Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Basic Training Graduation

Last week my granddaughter graduated from Army Basic Training.

Her mother, her mother's friend and her brother were able to spend Family Day with her and then attended the graduation ceremony.

Nicki with her brother, Chris.

Jim, my daughter Jeri and granddaughter Nicki

Nicki told me in her last letter that she was excited to get her dress uniform - mostly because she had worked so hard for the privilege of wearing it.  She left right away for Fort Sam Houston, Texas, where she begins her training as a Medic.

There will be more letters as soon as I have her new address.  Because I lead such a quiet life (read boring) I have been writing some about my family when I was growing up and about the lives of my parents when they were children.  She said she enjoys those stories and I am glad she does.  She is one more of that generation who will know who and where she came from.  I think it is important to pass on the family stories from one generation to the next.

Pictures are nice and I am glad to have them.  But what I am really looking forward to is a hug from my granddaughter when she is home for Christmas.  

Monday, October 26, 2015

Jar Count

Well, it is actually more of a freezer bag count.  The pumpkin and squash were baked in the oven until tender.  I put 3 cups of squash in each freezer bag and got 12 bags of squash deliciousness.  The baked pumpkin was a bit lumpy when scraped from the shells so I ran it through my blender to smooth it out, put 3 cups of pumpkin puree into each freezer bag and that yielded 9 bags.

I had three large bags of apples that looked, just by eyeballing them, to be at least one bushel.  Those I ran through my handy, dandy apple peeler, corer, slicer gadget, and filled quart sized bags as full as possible.  That yielded 17 1/2 bags of apples.

Now about the cranberries.  I have found, much to my chagrin, that I am not as young as I used to be.  Birthday Number 70 is on the horizon.  I realize that there are many folks of my vintage who just skip along like they were still 30.  I'm not one of 'em.  This past year has been a bit of a trial due to health issues, one of which kept me hospitalized for two weeks last winter.  Arthritis flare-ups have made it difficult to stay on my feet for prolonged periods of time.  Understand, this is not a major whine nor is it a bid for sympathy.  I have no time or patience for either.  It is just a statement of fact.  Those are the cards I was dealt.  Those are the cards I play.

So with that in mind, I had to admit to myself that 50 lbs. of cranberries were not going to be processed all at once.  These berries are just plain beautiful and I didn't want to lose any of them by having them sit too long before processing.  I still have a lot of cranberry sauce on my shelf so I plan to make juice from these.  Son and I can go through a lot of juice in a year.

I got out my recipe to see how many cranberries it takes for one batch of juice and then I bagged up the berries accordingly and froze them.  Making cranberry juice is time consuming, so this way I can make a couple of batches at a time which is much easier on my failing body than trying to process 50 lbs. all at once.  Here is the recipe I use:

Cranberry Juice

4 quarts (4 pounds) cranberries
3 to 3-1/2 cups granulated sugar  (I cut the amount of sugar per batch to 2 1/2 cups)

Bring cranberries and 4 quarts water to a simmer in a large pot. DO NOT BOIL. Simmer 5 minutes, or until most berries burst.

Pour berries and juice into damp jelly bag or a colander lined with four layers of clean cheesecloth. Let juice drip into a large bowl. DO NOT squeeze the bag.

When you have extracted as much juice as possible from the pulp, return pulp to pot with 2 quarts water. Simmer 2 minutes.

Pour this pulp and juice through jelly bag again to extract remaining juice.

Place the 2 batches of juice in a large pot.

Add sugar to suit your taste and 1 more quart water. Heat to dissolve sugar completely, but do not boil.

Quickly pour into clean, hot jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace; seal.

Process in boiling water bath for 15 minutes.

Yields about 7 quarts.

I have enough cranberries frozen to make 13 batches of this recipe which should yield about 90 quarts.  I have other things that need my attention this week, so I will probably make a batch or two of juice every week, starting next week.  I have to say that once you have a glass of homemade cranberry juice, you will not want to drink the store-bought kind ever again.  :)

And with that, I believe canning season is about done.  Unless I find a really good sale on meat.  And even if I don't, my shelves (and a closet in Son's apartment) are full to overflowing.  It is such a good feeling to know that whatever Mother Nature decides to throw at us over the winter, be it blizzards or ice storms which are par for the course here in Minnesota, I have enough food on my shelves to feed Son and me and any other children or grandchildren who may need it.  I can rest easy until Spring, when the cycle will start anew.  Just as my parents and grandparents did it.  Just as it should be.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

I Think I'm Going to Be Busy

Just got a phone call from Number One Son.  He went to the Farmer's Market this morning.  He is on his way here with 50 lbs. of cranberries, a dozen butternut squash, a couple of pumpkins and apples - not sure how many.  I will resurface when all of it has been processed.  And if you don't hear from me in a few days, send in a search party.  Tell them to look under the mountain of produce.  :)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Batter Bread

In the cooler months of the year I like to make my own bread.  Although I usually use my favorite tried and true recipe, sometimes I am busy with other things and kneading bread takes time.  When I found the recipe for a batter bread that requires no kneading, I decided to try it, for I thought it would be good for those busy days when I need to bake bread but am pressed for time.  I am pleased with the results.  It has a good flavor and is easy to mix up without the mess and time involved in kneading bread dough.  The recipe came from the Red Star Yeast website.

