Thursday, October 29, 2015

Daily Doin's, Last Week Of October, 2015

I start this on Monday, October 26.  I can hardly believe it's almost November. 

We caught another fat little rat in the trap yesterday.  I guess I ought to start keeping a count like I did last year, when we caught and killed over 100 rats.  Our rancher neighbors did a LOT of burning off (aka: Controlled Burn) of their pastures last year about this time, and I don't expect this year to be any different.  All the rodents that live in the pastures then come to the residential areas for food and safety, and, if you're careless about leaving your garage door open, for warmth. 

Yesterday I started working on my seed list for 2016.  It's a task I don't look forward to, but if I don't do it I lose track of what I have. 

This is my "Workbook".  I pull up the 2015 version and highlight everything in yellow.  As I add new, and verify what I still have, I change the yellow back to "no color".  In this way, I can see instantly what I no longer have, and can delete those lines.  I have set up a lot of columns that I just haven't used so I think I'll be deleting columns this year, as well.  As you can see, bottom left, I have separate tabs in the "workbook" for Flowers, Grain, Herbs Vegetables, Trees/Shrubs, and Ornamentals.  I use gallon-sized clear zip-lock bags with these same labels on them.  I start with the empty bag and add packages of seed as they are added or verified.  Normally I keep my seed in little clear zip-lock bags that I buy at Wal-Mart in the crafts section.  They are not expensive.  If I have larger amounts of seed than will fit in the little packet, I use a ziplock sandwich bag.  There are also lots of printable patterns for seed packages available on the Internet but they have to be printed, cut, and glued.  Just doesn't justify the cost savings, if you ask me.

I like to add the descriptions that the vendor has on their site, it keeps me from having to look up information later, and just involves a copy and paste (and usually editing out excess verbage).  If it's seed I've been given I use the information given me with the seeds.  Otherwise I may go to Dave's Plant Files and see what people say that I can put in that field.  As I have experience with the plant, I'll add my own opinions. 

Now's the time to start collecting cuttings for propagation.  I still have one little Possum Haw (Ilex decidua) alive from cuttings I took off a tree at an estate sale a couple of years ago.  The rabbits ate it down to the ground last winter but it came back up, and now it sports a chicken-wire cage for protection.  Pesky Wabbits!!  It's not big enough to get another cutting yet and I don't remember where the "Mother Tree" was, now.  Guess I should keep my camera in the car to take a picture of the mature plant (because sometimes I don't know what the plant is, exactly, and the owners sometimes don't, either) and write down the address.  Normally, if you tell the owner how beautiful you think something is and ask politely if you can take a couple of cuttings, they are happy to let you do it.  Since we go to a lot of garage and estate sales, during early spring and late fall I start watching for things growing in yards that I might like to propagate.  I take my cuttings carefully, from a spot where it won't show, so there is no harm to the "mother plant".  Often the owner will dig out their own nipper and do the cutting for me and that suits me fine.  Picking off seeds is another option but sometimes you don't get the plant you expected from the seed.  Or, in the case of Possum Haw, the new plants might be the wrong sex, and they won't bloom or make berries.  But the cuttings stand a better chance for survival if they are taken in early spring or mid- to late fall.  Cuttings just won't survive under jars if the weather's warm, because the heat collects in the jar and the cutting either burns or mildews.  And the jar is necessary in order to keep the cutting humid enough.  Leroy and Sherry, our friends who have the apple tree, save the half-gallon glass jars they buy pickles in, and I cloud the clear glass by dabbing on a thin layer of white paint, just in case I don't have much shade.  As long as they are where the roaming neighborhood dogs don't walk (or poop), this is really all I need to do: stick the cutting in the ground, with or without growth hormone powder coating the stem, set the jar upside-down over the cutting firmly in place, walk away.  Come back in spring, when the temps start to warm, and uncover for gradually longer periods of time each day till time to remove completely.  This is generally when the cuttings die if they are going to, at least for me.  I find it helps to just replace the glass jar with a plastic milk jug with the bottom cut off.  And the lid removed.  These are bad about catching the wind and blowing away but a small tomato cage over the plant will help keep the milk jug in place.  This provides transitional conditions between total cover and no protection at all.  From there I might replace the milk jug with a bottomless Folger's tub, without the lid.  The lid can quickly be snapped on if a sudden change back to frigid weather is forecast.  Oh, and you want to keep the grass pulled back from the cutting, if it's in a spot where this could be a problem.  I've seen You-Tubes where cuttings have been rooted in other ways, outside, but this is the only way that's worked dependably for me so far.  And thanks, Paula.  HERE are all the You-Tube hardwood cutting lessons anybody should ever need.  Lots of things can be rooted in water in spring when the new growth starts coming on.  New growth is softwood, which is easier to root.  Last spring I bought one raspberry plant and rooted two extra off the softwood from it.  Boo-yah, three raspberry plants for the price of one, and they are all still thriving in the ground today.  Some things just don't root well no matter what  I do.  I've been trying to get a start off my Alabama Crimson honeysuckle for Carole for a long time, and I just can't make it work.  Carole roots things like geranium successfully in little squares of Wet Foam Blocks but I haven't quite gotten the hang of it yet.  Amazon sells these for about the same price that Walmart does HERE, and shipping is free. 

Every day that I can, I get out into the garden and pull up stuff that's done producing.  Yesterday it was a few tomato plants that have died, a few melon plants, some bush bean plants that never produced very well (so much for Provider, I'll be going back to Lazy Housewife at the trellises from now on), and the last of the Purple Hull southern peas.  I grow southern peas in the garden every year because they will produce in the heat and the dry when hardly anything else will.  Every year I grow a different one of the four varieties that I have: Purple Hull Pink Eye, Lady peas, Whippoorwill peas, and the standard black-eye peas that you get when you buy a bag at the grocery store.  I like the Purple Hull because of the color of the pods.  Some people cook the pods and make jam with the purple "juice", and I have done that, but the fact that this kind of jam requires the addition of pectin is a drawback for me.  If I have home-canned apple juice, generally I will combine the two, and the pectin in the apple will do the gelling.  But otherwise I don't make Purple Hull jam.  I generally have enough other stuff available to make jam with.  I don't know what variety is in the bags that we can buy at the grocery store, but the kind that I grew last really produced heavily, so that's a plus for the gardener.  Generally, if you save seed from things you buy at the grocery store, you will get plants that are big producers, unless the plant has been a hybrid.  Then it's no telling WHAT you're going to get.  Lots of people complain that some of the varieties of southern peas are just too hard to shell.  Lady Peas, for example.  I pick my southern peapods and let them dry, unshelled, spread out on a big tray in the house, and when dry they split open easily.  I then let the shelled peas lay out on the tray for another week.  Then they will store in the pantry just in a jar with a lid, no canning required.  Usually I will use my FoodSaver to vacuum out the extra air, but they keep just fine with just the lid on, ordinarily.  They need a little longer cooking time when stored dry, but they are still good, with onion, peppers and bacon, and some corn muffins on the side.  Maybe some potatoes, fried crispy on the edges.  Or some okra, cut into 1/2" (or thereabouts) rounds, dipped in milk and then half flour and half yellow cornmeal. 

I'm using out of my last bag of frozen okra, so I'll grow some more next summer.  The only kind I will grow is Cowhorn.  The plants themselves are beautiful, they look like 5' tall tropical trees.  The okra itself is still tender when it's 'way bigger than you could allow it to get on any other variety, so you can get a good crop from just one row.  I always save seed, but it seems to take forever for the pods to get to the point where the seed is mature.  Generally I will put a clothespin on the stem of one of the largest pods on some of the plants.  This is so anyone picking will know to leave it there.  I let it mature on the plant until the pod starts losing its green color and starts to split along the ribs.  At this point, you know the seed is going to be mature enough.  Mature seed is black, and looks like a little round bead.  I plan to try canning okra next year, instead of freezing.  HERE is a YouTube presentation of how that can be done.  Oh, I know, there's a lot of hollering going on about how some canning methods aren't safe.  I get a little weary of people who get up in your face, all alarmed, when you share a recipe that uses the canning methods that your mom used, I mean, a lot of us grew up on things canned by methods that wouldn't be considered safe today and no member of our family was ever sick from things we ate.  I know their hearts are in the right place and they're just trying to do a public service, but some of them get so militant and hateful about it.  So if you're afraid of this method, don't do it, that's all I'm sayin'....  Maybe there's a way to can it in a way that will satisfy "the Canning Police" on NCHFP.  But I've got to say, I can't get a decent jar of home-canned pickles following these new methods.

I've started gradually bringing things in that won't tolerate freezing temperatures.  Yesterday it was the scented, variegated, and vining geraniums and the Aloe vera mothers and pups.  The sweet potatoes have cured and are in the pantry now.  I pack them just one layer thick in the bottom of paper grocery bags, then close the bag down snug.  We've been forgetting to ask for "Paper instead of Plastic" at the grocery store and I was about to run out of paper bags.  Now that I've reminded Hubs and we've been shopping, my supply has been built back up again. 

I brought in the Hopi Red Dye Amaranth plumes yesterday. 
 
