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.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Why yes... I am posting from here again

This is chicken jerky.  The marinade is a simple soy sauce and ginger with some spices and liquid smoke. You marinate it for about 24 hours and then put in the dehydrator. I have made about 2 gallon bags full so far and have another 2 to go. I have made turkey jerky in the past, but this is really easier and I think I like it better.  (Wasn't there a dance called the Herky jerky ?? )  lol

  As you've probably guessed , I'm in holiday gift mode.   Not buying anything for anyone this year, everything home made. (Well, except for the Mrs Brown's Boys set I got himself and the new laptop for me. lol )  At any rate, that's the reason for all the jerky. I'll be baking cookies too-- short breads, sugar cookies, old fashioned ginger snaps.  Nut brittles. Spiced nuts. 2 people are getting batches of my home made granola-- I think I'll make one batch and split it. I make it a gallon at a time for us...  I've made some beautiful  cranberry pineapple jam, Monkey Butter, and an assortment of other jams over the summer.

Today I bought some stockings at the Dollar Store and will use them instead of boxes.  I think that will be fun. I got some bakery bags for the cookies and things too, and some red curling ribbon and some raffia. 

  Tomorrow will be a day of baking and playing...I have a birthday cake to bake, an Italian Creme Cake, for the meeting.  I may be able to get  some cleaning done and my Xmas stuff out too... Not a lot, just enough to remind me of the holidays. lol  I don't get terribly excited about this time of year anymore... it's just the 2 and sometimes 3 of us. No children. I am getting a fresh turkey from Bussmann's in Gillespie this year. It will cost about 3 times  what I normally pay, but I am assured that I will not be sorry.  We'll see.  If it is really that much better, we may raise a couple of turkeys of our own next year. We are talking about raising meat birds.  We have butchered hens before...not a favorite thing to do, but probably doing it more often would make the job seem easier.  It would be good to have some healthy clean meat...

  Next week I will get everything else done, all the last minute local gifts. The ones I need to finish are the ones going to Wisconsin.  So, hopefully I can get a batch or two of cookies done to send along with the jams and jellies.

  I'm tired and heading for bed soon... Just wanted to post on this blog before the year is over.  I've been wicked busy canning everything from roast beef to jam to pork loin to chicken breasts to navy beans to potatoes to jalapenos. I canned tortellini in marinara for a quick heat up meal.  I canned 3 kinds of soup-- in fact, we had the French Onion for supper tonight and it is fabulous.  I canned French Vanilla Creamer. (You know, to have on hand for guests who like cream in their coffee since we rarely have dairy here.)  I've been a canning fool...

  I'm reading Amy Tan's second novel  The Kitchen God's Wife. I have read several of her books and don't know how I missed this one, but I'm lovin' it.  

  Alright campers-- I'm done for today.  I may make it back here, since I finally got that glitch figured out that was making this blog hard to post on.  I keep saying I'm going to get more disciplined about writing again, and maybe 2018 will be the year that it actually happens.  

  You just never know...

Friday, November 10, 2017

When 29 degrees is the high for your day...

 You make soup. And you can soup. And since onions were 69 cents for a three pound bag and you bought 7 bags...well, you make French Onion Soup.  lol  7 quarts are in the canner as we speak.  That's plenty to have on the shelf. and then because I have more beef broth than onions, I am making more soup for supper (and a boule of bread) and may wind up canning beef broth. We'll see how much is left. I cut up about 6 onions to make a small batch for us.  We do love FOS...

  Yesterday I canned pork loin again. Got some beautiful meat on sale for 1.69/lb. I bought 2 whole loins--one smaller one bigger. The small one I made a Caribbean Stew and froze 3 packages of 6 each boneless pork chops. The other one was a perfect 7 quarts of chunks of canned pork in one and a half pint sized jars.  Winner winner chicken dinner.

  The weather turned cold fast and we had about a week of absolutely stunning tree action. Here are some pictures of that... just a couple, I promise..


