Sunday, January 13, 2019

A new tiny tip.... toasted cheese (and ham) sandwiches...

For lunch today I put together two sandwiches with a slice of cooked ham and a slice of mild cheddar cheese on each one.  I decided to "toast" them in a skillet.  Ordinarily, I would butter the outsides of the bread slices first, but I was distracted and forgot until I already had the sandwiches assembled.  So, I tried something new.  I heated up the skillet on medium heat and then added butter to it, enough that it covered the bottom and then I toasted the sandwiches on that.  The flavor was amazing!  The butter browned and added so much to the taste.  I will do it this way from now on.

This is not my picture, as we ate them before I could take one.  :)

Image result for images of ham and cheese sandwich

Thursday, January 10, 2019

What I am doing with our wonderful Purple Sweet Potatoes....

Here is a purple sweet potato that we grew in our garden this year.  I think we ended up with about 2/3 of a bushel of them from FIVE plants.  They did amazingly well. As I've told you before, sweet potatoes (orange or purple) are very easy to grow, and, at least where we live, are very productive.  All I have to do is dig them up, let them cure (I do it on the garage floor) for a week or two, and then place them in baskets or paper bags or cardboard boxes and set them in the house.  They will easily stay nice until the next harvest.  They are not sensitive to light like Irish potatoes, but they don't like to get cold, so don't keep them in a cold cellar or in your refrigerator.

These potatoes are much dryer than the orange variety. They also are sweet, but not as much as the orange ones.  However, what they might lack in taste (on their own) pales in comparison to the nutritional benefits. I assume you are familiar with the fact that blueberries are very rich in certain antioxidants? This purple color reflects a rich concentration of those same phytonutrients that we find in blueberries.  If you garden, then this is an easy and very inexpensive way to be able to eat those on a regular basis.

One morning, recently, I was laying in bed pondering what I might do to use more of the Purple sweet potatoes.  I do like to boil them, peel and mash with a little lime juice, some butter and sour cream and maybe some sort of sweetener.  I have also made very nice Purple sweet potato pie a few times. On the  morning in question, I decided to try making powdered Purple sweet potatoes.  It worked out perfectly.  If you have a dehydrator and a good blender, you can do this too.

I cut the Purple sweet potatoes into large slices, covered them with water and boiled them until they were tender when pierced with a sharp knife.  Then, I drained them, let them cool and removed the skins.  Next, I put them in my mixer and used the "paddle" attachment and added a bit of water and mashed them thoroughly.  Next, I spread them on fruit roll trays in the dehydrator, not very thinly, actually, and dehydrated them at 135 F. It only took a few hours.  When they were nice and crisp, I put them in the blender and turned them into powder.

Next, I put them in a glass jar and covered it tightly.

Here is a picture of a little bit of it in a spoon so you can see what the powder looks like:

So, you may ask, what do I do with this powder?  You can add it to anything you wish!  I've been adding some to bread, I sprinkle it on yogurt, or in a sandwich on top of something else. I'm sure it will be lovely in smoothies.  It is mild in flavor and packed with nutrients.

That pint jar was filled by just 3 of the potatoes.  Like I mentioned, they are quite dry, so they yield a lot in comparison with other vegetables and fruits.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Button Lamp - another repost!

We recently had a 3-day power outage.  The weather was cold, but not bitterly so.  Fortunately, we have a propane heater and two good-sized propane tanks, which my husband keeps filled. The heater can easily keep our small trailer house warm.  It made me think of this, which I posted quite a while ago and might be helpful if you lose your power.

A Button Lamp

I just ran across this picture... and wondered if you have ever heard of a "button lamp." Many years ago, we got this idea from one of Laura Ingalls Wilder's books called The Long Hard Winter. These are easy and fun to make and if you ever find yourself with no electricity, no candles... nothing to make light with, please remember this! All you need is a small glass dish or saucer, a button - not a plastic button, but one made of shell, glass or wood, a small square of cotton fabric, a piece of string and a match to light it with! The reason you don't use plastic is that if the flame contacts the button, you will have a cloud of toxic and not very nice smelling fumes coming off of it.

