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. 

Sunday, December 27, 2015

A scrappy quilt for my grandson's bed...

My 12-year-old grandson has a queen-size bed.  He didn't have a blanket big enough for the whole thing, so I told him I'd make one for him. I found THIS nice video on YouTube and so I followed her instructions for making the quilt top from strips of scraps. 

I made my strips a little wider than she suggested - 3 1/2 inches, so with 1/4 inch seams, I ended up with 3 inch wide strips in the quilt.  I just randomly stacked the strips for sewing together.  I started out with 66 yards of sewn-together strips, and after finishing, the quilt is 90 inches x 100 inches, which is a nice size for his bed.  I put a layer of batting between the top and the backing, which I made out of bright orange fleece fabric... his favorite color.  After it was all together, I pinned it with safety pins and then took it to the sewing machine and "stitched in the ditch" between each 3rd strip.  That's all there was to it!  Of course it took some time, but it was very simple and relatively quick to make.

He loves it.  He says he sleeps better now with it on his bed.  :)

FYI - I laid it out on the gym floor at our Church.  I don't have enough floor space here, without all sorts of gymnastic moves on my part.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Yogurt in my Wonder(ful) Cooking Bag!

My friend, Juvonda from Hoosier Heartland Alpacas, shared her yogurt recipe with me.  She incubates hers in her oven, and it works perfectly.  My oven won't let me set it at such a low temperature, so I wanted to figure out another way.  After much thought, I settled on trying to do it in my "Wonder(ful) Cooking Bag." It worked perfectly! Here is what it looked like when I opened it all up this morning:

And here is Juvonda's recipe:

Homemade Yogurt

1 gallon whole milk
1/2 cup plain yogurt with live cultures

Over medium-low heat, heat the milk in a stainless steel kettle to 185 degrees F (85 C)
Remove from heat and allow to cool to 115 F (46 C)
Whisk in 1/2 cut plain yogurt, thoroughly.
Cover with lid and either put it in your oven at 115 F (46 C) overnight, OR, into a cooking bag like above or wrap it up a lot with fluffy quilts in a basket or box.
Let it sit at least overnight.  Longer is fine.
Pour into glass jars or a glass bowl, cover and refrigerate.
That's it!  Easy Peasy.

Be sure to save 1/2 cup yogurt for your next batch.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Tiny tip - Pesky Parchment Paper...

When I was a girl, there was "Wax Paper" (there still is, of course) but that was long before there were any plastic bags, and certainly, we didn't have parchment paper to use in the kitchen.  I am not sure when that became available.  It is very nice stuff, but if you buy it in a normal store, it's pretty expensive, too.  I was able to get a large box of it at Sam's Club at a very reasonable price, and since I rarely have a need for it, this box will last me a long time.  Since I have Silpat sheets, I don't use it under cookies and things like that in baking.  For dinner today, I am making a meat loaf (recipe below).  I decided it will be much easier to safely remove the loaf from the baking pan if I could line it with parchment paper.  I ran across this tip on Mrs. Volfie's YouTube video.  It's brilliant!  What she does is crumble up the piece of parchment under running water.  Then it is Very Easy to line your baking pan! 


Meat loaf recipe

2 pounds ground meat (I used 1 pound beef and 1 pound venison)
2 eggs
2 slices bread, broken into little pieces
1/3 cup milk
2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
fresh or dried basil leaves, as much as you like (I didn't measure it)

Mix all of that together thoroughly,  pack it into a lined or greased loaf pan and bake for 1 hour at 350F, until the internal temperature is at least 160F ( I check with a thermometer.)

Friday, December 18, 2015

A sewing tip - for those who sew...

My mother used to make her own hot pads.  She would take two circles of fabric and between them put layers of circles of old towels and sew it all together with bias tape around the circumference.  Then, she'd sew a little plastic circle to the edge to hang it up with.

Through the years, I have made many hot pads the same way.  They really are wonderful and last for years.  It has always been a challenge, though, because no matter how hard I try, the pieces will scootch around and it will get sort of buggered up.... until today!

