Thursday, March 30, 2017

If I Brag About Successes...

then I also need to report my fails.

Out of the 14 quarts of chili I canned, one jar didn't seal right out of the canner.  That is not unusual.  While I was washing the jars prior to shelving them, another six jars popped their seals.  That is unusual.

I am not sure why this happened.  There are a number of reason why lids don't seal, but this is the first time I can remember having jars that seal, only to come loose the next day.

I put the offending jars in the fridge.  Tomorrow I will transfer the chili from the jars to freezer bags and freeze them.  I am debating whether or not I should just open the rest of the jars and freeze the contents of them as well.  With a failure rate of 50%, it seems likely that others could lose their seals and I could have chili on my shelf, slowly rotting away if I don't catch the popped seals right away.  Better to err on the side of caution.

On the bright side, I didn't lose any chili due to spoilage.  Good thing I cleaned out the freezer.  :)

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Lots of Chili

So yesterday I cleaned out the freezer compartment of the refrigerator.  I did that mostly because in my typical unorganized fashion, stuff was just crammed in there willy nilly.  And when a rock solid package of food slid out when the door was opened, I was in danger of winding up with a busted toe.  I can't jump out of the way of falling objects quite as fast as I used to.  Anyway, in the process of cleaning and sorting, I found about 15 lbs. of hamburger.  Decided it was time to can some chili.  I had been out of my home canned chili for a while and I really like having it on hand for a quick meal.

This morning I browned the meat, drained it and tossed it into my big stock pot.  I added 9 pints of tomatoes with green peppers and onions that I had canned a couple of years ago.  That wasn't enough, so I added 5 quarts of diced tomatoes.  Threw in a big handful of dehydrated onions just because.  I had a couple of cases of kidney beans in the pantry, so I added 6 cans of them to the mix.  I seasoned the chili with salt and pepper and chili powder to taste.

When I can chili, I don't need to cook it first.  I just heat it up enough to warm it before filling the jars.  Because the chili contains meat, the quart jars are processed in the pressure canner for 90 minutes which is plenty of time to fully cook it.  I wound up with 14 quarts of chili.

When I was growing up, my Mom always served chili over rice.  I always thought she did that because she liked it that way.  It wasn't until I was grown and feeding my own family that I realized she used the rice to stretch the chili to feed our family.  By that time I liked the combination of chili and rice, so while the chili was in the canner I cooked up a big pot of rice, let it cool down and portioned it out into small freezer bags and froze it.  So now when I want chili for supper, I just need to microwave the rice enough to thaw it out and heat it up while the chili heats on the stove.  Add a pan of cornbread and I have a quick, easy supper.  And goodness knows, I am all about quick and easy meals.  :)

Saturday, March 25, 2017

Shakopee Wind Symphony Tour

My grandson, Zach, has spent the last year and maybe longer, raising money for his school Symphony Tour to Europe.  He sold cheese, summer sausage, fruit boxes, chocolates and I can't remember what all else.  I think the only thing I couldn't buy from him was the coupon for car washes, because I don't own a car.

Anyway, the group flew out of Chicago's O'Hare airport yesterday.  A 9 hour flight found them in Munich, Germany.  They traveled to Cesky Krumlov in the Czech Republic where they stayed the night and today they go to Prague for some sightseeing and a performance.

My oldest daughter, Zach's Mom, went along as a chaperone.  Jill is posting pictures on Facebook.  There is also a blog set up by the teacher to keep a record of their trip.

Zach and Jill at the Chicago airport.

