Sunday, October 26, 2014

Mama's in the kitchen!

Yep!  Day off from work today and tomorrow so after church and lunch today I will begins to get things made for the up coming week.  On the docket for today and tomorrow is Bread, Granola, Black bean burgers, Hamburger buns, cookies of some sort, and possibly more yogurt. This will give me everything I need for packed lunches, breakfasts, etc.  It sounds like a lot I know, but really it isn't too bad.  It is more of a time watching thing ya know.  Bread and buns take me about 15minutes to mix up and knead.  The rest is waiting on it to rise and baking.  Granola is quick.  I can literally make that in the time it takes my bread to rise for the first time.  Yogurt requires a little more of my attention because I have to keep it at a certain temp for 30 minutes, but once that part is done it is just a matter of letting it incubate.  And cookies, well you know cookies.  Not very difficult.  The most labor intensive thing I guess would be frying up the black bean burgers for my son.  I am thinking that will be his job.  So no worries!   I have two days to do this anyway, and what I save at the store with doing these things more than compensates for my time and energy.  Plus I can do it while talking to DH in the " man cave".  Our Kitchen and Den/Man cave are one big room.  Like a studio apartment.  I like it that way. 

Outside we have moved one of the chicken coop/runs into place for the winter.  It is the very first coop we had, and currently houses Mama hen whom we refer to as Miss Priss and 3 of her offspring.  Those offspring are as big if not bigger than she is at the moment.  We decided to move the coops closer to the house for convenience and safety for the chickens.  Last year we actually had a coyote walk thru our back yard.  Neat to see, but concerning none the less.  Anyway, this coop had been lowered to almost ground level when we had baby chicks in it.  We didn't want to risk the little darlings falling out and breaking their little necks.  Now that they are bigger, we have elevated the coop up on 4x4 treated posts, about 8 inches off the ground.  Other remodels to this coop will take place as time and money permits.  We have learned a lot more since this coop was originally built.  Next week the plan is to move the second coop near the first.  Once the roosters that need to are safely ensconced in my freezer, we will combine the two coops with 1 main run.  This takes time, but once finished will be ultra convenient (for them and us).  Then hopefully we can sit back and enjoy lots of eggs coming in(hope). 

As for the garden, it is pretty much put to bed for the season.  The only thing growing in it right now are cabbages, lettuce, carrots, and herbs. Not sure how good the carrots are going to do.  As we move the coops, the spent hay/manure is being placed on the garden where corn will be planted next year.  it will age and break down over the next 6 months and be ready to till into the ground for hopefully a bumper corn crop next year. 

So there you go.  Updates from the homestead.  What projects are you working on?

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Walnuts belong in Granola

As does Butter/Vanilla extract.  Just sayin.  I decided to make a batch of granola this morning.  I haven't made it in a while.   I read yesterday about "super foods" you should always have in your diet.  Happily many of them, most of them are.  So I get to live forever right?  Well not in this body anyway (thank God for a.ahem small blessings).  I think the list consisted of Spinach, Carrots, Blueberries, Yogurt, Oats, Walnuts and a couple of other things I can't remember.  Ooops.  Anyway I remember the ones I have regularly.  So my motivation for making granola was the yogurt I made the other day.  When I see this list I think ya know what would be good?  Yogurt with blueberries, and granola. So this morning I made a batch of granola.  During the process I realized I was out of brown sugar.  Oh well, I will just use white.  So I did.  I then thought "well if I don't have brown sugar maybe I should put in a little Butter/Vanilla extract to offset the lack of flavor from brown sugar.  I didn't want it to be bland.   In truth, I love, love, love Butter/Vanilla extract!  I am always trying to find ways to use it in cooking.  I will actually add a tiny drop to my coffee.  DIVINE!  But I digress.  I finally finished the granola and tried it.  YUM!  Very good.  Milder than what I usually make, but I think I prefer it this way.  Here is the recipe:

