Friday, December 31, 2010
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Monday, December 20, 2010
The dining room chandelier. I added the teddy bear after I couldn't find a spot for him that I felt was safe from Tucker's grasp.
The angel and the Mary, Joseph and Jesus figurines were from the dollar tree from our first year. I was going to get rid of them too since their eyes are a little creepy but decided to go ahead and keep them.
The dining room table. I sure could use a Christmas table cloth...maybe by next year.
The entertainment center. This is what's lfet of my Santa collection. There used to be a ton. But I decided to just keep my favorites.
And then of course, there's a tree. I found this tree at a thrift store. It's the kind that has a lodge pole in the center and all the branches are glued in place so there's no assembly. :o) Besides that, I just love it. It's compact, I like that! Adam thinks it's a Charlie Brown type tree. I usually have berry garland on it but I wasn't able to find the box with it in it until after I had already put the ornaments on so I used it elsewhere in the house (in the pine garland around the front door and on the chandilier.
Our first Christmas, I decided to paint some little ornaments with scenes from some of the things we had done together. Some are much better than others but it's fun to see them because it reminds us of that year. I had plans on continuing it every year but it never happened.
Sunset while on a dolphin cruise in Hilton Head, SC.
The Hilton Head lighthouse.
St. Simmons lighthouse.
This one is my favorite, it's a racoon that followed us around a nature reserve in Southern Georgia. He actually walked with us like a dog. When we got to the car, he jumped onto the car and wouldn't let us in. He wanted to be fed and he hissed at us when we got close to the car. I finally was able to get in while Adam distracted him and I got a bagle and threw it out. When the racoon ran to the bagel, Adam hopped in and we took off real fast before he hopped back on the car.
It still doesn't seem possible that Christmas is this week. It has snuck up on me, no matter how many times I talk about it or think about it, or prepare for it, it just doesn't seem close yet.
Merry Christmas! I hope it's full of family, love, making memories and sharing with others.
Friday, December 17, 2010
Monday, November 22, 2010
Tuesday, November 9, 2010
Then I forgot about them until a few weeks ago when I saw some on the ground under the same tree. I wondered what was inside them so I grabbed one, like you would an apple, to pluck it and take it home where I would open it. Turns out, those spikes are hard and like hypodermic needles! I let go immediately. I thought I could get home with it cupped ever so gently in the palms of my hands. I took 5 steps before I had to drop it. So I stomped on it and these seriously deflated looking things came out. I found out they are chestnuts (well they would have been had they actually developed). I asked the owners if I could pick some to try them out. They said I could help myself. I didn't have gloves or anything so I waited a few days. When I went back they said that they weren't able to find any good chestnuts and they weren't sure what went wrong that year. They said I could still help myself but I decided it wouldn't be worth my time. She took me on a tour of their garden and gave me 2 eggplants and 3 jalapenos. I got a taste of stevia as well. It really is quite sweet! They have a fig tree and she said I could help myself in the summer time to those as well. She was a very nice lady!
Well, fast forward, I found this pecan tree on someone else's lawn. When we walk by I grab the pecans that are sitting on the sidewalk. I chat with the owner occasionally, whenever he's outside as we walk by. One evening, he was out chopping firewood for his wood stove. I asked him about the pecans and he said that they had already picked 42 pounds and I could have as many as I wanted. :o) I went back the next day for those. He mentioned he had a chestnut tree back near the barn and they never eat them so if I wanted to try some, to go ahead.
I've never had chestnuts so it's worth an experiment. The squirrels had already gotten most of the chestnuts. Note to self: collect chestnuts when they start falling, not a few weeks later. So I gathered the few I was able to find. I had to move the spiky hulls around with my shoes. I really didn't get many but I did get enough to at least find out if I like them or not.
Here's the tree...not a great picture since the sun was setting.
Here's what I collected. There's those MEAN hulls! I am learning alot about how nuts grow this year. I would never want a chestnut tree or a walnut tree on my property...but I would welcome a pecan tree.
This chestnut had the most personality. It was difficult to get out of the hull and it wanted to keep this mohawk.
Food is fun! :o)
Wednesday, November 3, 2010
Both the bread and the biscuits look like whole grain but I only used white flour in them. The sourdough sponge is made from rye flour though so I guess that's where the color is coming from. It's not that I didn't want to use whole wheat flour but I had none. I had to locate a good container for my wheat grinder since it is gone. I finally found one so I hope to be pulling it out and using it soon. :o)
Sourdough Flax Seed Bread
2 cups active sourdough starter
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds (optional)
1/4 cup flax seed (optional)
1 tablespoon poppy seed (optional)
4 1/2-5 cups unbleached white flour
1/2 cup flax seed meal
1 1/4 cups cold bottled water
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons honey
1 (Optional) Put the sunflower seeds, flax seeds, and poppy seeds in a hot, clean, dry skillet and stir them. Let them roast, with frequent stirrings, until they become fragrant. Be careful to make sure they don't scorch! Toasting the seeds makes them - and the bread - much more tasty. You may also roast the seeds in a 375F oven for 5 to 10 minutes.