I'm pretty sure when Zach decided to learn to play the trombone, he didn't know it would lead to a trip like this.  I am so exited for both Zach and his Mom.  I know they will have a wonderful time making memories to last a lifetime.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Roast Beast and Caramel Sauce

So Oldest Son wants to know if he can borrow my large roasting pan.  I say he sure can if he comes over and retrieves it from on top of my kitchen cupboard where it lives.  I don't do step stools any more.  When he gets here, he wants to know if I would like a plate of roast beast with potatoes and carrots for supper.  Of course I would.  And it was hand delivered right to my kitchen table.  And it was delicious.  And I didn't have to lift a finger.  And there is enough left over for my supper tomorrow.  Life is good.  :)

I imagine most have heard of making caramel sauce by boiling an unopened can of sweetened condensed milk.  The other day I saw a video where the milk was poured into half-pint jars and water bath canned for three hours.  I decided to try it.  Son brought me some cans of the cheaper store brand sweetened condensed milk and some cans of the more expensive name brand.  He figured I could can both to see if there was any difference in the finished product.  So today I gave it a try.

After supper we did a taste test on the caramel sauce.  Turns out the cheap stuff from Walmart has a more creamy consistency and tastes better than the more expensive name brand.  I had some on ice cream for dessert and it is really good.  I think it might make a good caramel dipping sauce for apple slices, too.

I have to add a disclaimer here.  This is not an "approved" product to home can.  Which means that the government agency in charge of the home canning rules has not tested this and therefore has not given it's approval.  That being said, I am not telling you to can sweetened condensed milk as caramel sauce.  I am just reporting on what I did.

And that it is really, really good.  :)

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

How did we survive!!!

I was doodling about the internet this morning while waiting for the coffee to perk and I stumbled upon this little article.  There is no author listed, but here is the link.  As I have no real post today, I offer this for your amusement.  Enjoy.

If you lived as a child in the 40's, 50's, 60's or 70's

Looking back, it's hard to believe that we have lived as long as we have...

As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags. Riding in the back of a pickup truck on a warm day was always a special treat.

Our baby cribs were covered with bright colored lead-based paint. We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors, or cabinets.

When we rode our bikes, we had no helmets. (Not to mention hitchhiking to town as a young kid!)

We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle. Horrors.

We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then rode down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times we learned to solve the problem.

We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us all day. Our parents knew that all the neighbors would watch out for all the kids. No cell phones. Unthinkable.

We played dodge ball and sometimes the ball would really hurt.

We got cut and broke bones and broke teeth, and there were no lawsuits from these accidents. They were accidents. No one was to blame, but us. Remember accidents?

We had fights and punched each other and got black and blue and learned to get over it.

We ate cupcakes, bread and butter, and drank sugar soda, but we were never overweight... we were always outside playing. We shared one grape soda with four friends, from one bottle and no one died from this.

We did not have Playstations, Nintendo 64, X-Boxes, video games at all, 99 channels on cable, video tape movies, surround sound, personal cell phones, Personal Computers, Internet chat rooms ... we had friends. We went outside and found them.

We rode bikes or walked to a friend's home and knocked on the door, or rung the bell or just walked in and talked to them. Imagine such a thing. Without asking a parent! By ourselves! Out there in the cold cruel world! Without a guardian.

How did we do it?

We made up games with sticks and tennis balls and ate worms and although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes, nor did the worms live inside us forever.

Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't, had to learn to deal with disappointment.... The teams actually kept score and the winning team was allowed to be excited and the losing team learned to be good sports about it and learned that, in life - sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.

Some students weren't as smart as others so they failed a grade and were held back to repeat the same grade..... Horrors. Tests were not adjusted for any reason.

Almost no one went to "pre-school" and when we graduated high school we all knew how to read, use proper grammar and do basic math. We all learned how to count out change without a calculator to tell us the amount.

The worst problems in school were tardiness and chewing gum in class. Our actions were our own. Consequences were expected. No one to hide behind. The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke a law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law ... imagine that!

If you misbehaved - your parents spanked you and no one arrested them for doing that! We also learned that when a parent said "No" - they actually meant that and our lives would not be ruined forever by being denied every little thing we wanted at any given moment.

New toys were received on birthdays and holidays..... not on every trip to the store. Parents gave us gifts out of love.... not out of guilt.

This generation has produced some of the best risk-takers and problem solvers and inventors, ever. The past 50 years has been an explosion of innovation and new ideas. We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all.

And you're one of them.