Cut your cotton fabric large enough to wrap tightly around the button and use the string or thread to tie it on, leaving the little pointy ends sticking up. Then, put some sort of oil or fat (Ma Ingalls used axle grease I think!) into your dish... don't use very much. You don't want to drown the flame. Put the wrapped button into the fat and get a little bit of it on the "wick" and then light it! This makes a very satisfactory light in an emergency.

One time, many years ago, the power went out. The children got busy making button lamps. We had several of them (more than we needed!) lit and happily giving light to our home, and then of course the power came back on! We were sincerely disappointed!

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Red Lentil and Brown Rice soup - in the Instant Pot...

This recipe is not original with me.  I found the basic recipe at and modified it for the Instant Pot. We are in our 3rd day of a power outage because of a freezing rain storm. My husband has a gasoline powered generator that we are using to keep our food cold in the fridge and the freezer, but also, when it's on, I can do a little cooking.  I just can't use the kitchen range, as it draws too much power.  Each afternoon, my sweet husband hauls the generator over to the neighbor and hooks it up there for their freezer.  He's a good man.

So, he deserves good food.  Today we are having scrambled eggs, made in the electric skillet, the Red Lentil and Brown Rice soup, cooked in an Instant Pot, and cornbread baked in an Instant Pot.  My tummy is telling me it's time to eat.  I'm just waiting for the cornbread to get done.  :)

Red Lentil and Brown Rice Soup - Instant Pot

With the IP set on "saute", cook together, stirring until onions are wilting:

1 coarsely chopped red onion
3 minced garlic cloves
2 Tablepoons extra-virgin California olive oil

Add the following, put on the lid, set to seal and cook for 35 minutes on manual. Let it cool for 10 minutes, and then quick release and open the pot, carefully

4 cups vegetable broth ( I made my "broth" using 4 teaspoons Better than Bouillon vegetable broth paste.)
1, 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
1 1/4 cup red lentils
1/2 cup uncooked brown rice
1 T Italian Seasoning
1 T. dried celery flakes
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp. dried marjoram

Adjust salt and pepper to your liking.

This soup is really delicious, nice and thick and comforting on this cold day in Indiana!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Thanksgiving Dinner - another re-post!

Thanksgiving will be here (in the USA) before you know it.  Just in case some of you Gentle Readers might not have seen the two following posts, I will share again. I hope all of you are able to have a nice Thanksgiving dinner and spend that time with people you love. And even if you have no other person to celebrate the day, pondering on the things you are grateful for can bring joy and warmth to the heart.  God bless you all!

A quick turkey dinner

I had a frozen turkey that I had put by about a year ago. (Yes, a whole year!) I decided I'd better go ahead and use it, so I took it out of the freezer and into the refrigerator it went to thaw. It weighed about 14 pounds and I left it to thaw for 5 days. At that point I hadn't even decided for sure what I was going to do with it. But since we did not have Thanksgiving Dinner here at our home, we were not covered up with leftovers, so I chose to make a simple, traditional Thanksgiving Turkey Dinner just for me and my husband. (I mentioned using the carcass to make soup on an earlier post.) So, here is what I did.

The Turkey ~ Wash in cold water, remove the giblets and/or neck from the cavities, wash those and put them in a pan, cover with water, bring to a boil and simmer until thoroughly done. In the cavity of the turkey, place a large peeled onion and a mixture of dried parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme tied up in a little piece of cotton cloth. Put the bird in a roasting pan that has a lid. Rub the skin with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt, pepper and some more of that same herb mixture. Put the lid on the pan and place in a 350 degree F. oven on the middle rack.

