Friday, July 31, 2009

Supper with the Girls

Meet the Girls!
I can't really tell who is who from this angle but
the kids would probably know. I stopped naming them
in case we eat them. I'm more likely to name them as I
butcher them. Fryer, roaster, casserole, broth...
For the time being, they are all named Layer until they
prove otherwise!
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Thursday, July 30, 2009

If you can't stand the heat....

Yes, I really did take a picture of my thermostat! It's too hot to much else. The kids stand in the other room and blow me hugs because we don't want any heat sources that close to our bodies! My bubba doesn't want me to hug OR kiss him because he said I feel like hot and sticky stuff. Well, I nevah!

I am trying to keep the electric bill at least lower than the national deficit. We keep it off during the day and use it at night so we can sleep better. I just couldn't do it today. I set it to 80 and I still heard it come on several times and the coolest it got in the house was 83.

I know this is South Texas and all but it just seems hotter than usual. Every spring and fall I sing songs about the joy of living in Texas and write poetry about the perfectly beautiful days. Every summer I ask WHY!?!? This summer still seems worse than past summers. Maybe it is because we have only had 3" of rain so far this year. Last year we had so much rain that my chickens thought they were ducks and started quacking! They spent so much time in puddles I feared their feet would become webbed!

This summer has been dry. Everyone keeps saying it isn't as humid this year, and that sounds like a good thing but I think it isn't. Humid means moisture, moisture comes from rain, rain makes things green. Our grass isn't green, it is a nice straw color. I have always said that I wanted to get rid of the grass to make way for a bigger garden but in this heat and drought my garden is barely hanging on.

This really used to be grass. Very green tall grass that my happy hens loved to feast on. Now they dig holes and roll in the dirt. They always make the best of an awful situation! If life gives you dirt, take a dirt bath!

In the spirit of full disclosure (I would hate to be called dramatic or an exaggerator) I will admit that there still are a few small patches of green in my yard. Little oases of life that I feel guilty mowing when most everything else is dying.
This isn't just an excuse to show off my 'mid century' vintage thermostat! I wanted a good reason to show once again how clever I am. I'm not bragging, my mom tells me I am clever all the time. If I'm going to sweat my hiney off trying to save money by not using the AC during the day then why in the world would I add more heat to the house by using the stove or oven? I usually cook 3 times a day that can make the house unbearable. So here is where the clever comes in...

First I tried baking my bread in my big nesco roaster out on the back porch. The pans fit in just right. I set them on metal racks so the bottoms wouldn't burn. Everything came out great.

With the bread made we were able to have sandwiches for lunch instead of having to cook something.

Lunch out of the way, only one meal left. I put the last of our garden potatoes in the nesco and set it baking at 400. I cut up some sausage, poured BBQ sauce over it and topped with our homegrown bell peppers (store bought onions) and set them beside the potatoes. I cooked it all until the spuds were done and the BBQ sauce was sizzling. Came out wonderful. I even made dessert in it. Cinnamon rolls made with the extra bread dough from the bread I made earlier. The desserts rarely survive long enough for me to photograph so I am guessing the gang liked it.

If You Can't Stand the Heat
Get out of the Kitchen!
and onto the back porch

Update: many asked how I do my bread, what kind of pans I use, how long it takes, etc. so here are answers to some of those questions:

I use Norpro 8 Inch Nonstick Bread Pan bread pans that measure 8"x4"x3" deep.
They can also be purchased at Urban Homemaker.

I use agave as my sweetener so when I bake my bread I use a lower temperature than you would if you used regular sugar. I bake my bread between 325 and 350 for 45 min. If using regular sugar the recipe calls for cooking it at 375. Some days it seems to cook quicker than others. It probably has to do with how much dough I put in each pan. My recipe actually fills 5 of the norpro pans but only 4 fit in the roaster. I put 4 loaves in for regular bread and the fifth dough ball gets turned into cinnamon bread which I also cook in the roaster after the first batch of bread is done.

I use a metal cooling rack on the bottom of my roaster to set my baking pans on. That keeps them from burning. I take the lid off to check if it is done otherwise I leave the lid on.

I have made cobbler, cinnamon rolls, casseroles, bacon and even toast in my roaster. I try and do all my cooking outside because I don't like to heat the house.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Baking Soda and Frugal Living

I heard on the radio today that 1 in 10 Americans receives food stamps. They (who are THEY anyway?) say unemployment is down but where we sit unemployment is something we are learning a little too much about. If so many are unemployed or underemployed and receiving food stamps what are they doing to get by? According to the department of human services food stamps can only be used to purchase food items or seeds and plants that produce food. I wonder what people do about the other necessities. How about cleaning supplies, toiletries, diapers, feminine products, even tylenol or bandaids? That got me thinking. Which of these necessities can be made at home using food items that CAN be purchased with food stamps? What can be made using inexpensive or recycled household items? How can you buy toilet paper or pain reliever or allergy medicine if you don't have an income or your income is so tight that it all goes to pay for the roof over your head?

I thought I would start gathering these tips and ideas and trying them out to see which ones work.

