Sunday, April 22, 2012

Let There Be...Shade: Homestead Challenge #2

I must confess--we did this project a few weeks ago. But it definitely qualifies for the Homestead Challenge.

Our house is surrounded by old trees that bring some pretty awesome shade. That is, except for the west side of the house. It takes in a lot of heat in the afternoons, especially in the summer. That side of the house is where the master bedroom, bathroom, and my workroom are. It was added on many years ago, and was cooled by an ancient, unreliable air conditioner that we replaced with a window unit. Even at that, it takes a lot to keep this west-facing side cool.

So we've planted a few trees to help us out. We chose 5 red maples that were under $30 each.  They were great looking, tall and leafy. We bought them from a co-op about 25 miles from home one afternoon when we were on the way to watch our son play baseball. Turns out that wasn't such a great plan on our part. What we didn't consider was the ballgame was about 30 miles past that co-op, on the highway, with that same distance to travel back home. It goes without saying that trees don't like to travel at 70 miles an hour in the back of a truck. We watched anxiously as the poor things were wind-whipped they whole entire trip. The leaves that were down in the truck bed were fine. But the ones up higher and hanging off the back were badly dried up and/or withered. This picture is a bit blurry, but it shows how the leaves looked once we got home.


Fortunately, all of the trees survived, and we spaced them out on the west side of the house. They are thriving, putting out new growth everywhere. Boy, are we lucky! We hope in the years to come, they will provide great shade and keep us cooler in the summer. And as a bonus, I'll get to see some fantastic red leaves in the fall (love me some fall foliage!).  It seems like a good investment, considering what they should save us in electricity eventually.


Saturday, April 21, 2012

Save the Bananas!: Homestead Challenge #1

Ok, so it's the first day of my Homestead Challenge. I'm looking around, trying to decide where to start. After all, there are so many things I want to try. But wait--hang on a minute--what is this sitting on the counter?



Now, I know you've seen this before...
You probably have some rotting bananas sitting on your counter right now, don't you? 

Here's a homesteading "a-ha" moment. Normally, these would go straight to the trash. But this time, I'm not going to waste them. And who doesn't love Banana Bread? (Well, some people don't, I'm sure. But I do!)


Homemade Banana Bread
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 cup mashed bananas (3 or 4)
3/4 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup chopped nuts (if you like)
2 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda

  1. Preheat the oven to 325. Grease loaf pan with shortening.
  2. Mix sugar, bananas, oil, and eggs in a large bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients. Pour into pan.
  3. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of the bread comes out clean, about 60-70 minutes.
  4. Let cook 10 minutes, then loosen sides from pan and remove loaf. Let cool completely before slicing.

It was fast and easy to make, and so yummy too.  And it felt good to rescue those poor-looking bananas from their certain demise! Challenge #1 is a success!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Take the Homestead Challenge

I've been giving a lot of thought and consideration to homesteading recently (in case you didn't notice--I'm quite obsessed!). In my reading, I've come to learn that there is a great movement out there to natural living.  People are returning to their roots in many different ways. The definition of homesteading is as broad as the population. It can be anything from using cloth napkins over paper, to living off-grid and having a well.

The primary reason I began looking into natural living was to find ways to save money. Let's face it, prices are going up on everything, with no end in site. I get a sinking feeling when I go to Walmart and drop $100 on just a few bags worth of items. On top of that, the items I often buy are filled with who-knows-what in terms of additives and preservatives. I want better than that for my family, and I bet you do too! Here are some reasons people are joining the homestead movement:
  • To save money
  • To live closer to the land
  • To embrace homemaking
  • To return to the basics
  • Self-sufficiency
  • Community building
  • Teaching children the value of hard work
  • Preparedness
  • Conservation
  • Environmentalism

But where do we start? As I mentioned, homesteading can be defined in many ways. I've learned that living a more self-sustaining lifestyle includes any/all of the following:
  • Don't waste anything! Use/reuse/recycle everything.
  • Choose reusable items over disposable ones wherever possible
  • Make your own household cleaners
  • Make your own personal care products
  • Explore natural remedies
  • Learn to sew
  • Line-dry your laundry when possible
  • Conserve electricity
  • Be prepared for emergencies
  • Buy in bulk when the price is right
  • Plant a garden
  • Plant fruit and nut trees
  • Preserve your harvest
  • Use captured rainwater for your garden
  • Choose local farmers for your produce, dairy, and/or meat
  • Stock your freezer with meat when you find a good sale
  • Raise chickens for eggs and/or meat
  • Raise cows or goats for milk
And the list goes on...

