Saturday, December 7, 2013

Have I ever told you about Sweet Potatoes?

Here are roughly half of the sweet potatoes I grew in our garden this year.  Sweet potatoes, aside from being delicious and nutritious are Very Easy to grow and to store.  Unlike Irish potatoes, they do not need a dark cold place to be stored, long term.  In fact, if you chill them, it will ruin them fairly quickly.  I just keep mine in a basket sitting in the kitchen.  Many of them would still be good to eat a year from now.  What?  It's true!

Not only that, but once you get started, you never have to buy plants for them again, as it is so very easy to grow your own.  If you are new to this,  now is the time to start thinking about it and planning, as gardening season will be upon us before long.  I am a dyed-in-the-wool gardener.  As soon as the really cold weather hits, I start dreaming of next year's garden.  Here is what you should do:

1.  When the soil can be easily worked, either rototill the area where you want to plant them and enrich the soil, or spade the soil and hoe it up thoroughly.  Add compost, well-rotted manure, or whatever you prefer.

2.  I live in southern Indiana.  You may have to adjust planting dates accordingly.  Try to get a few sweet potatoes from a gardening friend.  Do not purchase them at the grocery store, as they have likely been treated to prevent sprouting.  On May 1st, take your sweet potatoes and plant them in the garden, placing them horizontally and covering them with soil.  They should not be planted deeply.

2.  On June 1st, there should be numerous "slips" - actual sweet potato plants growing on your seed tubers.

3.  I like to plant mine in a long row, 12 - 18 inches apart.  I work up the soil thoroughly and using a rake, make a long ridge.  Get a watering can full of water, a trowel and dig little holes at those intervals all along the ridge.  When you are ready, begin pulling the "slips" off of the seed tubers, fill the holes with water, one at a time, and plant the slip in the muddy hole.  Cover up the bottom of the slip, leaving the leaves sticking out. Continue in this manner until you either run out of room to plant or out of slips.

4.  Unbelievably, they will grow!  At first they wilt, but by the next day, they should be fine.  Then, all you have to do is try to control weeds until the vines cover the ridge and keep the weeds down because of the shade.

5.  Then, sometime before it frosts later in the year, go out and dig or pull up your sweet potatoes.  Don't wash them then.  Just put them in baskets or boxes and bring them into the house.

This year, some creature started eating them before I got to them, but even so, we ended up with more than a bushel of good sweet potatoes.  Rabbits will eat the vines.  The other invader was probably a mouse.  Lucky mouse!

If you don't have access to some tubers to plant, then buy sweet potato plants from your local nursery, or they can also be purchased online.  Once you have a start, you never have to buy them again.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Real Corn Bread!

Not long ago, my husband and I went camping at Spring Mill State Park, near Mitchell, Indiana.  We had a very nice time.  We visited the Pioneer Village one of the days we were there, and went to tour the old grist mill.  They get dried corn (non-GMO!) and grind it to sell.  I bought 12 pounds.  :)  Today I was hungry for something simple to eat, so I invented a new (to me, at least) cornbread recipe.  Here it is!

Real Corn Bread

Preheat oven to 425 and grease a square baking dish.

2 cups corn meal
5 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

In a smaller bowl, mix together:

7/8 cup whole milk
2 egg yolks (reserve the whites, as you will use them shortly)
1/4 cup melted butter

In a small bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff.

Now, pour the liquid into the dry ingredients, mix well, then fold in the beaten egg whites until fairly well combined.  Pour the batter into the prepared pan.

Bake for approximately 25 minutes.  Check after 20 minutes by touching the center of the corn bread.  It should spring back, not still be liquid inside. 

When it's done, remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes before serving.  Serve with plenty of butter!

Simple, satisfying, gluten - free (if you care about that).  Yes.  This is a keeper!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Homemade pancake syrup

This is not Log Cabin syrup.  Our daughter and her family are living with us currently, and I want to share with you how she makes pancake syrup.  Indeed, it is healthier, in some ways, to eat REAL maple syrup, but it can also be too expensive for many of us.  Long ago, I taught her how to make pancake syrup, but she has improved the process. Read the recipe carefully.  The success is in doing it properly.

