Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Where did all these apples come from?

Do you ever do this? You go to the store and think hmmm, those look good and we don't have any of those I think I will get some. Then you go to the store again and think to yourself, hmmm, these are on sale and we haven't had any in a while, I think I shall surprise my family with a few. Then again, you head to the market and say to yourself, wow, what a deal, those are some nice looking whatjamajiggies, I must grab as many as I can stuff in a bag and bring them home to my loved ones so they will know that I truly heart them. Well in my case and in this instance it was apples. How I ended up with two refrigerators a total of 4 produce drawers full of apples is a mystery but wait! There were more! I found a bag of apples still sitting by the front door where one of the offspring sat it after bringing it in from the car. Crazy right? Not as crazy as finding ANOTHER bag of apples hiding in plain sight on the kitchen counter. I don't even know how many pounds of apples I found. How many pounds of apples do you think you could fit in fright car? I think that's about how many I had. There were fujis, braeburns, gala, cameo, golden delicious, red delicious, granny smiths and some jonagolds. Some were firm, some were not. Some were pretty, some were not. The only thing that all the apples had in common is that none of them were getting any fresher! I hate to waste anything so I had to get busy and fast.

First things first.  Gather all the apples and give them a good bath.  I used basic H and vinegar to wash them before doing anything else.  Next I got out my handy dandy peeler/slicer/corer and used it to peel all these bad boys.  I prefer to core my apples by hand because the gadget doesn't always get all the core and I hate little scratch bits of core in my appley treats.

If the apple is too soft or mealy it doesn't not peel well with the gadget so those went into a separate bowl.  Mealy apples, as long as they aren't rotten dehydrate just fine.  Firm apples went on to be cored, sliced and put in a large stock pot with some mulling spices, apple juice and agave.  The apples destined for the Excalibur were cored and sliced and dipped in water with lemon juice in it.  One the tray and into the dehydrators they went.  I can hear them drying as I type.

I used 1/2 gallon of unsweetened apple juice and 1 cup of agave.  I didn't want the apples super sweet.  I wasn't going to use any sweetener but I had lots of granny smiths and they were super tart.  My plan for these apples was just to have some canned apples that I could later use for cobblers, pork chops, as a topping for oat meal or a glaze for chicken or ham.  I could always add sweetener and thickeners when I used them.

I was going to put the apples in pint jars raw and pour boiling juice over them but my canning books all said to boil the apples for 5 minutes first.  This really broke the apples down.  Out of all that fruit I only got about 7 or 8 pints.  Correction, I got 12 pints of apples and 5 half pints of pears.  Not too bad after all! I also filled two dehydrators with apples.  I can't say if it was worth all the work or not. After a good nights sleep I think it was worth the work.  I haven't tried the canned apples yet and no one is opening any jars until my feet have stopped hurting from a day of standing over the sink cutting up apples.

My next canning adventure:
Canning turkey broth

Bread and Butter Jalapenos

The last of my summer garden is now in jars labeled Bread and Butter Jalapenos 12/09. Our pepper garden is the only thing that grew really well this year. In fact it grew and grew and grew. I started dreading walking past it because I knew I would see more peppers that needed attention. Finally with the cold weather the peppers have packed up for the winter and I have little break. That is after canning 18 half pints of bread and butter jalapenos! The last of the peppers. My eyes were watering, my hands were burning (and I double gloved!), my clothing smelled like onion and garlic steam, my dish towels were stained from turmeric and there were sticky spots on the floor from goodness knows what! The job is done and I am glad.

My recipe which is a bit of this recipe and bit of that recipe with a twist.

6 lbs jalapeno peppers
4 large sweet onions, sliced
14 garlic cloves sliced thin
1/4 cup pickling salt
10-12 cups of ice cubes
5 cups vinegar
4 cups sugar
2 Tbs mustard seed
2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp celery seed
1/4 tsp ground cloves

Toss the peppers, onions and garlic with the salt in a large enamel pot then toss the ice cubes on top and let set for 3 hours (oops, mine sat overnight!).  Drain the veggie mixture.  Mix sugar, vinegar and spices in a large non-reactive pot until sugar is dissolved.  Add the pepper mixture and boil for 4 minutes.  Ladle into prepared jars and process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.  This made 18 half pints (8oz jars). 

I think these will be a great addition to deviled eggs, chicken salad, potato salad, hot dogs, and just about anything else you can think of!

