Friday, December 19, 2014

~Peppernuts~

My dad's family is German Mennonite, and I grew up eating many German dishes. One of my absolute favorites at Christmastime were my grandma's peppernuts. The way my grandma made them, they were crunchy, spicy little cookies. I tried a recipe out of More With Less (a Mennonite cookbook) but alas, they tasted like nothing I'd ever had. Awhile back my aunt sent me some recipes from my grandma and I didn't realize the peppernuts were included, until my sister called me to ask if I had Grandma's recipe.

So then, of course I had to make them!


Growing up, these appeared at my grandparents house in early December and were around till the New Year. (Grandma must have made several batches in order for them to last a month!) My parents didn't let us eat sugar but these somehow flew under the radar. Maybe because they were so small? Maybe because they were easy to sneak??? I remember being at my grandparents to play and going inside to use the bathroom and coming out with a pocketful of peppernuts to eat as I played! If I was lucky, no one would see me eating them and then I wouldn't have to share. ;)


Tuesday, December 09, 2014

~Winter Canning~

I held off as long as I could and then I just could't stand it any more. I had to get out my pots and pans, funnel, jar lifter, and jars.

To go along with our Thanksgiving dinner, I made cranberry sauce. I wasn't inclined to put it in a can so it would look commercial, so I just poured it into a serving dish and chilled it. It was very good and not only got compliments but was eaten all up (that's the proof your company is telling the truth ;-) ). The next week when I went to the store, cranberries were still a good price so I got two more bags and made up a recipe and a half to can.



And now I have four lovely jars of cranberry sauce. It's a bit of a novelty item to me, we never really eat a lot of cranberry sauce anyhow so I wouldn't want any more than this. Just the perfect amount to eat over this winter.


But even though it's the perfect amount, this is my thought on small batch canning: if I'm going to totally trash my kitchen for four jars of sauce (or jam, or whatever), I might as well go all out and get a whole canner load. Not that I wanted a whole canner load of cranberry sauce, but...look at all those dishes! I somehow managed to get many utensils, two pans, the Champion juicer parts (necessary for this project - to remove seeds and skins), and many other things covered in sauce! Ah, if only I were a neater cook!

So, that brings my jar count for this year to 344. I'm thinking of canning a few more things before the year's end, we'll see! 

Friday, December 05, 2014

~Play Dough~

I made some play dough today! A quick and easy project for me, and an afternoon of enjoyment for my daughter.



There are any number of play dough recipes online, just look on Pinterest and you'll come up with no less than 1000 variations on the humble play dough. I don't go fancy,  I just use a cooked recipe that has cream of tartar and oil in it. It seems to last for a reasonable length of time.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

~Fermented Goodness~

I love fermented vegetables! Not only are they tasty, but I feel so much better on the inside when I eat them. I wanted to ferment much more of the garden produce from last summer, but only got one quart of dilly green beans fermented (they were amazing, I'm sorry I didn't do more!).

My latest fermenting experiment was garlicky kraut (I used 1 head cabbage and 2 cloves of garlic). It is so good! The garlic mellows out and gives it a nice flavor, but doesn't overpower the kraut. My daughter requested to have a bowl of kraut with her lunch, and has proclaimed that it is the "best you've ever made". I'll gladly take that compliment. ;-)


Also fermenting: a batch of kraut with caraway seeds, and the olives. Consumed recently: kimchi. I have ingredients for: ginger carrots, kraut, and kimchi. Better get chopping!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

~Snow!~

It has been snowing, and snowing, and snowing non-stop since Monday, except for when it was raining. And then snowing on top of the resulting ice. Yeah, baby! It's going to be a great winter!

I saw this quote and just laughed;


Well, duh! Should have looked at the map a little closer before we moved here!

The side of our front porch.

Monday, November 17, 2014

~Tooth Pillow~

I've taken a little time for some sewing and crafting lately. My latest project was a little tooth pillow for my daughter. She has one tooth out and three more that are loose so I thought it would be fun to have a specific pillow. Plus, it will make the Tooth Fairy's job a little easier.


I had everything I needed, which is always nice. I used white fleece, pink felt, pink embroidery floss, and safety eyes.


I did a search on Pinterest to find ideas, and in the end I loosely copied something from an Etsy shop. (Please know that I would never copy someone's pattern to sell.)


