Spring's first crop. I made rhubarb sauce.
When I don't have much time to cook a meal, I sometimes brown a pound of hamburger with some onions and a teaspoon of salt.
While that is cooking, I slice pototoes into 6 or 8 pieces and put them into the oven at 425 degrees--it takes 15 to 20 minutes for them to be done (depends on the size of the slices). I spray the pan with Pam and after the potatoes are in the pan, I also spray them with Pam. This helps them to get a little brown and crispy. A sprinkle of salt is optional. I like to move them around and turn them over a few times to be sure they are not sticking to the pan and that all sides are getting equally browned.
If there were a lot of grease on the hamburger, I'd scoop some of that out, trying to keep the juices. Once the potatoes are ready, I toss the hamburger mixture on top, letting it mingle the flavors in the oven for another minute, and then serve it with raw fruit and vegies. Some family members like to eat it with ketchup or ranch dressing.
This can be on the table in half an hour.
(And yes, it is good to be back.)
My neighbors grew these when I was a child. Sometimes they would let us pick them for a hot summer day snack. Juicy, sweet. It always seemed as though we were eating forbidden food. They were wonderful.
And now I grow them in my garden. They grow to about 18" tall and cover a good two to three feet across. I don't think they are perennial, but the cherries that fall before I can pick them leave plenty of seeds for the spring, and you can spend the entire summer pulling the volunteers.
Their green pouches will slowly dry and turn papery yellowish-brown. Then they are ready to pick. We gently squeeze the yellow cherry out of its pouch and enjoy. They grow prolifically. Last year I did not believe that I only needed one plant. I picked them and placed them in a large dish and left them to vanish on the dining room table. This year I might make a pie with them. If I do, however, I may need your help--my family is not big on dessert. Volunteers?
Mother Earth News suggests:
"But my favorite way, by far, to eat ground-cherries is in a pie.To make this festive dish, combine 2 cups of sugar with 2 tablespoons of flour and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. Then, add 4 cups of husked, ripe cherries . . . 2 tablespoons of melted butter or margarine . . . and 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. Pour the filling into a 9" unbaked pie crust, cover it with another sheet of dough, cut a few slits in the top for venting, and bake it at 350°F—for 45 to 55 minutes, or until the crust is golden."
I'll have to let you know how it turns out!
My Gum Drops are made. They turned out too soft, but they are delicious—I’ve not gotten to eat anything like this for years due to food allergies. Next time I’ll cook the syrup and sugar a little higher than soft crack on the thermometer, or I could try increasing the pectin.
My pear tree was loaded with fruit this year, but the skin on the fruit was tough and blotchy--perfect for fruit leather.
We washed them and cut them into fourths. I put water into a large, heavy-bottomed pan--just enough to cover the bottom-- filled it with my fruit, and put the lid on. The water helped to steam the pears; the heavy bottom helped to keep the fruit from sticking or burning on the bottom of the pan. I stirred it frequently, rubbing the big spoon across the bottom to be sure nothing was sticking, and I stirred the fruit near the bottom up towards the top, allowing all the fruit to be evenly steamed.
When the fruit was soft, I allowed it to cool slightly and then I put them through a fruit strainer. Mine is an attachment to my KitchenAid mixer; the skins, seeds, and cores come out one end while the fruit pulp slides out the bottom. It looked just like applesauce.
There are many kinds of strainers (some electric, some not), but if I needed to make the pulp without one, I'd peel the fruit and cut out the cores prior to steaming. When it was soft, I'd either mash it really well with a potato masher or run it through the blender just long enough to remove the chunks.
Since these pears were exceptionally juicy, I chose to simmer the sauce until it was thick. I took this time to bring my dehydrator up from the basement, clean it up, and get it ready. I have a wonderful machine--it is an Excalibur. It has a nice range of temperature settings, pulls the air across the sheets horizontally (if it pulls the air through the fruit vertically, the moist air travels through each layer of fruit, making it much less efficient), has sheets for fruit leather, and is large enough for my needs.
By the way, if you are making fruit leather from berries and soft fruits, it is possible to puree them and put them directly into the dehydrator. Fruit that turns dark when sliced, though, is usually heated to 190 degrees prior to drying.
When the pulp was ready, I ladled it onto the dryer sheets and smoothed it out--trying to make it about 1/8 inch thick in the middle and 1/4 inch on the sides.