4 cups quick oats
1/3 cup wheat germ
2/3 cup chopped walnuts (are the best!)
1/2 cup dry milk
1 tsp cinnamon
dash of salt
1/3 cup oil
1/3 cup honey
3/4 cup white sugar
1 tsp butter vanilla extract

On a greased (or sprayed with cooking spray) cookie sheet, combine the first 5 ingredients.  Dash salt over all and mix it in too.  In a sauce pan combine the oil, honey, sugar, and extract.  Cook on low/med heat til bubbling.  Pour over all the dry mix.  Stir a little with a spoon and then lay the spoon down and mix the rest of the way with your hands.  Spread evenly in your cookie sheet.  Bake in a 350 oven 20 min stirring every 5 minutes.  Take out and let cool.  Break up into pieces after its cool.

If you desire raisins in your granola, mix them in right after you remove the pan from the oven and then let cool undisturbed.  Then break up.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Getting back to normal...sorta

So six of the little baby chicks (1 rooster and 5 hens) have found a new home in some pretty sweet digs.  We made $60 on their sale which about covered the cost of feed.  So a break even.  The sale was to a friend of ours who is starting her flock.  Catching the little buggers was interesting.  There were 10 all in one run and so I thought it best to pull the ones for my friend from there.  That way she wouldn't have to worry about integrating chickens from 2 different coops.  Rubic helped me out at first by closing off the door to the coop once I had gone to the back door of the coop with feed and lured them all inside.   I then proceeded to pull them out one at a time and if it was one I needed, it went in the dog kennel (not with a dog FYI).  If it wasn't one I needed it went back into the run.  All goes well until the very last of the 10 chickens (of course).  She panics and almost gets thru the blockade Rubic had put in place.  Had she managed to get past there, she would have been mixed in with the ones that were staying and I would have had to go thru them again (minus the ones in the kennel.  So I rush to keep her in the coop and , yes, in doing so forgot about the back door being open.  Yea...I go around the back to find her OUT!  So the second way Rubic helped me out was catching the little red hen.  Between the two of us we managed to corner her and get her into the kennel to go to her new home. 

Once we have picked out the six hens and 1 rooster we are keeping; one of two things will happen.  If we have a glut of roosters left, they will become meat for the freezer.  If we have enough hens left, we have a buyer lined up.  Once we have that all situated, and the flock is down to 8 (2 roosters and 6 hens), we are planning on revamping the old coop and then attaching it to the new run.  In other words we will have 2 coops attached to one run.

The original coop, once revamped, will be attached there in the front right (your right)side.  We will create a new window on that side.  The old PVC run will be broken down and the pipe reused to make a hoop house to cover one of my concrete raised beds.  This will allow me to start seeds earlier and to hopefully extend my gardening of cooler weather crops.  Then the plan is to have one rooster and 3 hens per coop with a shared run.  That being said, we will have a divider up to keep the roosters from mingling.  Cause that would be BAD!  Lol.  We may change our minds and only have 1 rooster (Sound of doom for poor shmuck that isn't kept), but for now we will keep two.  N.O.A.H has released their forecast for winter and our area in the southeast is due for below normal temps and above normal precipitation.  For that reason we are trying to get this stuff done before that happens. 

Also on our outside to do list is to water seal the new deck steps,  the coop/runs and to pressure wash the house before winter.  Winter is so dreary in Jan I would prefer to at least have the house nice and white. 

Inside the house things are returning to normalcy in that I am able to start baking again.  That can be good or bad depending on your weight loss goals.  Lol.  Back to making bread, cookies, etc.  As things get more caught up and weather runs us inside, I will be able to get the house seriously cleaned and ready for Christmas d├ęcor. 

So while the list is still long, and we won't get everything done, we are slowing down a little and returning to normal.  Well as normal as we can be. 