2 Mix the active starter, water, oil and honey together. (I use my Kitchen Aid with the dough hook for this process.).
3 Add the (optional) seeds.
4 Stir in the flax meal.
5 Add the salt and then stir in the flour one cup at a time until the dough is too thick to stir.
6 Pour the dough onto a floured work surface (or turn up the speed on your Kitchen Aid) and knead until the dough is resilient. The dough is a rather sticky dough; it's important not to over-flour the dough.
7 Once the dough is well kneaded, turn it out into an oiled bowl, turn and cover.
8 Let it rise until doubled.
9 Deflate the dough, knead briefly, cut and shape into rough loaves.
10 Let the dough sit, covered, for 30 minutes, then shape into final loaves.
11 Let rise, covered, until doubled.
12 Preheat the oven to 375°F.
13 Bake 30 to 45 minutes.
Sourdough Angel Biscuits
1 cup sourdough starter (active and bubbly)
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon dry yeast
2 tablespoons lukewarm water
4 tablespoons shortening
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/4-1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup melted butter or 1/4 cup margarine
1 Measure sourdough starter into mixing bowl.
2 Add sugar.
3 Dissolve yeast in warm water.
4 Add to starter.
5 Cut shortening into mixture of salt, baking powder, and flour until it resembles coarse cornmeal.
6 Add to starter mixture, stirring well with a fork.
7 Turn out onto lightly floured surface and knead gently, adding more flour if necessary.
8 Roll dough out to about 1/2 inch thickness and cut with biscuit cutter.
9 Dip in melted butter and place in a greased cake pan with edges touching.
10 Cover with a cloth or plastic and set in a warm place to rise for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
11 Bake at 400 degrees F for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown.
Note: I found that they didn't rise mush so I would suggest not rolling them so thin. Seems odd to me that with three rising agents that these things didn't rise...
I definitely like the bread better than the biscuits... and the bread was about the same amount of work, just more waiting time is all.
Bacon Apple Pie
1 double pie crust recipe - home made or store bought
4-6 apples, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch thick pieces
Lemon juice - about a tbs
3/4 lb of bacon, smokey and salty
1/3 cup white or brown sugar
1 tbs cinnamon plus other spices, if you would like
1/4 tsp salt
4 tbs butter
* Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Chop the bacon into 1/4 inch chunks and fry until quite done but not crispy. Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and drain on paper toweling. Reserve grease for another use.
*If using home made pastry lay half of it into a pie pan and roll out and then cut the other half into strips to use for lattice. If using store bought pastry defrost it completely and then turn one of the pans worth out onto a cutting board. Roll the pastry flat with a rolling pin and slice into strips for the lattice top.
* As you slice the apples toss them with lemon juice to keep them from browning. When you are ready to assemble the pie drain the apple of any extra lemon juice and then toss with the sugar, cinnamon and salt. Some recipes call for a tablespoon of flour to get tossed in here too. I don't use it but you might like it.
*Start to layer the apple slices into the bottom pie crust. When one layer of spiced apples is in sprinkle some of the bacon bits on top. Add another layer of apples, more bacon and then a third layer of apples and bacon. You can pile the apples quite high in this pie, tucking them in and laying them well to form a solid mound. Dot the top of the pile of apples with butter cut into pea sized pieces. Sprinkle some sharp cheddar cheese over this if you are being really decadent.
*Follow these instructions to create a lattice crust on top of the pile of apples. Crimp all the edges well and place the pie pan on a baking sheet and then place in the preheated oven. Bake for about 45 minutes or until the pie is very fragrant, you can see bubbly juice coming up through the lattice crust and the crust itself is nicely browned. Poke the pie with a knife to make sure the apples are tender then remove the pie and let it cool a bit. All pies are just as good at room temperature or cold and it will hold together better if you let it cool a bit. It will be worth the wait.
Tuesday, October 26, 2010
I was supposed to go for a weekend backpacking trip with a friend of mine. Neither one of us ended up wanting to camp out though so we made it a day hike. We hiked to a waterfall and went for a very cold but fun swim.
The dogs were all very excited to see me again. Tucker still tears apart all cardboard he can manage to round up. Often, while I'm working in the evening, he comes into the kitchen and tries to get me to play. Sometimes I will and sometimes I don't...but he never gives up.
Bear is behaving much better with Tucker nowadays. There hasn't been a fight between them in a couple of months. It's been rainy this week though so he's been sad and hiding a lot.
