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Saturday, November 2, 2013

Cowboy Candy

Year after year I plant a garden with all the best intentions of canning up the fruits (and vegetables) of my labor only to get about half way through the summer and lose momentum.  The weeds take over, I get overwhelmed and that is about the end of it.  Not this year!  Wowzers, my garden did well and I did well too!  Weeds were kept down, watering was kept up and the Lord blessed me with so much bounty I was begging people to come over and pick my garden for their use while I was away on vacation.

Among other crazy growers this year were my jalapeno plants.  Who knew those things would produce SO much?  I cut up and froze  them by the cookie sheet to then be stored in freezer bags.  I canned them in half pieces to be used for stuffed jalapenos.  I even tried something new for Papa Bear since he is such a lover of hot things: Cowboy Candy.  I am NOT a lover of hot things, but I gave it the old college try and took one bite...too hot for me, but Papa Bear absolutely loves them.  I ended up with a total of twelve 1/2 pints of them canned up, and I'm thinking I'm going to have to hide them in the pantry to make them last until next garden.

Cowboy Candy

Recipe says it yields 4 half pints, but I got 6 both times.

*3 pounds firm, fresh jalapeno peppers, washed and sliced into 1/4 slices WEAR GLOVES
*2 C. cider vinegar
*6 C. white granulated sugar
*1/2 tsp. turmeric
*1/2 tsp celery seed
*3 tsp. granulated garlic (I used garlic salt)
*1 tsp. ground cayenne pepper (I didn't have any so I used crushed red pepper flakes)

In a large saucepan, bring all ingredients except peppers to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. Add peppers, careful not to splash, and simmer 4 minutes.  Using a slotted spoon, ladle peppers into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch head space.  Turn heat up on syrup and bring to a full, rolling boil.  Boil hard for 6 minutes.  Ladle syrup into jars leaving 1/4 inch head space.  Remove air bubbles and adjust head space again if necessary.. Wipe rims down, center lids and tighten bands to fingertip resistance.  Place jars canner and process in boiling water bath 10 minutes for 1/2 pints and 15 minutes for pints.

* After processing, remove lid from canner and leave jars in for another 5 minutes.  Slowly remove jars and place on a towel in a draft free area for at least 12 hours. Removing jars immediately after canning can cause hissing and loss of liquid.

You may want to be in a well ventilated room while making this as the smell from the syrup is quite potent.  Both times making this, my sinuses got a good clearing out.  

Friday, August 9, 2013

Stewed tomatoes for canning

'Tis the season for canning up what the garden has brought forth.  I've spent the last few days on corn, with still more to go, but decided to take a break and throw in a batch of stewed tomatoes. house is smelling yummy!  I thought I would use the recipe from Ball Blue Book, but it just didn't seem to have enough flavor.  What is a girl to do but turn to Google.  After looking at different recipes, I kind of concocted one for myself. 

Stewed Tomatoes

4 qt. chopped tomato (I did not take the skin off)
1 C. chopped celery
1 C. chopped onion
1 C. chopped green pepper
2 T. sugar
2 tsp. salt
4 T. minced garlic
1 T. Italian seasoning

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepot.  Cover and bring to a boil, stirring prevent sticking.  Boil for 10 minutes.  Ladle into hot pint jars, leaving 1 inch headspace.  Process 15 minutes at 10 pounds pressure.

This gave me 6 pints with a bit left over, which will be going over some noodles later.  I think next time I will add 1 can of tomato paste to help thicken it up.

**Make sure to follow all safety measures and instructions when canning any type of food**

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Rainy Day Happenings

Before going to bed, I set my alarm with plenty of time to get up and walk a 5K this morning.  Morning and late evening walks rank among my favorite things to do as the world is quiet, allowing thoughts to flow easily.  Many of life's kinks have been straightened out on these walks.  Unfortunately, it was rainy when I woke, dashing all hopes of my enlightening stroll.  

Rainy days like today bring about two very different thoughts for me.  Yesterdays rainy day brought  the desire to sit in a chair with a good book and spend the day enveloped in a great story.  Once the children were schooled, fed and down for naps, that is precisely what I did.  Today, however, the rainy day has brought about the desire to  put on my apron and do some organizing.  I look around and see the bathroom cabinets could use a tidy, the little freezer could do with a swish of my cleaning wand and the linen closet, well, it just plain needs an overhaul.  I won't even scare you with the details of the shoe explosion in my bedroom. 

