Friday, March 27, 2015

On My Way Out the Door

Happy Dance first. No more bandages. My shoes will now fit on my feet again. I am free to go where I want, when I want. I'm going to celebrate with a walk down by the river - something I haven't been able to do for at least five months. 

So you will excuse me, won't you, while I go enjoy the great outdoors.

 Life really is good!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Coming Home

Last fall my oldest son headed out for Arizona.  He spent several weeks looking for work with no results.  So he moved on to Las Vegas to try his luck there.  The temp. job he found ends this week.  There are no other jobs for him on the horizon.  My son has always been a hard worker and has not been picky about jobs.  This tells me that the job market is really lousy or it is flooded with those willing to work for starvation wages.  I'm not sure which.

At any rate, he is headed home in a little over a week.  As a Mom, I'm really happy to again have all of my chicks close by.  In this time of such uncertainty I am glad that my family will be close.  There is strength in numbers and I would rather have those numbers be family.

Duane has kept his sense of humor.  This morning he posted a link on Facebook to the Ozzy Osbourne song, "Mama I'm Coming Home."  :)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

One of Those Days

I don't have them real often.  One of those days where I just don't feel like doing anything worthwhile.  But today seems to be in that category.

Snow is in the forecast.  As I look out the window, I see that it has just begun to fall.  I am told that when all is said and done, there should be anywhere from 3 to 8 inches of the stuff on the ground.  That really doesn't affect me much as I won't be going outside just yet.  But my sympathy lies with those who have to drive to work tomorrow morning.

In anticipation of a lazy day, my Kindle is fully charged.  A freshly made pot of coffee awaits.  Supper is in the crock pot - two beautiful pork chops that I will later smother with sage dressing.  In an hour or so I will combine breakfast and lunch with a fried egg sandwich.  Sprinkled with garlic salt.  Maybe a bit of shredded cheese.

I thank God on a regular basis that after so many years of working, I am now able to take a lazy day if I wish to.  For me, that is the absolute height of luxury.  So I'm going to grab my Kindle, put my feet up, settle back and finish the story I'm reading about a couple of amateur detectives in the 1920's.

I just love those old books.  Especially the murder mystery ones.  It is fun to sift through the clues to try to guess "who done it."  I am often wrong, but it is fun just the same.  Yes, I know.  I am easily amused!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Ball and Kerr Lids vs Tattler Lids

Lately I have been experiencing lid failure in my canning - that is, jars that don't properly seal.  I seem to have more failures with the meat I can than with fruit or vegetables.  Some of this may be due to operator error.  Maybe I didn't wipe down the rim of the jar well enough or maybe I should have simmered the metal lids in hot water, even though the directions now say not to do so.  I don't know.

I'm not losing any product, for I just put the unsealed jars into the freezer and use them before using the ones on my shelves.  But that's not the point.  If I wanted frozen hamburger, I would have wrapped it and froze it to begin with.  I want canned hamburger in jars on the shelf.  And this last batch left me with five jars destined for the freezer, out of 13 jars, total.  That's way too many failures.

A while back I bought three boxes of the wide mouth Tattler lids and three boxes of the regular size.  Tattler lids are plastic with a rubber gasket that goes between the lid and the rim of the jar and forms the seal.  I tested these lids with fruit, vegetables and meat, all with good results.  They worked just fine.

There are two reasons I didn't buy any more Tattler brand lids.  The first is the price is more than double that of the standard metal lids.  But Tattler lids can be used again and again until the rubber gasket wears out and then new gaskets can be purchased, so the price is probably justified.  The second is a perfectly silly reason.  Tattler lids don't have that satisfying popping sound when they seal like metal lids do.  You don't know if they have sealed until you test them the next day to see if the lids are firmly attached.  I didn't like that.  Silly me.

I'm seriously considering investing in a large number of the Tattler lids.  I don't need to add shipping, for my local grocery store now carries them.  So I'm wondering if anyone else who cans has had similar problems with metal lids recently (since Ball and Kerr have made changes to the sealing component on their lids) or have used the Tattler lids and if so, with what results.