Is Mother Nature crazy beautiful...or what ??

I have been kind of down for the count this past week, just recuperating from the wedding stuff and grieving  some over a friend of mine that died. Another friend has been given a year or less to live (cancer diagnosis).  Life is pressing down on me 
some days.  When that happens, my tendency is to hunker down at home and do the things that soothe my soul.  Stocking my pantry, cooking for my family, loving on my critters. For 3 days now I have been meaning (sort of) to get to the grocery store  and pick up a few things, but I still haven't done it. I will be in town tomorrow and it's nothing that can't wait til then. Not like we're gonna starve around here.   lol

I have some bread in the kitchen raising that should be about ready to make into rounds for the second rise.  It will be really good with the soup for supper. And I just found a recipe for Cherry Bars (I have cherry pie filling in the pantry)  that I'm going to make for desert. Himself comes home really hungry on these cold days as much of his work is outside.  The bars have a shortbread like base, with filling spread over it and extra dough dropped in spoonfuls on the top. Then a drizzle glaze, which I probably won't do. Sounds good though, and that boy does love cherry stuff.  

OK. It's about 20 minutes til the soup comes out of the canner. Then the dessert will bake and lastly the bread, so that it comes out of the oven and is warm, slathered with real butter to go with the soup. We usually eat around 6, so that gives me 3 hours to get these things done and hopefully get in the shower, since I didn't fit that into my busy morning schedule. lol   Weather is supposed to move back up into the 40's in the coming days, and stay in the high 40's and low 50's. That will be perfect fall weather. Warm enough to get some outside work done and cool enough to almost enjoy doing it. lol 

  I'm off to the kitchen...the bread awaits me....

Monday, November 6, 2017

It's Fall..Y'all

  At least, it is here, on Honeysuckle Hill.  lol  It started acting fall-ish once before, then temps zoomed back up into the high 70's. But now it looks like it might be here to stay. The last of the garden was tomato and pepper plants (bells and jalapenos) and now they are dead--frost ravaged.  The wisteria is limp, but still green and it seems like overnight the little red maple I brought from North Carolina when we moved here has turned it's brilliant red.  It feels like sweat pants weather out there again this morning, with just a little wispy fog hanging around here and there. Yesterday's high was 63 and rainy and today is predicted to be at least 15 degrees cooler than that. 

  I catered a wedding rehearsal meal on Friday night of appetizers and yummlies.  Had the big wedding on Saturday afternoon, and all I had to do for that was make the 5 gallons of fruit punch and the coffee. And help set up, keep things filed and clean up. lol  I was exhausted by the time it was all over. It was a beautiful to-do with 2 beautiful people who have found love in  middle part of their lives. She a young widower who has raised 4 beautiful kids and he a musician/IT guy/ nicest man you could ever hope to meet.  Both very important parts of my not by blood, but by choice. I got to make some lovely foods and meet his sister and brother and their family. His parents are gone, like mine, so I offered to provide the post-rehearsal food. I don't think they'll mind if I post my favorite of the wedding pictures  

  I was extremely honored to be part of it all.

  So... it's fall, y'all.  That means (generally) our methods and modes of cooking shift to more soups and stews. More comfort foods to get us through the cold weather. MUCH less outdoor grilling (at least where I live in the mid west)  and more crock pot meals (because they are easy and more energy efficient).  This time of year, I start easing back into baking my own bread. I usually quit in the summer, again due to our climate. It gets hot here and the AC is already taxed.  But it's a comfort to turn on the oven this time of year and fill the house with the smells of baking bread. No better air freshener in the world. lol   It simultaneously helps to warm the house, so there you go. In years gone by I used a wood cook stove, which is really a deal that makes you think twice about every single cooking thing you do, no matter what time of year it is. And once you develop certain habits, well...they go with you to the grave. 

