Sunday, April 7, 2019

Spring has sprung

  It's always in the very beginning of spring, April, that pineapple comes on sale. It hasn't hit the rock bottom price yet, but I did get it for $1.29 each.  That's not a bad price at all.  I have [so far] dehydrated 15 pineapples and made pineapple teriyaki sauce to can with 2 more.  If/When the price comes down,  I'll be canning it too. I still have a couple of jars from last year in the pantry, but that's it.  

  Today (Sunday) I thought I would get some pork steaks out of the freezer and make them for supper. I hit a couple of really good meat sales this week and bought a  butt load of stuff. There's a market not far from here that holds a giant sale every year. Sometimes I go, sometimes I don't. The prices are frankly not that much better than the sales I generally hit, but the quality of their meat is consistently good and local, and I like that.  This week between 2 markets I got arm roasts, pork loins, corned beef and bacon. I spent Friday canning the pork and beef and corned beef. About 26 quarts all in all canned.  I cut up most of one of the pork loins into boneless thick chops and 1 small roast, and they went in the freezer. Today I wiped down all the jars and put them in the pantry and realized I still had 2 pineapples sitting there on the island that needed to be used. So I thought I would make a pineapple teriyaki sauce for the pork today and make a big batch and can it. So I did.  I set aside a pint (more or less) to use for supper and beyond. The remaining stuff was 10 half pints (jelly jars). I water bath canned that stuff.  I wanted to get in here and write the recipe down before I forget.

    Pineapple Teriyaki Sauce/Marinade  (Approximately 6 pints)

     2 very ripe pineapples (you could use cans of canned crushed pineapple) 
     2-3 cups brown sugar
     1 cup of low sodium soy sauce
     1/2 cup rice vinegar (or apple cider)
     1 tbsp ground ginger
     1/2 tbsp  each  onion powder and garlic powder
     1/2 tbsp  black pepper

 Cut the ends off the pineapple and pare the outer peel off. Be sure to get all the eyes. Then cut the pineapple into fourths and cut out the core. (NOTE**  I am the proud owner of a VitaMix blender.  That baby will puree plywood.  I used the cores after I cut them out because I hate to waste anything. After pureeing the pineapple and pouring it into my stainless steel dutch oven, I pureed the cores by themselves to see how they would be. It was great, so I pureed them all and poured it into the pan. I don't know if a regular blender can do this, but it would be worth trying.  Maybe. )   I then mixed all the ingredients in the pan and stirred well and brought to a simmer over low heat. At this point taste it. If it needs more sugar, add it. If it needs more soy sauce, add it.  You know I'm not good at measuring things when I cook so...don't trust me !!  lol  This makes the 6 pints.  I water bath canned it for 15 minutes. Everything has sealed, so it should be okay.  I figured between the rice vinegar and the pineapple, there's plenty of acidity, making it ok to water bath. Pressure can it, if you want to.  I considered it, because I have a new Carey Canner (electric and wonderful. lol).  I looked in several places online for instructions, and it seems to be the general consensus that water bath canning is good. There you have it. (If you're just a normal person and you don't want to can this sauce, you could  divide everything into 4ths and make a one or two use batch. I think.)

  If you aren't impressed yet, here are the meats I canned:

  For the amount of money I spent, I have roughly 40 meals at a cost of about 3.50 per entree.

  Sometimes it seems like I spend a lot of money on our meals, but honestly, I am very thrifty.  I was down to one jar of corned beef, 3 jars of pork loin and a few jars of chicken from the past 2 years. And I think there may have been one jar of roast beef left.  These canned meats taste great, they are convenient and good for quick meals and a variety of dishes. Almost all of the meals I make have enough leftovers for himself to take in his lunch at least one day and sometimes more. And sometimes for a second meal, in the matter of soups and such. So... in the long run, it makes sense.

  My friend Jen came over and we cleared up some of the mess in the gardens. She moved to a place (apt) where she can't have a garden or chickens, so we're going to share crop this year and see how that works. We took measurements on the chicken coop to decide about repairs and I will be buying chicks this week.  I went one whole season with no garden and no chickens. Enough is enough. lol  My life has no meaning when I can't produce some of my own food.  (While it was a bit of a relief for a minute to not have to tromp out in the frigid snow every morning to tend chickens, I missed it. I missed the giant eggs [compared to grocery store, my regular eggs make their jumbo eggs look like small ones]  they taste better and they might cost less.  And it's a spiritual event, caring for animals. So... this year I will be back at it.  

  That's about it from the Dragon Woman's kitchen for today. I am really going to make more of an effort to post here and try to get myself back on track. I have been writing this blog for quite a few years now, neglecting it  lately, but hopefully that will change. 

  Here's to a year where we all try to be better than we were last year. One thing at a time.

  Bon Apetit !

Sunday, March 24, 2019

Computers will be the death of me.

 The past month has been a bomb cyclone of computer glitches and technology fails in my life. And now I can't post in the other blog because every time I try to sign in to it it shoots me over here.

