A Birthday Tradition Revisited

In this day and age, it seems that traditions are receiving a bad press.  Many traditions provide a sense of comfort and stability in a world that is filled with chaos. The tradition I started for my wife’s birthday is now over a decade old, and it is a tradition that is now rooted in our family.  Hopefully, this is a tradition our son will carry with him into his marriage, and it will become generational.  What traditions have you started in your family? What have you been doing for years?  What stability have you brought to you and your family’s lives through your traditions?

The following video… I filmed last year, but I was finally able to edit it the way I envisioned these past few weeks.  I hope you enjoy our continued tradition to celebrate the most important person in our household.  After the video, I included the first post I made about this birthday tradition 3 years ago.  Enjoy the flashback.

For the past eight or so years, I started a tradition for my wife’s birthday.  Before this epiphany, I would ask my wife what she would like for her birthday cake?  I would then, like most husbands, go hunt down the desired cake and purchase it from a bakery or sometimes an ice cream parlor.  One year my wife said, she didn’t feel like having a cake or anything.  She was reading about how unhealthy processed cakes were due to all the additives and processed ingredients.  I don’t blame her; I am not a fan of food coloring in my food either.  But, I didn’t have a problem;  she always made my cake from scratch.

My wife knew I was not a good baker, but I felt the gauntlet had been cast down, the challenge had been made, and I needed to step up as a husband and respond in the only dignified way I could and that was to don an apron and start a bake’n. Thus, a new tradition was born.

It is a Woman's World... I love this cook book from 1939.

It is a Woman’s World… I love this cook book from 1939.

I found a book with the most natural ingredients I could find at a Robert’s Bookshop selling used books in Lincoln City, Oregon.  The cook book is pre-WWII, and I figured the war was a definite trigger for over processed foods in our diet as the military rations found commercial labels and entered our grocery stores soon after.

I began searching through the cake recipes and I tried several for my wife over the years.  The first cake I made  was almost a brick, and from then on I got much better.  The cakes from this cook book are not fluffy, light cakes.  They are dense, rich, thick cakes that stick to the roof of your mouth and to your ribs.  They truly are good.  However, three years ago I made Krista the Zesty, Orange Cake, and now I am not allowed to bake a different type of cake or change recipes.  This is the birthday cake that has won my wife’s heart, and so  I have dedicated the past few years to perfecting the recipe and the cake’s presentation.

Icing, filling, whatever it is; it's all good... Here is the page I reference for the orange icing. It leaves a lot of room for interpretation that only a true baker would know. I left the other two recipes in the shot since Prune filling sounds so interesting.

Icing, filling, whatever it is; it’s all good… Here is the page I reference for the orange icing. It leaves a lot of room for interpretation that only a true baker would know. I left the other two recipes in the shot since Prune filling sounds so interesting.

When it rains, it pours… The week of my wife’s birthday this year; I had meetings scheduled every night after school, the snow plow truck broke down, and the propane stove and oven quit working.  At least the wood cook stove, was available to make the cake without any problems.  In fact, I prefer the wood cook stove to the propane one when baking.

The icing on the cake... I usually create the icing for the cake the night before I make the cake so it has time to chill.

The icing on the cake… I usually create the icing for the cake the night before I make the cake, so it has time to chill.

I usually make Krista’s zesty, orange cake in stages.  On the eve before making the cake, I make the orange icing.  After I grated the peel for the orange flavor, I squeeze the fresh orange for the half cup of orange juice needed.  I also grate a lemon for the icing and add the juice of the freshly squeezed lemon for a little more zing.  Once the icing is cooked and thickened, I set it out to cool before placing it in the fridge overnight.

The apprentice... My son and apprentice is adding his eggs to the cake batter and doing a fine job. He has been a great help in the creation of this birthday cake.

The apprentice… My son and apprentice is adding his eggs to the cake batter and doing a fine job. He has been a great help in the creation of this birthday cake.

The next day,  which was luckily the weekend, I began making Krista’s cake.  This year I had help from my son.  He did an excellent job cracking the eggs and adding the ingredients to the mixer to make the cake batter.  He also learned how to juice the oranges and lemon for the batter as well.

In this next shot is our Juice King, which is our citrus juice squeezer.  Krista found it at an antique sale, and it has worked great ever since we brought it home.  I require the use the juicer three different times.  Once for the icing, then for the cake batter, and last for the frosting.

Roll up your sleeves and squeeze... Here we work together to squeeze the 1/2 cup of orange juice required for the recipe.