We'll have to put the tooth in a little baggie though because I don't think the Tooth Fairy would like digging the tooth out from those long roots! ;-)

Right now the tooth is riding a horse, and has been named "Toothie". 

Saturday, November 01, 2014

~On Canning~

I'm through with my canning endeavor for this year. 
I keep thinking of things that would be "fun" to can, 
and then I stop myself.
We have enough. 
I worked hard enough.
We were blessed with bounty,
 and give thanks for the provisions for this coming year.
My shelves hold many more jars than ever before.
This year I caned 340 jars worth of canned goods.
Three hundred forty.
That's a lot.
And a lot of work.

In late September,
 my daughter and I went for a drive and picked Concord grapes.
They were organic.
Obviously.
Worms, naturally!
I donned latex gloves in the end to power through the worms and grapes. 
I'm rethinking my desire for organic.


The finished product - 21 jars of juice and 8 jars of jam.
Worms not included.
Not that you can see, anyhow.


A view into my (not so very messy) kitchen.
It got worse than this.
Way worse.


The apples I purchased.
Some friends gave us 2 bushels of apples.
Then I bought 1 1/2 bushels of apples.
Besides sauce, I froze some, and we ate a lot. 
None went to waste this year (well, an occasional apple fell prey to mold).


Sauce!
In my new pan (seen above as well). 
It served me well this preserving season. 
The only thing I'd change, really, is for it to be heavy-bottomed.
Heavy bottoms are good (in pans anyhow). 


I didn't take a lot of pictures. 
First, I was busy.
Secondly, I need a new camera. 
If you'd like to take a look at my whole (super long) list,
 see "Food '14" above.
I praise the Lord for this year's canning adventure!
I had less back pain than the previous few years have held,
and I utilized our garden produce so much better this year.
God be praised!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

~Mini Pumpkin Pie~


My daughter and I made a trek to a farm last week to get apples, and a pie pumpkin made its way home with us as well (also: 1/2 bushel of butternut & acorn squashes, and a gallon of apple cider). The pumpkin, being a PIE pumpkin, was much desired. And I knew I'd just better make that pie, and quickly, or I'd be hearing about it till I did!

I used Libby's recipe, works like a charm every time.

I had some extra pie crust, so I gave it to my daughter and she formed it into a little tart pan. Then the mini pie baked along with the pie, for about 20 minutes. My daughter was super delighted to eat it after lunch!

Oh? Here's a little tidbit about my family: pumpkin pie without whipped cream isn't as good as pumpkin pie with whipped cream. We didn't have whipped cream so there was some disappointment over that. But the pie was good! Next time we have pumpkin pie I'll make sure to have whipping cream on hand.

Friday, October 24, 2014

~Olives~


One reason I wanted to cut my grocery spending was so that I could use my money for other things besides groceries. It turns out that most of what I've spent the resulting extra money on (so far) has been food to preserve. Like these olives.

I got the idea to cure my own olives sometime last year. It was already too late to order them, so I filed the idea away for this year. I found a company to order from, and waited for my box to arrive.

I should have taken pictures, but I got a large flat-rate box crammed full of olives. I did expect them to be packed in something but they were just loose in the box. A friend was over when I was sorting through them and she pulled up a chair and helped me sort. There were a few bad ones, and then we separated the blemished ones from the "perfect" ones. I decided to water cure the less imperfect olives and to brine the nicest olives.

I didn't know how many olives I was going to get - how many olives would 17 pounds be, anyhow? Turns out they filled up 6 half-gallon jars!

I am following the instructions here to water cure and brine. It has been three weeks since I started these so the water cured olives should be ready in another few weeks and the three on the right? Yeah, it will be another 5+ months for those! I had to change out the brine yesterday and I tasted one (because, if they have another 5 months to go, they're going to taste awesome, right? Ha.). Still very bitter. Every once in a while I taste the water cured olives. They are slowly losing their bitterness. They're still bitter - but they are tasting more like olives. I haven't been faithful at changing out the water every day, so it might take longer for them to cure than the instructions say.

I'm looking forward to olives. A lot of olives. Good thing they will keep for a year!

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

~$50 Grocery Challenge~

I haven't been very good at blogging my grocery trips, but I will tell you that I've been very committed to only spending $50 per week on groceries. I am considering bringing the number up to $60 however. Our garden is pulled and we no longer have the benefit of fresh vegetables! I don't want to compromise our health for a challenge, you know? I will see what I can do over the next few weeks, and then I'll go from there.