 I want to scream/.

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Heavens to Betsy...

 I have been MIA...but I haven't stopped cooking !  My kitchen stays as busy as ever, no matter what's going on. In August of 2017 I took a part time job with a senior help at home agency and was back to work for the first time in 17 years. Never thought anyone would hire me at 65 years old with a 17 year gap in work history. But amazingly I got offers from 2 different places I applied and took this one. I only wanted to work 25 hours a week since I was still on disability and there's a limit to what you can earn on their right to work ticket. So I jumped in and loved it. And the extra money was a godsend.  Then in January I turned 66 and they kicked me off disability and put me on regular social security which is a total game changer.  My benefits stayed the same, but was now allowed to earn up to 3.5 times more than before. But I still only wanted to work part time. The day after my birthday [the first week of January] I had an attack of acute diverticulitis. Wound up at the hospital, thought I was dying. I have never had intestinal issues before, so this was a shocker. They gave me pain medication (the pain was awful) and they did an MRI and came back with the diagnosis. I was put on a heavy hitter antibiotic which made me sicker since I almost never take antibiotics.  I had a couple more mild attacks as the month wore on. Saw a gastro doc who wanted to do some tests and make sure I didn't have colon cancer hiding in there behind the diverticulitis, but had to wait until the 3rd of Feb to let the other stuff calm down. That helped my anxiety a LOT lol.  Finally got them done everything checked out fine and the very next day...I got hit with a virus that has been making the rounds. That was Feb 4th. I am still sick.  I get a little better and then get it again. Wicked sore throat, coughing like a TB patient and exhaustion. All the headachy sinus-y crap that goes with that.  The Irishman had it too. We were a pair. He was even home sick for the better part of a week, which is something he NEVER does. Then he went back, I got a little better and Friday he came home feeling crappy again. Last night I started getting a sire throat again. This morning... blech.   I went to the urgent care back at the beginning of this and they tested me for strep and it was negative.  Told me it was viral, just keep doing what I'm doing with OTC  cough syrup and Tylenol. And now, here I am ...On the bright side... I am getting rested up.  lol  I had to quit my job because I couldn't do it and couldn't be counted on and they assured me that if I wanted to come back I always had a place on their team. That was encouraging. And so here I stand. Unemployed. Sick again. And wondering if I'm ever going to get well and if winter is ever going to be over.  

  It's been a pretty brutal winter around these parts.  So I've been cooking loads of soups and stews, lots of comfort foods, and sitting around the house getting fatter by the day. This weekend I was supposed to be in Southern IL for a business meeting, but they cancelled it because they're supposed to get over a foot of snow between last night and today.  Good. I didn't want to go anyway. It's snowing here  for the past few hours, but it's a relatively light snow so far.  Supposed to get down to 3 degrees or something stupid tonight. And snow until Wednesday I guess. Oh well.  I don't have to leave Honeysuckle Hill. I'll sit it out. lol  As always, I have a stocked pantry, so I don't have to worry about anything foodwise.  

  In the middle of last week I had the urge for a lentil or split pea soup.  I love the lentils cooked with coconut cream, but I have made that several times in a row.  Then I remembered I had a lovely half an H&B ham in my freezer. On Christmas Eve day I had baked a ham and roasted a turkey. We had our usual Christmas Eve supper guests and had a great time. I froze half that ham and some of the turkey that was leftover. SO, I thought-yum, split pea and ham soup. 

It was awesome. I made some of Mary's buttermilk biscuits to go with it and the cookies at the top of the page. Wowza. We ate like royalty !  Here's my recipe for ham and split pea soup:

You'll need:
1 pound or so of green or yellow split peas.
1 medium onion, chopped
2 stalks of celery, sliced thin
2 carrots, sliced thin
Ham-sometimes I use a ham hock, but more likely I'll use about a cup of cubed ham or a little more.
2 bay leaves 
1 chopped garlic clove
Black pepper to taste

 Rinse the split peas and set aside.  This soup cooks quickly (if you use chopped ham) and I would guess it's around 45 minutes to make, counting prep. Take your  veggies and sweat them in a large sized saucepan in a little olive oil. In about 10 minutes or so, they'll be slightly tender, add the cubed ham and stir it all together. Cover with water, add the bay leaves and pepper and put the lid on it. Keep an eye out and stir it from time to time. If it needs a little more water, add some.  Some folks like their split pea soup extra thick, some like it's not rocket science.  I like mine in the middle-- not too thick and not too thin. I like to add a little liquid smoke to my soup if the ham isn't nicely smoked. The H&B hams are almost perfect...they are raised and processed right here in a little town about 15 minutes from me. Let it simmer for about 20-25 minutes, and you should have a yummy bowl of soup in front of you and your loved ones. I like chewy Italian bread, or biscuits with it.  It satisfying and healthy and makes a great winter meal.

  Bon Apetit, baby.