"Stuffing"~ In a cast iron frying pan, melt 1/2 cup butter and add a large diced onion, 2 cups of diced celery (I pulled mine out of the freezer. I often dice and freeze celery so it won't go to waste and is ready to use in soups and things). Saute', stirring often until the vegetables start to get limp. Then, take about 1/2 loaf of bread (I used my homemade whole wheat, but you could use any bread you have, and it's a good way to use stale bread) and cut it into little cubes. Put them in the pan and continue to cook for a little while, stirring. Take some of the liquid from cooking the giblets/neck (my bird didn't come with giblets) and mix in an egg. Pour that over the stuffing. Add some more of that same herb mix mentioned above. Stir it all up well and turn off the heat. Add more of the broth if needed to make it moist but not soggy. Cover the pan with either parchment paper or waxed paper and then with aluminum foil. You could use a lid, but then your pan might not fit in the oven with the turkey. During the last hour of roasting the turkey, put this pan on the bottom rack of the oven. Then it will be done at the same time.

Mashed Potatoes ~ Scrub as many potatoes as you think you will need and cut them in quarters. Do not peel if the skins are decent. Put them all in a Crock Pot, cover with water and cook either on high for about 2 hours or low for 4 hours. Then when everything is done, drain off most of the water and add some butter, milk, salt and a little garlic powder and mash thoroughly.

Gravy ~ When the turkey is done, remove it from the oven and use your baster to take out the pan drippings. If you don't have a baster, with a little help, pour the drippings out. Put them all in a saucepan. Add enough of the aforementioned broth to make the amount of gravy you would like to have. You will have to gauge the amount of thickening by how much liquid you are now using. For 1 cup of liquid, use 1 Tablespoon non-GMO cornstarch or 2 Tablespoons of unbleached mixed in a little warm water. When it all comes to a boil, then slowly add the thickening, stirring carefully to prevent lumping. Add any little bits of meat from the neck and dice the giblets too. Simmer until thick, then taste it and see if it needs anything else, like a little more salt or pepper, but it probably won't.

Cranberry Sauce ~ I LOVE cranberry sauce! Put 2 cups of cranberries in a saucepan, 1/2 cup honey, or if you don't mind the mild molasses flavor, you can use 1 cup of Sucanat. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Pour into a bowl and chill if you like, but you don't have to have it cold if you are doing this at the last minute.

Vegetables ~ Just pick what you like off the shelf or out of the fridge and cook them! We had some home canned green beans with this meal. Corn and sweet potatoes are more traditional.

There you go! It sounds complicated, but it's simply not. Roast turkey is one of the easiest things to cook, and there are always nice leftovers for soup, sandwiches, salads, etc.

Here is one thing I like to do with some of the leftovers. Cut some of the turkey meat into bite sized pieces, and mix with enough stuffing to fill a pie plate. Pour some of the gravy over that and top with mashed potatoes and bake it at 350 degrees F. until heated through. I call it "Thanksgiving Pie."

Un-stuffed stuffing...

I realize that Thanksgiving 2012 is now past.  I want to show you this and tell you how I do "stuffing".  After all, Christmas is not long from now and it might be helpful.

I have never used a recipe for stuffing and I don't actually stuff the poultry anymore.  "They" have scared me off with all the warnings about possible salmonella exposure, so now I roast the bird and bake the stuffing separately.

Here is a list of what I use:

Stale homemade bread
Homemade poultry broth or stock
Chopped onion
Chopped celery
Salt and pepper
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme (whole, dried and rubbed until small)
A small amount of ground poultry seasoning (be careful with this.  It is very strong.)

1.  Slice the bread, as much as you like (for 12 people I use 2 loaves) and lay it out in trays to get stale and dry out some.  You don't want it to be hard, just dried up a bit.

2.  Break the bread into small pieces into a large bowl.  Add celery and onion, as much as you like.  For this amount I would use 2 medium onions and about 5 celery ribs.

3.  For this amount, I pour on 1 cup of melted butter and enough broth to make it moist, not soggy.

4.  I never measure the seasonings.  I just put on "some" and keep tasting until I like the flavor.  Do the salt first and then start adding bits of the other things, the parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme and black pepper.  When that tastes nice to you, sprinkle on a little bit of ground poultry seasoning and stir it all well.