Lots of seed fell on the ground when I was cutting it and I could hear it falling to the bottom of the bucket that I dumped the heads into.  So I'm assured of enough volunteer plants in the garden now to grow this, rather effortlessly, next year.  I acquired this seed out of a pack of seed sent to me by the folks at Wintersown.org, about ten years ago.  At the time the mailing was composed of seed donated to them by various people, so there was a wide variety and it was like Christmas, getting so many little "starter packs" of miscellaneous seed.  They still do offer free seed on their website but only at certain times and I'm not sure if it's donated, home-grown seed now or that which they've purchased.  I had it growing at The Ponca House, where I lived at the time, and then when we moved here, we moved our raised beds here, too, and the seed that had been dropped into the soil came, too.  Consequently I have had the plants somewhere here every year since, yet I haven't planted that seed since it first came to me.  I did try to get Golden Giant started from purchased seed, and it never came up.  Go figure.  There is no mistaking Hopi Red Dye because of its crimson leaves, which, by the way, are edible, but I've never eaten any except to pop one into my mouth while I was out there.  The plumes are not all the way dry yet, and if they were, all the seed would already be gone:  gravity, wind, birds, insects to blame for that.  I got the driest of the seed in the plant just by banging each plume against the inside of the bucket, then transferred the plumes to a tray so they can dry out some more.  The seed that was left in the bottom of the bucket had a lot of flotsam and jetsam in it and had to be winnowed.  Fortunately, it was windy outside. 

That'll be to do all over again after the plumes dry out a little more.  The only grain that I've ever grown that's harder to clean is quinoa.  OMG.  Won't be doing THAT again.

I can see how there might be merit to going out and shaking the plumes over a container of some kind without breaking them off the stalk, if that's even possible, as seems like there were sooooooo many little pink immature seed to winnow out.  Amaranth is an ancient grain, and this variety was used to make dye with, hence the name, but I have never actually eaten any of the seeds and I have wondered how they would work, when used in place of poppy seed, for instance, in baked goods.  Amaranth is high quality protein, and even if you don't plan to harvest, is worth growing because of the beauty of the plumes and the fact that it tolerates heat and dry.  I'm pretty sure chickens would love it and would scavenge for it themselves; I see flocks of birds coming in and settling down on the ground under the plants so I'm pretty sure I'm contributing to their health in providing something they can fatten up on in preparation for winter.  I'm just a regular Bird Mommy this year, between this, the sunflower seed, the poke berries and the berries on the Malabar Spinach. 

This is now Monday. 

Yesterday the winds were calm enough that I could burn trash, and so I burned garden debris, too.  Tomato vines are not good for throwing into the compost.  And some things, like stalks of spent zinnias and sunflowers, just take too long to decompose.  So I pile them a decent distance from the burn barrel and they get burned when the trash does.  Eventually the ashes from the burn barrel, carefully scattered, make it back into the garden so it's all good. 

The garden is quite a project this time of year.  It's easy to get overwhelmed and do nothing.  But I make myself do something, even if it's just a little, in the garden each day.  Before I know it, I've got it where it's manageable again.  We don't think how far "a little nibble" will go.  Even if you make a deal with yourself that you'll work on a project for only fifteen minutes, it will eventually get you to the end of the task when doing nothing at all will mean you are looking at an unfinished project every.  dang.  day. 

Still freezer diving.  Finally made that beef-vegetable soup yesterday. 

I almost forgot to take the picture.  But let's see....  A pint container of cut-up roast beef.  Half a pint container of chopped swiss chard.  Okra and peas.  All from previous gardens, stored in the freezer.  The last of the carrots in the refrigerator crisper.  About 3/4 cup of dried southern peas, from this year's garden.  The last several small pickings of the green beans.  Part of a can of whole-kernel corn left over from supper a day or two ago.  Half a quart jar of whole tomatoes, the first half having been used in the meat mixture for the Taco Salad a few nights ago.  Several damaged tomatoes from the garden with bad parts cut out.  Two quarts of vegetable broth from the freezer.  Garlic from the garden.  Chopped onions from the garden.  This had to simmer a little while, because of the carrots and southern peas, and ended up as more of a stew.  Really, for us it makes more sense this way.  Hubs used to be such a big eater and now it seems hardly worth it to cook for him, no more than he eats.  So if there was extra liquid in this, he'd be hungry again an hour later, and making toast and jam.  And sometimes I think he eats such small amounts just so he CAN have room for toast and jam later.  What was left filled three quart containers and went right back into the freezer, but that's three quick meals I won't have to cook or mess up the kitchen for.  And I am still ahead in The Freezer Diving Game because I took out more containers than I put back in.

I found a four one-cup containers of frozen blinky milk, so I'm thawing two today and I'll make pancakes for supper tomorrow, with eggs and some of those Hormel Little Sizzlers sausages that we bought at Homeland last weekend.  They are 12-oz packages and were on sale for $1 per package.

I probably should mention here what I kind of assumed everyone already knew, but maybe some don't.  I have trained myself to scan through the refrigerator almost every time I open it, to make sure I don't let something languish.  If, by some oversight, I have done that, it goes on the compost.  I don't like to waste food but Hubs and I have never had a food-bourn illness and I don't want to start now.  It's enough of a risk, just bringing things home from the grocery store!  Also, when I try a new recipe, many times I will make only half the recipe.  And if I have bought or prepared something Hubs and I just flat-out don't like, I won't usually keep adding things to it to try to make it taste better.  For instance, we are not big fans of seafood, so usually it's something in this category that someone told us, "Oh, even if you don't like seafood, you'll LOVE this!"  Yeah.  Right.  A nice, fresh, filleted Crappie, rolled in flour and cornmeal and fried crispy in an iron skillet?  YUM.  Otherwise, meh.  Hubs loves shrimp but I can barely look at them.  They look like little embryos to me.  We used to love to buy deep-fried fish at Long John Silver's, but we don't even like THAT anymore.  It's too greasy.  We don't care for oysters and no way in this world would I ever eat one raw.  That we cannot afford to buy caviar doesn't bother us a bit.  --Aren't we picky??  We also don't particularly care for pork roast.  We buy pork tenderloin every time the price is right, sometimes we can get a whole loin for $1.99 a pound or less, which is a lot less than beef costs.  Now and then I may slow-cook a small pork roast, but I shred it and we have it in sandwiches with barbeque sauce on it.  Normally we just have it sliced 1" thick at the store, and I fry it instead of buying pork chops.  Pork chops are usually so full of fat and bone that you never get your money's worth.  Or I'll cube it and make Sweet and Sour Pork.  I usually grind some with my KitchenAid meat grinder and mix half and half with ground beef for meat loaf.  Once I seasoned some of the ground pork roast and made sausage patties but it was too lean and it just didn't fry up very well.  We don't eat sausage that often except for an occasional breakfast, and my Runza recipe calls for crumbled sausage.  Around the holidays I'll usually buy a good ham, and once in awhile I buy bacon, but we don't eat a lot of it, and now that the World Health Organization says cured meat is a carcinogenic (something we've all heard before), maybe the price will go down.  Heh.  I've said this before: The reason why overweight people are more prone to diseases than normal weight people is not because they are overweight.  It's because they are taking in more chemical-laden foods.  Preservatives, concentrated "sugars" like high-fructose corn syrup and now they're saying the highly touted agave nectar is even worse because of all the processing it goes through.  Then there are flavor enhancers, artificial colors, growth hormones and antibiotics that the animals were fed, weed killers and pesticides that were sprayed on the growing fields.  That sort of thing.  I have often said that nobody really needs to come over here and kill us.  We're doing it to ourselves. 

Rose Mountain Herbs sent a link to me in an e-mail to a free herbal remedies on-line class.  They say it's OK to share it, so HERE is the link.  Mention was made of a herbalist named Jim McDonald and I kind of dinked around to see if I could find any of his stuff.  I came up with THIS page, looks like it's full of some good reading.

I got my flu shot at The Health Department today.  Good thing we got our shingles shots last month, people were coming in and asking about them today while we were there, and they were being told that the grant money that allowed them to give the shots free to Senior Citizens was all used up.  Those shots are pretty expensive and Medicare won't pay for any of it.  However they are saying that if the person who wants the shot has a medigap policy, sometimes that insurance will pay part of it, if it's submitted to Medicare, but not all will, and then the person who got the shot has to pay.  It's getting complicated. 

Oh, and by the way, if you've got little ones around, and you haven't had a whooping cough booster in ten years or more, GET ONE.  If you garden and you haven't had a tetanus shot lately, GET ONE.  Sometimes the tetanus and whooping shot boosters can be given in one shot, or so I hear.  Call your doctor or local County Health Department.

Grandson JR and wife had a baby doctor appointment yesterday.  Apparently the twins are not identical, they're fraternal.  Identical twins are the splitting of one fertilized egg, and both babies are in the same sac.  Fraternal twins are the fertilization of two separate eggs.  Fraternal twins may not look alike, with different color hair and different features, and often one is a boy and the other is a girl.  The doctors said they couldn't tell what sex one of the babies is, and thought maybe they'd be able to tell next time.  But the one they can see well is definitely a girl.  JR said, "If both babies are girls.......      just shoot me now...."  (they already have one child, a girl, who is about three now.)  Heh.  Oh, JR.  It's Payback Time.....  Apparently this twinning thing is not passed down from Hubs, this time.  His mother and her twin were identical.

This is now Wednesday.

