Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Did you get finished on time? Did everything fit?
Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

While we're busy getting ready for Christmas, my computer is heading off to the computer hospital. Merry Christmas if it doesn't get back in time!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

This started as 'Dear Jennifer'....

Jennifer, First, my apologies for the way your post ended up on the last blog post. I was trying to publish it from my phone and I deleted it. GRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR...doggone fat fingered typing...thank goodness for copy and paste!

As to your questions, I don't have a Foley food mill. I had looked at them the day I bought my pressure canner, and then it hit me that I had the food mill attachments for my kitchen aid mixer that I used for the tomatoes. And I was thrilled with how fast and easy it made everything. The one thing I've had a slight issue with, was my shoulders. I'm so danged short, that from reaching up for all the stirring and pouring I've have to remember to stretch in the opposite direction to keep from getting knots in my shoulders. Love being the short one.

The cranberry applesauce was one recipe that I was patterning after another that I'd seen on Facebook that left the apples chunked-if that's a word. I figured if you don't try lots of different ways you won't decide which way you like the best. For the record, next time I'm going to use my apple slicer/peeler/corer....cook down the apples and then add the cranberries. Cranberries are just find in my whole cranberry sauce for the holidays so I won't mind it in the applesauce. And definitely much less work than fishing out the skins. I have learned my lesson well!

As to the lack of power during Sandy, we here in Michigan were warned that we'd loose power, too. After over 30 years in earthquake country, my survival preparedness skills kicked into gear. After all the canning I'd already done, I figured we'd be ok in the food department. But I was trying to find a way to heat water, soups, COFFEE for Mom and hot chocolate / tea for me that was our big issue. We have plenty of warm blankets, wool afghans (thank you very much) and sleeping bags to keep us warm on the outside. Not to mention a whole lot of wool sweaters, hats, mittens and scarves and coats. (again, thank you very much) But...do you know that the ONLY fondu pot here in the area, and I mean the whole area....was electric!!!!!!!!!! and yes, there was only ONE! Good grief! What happened to all the cheese/chocolate fondu parties that people have had in times past! I really wanted a fondu pot, thinking that if Mom has her coffee in the morning, she's human. (I took her several years ago for a scan at the hospital and she wasn't allowed to have anything before hand. The woman on the other side of the check in window not only had a cup of coffee, but a hugeeeeeeeeeeeeeee cup off coffee. While waiting for Mom's name to be called, she kept pointing out the woman had some coffee. I thought for certain she was about to climb through the window and snatch the cup out of her hands! When the attendent came to get Mom I asked if there was a way to let me know she was nearly done so I could run over to the cafeteria and have a cup waiting for her. Sweetheart of a guy he was, he arranged for an extra large cup for her before he brought her out to me! Yea! Now that's service!) Ok, so back to the story...I figured if we could heat up soups, coffee, etc...we'd have a way to warm up from the inside out, too. Back in California with the non-insulated houses, on the rainy days that seem to permeate into your bones, I would make a big cup of hot chocolate and get my feet under the covers before starting to drink it. Then I'd be toasty warm and fall right to sleep during those days. Worked like a charm! Since no one has seen the 'old fashioned' type of fondu pots that use Sterno cans in stock in the stores for a long time....I bought a small camp type stove that would hold a tea pot/small sauce pan on top and loaded up on Sterno cans. Luckily, we were fine, never lost power, but surrounding communities did. My heart aches for those who are still suffering from all the devastation that super-storm brought with it. Is anyone knitting to send to those who can use some help?

Now that Sandy has left her horrible mark, it's gotten me to thinking about how prepared we are here. I've been looking at the type of foods and supplies we have on hand. Being responsible for Mom, there are certain things that shouldn't be in short supply, like her meds. Check...we're good there. Now I'd like to make sure we have protein based foods as well as all the applesauce, etc...on hand. I'm thinking some vegetable soup is around the corner to make sure we have on hand. I do have a lot of dried beans, but you have to be able to heat them up to cook. I did at least fill the canners with a lot of water so we could make the coffee and be able to scald clean the cups, sliverware, etc...we would need had we lost power.

In the meantime, I made some pumpkin cookies with the fresh pumpkin that I had put into the freezer. I really do love those Ball freezer containers! Nothing to throw out! (another thing in California we were trained with-reducing the amount of trash at the curb every week). After all, man doesn't live by soup and applesauce alone. Right?
And then some toasted pumpkin seeds....
And then some cinnamon-sugar seeds (which I probably won't make again...just not quite what I like)...but there is a recipe for some 'spicy seeds' that sound intriguing.

