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...

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Old Cold Taters

My potato garden (about 35 feet of garden bed)  was a total bust this year. Himself thinks it was chipmunks, I think it was bad juju and lousy weather.  Whatever it was, all that work was for nothing and we got about 4 pounds of spuds  when we would normally harvest around a hundred. Everything has been strange this year. And my pantry was looking a little bare.

  People are often so intrigued with my canning and gardening and food storage habits.  And inevitably they will say (at some point in the conversation)..."Oh I wish I could do that, but I don't have room for a garden...I don't have a canner...I don't know how..." Some people really want to do it but don't know how to get started. Others want to want to do it, but it's too much work. lol  And it is. I have often thought that you have to be a certain kind of crazy to do this stuff.  

  I am that certain type of crazy. I admit it. When the store ads come out (here it's the Aldi's ad that comes on Saturday and the 2 local markets come on Monday) I'm like a kid with a Sears Christmas catalog.  I got this weeks ad Saturday and nearly wet myself.  Aldi's had red potatoes in 5 pound bags for 99 cents.  99 CENTS PEOPLE !!!!  I did a little dance. Red potatoes are my favorites. They don't keep as well as russets but they still keep pretty well.  (The other stores red potatoes are like minimum 2.49, just to put this in perspective for you.).   They also had button mushrooms for 69 cents a package. I bought a few (6) of those too.  I am not a fan of canned mushrooms, but they can be handy to have in the pantry when you need them for a soup or something, or in winter when the price of 'shrooms skyrockets, and I refuse to pay that much.  I bought 12 bags of potatoes. 60 pounds. I am going to keep a couple of bags in the cold room and can the rest. 60 pounds of taters for under 12 buckaroos.  I started the canning today, after a visit to my bone cruncher and a long nap. I only got about 20 pounds done, and it yielded 14 quarts of diced potatoes. Potatoes for soup, for breakfast potatoes, for potato salad..for anything I want to make with them. lol
 The first thing I did was to put the taters into a sink full of cold water with a healthy cup of vinegar in it. Then I proceeded to scrub the life out of those potatoes.  They have to be very clean to can with the peels left on, which is what I intended to do. 
Got the regular mouth jars all washed, lids in simmering water, and pressure canner at the ready as well.

I cubed the potatoes and put them in a bath of ascorbic acid and water, then drained them and put them in the jars. Filled with cold water, left an inch of headspace, added a half teaspoon of fruit fresh (ascorbic acid) and canned them at 10 pounds of pressure for 40 minutes.

Voila ! All sealed and pretty. in 24-48 hours, they'll be labeled and dated and go in the pantry. 

  So, even if you can't grow a garden (for whatever reasons) you can still can produce for your winter stockpile.  One year I got a 25 pound bag of organic carrots for 17 dollars and canned carrots to my hearts content. There are farmers markets. There are neighbors giving away stuff. There are all kinds of ways to stock your pantry with food to feed your family if a catastrophe strikes. If you cannot fathom canning or dehydrating food, buy it. Buy it while you can, as you can. The average big box store carries THREE days of inventory. If trucks cannot deliver food, then what ? If the electrical grid goes down--then what ?  I am responsible for feeding my family, that's my job. I don't entrust that responsibility to anyone or anything else. I care about what I feed myself and them, so when I do this stuff, I do it for reasons that make a difference to me. I am watching what is happening in Mexico and Puerto Rico in the aftermath of weather disasters...I don't want to be a helpless victim when something happens here in my yard. And it's just a matter of time. We are having earthquakes in Illinois at an alarming rate. Tornadoes are a given. Flooding and devastation from the rising waters of the Mississippi is historical fact and a certainty. I am looking at the variety of foods in my pantry and thinking what else do I need ? I have protein sources (beans, meats, fish and quinoa).  I have vegetables (tomatoes, green beans, dried greens, carrots and tomatoes both canned and dried. Bell peppers dehydrated. Onions and mushrooms dehydrated. Celery dehydrated. I have fruits-- peaches, apples, pears, pineapples, persimmons, pumpkin - all canned and dehydrated. Not dependent on electricity to keep it from rotting. Oats, rice, flour, sugar, honey, olive oil and vegetable oil. I even canned butter. The texture is a little different, but it will still be better than no butter. I even canned coffee creamer for heavens sake. lol  And I keep canned evaporated milk on hand at all times for cooking. We don't drink milk, but I do use it sometimes. I keep shelf stable packages of almond milk and coconut milk stocked for cereal (granola. That I make.). I have 7 kinds of jam/fruit butters.  I buy all natural peanut butter and keep it stocked and any time there is at least 6 jars of peanut butter in there.

  I guess all I'm saying is--it isn't that hard to stay ahead of the bad times. Whether those times are financial or disaster driven or what ever.  And I'm gonna leave you with this:  

                                                          Little Jimmy Dickens

Monday, September 25, 2017

The Dragon Woman is IN...