The basil plants in the garden lost their leaves and had gone to seed.  I was going to pull them all up yesterday but they were so well rooted that I had to ask Hubs to do it.  Even he had to use the fork.  It doesn't help that the ground is so dry out there.  I want to have basil in the garden again next year so I shook each plant well over the spot where they had grown as I gathered them.  Hopefully the seeds will volunteer next year and all I'll have to do will be to thin them out.  The plants are very woody so they went into the burn barrel.  I stayed out a little longer to pull grass roots out of one of the beds.  That particular bed was filled with wood chips and they have finally broken down, so the resulting soil was soft and the roots were easy to pull out.  I don't know if I'm going to be able to do a "No-Till" garden because I need the tilling to knock the Bermuda grass back.   *Sigh*.  That's life on The Oklahoma Prairie. 

It rained lightly this morning.  Probably not much accumulation, though.  Mesonet says our temp is 55º with a high expected of only 68º.  Hubs changed the thermostat to "heat" yesterday and I heard it come on at 2:30 this morning.  The thermostat was set to 73º.  We usually keep it at 68º for night time heating.  I was too warm and had to go downstairs and fix it, I knew I'd never go back to sleep so just started the coffee and stayed up.  Mesonet says we're supposed to get a good rain Thursday night.  That's what they said for last week and we barely got half an inch.  So many of us have been disappointed so often, within the past several years, that we have gotten a little jaded about the whole thing.  I don't think I fully understand the whole subject of wishing to make things come true.  They talk about those "Visualization Boards" and my daughter was really into that some years ago.  I have noticed that when I mention, out loud, that I need something, I will almost always find it on the next weekend of going to garage sales, and I tend to think it's God, giving little gifts of love.  But I have actually prayed for rain and not had my prayers answered.  So maybe I ought to get myself a "board" and tack on a picture of a garden getting rained on.  Well, I guess it's just too late for that this year.  But I wonder if the fact that so many of us that live around here just shrug and say, "Yeah, RIGHT." when we hear a forecast for rain, might we be in some weird way, preventing ourselves from getting it?  Bad vibes?  Self-fulfilling prophesy?  I'm of the opinion that there is so much about the human brain and our spirituality that we don't know.  I've heard that we only use a small portion of the capabilities of our brains and then I've heard that this is a myth.  So I don't know..... But I don't think anybody else really knows for sure, either.  I mean, they come out and say, "This is how THIS works," and we all go around repeating it and get ourselves convinced that's how it really is, and then somebody gets a grant for a new study and they announce, well, what we've thought all along just wasn't true.  Till the grant for the next study, anyway.

This is now Thursday, the 29th.

I finally got around to making pie.  It's not my best, I'm afraid....

I haven't made meringue in at least a year and I guess I'm out of practice, because some unexpected things happened.  The water and cornstarch mixture got really thick, really quick.  Did I mis-read the recipe?  Yeah, I think I must have.  Either that or it was the fact that when I spooned the cornstarch out of the box, I leveled off the measuring spoon by pressing it against the inside of the box as I drew it out.  Well, doggone it, I probably ended up putting twice as much cornstarch in the recipe as should've been there, because I think it "packed down", kinda like brown sugar does, and yes, I knew better.  I just wasn't thinkin'.  But I seem to remember having it get too thick before, which is why I made sure to put a lid on the saucepan just as soon as I took it off the stove, and used it while it was still warm.  Next time I use this recipe, I'll think I'll make sure to take it off the stove just as soon as it starts to thicken, yet is still pourable.  I did a little dinking around on the Internet and found this recipe several places, but some of them called for mixing the cornstarch in 2 T. water, with all the other ingredients the same except some didn't call for Cream of Tartar, which is a stabilizer.  So I've changed my recipe to allow the addition of an extra 2 T. of water if the mixture's too thick, at the end of the cooking time.  I can see little clumps of cornstarch and water in the meringue, but Hubs says if they're there, he can't tell.  And believe me, Hubs would say.

This is an old recipe that made the rounds among the women at the Copan Methodist Church during the 1950's, and was given to me years later by one of those women:

Never-Fail Meringue
This rises beautifully in the oven. If mixture becomes too thick to pour, stir in up to 2 T. water.

1 T. cornstarch
½ C. water
6 T. sugar
3 egg whites
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
pinch salt

Combine cornstarch, water, and 2 T of the sugar in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly till thick but still pourable, translucent and shiny. Cover and set aside. Combine egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer. Beat just till foamy. Add cornstarch mixture (it's OK if it's still warm) and beat till stiff peaks will form. Pile onto pie and bake till nicely browned, at 375º for 10-15 minutes.
****
 
I've seen where certain cooks stress that perfect meringue cannot be made unless the eggs that go into it are fresh, fresh, fresh!  I'm sorry, but in my opinion that's just so much food snobbery.  If that was the case, nobody would be able to make perfect meringue unless they kept their own chickens, and I know several women who make perfect meringue from grocery store eggs. 
 
We are expecting the temperature to drop tonight, near the freezing point.  Often we will get frost when they don't get it in town.  So I went out today and picked all the little tomatoes and peppers, and even if it doesn't freeze, I'm going to call it The End.  I'm ready.  We've had a decent harvest of most things, and though the Cheese Peppers didn't do much during the summer, they picked up as the weather cooled, and I've been able to get enough to last us till next year's harvest.
 
I'm always amazed at how big the yield is from these little guys.  I grew reds, yellows and oranges this year.  Usually I bring them in when they're still green and let them finish ripening on the counter.  Did you know that the fact that so many people eat and use sweet peppers while they're still green is because of a marketing ploy?  They had to be picked and shipped while they were still green so they'd still be fresh when they hit the stores.  So the marketers built recipes around "green peppers" rather than "sweet peppers", so women would buy them even while they were still green.  Weird, huh?  I personally don't like the taste of sweet peppers while they're still green.  If you let them change color before you freeze them, they will be much sweeter and not have that bitter tang that makes some people, especially kids, think they don't like sweet peppers.
 
I was interested to see that, over on Taylor-Made Homestead (on my sidebar), Tammy has a "Hack" where she cooks brown rice in vegetable broth that she collects from cooked vegetables.  I never thought of making rice with it and I bet that'd be really good. 
 
I did not get the basil that I grew in the garden harvested in time.  But Lime Basil is growing around a flower bed near the patio and it still has nice green leaves on it.  So today I harvested some of that.  They say basil doesn't hold its flavor well when you dry it but there's a workaround.  Dry it away from heat and the light, then pack in a jar and keep it in the freezer.  I've tried freezing the leaves without drying first and they turn bitter.  You could also make "Basil Tea", or maybe make pesto, and freeze it in ice-cube trays for adding to Italian dishes through the winter.  But this is just easier for me, and takes less room in the freezer. 
 
Well, that's about all I can think of to write.  Halloween will soon be here, but we long ago quit decorating for it OR celebrating it.  The stores are already full of Christmas stuff and that countdown has begun.  I'll get back to my seed list and try to lay some plans for next garden year, including choosing what seeds I will Wintersow, starting in December, and I'll have to decide how I'll handle onion seed sowing, since I haven't done that yet.  I never did have that garage sale I intended to have, and the garage is all cluttered up with that.  I guess there'd still be a few weekends when the weather would be nice enough to hold a garage sale.  But do I have the "Get Up And Go" to do it?  Must think about that.  Maybe spring is a better option, then I can sell surplus seedlings and little plants that volunteer in the garden.  Pa Kettle is rubbing off on me.  Can you tell?
 
Till next time, Rock on...  Hugs xoxoxo

Friday, October 23, 2015

Daily Doin's, Third Week Of October, 2015

Those of us who grow some of our own food are always interested in different things to grow that we don't always find in our local grocery stores and how to use them once we have a harvest.  And so I'd like to share with you a link to Vegetarian Times , specifically this particular recipe for Curried Beans and Greens, that calls for Adzuki Beans and Kale, both of which I grew this year. 

The Adzuki Beans were a little adventure I went on.  In order to get the seed I ordered a sprouting mix from Sprout People.  They shared a package with Garbanzo Beans and some other kind of bean, I don't remember what.  I planted the Garbanzo, as well, because I had seen a You-Tube presentation of how people were seasoning and crisping them up in the oven and eating them for nutritious snacks.  HERE is another version.  Unfortunately, the grasshoppers were big fans of the Garbanzos right away and I didn't get much of a crop.  What I did get, I'll use as seed next year and will probably have to grow under a tent.  Oh, who am I kidding?  I probably won't go to that much trouble when I get right down to it.  Maybe it would be easier to just buy a can of them like the people did that I watched on the You-Tube video.  I don't remember ever seeing them for sale in our local stores, but Amazon sells them in dried and canned form and the price seems decent for the dried version.

While I was at it I looked on Amazon for Cannellini beans and then found them, where postage was paid, to cost an average of about $5 a pound.  Yipe!  I have long wanted to try this bean.  But if I'm going to have to pay $5 a pound, that might be an issue.  It's said to be smooth and creamy.  If I ever get any, I'll save some out to plant.

Then I got the idea to look at Whole Foods next time we go to Tulsa.  (Dr. Plaster's PA, who is also his wife, refers to them as "Whole Paycheck".  Heh.)  I've got to go back to see them when I'm three months out from surgery, and we pass right by a Whole Foods store on the way.  I hear they have all kinds of beans in bins, and you can buy by the scoop. 