Saturday, March 18, 2017

More Canning and Dehydrating

Lately I have been concentrating on using my grocery delivery service to bring me items to add to my food storage.  This week, in addition to the normal groceries I use like fresh fruits and vegetables, I ordered 6 lbs. of butter.  Those, along with the 6 lbs. I had in my freezer, are waiting to be canned in half pint jars.  The half pints are just right for everyday use for one person or maybe two, but I need to can some more in pint jars for when I need butter for baking.  Thing is, I am low on pint jars.  I may have to buy a few more cases of jars or wait until I empty more from my shelves.  If you are a canner, you know that one can never have too many jars.  :)

I had 2 bags of hash browns in my freezer, so I ordered 4 more.  Those went on the dehydrator trays that were lined with the plastic mesh inserts to keep the little bits from falling through the trays.  I like having the dehydrated hash browns on hand.  They just need to be soaked in water for maybe 15 minutes, then drained and they are ready to fry or to use in casseroles.

Next were the frozen vegetables.  This time I got 6 bags of broccoli and 6 bags of whole kernel corn.  Dehydrating frozen vegetables is a snap.  Just spread them out on the mesh lined trays and set the dehydrator temperature at 135 degrees.  I did chop the broccoli into smaller pieces to use in soups or casseroles and so they would dry a little more quickly.

I ordered 10 lbs of russet potatoes.  These I will be slicing thin using a mandolin, blanching the slices for 3 minutes and spreading them in a single layer on the trays.  They are dried at the same temperature as the other vegetables.  I use these mostly for scalloped potatoes.  I find that cooking them in a crock pot works better for me than using the oven.  My instructions for crockpot scalloped potatoes using dehydrated potatoes are here.

Sometimes I will re-can food, when it is less expensive to do so than it is to make it from scratch.  This is true of sweet pickles.  Because I can not raise my own cucumbers and have to buy them at the Farmer's Market, canning sweet pickles become somewhat pricey to make.  I had 3 jars of sweet bread and butter pickles on the shelf from when I bought them on sale.  The jars each contain 24 ounces of pickles, which is way more than I consume within several months.  I ordered 3 more jars.  I will be dumping the pickles and juice into a stock pot and heating them to near boiling.  Then I will be packing the pickle slices and juice into half-pint jars and water bath canning them for 10 minutes.  If you have to have a really crisp pickle this probably won't work for you as they soften up just a little bit in the process.  I don't mind, so it works just fine for me and gives me jars of sweet pickles that get eaten soon after opening and don't live in my fridge for months on end.

We like the baby dill pickles too, and those cukes aren't so expensive, so we get them at the Farmer's Market.  I use Mrs. Wage's dill pickle mix when canning those and they turn out absolutely delicious.

I need to spread the work over several day's time.  If I don't, I am finding it takes this old body a couple of days to recover.  I am not happy about that turn of events at this stage of my life, but there it is.  So today I will deal with the butter and pickles and Monday will find me up to my elbows in potato slices.

Mama Pea over at " A Home Grown Journal" had a giveaway - and I was one of the winners!!  She gave away two sets of potholders she made.

I appropriated the photo from her blog.  I hope she doesn't mind.  My camera battery gave out and I really wanted to show how pretty these potholders are.  Mine are the top set.  I admire anyone who does handmade.  She makes some of the prettiest quilts and she knits socks and I don't know what all else.  And there are posts about her homesteading experiences.  I just love her blog.

And now I am off to work on the canning of butter and pickles.  Hope your weekend is snow free and shows signs of spring.  :)

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


I'm really, really busy the next few days.  I'll be back Saturday.  Meanwhile, the folks in the sidebar have lots of good stuff to see and read.  Enjoy.  :)

Sunday, March 12, 2017

I have a new...


Youngest son called me today.  Told me to check my email because there was a surprise waiting for me.  I did.  There was.

Meet Oreo.

She is half Australian Shepherd and half Standard Poodle.  And she is just so stinkin' cute.  She is getting to know her surroundings and I have no doubt she will be a good dog for the kids.