It's a long list, and might include some things you are already doing. There might be other steps you might be ready to start right away--go for it!  But some of these things might seem totally unattainable to you.  Perhaps you live in an apartment or rental with no prospects for a traditional garden. Think outside the box! Could you grow in containers? I know you've seen those tomato plants that hang upside down-could you try that? If all else fails, support your local farmers by buying from them what you can't grow yourself. If you truly want to incorporate these steps into your life, find ways around what seem like roadblocks.
This list also contains ideas that can't be accomplished overnight. Perhaps you are like me, and you have lots of room for animals and gardens. It doesn't have to be done all at one time. Life is a journey, right? Start small, and don't get overwhelmed. Plan your course of action, and work to move in that direction.

Does this natural lifestyle appeal to you? Are you ready to be as self-sufficient as possible? I am, so why don't we get started...

Take the Homestead Challenge

I am going to try something new every day for the next 14 days that will give me a good start on this new way of living. I may find it's not for me (though I doubt it). I may discover it's what I should have been doing all along. I'm taking tiny steps, making small changes that I hope will eventually lead me to my goal of saving money. I will post my challenges to show you what I'm doing, and evaluate the benefits. My hope is that what I share will educate and inspire us all, and that you might give some of these challenges a try too. Be sure to let me know what you're doing; I want to learn something too! So off we go---happy homesteading!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Essential Oils & Aromatherapy

My first homesteading projects include making some all-natural household products.  In the research I've done so far, I've found that some of these homemade products actually work better than their store-bought counterparts. And who would have thought that the main ingredients are things that are probably in your home right now? The basic items for many of these recipes include baking soda, cornstarch, and vinegar. All of these are natural and cheap!

One of the other main ingredients in almost all of these homemade items are essential oils. I've never used these aromatic oils before, but they add all-natural scent to everything from household cleaners to toothpaste. I found a good source at mothernature.com, and have ordered several of the most commonly used oils to add to my products.

What I hadn't considered about the essential oils is that they are also used for aromatherapy.  Aromatherapy is the practice of using natural oils to enhance psychological and physical well-being. This is an added benefit! My daughter has a lot of trouble with congestion, so I researched which oils would combat that.  I'm anxious to receive my order, and give these a try.

I thought I would share which essential oils I ordered, and what healing properties they carry. Most of these suggest adding a few drops to your favorite lotion, massage oil, or aromatherapy diffuser.

Peppermint
  • a very potent fresh, minty aroma that produces a cooling and refreshing sensation. 
  • used for inflammation, nausea, indigestion, fevers, flatulence, headaches, migraine, liver problems, arthritis
  • vitalizing, refreshing, clears negative energy, increases alertness, stimulating, and cooling
Tea Tree
  • can be used by the drop directly on the skin which helps cleanse and purify
  • used for immune support as well as relief from colds, flu, skin infections, cold sores, warts, acne, burns, athletes foot, thrush candida, fungal infections, viral infections, bacterial infections, inflammation, shock, hysteria, and glandular fever
Lavender

  • used to relax, soothe, restore and balance the body and mind
  • may also be beneficial for skin conditions such as burns, rashes and psoriasis; headaches and fevers; insomnia, PMS, stress, scarring, inflammation, and infection
Lime
  • cleanses, purifies, and renews the spirit and mind
  • used for acne, asthma, colds, dull skin, flu, varicose veins

Citronella

  • a familiar component of bug-repelling sprays
  • astringent and cleansing citronella is also useful for oily, blemished skin and large pores. It can be irritating, so be sure to dilute properly.
  • works as an insecticide, deodorant, tonic, stimulant, diuretic, emmenagogue, antiseptic, and reduces fever
Lemon
  • uplifting, energizing, refreshing
  • used for sore throat, nervous conditions, blood pressure, digestive problems, gallstones, debility, fever, anxiety, as a tonic, astringent, and antiseptic
  • useful as a laxative, for diarrhea, tones the liver, used for asthma, bronchitis, catarrh, throat infections, hypertension, tones the heart, lowers blood sugar, helps arthritis, acne, broken capillaries, varicose veins, clears the head and helps combat depression and combats fever
Orange
  • maintains a wholesome, positively charged atmosphere
  • used for depression, anxiety, constipation, nervous conditions, muscular spasm, as a tonic, sedative, antiseptic, diuretic, for palpitations, bronchitis, flu, improves immunity, promotes the production of collagen and increases the circulation of lymphatic fluids.