There are so many varieties of beans, it's probably possible to eat beans every day for a long time, and be having a different variety every day.  In fact, Hubs and I met a man a year or so ago who said he ate beans every day.  He was an older fellow and lived alone.  I know you're thinking, "That's probably best....", but seriously, if you eat beans often your "gut" gets over all that acrobatic stuff and settles down like a well-oiled machine.  No pun intended.  Heh.  I also once worked with a woman whose mother was Mexican and her dad was German.  They had a big family and she told me her dad would start a big pot of beans cooking every morning before he went off to work.  Her mother was probably busy getting kids off to school and so on.  With a big family, there's always so much going on all the time.  Many a healthy family was raised on beans during hard times in America.

But enough about beans.

Kale was a kind of an adventure of it's own.  I planted several different kinds in the spring and some of them were a little harder to keep alive than others.  I still have Russian Kale, Curly Blue Kale, and some Lacinto in the garden, but they've all been hit hard by the insects.  They riddled the summer leaves completely down to just the veins, but now that it's turning cooler, the "trunks" still stand, with little leaf nubbins where I broke off the old leaf skeletons.  We all know that kale is "sweetened up" by a light frost and so I'll leave them as they are and see if I get a crop.  I managed to pick some of the early leaves last spring, chopped and froze them.  I've added some to spaghetti and more recently, to the Breakfast Casserole that you saw on the previous post, and they were not objectionable in either dish.  Kale is worth adding to anything it'll work in, considering it's packed with nutrients.  Lots of people juice it and add fruit juices and they report that they like it very much.  But the thing about juicing is that all the solids then have to be dealt with, and most people throw them away.  I'd just rather use it in a way that doesn't waste anything.  Though I guess if those solids go onto a compost pile, they're not completely wasted.  I'll leave the plants in the garden through next spring, and if they live, they will go to seed.  This will give me plenty to plant for the fall of 2016, which is a better time to grow kale.  I have a little trouble getting things started for fall as our weather's so hot and dry when the time is right for setting things out.  Grasshoppers just looooooove tender seedlings, so maybe I'll have to figure out a way to tent them. 

This is Sunday.  This morning Hubs and I had a nice piece of Breakfast Casserole and the remaining pieces had frozen solid enough that I was able to bag them.  They stick together if you don't cut them apart and separate them a bit.  I just freeze them in the pan they baked in, and then pop them into a bag after they're frozen.

We decided to have some of the left-over potroast for supper today, then whatever is left, I'll pack away in the freezer for soup later on.  At the grocery store last week, we bought some chicken breast quarters on sale for $1.99.  All the packages went right into the freezer but one, and I put those in the skillet with a little water and cooked with the lid on.  They were very thick pieces and I ended up having to cut the breast part in half, as the part near the bone was just barely done.  So this morning I separated out the bones and the meat and cut the meat into cubes of approximately 1.5" square. 

I put these on a cookie sheet and set in the freezer.  I'll dump 'em in a bag once they've frozen.  They will thaw quickly when I'm ready to use them.  In the bowl are the bones and skin, which I put in "the chicken bone bag" and that will become good chicken stock in the pressure cooker when I have enough collected.  I was going to use this to make chicken and noodles, but Hubs informed me he is tired of chicken right now.   And really, I'd rather use thigh meat for chicken and noodles, since I'm not crazy about dark-meat poultry, except for the fact that it's cheaper.  Mostly I use it in things where it can be cut up and mingled with other ingredients.  I found a recipe on "Damned Delicious" HERE that I'm going to try when I'm ready to use these frozen breast-meat cubes.  It calls for Panko, and I have some of that, somewhere in the freezer.  Panko is really cheap to make.  It's just white store-bought bread, reduced to crumbs.  That's all it is.  It probably came to be at the hands of some enterprising housewife, using up her scraps of dried-out bread.   

I'm still "on a roll" with my "freezer diving" catch-up.  Today while I was looking for "the chicken bone bag", I found a couple of small containers of tomato sauce.  I haven't moved the containers of left-over chili from last night from the refrigerator to the freezer yet, and so I decided to just add these to that, but after I thawed them enough so I could taste and make sure that's exactly what they were, I discovered one was spaghetti sauce, and I'd rather use it as it is to smear on Pizza Rounds, which I make every now and then and stow away into the freezer.  But the other was just a little dab of tomato puree so I divided it between the three containers of chili and now that's packed away in the freezer.  I also found two uncooked slices of pork tenderloin that I'll probably make for supper tomorrow night.   

I found a half-pint of canned mushroom broth, and today I'll break out one of those cans of condensed milk from the pantry, saute some chopped onion, celery and a little shredded carrot, add the broth and a can of mushroom ends and pieces and thicken with a little cornstarch.  This will make a decent Cream Of Mushroom Soup that will go back into the freezer for use when I need it for a casserole or as a sauce for meatloaf or sliced chicken.

Remember, I'm trying to use up those cans of condensed milk that are in my pantry because they're past their expiration dates.  They'll still be good for a little while but I don't like to go too far out.  I always make sure the can still is in good shape, doesn't bulge, and the contents look and smell like they're supposed to.   Thanksgiving is coming up and they usually put canned milk on sale since just about every pumpkin pie recipe you see calls for it.  That'll be a good time to lay in a small supply of new stuff.

I decided to make Hubs a chocolate pie out of the pie crust "balls" that I found in the freezer yesterday.  I'll use another can of condensed milk for part, but not all, of the milk in the pie filling.  Hubs loves his "sweets", and he never gets enough pie.  With me watching what I'm eating, I'm not even willing to go out and get a frozen yogurt at Braum's anymore.  I don't care if he goes and gets one for himself, but he's not willing to do that.  He ends up going on the "healthy eating" bandwagon when I go, whether he really wants to or not.  So every now and then I try to make something as a treat for him since he's not fifty pounds overweight like I am.  This is also one of the reasons why I didn't quit making jam.  He satisfies his sweet tooth lots of times with a piece of homemade 60% whole-wheat toast, real butter, and one flavor or another of jam.  Sometimes I'll do that, too, but I can't do it as often as he does, and I smear my jam on thinner than he does.  Usually I'll have a spoonful of homemade jam in my unflavored yogurt, though. 

As long as I'll have the oven warmed up, I might as well make some banana muffins and get some of those over-ripe bananas used up.  And I'm hungry for English Muffin Bread, so I might go up to the attic and hunt down some cans for baking that in.  It's a cool day this morning, the high only expected to get to 74º.  It'll be a good day to bake. 

This is now about noon, I've made Banana Oatmeal muffins and they are just *meh*.  Didn't rise as well as they should have and they're too moist.  I used 100% whole wheat flour and maybe I should have done only about 50%.  Everything else was pretty much same as I have always put this recipe together before.  I weighed a cup of mashed banana and it was 8 oz.  But the bananas were really ripe and I noticed the batter was not as thick as I thought it should've been.  Fortunately, I didn't bake too many.  Next time I might consider that 6 oz. is closer to what "one banana", as called for in recipes, actually weighs.  Some of these recipes are so vague.

Here's the recipe I used, edited to reflect what I might change next time.  Pumpkin or winter squash puree could be substituted for the banana.

Banana-Oatmeal Muffins
Makes 12-14 muffins

½ C. uncooked oats
½ C. milk
1 C. flour (use half whole wheat, if desired)
½ C. sugar or brown sugar
2 ½ tsp. baking powder
1 egg
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp nutmeg
¼ C. margarine, butter, or coconut oil, melted
1 C. mashed banana (if bananas are very ripe and soft, use only ¾ C.)
½ C. chopped walnuts or pecans (optional)
½ C. dried cranberries or dried blueberries or dark chocolate chips (optional)

In medium bowl, combine oats and milk. Set aside. Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt and nutmeg. Add margarine, egg and bananas, and optional ingredients to oat mixture. Add dry ingredients and stir just till moistened. Fill greased muffin cups 2/3 full. Bake about 15 minutes at 350º.

Or you might rather try THIS recipe on Allrecipes.

The English Muffin Bread turned out well though, using half whole wheat and half all-purpose white flours.  I've had a piece, toasted, and it's good.


That yellow stuff is cornmeal, I oiled the cans and then sprinkled with cornmeal, as the instructions said, and apparently had too much oil, which then required too much cornmeal.

It seemed like the recipe I had from Williams-Sonoma was a batter bread, but I hadn't used the recipe in awhile till a year or two ago, and then I wondered if I got the recipe messed up somehow when I ended up having to knead the last of the flour into the dough.  But I checked it against the one I saw on Allrecipes and they were exactly the same, except the one on Allrecipes said mix the yeast and sugar in with the dry ingredients, heating the water in with the milk up to 130º, and then pouring it into the dry ingredients, and I think that method risks damage to the yeast.  The one on Allrecipes also had a comment from someone that said the mixture is definitely not a batter even though that recipe said it was, too.  He said he compared to several other versions and the one on King Arthur Flour's site was same except had twice the amount of baking soda.  I may double the baking soda next time to see if it makes more nooks and crannies.

Here's my recipe:

English Muffin Loaf
Makes a crusty, open grained English-muffin tasting bread. Best when toasted. 

2 pkg. dry yeast
1/2 C. water
1 T. sugar
6 C. flour
2 tsp. salt
1/4 t. baking soda
2 C. milk
cornmeal

Stir together the yeast, warm water and sugar in a small bowl. Combine half the flour with remaining dry ingredients. Heat the milk till very warm. Add to dry mixture. Beat well. Stir in yeast mixture and then remaining flour, a cup at a time. May have to turn out and knead in the last of the flour. The original recipe said it should make a stiff batter but it's wrong, it becomes too stiff to get the flour incorporated with a spoon. Lightly oil two loaf pans or, for round loaves, tomato juice cans, and sprinkle with cornmeal. Divide the dough in half, (weigh before and after dividing so you know how many ounces each half should weigh in order to get two uniform loaves).  Place each half in a pan or can, cover and let rise for 45 minutes. Bake at 400 for 25 min or till golden. Remove immediately from pans and cool.