I hope that sometime after she settles in, she can come for a visit.  Grandpuppies are almost as much fun to spoil as are grandkids.  :)

Friday, March 10, 2017

Days and Nights Switched

I was blessed to become the mother of four babies.  At one time or another, at least two of them got their days and nights switched around.  They wanted to sleep during daylight hours and were wide awake, happy, smiling and wanting to play at 2 AM.

It seems I have reverted to the behavior of those babies.  I suppose I can blame some of it on being retired and living alone.  I no longer need to keep "office hours."  Nobody tells me it is time to get up or time to go to bed.  I can nap whenever I feel tired.  I can stay up all night if I am not tired.  And I do.

It is not all bad.  There are no revving of engines or honking of horns in the street outside my windows in the middle of the night.  There are no delivery trucks in the alley alongside my building.  The bar patrons have gone home.  Aside from the occasional train going past on the tracks a half a block away, the city is peaceful at 3 AM.  I like that.

It is 2:30 AM.  My second load of laundry is swooshing away in the washer and the dryer is humming along.  I am slowly but surely moving my home canned fruit and soups from the bedroom shelves to the ones in the living room, and arranging the meat and vegetables on the bedroom shelves.

I take frequent breaks.  I can not be on my feet for more than 15 minutes at a time without feeling pain in my back and legs.  So I use this down time to write blog posts or watch videos or read.  The sit-down time is also used to make out my grocery order and decide what I need to can or dehydrate next week.  I do online research to find the items I need to get to round out my preps and make a list to send with Duane or Lori the next time they are going shopping.  They are so good to pick up what I need.

My sewing mojo seems to have left me, but I have been pinning together quilt pieces, getting them ready for the sewing machine.  Perhaps by the weekend I will be inspired to sew them together.  Lori has said she will take me to the fabric store for quilt batting and fabric for the backs of my quilts.  We will do that when the weather is warmer and when I have my walker.   I don't think the fabric store has those handicap motorized carts, so it is necessary to wait until my walker arrives.  It will be nice to be able to get out and about again.

Maybe by then my days and nights will be back where they should be.  This weekend we start Daylight Savings Time, so that might help.  Maybe.  At any rate, I guess it really doesn't matter when a person sleeps or when they are up and about.  This should come as no great surprise to me as I have never been one to do things strictly by the book anyway.  :)

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Strange Weather Day

This is the time of year when most Minnesotans are tired of the snow and cold.  I would be complaining, too, except that there isn't any snow and today's temperature topped out at nearly 65 degrees.  Late this afternoon a storm rolled through complete with thunder and lightning.  And a tornado touched down north of Minneapolis.  Another one was spotted near our southern border.  A tornado in February has never happened here since the Weather Bureau began keeping records.

And snow is predicted for the weekend.

I think Mother Nature must be off her meds.

Lori is in the northern part of the state for a few days.  Her Dad is suffering the effects of aging, so she goes to see him as often as she can.  Duane was alone, so I asked him if he would like to come over for supper when he got off work.  I had a couple of butternut squash that needed  to be eaten and we both love squash.  A couple of thick pork chops added to it made a pretty good meal.  It is nice to have someone to cook for now and then.

I keep busy.  At least as busy as arthritic joints will allow.  This goofy weather with it's changes in temperatures and conditions every other day seems to bring on flare-ups, but it does help to keep moving as much as possible.  In addition to the usual household chores, I sorted out my dehydrated foods.  I keep them in freezer bags stored in Banker's boxes on a set of shelve behind my bedroom door.  I had gotten lazy and hadn't put some many of the bags into the proper boxes.  Now that I have, I can tell how much I need to dehydrate and what I have enough of.

While Duane was here I asked him to get down a bottle of maple syrup from the top of one of my shelves.  It is nice having a tall person living close by, especially when you aren't much over 5 feet tall and don't climb well any more.  I need the syrup for a recipe of caramel corn that you make using the microwave.  It is really good stuff.

Microwave Caramel Corn

Pop 1/3 Cup of popcorn kernels.  I use my air-popper.