Jasmine had to go back to the vet. I didn't feel like she was making the progress she should be making after her surgery. She was resisting the vet when she was trying to move her knee to get a feel for it so they had to sedate her. She's on a new medicine that is really helping a lot. It's supposed to be a "use as needed" medicine but I am using it for 10 days to get the inflammation down first, then I can use it as needed. She has full blown arthritis now and her knee has healed well from the surgery. That's why she's been limping.
Jack is Jack. He lays around all day until it's time to go for a walk or to eat. He's getting a lot of white fur on his legs and neck. He loves to be cuddled on the couch for a couple minutes in the evening and gets very cranky if he doesn't get it.
I decorated for fall. I go all out, huh?
Adam, Lanette and I went to the apple orchard and I got a bushel of gala apples to make some apple butter with, and some to eat of course. I ate some of them but most were made into yummy apple butter. Then I bough another bushel of Fuji's for apple sauce and apple juice and a 1/2 bushel of granny smiths for fried apples and apple pie filling. I am almost done with them!
Later, I went to another apple orchard with Aaron, Katie and Issac. There, I got to milk a cow. Here she is, Buttercup. :o)
Each Thanksgiving, we make the turkey and we brine it overnight. In the brine is a small bottle of crystallized ginger. That little 2 oz. bottle costs $8-9. I had a bright idea that I could make it for a lot less. I bought just over a pound of ginger at the Asian market for $1.29/lb. I crystallized the ginger and the leftover liquid is called ginger syrup. You can use it on ice cream or brownies, or quick bread as a glaze. But the thing it will probably be used the most for is homemade ginger ale. Ginger is really good for soothing upset stomachs but I refuse to drink carbonation so I can mix this with plain water, instead of the carbonated water I would use for Adam and I can benefit from the ginger too. I got a quart jar full of crystallized ginger. Now I can use it for when I roast chicken since it's so cost effective this way.
At the same Asian market, I picked up some pig's ears for the dogs. I started cooking them on the stove but the smell was literally making me sick so I put it in the crock pot and plugged that in in the basement. The resulting gelatin was pretty fun to play with. The dogs LOVED it.
Someone on freecycle was giving their fallen walnuts away so I asked for some. They gave me a 5 gallon bucket's worth. After taking off the outer husk that's much less...and it will be even less once I actually get into the meat.
This piece of floor is where the fireplace used to be. It was missing the top layer of wood to bring it up to the same level as the rest of the floor. It was all filled in with another layer at one time but Adam and Barry ended up using some of the wood for something else so you would take one step at one level and the next step would be higher or lower depending... I finally filled in all the missing pieces. Now when I vacuum the rug on top of it it's able to get all the dirt, not just the parts of the rugs on the upper level.
With all the apples I have around here, I decided to try my hand at making apple cider vinegar. Actually, I used the cores from a couple batches of apple butter.
Here's the vinegar after about a week and a half. The apples have been removed. Now it just sits, with an occasional stir, for a couple of months. Then it's supposed to be vinegar...but it could take longer in cold weather...which it will be soon.
I found my costume at Goodwill. Here's a sneak peek of it. Mom should love the color. ;o)
More about the apples (since they have been part of my everyday life all month now). I made apple sauce for the first time ever. But we're not big apple sauce eaters here. We are doing an experiment. We'll be using apple sauce in place of oil in the baking. I've done it before...just don't add it to brownies unless you like cake brownies. It really fluffs it up. The food mill came from a thrift store a few years back. I finally used it.
Cooked apples hanging to let the juice separate.
On the house front, the mast that holds all the electrical wires coming from the street into the house was being pulled toward the street. It was ripping the roof as it got pulled further and further. We had water coming in every time it rained...and it rained a lot in the last year. Also, we had squirrels getting in and living in the attic. One day, the electric company came out and took the electric lines off our house. Adam and Barry spent the whole day fixing the problem so it wouldn't happen again and repairing the roof and putting on new shingles. Adam also cleaned out the gutters (on that side of the house) and put gutter guards on them. As you can see, they are not low enough to get to easily, so hopefully the gutter guards work. The electric company guys came back at about 11:30 PM to put the lines back on the house. The freezers stayed frozen and the fridge stayed cold since we didn't open any of them until after the power came back on. There's still the soffit to replace so the squirrels can't get in the bottom hole but that will wait until another time.
I just got a book for Christmas (last Christmas)...with the Amazon gift card from Tom. In it it talks about the importance of broth so I've been trying to use it a little more often. I made some from smoked turkey neck. Then I threw in some beans and cooked it. It took the meat off the neck (a surprising amount) and made a pan of cornbread. Yum!