Eucalyptus
  • purifies the atmosphere and clears negative energy
  • helps sore throats, coughs, bronchitis, sinusitis, skin infections, ulcers, sores, rheumatism, aches, pains, antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, diuretic, cystitis, nephritis, cleanses the blood, lowers sugar levels, improves circulation, respiratory problems, reduces fever and relieves headaches.

Camphor
  • is an antibacterial, antifungal, disinfectant, insecticide, and deodorant
  • used for nasal and chest congestion, muscle pain, cramps, spasms, joint pain, gout, circulatory system disorders
  • must be diluted before use.  Also, you must take care that you do not inhale its vapors directly as it can be toxic and fatal in some extreme cases.

And to think I was buying these just for the scent! I'm definitely going to research more of these essential oils to find more that might benefit us. And I'll be sure to share what I learn.


Sources: aromaweb.com, , mothernature.com, aromatherapies.net, aromatherapypoint.com

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Hideaway

Can you make her out?
It's our cat, Smokey, hanging out in one of our
huge old oak trees.
She's hiding from our stray cat, I'm sure!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Make Your Own Laundry Detergent

I can't believe I hadn't done this before!

Once I hit the blogosphere, it didn't take long to find some great ideas. One of the first ones I found was how to make your own laundry detergent.  When you have a family of five, you do LOTS of laundry.  And that stuff is expensive! So I started asking about it on my Facebook page. Turns out I was the last to know about this money-saving treasure (well, not exactly the last...). But many of my friends were already doing it, and saving big-time! One friend suggested looking up thefamilyhomestead.com for more information. Her post on making homemade laundry soap gave me all the information I needed to get started.
So I made my first batch a couple of months ago, and just finished it last week. I wanted to use it for a while before I formed an opinion. Now that I have that experience, I will share it with you.

What you need:
1/2 cup Borax Powder
1/2 cup Washing Soda
1/2 bar Fels-Naptha Soap
water
box grater
large pot
large bucket for mixing
funnel
2 empty 1-gallon jugs

I found the Borax, washing soda, and Fels-Naptha soap all on the same shelf on the laundry detergent aisle at my local Walmart. The boxes are each between $3.-$4., and the soap was $1. And considering that you only use 1/2 cup of the powders per batch, you can see that the cost per load is very minimal.  The box grater and large pot are from the kitchen; they wash up just fine after using them.  I bought a 5-gallon bucket for mixing.  It's plenty big; the recipe makes about 2 gallons, so there's plenty of room to stir.  And I recycled 2 gallon-sized milk jugs to hold the finished product.  You could also recycle your laundry detergent bottles for this. Now, just follow these directions:

  • Grate the soap, and put it in the large pot. Add 6 cups of water and heat it until the soap melts, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the Borax and washing soda, and stir until it is dissolved.  Remove from heat.
  • Pour 4 cups of hot water into the large bucket.  Add the soap mixture and stir.
  • Add 1-gallon plus 6 cups of water to the bucket and stir.
  • Let the mixture sit for 24 hours. It will gel during this time.
  • After sitting for 24 hours, give it a good stir to prepare it to be poured.  Place a funnel over the top of a clean, empty gallon jug. Pour slowly; the detergent will be somewhat lumpy.  The recipe makes about 2 gallons.
  • Use 1/2 cup of detergent per load.
I do not have a high-energy washing machine. But from what I've read, this detergent is safe to use in them.  It is very low sudsing.  That was the very first impression I got when I used it for the first time. I added it to my water as it was running, and there were hardly any suds.  However, it's not the suds that make your clothes clean-it's the ingredients in the detergent. Here are a few more impressions and opinions I have on the detergent:
  • It has a different consistency than the store-bought liquid detergents. It's sort of liquid, sort of gel-like--that's ok.
  • Once it has been sitting, it will separate somewhat. This is a picture of my jug that has been sitting untouched for a while. That is also ok.  All I do is give it a good shake to mix it up good each time before I use it.
  • It leaves a very faint clean smell to my clothes after they've been washed. Now, I like a good smelling detergent. I will probably add an essential oil to my next batch to give it more of a scent. Lemongrass oil has deodorizing properties. So I'll just add 1/2 to 1 ounce of that during the mixing process. 
  • It cleans my clothes. That's the most important thing after all, right? My son plays baseball, and had a real dirty uniform after one particular game. It was the perfect test for my new detergent. It was a small load, and I used the 1/2 cup of detergent on a heavy-duty cycle. The uniform looked good as new!
  • The cost savings are incredible! One batch makes 2-gallons for less than $.75. You just can't beat that. For that reason alone, I strongly recommend taking the time to make your own.