I discovered something earth-shattering last week, and put it into play this week. Are you ready?

TALLY MARKS

Why did I never think of this? When I'm being super careful (which is every shopping trip so I'll stay at $50), I will write the price next to each item on my list. Then I have to find a quiet corner of the store (there is no such place in Aldi!) and add everything up. I was reading a blog post on using cash for groceries, and a commenter said that she uses tally marks to make sure she doesn't go over her budget.


I gave it a whirl last week, and it was very accurate! To give an example:

$1.19 - one tally mark
$2.50 - two tally marks plus another one to compensate for the $.50 and $.19
$.75 - one tally mark
etc.

I will be sure to employ this method from here on out! I remember my mom had a little device when I was young, that looked like a shopping cart. It was basically the same idea, only you clicked a counter (I think) to keep track. Or maybe I had a dream about that. Haha.

Monday, October 06, 2014

~Pumpkin Bread~


There's a little story that accompanies this recipe. Somewhere in the first year or two of our marriage, I made pumpkin bread from my trusty Betty Crocker cookbook. Kevin ate it, then said, "This was good. But you should get my mom's recipe. She has a really good recipe." Um, OK. My pride wounded, I sweetly said, "NO. I'll never ask your mom for her pumpkin bread. I just won't ever make pumpkin bread again!!!" I wish I were kidding.

A year or two later, I swallowed my pride and called Kevin's mom. She kindly passed her recipe on to me and I've been happily making it ever since! It's the best! So moist and spicy and pumpkiny. Delicious!

I made it on Saturday night for a fellowship we were having on Sunday night. It keeps well, and tasted just as good or even better one night later! I realized I'd never shared the recipe on my blog, so here you go, the recipe for "I swallowed my pride pumpkin bread!":

1 large can pumpkin puree (29 oz.)
4 cups sugar
1 cup oil
5 cups flour
4 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. clove (I use 1/2 tsp.)
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350*F. Oil small five small loaf pans (3x6 inches) and cut wax paper (or parchment paper) to fit bottom of pan, place in bottom of pan.

Mix pumpkin, sugar and oil. Sift remaining ingredients together, and work into pumpkin mixture.

Divide batter evenly into loaf pans and bake for 45-50 minutes or until a knife comes out clean.

Notes: I never add the walnuts. I like walnuts just fine, but I don't like the texture of them in baked goods. It's up to you whether you put them in or not. :-) I bought pans specifically for this recipe, but you can also bake in two regular loaf pans, you'll just need to watch them after 50 minutes.

Friday, September 26, 2014

~Homeschool Kindergarten~

We just finished our 3rd week of school. It is going really well, which has been pleasant. ;-)

I am using ABeka kindergarten material, and also using the Saxon kindergarten for math. ABeka does have math included in their material but next year (when reading and math are not combined in the ABeka curriculum) I want to use Saxon. So I figured we would throw it in when we have extra time, especially since the Saxon curriculum doesn't have a lot of lessons for Kindergarten.

We are also doing Classical Conversations again this year. I am tutoring the 6 and 7 year old class and my daughter is in another class. I miss not being in her class, but I do believe this is the right thing for us at this time. Last year I started out as her tutor and we ended up moving her to another class (sharing Mom was just too hard!). This year is so remarkably different than last year. I am feeling more relaxed and more confident about tutoring, and my daughter is in a class that is taught by one of the dads, and she is responding well to his strong male leadership!

On school days, I read a Bible story and we sing a hymn to start our mornings. One of my goals this year is to teach a hymn a week. Then we learn and review our CC memory work. This doesn't take much time, and I use the same songs and methods I used in my class, so I'm already familiar with everything. Then we move on to our phonics and math. Some days, I add in the Saxon math, and other days I will do either the fine arts project or the science experiment that we did at CC. Why? because it is usually a little different than what my daughter's tutor did in her class (especially the art) and I already have things together for it. It also reinforces what my daughter learned in her class.

