Thursday, September 29, 2022

Thrifty Thursday: Thrift Store Finds

It's been a long time since I posted up a thrift store haul.  Honestly, it's because I just plain haven't found much at the used stores in a long time.  We don't go that often anymore is part of the reason.  We don't really NEED much is another reason and the last reason is because there just hasn't been much there the last few years.  I honestly think a lot more people have caught on to the idea of hanging on to their stuff in case they need it again or they have caught onto the idea that thrift store shopping is a great way to the save money.  Probably both if I want to be honest.  So, yeah, there just hasn't been much at the used stores the last few years, so there hasn't been much to post up.

I did however pop into the used store earlier this summer and found a few things I'd been looking for.  They've been on my list for quite a while, so I was thrilled to find them.  So, let's show off those finds :).


1.  A Tupperware potato keeper.

I have been looking for one of these suckers for a lonnnnnngggg time.  I even contemplated buying one new a few times, but I didn't want to go through all the trouble to find a Tupperware dealer person and all of that jazz.  And, of course, there was the cost to consider as well.  So, I just kept it on my list of things I was looking for and just kept my eyes open.  My husband actually came out of the used store (the son was cranky so we went in in shifts to look for things on our lists) and told me there was a bunch of Tupperware in there that day.  I went into the store excitedly as I was really looking for a Tupperware container to store my iced tea bags in (the box they came in was falling apart).  I went to where my husband said the Tupperware was and immediately saw the potato keeper sitting there.  I grabbed it without hesitation.  

Why do I want a potato keeper you might ask?  Well, my daughter has decided that she loves onions and while I was storing onions in the hanging baskets in my kitchen the baskets were starting to really deteriorate with age and I was scared of them breaking with any type of weight in them.  So, I thought a Tupperware potato keeper would hold the amount of onions I end up keeping around for my onion loving offspring now a days *laugh*.  

I then looked over and found a container for my iced tea bags too!  It was a good day!

2.  Blue lidded Tupperware container

This was JUST the perfect size to hold my iced tea bags and still fits into my lazy Susan cabinet in my kitchen well.  So, I'm super happy about it.

All totaled I spent less than 10.00 for both items and they are working out perfectly in my kitchen.  The onion/potato keeper sits on my counter now and gives me easy access to onions when I need them and my iced tea bags are well protected.  So, I think it was a really productive used store haul!

How about you?  Found anything good at the used stores/thrift stores/charity shops of late?  

Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Autumn in Alaska and What I've Been Up To


So, once again blogging got delayed (obviously).  A quick recap of events that have prevented me from doing much other than getting through life the last month:

1.  The daughter's teeth started to bug her.  Got her to the dentist, but he didn't find anything on X-ray (cavities or what not), so he thought it was because maybe that her wisdom teeth were showing up on the X-rays.  Made an appointment for a more in depth X-ray.  Wisdom teeth didn't wait and poked through the gums.  So, it was in to get the daughter's wisdom teeth removed earlier than most teenagers.  She's recovering well, but yeah that was an unexpected turn of events there.

2.  The son's medications stopped working again.  So, we are trying to come up with some other plan to help him regulate his moods and help him to sleep at night.  It's been hard, but hopefully we'll get there here soon where he's doing better.  Fingers crossed.

There was good things in the month too though.

1.  We finally, after working hard the past year, got our medical bills paid off, this time with some help from the PFD.  Between those bills (which unfortunately were on credit card), it ate the entire PFD we got this year, but at least it paid off the rest of the medical bills, so I'm not complaining at all.  Course, now I have a wisdom teeth bill to pay off, but it is a major load off of my mind to have some pretty substantial bills due to my back paid off and the wisdom teeth are on Care Credit so I have a year to pay them off before interest pops up to haunt me.

2.  We went to the local fall festival again this year.  And this year it wasn't snowing and horribly cold.  Instead we actually had sunlight that day and the temperatures were chilly, but not bad, which was great.  Unfortunately, the amount of things they had to do was severely reduced this year compared to previous years (partly due to, I'm sure, labor shortages and all), so the son went on a few tractor rides, walked around a while and was ready to go home.  The daughter did manage to decorate a pumpkin at one of the events there (seen above) and so we got a free pie pumpkin out of the day, which was cool.  It was kind of short, but the kids seemed to have a good time anyway, so that was good.

We did stop off at a local produce stand that we like (Bushes Bunches) and I was able to score a FEW turnips (it's been hard to find them this year), a nice big onion and some local potatoes.  I would have bought some veggies from the farm where the fall festival was, but their prices were crazy high (2.50 per onion as an example) compared to my budget, so I passed on buying vegetables there.

3.  We celebrated my son's birthday at home.  My mother-in-law came over to help us celebrate and it was a lot of fun.  We had home made pizza and breadsticks and it was a nice and enjoyable evening.