America's Favorite Batter Bread

3 cups water (120°-130°F)
2 TBSP vegetable oil or shortening
6 1/2 cups bread flour  (I used all-purpose flour)
1 TBSP salt
3 TBSP sugar
4 1/2 tsp (2 packets) Red Star Active Dry Yeast (any dry yeast will work)
Butter as desired

Traditional Baking Method
In large mixer bowl, combine 3 1/2 cups flour, yeast, sugar and salt; mix well. Add water and shortening or oil to flour mixture. Blend at low speed until moistened; beat 3 minutes at medium speed. By hand, gradually stir in remaining flour to make a stiff batter. Cover; let rise in warm place until double, about 30 minutes.

Stir down batter with a spoon. Divide dough evenly between 2 greased bread pans.  Cover; let rise in warm place until batter reaches tops of pans, 20 to 30 minutes. Bake in a preheated 375°F oven for 35 to 40 minutes until golden brown. Remove from pans immediately; place on rack. Brush with butter; cool before cutting.

These loaves aren't as pretty as loaves from kneaded bread dough in that the tops are a bit lumpy looking rather than smooth.  But they came out of the oven a beautiful golden brown and smelled and tasted wonderful.  I have heard that there are people in some circles who will pay a lot of money for "rustic bread" from a specialty bakery, so we will just call these loaves "rustic."  :)

I haven't tried the next recipe that came from the same source, but as long as the loaves turned out so good, I thought these rolls would be worth a try.

Batterway White Rolls
This recipe makes 18 3-inch rolls

3 3/4 cups Bread Flour  (Can use all-purpose flour)
1/4 cup Sugar
1 1/2 tsp Salt
1/3 cup Shortening, soft
1 1/2 cups Water
4 1/2 tsp Active Dry Yeast
1 Egg, room temperature

In large mixing bowl, combine 1 1/2 cups flour, yeast, sugar and salt; mix well. In saucepan, heat water and shortening until warm (120-130°F; shortening does not need to melt). Add to flour mixture. Add egg. Blend at low speed until moistened; beat 3 minutes at medium speed. By hand gradually stir in remaining flour to make a stiff batter. Cover; let rise warm place until double, about 30 minutes.

Stir down batter. Spoon into greased muffin pan cups. Cover; let rise in warm place until double, about 20-30 minutes. Bake at 400°F for 10 to 15 minutes until golden brown. Remove from pans; brush with butter. Cool.

If anyone tries this roll recipe before I get around to it, please let me know what you think of them.  Most times I don't mind taking the time and effort to knead roll dough and shape it into buns, but I think this recipe might be a fairly quick and easy way to have fresh baked rolls for supper on a busy day.  Any day that I can have fresh baked bread for a meal is definitely a very good day!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

A Bit of a Ramble

A couple of times every year I go through a period where I have to dig deep to find something to write about.  This is one of those times.  I suppose if I lived a life full of strife and drama, there would be all sorts of things to report, but that just isn't the case.  All of my kids and their spouses and a couple of grands are gainfully employed.  Nobody is sick.  Everyone is reasonably happy.  No drama there.  I like it that way.

Youngest daughter is on her way to Oklahoma.  My Granddaughter graduates from Army Basic Training on Friday with Thursday being Family Day.  We are missing Nicki so very much and at the same time are so very proud of her.  I have to sort of smile when reading her letters.  Each letter I receive shows me a more grown-up person than the one I saw before she left home.  After graduation she goes to Texas where she will begin her training as a Medic.  I told her Mom to give Nicki a huge hug for me and I wanted pictures.  Lots of pictures!

This past weekend didn't work out for another Farmer's Market run, but Son says he plans to go early Saturday morning for cranberries, squash, pumpkins and whatever else he can find that I can make use of.  I wouldn't mind getting more apples for canning apple slices.  A couple of years ago I canned some apple pie filling but was not overjoyed with the results.  I do like having pints of apple slices on the shelf and I wouldn't mind having some in the freezer as well.  We shall see what he can find.

I am enjoying the cooler weather we are having here in Minnesota.  That means that I can bake without heating my apartment up to sauna conditions.  I made a double batch of chocolate chip cookies Monday.  One bag of them disappeared.  I think they walked down the hall and into Son's apartment.  :)  I am experimenting with a no-knead bread recipe and two loaves are rising in the kitchen.  If I like them I'll post the recipe.  I just love homemade bread.

