Wednesday, February 10, 2016

February 10, 2016... musings on a cold winter day...

Several days ago, we went to a home improvement store to pick up some needed items, and they had a fairly large display of orchids for $5.00 each!  I have longed for an orchid for a number of years, but was simply too stingy to pay the price.  Now I have one!  I hope it survives.  My Garden Fairy has always had success with orchids, and perhaps with her coaching me....

As you can see, we've had a bit of snow and today, right now, it is 17 degrees F. here.  I have seen it much colder than this (-28 degrees F one time), but this is cold enough!

Have you seen on the internet how people regrow celery and such by saving the bottom part of the plant?  I've done that, and actually planted the celery in my vegetable garden with some success.  Right now, I have 4 different vegetables growing that way on our kitchen windowsill.

Here is some Red Leaf Lettuce:

And a "red" cabbage:

Bok Choy:

And lastly, iceberg lettuce!

They add a cheery sight to the wintry landscape for me.  We will eat the little nibbles they are growing.

So far, this winter, I've had 10 different varieties of wild birds visit my bird-feeding station.  Here is the list: 

Black Capped Chickadee
Nut Hatch
Tufted Titmouse
House Finch
House Wren
Brown Thrush

The Flicker just showed up this morning and he seems to really favor the new suet crumbles that I made, so I'm glad I made them, even though I only saved 88 cents.  :)

I have two loaves of my Every Day natural yeast bread rising in the pans.  If you come over in maybe 3 hours, I can give you a warm slice with butter.

How does that sound?

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

I saved 88 cents feeding the birds...

I have finally gotten back to feeding the wild birds.  What with the move into our trailer, I had let that go pretty much all last winter.  We have a nice Redbud tree right outside our kitchen window, and it is a perfect place to hang bird feeders, and then I can watch the birds as I cook.  My mother was an avid bird watcher. I know many of the local species, but want to learn more about it.

A couple of days ago, I bought a wire suet basket and put it out there and bought 2 suet cakes.  Here is one:

With the tax, it only cost $1.16.  I went to YouTube and found THIS tutorial on how to make suet dough (crumbles) to feed to the birds. I decided to make some and see if it would save me any money to make my own.

Here are all of the ingredients I purchased, except the flour, which I already had on hand.

I carefully weighed out the various components of this mix.

Then I mixed all of the dry ingredients together in a huge bowl.

Next, the crunchy peanut butter and the lard were melted together...

and added to the dry ingredients and I stirred it all until it was well mixed.

By the way, it was much easier doing this than they indicated in the video.  I think having it in a large bowl instead of a bucket helped.

Here is what I ended up with.  There are two containers like this.  It made 13# of crumbles.  Yes, 13#.

Now, here is the recipe for one smaller batch.  I multiplied this amount by 5 when I did it.

Suet Dough for the Wild Birds

1 cup crunchy peanut butter
1 cup lard
2 cups quick oats
1 cup corn meal
2 cups unmedicated chick starter
1 cup all-purpose flour

Mix the dry ingredients together.  Melt the crunchy peanut butter and the lard together.  Stir the melted ingredients into the dry mix.  Store in a lidded container at room temperature.

I calculated the price of the ingredients, added it all up, weighed the resulting mixture and figured that in comparison, by weight, the large batch of crumbles saved me a whopping 88 cents!

However, I will watch and see how this works out.  Since I will not be putting this in a suet feeder, there will probably be significantly less waste, because when the birds eat the suet, they get pretty enthusiastic and spill some on the ground.  Also, I think this mix is more nourishing and healthy for the birds.  The suet cake only has beef suet and some mixed bird seed in it.

As you can see in the following pictures, I was desperate for some way to feed the crumbles, so I made a feeder from an empty milk jug and hung it on our tree.

Here is our bird-feeding station:

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Frying Chicken for two and what is going on here today...