4.  I got my pantry and freezers organized, managed to get produce processed before it went bad (with the CSA, that wasn't as easy as you might think as the quality just was not there this year) and put up as well.  I feel pretty darned good about those accomplishments, honestly, as with the son's medications not working great, it's been hard to get things done some days.


5.  Fall has been hanging on this year, which has been wonderful for a person like me who loves autumn above all seasons :).

I was asked by a reader what fall was like in Alaska, so I thought I'd give a quick tour of what fall is like up here.

Well depending on the year we may or may not have fall at all, really.  Last year we went directly into winter pretty much from mid-September or so.  This year is much nicer.  Normally, though, we do have snow at any time after October rolls around and most years the kids are running around in snow gear when they go trick or treating and trying to not slip and slide on the ice as they go from door to door in the subdivisions.

The leaves are hanging on the trees instead of immediately dying and blowing off this year and if you look around you'll quickly see more shades of gold than you thought you'd see with the trees seeming to all change color to different shades of yellow and brown.  It is surprising the trees are holding on so well with all of the rain we've gotten, but they are and I'm super happy about it.  

The temperatures are cold at night and in the morning (shot above from a few days ago),  but by afternoon I've been able to open the windows pretty much every day to air out the house still and let in that crisp autumn air.  It's pretty warm for this time of year, another thing I'm grateful for.  

We do have the furnace on and it kicks on at night and in the mornings, but it isn't kicking on constantly yet, which is a wonderful turn of events when I think of what the heat and electric are going to cost us this winter.  

When I first moved up here I greatly missed the colors that the trees would erupt into during the fall, especially missing the foliage changes from my youth in New England, but as I've gotten older and spent a good portion of my life now in Alaska, I really do love the change to golden hues that happen up here.  If you find someplace with lots of cranberry bushes growing they will change a beautiful shade of red toward the ground as well (I couldn't find a good spot in my yard to take a picture of some to show you).  

So, Alaska has its own color palette to appreciate this time of year.

So, there you go, a quick shot of Alaska in the fall (well, my yard in the fall anyway *laugh*).  Hope you enjoyed a tour of the fall shades we are experiencing up here at the moment.  I love them and wish I had some chairs on my deck so I could sit out there and really enjoy it.

I do, in fact, have some blog posts in the wings for October, so hopefully I get to post them!  I hope you are all having a great fall (my prayers are with those impacted by the hurricane and other events, for sure) and I will hopefully see you soon!  

Thursday, September 8, 2022

A Day in My Life: Come Bake With Me


 To kick off September, I thought I'd do something a bit different and take you all along on what I did September 1st, which turned out was a baking day for me (I KNOW it's late, but hey, better late than never *laugh*).  So, let's get to it!

September 1st, 2022

After waking up (I know, stater of the obvious there *laugh*), getting dressed and heading upstairs, I take care of getting the kids breakfast and getting the daughter started on schoolwork.  The son woke up, ate a little bit and immediately went back to bed.  He hasn't been sleeping well with his allergies all flared up, so I just let him and get started on my list of things I needed to do.  I pull out the mixer and necessary materials and work on making bread to last for the next few days.  I get the first load of dishes on to wash after I get the bread into the pans to rise before baking them.  It is only then I go and get my first cup of coffee for the day.

Side note, but the above picture is how I make my coffee everyday.  Notice the cone above the mug?  That is called "the pour over coffee method" and it seriously makes the best cup of coffee I've ever had.  Been making coffee this way for years and I love it, although I have expanded to having two cones; The above one and another ceramic one...the ceramic one I actually prefer the taste of the coffee out of, but it was in the dishwasher this morning.  I love this system partially because it stops me from having to have a coffee maker on my countertop taking up room and I can just store the drip cone in the cupboard with my regular dishes and the other reason is because, of course, it makes an awesome cup of coffee :).

After I got a cup of coffee to sip on, I put the bread in the oven and I move onto my next project and that's getting dinner started in the slow cooker.  I use my electric pressure cooker for this (I bought a nice instant pot glass lid for my six quarter pressure cooker because it was WAY better quality than the one that came with my pot, in case you are wondering) because the chicken won't fit in my tiny crock pot.  I have to say that I'm not a huge fan of the slow cooker function on the electric pressure cookers.  I mean it gets the job done, but it cycles the heat on and off hard to get the items cooked and it just doesn't seem to work as well as a real crock pot.  My opinion anyway.  

Right, back to the matter at hand.  I take the half defrosted rotisserie chicken out the fridge (we bought one at Three Bears, so it's just a Costco rotisserie chicken with a substantial mark up on it) and put it on to slow cook so I could cook the meat off the bones for chicken noodle soup for dinner.  This will also give me a good opportunity to use up some carrots with bad spots and some celery that immediately went limp and sad from the CSA box the last few weeks as well as one of the sweet onions we got in our CSA a few days prior (the onions are delicious, but have no shelf life to them to speak of, so you have to freeze them or use them quickly).