Inquiring minds want to know.  :)

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Just For the Record...

Who keeps these records?  And why?  And is there really a permanent record anywhere?  And did all of those transgressions of my youth really go on my permanent record?  There were threats to that effect!

Oops.  I got off the track for a bit there.

The record I'm talking about is the one I keep to let me know how much produce or meat equals how many pint jars full when canned.  I found that 25 lbs. of carrots, some sliced and some diced, equals 32 pints and 24 half-pints.  Or 44 pints.  I can a number of vegetables and meats in half-pint jars simply because that is a good amount for one person - which I am.

So the last canner load of carrots is heating up.  Then it is on to the 15 lbs. of hamburger.  The excitement builds.  (Insert snarky grin here, because canning 25 lbs. of carrots and 15 lbs. of hamburger really is the most exciting thing going on in my life at the moment.)  Sigh.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Time to Do...

a Spring Happy Dance.  Temperature is in the mid 50's with a forecast of up to 65 this week and into next week.  My landlord put a nice little bench by the back door of my building.  I think I will go out, sit on the bench and soak up some of that warmth and sunshine.

This may not last.  For us here in Minnesota, March can be a cruel month.  Blizzards in March are not unheard of.  But for now, my apartment windows are open a little, letting in a warm breeze.The sun is shining.  There is no ice.  There is no snow.  I'm just going to enjoy this while I can!

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Making Do

I've been craving green salads lately.  My last grocery order included a head of lettuce and a couple of tomatoes.  I forgot about the salad dressing.

I have in my recipe collection, several recipes for a dry mix to make and keep on hand to make a Ranch Salad Dressing.  But in looking over those recipes I found that I was missing several of the ingredients.  So I dug through my old recipe box that contains recipes I have had for many years.  Sure enough, I found a recipe for Ranch Dressing that I could make with just a few minor adjustments.

Ranch House Dressing

2 C. buttermilk  (I found buttermilk powder at the grocery store, so I keep a couple of cans on hand and make up just the amount I need.)
2 C. Mayo  (I use Miracle Whip)
1/4 C. chopped fresh parsley  (I use the same amount of dried.)
1/2 of a large onion, chopped (I used a handful of dehydrated onion.)
1-2 cloves garlic, finely chopped (I used 2 tsp. garlic powder.)

Dump everything into a bowl, whisk it together and refrigerate.  This dressing doesn't taste exactly like the store-bought ranch salad dressing, but if you like ranch, you probably will like this substitute.  It will fit into a quart canning jar.

As long as I'm on the subject of salad dressings, here is a recipe that I've been using for over 40 years.  The name of the recipe is French
Dressing, but it is more like a darker, richer Russian dressing.  It is really good on a green salad.

French Dressing

1/2 C. vinegar
1-1/2 C. ketchup
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. paprika
1 large onion, grated
2 C. vegetable oil
1 C. sugar
1/2 tsp. salt
1 heaping tsp. celery seed

Whisk to blend.  Pour into jars and refrigerate.  This dressing will separate in the fridge, so just shake it up before pouring on a salad.

I've taken pork chops, covered them with slices of raw onion and poured this dressing over the chops like you would a barbeque sauce.  That's when I tried this - when I was out of barbeque sauce!  Baked in the oven until well done, they are delicious.

I think one of the most important things my parents taught me was how to "make do."  Growing up, we lived 10 miles from town.  If we were out of something, we couldn't just jump in the car and go to the store.  We "made do" with what we had.  I have found that making do with what I have often saves me money in the long run.  And as grocery prices continue to rise, I think I will be making more of the things like salad dressings rather than buying them pre-made.  Both of these dressings cost me much less to make than to buy.  Same goes for making things like cakes or brownies or cornbread or pancakes from scratch rather than buying ready-made mixes.

I know there are times when buying new is necessary.  But when it comes to cooking and baking, I think the lessons I had on how to make do were a good thing.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Canning Update

Just a short post to give the results of the canning marathon that has been going on here.

Applesauce - 12 pints
Mixed vegetables - 20 pints
Green beans - 23 pints
Fruit juice - 45 pints

I lost one pint of mixed vegetables when the bottom broke out of the jar in the canner.  I don't know why that happens.  It just does.  Thankfully, jars rarely break.

