Sunday, June 22, 2014

Cherry Pickin' Time



 They are so fresh you can see that the stems are still green. I estimate that each bag weighs about   10-12 lbs. I was dreading the process of pitting because I have 2 single pitters, and even with DH's help, it is a long and tedious process. I decided to run to town yesterday and see if I could find a more efficient tool for this task. Success! At Fred Meyer, I found this nifty pitter.  It is important not to stem the cherries before you are ready to use them because they will rot. You just load up the hopper with washed and stemmed cherries.You can see my washed cherries on the left, the hopper with cherries, and the bowl on the right that the pitted cherries pop into.  Then, just push the plunger and out comes your pitted cherry. The pits are disposed of in a little container of the other side of the unit. This little gadget saved me so much time and back ache! It was well worth the $20 and as my DH says, never pass up a tool you can use.




I processed one bag yesterday and was able to put up 14- 1/2 pint jars of cherry jam and 9 pints of cherry sauce. If you have never made cherry jam, try it. It is absolutley delicious and you may have a new favorite. For the cherry sauce, which is great over ice cream, cheesecake, or pancakes, I was using a Danish Cherry Sauce recipe from my Ball Blue book, when I realized that the almond extract that the recipe called for, had all evaporated out of the tiny bottle. So, no almond extract in the sauce and it is still delicious. I thickened the sauce with Clear Jel. I just used a lesser amount the the recipe called for in cherry pie on the Clear Jel label, plus I added some lemon juice.I doubled the recipe so used 6 lbs. of cherries just for the sauce.


The cherry sauce is on the left and the jam is on the right. I plan to share some of the cherries that are left with friends, and then can up some pints and put a bag or two in the freezer. All in all, summer harvest season is off to a good start in the orchards. As for our garden, we just got our transplants in the ground today. The potatoes have all come up, but it has been so darned windy, that we couldn't get anything in the ground until now. Hopefully, it is not too late in the season for our little transplants to get to growing.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Cheese Waxing

I have been able to get local low temperature pasteurized, non-homogenized whole milk and decided to try my hand at making cheese. I ordered a simple cheese making kit and on Monday, I made Farmhouse Cheddar. It is supposed to be really easy and although all I had to go on was written materials, I think I did okay with the exception of reading the directions too many times, thus, numerous mistakes and oversights. The cheese curds seemed very forgiving and I really don't know what I was doing, but I was not too sure about when the curds were ready to be pressed. Well, I pressed on anyway and then let the cheese dry for 5 days. Today was waxing day. I went to Goodwill and bought a pot since the wax will forever be melded to it.

I thought I was going to find the waxing very taxing and I was not looking forward to dipping the cheese. Well, I had fun and the following pictures and the results of waxing my cheese adventure, which is the round wheel. I figured while I was going to melt a whole pot of wax, I might as well make use of the wax and my time and I drug out two- 2 lb. bricks of Tillamook cheese, and a small mozzarella and a sharp cheddar. I cut the Tillamook into 1 lb. blocks so it would easily fit into the pot to be dipped. For those of you that don't know, Tillamook cheese is a famous and popular brand native to the west coast and is made in Tillamook, OR. Most of their cheeses are medium cheddar, but they also make mild and sharp cheddars, as well as a vintage white cheddar (excellent) and some other specialty cheeses. Tillamook cheese is VERY good and our go-to cheddar.

This pic shows the cheese after dipping with the second coat of cheese. The round one is my Farmhouse cheddar.


Here you can see our specialty pot courtesy of Goodwill. It will forever be our waxing pot.

Here are our finished products with labels attached with a thin coat of wax. I will age my cheddar for at least 2 months. The other cheeses I will see how they fare sitting around at room temperature. They are supposed to continue aging, and as long as there are no holes in the wax, should be just fine to eat.
If you have any cheese making adventures that you would like to share, please let me know!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Pickled Asparagus

I know I have been away for eons, but that does not mean that I have not been visiting friends blogs. I have been passive just because I have been so busy with life, and I have not taken the time to post comments. I know you all understand how it goes. That said, I have been wanting to try a pickled asparagus recipe, because we like it and I just don't have the drive to eat plain asparagus during its season more than 2-3 times. I love it on salads, to eat out of the jar, to embellish with come chopped hard boiled egg with Dijon mayonnaise, or what have you. I have never canned it myself. I have found 2 recipes. One in Preserving the Harvest by Carol Costenbader, and another from a friend.