After that, I pull out a block of cream cheese from the fridge and cut it in half.  I then put the cream cheese into a bowl to come to room temperature so I can make cheese Danishes for breakfast over the weekend.  I take a break to get the son a snack and work on schoolwork (the daughter has been working on hers the entire time I'm working on other things with me occasionally helping with a problem here and there).  

I take a intermission from schoolwork to get the bread out of the oven and unload the dish washer.  I reload it quickly so I can get the bread making tools ready to go again in a little bit.

Now that the bread is out of the oven, I reset the temperature for my next project, which is dessert.  My entire family loves the Krusteaz Lemon Pound Cake mix and I have a few left from the last bulk order I made that need to be used up.  So, I get that mixed up and put it in to bake.  I then pull the son back to school work and get the rest of his schoolwork done for the day right when the timer goes off.  

I take it from the oven and place it on it's serving dish to cool completely. 

I then put the temperature on the oven back to 375 degrees, put the dishes from the last load away and make sure my metal mixing bowl is cool enough and then start on making hard rolls for my son to snack on.  He now eats these instead of the store bought hotdog and hamburger buns and I could not be happier about that.  

Once the rolls are in the oven, I take the inner pot out of my pressure cooker and strain the chicken from the broth.  I put the broth back in the pressure cooker, add some seasonings, some bouillon (to up the chicken flavor a bit as the broth was a tiny bit bland) and cut up the vegetables I want in the soup and put the slow cooker back on to cook.  I'll add the chicken back in when it is cool enough to separate from the bones.

I pull the rolls from the oven and it is less than five minutes before the son grabs one and runs off with it, which makes me laugh.  I help the daughter on some math problems and we break for lunch.  I ended up pulling a salad we had made from our CSA vegetables from the fridge and eating that for lunch.  The son actually helped to cut up the vegetables as part of his home economics course I designed for the year, so I was more than a little proud to eat the salad he helped to make.  I boil a pound of pasta to have it ready to go for a quick and easy lunch.  The kids have spaghetti (the daughter) and pasta with olive oil and Parmesan cheese (one of the son's favorite meals in the universe).  After lunch I then check the chicken and find it to be cool enough to handle.  

As I pull the chicken from the bone and pull it apart into bite sized pieces, I find that the rotisserie chicken had a LOT more meat on it than I thought it would (Carrs chickens never have more than a meal's worth of meat on it, so it blew me away), so I took half the chicken and added it back to the soup and then took the other half and decided in an instant to try and make chicken salad out of it.  I find a few recipes online and then decide to just wing it.  I add some tarragon (goes well with chicken), some parsley, a bit of old bay seasoning (what?  I like Old Bay!), some salt and pepper and enough mayo to make it nice and moist, some almonds that I pull from the freezer and chop up a handful of, and then, since I don't have any fresh grapes or anything to add, I throw in some dried cherries and some raisins into the mix.  I finish up by adding some onion and some celery to the salad.  I have to say as a first real attempt to make chicken salad, this turned out really good!!!  We ended up eating the entire thing of salad, which is an accomplishment since it made way more than I was planning on!

By this point dinner is fast approaching and I'm very tired.  But, I am determined to stay the course and get the rest of my list done for the day.  

I get the easy cheese Danishes ready to go and put into the oven to bake and get the home made noodles rolled out, cut into noodles and added to the soup to cook for the last 1/2 to an hour before my husband is set to be home.  I put the glaze on the lemon pound cake, put the soup on "keep warm" after I make sure all of the noodles are done and that the seasoning on the soup is right.  Honestly, after all of that, I sat down with a glass of water and watched some of my favorite gardening and cooking YouTube channels and just appreciated the fact that I was sitting down *laugh*.

So, there you go folks.  Hope you enjoyed coming along on my baking adventures for the day and hope it wasn't too boring for you :).  

Saturday, September 3, 2022

Super Easy Fast Sandwich Bread

 

Okay, first before I share this recipe, quick disclaimer, this is heavily, and I mean HEAVILY, based on La Fuji Mama's Simple One Hour Bread Recipe.  I have just tweaked it a bit to make the crumb fluffier and softer and put instructions in to cook it in loaf pans so you can make standard loaves with it and my times are a bit different than hers so it'll take you a bit more time to make this.  Anyway, I definitely support the original recipe and suggest you try both ways of doing things and see which one works for you :).

I'm posting this mainly because I just keep getting e-mails once in a while asking me to share my bread recipe when I show pictures of home made bread, so I finally gave in and am sharing it.   Please let me know if I'm missing an essential element somewhere.  I have made this so many times I have it memorized and only when writing it out I realized how hard it is to type something when you aren't actively making it in front of you *laugh*.

So, here you go.  Sandwich Bread in an Hour.  Enjoy!