I firmly believe it is never too early for children to learn life skills.  The girls in my daycare are the caretakers of their playroom.  They are learning to 'keep house' and it is their responsibility to keep their 'house' clean and organized.  I think they would have lots of fun putting their own aprons on and helping me with today's rainy day cleaning.  Little girls in a shoe explosion, I can see the smiling faces now!  (I don't think I will let them know it is also educational as they sort and match the shoes).

I know there are some who complain about rainy days, but I do love them.  I love the quiet reflection days, and I love the get up and get something done days.   What type of rainy day person are you?

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Re-purpose Unstopables

Being the frugal person I am, when Downey Unstopables first came on the market, I took advantage of a great sale and added to it a large coupon, which gave me an incredible savings.  It was such an incredible savings I bought several (read that to say twelve, I had lots of coupons) of these bottles of lovey laundry scent.  I soon found out I wasn't all that crazy about the product.  Don't get me wrong, when I open the bottle, the scent is wonderful.  The problem is when I use it and dry my clothes in the dryer, I can barely smell it at all.  When I use it with my bedding and towels and hang them on the line, it works great, but I am not always able to hang outside.  I have tried adding it to just the rinse cycle and it does work better, only not all the little pellets dissolve, leaving me to pick them off my clothes.

So, what to do, what to do.  I have all this product and needed to find a way to use it so as to not have wasted my money.  I read somewhere (probably Pinterest) about using them in one of those warming pots you plug into the wall.  I just so happen to have one of those pots so I gave it a try.   Ding! Ding! Ding!  We have a winner!  I LOVE this!   Fill the pot about 1/2 full and turn it on.  Soon you will have a clean, homey scent going.  It is not an over powering scent either, just nice in the background. 

You know how it is when you are out on a walk and you can tell when someone is doing laundry because you can smell the fabric softener from the dryer vent, yeah, it's that kind of a smell.  This is perfect for Spring and Summer.  When it quits putting out its smell, just clean it out with a paper towel and add more.  I have gotten quite a length of time with one in several days running an hour or more at a time.

Being the frugal person I am, I love finding multiple uses for items.  Who would have thought there would have been more than one for Downey Unstopables?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

I am a firm believer in the Declaration of Independence, and the words our forefathers put down for us as a nation to live by.  I am also a firm believer in the Bible and the words our Lord put down for us as Christians to live by.  Today, these two great works conflict. 

The Declaration states; We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

The Right to the Pursuit of Happiness means man’s right to live for himself, to choose what constitutes his own private, personal, individual happiness and to work for its achievement, so long as he respects the same right in others. It means that Man cannot be forced to devote his life to the happiness of another man nor of any number of other men. It means that the collective cannot decide what is to be the purpose of a man’s existence nor prescribe his choice of happiness.
“Textbook of Americanism,” The Ayn Rand Column

By the words of our Declaration of Independence, gay and lesbian men and women should be allowed to wed whomever makes them happy. 

My parents raised us to know no person or group of people are any better than another.  We are all God's children and we are all equal.  I know both gay and lesbian individuals and would NEVER think they are less of a person than I.  That kind of thinking is just plain crazy! The Bible is very clear on the whole 'love one another' thing. 

Here is where the conflict comes in for me.

The Bible (to me) is also very clear on the point of homosexuality.  The Bible is NOT in favor of it at all. 

Leviticus 18:22 - "Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable."

There are several such scriptures through the Bible.  Can you see where my mind is on overload?  I love our great nation and the  principles it was founded on.  I also love the Bible and try to live my life by its teachings.   Unfortunately, this is not a topic that is easily discussed.  Most people are strongly on one side or the other, leaving those of us teetering in the middle, well...teetering. 

I strongly believe every individual is created equal, and should be treated as so.  I also strongly believe homosexuality is wrong...yet I accept everyone into my life, regardless of their sexual preference.  Clear as mud?? 

I'm thinking this is a subject that may never be fully worked out in my mind. 


