our favorite spot by the river in Sabino Canyon. It’s about a mile and a half hike each way. All three girls walked this no problem.

For the last two months we’ve had one or two rain storms a week. The most recent storm dropped 4.5 inches on the mountain in a few hours. With all this rain the desert has completely transformed. It’s green so green that the mountain has gone from looking brown to green. There is moss growing in amongst the cactus and we we found ferns! Not something I thought would grow down here.

We saw deer, desert frogs, hawks, and so many bees and butterflies. It was such a great day to be out and about. On our way out a huge storm was rolling in and we could hear the thunder from 30 miles away. That storm rained all afternoon and well into the evening.

I’m feeling so grateful for all the rain.

Happy Tuesday!

Posted in Life Learning, Life Notes, Travels | 11 Comments

Peanut Butter Cookies

IMG_1766I had a hankering a few weeks ago for some peanut butter cookies. Now, there are a trillion recipes for peanut butter cookies out there. I’ve got lot of friends who are paleo or gluten free and I wanted to add a gluten free cookie recipe to my repertoire. I looked at and pinned a dozen recipes, all of which I thought might work.

I tried the three ingredient version but those we so liquid I couldn’t even do scoop and drop cookies, so I added some coconut flour to them and they turned out great. Even V who hates peanut butter really liked them.

So, because you need just one more peanut butter cookie recipe here’s mine:


  • 1/2 cup of peanut butter… creamy/crunchy/homemade doesn’t matter
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup of honey
  • 2-4 tablespoons of coconut flour


Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix peanut butter, egg and honey together in a bowl. Mix the coconut flour in one tablespoon at a time until you have a mixture that you can roll into a ball. Coconut flour absorbs a lot of moisture so be careful or you cookies might be really dry. When the dough is ready roll it into balls the size of walnuts, place them on a baking sheet and make the classic criss cross pattern with fork. Bake for 10 minutes. Let cool completely before eating.

Don’t worry about storing them… this only makes about 12 cookies and they will all be gone before the day is out.



Posted in Cooking and Food | 8 Comments

In My Garden

DSC07154 DSC07153 DSC07152 DSC07151 DSC07150 DSC07149 DSC07148 DSC07147 DSC07146 DSC07145 DSC07144 DSC07142 DSC07141 DSC07140 DSC07139 DSC07138I think the operative word this week is creep. Those tomato plants and are just creeping and crawling and taking over every edge of the garden that they can. I can’t even get to the orchard from the house side of the garden.  And so many new tomatoes are on vines! the last tally for tomatoes was 75 pounds.  The okra too is now taller than the pergola. I’m going to need a step stool soon to harvest the top fruits!

The zucchini is gone, soon to be replaced by lettuce and beets and carrots. The cucumbers failed again this year. Having recently tried dilly beans I might forgo trying to grow pickling cucumbers and just grow eating cucumbers in a pot like lemon cucumbers or Armenian cucumbers.

The bell peppers are coming along though something is chewing nice little round holes in the leaves… no rest of the weary gardener.

I’m excited about the strawberry plants sending out shoots and making new plants. Finally, after all summer of seeding and re-seeding the cumin it has sprouted. I use a lot of cumin in my cooking and I really wanted to have a homegrown source. I’m excited to watch it grow as I have no idea what the cumin plant looks like. Lastly the mint I planted in an old dutch oven has finally become strong and taken root. It’s even blooming. I’ve still got my fingers crossed because I am really good at killing mint.

We’ve had three rain storms in a row this past week and I’m so glad because it brings the temperatures down to nice 85-90 degrees and does all the watering for me. The chickens are really happy about it too. Though I’m sure they don’t mind the ice water footbaths I make them twice a day on the really hot days.

It might not seem like it but I’m already thinking and planning for the fall garden. I’m not sure what this winter will bring weather is colder than normal or warmer than normal. But I am looking forward to brassicas and root veggies again.

Happy Wednesday!

Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments

Four Turns

DSC07131 IMG_1734DSC07134DSC07133DSC07132DSC07135 DSC07130I think this is the most waldorf-y birthday yet, and it was lovely. We started the night before with the retelling of her birth story and looking at some pictures since she was born in the middle of the night. In the morning I made her favorite soaked spelt pancakes with maple syrup and she opened her few gifts.

Over the past six years (since S was born) I’ve been slowly accumulating the little things for the making of a special birthday. The girls have come to love the birthday ring and the banner, and look forward to putting on their crowns every year. There is something so lovely about a plastic-free birthday.

V asked for a king and queen for her castle since we only had a wooden princess and those were her first gifts. I didn’t even bother to wrap them. They looked so pretty this way on the table. I do like wrapping with fabric and ribbons though and reuse those all year long.

I made two batches of cupcakes, one for the traditional foods eaters and one paleo. Both vanilla since V loves vanilla.

A birthday wouldn’t be complete without a new birthday dress too. This one was made from a japanese pattern book. I didn’t intend to make a dress until V told everyone she met that I was going to… for days and days before her birthday. Clever girl!

We had a small party (really a playdate with cupcakes) of which I took only one picture and that was a group photo, there was just too much fun being had.

It was a joy for me to have the time and energy this year to really celebrate her. Turning four is a big milestone and she moves out of babyhood. I can no longer say she is a baby if she can read simple books and write (all of her own doing). She still lets me snuggle and squeeze her but will tell me when I’ve given her one kiss too many and will ask me to take it back. She loves to play faires and explorers, but also likes to play mommy and Star Wars. She wants to be a Black Mamba hunter when she grows up, or a geologist. She’s silly and funny and full of compassion. She can be sweet and lovely one second and terribly frustrating the next. I love her fiercely and hope very much that she will be my friend when she grows up.

Happy Monday everyone!

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Posted in Life Notes | 6 Comments