I've made this recipe in the bread machine and I found that to be too much kneading.  There weren't many nooks and crannies in the bread but the taste was still good. 

I've run out of energy for the time-being but maybe I'll catch a second wind and make the mushroom soup and the pie filling this evening.  If not, tomorrow's another day. 
 
Hubs is glued to the TV, moreso than usual today (yesterday and the day before, too) because Dish Network gave everybody a three-day preview to HBO.  I watched a couple of movies all the way through with him, had to leave the room in the middle of another because it was just too dang gorey.  (The Last King Of Scotland) but the other two were good "chick-flicks" and I enjoyed them very much.  I just don't know HOW Hubs can sit in front of the TV all day, regardless.

Cool websites to visit:
HERE's one called Zergnet I might spend a whole day on, if I had a whole day to spend sitting at the computer.  Lots of links on here, from tips to make your small bathroom gorgeous to last-minute tips and tricks for making a messy house look neater to a demonstration as to why we've all been peeling oranges wrong.  Kinda reminds me of Pinterest in a way.

I could also spend a whole day on About.com.

Interested in learning how to do Yoga?  HERE's Do Yoga With Me, a site that's just full of how-to videos.

This is now Monday and I haven't been worth anything today.  There are plenty of things to do and I don't want to do any of them.  I just feel tired and dragged out.  I'm actually pretty bored but if I'd gather myself together and actually DO something, I wouldn't be bored.  So I am in control of my boredom, I guess, just not in a good way.  I didn't get the mushroom soup or the pie filling done today, either.  Maybe tomorrow.  I figure I'll be doing good to make supper, which is a couple of slices of pork tenderloin "chops" I found in the freezer, some crisped-up sweet potato fries, left over from a previous meal and frozen, sliced okra from last year's garden, breaded with flour and cornmeal and fried, and some green beans, all out of the freezer.  Tomorrow I think I'll get those baked pizza crusts out of the freezer, smear some spaghetti sauce on 'em, then add cheese, then mushrooms, peppers and onions to mine and all that plus crumbled sausage to Hubs', and that'll be a quick and easy supper and some, oven ready, to pack back into the freezer for another meal. 

I did go out and pick in the garden this morning.  A few Brown Berry cherry tomatoes, lots of smallish cheese peppers.  Not much else.  Everything's dry again, no chances of rain till Thursday night and really I don't give a Rat's A$$ if the rest of the garden dies.  I've had enough for this year.  I'm ready for the first fall frost.  I'm ready for it to kill the cucumber beetles that have been attacking the Cucuzzi, and the grasshoppers that have been chewing holes in the beans, and the mosquitoes that can raise offspring in the shallowest of water and even in what little moisture is retained in tall grass or any tomato plants that are still alive.  I have garden burn-out, I think. 

We are under a Red Flag Warning today.  It's pretty windy and even though we got a little rain the other day, we didn't get nearly enough to saturate the ground as it had been a long time since the rain before that.  Just watch some dang fool start burning off, in this kind of weather. 

We finally caught the little fat rat that had been hanging out near the patio.  The other day he was inside a bucket of scraps and trimmings that were to go into the compost.  I'd hulled Purple Hull southern peas and so I had more than I like to keep in the kitchen, so I'd dumped it all in a kitty-litter bucket and set it out on the patio.  Then I stepped out there to add something to the bucket, and there was that little rat, in the bucket.  I set another bucket down inside it so he couldn't get out and shook it wildly while Hubs went to get the shovel.  When Hubs was ready I dumped the rat out of the bucket but I'll be danged if he didn't stagger away like mad and Hubs missed him.  So that was a failure.  Then I baited the trap with a tomato instead of peanut butter like we have been doing and he apparently wasn't able to get the tomato out without tripping the trap.  He's been just licking the peanut butter off and then leaving, without tripping the trap.  So he's been drowned and gone to Rat Heaven and so far we haven't seen any signs of any other rats.  Yet.  There's been something bigger digging to get under the shed that we used for the chicken house when we had chickens, we don't know what it is but Hubs thinks it's an armadillo.  I think it's a possum.  Hubs bought some cinder blocks and set them all around the chicken house so it would be harder to dig, and then he went up to the attic and got the bigger Have-A-Hart trap.  After a couple of days of filling in holes, he didn't see any more holes so guess that spot got to be too much trouble for whatever critter it was.  Or maybe some predator got it when it was out in the fields during the day, I don't know.....  I'm glad it didn't end up in the trap because I don't know how we'd kill it.

This is now Tuesday. 

I still haven't made those pies or the mushroom soup.  Sheesh.

Hubs saw another rat.  Sheesh.

Some of our newer fruit trees have started looking stressed so I spent part of the day watering.  There was a little water accumulated in the cistern and the bullet tank next to the garage was about 1/3 full, so I used that up first.  The cistern leaks since Hubs went down in there and banged around, so a waterproofing job is in order again.  Hubs won't do it all of his own accord and I just haven't had the spirit to be the wind beneath his wings.  So much of the time, Hubs and I remind me of Ma and Pa Kettle.  *Sigh*.

This is now Thursday. 

Yesterday I felt better, so while Hubs was gone to his workout I started pulling up grass and spent plants in the in-ground bed that's just inside the garden fence on the west end.  When Hubs got home he got the riding lawnmower out and moved all the rock that we had placed around The Deer Garden to better places.  Some of them under fruit trees, some under the Hackberry trees that are just outside the west garden fence.  I just can't keep that Deer Garden going so I decided to eliminate it and maybe move the deer into the front yard around the Red Maple tree.  Whatever comes up out there next spring, I'll move to the guild that will be under that tree.  We just have too much to water when the rains don't come, and it's hard to justify the time spent digging up grass roots.  So there, Bermuda!  You WIN this battle!

This morning there was a distinct skunk odor in the air.  That's not unusual.  But this time I worried that we'd caught one in the trap.  OMG....  As soon it was daylight I went out to look, and the trap was undisturbed.  I think I'll put it back in the attic.  We caught a little mouse in the smaller rat trap yesterday.  I had put a tomatillo that something had already taken a bite out of on the rocker, and the mouse tripped the trap rolling that tomatillo around. 

I made pancakes for supper last night.  I ran onto THIS recipe on Allrecipes and decided to try it.  It was a little too thick, I had to add about 1/4 cup more milk, but the batter cooked up well and the pancakes were fluffy, something I have a hard time accomplishing with just any recipe, it seems.  This sorta fell into my "Using Things Up / Freezer Diving" project as I discovered the milk in the refrigerator had started to go blinky. 

This morning I thought I had part of a package of leg and thigh quarters and I was going to pressure cook them, take the meat off the bones, and then pressure those plus some I had saved in the freezer with some water to make chicken broth, but I went all through the refrigerator freezer to no avail.  In the process I found potato water, a chunk of mashed potato, some containers of vegetable broth, a container of chopped beef roast, a container of squash, a container of kale with onions and a few tomatoes.  I don't know what these things say to you, but the first two, along with the fact that Aldi's had broccoli crowns for 99 cents a pound, said "Potato-Broccoli-Cheese Soup!"  And the remaining ingredients held up a sign amongst themselves that said, "Beef Vegetable Soup!!".  And yeah, I was talking to food.  Doesn't everyone??  Our weatherman is pretty positive that it's going to start raining tonight.  Might be heavy rain, storms, lightning, and so on.  Coolish temperatures.  Providing you're safe inside, that's soup weather.  Even if it's not, I like having containers of finished soup in the freezer for all those cold days that are ahead of us.  I've already promised Taco Salad for supper tonight, but soup for the next two nights. 

Taco Salad is something I have started doing INSTEAD of tacos.  We like the hard-baked corn tortillas instead of the soft flour ones.  But they are rather expensive, pound-for-pound.  They require special packaging so as not to crush them, which means a box that goes in the trash.  You can't get much filling into them, and the first bite usually breaks them in half at the fold, whereupon you'd better have a plate under, or you'll have a mess.  Then you're reduced to really messy eating with your fingers, or trying to get a little bit of everything on a fork.  Taco Salad, on the other hand, can have as much of each filling ingredient as you want.  Buy the round tortilla chips and you can actually scoop up the filling with them and STILL be neater about it than if your tortilla broke.  I had some black beans in a bag in the freezer that I had pressure cooked and drained a couple of months ago.  I don't remember what I did with the black broth.  I don't think the blue-black broth is very appealing and it turns everything you mix into it blue so I don't try to serve it to Hubs.  But usually I just season it with salt, pepper and onion and I drink a cup of it as soup every day till it's gone.  Lots of nutrition left in that bean broth, and it's more satisfying with a sandwich than a handful of chips.  The drained beans can be frozen in a zip bag and used as I did today, or mix with drained canned corn, chopped ripe tomatoes and sweet peppers and onions, and if you like, some chopped avocado or some blanched chopped okra.  Whatever you like, really.  Add Italian salad dressing, or any dressing that you like, to taste, and chill.  Serve as a side dish to almost anything.  It satisfies the requirement for protein, starch and vegetable and looks really pretty on the plate. 

