Slow Cooker Roast Beef with Mushroom and Onion Soup mix Gravy

I have been making my roasts this way for as long as I can remember. Usually in the slow cooker, but sometimes in the oven in a covered cast iron dutch oven.  It has been a family favorite for at least four generations.

I use 2 cans of soup and 2 packets of soup mix because we like lots of gravy.

Slow-Cooker Roast Beef with Mushroom and Onion soup mix gravy.

image from Google images

4-5 pound chuck roast
1-2 cans cream of Mushroom Soup (Last night I used one can mushroom and one can cream of celery,  yum)
1-2 envelopes Onion or Onion Mushroom Soup Mix
fresh mushrooms (optional) Leave the mushrooms whole or in large chunks.

Put everything into the slow cooker, turn on high for about an hour, then reduce to low for a few hours until the meat is done to your liking. I let it go until the meat falls apart, about 5-6 hours.

Dynamite My Way

This substantial sandwich is a Rhode Island classic with a few adaptions of my own made over the years.  Make it with as much kick as you want and serve it up on a sturdy roll or in a bowl.   This was the #1 food found in our picnic basket when we went to the beach to dig for clams throughout my childhood.  And then it became the #1 hot dish for family cookouts and get togethers, it’s especially good for tail-gate parties and watching football games.


Dynamite Sandwich Recipe

Makes a lot but it freezes and reheats beautifully.

5 lbs ground beef

4 lbs green peppers diced  (I sometimes us red, yellow and orange peppers just for their color)

3 lbs onions diced

Salt, pepper and red pepper, a dash or two (or 3-4) hot sauce

About a tablespoon Italian spices (combination oregano, basil, etc)

1 large can tomato sauce (this can be a #10 can, or a combination of smaller cans of kitchen ready, chopped, or pureed tomatoes)

Fry the hamburger and drain well. Place hamburger, pepper s and onions in a large pot. Add tomato sauce, adding until mixture is completely covered. The mixture should be nice and thick. Add salt, pepper and slowly add red pepper to taste. Let simmer until peppers and onions are cooked throughout, stirring often. Taste to adjust the amount of kick you want from the red pepper and hot sauce.

This always tastes better if made the day before and slowly reheated the next day. Make sure it’s completely cool before refrigerating.  Serve over grinder roll (traditional) or other sturdy roll.

Pumpkin Fruit and Nut Loaf

This is a large quick-bread which I  have been making every autumn for as long as I can remember.

It is moist and full of flavor from the wildness of the Black Walnuts and tartness of the fresh cranberries.  Fresh or dried apples provide a bit of sweetness along with the raisins, all with a fresh pumpkin base.



1 3/4 cup flour

1/4 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ground cloves

Combine and mix in a medium bowl and set aside.

1 cup sugar

1/3 cup soft butter

1 cup pumpkin puree

2 eggs slightly beaten

In a large bowl, beat sugar and butter together until well beaten.  Beat in pumpkin, then add the eggs.

1/3 cup milk

1/2 tsp. vanilla

Mix together and add alternately with the flour mixture to the pumpkin mixture.

Fold in:

1/2 cup pecans or walnuts

1/3 cup raisins

1/3 cup coarsely chopped cranberries

1/4 cup dehydrated apples or 1//2 cup fresh apples

(If using dehydrated apples let them soak is either water or apple juice for a while before adding to mixture)

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Pour into greased loaf pan and bake 1 hour until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Remembering My Grandparents

 My grandparents, Mémère and Pépère, who were born in the later
part of the 1800’s, were married in Rhode Island in 1920.  They grew up without electricity, indoor plumbing, radio, telephones, processed foods, and even airplanes!  In those days nearly every household had a garden and most likely a few chickens.   Both Mémère and Pépère were born in New England of hard-working French Canadian immigrants.                                                                                                                                   I was blessed to be able to live in their home until I left to start my own family. I can still remember tagging along behind Pépère where-ever he went, as long as he didn’t leave the yard.  When he spent an afternoon watching the Red Sox on television I would climb up beside him on the big red recliner and he would explain what was happening, and teach me to read by reading the big signs around the playing field.  Because of him I was able to read by the time I started school.