Monday, April 16, 2012

Is Homesteading for Me?

I can't express enough how many great blogs I've found. One that peaked my interest early on was The Homestead Experiment.  JulieAnn, her "Hubs", and their 3 young children are from Ohio, and have decided to jump headlong into the homesteading lifestyle. What is homesteading? Homesteading can be loosely defined as a return to a simplistic life. You know-gardening and preserving, poultry and dairy farming-that kind of thing. It was the lifestyle of your older parents or grandparents. I've been following their progress, and the more I read, the more fascinated I become about this natural way of living. And it made me consider my role in the family.

Now, I'm not sure why, but I feel a bit at a crossroads in my life. The headlines today are questioning whether being a stay-at-home mom is actually work. Well, duh...of course it is! But it has made me consider whether there is more I can do at home to benefit my family. The answer to that, for me, is yes. And let's face it, it can't hurt to be as self-reliant as possible these days, right? The times we are living in frighten me sometimes (that could be because I watch too much of the news!).  But really, it would be empowering to know that we don't have to depend on others quite so much for our needs. Finally, our financial situation is changing. We will soon be debt free (the subject of another post to come), and the only areas to save money now are on electricity and food. Considering all of these factors, homesteading seems like a good next move--a better way of life.
Perhaps you share my situation or concerns, but aren't ready to make this kind of commitment.  Not everyone has an abundance of property for all of this. Nor can everyone take the time to milk a goat everyday. But it doesn't have to be all of that for you. I think of homesteading as being as natural and self-sufficient as your situation allows. Do you have the space for a container garden? Can you sew? Could you make your own laundry soap or cleaning products? Do you hunt and preserve your meat? I believe homesteading can be done in some degree in everyone's life.

So I consider--is homesteading for me? (Humor me as I rationalize...)

Do I have the time to devote to this lifestyle?
Well, I don't work outside of the home. At the present time, I have an Etsy shop that brings in more personal satisfaction than money.  And I wouldn't have to give it up, just scale it back some. So why NOT devote my time to making homesteading a way of life? It would be time well spent, and beneficial for me and my family.

Do I have the space for a homestead?
Yes! We live on 3 acres. Our house sits on about 1/4 of that space. We have plenty of room for gardening, fruit tree groves, and a greenhouse. And hopefully, city ordinances will allow us to have chickens and goats.

Do I have any experience to draw from?
We have had a couple of gardens before that did yield some vegetables. And, as luck would have it, my husband is already taking a Master Gardener class! Yipee! His background is in turfgrass management, so he is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to plants and weeds.
I have frozen my vegetables before, but never canned. But I'm totally up for that. As for chickens and goats--eeh, not so much. I do love animals though, so that would be exciting for me.

What would I hope to gain from homesteading?
Oh my, there are so many benefits!

Financially, I would expect to save money on my groceries and necessities. And by making less trips to the store, I would save on gas. Speaking of gas, if our entire property was filled with gardens and barns and chicken coops, we'd spend less trying to keep it mowed.

There are health benefits as well. The physical work required would be much more activity for me than sitting in front of a sewing machine all day. Plus, making my own foods from scratch is healthier than any processed food. The same goes for my soap, shampoo, dryer sheets, laundry detergent, cleaning supplies, deodorant, toothpaste (and the list goes on). All of these things can be made with all-natural ingredients that are often better than their store-bought counterparts.

Self-sufficiency is a huge benefit. I would love to know that, in case of any crisis or emergency, that I was prepared. It would be quite personally satisfying knowing that my hard work was benefitting my family in such an important way.