Roll up your sleeves and squeeze… Here we work together to squeeze the 1/2 cup of orange juice required for the recipe.

When the batter is ready for the cake pans, I have the wood cook stove revving up to cooking temperature.  The key is to not overheat the oven because waiting for it to cool is time consuming.  I close the flue and open the oven vent.  I also open up the ash tray drawer below the fire box and when it approaches the 350 degrees required, I shut everything down except the oven vent.  I tend the firebox making sure it has enough fuel to cover the baking time of 25 – 35 minutes.  Once I have the fuel and the temperature needed, I place the cake pans into the oven on the same rack.  The oven temperature was so even and the cook time so short, I didn’t need to re-position the cake pans once they were in the oven.

Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man... I could not help but to feel rush a little by the hungry eyes behind me and the next line, "Bake me a cake as fast as you can."

Pat-a-cake, pat-a-cake, baker’s man… I could not help but to feel rushed a little by the hungry eyes behind me and the next line, “Bake me a cake as fast as you can.”

The finished product this year was great, except I hate to waste anything, so I added way to much orange icing to the center between the layers of the cake.  I must remember when it comes to presentation, less is more.  However, when it comes to flavor and taste, I still tend to get carried away and put as much frosting and icing on the cake beyond surface allowance.  Good thing I’m not an architect.

Almost finished... All that is left is to add the orange icing and candles on top.

Almost finished… All that is left is to add the orange icing and candles on top.  The toothpicks held the top layer in place to add the frosting.  I placed way too much icing in between the 2 layers, but it was worth it.

Here is Krista’s beautiful, zesty, orange, double layer cake made with orange, lemon zest icing between the layers and drizzled on top of the orange and vanilla butter cream frosting.  Now, my wife has to wait another 366 days for her birthday cake; it’s a leap year.  Unless, our son or I request it as well.



Cleaning the Wood Cook Stove Surface

This week I am demonstrating how to clean a stainless steel wood cook stove surface.  Many of you probably do not have a wood cook stove in your homes. This still may relate to you if you are considering purchasing a wood stove to have a backup heat and cooking source.

I have created a playlist on maintenance for cleaning a wood cook stove. After the several years of owning it, I have resorted to cleaning the stove during my vacations from school.  I usually clean it once during Christmas break, and again during or near spring break in which it is the last burn for the season. As far as cleaning the surface, I have only cleaned it once in the 6 years we have owned it. I probably would have gone longer if it weren’t for requests asking for a demonstration from YouTube.

I can honestly say I love having a wood cook stove.  The cleaning of it is not really that much effort when you consider the stove does not consume electricity or gas to heat the home, cook the food, or heat the water.  If it wasn’t for its versatility in our home during the winter, I would probably not use it much because of the need to gather firewood.  Gathering firewood is a chore.

We hope you enjoy the video.  We are making changes to our YouTube channel to accept our permanent demonetization and we’ll keep you posted on it soon.

Flashback: Lighting the Wood Stove for the 1st time didn’t work out so well.

Flashback to six years ago when we lit our Kitchen Queen wood cook stove for the first time.  We had our challenges trying to figure it out, but now it is easy.  We moved into our place for two weeks during December of 2011 to see if we could manage the home with the extreme cold of a North Idaho winter.   We managed quite well and decided to move full-time onto the property in January.

However, that first night was a very cold night.  The home was hovering at 39 degrees Fahrenheit and by the time we went to bed, the home had warmed up to about 50 degrees.   As we laid in bed shivering, with several blankets and a down sleeping bag as a bed spread.  My wife and I huddled together for warmth and the thoughts running through my mind was, “Oh, no, I bought too small of a wood cook stove, we are going to freeze.”

Needless to say, I did not share these thoughts with my wife as she whispered, “Do you think it’s ever going to get warm?”

I said confidently, “Sure it will get warm; give it some time.”

The next morning our heads were sweating as our knees were freezing.  The heat was trapped on the ceiling and hadn’t extended to the floor yet.  By evening, the concrete floor had warmed up and the entire house was warm to a balmy 85 degrees Fahrenheit.  My wife and I opened the windows to let the outside’s single digit weather balance our home’s temperature.  My wife changed into shorts and a tank top.  I just sweated and enjoyed the warmth.