  So, after all this photo fol der ol   (haha--get it ??  FAL de rol ??)  I wanted to post a recipe of some sort. Trying to figure out what.   Last night I canned baby carrots. 6 quarts. A 1.5 pint jar. And 5 pints. My pantry is over flowing  with stuff and needs to be cleaned and organized. I am enlisting the help of a friend.  I have cases of stuff like pickled okra, cowboy candy, plum jam, mushrooms...sitting everywhere and pushed under beds and under tables with long scarves on them to hide the goods. lol My shelves are pretty full. too. My spare room is a wreck, not fit for human habitation because the bed is full of stuff  (everything from wrapping paper to ricers to canners to canned butter) and the floor is stacked with everything from our emergency drinking water supply to empty jars and quarts of chicken stock.  Sigh...but getting it all straightened and cleaned up will be a WONDERFUL THING.  

   OK-- I think that the recipe I want to share with you today will be something a little light but comforting.  It's been on my mind since I was canning carrots anyway.  I was going to an after Thanksgiving potluck a few years ago where everyone was supposed to bring their leftovers from The Big Meal. I didn't have Thanksgiving at my house that year, but I thought I could go in my pantry and find out what I could find in there to make something reasonably Thanksgiving-y. lol  I found a couple of jars of canned carrots, a jar of pumpkin puree and thought--soup !  Everyone loved it. The color was gorgeous. The aroma was tantalizing.  I've made it numerous times since then and it's always a hit  (even when it's just the two of us).  Here it is:

  Creamy Carrot/Pumpkin Soup  
(Serves 4-6)

     2 quarts canned carrots and juice(from my pantry-you can cook and use raw carrots)
     4 cups pumpkin puree OR pureed butternut squash
     4 cups cooked white rice (I like basmati) 
     2 Tablespoons real butter 
     Dash of salt
     1/2 cup brown sugar (or your choice of sweetener)
     1 tsp. each nutmeg and cinnamon

**  Put these ingredients into a dutch oven and bring to a simmer. Add a little water if it needs it. Once it is hot and bubbly, take it off the burner and get out your stick blender (WHAT ? you don't have one of these ??-- Get thee to Target and get one. I have a Hamilton Beach one I've had for 6 years. They're under twenty dollars and will save you the hassle of transferring things like this back and forth to a blender and possibly scalding yourself silly). Puree it into silky creaminess. The rice will disappear. It will be beautiful.  

  Voila. That's really all there is to it. A beautiful vegetarian soup that you could make vegan but trading out the butter with coconut milk (full fat). 

  Serve it with a lovely warm baguette or with warmed pitas.  Or muffins.  Or whatever you like best with your soup. 
 This is an older picture and I think I started  blending all of the texture out of it later. lol  This one looks a little lumpy, but you get the picture.  

  Bon Apetit, babies !

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Frustrations in Blogger Land

  For over a week now I have been fighting with Blogger...I have 2 blogs, one life and one food. I had drafted a post (on Elegant Blessings) and meant to come back to finish it later, but when I came back and tried to get into the posts section, it reverted me to THE OTHER BLOG. I have tried to figure out WTH is going on here and cannot. It is driving me crazy. So... since this blog is the one it sends me to, here I am. (I'll show them).  lol       It has also taken all the followers names of the other blog (Elegant Blessings) and replaced it with a Google Error 502.  I'll keep chipping away at it, but in the meantime I'll just write here. 

  Deep down, I hate technology. lol  It's smarter than I am and that's never good.  Things like this tend to drive me around the bend. I usually eventually figure it out, and then when it happens again I can't remember what I did.  Or I didn't know in the first place. lol   I could easily live the life of a Luddite.