 Although the garden was kind of a bust this year (because climate change isn't real), I still have managed to do a fair amount of canning.  I procured 2 bushel of green beans from a fella I know and canned about 45 quarts of beans and 6 pints of pickled green beans (because I could eat pickled stuff until the end of the world). I also pickled okra and canned persimmon pulp and made jams (strawberry, peach, persimmon and plum) and today I am canning shelf stable meals like this-- tortellini in marinara, 6 jars of cheese tortellini and 6 jars of wild mushroom tortellini. I have canned roast beef, corned beef, chicken breasts, chicken leg and thigh (on the bone) and pork loin. I canned pinto beans, kidney beans, small red beans, lima beans and garbanzo beans. I canned quart jars of chili. I need to can some vegetable soup too. All of the previous items I can in case I don't have enough gas or wood to be able to cook something that takes hours to cook. Much more efficient to be able to just heat things up and save precious fuel. I froze a few jars of peaches and then the raccoons obliterated  the rest of our tree. I canned French Vanilla Creamer (for coffee) and I canned Monkey Butter, which is a spread made with pineapple, bananas and coconut. Quite sweet--a little goes a long way. I canned a few more jars of butter. My freezer is full and I have no room in there, so I'm canning as much as I can.  I don't think we will starve for a while. 

  In light of the hurricanes and the weird weathers, and not knowing if WWIII is going to start tomorrow,  I am trying to plan more on a survival basis than I ever really have. I've started my list of  pantry staples that are low, oats, vegetable oil, flour and sugar and honey for starters. The price of honey is astronomical so I'm buying small jars in bits and bobs as I can afford it. And this is how I usually stock my pantry...small amounts at a go, trying to stay on top of the inventory. I have 2 small totes in there , one is  emergency items: bandages, wound dressings, aspirin, etc. The other is back up vitamins, toothpaste and brushes, antibiotic ointments, etc.  I am trying to decide today if 1 five gallon bucket of oats is enough, or do I need 2 ?  I do use a lot--oats for breakfast, granola by the gallon, granola bars. It's a nutritious and versatile food. It will keep you from starving even if you have to eat it raw because there's no fuel sources available to cook.  You can feed it to or use it to supplement other scraps to feed your pets.  And water. We keep about 35 gallons of water in the back room at all times. Well--we drink and replace it, because it's great spring water from about 5 miles from us. And free. lol  We only use it for drinking. We do have city water out here now for a few years.  Great stuff for washing dishes and flushing toilets, but like every city water it is chlorinated and chemo'd beyond what I want to drink.

  Here's some of my canning for the past months...I have been busy...

So, as you can see....I haven't been a total deadbeat. Just living a full and busy life and doing the deal.  I really want to get back on track posting here and am sorely lacking in the discipline department. Maybe that will change soon. I'll be 65 in a few months, maybe I'll be more grown up by then.  lol  Later taters....


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Finish---another month ?

    (Chicken and Dumplings)   

    Well, the end of the month is upon us. Today I bought some lettuce and fresh vegetables and fruit, but otherwise I have spent only a tiny bit of money at the grocery store.  The good news is--it was really easy.  The bad (?) news is--I could probably do it another month. There is a lot of food in this house.  Am I a hoarder ?  lol

    I have been busy this month with a lot of outside the house stuff.  I still haven't canned all those bags of beans, although I have bought a few boxes of lids. I do this every year in the spring, when I am in a store that sells them, I buy a few extra boxes, and painlessly build up my stash of what I will need when the garden canning time comes. The price of lids goes up every year and right now around here is at about 2.25 for regular mouth lids and 3.15 for wide mouth--a dozen in each box. So... you can see how easy it would be to spend a hundred dollars on lids alone (If you can like I do). 

  The weather is bizarre.In the 70's again today. The neighbors forsythia is in bloom. The lilies around my yard are at least 5 inches high. 

  I made this batch of chicken and dumplings to give some to a friend's daughter who was DYING for some. lol  I made the dumplings from scratch--and used home canned chicken breast and broth for the rest. My granny always made the biscuit type dumplings, little pillows floating on top of the rich broth and chicken. Those will ALWAYS be my favorite. This recipe (like Cracker Barrel serves) is called Southern Dumplings and is really just like my homemade egg noodles. They cook up plump and yummy and you just can't go wrong.

 Roll 'em out, cut 'em with a pizza wheel and drop 'em in the simmering broth.  Comfort food at it's finest.

   Tonight we're having bbq ribs, red potatoes boiled with the jackets on, and salad. I have some leftover rice in there I thought I'd make a small rice pudding with for dessert. Sounds yummy, doesn't it ? 

   I have about 2 hours until himself walks in the door from work. He will be tired and hungry. We got a new puppy--her name is Myma (Irish Gaelic for beloved). She is a miniature beagle/min pin mix.  She is adorable, and as always when there is a new baby animal in the house, everyone is adapting. The 2 big dogs have been good (so far).  The cats are not impressed.  I am laughing all the time as she tries to chase Molly up and down the hall and Bella tries to decide if she's a predator. Myma is under 2 pounds and 8 weeks old. lol   Both dogs get terribly distressed when she cries (when I put her in her box to sleep and she wants out). It's very sweet, actually.  I think tomorrow we will go to PetCo and see if we can find a tiny harness so I can take her outside on the leash.   I always forget how much work a new puppy is....but still, it's fun.  Here she is:  making her escape. And believe me, she pole vaults right over the side of that box !

  Alright. I need to head to the kitchen.  Life is good, here on Honeysuckle Hill !!!