Pépère’s life before he married Mémère is somewhat unknown since he wasn’t one to speak of himself, and the past was past, no need to talk about it.  Pépère was born only a few years after the famous Gunfight at the OK Coral and wagon trains still traveled west.  He worked hard as a “mule skinner”, I am still not sure I want to know exactly what his job entailed.  He had a garden where he grew the food that Mémère would “can” to feed her family through the year.

Mémère always had flowers growing in a little flower garden and around the foundation of the house.  Her deep purple Iris’s are still among my favorite flowers.  I remember looking “eye to eye” with the bearded flowers and loving the feeling the softness of their petals.

Do any of you remember seeing dish towels embroidered with the days of
the week and the daily chore for each day? Monday = Wash day, Tuesday = Ironing Wednesday = Mending/Sewing, etc.  This was Mémère’s housework schedule.

On Monday out came the old wringer washer and laundry tubs. It took most of the day to wash and dry the laundry out on the clotheslines. When everything was dry down it came, got sprinkled with water and rolled up to wait for ironing day. She was amazing!

Even while raising six children, she never lagged behind in her house work, her home was always spotless, and the meals were always on the table at the same time each day, no matter what came up.

She baked her bread and pastries, and made her own noodles.  Everything she cooked was made from scratch.  In her free time, she made quilts, crochet afghans, knitted sweaters, hats and mittens,  and even made large wood cut-outs for the yard to amuse the children.  To do these she would enlarge outlines from our coloring books to an average of 36″ tall using grids.  Next the outlines were transferred to thin plywood and cut-out with uncle Al’s scroll saw.  After they were all cut and painted Donald Duck, Bambi, etc occupied the backyard where the children played.

Mémère was also a teacher to her children and grandchildren.  She patiently taught me to do all sorts of needlework and sewing; as well as cooking all the while she would tell me stories of her life, her parents and grandparents and the old days.  One day as she and her sisters and mother were in their kitchen pulling taffy word came announcing the tragic sinking of the Titanic in 1912,  Mémère was 14 years of age and living in Fall River, Massachusetts not far from the Lizzie Borden home.

I often think about all the major changes that occurred during her life-time, she was born in 1897.

In 1897:

William McKinley became president and was later assassinated in 1901

The first gasoline powered car US manufacturer was incorporated.

Grant’s tomb was dedicated

Bram Stoker’s Dracula was published

The Boston Marathon had it’s first race.

She read the news about the Wright brothers flight and the discovery of Aspirin.

 If you think the news is full of war, it’s nothing new.

She read the latest news about the Second Boer War, US/Spanish War, the Philipine-American, War WWI and WWII, the Korean Conflict and Viet Nam, and her last war news was of the invasion of Bagdad.  I doubt she would be surprised to know the world is still at war.

England’s Queen Victoria celebrated her Diamond Jubilee, and Teddy Roosevelt was still alive when she married my grandfather, and she raised a family of six children through the Great Depression.

The experienced the thrill of the Wright brothers first flight as well as all our flights to the moon.

The complete time-line of her life is amazing, and it made think to do my own time-line of events.  If you should do your own you may be surprised to learn what has transpired in the world during just the brief period in which you have been a part of it.

Absolutely No Knead Bread

No Knead Bread

This is without doubt the simplest bread I have ever made; and it’s taste and texture are awesome!  We love it dipped in herb-flavored Olive Oil.



Ingredients for 1 loaf:

(for 2 loaves just double the amounts)

3 C flour  (bread flour is best)

2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. instant yeast

1 1/2 C warm water (no more than 105F)

Whisk the dry ingredients together to combine.

Add the water and using a wooden spoon or large spatula mix until loose and sticky.

Cover with plastic wrap and set in a draft free place overnight (18-24 hours).

Preheat oven and baking container at 400F for 30 minutes.

Pour dough into hot dutch oven, cover and bake 30 minutes; then remove cover, return to oven and bake another 15 minutes to crisp the crust.

Cleaning Up

We have been very busy clearing out brush and junk piles throughout the yard this week as well as building some temporary shelving for storing our food supply and packed moving crates in the house.

With so much work to do it is somewhat daunting to decide where to begin.  Since we really cannot do much inside the house, we are focusing on cleaning up the yard and seeing what potential exists for creating our farm.