Homemade Pancake Syrup

1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup water

Combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan with a heavy bottom.  DO NOT STIR...EVER. 
Bring it to a boil, reduce heat and boil for 5 minutes.
Allow to cool.  Pour into serving bottle.
It will sit at room temperature and NOT crystallize.  The secret is in not stirring it while it is cooking.

No HFCS, no other scary things.  Just "real" sugar and some ambient molasses in the brown sugar.

Use sparingly and enjoy!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Perpetual fabric softener sheets...

Along with the theme of the last post, I will tell you about my "fabric softener sheets."  I have a large empty cottage cheese carton with a lid.  Into the container, I put 1 cup liquid fabric softener and 2 cups of water.  Then, I filled the container with old wash rags I had, left from washing goat udders (truly - due to events of life I had to sell my milk goats.)  When I put clean, wet, laundry in the dryer, I take one of the wash rags and wring it out thoroughly and toss it into the dryer.  That's it!  Hopefully, next summer my husband will be able to put my clotheslines back up (long story...) and next winter, we'll be using the wood heating stove again (another long story...) and I won't be using the dryer very much.  But for now, this is nice.  I can have just enough fabric softener for the laundry and it costs Almost Nothing. 

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Un - Paper Towels

Here is a humble little project that pleased my frugal heart immensely.  I cleaned my laundry room today.  I don't do it very (cough) often.  I found a plastic bag full of kitchen towels that I had quit using because the kitchen drawer was too full of them when I was given some new ones.  The old ones are faded and stained, but still quite useable, so I couldn't bring myself to throw them away, and they really weren't nice enough to even donate.  I think they've been awaiting their destiny in there for a couple of years.

I have paper towels, but every time I use one I feel a little "guilty."  It's like throwing pennies in the trash.  Somehow it just doesn't seem right.

Here is what I did.  I cut the hems off of the old towels on all four sides and then cut each towel in half, zig-zagged the raw edges and voila!  Un-paper towels.  They will live in this little basket in the cupboard under our kitchen sink.  I'm sure there will be some times I will still use "real" paper towels, but most of the time will opt for the washable ones.

Oh, yes, here is my clean laundry room. :)

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Pears, again! (...and bananas)

Yesterday, our neighbors gave us the rest of the pears hanging on their tree!  Their son shook the tree and made nearly all of them fall to the ground.  They are HUGE, crisp, sweet and delicious!  I have no idea what variety of pears these are.  Do any of you Gentle Readers have any idea?  We will can most of them, in water, this time, as I don't use very much sugar anymore.  If you want to know my method, please check out THIS post.  I did use sugar that time and they were really wonderful.  I feel so blessed!

At the same time, I am grateful for these:

Our local grocery store sold bananas this week for 38 cents a pound.  At least here, that is a very good price so we bought a lot of them!  Some will be sliced and dehydrated and the rest, when they are quite ripe, I will peel and put into freezer bags and freeze them for smoothies. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The best Granola I've ever made!

I love granola.  Well, I love GOOD granola.  It's actually been quite a number of years since I made any.  I ran across a recipe the other day, changed it up to suit my taste and what I had on hand, and here it is.  It is SO good!

Best Granola Recipe

5 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
3 1/2 cups almonds, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup unhulled, untoasted sesame seeds
1/2 cup Sucanat
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon dried ground ginger
1 teaspoon Realsalt

3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/3 cup real maple syrup
1/4 cup honey
2 Tablespoons virgin coconut oil

Set the oven to 300 F.  Get a really big bowl and combine all the the dry ingredients.  Then, put the wet ingredients in a saucepan and heat that, stirring, until it is good and hot, not boiling.  Pour the liquid over the dry mixture and combine thoroughly.

You will need two big baking trays with the little sides.  Grease them with coconut oil.  Divide the mixture between the two.  Bake, stirring every 10 minutes until the granola is getting brown.  Mine took about 45 minutes, but keep an eye on it.  You don't want it to burn!

