Friday, April 29, 2011

A little bit of this and that

When I was a teenager I was cast in the chorus of our small town's community theater's production of Fiddler on the Roof. It was a memorable experience for me, and included many members of my immediate family as well as some good friends. I have a picture somewhere of the whole cast and crew. I should look for it and post it here.

My Mr. Dub came home from Kuwait yesterday. I don't think he enjoyed this trip very much. Usually he comes home with interesting stories and things to talk about. This time he has only mentioned a couple of the other guys he worked with, and a bit about the weather. One other interesting thing he said was that Kuwaitis go camping in the months of January through March 31st and when they return to their homes they leave their furniture out in the desert. As in, couches, love seats, chairs, end tables, and the like. He said that driving from the airport to the camp where he was staying there was furniture everywhere along the side of the road. That's odd, don't you think? We guess that maybe when you go camping for three months you take your furniture because you don't want to sit on folding camping chairs the whole time. But when you're ready to go home, you don't want the furniture that's been outside in the desert back inside your house.

Today I made some apple preserves with the rest of the apples I bought on sale at Kroger this week. They are canned in a cinnamon-sugar sauce, and the author of the cookbook recommends using the apples in apple tarts. That sounds good to me today. I think they will also be good stirred into oatmeal or with abelskivers.

Abelskivers are a type of Danish pancake thing. We always have them on Christmas morning, and occasionally on a random Sunday morning. Mr. Dub likes his abelskivers with apple pie filling, because the "abel" in abelskivers means "apple" in Danish. I've tried to tell him that real Danes (i.e. my family) eat their abelskivers with jam or pancake syrup but he's not deterred. I like them with butter and plum jam.

Plum jam is something I'd like to try making this year.

Today I finished sewing together all the mittens I've knitted to this point. Did you forget about my mitten project? Did you think I had forgotten about it? I sort of lost interest in it for awhile, but someone at Church encouraged me to finish them and helped me out with some of the sewing and I've been hard at it for the past week or so. Tonight I finished the last two pairs, and I think it comes to about 30 pairs total. I've lost track of the exact count, but I've decided to start counting again at 30 pairs. I know it's at least that many. I still have a way to go to reach 100 pairs, but that's okay - it's not a race. We've been sending them in to Humanitarian Services as I finish them. Somewhere there are cold little children putting on a pair of warm, hand-knitted mittens that I made. That makes me feel good. And I'm grateful for the nudge I got to finish them.

I'm trying to get in the habit, again, of using my time more wisely and productively in hopes that I will be so tired at night that I'll be able to fall asleep. So projects are getting done, and I think I could can something every day for the next little while at least, and enjoy it. For now I'm out of anything to can, but I did see a recipe that makes grape jelly out of bottled Welch's grape juice and there just happens to be some of that in my pantry...but I already have grape jelly. I don't need any more.

Too bad.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

It's a strawberry kind of day

Today I made strawberry freezer jam which is one of my most favorite foods. A friend of my Little Prince came by to see him and she helped me for a little while. It was very cute and fun to see her shock and amazement that people who can afford to buy jam from the store would make it. (I run into that sort of attitude quite a bit, actually. I find it a little disturbing. For many reasons, only one being that you cannot buy freezer jam at the store and its sweet, fresh fruit flavor is superior to cooked jam.) She told me all about how her dad's family used to make jam when he was a little boy because they were so, SO poor. I bought two quarts of strawberries on sale at Kroger the other day, and have made enough jam, I think, to feed the whole world jam and toast.

Anyway, this girl had fun making jam with me. I think she was excited to see that a thing like making your own jam is something that some people do. She said she'd be back tomorrow to get the jar of homemade jam I offered her as payment for her help. I hope she does come by for it, and learns that some things, like making homemade jam, feed the body and the soul.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

a peek at the goods

In the last 24 hours I've made:
  • 5 pints of dilly beans and
  • 5 half-pints of spiced apple chutney
The chutney is SO good. Apples, craisins, allspice, curry powder, mustard seeds and other delicious things. It's tangy and a bit sweet and quite spicy, but not the hot kind of spicy. Just very flavorful and tasty. Today we've been eating it on crackers with a little bit of cheddar. It takes cheese and crackers to a place I've never been before. It will also be great with goat cheese or cream cheese and crackers. Next time apples are on sale I'm making more of this stuff. Because those four little jars, which is all we have left, will never last a whole year.

The pickled green beans are supposed to sit and marinate for a couple of weeks before we crack them open. I had a handful of beans that wouldn't fit in the jars and let them soak for a few minutes in the leftover brine to try them. I think they'll be good. I canned them with a serrano chili and a clove of garlic in each jar. They will be spicy and hot, I think.

Also in the picture are two jars that have dried chili peppers in them. I bought a Foodsaver on eBay for super cheap and have been vacuum sealing different things in mason jars. My Little Friend and I did an experiment to determine the degree of fun this gadget will provide and he gave it a 3 out of 10 - not that fun. But I have to say that he comes running in order to be the one who pushes the button whenever I have it out.

