My Homemade Chili, a Family Favorite Quick Meal

Quick Meal

This is what we considered a “quick meal” while the children were growing up.  I regularly made it with 3-4# ground beef and served it with my  cornbread and shredded cheddar or monterey jack cheese on top.  Now, with just Farmer Graybeard and myself, I’m learning to make it with just 1# burger….  For the family portion, just proportionately increase all ingredients.

Family Chili

1# lean ground beef
1 small or medium sweet onion, finely chopped
2 cans condensed tomato soup
1 can light red kidney beans
chili powder, to taste

In your smaller stock pot , brown the ground beef and chopped onion.
Add the chili powder & mix in well.
Add the soup & kidney beans and heat thoroughly.

Serve with cornbread tortilla chips , grilled cheese, or hush puppies.

*This recipe can be easily multiplied for larger batches.
Use one can of soup per pound of ground beef, plus one.
So, for 3# meat, add 4 cans soup.  That was my typical batch while the children were growing, and I would use a large sweet onion.
This travels well in a slow cooker for potluck dinners.

Corn Bread in a Cast Iron Skillet

Corn Bread Recipes

In my opinion, this is the only way to make Corn Bread!  I will share with you the recipe that my mother used when I was growing up, and I will share my slight changes.

Mom’s Recipe

2C degermed yellow cornmeal
2T white, all-purpose flour
2tsp baking powder
1tsp baking soda
1tsp salt
2C soured milk
1 med egg, beaten
1/4 C shortening

Preheat your oven to 450*, putting your 8-10″ skillet & shortening in when you turn on the oven.

In your  batter bowl mix together the dry ingredients.
Make your soured milk by putting 2T vinegar in your measuring cup and filling to the 2C line with sweet milk.
Add the egg to the milk, then add to the dry ingredients, and mix well.

Once your oven & skillet are hot, carefully remove the skillet and carefully swirl the now melted shortening around the pan to coat, then pour it into the cornbread batter.  Stir in.

Pour the batter back into the hot skillet and return to the oven.  Bake for about 40 minutes.  It is done when browned and releases from the sides of the skillet.  It should turn out of the skillet easily when inverted over a plate.

Cut into wedges, butter, and serve hot with brown beans, chopped onions, and fried potatoes, or with your favorite chili recipe.

My Corn Bread Recipe

Basically it is the same recipe, but with whole grain ingredients.

2C organic, stoneground cornmeal
2T whole wheat flour
2tsp baking powder, non-aluminum
1tsp baking soda
1tsp salt
2C yogurt, plain or vanilla
1 large farm egg, beaten
1/4 C oil

Put a dry iron skillet in the oven and preheat to 450*

In your batter bowl  whisk  together the dry ingredients.
Put the yogurt and egg into a mixing bowl  to mix thoroughly, then add to the dry ingredients, and stir together.

Carefully remove the hot skillet from the oven when it reaches 450*, and pour  oil  in the hot skillet.  Carefully swirl it around the skillet to coat it, then pour into the batter.  Stir it in, then pour the batter into the hot skillet, and carefully return the skillet to the hot oven.

Bake it for 20 minutes.  Important to note the difference in baking time!
It is done when browned and releases from the sides of the skillet.  It should turn out of the skillet easily when inverted over a plate.

*A different substitution can be made by using buttermilk instead of soured milk or yogurt.  In that case, bake for 30 minutes.  I have absolutely no idea why the baking times are different, and they may vary differently for you.

Cast Iron Cooking

As you have been reading and learning about living on a homestead or farm, you have seen articles about cooking with cast iron.  You may already have skills and knowledge, and hopefully this article will teach you something new.  Most likely, however, is that you have never even tried or perhaps tried and feel like you failed when you cooked in cast iron.  There is a specific set of skills you need and I will teach you as I taught my own children.  I didn’t have much to give them when they grew up and left home, but they got an iron skillet and knew how to use it.