5.  Taste it a few times and pay attention.  You will know when it tastes right.

6.  Pack it all into an oven-proof covered dish and bake at 350 for about an hour.

7.  When it is time for your big dinner, reheat in the oven, just until warm.  Serve with gravy that you make from the drippings from your roasted bird, as follows...

Remove the bird from the oven and use your baster to take out the pan drippings. If you don't have a baster, with a little help, pour the drippings out. Put them all in a saucepan. Add enough of the aforementioned broth to make the amount of gravy you would like to have. You will have to gauge the amount of thickening by how much liquid you are now using. For 1 cup of liquid, use 1 Tablespoon cornstarch or 2 Tablespoons of unbleached flour mixed in a little warm water. When it all comes to a boil, then slowly add the thickening, stirring carefully to prevent lumping. Add any little bits of meat from the neck and dice the giblets too if you like. Simmer until thick, then taste it and see if it needs anything else, like a little more salt or pepper, but it probably won't.

Leftover stuffing can be frozen and reheated for future meals.  I like to make what I call "Thanksgiving pie."  Cut up some of the leftover turkey, mix it with some leftover stuffing, pack it into a pie plate and pour gravy over it all, then top with mashed potatoes and bake at 350 until the potatoes start to brown a little bit.  We love this!

I have even filled some pie plates, as above, without the potatoes, and wrapped them snugly and frozen them for later use.  All you have to do is add the potatoes and bake.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Replacing a Zipper in a Coat or Jacket - re-post!

In case you are a new reader, you may have missed this post and as the days are getting shorter and colder, here, I thought I'd re-post this.

Here you can see a perfectly good jacket. The problem is, the zipper is broken! Replacing a zipper is really not difficult, but it is tedious and takes considerable time. If your coat/jacket is nice, and/or you love it, it is more than worth the trouble to replace the zipper.

Here is the zipper I ordered over the internet here. This company is wonderful. They have everything and excellent customer service!

A closer look at the invoice:

The zipper I purchased cost $6.03 including the shipping, and so for a nice coat, you can see that this would really be worthwhile.

Now, don't be afraid. Breath. Relax. Here we go.

FIRST ~ set your sewing machine to its longest stitch length. Sew a line of stitching along the jacket opening, far enough in from the edge that you do NOT catch in the existing zipper. This is to hold everything together nicely and make the reassembly easier. Do this on both sides of the jacket.

Here I am doing the same thing on the other side:

SECOND ~ take your little seam ripper and do (carefully and don't stab yourself) whatever it takes to remove the broken zipper:

Here I've gone a little farther in the process:

Here I am removing some stitching from the surface:

And here is what it looks like with the zipper removed. Now you will see the wisdom of doing that basting line of stitches so the jacket doesn't blow up and get all weird.

THIRD ~ carefully remove all the bits of loose thread:

FOURTH ~ Thread a sturdy hand sewing needle with a doubled thread and run it through some beeswax so it will be less likely to tangle while you are sewing. Rosin will work instead of the beeswax, too, or if you have neither, find a piece of candle or even hand soap to use!

FIFTH ~ I hope you took the time to observe how the old zipper was positioned. You are going to unzip the new zipper, and one side at a time, you will put the new zipper in, and pin it in place and then hand baste it in place:

See? Here is one side basted together:

And here is the other side:

Oh, yes, and it is very helpful to have a fuzzy cat walking around under your work table at this point:

SIXTH ~ Before you sew the zipper in with your machine, zip up the jacket to make sure it is going to work!

SEVENTH ~ Now, simply, using a normal stitch length, sew along the same line where the old zipper was sewn in like this:

Make sure to replace any seams or stitching you have removed:

Be sure to remove any basting stitches. On this one, there was the nice little tab on the old zipper, so I just transferred it to the new one:

That's all you need to do! Even if it doesn't turn out perfectly, it is better than throwing away a perfectly good coat.

Please feel free to ask questions if I can help.
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