I was needing a rug for my living room.  The carpet is old and getting sort of shabby looking.  It is a huge hassle to move everything in order to install new carpet, especially when living in a small apartment with no real place to set the furniture for the installation, so an area rug seemed to be the answer.  However, area rugs are spendy.

Now I was raised by parents who lived through the Great Depression.  They lived by the words, "Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without."  They passed that idea of frugal living on to me.  So rather than go out and spend a bucket of money just for a rug, I started looking around me to see what alternatives I could find.  My gaze landed on an afghan I had made a couple of years ago.  It is large and its only purpose was to look pretty draped over the back of a small bench at the foot of my bed.  I had never used it for anything else.  So on the floor it went.

I have to admit that it is a bit unusual, but it serves a purpose and I rather like the result.  I think I have enough leftover yarn to make a couple more smaller rugs for my bedroom.  Like I have said before, my apartment will never grace the pages of "House Beautiful," but I like it and I guess that is all that matters.

I think the bread is ready for the oven and I am done rambling.  I suppose I may have something a bit more exciting to write about later on, but I doubt it.  When it comes right down to it, I will take my quiet, boring life over those whose lives are knee deep in drama, any old day of the week.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

It's Hot Chocolate Time!

Here in southern Minnesota the leaves are starting to turn color.  The nights are sliding closer to freezing temperatures and the days rarely are above 60 degrees.   One of these days I will glance out my window and see those flakes of white in the air.  It is time to make hot chocolate mix.

Every fall I make a large container of cocoa mix.  Other years I have used this recipe:

Malted Hot Cocoa Mix

1 (25.6 ounce) box nonfat dry milk powder
1 (16 ounce) container instant chocolate milk mix
1 (13 ounce) jar malted milk powder
1 cup sifted confectioners' sugar
1 (6 ounce) jar powdered nondairy creamer
1/2 teaspoon salt

In large bowl, combine all ingredients and stir until well blended. Store in an airtight container. Keep in a cool place.
To serve: In mug, pour 6 ounces of hot water over 1/3 cup cocoa mix, and stir until well blended.

Although this makes a delicious cup of hot chocolate, I am thinking a bit differently about the ingredients I use.  Other years I have bought Nestle's Quick and powdered sugar and malt powder just for this purpose.  But I feel the need to be a bit more frugal.  Grocery prices across the board have increased substantially over the last year.  I can find other uses for my money than to buy fairly expensive ingredients.  So I tried this recipe using mostly what I already have on hand:

Cocoa Mix

2 cups nonfat dry milk
3/4 cup white sugar
1/2 cup non dairy creamer
2 Tbsp cocoa powder
pinch of salt

Mix ingredients together well and store in an airtight container.
To make a cup: put 3 heaping tablespoons of cocoa mix into a mug and add 1 cup of hot water. Stir to mix well.

This made a small amount for taste testing purposes.  It is good.  It tastes more like the cocoa we made when we were young before microwaves and packets of Swiss Miss - the kind where we heated the milk in a pan on the stove and added sugar and cocoa powder.  The only thing I don't normally keep on hand is the non dairy creamer.  You can't leave that out.  The recipe won't work without it.  But better to buy just one ingredient than several.  I will add Creamora to my food storage list.

I, along with many others, live on a fixed income.  If I can save a dollar here and there, so much the better.  Comfort foods are an important part of food storage.  They help keep up morale during hard times.  And hot chocolate is one of those things that make me smile, especially when the wind is blowing and the snow is falling and I am watching it, cup of cocoa in hand, from my rocking chair by my living room window.  Which, in my opinion, is the best way to experience winter.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Coffee Delivery Service

It is funny how things work.   I have lived alone for over eight years now, so when Son needed a place to stay, it took some getting used to, having another person living here.  And now that he has moved out, it takes some getting used to again.  I have to admit, he spoils me some.  Little things, like making a pot of coffee for me before he left for work at dark-thirty in the morning.  I had teased him that because he was moving to the apartment next door, there was no reason he couldn't continue that practice.

I have railroad tracks running a block away from my apartment.  I can sleep right through the noise of a train whistle as it crosses that street intersection.  No problem.  But there are some noises that will awaken me from a sound sleep.  Years ago, when I lived close to my parents and when my mother was so very ill and her health was precarious at best, it was not unusual for me to get a phone call from my Dad in the middle of the night asking me to come to the hospital where she had been admitted for one complication or another relating to her rheumatoid arthritis, including several bouts of pneumonia.  Since that time I am wide awake at the first sound of the phone ringing.  Another sound that will wake me up is the sound of a key turning in the lock of my door.  And that is what I heard early this morning.