A Brief History of Cast Iron Cookware

For my family, cooking in cast iron goes back for generations.  We didn’t skip a generation, since Grandma Honey and Farmer Graybeard have always appreciated the old ways.  Our mothers & grandmothers fried our taters nearly every day in a Cast Iron Skillet.

Hint Number One

Preheat your skillet before adding food.  Put your empty skillet over a medium flame and heat it until it turns. This is a term my sister uses that does describe it, and you will begin to recognize it as you get more familiar with your skillet.  You will know it when you shake a few drops of water on the hot skillet and they dance across the surface.

At this point, add your oil, bacon grease, or whatever fat you are going to use and swirl it carefully around the bottom of the skillet, then add your food.  For me, that is quite commonly small pieces of potatoes for fried potatoes, or my corn bread batter.  I will add my corn bread recipe for your enjoyment.

Once the potatoes are in, I often add diced onions and/or green peppers to the top, a bit more bacon grease, and then put the lid on.  The steam helps make them more tender.  Every few minutes, turn the potatoes over to cook on all sides.

Hint Number Two

Add meat to a cold pan.  This seems to contradict my first hint, and I guess it does.  This is why cooking with iron seems tricky.

When I am pan frying bacon, sausage, hamburgers, franks, or other meats, I typically start with a cold pan.  Adding meats to hot pan can cause them to stick to the pan from the shock of the temperature change.

Note that the meats I mentioned do not require additional fat to cook in your iron skillet.  Cook them on low heat, and use a lid for most of them.  The steam created will help the sausage, burgers, and franks cook thoroughly.  Sometimes, you may want to add a bit of water to breakfast or smoked sausages.

Bacon is a bit different.  Once you have a family, one skillet of bacon isn’t enough, sometimes even two won’t get it, so you have to add bacon to a hot skillet as you take out the already cooked bacon.  That’s the only way there is to do it.  I like to take the cooked bacon out of the hot oil and put in a cold iron skillet or griddle to drain.  I then use that pan to cook the eggs once the bacon is done.  Just move the drained bacon to the serving platter to cook the eggs.

Cook your eggs gently in a warm skillet, not a hot one.  If your eggs get browned, you are overcooking them and that explains why they may not be a favorite food!  Cook them through, but not browned.  Watch for a post that shows how to cook them properly.

Hint Number Three

Yes, wash your iron skillets in hot, soapy water!  Don’t let them soak in the water, but most certainly wash them.  Personally, I don’t want today’s fried taters tasting like yesterday’s smoked sausage or hamburgers.

If you are letting your skillet get really hot before adding food, and using your oil, you are going to find that they become non-stick with use.  This means that clean-up is easy to do.

If you find that you need to scrub the pans, start first with Nylon Pan Scrapers and then use a Scrubber Sponge  or Scouring pad.   You do not need something harsh like stainless steel or copper scrubbers.  There is no reason to scratch your ironware.  That just makes the prone to making food stick.

After washing in the hot, soapy water, rinse with really hot water.  Let them air dry upside down, and you really won’t need to baby them with retreating or heating on the stove/in the oven, or any of those other steps that make ironware seem to be more trouble than they are worth!

With that said, you definitely want to hand wash your cast iron.  Never, ever put your iron pans in an automatic dishwasher.

Hint Number Four

As you are accumulating your iron cookware, you will find yourself needing several pieces.  Two or three 10″ skillets, 1-2 round griddles , and maybe a larger, two-burner griddle.

I don’t have any cast iron Dutch ovens for use in the house, although I have considered the enamel-coated version.   Some day,  will write about cast iron to use in your firepit, including how to use a Dutch oven there.

In the house, I typically use stainless steel stockpots and saucepans.  I will write an article about them another time.