Super Easy Fast Sandwich Bread

Ingredients:

  • 5 1/4 Cups Bread Flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 3 TBS sugar
  • 3 TBS Dehydrated Milk Powder
  • 1 1/2 Rounded TBS of Instant Yeast (I only use SAF Instant Yeast)
  • 1 1/2 TBS Cooking Oil (I like to use canola in mine)
  • 2 Cups Warm Water (not too hot or you'll kill your yeast)

Procedure:

1.  Preheat Oven to 375 degrees F.

2.  Spray two loaf pans (I use cast iron loaf pans) with non-stick cooking spray.  Set aside.

3.  Combine all dry ingredients except the yeast in the bowl of your stand mixer.  Mix the dry ingredients in the bowl together quickly (I just use the tablespoon I used for the yeast to do this) and then add the yeast on top (I do this so that the salt doesn't come in contact with the yeast and kill it).

4.  Add the oil and warm water to the bowl and attach your dough hook to the mixer.  Mix on low speed for one minutes and then scrape the sides of the bowl.  Set a timer for 5 minutes and speed up mixer to medium speed.  Mix dough for the five minutes.  When the timer goes off, stop the mixer and spray a small section of your countertop down with non-stick cooking spray.  Dump the dough onto the greased countertop (the dough will most likely be pretty sticky, this is not a bad thing) and fold the dough over to get some of the nonstick cooking spray on top of the dough.  Knead the dough a few times until you can handle it easily (it doesn't take long).  Take a bench scraper or knife (I LOVE my bench scraper for this) and cut the dough in half.  

5.  Round the dough into balls in your hands and then take the balls and shape them into loaf shapes that will fit in your pans (this might take a few tries before you get good at it and you might end up jamming your dough into your loaf pans a few times...don't worry about it...you'll get better at it :).  Place dough into your loaf pans and put plastic wrap over loaf pans.  Set loaf pans in a warm place and set your timer for 15 minutes.  

6.  When timer goes off check your dough.  It should be pushing on the plastic wrap at this point.  Carefully remove the plastic wrap as the dough will want to stick to it a bit.  If your dough is just hitting the top of your loaf pans (which mine at this is), set your timer for about five more minutes.  Keep an eye on the dough and once the center of the dough goes over the top of the loaf pan by a bit (I'd say like an inch, but it is going to do depend on your loaf pan and I don't want you to over-proof your dough), place the pans in the preheated oven.  

7.  Bake at 375 degrees for 35 minutes.  Remove bread from pans, turn them over in your hands (use oven mitts is my suggestion) and then tap the bottom of the loaves.  The bread should sound hollow when tapped.  Place the loaves on a towel to cool (I like to place them on their sides for a bit so that the bottom cool a bit first and then flipped them so that the side can cool as well).  Once cool, enjoy as a wonderful sandwich and toasting bread.  

Honestly, since I discovered this recipe my family won't eat store bought bread anymore.  I've even found another variation that my son will eat as rolls so I don't have to buy hotdog and hamburger buns for him anymore (I'll share that recipe later).  After finding this recipe I gave away my bread maker as I didn't need it anymore.  Who needs one when you can make bread, from scratch in about an hour?  

Enjoy all!

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Where I've Been and What's Coming Up: Summer 2022, A Review

August is nearly over for 2022.  We are solidly into fall here.  The weather is getting colder, the rains are constant and the Alaska State Fair is going on in Palmer.  The garden is pretty much done for the year, yet another sign that winter is coming.  The cabbages did OKAY, a couple did well and a couple did measly, but they all got turned into sauerkraut that is set to complete its fermenting this week and will get canned by next weekend.  I have put up two batches of sauerkraut already, so it will be great to get it all canned up and on the shelf for hopefully the next couple of years (my goal at this point is to have two years of food put by when possible).  I harvested the chard all summer long instead of waiting for it to get big before harvesting it this year and I will definitely follow that formula from now on as it produced WAY more chard doing it that way.  As a result of my revelation (thanks to some gardening channels on YouTube)  I have a lot of bags of chard in my freezer; a situation I am far from displeased about.  We will be happy to have the chard this winter and beyond to enjoy.

The violas the daughter planted early in the summer never survived through the beginning part of the summer.  The violas didn’t seem to the appreciate the major heatwave we experienced and, despite my best efforts, they just gave up and died off.  I took the planter the violas were in and decided to plant peas instead so I didn’t waste the planter or the soil.  I was curious to see if I could get the peas to grow large enough to actually harvest some by the end of the summer as I planted the seeds way later than I normally would have in different circumstances.  But, I figured it was worth a shot.  And the peas grew, trellised nicely up my deck railing (they are refusing to bend over and start crawling along the top though, as you can see) and have produced some peas!  I am not going to get a big harvest, far from it, but I am going to harvest what I can in the next bit and then pluck all of the leaves off of the pea plant and turn the entire thing into edible pea pod soup for this winter.  I’ll add some frozen peas to help pad out the recipe.  Nothing will go to waste.  That’s a goal I normally have, but of late it’s become even more important to me. 