If any of you who are reading this were hurt either in heart or home from Sandy, know that our hearts go out to you. So sad to have seen how terrible the damage turned out to be. As we all shop and donate to do what we can for the rebuilding efforts, please take a moment and make certain your home is prepared for whatever weather situation that may arise in your 'neck of the woods'. Me? Toilet paper is always on hand. But I'm on the hunt for a fondu pot. I have 3 of them back in California that I can't get to right now. Oh, but not an electric one. And, in the meantime I thought I'd start thinking about making some emergency candles. I found a link here today. Aren't they a cute idea? I wonder how they would be in colors for gift giving? Holiday or birthday colors? I have the double boiler and the jelly jars already, now just to find some other supplies. So, again, until next time, stay safe, dry and warm as we enter into the seasons of weather issues that can keep you at home for awhile. And for those were were personally affected by the recent storms, my hugs to you for rebuilding. I am at a total loss for what to say at this point. It's unfathomable, and I'm certain I don't need to tell you that. You're all in my prayers.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

While I'm waiting on my hands...

While I'm waiting for my hands to stop giving me grief, I thought I'd share what else has been keeping me busy lately. First off, here's the latest in my 'wrist accessories'. 
I have developed a case of trigger thumb. It's affected both joints in my left thumb. I'm pretty sure processing all the tomatoes that I did awhile back is what set it off. I know, self inflicted, no sympathy. However, I'll not sit and hold them all again and try and cut them into my hand. I have learned my lesson, cutting boards have a place and I will use them freely so I'm not spending 3 days with a whole lot of tomatoes being 'pinched' in my hand.
My right wrist has been flaring up again, so while I'm resting one, might as well treat them both to a little 'time off'. Ya...I know, I'm also the one who years ago had to be put into a hard cast when I shredded my pinkie knuckle and insisted on making strawberry jam. Therefore, Doc said the brace didn't get me to stop using it enough. Paaaaaaaaaaaa-lease.....when you have 4 little kids and it's strawberry season, what's a little brace going to do? There was jam to be made! So, I've decided that between messy stuff in the kitchen, etc...I'll wear these and still get done what I'm trying to do. Fair trade for now. So...what shall I get into next?
 I decided to make some pizza sauce. Tomatoes and red peppers, a little garlic....
 Roasted in the oven...(lesson learned, do each tray separately. A little bit longer time, but works much better.)
While waiting, why not put a little time into a puzzle? (Mom's been a long time puzzle fan!)
 After the skins have been removed from the roasted veggies, gather a few extra items...
 and into the stock pot they all go!
Simmer a little bit, and lookie there! You have a veryyyyyyyy yummy pizza sauce-
By the time we were done, I didn't have the patience to wait for pizza dough to rise, so I pulled out the english muffins and ala kid style, made some 10 minute pizzas.
Mom and I are both fans of this one. Next time, can't come soon enough.
I had 6#'s of apples left from the bushel my daughter picked up for me. 1/2 cortland and 1/2 macs. And the cranberries were finally coming into the grocery store fresh style! Soooooo I thought I'd make some more applesauce.
 1/2 c of cranberry cider with the 6#'s of apples, and 3C of fresh cranberries and 2 tsp of cinnamon all into the pot. (lesson learned, I'll peel the apples and process them first next time..
 pulling out the skins after this time was far too much work for me. Then I'll add the cranberries after I've mashed the apples. Less work, faster to the cranberry-applesauce in the bowl!)
It only made 4 pints of applesauce, but, I will make some next time I can get more apples. Delicious! (What a shame the apple crops were so small this year.)
Next up, pumpkin time! Remember this post from 2008? Well, I found a little bit of an easier way to work it this year. You're still going to cut the pie pumpkins itnto quarters,
scoop out the seeds,
scape out the gunk using just the side of a spoon....
lay them skin side up with an inch of water in the roaster pan and bake ~ 1 hour in the oven.
 but this year, they cooled off so much faster when I put them in those mesh baskets I was using on the grill over the sink rather than just piling them up on top of each other in a colander. (Don't you love it when you buy a 'kitchen gadget and you find you can use it with multiple uses?)
 When they're cooled off you can just about peel the skin off and put the pumpkin into a bowl
 and get your next batch ready for the oven. I found that 2 pie pumpkins fit both into the roaster well, (with an inch of water) and then the amount of cooked pumpkin fit the bowl I was using just perfectly. (Rachel Ray 'garbage bowl' in BLUE! from Sam's club-but I don't use it for 'garbage'. It's a great size and depth for so many things in the kitchen.)
 Then, rather than using a food processor, or a blender, or a mixer, the immersion blender I've had for a hundred years sitting in the cabinet was put into use lickety split. (I've also been using it for soups often, too! Yea! Why did I wait so long to start using it?)
 In just a few moments, it smoothed out all the pumpkin to the consistency of applesauce. And the clean up was soooooo much easier and faster than the other kitchen toys would be. (Another lesson learned!)
2 pie pumpkins gave me enough for 5 pumpkin pies.
 8 pumpkins gave me enough for 20 pies, or 40 loves of pumpkin bread or 160 dozen pumpkin cookies or 26 pumpkin cheesecakes. (Just in case you were wondering. ;-) ) Aren't those freezer containers just perfect? The local grocery store chain had them on a ridiculous clearance price and then they'll also be reusable without throwing the zip-lock bags away. RRR! Reduce, reuse, recycle. 'Eh?
 And..all these pumpkin seeds! Now that I have them all washed and dried, I'm pouring over a bagillion recipes on facebook looking for just the right recipe to toast 'em up! Sooooooo many different flavors? What's your favorite?
Now, check these out! Remember all the raspberries that started all this jam and canning in the kitchen here? Well, my very generous friend, Kathie, is now raising some laying hens and look what she gave me! You can't get much fresher - or healthier than this!!!!!! Look how dark those brown eggs are! Next up will be some pumpkin cookies with a couple of these babies!