Harsh Weather Dressing on the Homestead

Winter Insulated Dressing

Well, my previous article is all fine & dandy for late spring through early fall, but what about in the winter?   I want to introduce you to Carhartt for Women and for men.  There are several different styles, such as this barn coat .  When you need it, these insulated overalls are handy.  Yes, I know I said that overalls are a stereotype, but I was talking about denim overalls !  LOL  Actually, there is nothing wrong with denim overalls, if that is what you want.  Just don’t think you MUST wear them.

If you prefer an all-in-one garment, try insulated coveralls .  We actually own and use both options, insulated coveralls or jacket and overalls.

Keep your Face and Neck WARM

Neck scarves are nice for extra warmth, but remember that I want you to be safe around equipment, so I suggest a neck gaiter or a balaclava.  For men, a full beard is also nice, but you bearded men can add these to your winter wardrobe, too!


Other things to consider are your gloves.  Buy your brown jersey gloves by the dozen.  You should be able to find them for $1/pr or less.  These gloves with dots are also an economical option, since they can be worn on either hand!  When the weather is more severe, wear something like these ski gloves.

Long Johns

Dressing in layers is always important. Long Johns! Grandpa wore them when he farmed, you’ll love them, too.  Tops  and Bottoms   Get the best quality you can afford.  Farmer Graybeard likes to put on his Tee shirt, then his Long Johns, then a sweatshirt or hoodie, then the insulated coveralls.   He has no plans of getting cold! LOL  He was thankful when Grandma Honey found tall sizes for him.  So much more comfortable for him!

What about your FEET?

Your feet need love, too.  These are my personal favorite wool socks  that I actually wear around the house.  I put on my normal socks , then the wool socks over top and pad around the house with my feet & calves warm.  Farmer Graybeard wears the same ones in his boots.

To save on laundry, we wear lighter layers next to the skin (tees, socks) and cover them with heavier layers.  The lighter layers are changed daily, while the outer layers may be worn numerous times before washing.

Don’t try to skimp on your boots.  You NEED good support working on your feet all day!  Red Wing boots are a favorite here, but there are many good name brands.  A rubber boot or muck boot is also a necessity.  If you are working with larger animals, you may wish to consider getting steel toe type boots to protect your feet.

Since you don’t really want to TOUCH those boots with your hands after you’ve been to the barn, you can make a handy boot puller.

Don’t forget the Farm Kids

With a little searching, you can find all these products for children, too.  They need to be as warm as mom and dad.   Kids’ Insulated Coveralls or Two-Piece Insulated Gear for Kids

 I stumbled onto a way to keep little tootsies warm and dry out in the snow.  Put a pair of wool socks on them after their normal socks, but before their snow pants.  This provides an extra layer of warmth for their feet and legs, then use just plain rubber boots.  They will wear the rubber boots year round, but with that extra layer of wool socks, they are best protected in the winter.  I think I discovered this with our 6th child … yep, years of frustration solved!

I probably don’t need to mention this to you, but it is sure handy to have a plastic tote box just for kids winter outerwear.  Each fall, bring out the box to see what-fits-who this year, then pack it away again in the spring with laundered and thoroughly dry & repaired coats.  During the summertime, as you go to yard sales, watch for good gear at cheap prices.  That is how we got most of ours.  Yard sales and thrift stores and hand-me-downs from friends.

Of course, the same will be true for rubber boots.  Watch for sales and keep all sizes on hand.  You will get unexpected or infrequent visitors who will inevitably arrive without boots, but want to help you feed the chickens!

Add your comments:

Let me know what challenges you face while dressing for the farm and homestead.


What Clothes to Wear on the Homestead

Overalls?  Maybe, but Probably NOT!

Surely you don’t have the idea that you need a new pair of overalls to be able to farm your homestead! I hope my blog here will help bust some crazy misconceptions and stereotypes that you may have seen.  But, what clothes DO you wear on the homestead?

This post was inspired by this article:  Recovering the Lost Art of Dressing Up

And by a 4-week Design Your Wardrobe   with Seamwork magazine  by Colette.