Once we began to figure out the stove, controlling the home’s temperature has become very natural to us.  Now, we know when to open and close the dampers when to stoke the fire, etc.. Living off grid has been a huge learning curve for us.  However, I would say that it has made me a more rounded person.  I have begun to develop a talent for fixing things that I would never have attempted before.  My wife has also changed quite a bit as we have become more self-sufficient in maintaining and operating our systems.

Cooking with My Wood Cook Stove- Pioneer Pumpkin Pie from Scratch: 4/4

Welcome to Part 4/4, the final video/blog in my video mini series, Cooking with a Wood Cook Stove – Pioneer Pumpkin Pie from Scratch. My final video will show how I maintained my wood cook stove while cooking my pumpkin pie and will show you my Pumpkin Pie all cooked and ready to eat!

I hope these videos encouraged you that you can cook in your wood cook stove and that it is not that difficult. It is like anything new, you just need to use it and practice.

From talking with others, each wood cook stove is a little different. It is my hope that these videos will give you an idea of how to use a wood cook stove and then you can modify as you need for your specific stove.

One tip: Check the wood in your stove and make sure your fire box has the right amount of wood in it to create the temperatures you need. Typically, I keep the wood in my fire box pretty full with a good wood ember base. This keep the temperatures up and for the Kitchen Queen Wood Cook Stove this works great.

Enjoy and Happy Wood Stove Cooking!!!

Krista and Pie_Background

An up close shot of my Pumpkin Pie.  It tasted awesome!

Behind the Scenes:  While I was filing the last part of this video I was running out of time.  My husband and I were needing to pick up our son.  So While I was off camera, I was cleaning up the kitchen and praying that the pumpkin pie would cook in time.  To my delight the pie cooked in time and we were able to pick up our son.

Thank you readers for your interest and may you have a wonderful day.

Cooking with My Wood Cook Stove – Pioneer Pumpkin Pie from Scratch: 3/4

Welcome to Part 3 in my series, Cooking with a Wood Cook Stove – Pioneer Pumpkin Pie from Scratch. In this video you will see how I make pumpkin puree from a sugar pumpkin and how I make my pumpkin pie filling using the pumpkin puree. Also you will see how I maintain and use my wood cook stove to do this. How fun is that? May you enjoy part 3!!!  Part 4 will be coming soon!

part 3A Krista

Homemade pumpkin puree!

Behind the Scenes:  While I was filming this section of the video, the background noise you hear is from our plow truck. My husband was working on it out in our meadow and he finally was able to fix it and moved it to the front of our house, where he finished prepping it to be ready for when the snow falls here at our homestead.  As an extra tid bit;  As I am writing this we still have no snow on the ground, which is very unusual.  We may not have a white Christmas, which would be very unusual.

To all our readers:  Here is a sneak peek at my finished Pumpkin Pie from my final video, Part 4.

Krista and Pie_Background

My finished Pumpkin Pie! Mmmm!!!

Thank you for watching and may you have a wonderful day!


Cooking with My Wood Cook Stove- Pioneer Pumpkin Pie from Scratch : 2/4

Hello and welcome to Part 2 of my video / blog series, Cooking with a Wood Cook Stove – Pioneer Pumpkin Pie. In the video you will see how I make a pumpkin pie crust from scratch. Additionally, I pull out my sugar pumpkin from my wood cook stove and show what it should look like and what you do to test it to make sure it is done. Enjoy and Part 3 will be coming soon!

vlcsnap-2017-12-08-15h52m03s178Behind the Scenes:  When I was making the pie crust, I sure had a difficult time with the crust.  That seems to be the way when I am wanting to put something on video.  What do we call that, Murphy’s Law?  The amount of “patches” I had to do with this crust was starting to make me laugh.  Anyway, the crust turned out great and tasted awesome!

Also, I really like to use coconut oil in my pie crusts.  It gives a nice little flavor to the crust.  And I love using the pumpkin spices individually versus using “pumpkin pie spice”.  I think this adds a better flavor as well.

In part three of my video series you will see how to make the pumpkin puree for the pumpkin pie filling.

Enjoy the video and thank you for reading and watching!!!

Thermosiphon equals free hot water

In this blog post, we created a video which explains how we use thermosiphon to heat our domestic hot water through our wood cook stove. We have received requests to create a video post which walks through the process.  We hope you enjoy the video and our attempt at creating a Youtube presence.  Our channel on Youtube is Living a Sustainable Dream. We would appreciate your support by subscribing to our channel and liking our videos.  This will encourage us to keep making more videos in the future.

Thank you for your support, and may you have a very Happy New Year.

Mark & Krista