That's it in a nutshell. I'm very relieved that it is going so well. I'm sure there will be hard days. In fact, we have already had some of those. But we're pushing through in a good way and it is so rewarding to see my daughter learning!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

~$50 Grocery Challenge~

I went grocery shopping last night, and here we go (minus the meat):


Somehow I think other people have nicer grocery pictures. Maybe it's because their husbands aren't staring oddly at the groceries going onto the counter instead of being put directly away. ;-)

Sooooo...I spent $61.14 this week. That included a run to the store for coffee. Since coffee is my drug of choice, when we ran out on Saturday I made sure we had some for Sunday. Since I was trying to combine errands, I didn't choose the best store to buy coffee at. But we had coffee on Sunday. :D

Here's my menu for this week:
Monday: soup and grilled cheese sandwiches
Tuesday: Cherokee Casserole
Wednesday: beans and rice
Thursday: grilled chicken and mashed potatoes
Friday: bean burritos, Spanish rice
Saturday: green chicken enchiladas

If it looks like a lot of the same, only mixed up, well: it is. But that's what I had the energy to come up with this week (yes, meal-planning zaps my energy!)

We still have some tomatoes and peppers from the garden to add to the salad greens, and frozen vegetables that I purchased last week. My daughter loves her smoothies and I was totally out of frozen fruit! So I bought frozen strawberries and blueberries for that purpose (which should last at least several weeks).

Monday, September 15, 2014

~Grocery Challenge~

This challenge is riveting, eh?

Well. Not so much. I actually have not been spending more than $50 each week on groceries. I'm done with the bulk of my canning now, but (oh, that word) I'm sick. Next week. Next week I'm going to plan and execute my plan!

On Saturday we went to Sam's Club because they had a promotion for non-club members being allowed to shop. We aren't members and while we have been in the past, shopping there was a reminder of why exactly I don't want to be a member. I dropped $56.82 on six items. SIX items, people! Cheese (two blocks), apples, almonds, maple syrup, and soap. I bought each thing because it was a better deal than at the grocery store, so in the long run I'm saving money, but when you hand over the money it sure doesn't feel like savings!

And I still have to go "real" grocery shopping. Because of course, we can't survive all week on cheese, apples, almonds, and maple syrup. (That sounds like a basket from Chopped. Haha.)

On a happier note, I simmered chicken stock and canned it. (Any canning news is happy news, right?) I would have gotten 5 quarts but one lid came off during the canning process. I don't know what happened but I'm blaming it on being sick and not screwing the band down enough. Both the band and jar were perfectly fine. There's a first for everything! I'm just happy that I can still use the stock.



And also? my sister-in-law gave me 3 boxes of Tattler lids. I've been using them sporadically for my canning projects. At first I was afraid to use them because of the reading I did online. It seems like some people have a pretty high failure rate with them. I'm happy to say that my rule-following ways have paid off in this instance because I have had a 100% success rate on all 32 I've used. That's pretty good, I would say! :-)

But this post wasn't supposed to be about canning! Getting back to groceries: I am looking forward to getting into my fall schedule with school and cooking and cleaning. Next week I shall (Lord willing) have a post up with details on my grocery shopping.

Friday, September 05, 2014

~Pendulum~

When it comes to canning, my emotions are like a pendulum, back and forth, backandforth, up, down, whoosh, whoosh, whoosh. The longer canning season lasts, the bigger the swings.

Happy:
The new canning shelf that Kevin built for me.
Swinging to the other side: frustrated, tired, sore, and cranky after a day of canning all day long, and simultaneously trying to take care of a 5 year old who is bored-lonely-cranky-bored-hungry-bored-hungryagain-bored-lonely-cranky-evenhungrierthanbefore-bored.

Swinging back to Happy!!! Just a walk down to my basement:

Another angle on the shelf.
Swing, swing, swing: in-a-hurry, frustrated that everything takes so long. And that using up 50 pounds of tomatoes somehow seems to multiply them on my counter. How does that work anyhow? And the mess! Oh! the mess.

Mopping my floor? not happening these days. I give my daughter a rag and a spray bottle with vinegar and water and have her clean the floor by the stove. Done, and done! And it relieved the boredom for a few moments.

But at the end of the day (well, to be honest sometimes it takes a good night's sleep!) I am happy and feel so, so blessed with the bounty. God is so good to allow me to put up all this food in preparation for the coming year! I am so glad I have the chance to put this food up.

I read this article today; I have to say, not going to Meijer ever again sounds pretty awesome to me! I don't know how I'd swing it, exactly. But I'm going to think about this one! I know my canned goods will go a long way toward less shopping at Meijer, that's for sure.