To better illustrate just how far we’ve come since this time last year I thought I’d share a few then and now photographs.   In October when we moved to the farm, the grass everywhere was up to my elbows in height.  I spent weeks mowing the front and back yard areas with a push mower.  This year I now have a riding mower, less exercise but I can get more area cut and maintained.

Click on the first image to go to gallery slideshow view.

Waste Water Management System … one year later

It has been one year since we first applied for a building permit in order to begin work restoring our once abandoned 100 year old farmhouse, and which also allow us to connect to the power lines. What has been accomplished during that year? Not much.
Red tape in the form of new laws which had recently been passed in VA making it more difficult to homestead, and a local government representative who has a reputation for being less than helpful has made this a long, stressfilled year.
We have finally learned that the new laws require that every home have a certified approved 1000 gallon septic tank, even if you will be using composting toilets. And, if the land doesn’t perc, a waste water filter system must be installed with the septic tank. Thus all waste water will first flow into the tank, leaving behind any solid waste, then the water will flow through the filter, a container filled with peat, and finally it will be free to flow out onto the ground, or pond, or wherever we decide to send it.
But, it still isn’t as simple as it sounds. First we must find an approved/certified person who will come to the property to inspect and make measurements and take multiple soil samples throughout the property. He determines whether the property will be perced or not. And where is the best location for the system.
He writes a report and sends it to a conservation design engineer who draws up plans for the system, which are then forward to the local VHD agent, who sends it to the State level for approval or denial.
Our guy told us that just about every home in the vicinity is in the same situation and ends up being required to get the same system installed on their properties. But, even with his encouragement, it isn’t a sure thing and will take about two months to learn the outcome.
End the end, if we get approved, we will be able to have our building permit immediately and will have a up to 2-3 years to install the system at a cost of about $14,000.
The goal here is to get electricity so we can start using power tools to work on the house, and outbuildings. I am no good at using hammer and nails, and much prefer using screws for construction.
We expect a confirmation by the end of April, if nothing else develops to slow things down again.
In the meantime we have other things to do, weather permitting.
We decided to use one of the rooms in the house as a storage room for our food stockpile and our household stuff which has been packed in plastic crates.  By building simple a simple shelving system we can store a great deal in a relatively small area.  This will help to empty the RV from all the plastic crates we have been storing inside the living area, and give us some elbow room.
While we wait for the permit, we will install wiring and insulation inside the house, and make or change some decisions on how we will finish the interior of the home.
So much to do, for this week, however, I will be continuing work to establish a garden.
Spring begins on time here, much sooner than it did at the CT home and I am eager to put seeds in the ground.

Meet the Family……… our Goats

Meet our Nubian goats….  that’s Dawson in front, won’t be a year old until May….. Behind him and looking off to your left is Charlotte, and the one looking to your right is Penny, they were two years old in January.  That white bit of fluff in the back is Sophie, our Great Pyranees who will also be a year old in May.    They are quite a group, all camera hams and always ready to pose for photos, except they usually try to get really close to the lens.

They are all lots of fun and are as sweet as they can be.  They love to be petted and go for walks.  The goats follow us around like good little puppies, which, sad to say, is not the same for the dog who must be kept on a leash when going outside the fenced areas.

We can’t wait to see the babies this trio creates.

our goats
Charlotte, Dawson, Penny

Simple cleaning with Murphy’s Oil Soap

Just about everything I have learned about home-making I learned from grandmother.  Her home was always sparkling and her laundry was already bright.

Along with my favorite cleaning ingredients, vinegar and baking soda, I murphysabsolutely love Murphy’s Oil Soap, an old-time product for cleaning just about every area of the home.  It was first introduced at the start of the 20th century and is all natural and bio-degradable.

I use old white cotton socks with a bit of the oil soap for dusting.  It does an amazing job on wood furniture, flooring and all the wood in the home.

When dusting, it acts like a dust magnet, so the job is done quickly and effortlessly.

In the bathroom it will make your fixtures shine.  Begin by washing them with baking soda as you would with a powdered cleanser, then rinse well, and rub on the Murphy’s using a rag, and wipe again.  You can even use it to clean inside the bowl using the same method, but replace the rag with a toilet brush (unless you don’t mind donning rubber gloves).

When considering how to make Simple Living easier, think about how things were done in “the old days” before all the chemical cleansers became the norm.  Living without chemicals helps not only to keep our homes clean and safe for our families, it also protects the environment.