I got a gift card from Valerie's blog. Thanks again Valerie. :o) With it, I bought a food dehydrator. That's the gray rectangular thing. While I've been canning, I've also been drying some things. In this picture, I was drying apples ad the crystallized ginger.
Katie and I are in charge of Maria's bridal shower which is a couple of weeks. We'll be using our gold flatware we got for our wedding. We have only used them a couple of times. I looked through every box that still has stuff in it. It took me about 2 1/2 hours. Then when there were no more boxes to look in, I remembered unpacking them and putting them in the dining room cabinet. Sure enough, there they were. Frustrating! I need to get this house organized and all the boxes unpacked!
I mowed the lawn last week (for the last time this year, I hope). I noticed a few patches of wild onions. I carefully mowed around them and went back a few days later and pulled a couple of the patches out. I'll be cleaning them and drying or freezing them for later use. I figure it might actually be enough to last me for 6 months. They are little onions though!
Making apple juice from scraps.
In that same book that talked about broth, it also talks about lacto-fermentation. Fermentation of fruits and vegetables (such as sauerkraut) activates all these cultures that help digestion and makes your body able to absorb nutrients that it would otherwise have trouble with. I made sauerkraut before and it took a couple of months. But following their directions, it only take 3 days...and you can then let it age in the fridge for a stronger taste if you want but you don't have to. So I thought I'd give it a try. It's in the fridge aging now...I'll report back on the flavor. Very cool book, thanks, Tom!
One of the first things I did when I got home was to pull my sourdough starter out of the fridge and feed it. I thought it might have gone too long and was dead. I fed it and it bubbled up over night so I made some yummy bread with it.
Tucker likes to cuddle but the other dogs don't so he has taken to sleeping with one of his toys. How cute!
Here's apple butter ready to be canned. That stuff makes the house smell so good while cooking! Thank goodness for crock pots!
I found this little end table at Goodwill for $7. It's much smaller than the bookcase that I had there so I was able to push the couch over as well as the recliner. Now the recliner isn't in the walkway so much. Much better. It still allows the vent to breath and Jasmine still has the space she needs. That's where she lays most often.
I've started doing some foraging. One of the first things I found were these puffball mushrooms. They are edible and supposed to be the easiest for beginners to identify. The other little mushroom I wasn't able to identify so I didn't eat it. The largest one was almost 1 lb.
I got these mushrooms the day after my dehydrator came in the mail so I chopped them all up and threw them in. :o) We've already eaten some. They're pretty good.
This is a bucket of yogurt draining. I was seperating the whey from the yogurt. The whey is what is used in lacto fermenting. The leftover yogurt is pretty thick and can be used as cream cheese. I reluctantly gave it a taste. I eat plain yogurt mixed with frozen fruit but I can't stand it with no sweetner. I was surprised by how much it actually tasted like cream cheese though! It was good!
I finally figure out a way to keep the sugar from settling in the jug of lemonade...make a simple syrup then add the lemon juice. Worked perfectly!
More foraging. These are sumac berries. Red sumacs are edible, white ones are poisonous. These are used in Indian and Middle eastern cooking a lot. They have a lemony flavor to them. I was initially interesd in them because of a recipe I got from a Native American museum I visited while out in Utah. It calls for the berries. So now I can make it...whenever I find that recipe card.
More broth, chicken this time. This one turned out very gelatious too, but not as thick as the pig ears one. It's supposed to be better for you the thicker it is. I guess I made a good one. I used some of it in a soup but most of it is in the freezer now.
A pic of the new kitchen floor, from the laundry room. We really like it. And I never thought I would enjoy being to sweep so much but I love how easy it is to clean. Plywood is not easy to sweep or mop. It's very nice and Adam did a really good job.
I found a really good oak tree on one of walks. So I went back on Saturday and gathered about 4 gallons. The two other things in there is a hickory nut (still in its husk) and a sweet gum ball. I brought them home to check them out. The hickory nuts aren't ready yet but they will be soon! The sweet gums, I read have edible seeds if they're roasted but I couldn't get into the ball so I gave up on that idea.
And here's a picture of some of my work all together. 2 quarts of dried, foraged mushrooms, 2 jars of ginger syrup, 16 pints of apple butter, 2 jars of dried apples, 1 quart of crystallized giner, a jar of marinating plaintain leaves for a salve (I forgot about the last ones and they were rotten when I remembered about them), a jar of sumac berries, not sure how many pints of apple sauce or juice though. The larger basket has the walnuts, the smaller ones is holding hickory nuts I got while on the hike with my friend. The jar next to the baskets is holding the pecans I have been picking up off the sidewalk on our walks. One of the neighbors has a pecan tree. The two baggies are dried plantain leaves and the other is dried mint leaves to add to my baking soda tooth paste. I need some mint in my toothpaste. It's just not the same without it.