Homesteading would teach my children responsibility and the importance of hard work. Oh yes, it will be a family affair! I will not get on my soap box about laziness in our society today. And it runs rampant, especially where we live. Children need to learn that nothing is free. Everything must be worked for. Enough said on that subject (I feel my blood pressure going up!).

So, with all of that said, I cannot think of a good reason NOT to homestead. And we might as well start sooner rather than later. Yes, I'm a bit obsessive.  I've already started doing my research, and I'll share my knowledge and experience with you along the way. I'm going to just take one step at a time, and watch the small changes add up to a whole new, natural way of living. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Autism x 2: Karen's Caregiver Story

Living in a small town and being at home much of the time leaves me lacking for close friendships. Being the mother of a disabled child makes it even more difficult to find people to relate to. However, I have had the pleasure to meet some wonderful people online since starting my Etsy shop. And best of all, I've found many mothers of children with disabilities.
One of my first online friends was Karen from North Vancouver, BC, Canada. Karen is a doll fanatic! She is a blogger extraordinaire, writing for several blogs devoted to dolls. She also has an Etsy shop where she sells her doll clothes and other items.  I came to know her when she asked to interview me for her blog. She was so kind to do a feature on my shop, which I will shamelessly link here! We kept in touch afterwards, when I learned she was the mother of 3 boys. It turned out our love of dolls wasn't the only thing we had in common. She shared with me that 2 of her sons are autistic.
April is Autism Awareness Month, and I couldn't think of a better story to share than Karen's. It was a thrill for me to turn the tables on her, making her the interview-ee instead of the interview-er. She was so gracious to agree, and here is her story.

Tell me who you care for, and briefly describe their disability.
Well, I am a mom of three boys. My oldest is 11, and I have an 8-year-old and a 4-year-old. Both my 8- and 4-year-old boys have Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). My 8-year-old also has had angioplasty, and is doing very well. Both of them have sensory issues and are considered "moderate" in the severity of their disabilities.

What are their limitations?
Limitations are a difficult thing to describe. The boys have issues they are working on. We run an ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) program at home that really helps us all as a family to communicate and function well. While there are several non-preferred activities and actions that they each have, I prefer to not look at these things as limitations. I prefer to encourage them to overcome roadblocks, and we go on from there. Labeling the limitations seems to give the limitations more power then they need. Instead, we try to target realistic goals and reach them, surpass them, and move on to the next one. 

On a daily basis, what is the most challenging part of caring for them?
As a mother of three boys, I am told there is a special place in Heaven reserved for us! The most challenging part is sending them to school, where I do not have the control or ability to assist them. Putting your faith in others to guide them as you would is the hardest part for me. Okay- that and the lack of sleep. Mine are not great sleepers.

What is the most difficult thing you've ever dealt with in regards to their disability?
Stigma would be the most difficult thing  I have ever had to deal with. As my children do not have visible trait disabilities as other children with special needs do, if we have a problem in public, I am always met with questions and disapproval from others. Other people always believe they have the right answers and love to tell me "your son is too old to behave like that"- or my favorite "Your child really is spoiled, isn't he? You really need to just smack him...". Or when I let them know he has Autism, they always offer their unsolicited advice as to how I can "CURE" my child. Even when they are well meaning, it is hard to take.

Do you have your situation under control, or are you struggling with it?
With help and support, we mostly have our situation under control. But I do struggle with it the same way any parent struggles with what is handed to them. I try to take things as they come, pick my battles, and take lots of tea and hot chocolate breaks when I can.  I do not drink alcohol, which is a personal choice, and am always hearing from people that, if they were me, they would "take up drinking". It just doesn't sound like the solution for me.

Do you have a good support system?
I think I do. I have a great husband that I have been married to for 13 years. We met when we were in elementary school, so we have known each other for what seems like forever. I have a great family support network. My sisters, brother, Dad, mother-in-law, father-in-law, and sister-in-law are incredibly supportive and a gift! I have a best friend who, even after working 80 hours a week, comes and spends Friday night just watching TV with me and having dinner.  I do not go out alot socially, and it means so much that people go out of their way to make my life easier.

Has your situation affected other relationships in your life?
Absolutely. I am not normally a person who likes confrontation. Being a parent, especially when you have kids with special needs, means you have to become an advocate for your child's rights and a voice to those who's voice cannot be heard. As for friends, I consider myself lucky to have the supportive friends and family in my life, though my circle is small. It is the quality of my relationships, not the quantity, that matters.