Remove from oven.  Cool thoroughly.  Store in an air-tight container.  It should keep for a few weeks.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Today's Bread!

I made 5 loaves of bread today.  I have caught a rotten cold and was up at 4:30 this morning, so thought I may as well do something useful.  Here they are raising in the pans:

I have posted about the method for making bread previously... so look in my recipe index for that.  I just want to record the ingredients here, mainly because it turned out SO delicious and tender.

Today's Bread - 5 loaves

6.25 cups 115 degree water
2.5 teaspoons instant yeast
10 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (That is 1/2 cup + 2 Tablespoons)
10 Tablespoons black strap molasses
2.5 Tablespoons Realsalt
1/4 cup flax seed, ground
3 eggs
2 Tablespoons brewer's yeast (not the fortified kind)
Freshly ground whole wheat flour (start out with 12 cups and add more as needed)

Combine all of the ingredients and knead for 10 - 15 minutes until the dough is springy and elastic.  Add sufficient flour to make the dough nicely kneadable as you are working it, but not dry.
Place dough back into oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
Allow to rise until when you poke the dough, it "sighs".  Punch it down.
Allow to rise again.
Form into 5 loaves and place into greased medium-sized bread pans.
Pre-heat oven to 350.
When the sides of the dough is almost to the top of the edges of the pans, then place them in the oven.
Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.
Remove from  pans and cool on wire racks.
Try to wait 15 minutes before slicing!  With only 3 of us here today, this is all that was left of the first loaf. :)

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Soap musings...

Over several decades, I have made most of the bar soap we have used at home.  It all began when I had 3 children, and the older ones would leave a bar of soap in their bath water and it would quickly be ruined.  Soap was relatively expensive for us ~ due to a Very limited budget.  So, I learned to make soap, and it turned into a small hobby.  I have given it as gifts, sold some through the years, and of course used it for our needs.  I have several stand-by recipes, including my "standard every day soap," Castile soap, and a wonderful shampoo bar.  I also save used cooking fats that I can't re-use for cooking, and when I get "enough," I clarify it, add some coconut oil and make soap from that.  Actually, that is one of my favorites.  It's as if breaking down the fats with so much cooking makes a nicer soap.  I have no idea of the science behind that, but there it is.

One of our grandsons is here right now and he and his Cub Scout Pack carved soap at a meeting.  It was not Ivory Soap, which in my mind is the "gold standard" for soap carving, so I bought a package of the Ivory so he could try it here.  There are several bars left.  I haven't had any Ivory for many years, but as I've used it now, the scent took me back to when I was a child.  I had forgotten how much I love Ivory Soap!

...what sort of person obsesses to this degree about soap???  Well, ask someone who collects aluminum cans for recycling how they feel when they have to drive by a can without stopping. (You know who you are.)

This morning, I took a bar of Ivory into the shower and used it for washing my hair too.  We do have soft water, by the way, so that makes a big difference.  My hair is CLEAN.  Not particularly tangled.  SOFT.  I think I like it this way!  And I think as long as I can afford it, I might just keep using Ivory.  My husband remarked also that it really does a great job of cleaning grease off his hands when he's been working in the garage.  Good Stuff.  Here is (to me) a very interesting article about Ivory Soap.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

"Play Dough"

About 35 years ago, a friend gave me a recipe for homemade Play Dough.  It is wonderful stuff.  I've made it many many times through the years for our children.  Currently, some grandchildren are here with us and I was asked to make some.  The Play Dough is in the plastic bag in the picture above.  So easy and quick to make and inexpensive.  It doesn't need to stay in the fridge.  It will keep a long time, if you keep it tightly wrapped between uses.  Here is the simple recipe:

Homemade Play Dough

2.5 cups of white flour
1/2 cup salt
1 Tablespoon alum (get in the spice section at your grocery store)

Combine the flour, salt and alum.

Bring two cups of water to a boil and pour that in along with 3 Tablespoons of cooking oil and some food coloring.  Mix and knead until it's uniform.  That's it!  If you wish, you can divide it up into smaller batches and color them differently.  This makes a nice gift for a child.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

A wonderful trip!