Here is Carol Costenbaders:

Pickled Asparagus

3 C distilled vinegar
3 C water
1/4 C sugar
2 tsp salt
3 # (8 C) asparagus spears, washed and trimmed
4 cloves garlic
 2 tsp pickling spice
12 whole black peppercorns

Combine vinegar, water, sugar, and salt in a 2 qt. saucepan and heat to a boil. Pack the asparagus in two 1-quart jars, leaving 1/2 " head space. Divide the garlic, pickling spice and peppercorns between the two jars. Pour the hot vinegar mixture over the asparagus, leaving 1/2 in. head space. Cap and seal. Process for 20 min. in a boiling water bather canner and adjust for altitude if necessary.

 Here is another recipe that is a homestead recipe, try it at your own risk, as I have not tried it, although, I hear it garners $10 a quart jar from the people that spend the time to make it. I think it sounds absolutely delicious.

Cajun Pickled Asparagus

1/4 C pickling salt
2 1/2 qts cider vinegar
2 1/2 qts  water
3/4 C brown sugar
Bring this brine to a boil-
 in each Qt jar put:
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp cumin seed
1 clove garlic

Pack jars with washed, trimmed asparagus, leaving 1/2 in. head space, pour brine over top and process in boiling water bath canner for 15 min., adjust altitude if necessary.

 Enjoy. I plan to make this recipe over Memorial Day weekend and will let you know how it goes.








Saturday, December 29, 2012

Time to Think Spring

I just got my first seed catalog in the mail yesterday. Yep, it's that time to start planning your garden. I want to try some new veggies and some new management practices. If anyone knows of any way of "weeding" that doesn't require back strain and pulling, please share with me. I have been perusing the catalog and am getting excited to get my hands dirty. My biggest problem is that once school starts, the garden goes by the wayside in September. So, I need to keep up my enthusiasm for at least 9 months. I will post soon with future gardening plans.

Happy New Year, Everyone!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

New Recipe Ideas Update

As I stated in my previous post yesterday, New Recipe Ideas, I tried a recipe for spaghetti squash. Mind you, I don't care for squash in particular. I've always found that squash 'taste" to be too much, with the exception of pumpkin. I don't care for yams, butternut squash, or sweet potatoes. I grew butternut squash last year in the hopes of "liking" it, but did not. Even with the addition of dubious amounts of brown sugar, butter, pineapple and marshmallows. It fell short for me.l

So here I bought a "start" at the local Bi-Mart store that actually had two plants in the little pot. So I planted them. And off did they go! Holy, Moly! I had spaghetti squash galore, coming out at me from all sides. Well, I had never even tried spaghetti squash, yet even enjoyed any squash except pumpkin. And I had never grown a pumpkin. So, I really, really hoped we liked it. Because... we had so many. So, when to harvest. Well... I don't know. so I harvested at all stages because I didn't know what to look for. Don't harvest when they are still green and stripey. Too soon. I have green and stripey, orange and a little stripey, and beige (perfect!).

Okay, so my recipe critique of Spaghetti Squash Gratin. First, I learned spaghetti squash does not have that "squash, yam... taste."  So I liked it. But... it is kind of bland, so the bacon helped. I would recommend using a stronger cheese like sharp cheddar in this dish. Mozzarella got very lost. Also, I will add next time, butter and some brown sugar. This dish needs dome perking up! It is good... but it needs more than the original recipe. I will add butter next time, too. Overall, an okay dish, but trust me, it needs: butter, sharp cheddar, and brown sugar. Let me know your thoughts if you try this and any tweaking that you do.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

New Recipe Ideas

Now that I am on Christmas break, I have had the opportunity to search for some new recipes. I find that I often get in a rut, fixing the same thing over and over again. Here are some new ideas for you to try.

I found this recipe for Pizza Dip over at Closet Cooking. Give it a try. It is ooey, gooey goodness. Tweak it and add whatever toppings you like. I like to use toasted french bread slices to scoop up this delicious dip.