Monday, March 18, 2013

Pre Spring Cleaning Declutter

It looks like a bomb has gone off in my home after the weekend.  It is that time of year to start my pre-spring cleaning.  Time to go through each room and get rid of items I know longer want or need.  Time to get everything in tip-top shape and ready for a good spring scrubbing. 

I started in the back room.  The 'someone is coming over, hurry throw everything in there and shut the door' room.  It also serves as a guest room and my office.  Up until just recently, I had two babies in my daycare which also put two playpens along with various other baby items in this small room.  Have you ever seen the show Hoarders?  Yep, that would be this room.

I started the declutter process by first removing all baby items.  These are now in the living room needing to be put in totes and taken to storage.  Let's see, two playpens, a potty chair, a bumbo, two high chairs, baby toys and a walker.  I next put all Boy Scout and pre-school items in two piles on the bed.  I know, I know, I am just going to have to put them away at a later date, this at least helped me to get a bit more organized though in my decluttering and organizing.  Anything else left sitting around was either put in its proper place, thrown out or put in the pile to give away/yard sale.    Once the floor was cleaned (REALLY cleaned), I set up a play area for the children.  They have all they need to play house and they are so enjoying it this morning.

Once this room is complete, I will declutter each room, one at a time.  My goal is to have this entire process complete by Easter.  Once Holy Week and Easter are over, the Spring Cleaning will begin! If all goes according to plan, my house will be a lovey clean, decluttered, organized home just in time for nice weather and yard work to begin. 

Friday, March 1, 2013

Tortilla chips and Avocado dip

I am a big fan of all things junk food.  However, I am getting no younger and my old body can no longer tolerate all the junk.  That being said, my taste buds are still wanting it.  It's a constant battle between the two of them.  One that I am caught in the middle of. 

I have been doing my best to try and make both of them happy.  The following recipes for chips and dip hit the nail square on the head.  My body is happy~my taste buds are happy~life is good!

Baked Tortilla Chips

As you can see, there are very few ingredients necessary for these chips. 
Soft flour tortilla shells
Non-stick spray
Seasoning of your choice

Preheat oven to 450*
Cut tortillas into 8 triangles.
Spray with cooking spray.
Sprinkle with seasoning.

Arrange triangles on cookie sheet or baking stone and bake for 10 minutes or until crisp.  You may need to turn triangles if they are not done at 10 minutes.

While chips are cooking, you can take a couple of minutes and make the:

Spicy Avocado Dip

2 Avocados
3/4 C. Salsa
juice of Lime or lemon
1/2 C. Sour cream

Scoop out and mash avocado.  Add rest of ingredients and mix well.  Serve with tortilla chips.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Say hello to my little friend

I'd like to introduce you to one of my furry little critters.  He is enjoying some breakfast by himself at the moment, usually he has two buddies with him. 

I'm sure you have noticed my fancy dancy squirrel and bird feeders.  These came about in my quest to recycle items I am no longer using for their intended purpose.  Two years in a row I attempted to have pretty flowers in these baskets while they were on the front of the porch.  Two years in a row I committed murder on said flowers. 

I have fed the birds from a bird feeder hanging on the tree, along with some suet blocks.  I always seem to have more birds than my feeder can handle, so I started scattering feed on the ground also.  While looking at my flower killing baskets, I thought to myself, why not move these to the side and put feed in them also?  Sure, I have to sweep my porch everyday to remove the empty shells and bird droppings...but I am quite happy to do it since it means I get a front row seat to watching the wonderful wildlife. 

I have mainly squirrels, Sparrows and Starlings, which is fine with me.  I know many people scoot them away, but they are God's creatures and need to be fed also.  Occasionally I am graced with a Redheaded woodpecker, a couple of Cardinals and a Blue jay.  One afternoon I actually had a hawk in my front yard!  I absolutely adore hawks.  However, I was worried it would go after my other critters, so I must tell you, I was a bit relieved when it left.

My furry and feathered friends have brought much joy not only to me, but also to the children I care for.  They get excited and let me know which birds are eating.  At any given time, I can grab a cup of hot tea and sit in my front window and watch them. 

If you don't already have one, I recommend you put a bird feeder in your yard and watch your own wild life.  However, if you start feeding, you MUST continue through the winter.  These critters have found a source of food and if you take it away, then they must go hungry until they are able to find another source.