I am really enjoying the pea flowers, though.  The pink and purple are really pretty!  

This summer was actually kind of hard this year.  We couldn’t really afford to do much in the way of outings due to the cost of…well…everything.  The son’s allergies went nuts, first with all of the crud that was in the air up here due to all of the wildfires burning up north and also due to the weird transitioning of seasons we had this year and things.  Pollen counts and other allergens were BAD this summer and just made my poor kids miserable.  My daughter dealt with facial swelling unless she took Zyrtec everyday and the son’s eczema went berserk.  Not a great summer for feeling good, unfortunately.  

The son grew three inches and 20 pounds over the summer and as a result his medications stopped working.  Completely.  His mood deteriorated into self-harm and constant screaming.  In the middle of it all his doctor moved offices and it was hard to get in to see her to get his medications redone.  Luckily we saw her at the beginning of this month and got his doses recalculated and he’s doing much better as a result.  At least he’s sleeping again, which is good. 

The worst thing that happened was that we lost one of my husband’s best friends recently which has been really hard on the family at large as he was also the dad of one of my daughter’s best friends.  All of my husband’s family knew him quite well and he was basically a member of the family.  Armina is doing her best to keep in constant contact with her friend these last few weeks and is just trying to be there for her whenever she might need a friend.  It has hit Armina really hard as this was the first death my daughter has experienced in her life where she knew the person who passed away quite well.  Combine that with then learning how to help someone close to you, as much as you can, through grief and trauma as well, has been a maturing experience for her. 

Onto other matters, despite everything, I was able to can a decent amount of stuff this summer.  On top of July’s canning list I have another one to share here soon to show what else I made and/or tried this year on the canning front.  The majority of things we got from the CSA this year ended up getting preserved for later by canning or just freezing.  I don't think I'll be doing the CSA again next year, unfortunately.   The amount of people who signed up for the CSA this year was tremendous, so to not be in line for at least an hour (on top of waiting for the truck to show up) I'm having to get to the CSA pick up point a half an hour before they arrive to get in line really early.  Unfortunately, they haven't been prompt this year, either, so they have been regularly 15 to 20 minutes late, which has led to the son getting pretty darned cranky by the time they show up.  At least the people in line have been friendly and the conversations have been nice (or at least civil when people got really tired of waiting).  The wait times wouldn't bother me so much, honestly, if not for the downhill slide the produce has taken in quality this year.  It seems every week I'm having to throw away something due to rot or mold and it is obvious rot and/or mold that I would expect the CSA folks to catch (I mean it's hard NOT to catch slimy greens when you are putting them into a box).  I don't mind getting things dirty and such, as that's something you expect from farm fresh anything, but when the produce quality is bad to the point that I wouldn't pay for that produce at the store...it's time to quit.  We did get a decent variety of stuff so far this year compared to previous years where collards and/or kale took up the majority of the box every week, but the quality just isn't there compared to previous years, which has saddened me.  As a result of the produce being at the point of going bad on me, as soon as I get it home it goes into the freezer, gets used or gets put into a canning recipe after getting carefully cleaned and picked over by me.  So, at least I've got things put up for later if nothing else.   I was able to get a few heads of lettuce with the CSA, but not many this year, which was sad compared to previous years where we got a head of lettuce pretty much all through the beginning of the summer season.  As a result, I ended up using my lettuce this summer for salads.  Lucky for me, my lettuce did great this summer and lasted through the heat and into the rainy season before bolting, so we enjoyed a lot of salads this summer.  It was nice and I am hoping to find that variety of lettuce next summer to grow as it did great on the deck.


  I ended up eating tomatoes just with some salt from the CSA box as they were over ripe and on the verge of going bad when I got them.  I thoroughly enjoyed them, I have to say, as I love fresh tomatoes and since I don't have a greenhouse, growing big ones is out for me for now.  My patio tomatoes were kind of a bust this year.  I got tons of green tomatoes on my plant, but they just didn’t like to ripen.   I tried magnesium and calcium, different fertilizers and nutrients that other gardeners told me to try, but it didn’t help.  I had a few tomatoes ripen at the beginning of the summer and they immediately split, badly, from the heat.  After the first couple that ripened, most of them just remained stubbornly green.  I actually did end up with some decently big tomatoes, but they just would not ripen no matter what I tried.  I finally gave up and decided to use the green tomatoes instead as they were starting to rot instead of ripen on the plant.  I harvested a bunch a few weeks ago and used them in canning and then day before yesterday I went out and harvested the rest of the green tomatoes as the plant was almost completely dead and mold was starting to take hold on the bottom of the plant.  Those tomatoes I put in a bowl on my counter and I’m seeing if they ripen inside so I can eat them a few at a time.  So far I've had a couple turn to orange and was able to snack on those, so we'll see how the rest of them do.