We went out grocery-special shopping today.  We were out of a few things that we normally buy at Wal-Mart, so we started early and went there first.  While I was there I found a one-pound bag of Garbanzo beans for $1.37.  Red Lentils for $1.88 a pound and a two-pound bag of Great Northerns for $2.84.  They even had Adzuki beans but I didn't get the price.  No Cannellini beans, though.  Then we went to Food Pyramid.  They had "split fryer breasts" for $0.99 per pound, 18-oz peanut butter for $0.99 a jar, and if you spent $20 you could get a 4# bag of sugar for $0.99.  Hubs likes Oscar Meyer's cold cuts and they had those for $2.79 a pound package.  When we got to the checkout with 6 jars of crunchy and 6 jars of creamy peanut butter, the woman asked us, "Did y'all find the peanut butter OK?"  Oh, ha, ha.  They always make some crack like that when I stock up on something that's a good price, and sometimes it just hits me wrong and I want to tell them to mind their own damned business.  But I try to hold back The Ugly Troll That Lives Under The Bridge.  If she ever gets stronger than me, we're ALL in for it!!!  

Then we went to Aldi and got things we normally buy there:  eggs ($2.28 / doz), chips ($0.79 for corn chips and $1.49 for potato), crackers ($1.25 a box for thin wheat, $1.49 a box for "woven wheat"), pretzels ($1.29 a bag), lettuce ($1.29), broccoli crowns ($0.99 each pound package) frozen orange juice concentrate ($1.19 each 12-oz. container), plain yogurt ($1.89 for 32 oz).  I checked the price for the one-pound bag of quinoa because I wanted to compare it with what I can get online.  It was $4.  This quinoa has to be rinsed but it doesn't have the gritty mouth feel of the quinoa that Sam's Club sells.  And theirs is rinsed.  Go figure.  And yes, it is a better deal than anything I could find on Amazon, unless it's a ten pound bag, and even then, the shipping is so high that it disqualifies that possible purchase, too.  I also find cold-processed coconut oil in pint glass jars for less at Aldi's than anywhere else. 

I hate to suddenly be paying so much more for eggs than usual but it can't be helped, I guess, because of Bird Flu and all.  Of course, it's just like The Canning Lid Shortage, and The Sugar Shortage, and The Coffee Shortage, in that once the marketers of these products find out just how much we'll be willing to pay for something that's low on the supply side, they never bring the price back down when the shortage is over, unless it's been so DANG high that we've cut 'way back on our use of it, and they won't be able to sell in the quantities they need to.  But most of the time, they just cut back on their production, permanently.  For most things, you need what you need.  Back when we were afraid to eat eggs because of the cholesterol (which, it turns out, is not the "bad" cholesterol), we replaced eggs with applesauce, or a little cornstarch.  If you do a search on the Internet, you'll find lots of sites that will tell you what will work, in what kinds of recipes, as a substitute for eggs.  I can easily do without sugar, except at jam-making time, and I've found I can use less of it in a lot of recipes that call for it.  And I'm better off to drink less coffee, because I used to drink quite a bit of it.  But it's hard to get by without canning lids.  I find I hardly ever use pint (or smaller) jars these days.  I put my stuff up in quart jars and freeze half of what's in the jar I open if I need to.  Things like pickles and jam will keep in the refrigerator for a long time once the jar's been opened. 

I heard on TV today that the Lego people are saying they aren't going to be able to keep up with the demand for those little Lego toy building blocks that kids love so much, this Christmas.  Oh, yeah, right.  One year nobody had Tickle Me Elmo and people that probably wouldn't even have thought to buy one were ready to trample everybody else on the planet in order to get one.  Every retailer knows that a sure-fire way to boost sales is to say something's in short supply.  I guess it's just Lego's turn.  We Americans never seem to catch on that we're being manipulated.

This is now Friday, and I'll try to publish this Gawdawful long, boring thing today.

Today I pressured those chicken bones, because I found a couple of small packages of bones in addition to the big one, and that's about enough for a batch.  Hubs can never find "the bone bag", so he makes a new one and this is a bit of a nuisance for me but it's easier for him.  It seems like men, at least men in Hubs' age bracket, have been raised to think that a little time saved by them is worth the extra time that it might cause their woman to spend.  It is, after all, my fault somehow that he can't find "the bone bag" in the first place.  It's a man thing.  *Sigh*.  The fact that he puts his chicken bones in the freezer AT ALL sets him apart from SOME men of his age.  His brother, in fact, would actually make fun of me for making broth out of chicken bones and make it his mission in life to root them out of the freezer and throw them out.  So there ya go.  I'm counting my blessings.

I'm also in the process of putting together the Broccoli-Potato-Cheese Soup.  I'll say this about Aldi: I have always been pleased with the quality of their produce, except for one time when I got cantaloupe that weren't ripe.  Where broccoli is concerned, it's a real hit.  For ninety-nine cents you get a bag that says it weighs 16 oz. but usually weighs just a tad more.  There are two heads of broccoli with nice, dark green crowns with not very much stalk in each bag.  I've bought broccoli other places and it's been mostly stalk.  I bought two bags yesterday so I cut off the crowns, steamed them, and they are freezing solid on a cookie sheet to be bagged after they've frozen.  They'll be the vegetable for a couple of meals later on.  The stalks are for soup.  Maybe a few small florets thrown in as garnish at the end.



I went through the potatoes I grew last spring and picked out small ones that I figure won't keep as well as the bigger ones.  They, and a couple of those onions that I had in the crisper, went into the pot with the chopped broccoli stems.  After the potato was cooked I went in with my potato masher.  I also used up some potato water and a small blob of mashed potatoes I had stashed away in the freezer.  Now that the potato is cooked and the mixture is hot, I'll add milk and cheddar cheese, to taste.  Some people use Velveeta, and that's OK, too.

Saturday we will go to Homeland, because their meat prices are only as advertised for Saturday and Sunday.  I want to get their "fryer leg quarters", which are $2.90 for a ten-pound bag, and the boneless rump roast for $2.99 a pound.  Hubs loves fried chicken, and he prefers the drums and thighs over everything else so this is a cheap meal.  Their week-long ad has a "Ten for $10" special on a lot of things that are convenience food and I really have no use for.  But I will buy the 8 oz. of cream cheese, and 5# bags of all-purpose enriched white flour.  They let you buy less than 10 and get the same price.  I don't use cream cheese that often and it wouldn't be very wise for me to buy 10 packages.  Bratwurst or link sausage at the meat counter is also advertised "Ten for $10", which is "each", I guess, and may or may not be a good price.  I'll look at those.  I don't buy Bratwurst very often but when I do, I pair it with my homemade sauerkraut that costs so very little when you make it yourself.  Yum-O.

Hubs received a call from one of the people that save their bagged leaves for us every fall, saying he had some ready to pick up.  So I guess we'll go by and get those on Saturday, also.  Yep, the leaves have been falling because it's been so dry.  We haven't received our first frost yet, but at this rate all our trees will be bare before that.  We did get some rain on Thursday night but we didn't get the storms they predicted and only got about half an inch of moisture.  We are almost in Kansas in this part of Oklahoma so we miss out on a lot of the Gulf stuff.  At this point I know better than to gripe because we didn't get enough rain.  Instead I count my blessings that we didn't get more than we could handle.  Seems Mother Nature prefers to deal in extremes.  My prayers go out to all those who are flooded. 

Well, that's about it for this time.  I hope y'all weren't too bored with our mundane lives.  Till next time, Rock On....  Hugs xoxoxo

Thursday, October 15, 2015

The Left-Over Challenge

Every once in awhile somebody issues a "Once A Month Shopping Challenge", and Erica on Living Life in Rural Iowa (see my sidebar) has done so most recently.  I thought about joining the challenge, but usually it just doesn't work for me.  I may do a once-a-month trek to Walmart, for things like cat food, the cold-cuts Hubs wants for his lunch-time sandwich, and maybe to check out whatever plants they might have on sale.  But mostly I stock up on things when they are on sale.  We live in an unincorporated area near Bartlesville, Oklahoma, a town of between 30,000 and 36,000, depending on whether Phillips Petroleum aka Conoco-Phillips is laying off or booming.  We are 50 miles from Tulsa, which is the nearest city that is large enough for competition for the grocery dollar to be stiff enough to make retailers slash prices just to get people to come to their store.  But seems like lately that's only just so much hype.  We do have access to a food co-op, but it is for organic producers and their prices are about three times higher than those in any of our local grocery stores.  If you can afford to be a "locavore", then the co-op is your best bet, especially during winter when the farmer's markets have closed down, but you can only get things from them once a month, and you have only a small window of time in which to get your order made.  If you are needing economy it's not a very good option.  Since I mentioned farmer's markets, I have to say that what's offered here is also extremely expensive and I question whether some of the vegetables are really organically grown as there are no flaws on them whatsoever.  I don't know about you, but everything I bring in from my garden is imperfect in some way, thanks to insects, wind, and rain or lack thereof.