(The Luddites were a group of English textile workers and weavers in the 19th century who destroyed weaving machinery as a form of protest. The group was protesting the use of machinery in a "fraudulent and deceitful manner" to get around standard labour practices.[1] Luddites feared that the time spent learning the skills of their craft would go to waste as machines would replace their role in the industry.[2] It is a misconception that the Luddites protested against the machinery itself in an attempt to halt progress of technology. However, the term has come to mean one opposed to industrialisationautomationcomputerisation or new technologies in general.[3] The Luddite movement began in Nottingham and culminated in a region-wide rebellion that lasted from 1811 to 1816. Mill owners took to shooting protesters and eventually the movement was suppressed with military force.)  FYI

  Or could I ?  Probably not, although I still refuse to use a Kindle when I can hold a book in my hands.  I can't imagine life without  my computer, though if it went away it probably wouldn't take me any time at all to adapt.  I own a cell phone, but it does not own me. And so it goes...

  So-- I have been busy, of course. Canning a few things, cooking a lot. Had an MRI on my neck and not liking the results of that.  At some point in my future there may be surgery involved. Unless I can figure out a better alternative, because the thought of one of these yahoos anywhere near my spinal cord with a knife disturbs me greatly. Life on life's terms. Dealing with people, places and things to the best of my ability. Mostly.  Somedays, that's as good as it gets.

  I made a huge batch of a Farm Country soup that we like and we ate some and I canned 7 quarts of it and put the rest in the fridge. I bought some leg and thigh chicken quarters and thought to make some soup and can it, but it all fit in my freezer, so I didn't do that [for now].  I packed up a gift box of jams for my brother-in-laws house warming present and sent a couple of jars to the 'rents. Himself went north to spend his dad's birthday with him, and in the meantime dad has had a small stroke, so it's a good thing he made the trip. The critters and I are here on our own and have some grand plans for the next few days. I was thinking I could live on the leftover soup and not have to cook a lick the next 4 days. lol  

  I spent yesterday in the company of some of my favorite women in 3 different batches. But today I plan to get busy around here and get some things done I can never get done with that man under my feet. I had a dream a couple of nights ago that I labored furiously the whole time he was gone, and transformed our little raggedy home into a shining work of art.  I woke up dizzy at the thought of how much work that would take. lol   I do have a couple of definite projects in mind though. It's been hard getting motivated with this neck thing going on, because I do not sleep well and it makes me tired beyond belief and cranky.  So there's that... Usually once I get going I can get quite a bit accomplished, so we'll see what happens.

  I have to admit I've been in a bit of a funk lately.  And it shows in my house. But yesterday, by days end, I was feeling a little better.  If I can put my house in order, it will help too. If I can get out today in the sunshine, talk a short walk, eat some healthy food...all simple solutions.  I need to do some serious decluttering, something I have a hard time with. I chalk it up to the fact that being the oldest of 6, I never had anything of my own for very long. Once I was grown, I never let anything go that I didn't have to.  Funny how that goes.  I don't want a BH&G house. I just want some degree of chaos free comfort and cleanliness. Cleanliness, of course, being a relative term. I have 3 dogs and 3 cats. They are inside and outside . There will be pet hair.  The puppy has terrorized my home and torn up more stuff than I would ever have imagined possible (wooden tables, couches, chairs and rugs). Plus I live out in the country, away from paved roads and amidst farm fields. The dust is always bad. This time of year is especially bad due to corn and soybean harvesting. Dust is a way of life. lol  Still, there are things I can do to manage it better. And once I get it straightened up, hopefully I can keep it that way.  The tail end of the canning season is  always a mess as well, jars and foods and utensils and canners... My kitchen is a mess from June til November most years.  Clutter mostly. Not real filth, lol.

  So...this morning I will sit down and make a list, prioritizing what needs doing and making a separate list of projects. I have shelving that needs cleaning and painting (think bookcase type shelves, full of cookbooks and canned goods and miscellaneous stuff)  and a front porch (2 rocking chairs and a table) that need cleaning and painting. I might even go into town and get some pumpkins for some harvest decorations. We'll see how much I can accomplish. 

  You just never know...