What do you do for enjoyment?
I enjoy crafting, I always have. Recently I have turned my hobby into a business. I have a weekly craft column on dolldiaries.com. I also taught myself to sew doll clothes in October 2010 after my mother died to keep myself busy. I started to sew doll clothes for my 5 nieces' American Girl Dolls. From my sewing and crafting, I began blogging on Christmas Eve 2010 (karenmomofthreescraft.blogspot.com), and have had more than 100,000 visitors since then. I also have three other blogs mymapleleamycountrymydoll.blogspot.com, keepcalmandplaywithdolls.blogspot.com, and an American Girl Mystery Book Club blog called americangirlmysterybookclub.blogspot.com. I collect dolls; I have 4 American Girl dolls, 1 Maplelea doll, 1 Australian Girl doll, 1 My London Girl doll, and 2 Springfield dolls. So I have become a writer, blogger, crafter, and Doll Collector in the last two years.
I also bake obsessively ( I have weekly orders at a law firm). You may find this funny, but I am a huge NASCAR fan. I am Canadian, do not drink or smoke, and I love NASCAR. It is a sport I completely understand and am fascinated by. I find the sights, sounds, and smells of NASCAR to be more calming than spa music or aromatherapy. For our tenth wedding anniversary, my husband took me to Daytona International Speedway in Florida, and I did a hot lap with Richard Petty Driving Experience. I loved it! So much so that for Mothers day the following year, I did a hot lap at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and my boys all got to watch! I have been to tracks at Daytona,  Delaware, Las Vegas (twice) and Texas. I saw my first and only live races in Texas, and hope to one day see many more races.  It is the fault of Disney Pixar that I fell in love with racing and something I will be ever so grateful for!

What is your favorite attribute about your sons?
That they are kind and caring, non-aggressive boys. I am so very thankful for that!

What is it about your life as a caregiver that you want others to know?
I would love people to know that it doesn't help anyone when you say "I don't know how you do it!" or "God only gives you what you can handle".  I think that makes them feel better, but doesn't make me feel great. I also hate being called a "Super Mom", as that just puts me on a pedestal I do not deserve. I have good days and not so good days, just like anyone. I yell, have dirty dishes in my sink, the kids rooms are always an organized disaster, and I suffer from C.H.A.O.S (Can't Have Anyone Over Syndrome) despite my best efforts with fly lady, which is a great web site, and one I use as much as I can (flylady.net)
The fact is I do what I can. I get up every morning and put on my "big girl panties" and deal with my life the best way I know how.

How has being a caregiver changed you?
Well, it has helped shape my life in so many ways. I think as an oldest child, I have always been a caregiver. Having kids solidified that. I think I have become more sympathetic to the needs of others regardless of abilities. I think it helps me remove myself from my situation and look at others and marvel at their abilities, despite their own disabilities.  I think it is important to realize that everyone has special needs regardless of diagnosis. No one is so different that they do not respond to human kindness.

Have you learned anything about yourself?
I believe I have. I have learned that it is the connections you make with each and every person that help you become the person you are. I have learned to step back and embrace what others have to offer, take the best of what they have, and mold that into myself and who I am today.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Slow Cooker Saturday: Roast with Onion & Mushroom Gravy

I really found a keeper with this one! It is easy, has very few ingredients, and tastes fantastic. I know I've mentioned before what picky eaters I serve. Well, we have made this roast twice already. That is saying a lot, believe me! I served it with mashed potatoes and corn--yummy!


Roast with Onion & Mushroom Gravy

2 1/2 lbs chuck roast, trimmed
3/4 tsp black pepper
1 can (14oz) low-sodium beef broth
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 envelope onion soup mix
2 Tbsp cornstarch
2 Tbsp water

  1. Sprinkle roast with pepper, then place it in a slow cooker. Add beef broth, mushroom soup, and onion soup mix.
  2. Cover and cook on HIGH for 1 hour. Reduce heat to LOW, and cook for 7 hours or until tender. Transfer roast to a serving platter, reserving juices. Keep warm.
  3. Whisk together cornstarch and water; slowly whisk into juices.  Increase heat to HIGH, and cook uncovered for 1 minute or until slightly thickened, whisking frequently. Serve roast with gravy.