My daughter bought me one of these nice little 2-quart Lodge Logic cast iron Dutch Ovens.  I also have a very large Lodge deep skillet that I use for frying chicken. Today though, just for the two of us, I wanted to fry just two chicken drumsticks.  If I use a regular skillet, then lard will get all over the stove because a regular skillet is too shallow.  But it occurred to me to use the 2-quart Dutch Oven, and that worked very well!  I always use kettle-rendered lard to fry our chicken.

About 3 years ago, I started a simple quilt and then life intervened and I didn't get to finish it.  Finally, I've been working on it again.  I am doing hand quilting, sitting here at our kitchen island.  Hopefully, I will complete it before too long.

We had a break in the weather and I actually found a few oyster mushrooms outside today!

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Mystery soup.... ;)

Husband: "What are you making?"

Me: "I don't know."

Husband: "Sounds scary."

I agreed, but was on a mission to cook something nice with what I had that needed using up, like some leftover meatloaf.  I cut it into cubes.

On the left, you can see the meatloaf.  I scrubbed and cubed a nice potato.

...put some good extra-virgin olive oil in my cast iron Dutch oven and sauteed some cut-up red cabbage and a diced onion until the onion was starting to brown, stirring the whole time.

I had about 3 cups of leftover chicken bone broth/stock and poured that into the pan.

Last night I put 1/2 cup of lentils to soak in plenty of cold water.  Here they are, drained and rinsed.  These go into the pot next along with a minced clove of garlic and the potato chunks.

There it is all is together, and I will bring it to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer it, covered, for 30 minutes:

While it was simmering, I cooked 1 cup of "bow-tie" pasta in water and drained it.  Why bow-tie?  Because it's pretty, of course!  :)

After the pasta was cooked and drained, I added it and the cubes of meatloaf to the soup, as well as 1 teaspoon sea salt and a few cranks of black pepper.
Here it is!  It is now in the fridge.  I will reheat if for dinner and serve it with some good homemade bread and butter.  

It tastes wonderful!  Hmmmm...  I just need a good name for it.  Any suggestions?

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Two More Potholders... just had to show you. :)

A little gift for a special friend....

Friday, January 1, 2016

Our New Year's Day Dinner

The Garden Fairy and I decided to try to make a southern style meal for our New Year's Day feast.  It worked out well and was delicious.  I made this pot of black eyed peas in my 6-quart pressure cooker!

Black Eyed Peas

1 pound dried black eyed peas, sorted, rinsed and soaked in lots of cold water at least overnight, and drained.
1/2 pound bacon - fried and crumbled
1/2 pound ham - diced
1 medium onion, chopped, and sauteed in the bacon grease and butter until it is a little brown.
1/4 cup butter
6 cups chicken stock

Prepare all of these ingredients and combine them in a 6-quart pressure cooker.  Put on the lid and petcock and bring up to pressure over medium heat.  Reduce heat so the petcock is rocking gently and allow to cook for 40 minutes.  Remove from heat and let the pressure release naturally.

Here are the soaked and drained peas:
The onion cooking in the butter and bacon grease:
Diced ham:
Everything together in the pressure cooker:
Finished soup!

Along with this we had corn bread, collard greens sauteed with bacon, and a wonderful pork butt roast that I cooked in my big Crockpot.

Oh, it was all so good.  I am very grateful for all of the good food and the blessings of family.


Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Money saving bread making tip...

I like to use honey in my homemade bread.  I also like to use blackstrap molasses.  See that bread there?  It is kind of dark in color.  I used the blackstrap molasses this time.  It is delicious.  Honey costs over $40 a gallon.  Blackstrap molasses costs about $9 a gallon.  It is also very high in minerals.  If you make bread, you might want to give it a try.  It has a significantly lower glycemic index than sugar, and just a little lower than honey.  Since I use natural yeast now, almost exclusively, this makes it so my bread has a very low glycemic index.  This is all good news. 
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