If you will excuse me now, I have a furry little friend eating and looking at the house.  I think he is waiting for me to show up in the window.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

No-boiled egg

Hard boiled eggs are one of those things I love to snack on.  They are easy to make, easy to eat, easy to take on the go.   I have discovered a new way of making my eggs which makes this yummy healthy snack even more yummy! 

I will no longer be hard-boiling my hard boiled eggs, from now on I will be baking them!  Yep, you heard me right, baking them in the oven.  It really couldn't be easier to do.  Warm the oven to 325*, place the eggs on the rack and set the timer for 30 minutes.  When the timer goes off, plunge these little white ovals of goodness into cold water until they cool down. 

MmMmMMmmmmm...cooked this way, the egg has a much creamier texture.  I'll be honest with you, when I tried this, I only cooked one little egg.  My thought on this is one egg mess would be much easier to clean up than multi-egg mess if this didn't turn out right and I ended up with an egg explosion in my oven.

A nice perk of cooking my eggs this way is the warming up of my kitchen from having my oven going.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Chicken and Broccoli Pie

I just can't seem to get enough of my Betty Crocker's Bisquick Cookbook these days.  I have gobs of sticky notes marking pages for recipes I still want to try.  One thing that seems to be consistent with the recipes already tried is needing to add extra seasoning.  By following the recipes as they are written, the end result seems to be a bit bland for the taste of Papa Bear and I.  That is an easy fix though, so I'm not too concerned about it.

Last night I made chicken and broccoli pie.  Outside of needing a bit more seasoning, it was very good.  It is getting marked as a keeper for future use.  There recipe calls for making it in a 9" pie pan, however, I don't see any reason it could not be made in a casserole dish.  I will give you the recipe as it is written and you can tweak it to fit your own individual taste.

Chicken and Broccoli Pie

1 10oz package frozen broccoli, thawed, drained and chopped
1 1/2 C. shredded cheddar cheese (6oz)
1 C cut up chicken
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 C. Bisquick
1 C. milk
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
2 eggs

1. Heat oven to 400*.  Grease  9" pie plate.  Put broccoli, onion, chicken and 1 cup of cheese in pie plate.

2. Stir remaining ingredients (except cheese) until blended.  Pour into pie plate. 

3. Bake 30-35 minutes or until knife inserted in center comes out clean.  Sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup cheese.  Bake 1-2 minutes or until cheese is melted.  Let stand 5 minutes before serving.

Next time I make this, I might try using some cream of mushroom soup in place of the milk for a bit more flavor.  I may also add a bit of dill to the wet mixture. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Crab Cakes

I've had a Betty Crocker's Bisquick Cookbook for several years sitting on the shelf with all the other cookbooks.  I was feeling a bit adventurous and decided to plan my menu around this cookbook for a week.  Oh my goodness!  I have been having such a wonderful time trying new recipes out on Papa Bear.  He really is a great guinea pig for me.  The other night I tried the Crab Cakes recipe and it is so darn good I had to share it with all of you.  I will tell you, the recipe below is not exactly the same as I made it...I did a bit of tweaking to it.  Also, I used imitation lobster instead of the crab as that is what I had in the freezer.

Crab Cakes
1 T. margarine or butter
1/3 C. each finely chopped onion, green pepper and celery.
1 C. soft bread crumbs (I used crunched up crackers)
1/2 C. Bisquick
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/4 tsp. salt
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1 14oz package imitation crab flakes, chopped

I also added 1/2 T. horseradish and 1/2 tsp. seasoning salt to give the patties more flavor.

1. Heat oven to 400*. Generously grease 2 cookie sheets.  Melt margarine in 10" skillet over medium heat.  Cook onion, celery and green pepper in margarine about 3 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

2. Mix vegetable mixture and remaining ingredients.  Shape mixture into 1 1/2" patties.  Place on cookie sheets.

3. Bake about 12 minutes, turning once, until golden brown.  Serve with cocktail sauce.

Instead of baking these, I heated vegetable oil in the skillet over medium-high heat and cooked the patties 4-5 minutes, turning them over once.  They will reach a beautiful golden brown.

Papa Bear liked these so much he gave me permission to make them again!   I want to add, these are just as good heated up the next day in the microwave for about 45-60 seconds.