What clothes should you wear on a Homestead or Farm? One of your first considerations has to do with serviceability and safety.  You don’t want your clothes and hair loose when you are working around equipment. Please be safe!

For Mr. Graybeard’s first 30 years or so, he wore jeans & tee shirts, as you probably wear.  Once he tried some Dickey’s slacks & shirts, he hasn’t looked back. These uniforms are typically worn by mechanics, truck drivers, and the guy behind the counter at the parts store, but you can wear them, too!


Here is one popular style of slacks made by Dickies.  They make several different styles, so you can find what works for your own comfort.  I suggest the flat front.


Shirts come in short sleeves or long sleeves and the ever handy pockets.  We prefer the ones with two pockets on the front.  One carries a 3×5″ spiral notebook for the daily To-Do List and a pen or pencil.

One of the cool things about Dickies work clothes is that they also come in Tall sizes! Mr. Graybeard is 6’1″ and this is great for him!  My farmer is now retired, so Dickies are now his “town clothes”!  They are comfortable, as well as neat.

Laundry Service

Now, let me include you in a little secret. Check the laundry services in your area, you know, the ones that launder the work clothes for your favorite auto mechanic. Some of them will deliver to you with a subscription service for two people. I planned to do that when my son became a teen, but life circumstances happened to derail our farming plans when he was old enough. Sad. However, it is worth taking the time to call around to the local ones and find out what they will do.

The pricing structure was going to be about the same for us as purchasing the clothes & laundering them myself. If you are going to launder them yourself, you may want to get a separate machine for work clothes or even use the laundromat. If the pocket rips off or something, then you have further work to do for repair. All of that is included in your work clothes laundry subscription. For me, though, having this subscription was going to save me some time each week at no additional cost.  Pretty sweet!

Tee shirt

Under that long sleeve work shirt, you can wear a Tee Shirt. We recommend the pocket tees, too.

And Clothes for Women

Dickies also makes work clothes to fit women well, too.  While I prefer to wear this Denim A-Line Skirt and plain tees, I know that skirts aren’t for everyone, especially on the homestead!

What do you like to wear?



Sewing Clothes that Fit

Clothes that Fit Me Perfectly

I am 5’8″, with long arms, long legs, and a long back.  Off the rack clothing is not made to fit that body type, especially with a larger bust.  Even as a child, before that bust issue, I loved having clothes that fit me perfectly.  My mother was a talented seamstress, and I walked in her footsteps.  I made my own clothes in college, and later made clothes for my own children.

I strive to wear modest garments, and wanted that for my own children.  For boys, buying tee-shirts and jeans was a pretty straightforward process, but for my girls … Ooo-la-la!  I didn’t want my 6yo daughters wearing dresses cut such that they shouldn’t be worn by adult women in public!  So, being able to sew dresses for my own girls was fabulous.

The Peaceful, Calming Hobby

As a hobby, sewing  provided me with a creative outlet that also calms me.  Even when I have to “unsew” a seam, I have peace in the process.

A New Series

I want to start a series about sewing garments and home decor.   I invite you to join me in a creative community of other people who also love to sew.

Colette Patterns, Snippets, and Seamwork

At Colette , the patterns are designed to actually teach you how to sew, and to help you get the best fit from each garment.  They are my favorite pattern company  for women’s garments.  I rarely have to alter the patterns, but when I do need to do this, the directions are right there, and Sarai Mitnick & her staff are very helpful, too!

In addition to the Shop itself, there is a Blog with archived tutorials, some free patterns & downloads, and an email list called Snippets for weekly hints & tips!

Then, there is Seamwork, a monthly magazine membership, bringing you a library of wardrobe-building patterns, updated with at least 2 new designs every month, for only $7!  Here is a link to get your first month for just $3!

You’ll also get articles, inspiration, and exclusive pattern hacks delivered right to your inbox monthly.  Please join us!