In our Church, each woman ("sister" we call them) is visited, once a month by two other sisters.  We have a short lesson (it is called "Visiting Teaching") and visit for a while to see how she and her family are doing and assess any needs that there may be.  It's a wonderful program.  We like to give a little something to the sisters we visit for Christmas.  I decided to make some hot pads. I used THIS tutorial. I was up against the same problem of holding things together while I sewed.  Suddenly, it came to me!  Here is what I did:

I held the edges together with small bull clips.  It worked very well.  Of course, I took them out as I sewed.  It made it so much easier (sew much easier?) After putting it together like that, I sewed all around the edge and then applied  the seam binding and added a loop.

I made 8 of them, 2 for each sister.  I think this idea might be applicable to other sewing projects as well.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

2 Tiny Tips - Cabbage and Flexibility...

You know how it is... you buy a cabbage, take it home and keep it in your refrigerator.  Then, you cut off a piece to use in soup or stir-fry.  That's fine, but if you don't get back to use more pretty soon, the cut surface starts to oxidize and look icky.  So, then you slice off a little slice and put it in the compost - an utter waste, really.  Here is what I do: I take leaves off the outside of the head of cabbage and cut those up for whatever I am cooking, then put the cabbage head back in the refrigerator.  This is much nicer.

Now, about the flexibility...  Since we've moved into our trailer, and it is considerably smaller than our old house, I've noticed I have to be more pro-active about getting physical activity.  I do walk in the woods, most days, and in the gardening season I work quite hard.  I hang up laundry when it's warm enough outside, and I clean house, knead bread, etc... but recently I've started doing something else.  For years, when I need to get into a bottom cupboard or shelf, I squat all the way down, and that has made my knees very happy.  I started doing that 16 years ago when my knees started acting up.  Now, when I need to lean over, or reach out or anything (hard to describe) I lean as far as possible and stretch my muscles.  If you think about it as you go about your daily activities, you can work in quite a bit of stretching and your flexibility will improve.  All those little things add up.  I am happy with the results.  Now it's easier for me to do things, and also easier to get up from the floor. Think about the things you do throughout the day.  Make them just a little bit more difficult.  You'll be amazed, after a while.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A warm December = nice produce from the garden!

The weather has been nice and "warm" lately with plenty of rain.  Today I brought in some wonderful oyster mushrooms as well as carrots, a beet, Swiss chard and kale from the garden!  Supper will be good tonight!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Christmas from 60 years ago...

60 years ago I was in First Grade.  I made this Santa Claus on "tag board" at school and colored it with Crayola crayons.  My Mommie always tacked it to the trunk of our Christmas tree.  I still have it.  That is a picture of her there.  Merry Christmas Mommie!

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Pressure cooking - Chapter 10

I got home rather late in the day and had planned to make vegetable soup.  So... I went ahead and made it - in the pressure saucepan!  It only takes a few minutes to cook and tastes as if it had been simmered for hours.

I will tell you how I made it, but please don't think you have to have just what I put in it.  This is more of a method than an exact recipe.. ok?

Today's Vegetable - Bacon Soup

1/2 pint home canned bacon ends and pieces (you could use bacon from the store.)
1 medium onion, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 celery stalks, sliced
1 big handful of mushrooms, chopped (I have some of those oyster mushrooms left.)
1 large carrot, diced
1 pint canned corn
1 quart green beans, drained
2 cups loosely packed chopped collards
1 quart tomato juice
1 cup chicken bone broth
Sea salt and pepper to taste

In a 6 quart pressure saucepan, start the bacon cooking.  Add the onion, garlic, celery and mushrooms and saute for a few minutes.

Add all the other ingredients except the salt and pepper.  Put on the lid and the petcock.  Bring up to pressure.  Allow to cook for 5  minutes with the petcock rocking gently.  Remove from heat.  Let the pressure come down by itself.

Open the cooker, salt and pepper to taste and serve!  I had mine with some nice homemade bread and butter.

This is so quick and easy.... my version of convenience food!  :)

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Today's Oyster Mushroom haul...

The weather is cold and rainy... apparently perfect for Oyster Mushrooms!  I took my umbrella out and took a walk and found these wonderful specimens. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

A Vegetarian Turkey

I believe this idea came from Pinterest... from somewhere else.  Our granddaughter and her friend came to our house after school today and made a Vegetarian Turkey.  :)

Friday, November 13, 2015

Baby and Butter...