Monday, October 13, 2014

Seriously Simple Black Bean Burgers

So Rubic is our resident vegetarian.  I have to give him kudos cause he has turned down all his old favorites: steak, sausage, bacon, etc.  I also have to say if meat prices keep going  up I might join him out of necessity.......Nah.  Not yet anyway.  That being said, it wouldn't hurt for me to substitute a few meatless meals in our diet.  In order to keep Rubic in food, I rely(or have relied) on the B1G1F sales at Publix.  They periodically have Boca Burgers on sale 2.89 B1G1F.  So 1.45 gets a box of veggie burgers.  Not too bad, but I can't keep that up.  He eats two at a time.  So I got online and started looking for a good recipe for black bean burgers.  All of them seemed to have chopped peppers, carrots, and multitudes of spices.  While I am sure they are very good, I need something Rubic can put together on his own cause I am not doing it from now unto eternity....just sayin.  I also want something that will taste "Burgerish".  Anyway, I took what I read and came up with a very simple recipe for black bean burgers.  I also figured the cost and I can make 12 patties= to 3 boxes of Boca Burgers for under $1.  I still have left over black beans too!  Not to mention Rubic will eat 1 of these as opposed to two Bocas so really it equals 6 boxes or Boca.  So without further adieu:

Seriously Simple Black Bean Burgers

1 15 oz can of black beans; drained
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
2 oz bread made into crumbs
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
Worcestershire sauce

So I take my bread and put it in a food processor to make the crumbs.  Add your onion and run it thru the processor as well to finely chop it.  Add your drained beans, salt, and pepper (you can add more salt and pepper if you like) and pulse the processor until the whole thing is mixed together.  It is cool if your beans get mushed up.  You want this.  Some beans will be intact.  You want that too.  It will be really thick. Spray your pan with cooking spray.  Take 1/4 of the mixture and shape it into a patty like you would ground beef.  Place in the pan and dribble a little Worcestershire sauce on it.  Brown each patty until good and brown on each side.  Remove when brown and let cool on a wire rack. 

That's it!  And Guess what!  Only 144 calories per patty.    Good times.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

On being Einstein's mother

No not Albert.  That would make me very old, and while I do date back to the days of no cable, rotary dial phones, and record players, I am too young to be his mom.  No I am referring to my not so little bundle of joy who turns 21 years old today.  That makes me old and proud.  Each of my kids has a "code name" for privacy on my blog.  Einstein is my oldest son, middle child.   At 18 months of age he knew all his letters on site as well as numbers 1-10.  He had a little V-Tech toy he carried around with him everywhere (along with Teddy Ruxpin).  By 3 he was writing and teaching himself the first stages of reading.  By 2nd grade I was informed by his teachers that Einstein was capable of reading anything you put in front of him; even up to college level.  By 7th grade I was told by his math teacher and counselor that if they paid attention to his strengths and not his weaknesses, he could go to M.I.T.  Needless to say Einstein isa really smart.  However Einstein has Asperger Syndrome.  While capable of reading whatever you put in front of him, he was slower in comprehending what he read.  While he has always excelled at the academics of math, reading, etc, he struggled with the application of what he learned.  Social queues are a mystery to him.  Certain sounds affect him.  As a child the sound of the vacuum cleaner, or the shower bothered him like nails on a chalk board.  Yet little by little he overcame it and now has no problem with either.  He talks very little to me, but he talks.  He has, over the years, and with steadfast determination, graduated high school and gone on to technical college.  I couldn't be more proud of him.  I look forward to his future.  He is constantly moving forward, never letting things bring him down.  I am the most blessed of mothers that I was selected to be his. 

So Einstein.  Happy Birthday!  I hope it is everything you desire. 

We Love you!

Okay, that is the sappy card.  Since the paper one we have is funny, all bases are covered.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Everything counts!

Hello all!  I am  finally able to say I have finished a large number of sweet potatoes; 40 quarts to be exact.  Now one quart didn't seal so it was part of last nights dinner.  Which brings me to this weeks post.  DON'T WASTE!!!!  Seriously, how many of you throw away a little bit of meat here or a few veggies there when dinner is over?  Those little bits here and there add up to a pot of veggie soup on cold winter nights.  Everything counts! 
According to an article in US News, The National Defense Council says the average American throws away 25% of their food each year.  My grocery bill averages between 400 and 450 a month including toiletries, pet food, etc.  That would factor out to about $1200 a year!  Uh, if I threw that much out.  I can't afford  to throw that much out.  With the cost of food rising, it is extremely important to rethink how we look at our grocery use.