So, do you like to cook, bake, and can in between your knitting projects? The more I'm reading about diabetic cooking and canning, I'm learning so much about the quality of what our food should be, and how making at home can be so delicious over pre-packaged. I'm also thrilled that Mom's blood tests are really looking better. Thanks in no small part to my daughter's cooking for Mom and Dad that really got me to thinking about how important label reading can be.

So, until next time I have some more creative messes to make in the kitchen! (Hands hurry up-I have knitting waiting to happen again, too! I miss you.)

Friday, October 26, 2012

New toys...

I know, I know, I know...I should be posting. Sorry....wait until you see what I've been up to!

Ready?????????????? I've been playing with some new 'toys'.
 So much faster!!!!!!!
 So  much easier....
So much bigger!

I have been having a blast! Even if I've done so many tomatoes that it gave me a trigger thumb, put me in a brace and kept me from knitting! OH NO! But not to worry....I've been doing my stretches and behaving and I'm back to knitting. 
 I grew some of this....
 and a few of these....
 made some stewed tomatoes...
 tomato garden juice
spaghetti sauce...
 Used some chicken broth and stewed tomatoes to make some chicken tortilla soup...
Today I made some more applesauce...
 I started with 1 C apple cider, 12 #'s of cortland and Macintosh apples, and 4 tbl of lemon juice. Cook it down gently and water bath for 20 minutes. No water, NO SUGAR! My best taste tester, MOM, said, "this is very good!" Now, you can't get a better review than that! 

I wanna try it with cinnamon and fresh cranberries, too. 

For coming to the 'table' late, I think I'm doing pretty well at filling up the shelves. 
 This whole process started with the gift of some really, really good raspberries!
Nothing like fresh, straight from the garden raspberries!
Plopped into a pot....
And turned into something soooooooooo freakin' good I'd have licked the pan had it not been so hot!
 But I waited for it to cool first. And that will be the last time I've used wax on jam. I have learned a lot!
Which led into the tomatoes (that take freakin' longggggggggggggggggggggggggggg when you're making spaghetti sauce, which is worth the whole four hours to cook them down giving you time to work on some knitting....)
 And more knitting while reading new canning books while waiting for the pressure canner to be finished in time to...
 eat cupcakes with...
the Tiger's biggest fan. Now, if they can just put a few more games in the win column! Yep...we can multitask here with the best of 'em these days...

The best part of the new canning life around here, is the ability to limit and remove sugar and chemicals from so many things I had no idea the grocery store puts in. Unbelievable! Mom's sugar levels are really good these days! So, yes, we let her have one-and only one of the little cupcakes in celebration of the start of the World Series! And now we're back to veggies, veggies, veggies! And stevia in the jam. And nothing in the applesauce. Yippee!!!!!!!! Here's to healthy dinners and no more trigger thumbs! (Take that tomatoes....your days are numbered! ahahhahaha)