Our grocery store had a sale on Land O Lakes Butter and so we bought 5 pounds.  I put them in plastic bags so I can put them in the freezer.  The grandson (7 months old), as you can see, enjoyed the butter!  :)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Pumpkin Pie - Made with honey!

In preparation for Thanksgiving Dinner, which will be two weeks from today here in the USA, I decided to see if I could successfully make a pumpkin pie using honey, instead of sugar.  As you can see, it worked!  And it's really very nice.  Here is my recipe.


1 1/3 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup cold lard
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Cold whole milk

Combine flour and salt in a bowl.  Using your fingers, rub in the lard until it is crumbly.  Stirring with a fork, gradually add a little milk at a time, until the dough stays together nicely, but isn't wet.  Turn onto a floured surface and knead, only 2 or 3 times and form into a ball.  Flatten with your hand, and then using plenty of flour to keep it from sticking, roll it out large enough to cover the bottom and sides of your pie plate with some to hang over.  Turn the extra dough under and flute the edges.

Pumpkin Pie Filling


1, 15-ounce can pumpkin
1/2 cup honey
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3 eggs

Mix well, then gradually add:

1, 12-ounce can evaporated milk

Mix well.

Pour into crust and place in a pre-heated 425 F oven for 15 minutes.  Reduce temperature to 350 F and then bake for another 40 to 50 minutes.  Test for doneness by sticking a sharp little knife into the middle of the pie.  If it comes out clean, the pie is done.  Remove from oven and cool on a rack.  When cool, cover with plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator.

I just ate a piece, warm.  I couldn't wait.  Delicious and so smooth and nice!

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Don't laugh, please - the tinniest tip ever...

See that little bowl there?  It's sitting in the corner of my kitchen sink and it has some small slivers of bar soap in it.  I keep that there, instead of liquid soap or a whole bar of soap.  You know, if you use bar soap, you always end up with odd little bits and then comes the moral dilemma... do I throw it away? (Gasp!)  Do I save them up and melt them into new soap bars? (Ugh.)  No!  I use them to wash my hands at the kitchen sink.  It's so simple to just reach into that little bowl, take out a piece and soap up my hands and then put it back in the bowl. 

Ok.  Go ahead and laugh.  But it makes me happy.  :)

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The BEST potato year ever!

This gardening year has been disappointing in many ways.  I got off to a very good start in the Spring and everything was looking lovely.  Then the rain started, and it didn't stop, for a long while.  I was literally walking barefoot in mud up to my ankles to harvest vegetables for a while.  Needless to say, the weeds had a lot of fun and took over completely.  I've never seen it so bad.  We had to dig some of the potatoes early because they were growing in the wettest corner of the garden plot.  I've been digging the last of them recently, and I just now finished.  I brought in about 50# today - you can see them in the buckets above.  Most of them are quite large.  It's wonderful!  Whatever the creature is that goes underground and chews on them, didn't get very many.  I damaged a few in digging, as you can see above.  I am sharing, of course.  Altogether we got approximately 300#.  That is out of about 150 feet of row.  I didn't buy seed potatoes this year.  I just planted the little ones I saved from last year and it worked out very well. The variety is Kennebec.

When I came in, just now, I was dripping sweat from my face and I took the picture and sat down here.  I am cooling off with my little friend in my lap.  She is 13 years old now, and beginning to show her age. 

Many crops did poorly, although for the two of us, we had plenty to eat and share, but a lot of work was wasted.  However, the potatoes did wonderfully.  I guess they like rain!

Next year, I am going to start trying the permanent mulch system.  Some call it "Back to Eden" or "The Ruth Stout Method."  It will be a learning process, but will at least avoid some of the problems I've had this year.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Late Garden "Foraging"....

Our vegetable garden is finished for the year, but not yet cleaned up.  I knew there was some kale and Swiss chard peaking above the ground.  I wanted to make some stir-fry, Jasmine rice and scrambled eggs for breakfast, so I went to see what I could find.  Here is what I came in with!

I fired up my little rice cooker,
Chopped up some of all the vegetables I could find,
and made the stir-fry.
Oh, my, it was good!

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

I need one more biscuit for my Vintage Roll Holder...