I read on one blog about using baking soda as shampoo. You make a paste of baking soda and water and massage into wet hair and scalp then rinse. As a conditioner they recommended a rinse using 1:1 vinegar and water. I would probably use apple cider vinegar as I have heard it is good for dark hair like mine. I tried the baking soda shampoo experiment today and I have to say that although it did wash away the greasies my hair felt a bit dry and VERY tangled. This was only the first time to try it and I have heard sometimes the more natural or mild methods take time because of residue and build up on your hair. I might try it again. What I think would work better would be to dissolve the baking soda in some warm water and add a tiny bit of shampoo. I get shampoo for $1 at Dollar Tree. It is not the best shampoo but it is the cheapest unless I find a freebie deal at CVS or Walgreens. The baking soda makes the soap soapier so you can use less. I noticed that by sprinkling a little baking soda on my bath sponge after rubbing it on my bar of soap that I got very enthusiastic suds and the baking soda added some exfoliation properties.

The verdict: Baking soda alone as shampoo doesn't work for me but I think it would work to stretch shampoo and other bath soaps.

Even though it isn't a good shampoo substitute it is still a great ingredient to have on hand. I keep a large bag of baking soda and buy vinegar (white distilled) by the gallon to use in cleaning and laundry. Both items could be purchased with food stamps if needed. Both do double duty in cooking and cleaning.

Other uses for baking soda:
Baking Soda
60 uses for Baking Soda
How Stuff Works

Is there anything you won't can?!?

Of course there are things I won't can! I would much rather dehydrate them! I definetly wouldn't can or dehydrate eggplant. Yuck! Or rattlesnake. I have never had rattlesnake but it would have to be a survival situation and then I wouldn't have my pressure canner now would I? Dazzle absolutely trusts that I would never can her. That is why she can sleep peacefully amongst the jars. She's awful bony anyway I will stick to chicken (you hear that, those of you out in the yard feasting on feed and not giving me any eggs?!?!?). Oh, and liver. Wouldn't can that either. See, there are things I won't can...
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Oh Cherries!

Cherries! Oh how I love thee,
plump and juicy, still clinging to a pip
with a perfect little green stem for holding
slightly warmed by the sun
sweet nectar

Okay, so poetry about food isn't really my gift! Making poetry with food is more like it. I was tickled...cherry red to take advantage of the super cherry sales this last week. I bought about 25lb of cherries. I ate about 10lbs while pitting (do the british call it pipping?) the rest. FYI don't eat 10lbs of cherries while pipping/pitting the rest unless you plan to stay real close to home the following day!

I canned cherries in white grape juice to use in cooking. I made Black Forest jam which is cherries in a chocolate amaretto sauce (see photo above) I dehydrated cherries and I ate cherries. I even saved all the pips, boiled them clean of any remaining flesh and dried them to use in a Pip Pillow that can be heated in the microwave.

I know George Washington did not chopped down a cherry tree, who would do such a thing?

You Lucky Dog You!

Meet Lucky Dog. Lucky has been a part of our family for 5 years now. He was found on the side of the rode and I took him home with me. He was the most pathetic creature I had ever seen. His eyes were glued shut with eye gunk, he was missing patches of fur, he had this horrible horrible smell coming from his ears and nose. I was sure I was bring him home to die in comfort. I took him to our vet (we had two dogs already, both puppies about the same age as Lucky). Surprisingly he wasn't on death's door. He had an eye and ear infection, mange, parasites and fleas. We got meds and and instructions for cleaning all his ailing parts. I brought him home optimistic. Suddenly he took a turn for the worse. He wouldn't eat, wouldn't drink, wouldn't hardly move and he seemed to be twitching a lot. I took him back and the vet said it was distemper and considering his health he probably wasn't going to make it. On top of that my other puppies had just had their first distemper shot and so they probably won't yet 'safe' from distemper so I had to keep them isolated from Lucky. That meant keeping them in the backyard and taking Lucky in the front to potty. Not touching the well dogs until I had washed and changed my clothes after handling Lucky. The vet told me that I needed to prepare for the worst but pray for the best. Who knew that a person could get so attached to this mangy little pup I had known for only days. All God's creatures great and small I guess. I prayed he would get better, I prayed God would give me the wisdom to know when it was time to take him to the vet and have him put to sleep if he became uncomfortable and was suffering. I fed him pedialyte ever hour on the hour round the clock so he wouldn't get dehydrated. I finger fed him baby food meat and carrots and I gave him massages because he was having frequent seizures and twitching and his muscles were getting knotted up. I even took him to a homeopathic vet! I did this for 6 weeks and he made it.

That's one Lucky Dog my vet would say! He has nerve damage from the distemper so he has a constant tick or twitch that makes it look like he is enthusiastically chewing gum. Because the twitch has caused the muscles on one side of his face to shorten it pulls his tongue out to one side of his mouth. He can't keep it in his mouth. It hangs out in the most rogue way, making him look like a scoundrel. Especially when he is excited! The twitching caused all his teeth to fall out except two. He still manages to eat anything and we often find evidence of this when a child finds a barbie shoe or army man in Lucky's poo! He is a happy dog and his greatest ambition in life is escaping the hard to go visiting. No matter what we do he finds a way. In five years he has probably escaped 500 times! He can climb over, under, around or through any fence, barrier, blockade or maze of yard clutter to get out. Lucky's second greatest joy is napping. He has had nightmare's since he was a pup. I know I attach human emotion to my poochies so in my poochie mommy heart I wonder if he is reliving the day he was dumped on the side of the road and dreaming what life would be like if he weren't so doggone Lucky!
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