I often say that The World As I Knew It has already disappeared.  It happened gradually, while most people were not paying attention, and one of the things that has completely gone away now is the farmer who would bring a truckload of whatever he had a bumper crop of, be it watermelons or tomatoes or corn, and he would sell from the back of his truck parked along the highway till it was gone.  His price was better than store prices because he had very little overhead, and every dollar that he took in was profit, unless you counted his time and the money he spent on gas to get there.  It's not the same now.  If he's even there, he hangs a sign out that says "organic" and the price is very high.  When I was a child, my dad used to buy tamales, made by a local Mexican woman, on his way home from work.  It was not as expensive as take-out, and it was something that Mom didn't know how to make, so it was a treat to have them for supper.  Now, if you can find someone selling them at all, the price is such that the economy part of it has completely gone out the window.  I know making them is a lot of work and I'm sure they're worth what's being charged for them now but what I'm saying is that nowadays they wouldn't be cheaper than fast food and probably not something a low-income family would buy on a regular basis.  And I know that there are costs associated with producing food, so it's not that I necessarily think the small producer is gouging.  When we had our chickens, we had costs associated with each egg they produced.  We had to buy feed.  And we were constantly buying fencing materials and replacing things they damaged with their digging when they "broke free".  Yet we had friends who were really happy to get eggs from us as long as they were free.  I didn't mind at all sharing eggs with people who did things for us but we soon started asking those who just took eggs and didn't contribute anything back to pay us a couple of dollars per dozen.  My gosh, the way they reacted, you would've thought we'd asked them for the moon.  So I understand both sides of it, it's just that it's hard to get a bargain, anywhere.

While I was raising my children, who are now in their 40's, I always kept a full freezer.  I started out buying half a beef from the local butcher shop but then I began to feel that this wasn't as economical as I thought, because the price per pound quoted was always "hanging weight" and not "trimmed weight", and I never knew how much per pound I was really paying for the meat.  Plus I got a lot of cuts I wouldn't ordinarily buy.  Oh, Hubs loved those t-bone steaks, though.  But if you're raising a family on a tight budget, and your teenagers are eating you out of house and home, you can get that 'steak experience' with cheaper cuts.  So then I just started watching the grocery ads that came in the paper on Wednesday, and I'd go out on Friday and hit the specials in three stores.  It'd take me the greatest part of the day, but I'd get great prices.  Now, it's getting harder and harder to even do that.  Apparently all the stores in town are owned by the same corporation.  So all of them run the same specials.  And that means that it's pointless to go to more than one store, unless you find yourself in one that has run out of the sale items, or one that just won't put more than one or two out at a time.  Our local Food Pyramid is bad about that.  Sometimes you have to ask them to bring some out "from the back", and then they will ask how many you want and what they bring out will be of their choosing.  If you say you want twelve, they'll give you the old fish eye and tell you they don't think they have that many.  Other times it may say, right in the ad, "Limit two with $20 purchase".

Last week, while we were in Tulsa, Reasor's was having their "Big Meat Sale", and so we decided to take a look at that.  They had their butchers out in the open, cutting meat, and they had A LOT of meat.  And so yes, they were offering a lot of meat for sale and they were able to cut it just like you wanted it cut.  But the prices?  Meh.

So sometimes getting food at a decent price at the store is your biggest challenge.

Your next big challenge is making absolutely sure you do not waste that which you have paid A King's Ransom for.

I have found that management of leftovers is key.  I store "bits and tads" in my refrigerator freezer, which might be enough of something left over from a meal that might only serve one person, or the liquids from cooked or canned vegetables, or maybe those last few bananas that are getting overripe.  About once a week I go "freezer diving" and challenge myself to make an interesting meal from what's in there.  Sometimes I'll do this every day for a week, if the freezer's become pretty full.  It just depends on whatever else is going on here.  If I'm busy with the garden or getting things canned, I'm kind of lax about this and that's usually when I will end up devoting a week to eating out of the freezer.  Usually I use bananas in banana bread, but when I had kids at home, they loved to eat the frozen bananas, and I still like to do that, especially in the summer.  You can get fancy and put them on a skewer and dip them in melted chocolate chips and then roll them in chopped peanuts, if you want to.  But I prefer them plain.  I put them in the freezer in their peels.  The peels turn black when they freeze but the banana inside stays pale yellow.  Take out of the freezer as you want one, run warm water over the peel, cut off the ends, and run the sharp point of the knife all the way from end to end, going only deep enough to cut through the skin.  Stick the point of the knife under the edge at the cut and usually the peel will come off in one piece.  Seedless grapes can also be frozen for snacks later.  I imagine citrus fruit could be peeled and sectioned, and frozen, but I'm never able to buy citrus at a good enough price to buy it in large quantities.  I had a sister that lived in Florida for awhile, and she had an orange tree in her yard.  She would juice it and freeze the juice.  That was some really good juice. 

Milk and eggs can be frozen.  The milk separates a little, but if you shake it well after it's thawed, it's fine.  We freeze milk sometimes if we find it at an unusually good price.  When I had my chickens, I froze eggs.  Eggwhites, separated from the yolks, can be frozen just as they are.  Yolks with no eggwhite need to have a little something added to keep them from becoming gummy, like oil, or milk.  Whole eggs can be frozen with nothing added if you break the yolk and blend it into the white.  I don't like the taste of frozen eggs if they are thawed and fried, but they can be used without any change in taste in baking, in casseroles or in things like puddings.  I preferred to freeze whites in the amount required for pie merengue or for angel food cake, and yolks in groups of two or three.  Most recipes call for two eggs, so when I froze the yolk and white together, I'd just do little containers of two eggs, if they were large, and three if they were medium-to-small.  I read somewhere, a long time ago, that if the size of the egg isn't mentioned, it's most likely a medium-sized egg, so if the recipe calls for three eggs and you have large eggs, you can do two. 

Milk that has gone sour, as long as there's not mold growing on it, can be used in baking in place of buttermilk, or if you add a little baking soda, in place of sweet milk.  And it can be frozen in amounts that are called for in the recipes for which they will be used.  I freeze in 2-cup containers and usually use for pancakes.

You want to manage your pantry in the same way.  Did you make too much jam, or a kind that nobody seems to like?  You can make a German Jam Cake, or a Jelly Roll, or make breakfast muffins that call for lots of different ingredients like oatmeal, nuts and raisins, and use jam instead of the sugar called for in the recipe.

Check your potatoes, sweet potatoes and onions every time you take some from the bin.  If any are becoming soft, or making sprouts, it's time to do something with them.  Onions can be peeled and chopped and stored in the freezer.  Wear eye goggles like they sell in hardware stores and refrigerate the onions, and you will not "cry".  Frozen onions aren't good candidates for salads and other things that are not cooked, but they are fine for everything else.  And they'll need to be double-bagged in the freezer to keep them from stinking everything up.  Sweet potatoes that are starting to sprout can be canned, but I prefer to freeze if I have the room.  Usually I just peel and cube them and fry in a little butter.  We'll enjoy some with the meal I prepare that day and all the extra can be packed away in pint containers.  Regular potatoes don't freeze very well unless you make mashed potatoes.  I usually spread mashed potatoes in a rectangular cake pan, score it into meal-sized squares, and then freeze.  After they're frozen I dump them out of the pan, break them apart where they've been scored, and store them in a zipper bag.  I enjoy the convenience of having mashed potatoes multiple times with only one preparation and the mess that goes with it.  Or you can freeze hash browns if you boil the potatoes in their skins until heated through (to stop growth of enzymes) but still crisp.  Cool, peel, and shred.  Form into patties or squares and pack into the freezer.  I have some of those Tupperware hamburger patty containers that I like to use for this.  I keep the water that the potatoes cooked in, but usually only if the potatoes were peeled before cooking.  I might use it as the base for potato-broccoli-cheese soup, or for potato yeast rolls.  I guess you could use the water from unpeeled boiled potatoes if you really scrubbed the potatoes super-clean, but I discard it or use it to water plants.

I haven't really been doing much with my leftovers lately so I decided to make today be "catch-up day".  I mixed up some Biscuit Mix (Recipe HERE) and I'm putting together a Breakfast Casserole (recipe in that same post containing the Biscuit Mix recipe).  What I took out of the freezer to make the Breakfast Casserole was a pint of frozen kale from last spring's garden, a pint container of frozen condensed milk, and two butt-ends from turkey ham that we bought at Walmart.  When we buy turkey ham, we always have it shaved by someone in the deli.  They sometimes ask whether we want "the ends".  Well HELL YES, I want the ends!  I weighed them, and that's about 4 oz for each end, total half a pound.  And I'm gonna let you throw it away?  That ain't happenin' today.  I stick those ends in the freezer and when I need a little chopped ham, whether for a casserole, an omelet, or a little ham salad, I use those ends.  I'll chop up onions and a bowl of small potatoes from the garden, because I need to be going through them anyway.  There's a chunk of Velveeta that I need to be using up, I'll slice it thin and put it on the top and I'll fill out the rest of the cheese called for in the recipe with some shredded cheddar cheese that I keep on hand, frozen, for taco fixin's.  Barring that, I'll use shredded mozzerella that I keep on hand for pizza.  That reminds me, cheese is another thing you need to watch closely, because it will grow mold really quickly.  I mostly use hard cheeses in shredded form so if I don't bring it home from the store already shredded, I'll shred it all as soon as I open the package, and then freeze it.  You'll find tips in some of those old cookbooks about wrapping cheese in a cloth that's been soaked in vinegar and I just never found that to be satisfactory.


Coolish weather is upon us and that hollers "Soup, Stew, and Chili!" to me.  This is also an excellent way to use up bits and tads of stuff you might still be getting out of the garden.
This almost looks too pretty to cook, doesn't it?
 
Summer Zucchini Stew
Serve topped with freshly grated Parmesan or Romano cheese. Original recipe yield: 4 servings.