I have a awful cold, and so am taking it kind of easy today, and decided to do a little sewing.  I ran across THIS tutorial online to make this "Vintage Rolls Holder."  It has two sets of snaps to hold it open like that and when not in use, you can undo the snaps and the thing lies flat and is easy to store.  It was fun to make.  I am thinking it could be very charming on a Thanksgiving table with rolls in it.  But today I made biscuits and chicken soup with rice because I'm sick.

...my batch of biscuits only made 11.  Sigh.....  ;)
It's not time for dinner, yet, but I think I'll go eat a warm biscuit with butter.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Meanwhile... up on Mt. Whitney....

The Fairy's younger sister scaled Mt. Whitney the day before the Birthday Party.  I have wonderful daughters.  I think that means "full of wonder" and it fits.  :)
When we decided to have a family, we of course had no idea what we were getting into... not really.  It has been a heartwarming, challenging and priceless experience. Our 6 children are all, every one of them, good, honest, generous, hard-working, kind, intelligent people.  I am very proud of them. I hope I can stay on this earth for a while yet, but I could go to Heaven today, content with my life.

Here is a picture from long ago.  Our youngest boy had not yet been born. The Garden Fairy is in front on the left and I'm holding the youngest girl pictured above.
The oldest girl on the left above is pictured here with her youngest daughter who is our youngest granddaughter.
And here is our youngest grandson, who was born to the Fairy 6 months ago.
I cannot adequately express how grateful I am for family.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Garden Fairy's Birthday Party...

Yesterday I posted about the cake I made for my Garden Fairy's Birthday.  We had the party this evening.  I thought I would share some pictures with you. 

 We had the party at the campsite in our woods.
 The children decorated!
 Here is her husband.
 With her two sons-
 After the weenie roast we had cake and ice cream.
 The best gift ever!  :)
 The whole group, except one friend who took the snapshot:
My favorite picture - the Fairy with her daughter - 

I'm not a cake decorator, either...

Today is my Garden Fairy's birthday.  She and her family are coming out here for a cookout at our campsite in the woods. So... I made a cake.  I was inspired by some cakes a friend of mine posted on her blog. Her cakes are so pretty and simple.  I would not call mine pretty, but it is simple.  I thought I would show you.  Here are the recipes that I used for the cake, filling, and frosting.

This cake is called "Food Storage Cake" because you don't use anything that is particularly perishable, so if you keep your pantry stocked, you can always make this cake.


2 2/3 cup flour
6 Tablespoons cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 Tablespoons distilled while vinegar
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
1 cup oil (I use melted coconut oil)

Combine the dry ingredients.  Add remaining ingredients and mix with an electric mixer for 2 minutes.

Pour into a greased and floured 9 x 13 pan OR 2 round cake pans.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes at 350 F until when you insert a toothpick in the center, it comes out clean.  Cool completely before frosting.


Place a can of sweetened condensed milk (remove paper wrapper first) in a large saucepan and cover with water.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer and cook for 3 hours.  Remove from pan and allow to cool completely before using.

FROSTING - this is enough for a 9 x 13 pan.  Double recipe for a layer cake.

1 egg yolk
2 Tablespoons softened butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
If you want it to be chocolate, add 1 1/2 Tablespoons cocoa powder.

Beat all together.  Then add milk just a little at a time until it is how you want it to be.

I rarely make "sweets" anymore.  Sugar is not good for us.  But neither is NEVER having any fun, and it's for my Garden Fairy's birthday!  By the way, we have 6 children.  Of the 6, she is the only one that was born at home.  It was nice. I am not promoting home birth.  That is a personal choice.  The other 5 were hospital births and I had good experiences there too.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Jerusalem Artichokes...

Have you ever heard of "Jerusalem Artichokes?"  They grow wild all over the place here.  This past spring, a man was selling some of the tubers at our local Farmer's Market.  I was so excited!  I bought some of them and planted them in the garden.  I once read that "The man who has Jerusalem Artichokes will never starve." Apparently, once established, it will be a big job to get rid of them.  You plant the tubers, and they multiply and send up big tall flowers.
The tubers multiply like crazy in the ground.  You can dig them up any time you like.  I dug up a few yesterday.
There are many ways to use them... they can be steamed and mashed, with butter and salt.  They are great in soup.  Sliced thinly they can be added to salads.  They have a mild slightly sweet taste and are very versatile.  This morning, I made one of our favorite breakfasts, stir fried vegetables, Jasmine rice and scrambled eggs.  We like a little Tamari on the vegetables.
There is no need to peel the chokes.  Just wash and scrub them well.  You may, if you wish, of course, but it's a waste of time, and probably nutrients, as well.  Chokes have a pretty impressive nutritional profile. Here is a chart from Wiki:
Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)
Energy 304 kJ (73 kcal)