I feel good having put up so much food for my family this year.  I’ll share how I am storing it too as I changed up the storage situation for my home canned goods so I could keep an eye on them.  I’ve lost several jars of things to lid failures so far this year, so I’ve become obsessive about checking them daily now.  Frustrating beyond belief and upsetting when you lose ingredients and time to something like that.  This is the first year I’ve had to deal with lid failures like this and I have to say…Ball has gotten a couple of nasty letters from me so far.  Not a happy camper am I.  

I was going to break down and order some "For Jars" lids online as people seem really happy with those lids, but they wanted 58.00 to ship my order (and I wasn't ordering very much!), which was WAY out of my price range as it more than doubled the original order price.  After I picked my jaw off of the floor, I closed the order window and went and looked up Denali Canning Lids, which I had seen ads for online and read a lot of good reviews on them.  I did end up ordering some Denali canning lids as I have been having a hard time sourcing lids locally on top of the lid failure issues (free shipping was definitely a plus in their direction).  They shipped quickly and the lids are down at my post office ready to be picked up.  So, I'll have to give those a try and see how they do.  Hopefully they work well.  I'll let you all know how they do.

I am finally getting to the end of food preservation for the season, unless I come across an awesome sale on like peaches or something and I get to can up those for winter, which would make the daughter’s year *laugh*.  I am antsy to get working on other things and am happy my canning list is getting shorter.  I’m on my last three items this week and then I can get onto doing things like working on Christmas gifts and the many other items on my always growing to-do list.  There always seems to be a list a mile wide to get done, but at least I feel like some things are getting checked off here and there.

Now that food preservation is pretty much done for the season and such, I am planning on getting back to regular blogging (I can hear the, “Sure, we believe you” from here as I know I’ve been saying that on every post for like years it seems).  I think I am going to go back to more of my old blogging type of format with some changes that will hopefully make things more fun and inspiring around here.  Like instead of doing a menu for the coming week, I think I’m going to do a review and recap of what we ate during the previous week so that I can share new recipes that I tried out during the week and things and what we thought of them.  This will also give me an opportunity to show how I’m using the food items I preserved so that if you are kind of intrigued by some and maybe want to try the canning recipes out, that you might be able to see different ways to use them in recipes for dinner and such.  So, stay tuned for that.  I’m also going to go back to sharing more of my day-to-day life as I do have things planned for this winter and hopefully I can share the journey on doing some of those things with you all.  Ever wanted to try and learn to knit socks?  I decided I want to try doing that with my novice level knitting skills.  It’ll be an interesting experience to be sure.

So, yeah, sorry I’ve been missing all summer long pretty much.  I’ve just been really busy and life has been really distracting around here.  I am going to work hard on being more active here on the blog and more present as a whole starting in September, so yeah…we’ll see you then!!!

Saturday, July 30, 2022

July Canning List (With Links to Recipes When Available)


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I was going to do a life update for July and then I realized that I had so much canning I did this month, that it kind of required its own post.  To those who have e-mailed and asked me to share what I'm canning and to share recipes...I'll give it a shot.   I don't mess with recipes too much, in all honesty, and for the most part I go for recipes from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.  If I use a recipe I find online I make sure that I feel, personally, that the recipe is 100% safe to make.  I usually stick to jams, jellies and pickles for anything I find online and even then I'm careful to make sure it follows safe canning methods and things.

Anyway, now onto the huge list of things I've canned this month.  I still have more on my canning list for next month, on top of whatever I might get in my CSA box that I can preserve to have this winter (I've got a few pickling recipes bookmarked in various books to use if I should get certain vegetables again this year :) and I am going to put on my next round of sauerkraut to ferment to can up next month as well this weekend.  So, yeah, I'm busy right now :).

So, here is some of my "projects" that I did this month. I'll post links, when available within the title for each canning session. 

1.  Zucchini Relish (Source:  The 1870's Homestead on YouTube)

My first week on our CSA vetted me two nice big zucchini to do something with.  My aim this summer is to preserve EVERYTHING I can out of the CSA for later use (as well as the garden and everywhere else) for use later on, so this was the perfect opportunity for me to try a recipe that I saw online.  It is nearly 100% the Ball Recipe for Zesty Zucchini relish, she just uses different spices that sounded better to me, so I used her recipe instead :).  It turned out really yummy and that's before it'll sit and mellow in the pantry, so I'd say it was a success.  I only had 6 cups of packed shredded zucchini to work with, so I halved her recipe and it came out perfectly (basically very little left).

2.  Blueberry Syrup and Raspberry Jam

Both of these recipes I got from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.  However, with the raspberry jam, I went ahead and doubled the recipe and then I did can it in pints or 12 oz jars versus half pints  the recipe called for (processed 15 minutes in water bath versus 10 for 1/2 pints).  It is not recommended to double jam or jelly recipes as the pectin can get messed up in the recipe and it won't set, but I've never had a problem with raspberry jam.  I used frozen raspberries for this and it came out just fine.  I used bulk pectin and used 6 tablespoons per box of pectin.  But, if you are worried about the jam setting up, just make one recipe amount at a time and follow the directions.  Jam is seriously one of the easiest things to learn to can, so if you are a beginner, I'd go for that first :).