1 tablespoon olive oil
1-2 cups Italian or polish sausage, sliced thin (may pre-boil if you prefer less fat – skim the fat from the water and use in the recipe) (there's about that much in a package in the freezer)
1 medium onion, finely diced (there are some in the refrigerator that need to be used soon.)
1 large potato, diced (ditto.  Could even substitute with chopped sweet potato.)
1 medium green bell pepper, sliced (growing in the garden.  I like to let my peppers ripen, so that they are red, orange, yellow or purple, before I pick them.  Sometimes they will finish ripening on the counter if they have already started to show a "blush" of color.  They are sweeter when they're ripe and they freeze better.  )
2 cloves garlic, minced (I always have frozen garlic and, this time of year, fresh garlic that I need to be checking for damage.  I keep them in paper bags in the crisper of the refrigerator.)
1 large zucchini, diced (I'll be using Cucuzzi, since that's what's still producing in the garden.)
1 quart jar chopped tomatoes, with juice (I'll use whole tomatoes that I cored and put into the freezer, a few at a time, the ones that had bad parts cut out and weren't pretty enough to slice for Hubs' lunchtime sandwich.  Normally I add these to the pot when I make tomato sauce but I'm not getting enough tomatoes now for that.)
2 quarts water (approx.) (I'll use two containers of "vegetable broth" from the freezer, which is usually a mixture of broths from cooking any kind of vegetable.)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil (growing in the garden)
1 teaspoon dried oregano (growing in the garden) (I'll use a tablespoon, since it's not dried.) 
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley (growing in the garden) (Seriously?  Only a teaspoon?  I like a lot of parsley in my soup.  At least a tablespoon, maybe two.)
salt and pepper to taste (I leave out the salt if I use "vegetable broth", since there's usually some salt in that.  Hubs has high blood pressure and I don't need extra salt, either, so I don't normally add salt when I cook.)
1 (15 ounce) can green beans, drained (still getting a few beans every few days from the garden, I wash and snap and put, raw, in a zipper bag in the freezer.  This is not a good long-term storage option, as they need to be blanched for that, but for short-term, they are fine.  I'll use these.)

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Mix in the sausages, onion, potato, green bell pepper, and garlic. Cook 10 minutes, stirring often, until potatoes are slightly tender. Mix the zucchini into pot. Pour in the tomatoes and their liquid. If using fresh green beans, add now, with the water called for.  Season with basil, oregano, parsley, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce to low, and simmer 40 minutes. If using canned green beans, add to the pot last, with liquid, and continue cooking 5 minutes, until beans are heated through.

Here's what it looked like when it was ready to eat.


If it's cold and rainy on Friday, that will be a perfect "soup day".  Saturday will be chilly too, and I'm kinda feelin' hungry for a pot of chili.  We like beans in our chili but we find those big red beans a lot of people use are just too much bean.  So I cook pinto beans in the pressure cooker, and I use them in my chili.  What's left can be frozen for use as refried beans (just add a little bacon fat to a skillet, sauté some onion and maybe some peppers, -- sweet or hot or both -- till tender, then pour in the beans, and mash them with a fork while they heat.

I always soak the beans before I cook them, if I haven't thought ahead and let them soak overnight, I'll cover them well with hot tap water and cover with a lid.  In an hour or so, they're ready.  Drain and add about twice the water to cover the soaked beans.  A little more if you like more bean broth.  They are tender after about ten minutes under pressure, most stove-top pressure cookers cook at 15 pounds pressure.  The one that I use is a six quart (liquid measure, not jars) stove top.  Lots of people have those electric ones nowadays and I think on those you can choose different pressures.  If in doubt, check your booklet that came with the cooker, it'll probably have instructions on cooking beans.  HERE is a good blogpost that might be helpful, with one caveat.  Never, ever, ever, try to bring the pressure down on your pressure cooker by running cold water on it!!!!  You're looking at a big accident waiting to happen.  Plus the sharp temperature difference can warp your cooker.  Just wait a little bit for the pressure to come down by itself.  If you want to you can cut a few minutes off the pressuring time to make up for the difference, but I never do.

But anyway, when I make my chili I'll go out to the garden and see if there are any green tomatoes I need to pick, either because a hard freeze is coming or because there are some out there that have a bug hole that needs to be cut out.  They won't ripen well, anyway.  I'll use my home-canned tomato puree for the base.  If I didn't find any tomatoes in the garden I might add a jar of whole tomatoes with the juice, or a quart of tomato "juice" that is the watery liquid that I pour off the tomato solids when I make my tomato puree.  (Some people who make their tomato puree or sauce this way actually pour this "water" out!  OMG!  Can it, too.  Add 1/4 tsp citric acid and 1/2 tsp salt to each jar.  I will often have a glass of it with my breakfast.  There is usually an inch or so of tomato solids that settles to the bottoms of these jars and when the jar's shaken up that's enough for juice for me, as I don't like that thick commercial tomato juice, anyway.) 

Add the beans, maybe some hamburger mix that didn't seal and has been waiting in the freezer for just this occasion.  Once that's used up, I'll just brown a pound of lean ground beef.  Onions and garlic.  Ground Ancho pepper powder, ground cumin, oregano, paprika.  Start with 2 tsp. of the Ancho and 1 tsp of the other spices, bump it up after it's cooked a little if it's not to your liking.  Maybe some chopped, fresh jalapenos from the garden.  If not that, a splash of homemade hot sauce, to taste.  Some people add cilantro but it tastes like soap to me so I never use it.  Beans and corn, together, are a complete protein, which is why normally when I make anything that has beans in it, I'll make corn muffins or at least have some corn chips or tortilla chips handy.  I like a little crunch with my chili. 
Chili freezes well, and so what's left over is usually packed away in large yogurt containers for storage in the freezer.  I had enough left over for two more meals from this most recent batch.  It's nice to have things like this to fall back on, on days when I just don't feel like cooking, or maybe I'm in the middle of a project and don't want to have to stop to cook a meal and clean up after it.

Years ago, I knew a man who would have a big chili supper for his neighbors in his front yard every Halloween.  I think he lived in Independence, KS.  He would always add whole-kernel corn to his chili.  It's actually quite good that way.

Hubs will be glad to know that I found some little balls of pie crust in the freezer!  And I think I have a can of cherry pie filling somewhere..... 

I'm also on a quest to use up several cans of condensed milk.  I like to keep them around for pumpkin pie but I overbought at some point.  They are approaching their Point Of No Return.  However, they can be used in place of milk in recipes if they are thinned out with an equal quantity of water.  They make really good puddings so maybe I'll use that pie crust for chocolate pie and kill two birds with one stone.  When using canned milk for puddings or pie fillings, I only add about 1/2 as much water instead of an equal amount, and then I leave out the butter that the recipe calls for, since the milk has such a high fat content.  My recipe for "Makes It's Own Crust" pumpkin pie calls for canned milk, which is why I keep canned milk in my pantry.  I'd make up some of those except for the fact that Hubs doesn't like pumpkin pie and I'd end up having to eat it all.  Now's just not a good time for that, though I guess I could cut the sugar by half and cut the pie into pieces that could be frozen, for a treat just every now and then. 

I've been thinking about buying Milnot instead of canned milk next time.  Milnot is not a milk, it's a soybean product, but it's displayed same place as the canned milk, and is in cans.  Looks the same to the casual observer.  It will whip better than canned milk and so it lends itself better for things like those pink Jell-O desserts with graham cracker crumbs.  The recipes that are posted all over the Internet call for Cool-Whip to be blended into the Jell-O, but the original recipe, developed in the 1950's, called for real whipped cream, and then later, when Milnot was created and marketed, they printed off little recipe folders where you'd whip a chilled can of Milnot into red Jell-O that had chilled till it was partially congealed but still loose.  Those were the only two ingredients and it would be frothy and just melt in your mouth.  You could serve it with graham crackers, or crush them and sprinkle the top with the crumbs, or make a graham cracker crust and turn it into a pie.  I've seen recipes for "Pink Stuff" (Allrecipes.com) that are close but they call for the addition of cottage cheese and/or cherry pie filling and/or crushed pineapple, and this recipe didn't include any of those.  Just plain, simple, though both nowadays what I consider "fake food".  Heh.  Ah, childhood in the 1950's..... when fake food was new and exciting and verrrrrry popular among housewives, who still stayed home, raised the children and considered running a household a worthwhile and full-time occupation.

While I'm on the subject of pie, I might offer you this recipe.  It is one of those 1950's recipes that you don't see very often, and makes a delicious, less cloyingly sweet, alternative to Pecan Pie. 


Pumpkin Pecan Pie
1 Unbaked 9” pastry shell
1t. vanilla
1 C canned pumpkin
1 C pecans
1 C sugar
1/2 C dark corn syrup
3 eggs, beaten
1 and 1/2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. salt

Arrange the pecans in one layer on the pastry shell. Combine remaining ingredients and pour carefully over pecans. Bake at 350 about 40 minutes. Chill. Serve with whipped cream if desired.
***************

Sooooooo........ What do YOU have languishing in the back of your refrigerator, that's still recognizable?  (been there, done that).  I challenge you today to open that refrigerator door and use what you find, (as long as it's still edible, that is) for today's meal.  Allrecipes has a search function by ingredient that I use sometimes if I have something I can't figure out how to use, by the way....

Hugs xoxoxo