When Son came into my kitchen, a fresh cup of coffee for me in hand.

And about a half hour later, when he brought his coffee pot to refill my cup.

I love his sense of humor!

There has been nothing very exciting going on here in my little corner of the world.  I am still working on getting my apartment reorganized since Son's move.  He has taken several cases of my home canned food over to his place, and that has helped free up space for the ham, tomatoes and ham & bean soup I recently canned and which had been stacked in my kitchen for lack of room to put it away.  I thought I was about finished with canning season for this year, but I think there will be one more Farmer's Market run this coming weekend for cranberries and more butternut squash and maybe some pumpkins.  I like having cranberry juice on hand and the homemade juice is so much better tasting than anything I can buy premade.

I think I will take time to make a couple of loaves of banana bread this afternoon.  I will keep one loaf and share the other with Son for his lunches this week.  It is always more fun to be able to share.

Thursday, October 8, 2015


I am not sure just how many apples I had for I didn't measure them, but I know it was well over a bushel.  I used my handy, dandy gadget that peels, cores and slices to prepare the apples, and then cooked them down for applesauce.  I found that after the apples were cooled, my blender worked well for getting rid of the chunks.  I have one of those food mills with the wooden piece used to squash the food out through the little holes in the metal cone-shaped piece, but I was getting tired and just wanted to finish.  I'm glad the blender worked so well for that purpose.

I saved enough slices out for a pan of apple crisp and canned the rest.  I wound up with 40 half pints and 18 pints of applesauce.  I added no sugar this time.  The apples were fairly sweet and both son and I need to watch our sugar intake.  If I want a little sweetness I can always sprinkle on a bit of brown sugar and maybe cinnamon for change of pace taste.  I may get more apples later to freeze for pies and crisps, but for now, I am pleased with the amount of applesauce I got from that batch of apples.

Posting will probably be light for a few days.  When Son came home I had rearranged things to accommodate his stuff and now I am busy putting things back the way they were.  When you are old and slow, everything takes time.  :)  I'm  still planning on getting cranberries at the Farmer's Market to make into juice, but think I will hold off until my house is back in order again.  It seems easier to do projects when you start out neat and orderly.  And considering how this morning my kitchen looked like an apple orchard had exploded in there, I still have a ways to go before I see neat and orderly again!

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Food Preservation and Moving

So Son brought from the Farmer's Market 20 lbs. of onions.  They are huge.  Ten onions filled each 10 lb. bag.  I cleaned them, quartered and sliced them and ran them through my Vidalia chopper.  10 lbs. of chopped onions filled 14 dehydrator trays and when dry, filled two quart-sized freezer bags.  The second batch is in the dehydrators now.  There is about another half gallon of chopped onions to be dried when this batch is done.  One can never have enough dried onions!

There were 10 nice sized butternut squash next.  I halved each, scraped out the innards, placed them cut side down on cookie sheets and baked them until tender.  One of them was demolished for supper.  It was so very good.  I scraped the flesh from the outer skin of the rest of them and let it cool.  Two cups full of squash went into each bag, making 11 bags full.  Those I froze.

Next came the apples.  I'm not exactly sure how many I have as they were sold by the bag, but it looks like at least a bushel and a half.  I cooked up a small batch of applesauce today and will deal with the rest of the apples tomorrow.  It is late in the day.  I am tired.  And as long as I don't have schedules to keep, I can finish up at my leisure.  I love retirement!

Son spent the day moving his belongings into his apartment.  He still has more to do and he has some furniture to buy, but he is staying there tonight.  I think maybe the smell of drying onions might have had something to do with that decision.  :)  Not everyone likes that aroma.  I sent my TV with him.  It sits here and collects dust so it might as well be there where it will get used now and then.  I haven't watched TV for years.

It is time to go clean up my messy kitchen.  And then I think a quiet evening with a good book is in order.  Son and I were talking this afternoon.  He is used to living alone, so staying with his Mom is not easy.  I am used to living alone so having someone here is not easy.  But we managed to get through it without a harsh word between us.  I guess that says something about good relationships with family.  And I think this new arrangement will work out just fine.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Last Market of the Season

Just got a call from Number One Son.  He left early this morning for the Farmers Market.  He says he is headed my way with butternut squash, onions, and apples.  Methinks I will be busy for a while.  And I think that will be the last Market run for us this season.  That should pretty much take care of what I wanted to add to my food storage.

And while I am processing the produce, Son will be moving into his newly refurbished apartment.  It is a one-bedroom with the kitchen and living area in one large room.  Just a nice size for one person.  The landlord put in a wood floor in the main room and new carpet in the bedroom.  The kitchen has new cupboards, stove and refrigerator.  The apartment has new window blinds and new paint, top to bottom.

I know he will be happy living there.  And his Mom will be happy having one of her children so close by.