17.44 g
Sugars 9.6 g
Dietary fiber 1.6 g

0.01 g

2 g

Thiamine (B1)
0.2 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
0.06 mg
Niacin (B3)
1.3 mg
0.397 mg
Vitamin B6
0.077 mg
Folate (B9)
13 μg
Vitamin C
4 mg

14 mg
3.4 mg
17 mg
78 mg
429 mg

These are very easy to grow, and once established, you can hardly get rid of them, so be careful where you plant them.  They will keep, nicely, for what seems forever in the fridge.  I haven't tried room temperature yet, but I am planning to leave a few out in a basket and see what happens. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Canning Carrots!

I have never canned carrots before.  I am ashamed to say that my carrot growing attempts have, in the main, been an abysmal failure.  This year was the worst ever because of all the rain.  Carrot seeds take a long time to sprout and so the weeds get a head start and by the time the carrots are up... then I have to wait until they are big enough that I won't pull them up with the weeds.  You get the picture.  One year, probably 32 years ago (gasp!) I had a good carrot patch and I mulched it heavily before the ground froze and dug up fresh carrots all winter!  It was wonderful.  As I'm hoping to go to a permanent mulch system, maybe I'll be able to do that again.  However, yesterday, at the supermarket, I found 5 pound bags of organic carrots for about $4.68 a bag.  Wow!  I bought 4 of them.  I think they were so inexpensive because they are pretty skinny carrots.  My plan was/is to can them.  I processed about 6 pounds this evening.  That made 9 pints which is what my canner holds in one layer.  I hope I can finish them tomorrow, but if not, the next day.

1.  Peel the carrots
2. Rinse the carrots
3. Slice the carrots
4. Fill the jars
5. Add 1/2 teaspoon sea salt to each jar
6. Fill the jars with hot water and "de-bubble."
7. Wipe rims
8. Put on the caps and rims
9. Process in pressure canner at 11 pounds pressure for 25 minutes. (If you don't know how to do pressure canning, be sure you consult a reliable canning guide.)

 I love cooked carrots.  These will be perfect!  My husband does not like cooked carrots.  More for me ;)

I will probably end up with about 28 pints (?)  all for 53 cents each, plus the cost of the cap and some electricity.  Not too bad.  And, they are organic.  :)

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Garlic - in a Very Wet Summer

This year when I harvested the garlic, the papery coverings were not very good.  There had been such a lot of rain... Lately I've been worried that the garlic won't "keep" as well as it has in the past, so a set aside a few bulbs to plant in October, and I've preserved the rest in two ways.  You can see the problem here.  The papery wrapper is all but gone.
So, I washed a lot of it, carefully peeled the cloves and rinsed them thoroughly under running water.

The first ferment is a remedy for colds and influenza. I took my small Fido jar and filled it about 2/3 full with the peeled cloves.  Next, I poured in enough raw honey to cover them, and sealed the jar.  What I read is that you should "burp" the jar every day until it doesn't burp anymore.  I think I will just let it go for a few weeks, as the extra pressure will slowly leak out of a Fido jar.  Then, I'll keep it in the cupboard.  If a cold or influenza is coming on, we'll eat 4 or more fermented cloves right away, and then as needed.

The second ferment is just to preserve the garlic for cooking.  I filled a quart canning jar about 2/3 full with the rinsed cloves.  I added 2 Tablespoons of live whey that I got from making kefir cheese. (You can also use the whey from plain yogurt.) and then poured in about 1/2 quart of simple brine, which is a mixture of 2 cups of water and 2 Tablespoons of plain sea salt.  This will set on the counter for several days and then I will store it in the refrigerator and just take out what I need for cooking.  This garlic keeps indefinitely and it is very convenient to have on hand, all ready to go! 

I think my kitchen might have the aroma of an Italian restaurant today.  It's very garlicky in here.  Fortunately, I love garlic!

Here are the two jars.  I'm certain you can tell them apart.

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