I returned last night from a trip to visit family.  Our youngest son and his wife were sealed for time and all eternity in the Idaho Falls Temple.  I was so happy to be there with them.  Our oldest daughter attended as well.  I also got to visit for a couple of days with our middle son.  It was great to see family, and I am also very happy to Be Home. "There's no place like home!"

Middle son and his wife and family:

Me and son and his family at the base of the Christus statue in the visitor center at Temple Square in Salt Lake City:

Me, our youngest son, and his wife outside the Idaho Falls Temple before their marriage sealing:

Me, our oldest daughter, youngest son, his wife and her parents after the sealing.  This was a glorious occasion for our families.

The evening I arrived, they took me to Outback Steak House for supper.  Nice.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Salsa Anniversary :)

13 years ago, August 9, 2000 I invented my own salsa recipe for canning.  I've tweaked it various ways through the years.  I call it ~

Millennial Salsa

That jar may look enormous, but actually it is only a pint jar.

Here is a picture of all of the ingredients after I mixed them together.

That is a two-gallon soup pot, and that amount filled 13 pint jars.  13 years, 13 pints jars.  I was quite surprised when I looked at the date on the recipe card and saw I had written it exactly 13 years ago.  Boring to the rest of the world, but it made me feel happy.  Here is the recipe, as I made it this year.

Millennial Salsa

About 1/3 bushel tomatoes - I had a mixture of large tomatoes and some paste - type tomatoes.
4 jalapeno peppers
4 onions
1 Tablespoon sea salt
2 cups vinegar ( I use white, distilled )
4 small cans tomato paste
4 large garlic cloves or two teaspoons garlic powder 

Wash, blanch, peel, and core the tomatoes.  Cut them into pieces and use your thumb to take out the seedy/juicy part of each one.  When they are all prepared, chop them briefly in a food processor.  Alternately, you can do it with a knife. Prepare enough to fill your pan a little over half full.

Cut the stem end off of the jalapeno peppers  and dice them finely in the food processor (including the seeds.)

Peel the onions, cut in chunks and chop them up in the processor also.

Put all the ingredients together in a heavy bottomed and stir thoroughly.  Stirring often to prevent scorching, heat to boiling.  Turn off heat.  Ladle into jars.  Clean rims.  Apply hot caps and rings.  Process in boiling water or in a steam canner for 45 minutes.

This is a "medium heat" salsa.  Do NOT eliminate the tomato paste.  Two things will happen.  One is, the salsa will be too runny.  The other thing is, it won't have enough acid to make this salsa safe to can with boiling water.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Guess what?

Our little chickens have grown up and started laying eggs just over a week ago!  So far, we've had 29 eggs.  New layers make smallish eggs, but last night we got a big one!  Check out the color that the yolks make for our scrambled eggs! That is because they are in a chicken tractor and my husband moves it to fresh grass each morning.  We've also been giving them some of the extras from the garden and they love watermelon rinds, too!   I am SO happy!

My husband started building the chicken house today.  He is a very clever man.

A good productive day!

You know how it is... some days the whole day goes by and it seems as if I didn't accomplish one thing!  Today was NOT like that.  Today was a good day.

 I braided the onions

Picked 5 dozen ears of bi-color sweet corn and canned it.

Picked a peck of tomatoes and made them into juice and canned it.

Hung the garlic up to dry.

I love days like this.

Update on the saltine crackers...