Mix together 5 Tbsp. butter, 1/2 Cup brown sugar and 2 - 1/2 Tbsp. real maple syrup.
Microwave for 2 minutes.
Stir in 1 tsp. vanilla and 1 - 1/2 tsp. salt.
Stir in 1/2 tsp. baking soda.  This will cause the sugar mixture to foam up.
Pour over the popcorn and mix well.

Microwave the caramel corn for 1 minute.  Stir.  Repeat at 30 second intervals until the popcorn is a rich, caramel color.  (Three or four times.)

Duane said he would trade me some caramel corn for a milkshake made using crushed Girl Scout Thin Mints.  Sounds like a pretty good trade to me.  :)

Friday, March 3, 2017

Canning Sweet & Sour Chicken

I like to keep some heat and serve meals on hand for days I am busy and don't want to spend time cooking.  I have had this recipe in my files for a long time - so long I don't recall where I found it.  I had all the ingredients on hand so I decided to give it a try. This is the original recipe.

Sweet and Sour Chicken

5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut in bite sized pieces
3 large green peppers chopped
2 large onions chopped
3 (20 oz) cans pineapple chunks drained, reserve juice

3/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 cups white vinegar
6 tablespoons soy sauce
4 tablespoons ketchup
1 tsp ginger

Layer the chicken, onions, peppers and pineapple in quart jars.
Heat the brown sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, ketchup, ginger, and 3 cups of pineapple juice (add water if there is not enough) and bring to a light boil until the sugar is dissolved.
Pour liquid over the solids in the jar to the fill line.
Pressure can for 90 minutes at 10 lbs pressure or according to your elevation.

I did a couple of things differently.  I used frozen chicken breast, so I thawed it, cut it up and stir-fried the pieces in a little bit of oil until they were just cooked through.  You can use raw chicken, but when I have canned raw chicken before, the juices sort of become glued to the inside of the jar during the canning process.  I didn't want that to happen.

I used pint jars rather than quarts.  I had to double the sauce in order to have enough.  I had ordered a few cans of pineapple juice in case I needed more sauce and that worked out well.  By using the canned juice, I didn't need to open more cans of pineapple just for the juice.

Because I used pint jars instead of quarts, the processing time was 75 minutes at 10 lbs. pressure.

If you expect this recipe to look like the take-out sweet & sour chicken from the Chinese deli, you will be disappointed.  The chicken and pineapple chunks take on a brownish color during canning.  The onions and peppers are softer than regular stir-fry.  I used a little cornstarch in water to thicken the sauce while heating it up and served it over rice.  If you can get past the color changes, the taste is excellent.

It is good to have jars of quick and easy meals on hand.  This is a  nice change from the usual soups I can.  I got 15 pints from this recipe, doubling the amount of sauce.  If by chance there is sauce left over, it can be water bath canned for 15 minutes.  I will be canning at least one more batch.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Rollerskates and Hayrides

When I was between the ages of 5 and 9, my family lived in town.  One of the things that kept kids in my neighborhood busy in the summer was roller skating.  Now, we aren't talking fancy rollerblades.  This is what we had.

That key at the bottom of the picture was used to tighten the toe clamps on the skates.  Every kid I knew had a skate key on a string around their neck whether they were skating that day or not.  It was sort of a 1950's fashion statement among the kiddie crowd.

You put your feet on the skates, buckled the leather straps around your ankles and tightened the clamps.  You learned quickly to wear hard soled leather shoes for skating.  Skates clamped to sneakers soon raised some impressive blisters.

It took a while to get the hang of sidewalk rollerskating.  I think my knees had scabs on them all that first summer I skated.  When four or five kids got together to skate, you could hear us coming a block away.  The metal wheels were noisy on the sidewalk and each time you skated over a crack, a clickety clackity sound was heard.

There were two ways to negotiate the curb at the end of a block.  There were no wheelchair ramps then, so you either jumped off the curb or fell off.  You knew which method was used by the size of the scabs on the knees.