Pizza Dip
Ingredients
  • 4 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella, grated
  • 1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano (parmesan), grated
  • 1 cup pizza sauce
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella, shredded/grated
  • 1/4 cup parmigiano reggiano (parmesan), grated
  • 2 ounces pepperoni, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons green pepper, sliced (I used mushrooms, instead)
  • 2 tablespoons black olives, sliced
Directions
  1. Mix the cream cheese, sour cream mayonnaise, mozzarella and parmigiano reggiano and spread it across the bottom of a pie plate.
  2. Spread the pizza sauce on top and sprinkle on the cheese, pepperoni, green pepper and olives.
  3. Bake in a preheated 350F oven until the sides are bubbling and the cheese cheese has melted and turned golden brown on top, about 20 minutes.
This recipe for peanut butter cups is not new, but I make it every year for the holidays and thought you may like to try it.

Peanut Butter Cups

1/3 C creamy peanut butter
1/4 C powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Mix well and chill. Roll into 24 balls, about 1/2 tsp each, and place in paper cup lined mini muffin tin.

1/2 C creamy peanut butter
8 oz milk chocolate chips
Melt in microwave 1-2 min. and stir well. Cover peanut butter balls with chocolate and chill in fridge.

I found this gratin recipe at The Fresh Princess of Bon Air. I plan on making this tomorrow, so can't say yet how we like it. I will update.

Spaghetti Squash Gratin with Walnuts and Bacon
adapted from Mele Cotte

Spaghetti squash, about 3-4 lbs
4 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped and toasted
1/3 cup panko crumbs
1/2 cup cheese (dry mozzarella, or whatever you have on hand)
1 tsp chili powder
olive oil
salt and pepper


Preheat oven to 350.  Carefully slice the squash in half (heating it in the microwave for 2 minutes or so makes this process a lot easier!) and remove seeds.  Rub flesh with olive oil and sprinkle with chili powder.  Roast for about 40 minutes, or until you can easily comb a fork through the flesh.

Scrape out all of the "spaghetti" flesh from each half and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Place half of squash in a greased 8x8 baking dish.  Top with bacon crumbles, toasted nuts, and HALF of the shredded cheese.  Top with remaining squash, followed by remaining cheese and panko crumbs.

Increase oven temperature to 375 and bake for about 10 minutes, or until the top is brown and the cheese has melted.

Slow Cooker Apple Oatmeal, courtesy of Monica at theyummylife
My slow cooker cooks fast. I know, sounds funny but it really does and so 7 hours is too long for my crock pot. So I need to make it the day before and reheat, or get up early and allow about 5 hours of cooking. I also changed of couple of things, for instance, I use 2% milk and do not add flax seed.

Slow Cooker, Apple Cinnamon Steel-Cut Oatmeal
By Monica              Servings: 7 (3/4-cup) servings
Ingredients
  • 2 apples, peeled, cored, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (2-1/2 to 3 cups chopped)
  • 1-1/2 cups fat-free milk (or substitute non-diary alternative like almond milk)
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1 cup uncooked steel-cut oats
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar (or substitute maple syrup or other desired sweetener)
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons butter, cut into 5-6 pieces (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax seed (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Optional garnishes: chopped nuts, raisins, maple syrup, additional milk or butter
Directions
Coat inside of 3-1/2 quart (or larger) slow cooker with cooking spray. Add all ingredients (except optional toppings) to slow cooker. Stir, cover, and cook on low for approx. 7 hours (slow cooker times can vary). Spoon oatmeal into bowls; add optional toppings, if desired. Store leftovers in refrigerator. Freezes well.

To reheat single servings: Put 1-cup cooked oatmeal in microwave proof bowl. Add 1/3 cup fat-free milk. Microwave on high for 1 minute; stir. Continue cooking for another minute, or until hot.

Recipe can be doubled in 6-quart or larger slow cooker. Increase cooking time 1 hour.

Nutritional Info (per 3/4 cup serving): 149 calories, 3.6g fat, 27.3g carbs, 3.9g fiber, 4.9g protein; Weight Watchers PointsPlus: 4 pts 
 
Let me know if you try any of these and I welcome your feedback.
 




Friday, November 23, 2012

It's a Battle to the End for the Last Drumstick

Yes, it's true! Here is Cooper and Wesson battling it out for dibs on that last drumstick.












They love to play and it is hard to believe but when they play like this they are silent with the occasional yelp from Wesson when he has overstepped his bounds. They are so funny to watch!
I hope everyone is having a wonder Thanksgiving weekend.