Until I am able to be out and about myself, I will shop the store sales every two weeks for grocery delivery.  What I add to my food storage will depend on what is on sale.  I have found that the people who take my grocery order over the phone have a computerized grocery list to go by.  That list doesn't always include what I might buy, like the 5 lb. boxes of bacon ends and pieces or some of the foods that come in #10 cans that I re-can in smaller jars.  Those things will wait until I can go get them myself.  I still have the handy dandy little old lady shopping cart and I haven't forgotten how to use it!  (grin)

On a personal note, I am celebrating the fact that I no longer need bandages on my right leg.  I have graduated to a compression sock only, to help control fluid build-up in my lower leg.  The left leg is more problematic, but nevertheless is healing.  The home care nurses tell me that hopefully, within a month, that leg will no longer need the protective bandages.  And when that happens, look out world, for here I come!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Back At It

Not much blog worthy going on here lately.  Just the normal cleaning, laundry, etc.  You know - exciting stuff!  However, yesterday was grocery delivery day and I am back to working on my food storage.

I know that the way I do things is a bit unconventional.  Most of the folks whose blogs I read regularly have gardens, or raise their own meat chickens or goats or other meat animals.  But as an apartment dweller, I don't have those options.  I have the best landlord in the universe, but I'm pretty sure he would be unhappy if he found a goat or two living with me.  And there are no community gardens in my neighborhood, so I have to rely on other resources for some of my food storage.

I prefer home canned foods to commercially canned.  Mostly because I was raised on home canned food and because I have, over the years, continued preserving food this way, first for my family and now for myself.  I buy frozen vegetables when they are on sale.  This week it was 32 oz. packages of green beans and mixed vegetables.  I bought 6 bags of each.  Yesterday afternoon I canned up the green beans and got 24 pints.  Later today I'll run the mixed vegetables through my pressure canner.

There wasn't much for meat on sale this week, but there were apples for 99 cents a pound, which is good for my area.  I bought 12 pounds.  This morning I peeled and sliced the apples and they are cooking down for applesauce.  I prefer chunks of apple in my applesauce and by making it myself I can have it just the way I like it.  I can also control the amount of sugar by adding just enough brown sugar to taste good.  I'll water bath can the applesauce as soon as it has cooked down enough.

I like to have fruit juice on hand.  But if I buy the frozen concentrate, chances are good that I won't drink a whole can before it goes bad.  Same with the half gallon jugs.  Juice is sugary so those of us with blood sugar issues need to drink it sparingly.  I get around the problem this way.  Half gallon jugs of cranberry juice and cranberry-apple juice were on sale for $1 each.  I bought 6 bottles of each flavor.  When I finish with the applesauce and vegetables, I will pour the juice into a large pot, heat it to near boiling, fill hot pint jars with the juice and water bath can it for 15 minutes.  By canning it in pint jars I can still have a glass of juice from time to time without messing up my blood sugar, as I can drink half a pint one day and the rest another.  And it is a good thing to have on hand should my blood sugar get low.  And I won't have to throw any away because it has sat in the fridge too long, as has happened before I started canning it in smaller containers.

I guess I write about the way I do things so that maybe somebody else in my position will be encouraged to at least give it a try.  I hear excuses from some of my vintage for not having any food storage at all.  They say that they can't have a garden.  They tell me that they have no room to store anything.  They say they just want to buy what they need each week.  This last excuse I just don't understand.  People get sick - particularly within my age group.  I am the perfect example of that.  If I didn't have food put back and if I lived in an area that didn't have a grocery delivery service, I would have been screwed.  I am lucky to have adult children living close by, but many of my peers don't.  The point is not that a person has to do things the way I do.  The point is that no matter if you like to can your own food or whether you buy it already canned or packaged at the grocery store, there are ways to have enough food on hand for emergencies.

It is all about taking care of yourself.  In the end, nobody is going to come knocking at your door to deliver food and water during a crisis.  Think Katrina and Sandy.  And then get busy.