Hot Cocoa

This is one of the quick and easy gifts I gave this year. Everytime the bottled milk went on sale I bought some and saved the bottles. Most of the time it was organic milk and I got the milk free when I bought fruit or cereal. Cool deal if you ask me. I love the look of milk bottles. I have a few old milk bottles I found at yard sales but even the new ones tickle me. So old fashioned looking. This year I made up a HUGE batch of our fave hot cocoa mix. There are oodles of mixes online. Just do a google. I was able to scoop in enough mix for 10 servings in each bottle. I printed up the easy directions and added a cool cow image I found online. I used some jute and scrapbooking paper scraps to decorate the bottle. Making the big batch of cocoa mix took about 20 minutes but will probably make 5 or more bottles. The label and decorating of the bottle took about 5 minutes. So in under an hour I can have 5 or more handmade gifts.

Here are a few more cute ideas using milk bottles.

(country living magazine)

I think it would be cute to make up a batch of milk bath or bath salts and put that in a cute bottle.  Tie on a pretty hand knitted wash cloth or one of those natural loofah sponges a long with some ribbon or raffia.  Just google milk bath recipe.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009


(on the left a list of things under my bed, on the right my to-do list)

I am totally a list person.  I love making lists.  I love checking things off even more.  To other list makers my lists would probably make them batty!  To non-list makers they would probably run screaming.  I don't know how my brain works when it makes lists, it just does.  No rhyme or reason.  No certain order.  I see my lists not so much as a DO THIS IN THIS ORDER!!!!  My list is more like a list of possibilities.  Ideas should I find myself idea-less.  So what does my current list contain?

  • Bathe dogs
  • shampoo couches
  • clean chicken coop
  • butcher chickens
  • make curtains for school room
  • organize pantry
  • sew hot pads
  • make dish towel dresses
  • school plan
  • pay bills (yuck!)
  • Get coop ready for broilers
  • move broilers to outdoor coop
  • pull weeds
  • plant potatoes
  • make shepherd costume for Christmas Eve play (notice this way at bottom and it's due tomorrow!)
  • Mop floors
  • paint end table
  • Mail Christmas goodies to Mom!
  • Clean back porch
  • Clean up backyard
  • Bread and butter jalapenos
So those are a few of the things floating around in my head.  Their position on the list has no significance.  Or maybe it does.  There could be some deep psychological root to my list but I think it is just how I work!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Easy Stove-top Lasagna

1 package of Italian turkey sausage
2 jars of fave spaghetti sauce
1 TB Mrs. Dash Garlic Herb seasoning
1 cup of ricotta (I used fat free)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
1 cup shredded mozzarella (part skim)
1 box of bow tie pasta (I use whole wheat)

Put water on to boil and cook pasta until it's almost done.
Brown turkey sausage in skillet. Drain and rinse off any additional fat. Add two jars of sauce. In a small bowl mix ricotta, Parmesan and Mrs. Dash. When pasta is done drain it and toss with sauce in skillet. Dollop the ricotta mixture over the top and sprinkle with the mozzarella. Cover and simmer on low or put oven safe skillet in a 350 degree oven for about 15 minutes or until cheese is melted and ricotta is heated through.

I add 2 TB of dehydrated carrot powder and 1 TB of dehydrated kale powder to the sauce and simmer while the pasta cooks. It doesn't change flavor and adds and extra punch of nutrition! The carrots make the sauce a little less acidic tasting and the kids seem to like that.
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Canned Coleslaw

Surprisingly tasty! This recipe came from one of the many canning lists I am on. I was leery but gave it a try. I had a few beautiful heads of organic, locally grown cabbage from the farmer's market. I used my bosch to shred the cabbage.

Home Canned Coleslaw

3 lb cabbage
2 large carrots
1 medium onion
1 finely chopped bell pepper
1 tsp pickling salt (I use Real Salt)
2 c white vinegar
1½ c granulated sugar (I used 1 cup)
2 tsp celery seed

Remove the core from the cabbage and shred the cabbage and carrots. Finely dice the onion. Mix the onions into the shredded cabbage and carrots. Mix in the pickling salt. Mix well, cover and let sit at room temperature for 45 minutes to an hour.  Drain the liquid. While the cabbage is sitting, mix the vinegar, sugar and celery seed in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Boil 1 minute. Cool slightly. Pack cabbage mixture tightly into your jars.  Ladle syrup over the cabbage.  Adjust two piece lids. Process 15 minutes in boiling water bath canner. To serve: Use as is or drain then stir in salad dressing of your choice or mayonnaise.

When I made it I put about 1/4 cup of syrup in the bottom of each jar then packed my slaw in and poured the remaining syrup over the cabbage.  Be sure to use a spatula to remove air bubbles and get the syrup to run down through cabbage.

3lb of cabbage was about 1 large head of cabbage.