I ordered some Weck Jars with some credit card rewards points and decided to use those on some of the blueberry syrup as it tends to go everywhere when my husband is putting it on his pancakes with regular jars.  Weck jars are definitely turning into a learning curve for me.  They sealed great (lifting jars by glass lids with a rubber gasket standing between you and a huge mess to check the seal, is scary I had to admit), but trying to figure out headspace for a completely glass jar and lid with lids that recess down into the jar and things was confusing.  I know I'll improve as time goes on, but it was a bit more of a guessing game than I wanted it to be.  I also had to use a small funnel instead of a canning funnel with them as the opening at the top of the jar was too small to fit the canning funnel.  They are pretty, but are kind of a pain to work your head around.

Funny enough, I messed with the blueberry syrup recipe as well by putting the syrup into 1/2 pint jars, as I've done for years (or in the case of the Weck jars the measurement is a bit different yet) instead of full pints.  But, I still processed at the pint processing time for safety (that's a food processing guideline by the way...always go with the longest processing time if you are canning more than one thing or if you are downsizing your jars, etc).

3.  Easy Grape Jelly

I had bought a nice bottle of concord grape juice to make into grape jelly, put it aside and told the family it was for JELLY and not to touch it, looking forward to making jelly the next day.  Sure enough the teenage daughter heard nothing I said and cracked it open and proceeded to drink it down like the expensive treat it was.  After I got over my sputtering, infuriated ranting about how could anyone assume that a bottle of juice, set on the back corner of the counter with canning stuff all around it was for drinking, I went and found an alternative.  So, I ended up making grape jelly out of the white grape juice I had bought for the family to drink, instead (I prefer for the family to drink white grape juice for the sake of staining safety, so that is what we normally have for drinking in the house).  Not as pretty, but at least I got it done.  Seriously.  Teenagers.  Sigh.

4.  Sauerkraut  (Source:  Bella Online)

I've made this recipe for sauerkraut for years.  Yes, it is kind of a cheat, but I still use it and it does ferment nicely in the mason jars :).  I use the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving instructions when I go to can the sauerkraut.  I don't let the mixture seal in the jars during fermenting and call it good...call me paranoid, but I like the whole processing process just to be sure it'll last on the shelf without picking up some funky flavors.

I LOVE this recipe for sauerkraut because you ferment in quart mason jars, which helps to keep the kraut clean and makes it easy to check up on how the fermenting is going.   I do a couple of things different from time to time.  I half the water during the fermentation stage and then add the additional 8 cups of water back into the recipe before I can it.  It gives you a slight ferment to the cabbage instead of a major one when the ferment period is up.  And since you essentially double the salt during the ferment, the cabbage ends up coming out with a crunchy consistency instead of being mushy when it is all said and done.  It came from me making a mistake on the water measurements one year as a new mom and it ended up being a happy accident when we tasted the final product.

This year I'm going to rotate batches between regular fermented kraut and then the slight fermented kraut and use them for different purposes throughout the year.

But, yeah, after all of that, the first batch of sauerkraut for the year is put up and the next batch is going to be put up this weekend to ferment.  Every year I put up more and more sauerkraut and every year we continue to go through it by the time of year is up.


5.  Apple Cider

I canned up fresh apple cider I had bought last year and froze for later use to keep it fresh.  I mulled one gallon of it with whole spices and just simmered it for a bit before removing the spices and canning it and the other gallon I canned without mulling it.  This will be drank, happily, through the winter months, by me if no one else (I LOVE apple cider :) and this way it will be in small enough portions that it won't turn into apple cider vinegar before I can finish it.  This will also help me come Thanksgiving when I make my green beans as that way I won't have to mull apple cider up from the store to make it.

I followed the Ball recipe (linked above) for processing times and head space.


6.  Tart Cherry Jelly

I had bought some tart cherry juice to try to drink it at night to help with sleep quality and also to help with inflammation in my back.  I was really hoping it would all work great and I wouldn't have to take pills anymore when my back was really bugging me.  I tried to drink it, I really did.  I even love cherries, so I assumed it would work out great.  Yeah...it was just too much for me.  I had to add a bunch of sugar to make it palatable and it just seemed like I wasn't winning doing it that way.  So, I just looked up the Ball recipe for tart cherry jelly and made a recipe of it.  It came out great.  The daughter really likes it and can't wait to eat it later as it, "tastes like fresh cherries".  Works for me!!!