When I was about 10 years of age, my parents bought a big, old farmhouse on 20 acres of land.  One of the first things I did upon moving to the country was to join the local 4-H club.  To my delight I discovered that once in a while the club had a "Fun Night" and sometimes the fun included a 20 mile drive to the nearest roller rink.

None of the kids could afford shoe skates of their own, so skates like these were rented at the rink.

The roller rink where we skated had a floor about the size of a basketball court.  There were colored lights in the ceiling and one of those mirrored disco balls in the center.  Round and round and round we skated, trying not to run over the smaller kids and staying away from the better skaters.  I always wished I could skate backwards or do the dance steps, but I did pretty well as long as I kept moving forward.  To try to do anything fancy usually ended in disaster.

The 4-H club held a hayride on Halloween night.  We didn't go trick or treating.  The houses were just too far apart.  Everyone gathered at the two-room schoolhouse where the club meetings were held.  One of the local farmers arrived on his tractor, pulling a hayrack behind.  Hay had been spread over the bed of the hayrack and we all piled on.  A couple of the dads, armed with flashlights, came along to keep the older boys from becoming too rowdy, to keep the younger kids from falling off and to keep the older boys and girls from becoming too amorous in the dark.

We rode for about an hour - up and down gravel roads and across fields and pastures.  Arriving back at the schoolhouse, there were games like bobbing for apples and pin the tail on the donkey.  The moms provided treats - hot apple cider - sandwiches - pumpkin cookies - brownies with orange colored frosting.  Each child took home a small bag of Halloween candy.

I suppose all that was pretty tame compared to the elaborate Halloween doings for kids today, but for a kid in the late 1950's and early 1960's, it was absolutely wonderful!

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Quiet Time

Even though that nasty flu bug seems to have finally departed, it has left me somewhat worn down.  So there hasn't been anything in the way of sewing or food processing going on here lately.  I am mostly catching up on the chores that fell by the wayside while I was down.  Laundry took priority today as well as getting rid of those science experiments gone bad in my fridge.

I have spent some time on my computer the last couple of days.  It was nice to catch up on reading many of the blogs I enjoy.  It was not so nice to catch up on the news.  It seems the left still have their panties in a twist over the election results and they don't seem inclined to stop acting like tantrum throwing toddlers any time soon.  I read today about some who screamed like demented banshees in order to disrupt the opening prayer at a town hall meeting  and then continued during the Pledge of Allegiance.  Those on the right are not entirely blameless, either.  I understand that the favorite sport of politicians has always been to take pot shots at one another, but it seems like the mood in our country has gone way beyond mere insults.  I'm not so sure that the divide can be mended.

Some believe that the new administration will cure what ails us.  Others believe it will ruin us.  Most folks don't seem to care as long as they can watch sports on their big screen TVs, buy whatever they want at their local grocery whose shelves are always full or can get the newest electronic gadget.  They think life will continue as it always has.  Maybe it will.

But then again, maybe it won't.

Me...I have no faith in governments.  I have no illusions that they are on my side.  So I have been spending time assessing my preps and making a list of those things where I am not as well prepared as I should be.  The list includes where I can find these things and the most economical place to buy them.  I don't think anyone can be completely ready for whatever comes our way, but it just makes sense to me to give it my best shot.

God tells us that He will provide.  I know this is true, for He has blessed me with family who care and with the means to do what I need to do.  I'm not talking about providing me with a truckload of money, for that is not the case.  And I don't think for a minute that God will send someone to my door with a sandwich and a Coca Cola when I am hungry.  I am talking about providing me with the opportunities to learn the skills that will help me and my family should our world go sideways.  I am talking about giving me the clear vision to see that all is not well.  

I am noticing that many are slowing down on their preparations.  Even though I feel more hopeful than I have for a long time, now is not the time to back off.  About the time we become complacent is the time when we usually are smacked between the eyes with a 2x4.  I have always thought that after 6 days of creation and a day of rest, God said, "OK, Murphy.  You are in charge now."

I suspect I am preaching to the choir here.