Oh, one last thing!  When you drain the liquid off the cabbage don't just throw it out.  It is a sweet and tart vinegar and is great for tenderizing a roast.  I poured it over a pork roast that I cooked overnight in the oven on low.  It was very tender and flavorful!
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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Thrift Store Finds

I took a quick side trip to the Salvation Army while out and about yesterday.  I was tickled to find this super cool canning jar.  It is called Le Parfait and is made in France (imagine something not made in China!!).  It is a nice heavy jar and is quite large.  It is .75 liter which I think is just over a pint. Maybe 2 1/2 to 3 cups.  I looked online and found that 1) I got a great deal!  and 2) I want more of these jars!

I picked up Country Living Handmade Country: Old-Fashioned Crafts and Timeless Keepsakes, a nice big coffee table style book with pretty pictures.  I love these kinds of books but they are usually out of my budget.  This one was only $1.49!  I was so excited because I looked at some Country Living books at Half Price Books and the cheapest was $10.

I can't wait to go back when I have a little more pocket money.  I am on a quest for 100% wool sweaters any color, any condition.  I found some at a yard sale but The Man accidently threw them away!!!  They were in a trash bag in the car.  I plan to use them to make felted hot pads and coasters.

All I want for Christmas....

Bubba finally lost his 2 front teeth. He lost one and the other was hanging there for weeks! It finally fell out. I told him now he can ask for his two front teeth for Christmas. I remember the old song but I guess my kids have never heard it because Bubba in all seriousness told me, "That's not what I want, I can chew stuff with my side TEEF, I want a toy or something!"
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Close up of Walnut Babies

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Knitty Christmas

I love love love these knitted or crocheted wash cloths.  I use them in the kitchen all the time.  I am making them for gifts this year and giving them with a bar of my homemade soap.

They are easy to knit.  I use size 8 knitting needles.  Here's how to do it.

Waffle Knit Wash Cloth
Use 100% cotton yarn.  I like Sugar and Cream Yarn because it comes in so many pretty colors.


Cast on 38 stitches.
Knit 3 rows for border.
Row 1: (right side): Knit.
Row 2: K 3, purl to last 3 stitches, k 3.
Row 3: K 3, (P 2, k 1) 10 times, p 2, k 3.
Row 4: K 3, (K 2, p 1) 10 times, k 5.
Repeat Row 1-4 approximately 12 times or until you reach the size you like.  Knit 4 rows for your border and bind off as usual.
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Walnut Shell Babies

I love the idea of a homemade Christmas and with a much tighter budget this year we are making more than ever before. Pookie wanted to make gifts for her little friends so we did some googling and found these sweet little babies.  The hardest part of the whole project was cracking the walnuts perfectly without breaking the shells.  I found it was easier to pry them apart with a butter knife than to use a nutcracker.

A little scrap of fabric for the blanket wrapped around a cotton ball and hot glued into the walnut half made the babies body.  A small wooden bead and a little tuft of yarn for the hair and sharpie markers for the eyes and rosebud mouth.  A little bow glued on as a final tough makes this little baby a treasure for any little girl.  The package we put her in originally had cupcake liners in it.  I used a scrap of shimmery fabric to set the baby on.  This will go to Pookie's BFF for Christmas.

This little twin set was made using a cotton ball cut in half and wrapped in two different fabrics.  I used dried garbanzo beans for the baby heads.  I was out of beads and I thought the garbanzo beans looked kind of like poochie little newborn faces.  I added wooden discs and a toothpick painted black to make it look like a baby buggy.  I had lots of fun making them and I think the girls will have lots of fun playing with them.
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I feel fussy

I feel fussy.  I don't if it is the weather or the season or a combo of both but I am really struggling not to be ugly.

The weather has been bleak.  It's a good thing I don't live in Seattle where it rains 200 days a year!  It has been gray and damp.  Not a full on rainstorm with thunder and the sound of water splashing through rain gutters.  More like a giant unseen spray bottle set on mist for days on end.  Everything is moist and soggy.  Slick and muddy.  My dogs don't want to go outside to potty.  When we force them outside they run to what used to be our backyard but is now just a big mud puddle, do their business then run back in tracking doggy mud prints through the house.  The cat won't go potty outside in the wet either so we have moved her little box to the garage.  The dogs seem to think it is a snack dispenser because they go out and eat Kitty's poo then spend the night throwing up clumping cat litter poo.  Now that I think about it I guess I could see why I might feel a little fussy!  Did I mention that the cat poo gives my dogs bad bad gas?  And that the cat getting up on the counter eating the kids leftovers gives her bad gas?  So instead of the pine freshness of a Christmas Tree or cinnamon spice from the apple cider jelly I am making it smells like rotten eggs.

Ok, so I got it off my chest.  Now to play the happy game.  The constant mist has given everything much needed moisture.  It will be much easier to weed my sad garden and flower beds.  I can start getting my beds ready for early spring planting and can probably get some potatoes in the ground.  Ummm, that's about all I have right now!  If I could up with a happy reason for doggy gas and muddy foot prints I will be sure to share!
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