It's been a fun day. And I have something to show for it. What a great combination!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Here I go...

Kroger has green beans on sale ~ 10 lbs for $10. It's like a sign from the universe, don't you think?

Garlicky, pickled green beans, coming right up!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Ten good things

I'm taking my cue from SouleMama today, and simply listing ten good things:
  1. Sweet Pea -scented anything from Bath & Body Works
  2. Cinnamon toast
  3. Three tomatoes on my tomato plant
  4. Scotch tape
  5. New cookbooks
  6. Birdsong in the early morning
  7. Anticipating a package coming in the mail today
  8. Feeling a freshly mopped kitchen floor under my bare feet
  9. Red petunias
  10. Finishing a project.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Easter!

That Easter Morn, Hymns,#198

That Easter morn, a grave that burst
Proclaimed to man that "Last and First"
Had ris'n again
And conquered pain.

This morn renews for us that day
When Jesus cast the bonds away,
Took living breath
And conquered death.

Thus we in gratitude recall
And give our love and pledge our all,
Shed grateful tear
And conquer fear.

This hasn't ever been my favorite Easter song because it's not beautiful in an obviously typical "beautiful" way. And I am all about the obvious. But the words hit home today, and I'm grateful to be one of those who love the Lord.

The choir sings it here.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

busy little bee

Well, almost. I've been busy making plans and getting ready to keep myself busy this summer. I bought the pressure canner pictured above and have collected and washed lots of jars. I've looked through a lot of canning cookbooks. And now I'm almost ready to start.

Even though my new toy came with directions, I'm nervous about it. I've never seen anyone use a pressure canner before. I'm not excited about the idea of having to boil everything for ten minutes before we can eat it. I'm not even sure if that old rule still applies. So I called my county extension office and talked to the agent and she is going to walk me through it and fill me in on all the juicy details on Monday afternoon.

I'm really looking forward to meeting a new person and learning a new skill. Not to mention trying some new recipes. Because I am sick to death of everything I normally eat. It's weird. For reasons that I cannot explain I am craving home-canned spiced peaches. I don't think I've ever had them before so although it's a mystery where this is coming from it fits in to my "sick of everything I've ever eaten" phase. Lucky for me peaches aren't quite in season yet, I have some time to figure it out!

(Oh, and I think the dark cloud that's been following me around for the last couple of months is edging away from me a bit. In case you were wondering.)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Oh, the internet

It's amazing what you can sometimes find on the internet.

I went to a food storage class last week and the instructor showed us, kind of, how to make these nifty cardboard can rotator/organizer box things. More importantly she gave out a paper with all the measurements and a diagram of how the inside of the box glues together. Since I had seen one all put together and I have the details, I thought I would give it a shot.

(Disclaimer: You can buy a commercial version of these on the internet for about $4 each, plus shipping. It's a lot less trouble, I'm sure.)

It was kind of a fun project. There is a learning curve, and my good friend K had to show me how to use glue properly, but I think that now that I have the hang of it, I will continue to make them for pretty much free out of the sturdy cardboard boxes that we occasionally get. It's okay with me if it takes a while to complete this organizing project and you can't beat free. I'd rather spend the $4 (each! plus shipping!) on food storage items.

While looking for the complete directions on the internet I came across several blogs that feature these cool little contraptions. One guy paints his and said it strengthens the cardboard significantly, so I'm considering doing that to mine in the future. The one I made seems very sturdy, and since it won't be moved around much once I get it on the shelf it seems like it would be fine, but if it could last for years and years, that would be cool. At the class I went to the demonstrator had decorated some of hers with either scrapbook paper or by letting her children color them, but I decided that since mine will be going up on closet shelves (and so I won't be able to really see into the box) that I would tape a can label on the front of the box to identify its contents. I really like how it looks, too - kind of like a fancy grocery store! Is that lame?

This was a good project for me. I've been in a kind of dark and lonely place lately. I don't know what's wrong, and when I think about it very much, I realize that nothing is wrong. I just don't feel like myself lately. Maybe it has to do with the misery that is springtime allergies complemented with practically no sleep (it's tough to get a good night's sleep when you wake up every 10 minutes to blow your nose), or maybe it's a touch of depression. But going to the class (even though I didn't want to) and learning something new (even though I didn't want to) and gathering the supplies (even though I would rather have watched a little more too much TV) and then actually completing a project from start to finish (even though I wanted to give up when it got tricky) has made me feel a little bit better today.

Thank you, internet.

If you want to see another example and some similar instructions click here. There's a video on that site that shows how the box works, too. Hers shows a notch cut out of the sides that I didn't remember or understand about from the demonstration I saw. I will definitely do that next time to make it easier to remove the cans. If you'd like a copy of the schematics sheet I have, leave me a comment or email me your address.