In the last post, I gave you my recipe for homemade healthy saltines.  They really are delicious, but within a few hours seemed sort of "soggy."  My husband suggested I dehydrate them.  So, I put them in the dehydrator on 145 F for maybe 3 or 4 hours, then back into the jar and sealed it.  They are keeping very well now and are crisp.  :)  I imagine you could also spread them on cookie sheets and put them on very low temperature in your oven and do the same thing. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Crackers - of the saltine variety

Not long ago, I blogged about how I was making "crackers."  That is fine, but we still wanted real crackers.  You know, our beloved saltines that we both grew up with.  I looked in my old copy of Whole Foods for the Whole Family that was published by La Leche League in 1981.  It's one of my favorite cook books.  There is a recipe in there for crackers that uses whole wheat flour.  So, I just changed it up to sprouted whole wheat flour.  Here you can see half of them cooling on a cotton dish towel and the other half in the jar I am going to store them in.  I ate one.  Very very nice!  It remains to be seen how well or long these will keep.  I know from experience that freezing homemade crackers is a mistake.  They get soggy.  So, we'll see.. but anyway, today they are perfect! (recipe below)

Saltine Crackers

2 cups sprouted wheat flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup buttermilk (I used 1/4 cup milk kefir and 1/4 cup fresh milk.  You can also us 1/2 cup fresh milk with 2 teaspoons lemon juice mixed in, then let it sit for 5 minutes.)
1 large egg
more salt (for topping)

Combine flour, salt and soda.  Cut in the butter until mixture has texture like oatmeal.  Add milk and egg; blend to make a stiff dough.  Knead thoroughly.  Roll 1/8 inch thick on a floured board (I used unbleached flour for this part.)  Cut into squares and place on lightly greased cookie sheet.  Prick with fork, sprinkle with salt.  Bake at 400 F until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.  Remove from oven and transfer to a towel to cool.  Store in airtight container.  By the way, the wavy edges of my crackers came from using one of these.  Thanks, April.

Here is an update on these crackers:    They really are delicious, but within a few hours seemed sort of "soggy."  My husband suggested I dehydrate them.  So, I put them in the dehydrator on 145 F for maybe 3 or 4 hours, then back into the jar and sealed it.  They are keeping very well now and are crisp.  :)  I imagine you could also spread them on cookie sheets and put them on very low temperature in your oven and do the same thing. 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Pickled jalepeno peppers!

2 pounds of Jalepeno peppers from our garden:

Wash them, and then pack them tightly into wide-mouth pint jars.  I ended up with 5 full jars. To each jar, add 1 teaspoon sea salt, 1 teaspoon mixed pickling spice, 1/4 cup water and then fill the jar with white vinegar to within 1/2 inch of the top.  Wipe rims.  Put on the heated caps.  Adjust the rings.  Process in a boiling water bath or steam canner for 15 minutes.

5 Jars of Pickled Peppers!  :)

Teaching children the joy of work and provident living...

 I don't want to wax political here... and really this isn't.  I find it troubling, though, that so many children that I see are growing up being deprived of the blessing of learning to work and to work well.  So many adults I know seem to have missed the lessons of the joy and satisfaction that comes from hard work.  I was talking to a friend recently who would like to be healthy and fit, and yet she told me she doesn't want to take the time to cook healthy foods.  I know people who are dear to me who would like to be financially independent and be able to prosper, and yet they can't bring themselves to discipline themselves in money management.  Rather than being frugal and wise with the resources they have, they fail to plan and carry through on their plan, and so, in a way, they are planning to fail. 

If you, too, are concerned about this trend, and especially if you are raising children, please take time to watch this wonderful talk that so clearly explains these issues and what to do and not do so that your life and the lives of those you love can be better.


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Canning tomato juice...

Here are the tomatoes I brought in yesterday.  There are lots of grape tomatoes, some paste tomatoes and a few Celebrity tomatoes.  So, I decided to use them to make tomato juice.

I put them through my Champion juicer, and it half-filled this 2 gallon pot.  When I use the Champion, I put the seeds/skins/pulp back through 2 more times, just to get out the last bit of juice.  That sounds tedious, but it is quick and easy.
When the juice came to a boil, I turned off the heat and using a slotted spoon, skimmed off the foam.

Then I filled the jars and placed them in the steam canner and processed them.

Here is what was left over and I added a little Realsalt to that and drank it warm.  Oh, deliciousness!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Do your arms get itchy when you pick things in the garden?