 Here are some things I have done just recently;

Last nights dinner was pork chops, fried green tomatoes, and sweet potatoes.  Anyone who has made fried green tomatoes before knows you have one container of beaten eggs, one container of milk, cornmeal, and flour.  Well, I didn't end up using all of the ingredients to make my tomatoes.  I didn't want to throw it away, so I mixed them all together and added a little salt, and baking powder.  I then cooked them like pancakes in the now empty iron skillet used to make the tomatoes.  Now it only made 3 "Pancakes", but it was enough for the men of the house to have one with a little butter on it with their dinner.  On to example number 2.  When canning sweet potatoes, I used a light syrup for the liquid that covers them in the jar.  When that one jar didn't seal, I heated it up for dinner.  We had left overs as well as the syrup they were packed in.  This morning I strained the left over sweet potatoes to retrieve the syrup.  I measured 1/3 cup of powdered milk into a cup and added enough light syrup to make 1cup liquid.  I then proceeded to make sweet potato muffins with walnuts, cinnamon, and allspice.  Because I used the syrup/dry milk mixture instead of 1 cup of milk in my muffins, I was able to eliminate half of the sugar I would have used in this recipe.  I also whisked in some of the left over potatoes. 

In the past I have, used left over meat loaf as the meat in spaghetti or chili.  Left over meat, and veggies are saved in the freezer for veggie soup.  Leftover rice goes into muffins or pancakes to stretch the quantity,  Left over potatoes become potato patties or also go into breads.  I have taken the egg and milk for French toast and added flour, etc to make a batch of muffins for the next day.  The idea is to re think our uses for those little items we usually throw away.  It goes without saying I do not reuse egg and milk or flour from dredging meats.  Just wanted to throw that in there so as to not alarm anyone.  You know I may be crazy, but not stupid.  So the plan is to re think food usage.  Try and use things up, and re purpose left overs.  Your grocery budget will thank you.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Grandmommy look what we did!

I think I have mentioned before how I have my grandmothers pressure canner.

 She gave it to me many years ago; probably 10 years ago.  It had been stored in her basement, unused for some years.  She wanted someone to have it that would put it to good use.  It is a National Pressure company pressure cooker.  That company was bought out by Presto some many, many years ago.  There is a date on the bottom of Jan 3 1945.  My grandmother was 26.  My dad was just about to celebrate his 6th birthday.  When I got it, the weight that sits on top was missing, and the rubber gasket needed replacing.  The county extension office checked it out for me and claimed it worked fine, but those items needed replacing.  After some research, I was able to find and order the parts from Presto.  When they arrived, I also found out we were unable to get the old vent part out in order to put on the new vent and weight.  Once again Presto came to the rescue.  For the cost of shipping, I was able to send the parts and lid to their company and they replaced the parts themselves and sent it back.  I have used it every year since.  No where near as shiny as when it was new (but then neither am I ), this thing works every year without fail.  The faded, dull areas speak of years of hard work by loving mothers, whether Grandmommy or myself, providing for their family.

This summer, at almost 96 years of age, my grandmother joined my brother, my grandfather, and other members of my family in heaven.  When I first received the canner I liked the thought of having that link to my past, but with her passing on, that link is priceless.  With every jar I take out of this canner, she is there.  We work together, she and I.  I couldn't do what I do without her gift to me.  That heritage is something I value beyond words.  So Grandmommy, I wanted to show you what we did this year! You and I!  Thank you for continuing to help me provide for my family even now. 

So the season has wrapped up and the time has come for my canner to have a break.  But, Grandmommy, while the canner may be placed back on the shelf, you never will be.  I love you and miss you.  Know you are in my thoughts always.

Love you!