7.  Miso Pickled Relish

This was a recipe I came up with.  I got three huge kholarbi with my CSA box last week (the lady in front of me gave me hers) and I tried to think of what to do with them before they went bad on me.  I looked online and found that kholarbi isn't recommended for pressure canning (which I wasn't planning on doing anyway), but other than that I couldn't find a lot on pickling them other than they made good pickles (internet fail there).  I know that pretty much everything can be pickled safely, so I decided the biggest threat was making sure the brine would get through the kholarbi and pickle it safely since it is pretty dense.  So, I figured, what better way to get around density in a vegetable than to grate it and turn it into relish.  I used a Miso Pickled Vegetable recipe I found in the The All New Ball Book of Canning and Preserving and used that brine as the base.  I then shredded the kholarbi, some peeled and well cleaned carrots, a big onion (also from my CSA box) and some different colored bell peppers I had.  I put the shredded veggies into a big non-reactive bowl and then mixed them in with 1/4 cup canning salt.  I let them sit in the fridge in the salt for 18 hours and then drained the veggies well the next day, rinsed the veggies four times (to try and remove all of the surface salt), pressed out as much moisture as possible and then added the veggies to the now boiling brine.  I brought the mixture back to a boil and was ready to can it up.  I processed the 1/2 pint jars for 15 minutes (the amount of time on the original pickles recipe in the book for pints).

The only thing I wish I had done differently was one, I didn't catch a dent in one of my ball lids and ended up with a seal failure because of it (I have found a bunch of the flats of new jars are coming with sub-par lids on the jars, so be sure to check that before you use new jars!) and I wish I had been less distracted by the son so I could have removed all of the whole sesasonings that the original recipe called for before I added the veggies to the brine.  So now I have relish with whole peppercorns and whole mustard seed floating in them.  They'll be tasty still, but nothing quite like running into a peppercorn when you are trying to eat some relish.  Doh!

One advantage to having a failed jar, I guess, is that I was able to try the relish.  It is very tasty.  A bit tangy yet, but I'm going to try it again in a few weeks after it gets a chance to mellow out and I'll try it again :).

And there you go folks.  My canning adventures this month.  I still have a list to complete yet, but I am happy with what I've gotten done so far (especially when I include the other stuff I made back in February and such to add to the pantry).  I hope your summer is being productive so far as well!

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Cream of Ham Bone and Potato Soup

This recipe comes to you from my grandma, who used to make this every year when the weather would get cold and she'd pull out one of the hambones she's store up in the freezer to make soup with.  As grandma used to say, when it comes to this recipe, "Use what you have.  You have a hambone, use a hambone.  Don't have a hambone, use bacon.  Don't have fresh milk, use evaporated, half and half, cream...whatever you have that you need to use up.  Take what vegetables you have in the freezer in little baggies and add those in or use what you have in the fridge that needs to be used up.  Simple as simple can be."

I pull out this recipe, usually about the time the hambone from Easter or New Years has fallen on my foot at least five times and I get fed up and decide it is time to use it.  It makes a really flavorful soup and is wonderfully comforting.

Sure, it's roughly 80 bazillion degrees out in a lot of places, but hey, put this in your recipe file to try when the weather gets cold.  Trust me, it's worth it :).


Cream of Hambone Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 hambone, boiled and meat removed (reserve meat)
  • 4 Cups diced potatoes (russets work best for this)
  • 1 Medium onion, sliced thin.
  • 1/2 bell pepper, diced (I usually freeze bell pepper already diced and just grab a handful to throw into this recipe)
  • 1 to 2 stalks of celery, sliced
  • 1 stick butter (yes, this is a lot, I know, but it really adds a ton of flavor to the dish!)
  • 2 Cups milk (1/2 and 1/2, cream or evaporated can all be substituted or used in this recipe.  For this particular recipe I used 1 cup of cream that I had to use up from another recipe and 1 cup of UHT low fat milk).
  • 2 cups water or chicken stock (you might need less, but I usually end up using the full 2 cups for this)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1.  Melt butter in a medium stockpot over medium heat.  Add vegetables and ham and sauté in the butter for 5 to 10 minutes, stirring often until most of the butter is absorbed into the vegetables and the vegetables are starting to cook.  My notes from grandma said you could use lard instead of butter and that it was tasty, but I've always used butter. 

2.  Add enough water (or chicken stock...I always use chicken bouillon added to the water to give the soup a real depth of flavor that way) to cover the vegetables (you might not use all of the liquid that is in the ingredient list) until they are submerged.  Lower heat and simmer soup until potatoes start to fall apart.  

3.  Add your milk (or milk mixture).  Stir well.  Bring mixture back up to a simmer and simmer until it is as thick as you like it (I like to add cream to it as it comes out really thick in the end, but that is up to you on how thin you like your soup).  Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with crusty bread (grandma's instructions, not mine :).


I know this is kind of an odd "use what you have" type of recipe, but that's how it is meant to be.  Grandma said she got the recipe from her mom when she dictated it to me years ago, so it's definitely written in the era of, "Add water until enough.  Stir until done" types of instructions *laugh*.  I hope the recipe turns out for you as well as it does for me.  Enjoy!