Last week, there was a day when I did a LOT of garden picking.  Green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, and few other things.  By the time I got done, the skin on my arms was "ripped to shreds."  Not really, but it was very scratched up, itchy and had lots of ugly red marks.  Does that ever happen to you?  I whined to my friend, and she said that what she does is cut the toes out of an old pair of socks, and puts the socks over her arms.  Pure genius!  So, I did that today.  I robbed my husband's sock drawer.  I did inform him of my thievery. I cut off the toes, and put the socks over my arms and even positioned the heels where my elbows are.  Voila!  It worked perfectly!  You might wonder why I don't just put on a long-sleeved shirt.  The reason is, as odd as it might seem, this is much cooler and more comfortable.

So now you know.  :)

Friday, July 26, 2013

Sauerkraut and Armenian cucumbers!

Making sauerkraut is so easy, it's embarrassing.  If you've never done it, and you would like to make your own, please do not be afraid, Gentle Reader.  Go out and purchase a Fido Jar.  You could purchase a Pikl-It jar, but they are a lot more costly, and the Fido works just as well.  In one of the pictures here you will see the big Pikl-It I am using and a smaller Fido.  If I had to do it over, I'd just buy Fido jars.  The one I have I bought at a thrift store for a song!

That picture of me up there is right after I went out and harvested the rest of our little cabbages.  It took all of 2 minutes to do that.  I have used some of the cabbages already, but these were left, and the slugs are taking an interest, so it was time to get them out of harm's way.

I weighed them.  There was approximately 5 pounds, after I shredded them in the food processor. Take out the cores first. You can also use a sharp knife and cut shreds as small as possible, but the food processor is like having a magic wand.  Truly.

Here is the cabbage, after being shredded:

For the 5 pounds of shredded cabbage, I sprinkled on 3 Tablespoons of sea salt.  (If you have a choice, don't use "table salt", but if you don't, just use it!)  I sort of mixed it in and then let it sit for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, here is what it looked like:

Then I just squished it vigorously with my hands until it was nice and juicy, then I packed it into the two jars.  You don't want to fill them up all the way to the top, as the sauerkraut will "heave" when it starts fermenting.

I will be able to tell when it is "done," as you can easily see when the fermentation is complete and everything settles down.  You can also do a taste test.  When it tastes right, it is! Then, pack your kraut into another glass jar and cover it well.  Store in the refrigerator.

Now, on to my next surprise!  Have you ever heard of "Armenian cucumbers?"  I never did until this year.  I read online that they are actually a variety of musk melon.  But you pick them while young and they are really really nice cucumbers.  No need to peel them.  Pick them before they start to form seeds and use them just like any other cucumber.  I love them!  They are interesting and beautiful, as well as deliciousl

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Windfall apples - sauce...

We have two apple trees that I planted about 18 years ago.  I was told they are "Transparent" apples, but I really don't know.  I have never sprayed them, and I've only done serious pruning one time.  I do need to do that again this coming winter. 

I took out a basket yesterday and picked up nearly half a bushel of apples from the ground.  I think this is the best crop we've had so far.  Obviously, since I do not spray, they have lots of damage, but they weren't too bad at all!  So, I washed them and then cut out the buggy bits and bruises from falling.

Here they are in my 22 quart stock pot.  I added a quart of home-canned pear juice so I could cook them without scorching.  Water would have been fine.

After cooking on the lowest temperature that my stove can deliver and occasional stirring, this is what they looked like.

Next they took a whirl in our Foley Food Mill  which is worth it's weight in gold.  I got my first one about 1978.  Mine is not stainless steel like the one in the link, but it's still working very well.  My understanding is that during WWII, the Foley Food Mill was one of the few items the government allowed to be re-tinned, because it could save so much food. 

And here you can see all that was left in the food mill from ALL of those apples!

I ended up with this much in the 2 - gallon soup pot:

Here is the applesauce processed in pint jars.  I ate some first. 

I am very pleased.  It has been a good gardening year so far... nice temperatures and plenty of rain.  I think the apple trees are quite happy also.  I've always wondered, since I don't spray if we would ever get much out of them.  This year, the answer is yes!  I am hoping for more.

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