It took about 24 hours at 135 degrees for the pulp to dry down to a leathery sheet. I tested it by touching it in the middle to see if it was tacky, then I peeled it off the dryer sheets and turned it over to see how it felt on the bottom. When it felt dry, I cut the leather into squares with a kitchen shears--one batch must have been thicker than the other because I noticed it was spongy as I tried to cut it; that sheet went back into the dryer for a few more hours. To keep the pieces from sticking to each other in storage, I placed the squares into a large plastic bag filled with a small amount of powdered sugar and shook them until they were covered. My children complain that his makes them messy (although this never stops them from eating it); I don't know how much the pieces would stick together if allowed to sit in a container for a long time without the coating. I've never tried that.
A couple of pieces on the tray above have obviously tangled with some of the powdered sugar.
I filled a couple of half-gallon plastic freezer containers with the leather, but I've read that many people use canning jars with lids and rings to store them so that they are certain to keep the moisture out. My leather never sticks around long enough for me to worry about that!
The fruit leather is tough and hard to chew, but I've had to hide some of it so that it does not completely disappear in just a few days! When I apologize for its being too tough, everyone responds, "It tastes great!"
If you stop by to visit, I'll offer you a piece, but you will have to do it soon!
Cook together until hamburger is brown and onion is transparent:
1 lb. hamburger
1 medium onion
1 teaspoon salt
1 29-oz. can Hunts Tomato Sauce
1 6-oz. can Hunts Tomato Paste
¼ teaspoon garlic powder or 1 garlic clove, crushed
½ teaspoon parsley
¼ teaspoon oregano
1 bay leaf
Simmer. Serve over spaghetti noodles and sprinkle with parmesan. Add a lettuce salad and French bread to make a complete meal.
I use Hunts because it is thicker; other brands can be used. When I am in a hurry, I throw this together and only simmer it long enough to heat it through. I can make it in less than 30 minutes. The flavors blend nicely if you let it simmer a little longer, though. I always double this recipe since I’m feeding teenagers. Enjoy!
3 medium sized potatoes, peeled and chucked 3 carrots, chopped 1 large onion (about 1 cup chopped) 1 ½ teaspoon salt 4 cups water 1 head cauliflower Cut the cauliflower into pieces, taking 1½ cups of the small, center heads and steaming them until soft (microwave or stovetop). These will be added to the soup later. Place about 2 cups of the remaining cauliflowerets into a soup pot along with the other ingredients and simmer until soft. Set aside long enough to cool slightly, and then blend in a blender (I cannot fit all in the blender at the same time, so I do half at a time). Return this to the soup pot or use a double boiler if you want to, and add: 1 ½ cups grated cheddar cheese ¾ cups milk 4 teaspoons dill weed ¼ teaspoon dry mustard Shake of black pepper Warm through, being careful not to scorch the bottom of the pan if using the soup pot—the thicker the pan’s bottom, the better. Add: Steamed cauliflowerets ¾ cup buttermilk Warm through and serve. This can be served with extra cheese sprinkled on top of each bowl.
3 medium sized potatoes, peeled and chucked
3 carrots, chopped
1 large onion (about 1 cup chopped)
1 ½ teaspoon salt
4 cups water
1 head cauliflower
Cut the cauliflower into pieces, taking 1½ cups of the small, center heads and steaming them until soft (microwave or stovetop). These will be added to the soup later.
Place about 2 cups of the remaining cauliflowerets into a soup pot along with the other ingredients and simmer until soft. Set aside long enough to cool slightly, and then blend in a blender (I cannot fit all in the blender at the same time, so I do half at a time). Return this to the soup pot or use a double boiler if you want to, and add:
1 ½ cups grated cheddar cheese
¾ cups milk
4 teaspoons dill weed
¼ teaspoon dry mustard
Shake of black pepper
Warm through, being careful not to scorch the bottom of the pan if using the soup pot—the thicker the pan’s bottom, the better.
¾ cup buttermilk
Warm through and serve. This can be served with extra cheese sprinkled on top of each bowl.
Brown and sauté together:
2 lbs. hamburger
1 very large onion (or 2 smaller ones)
2 teaspoons salt
Add and heat through:
1-29 oz. can Hunts Tomato Sauce
1-29 oz. can Hunts Whole Tomatoes, chopped
1-16 oz. can Bush Red Beans in Chili Sauce (Any red beans would work. Double this if your family eats beans willingly.)
Chili powder to taste (2 to 4 tablespoons, perhaps, depending upon your family)
1 teaspoon sugar to take the nip out of the tomato acid (optional)
Hot-loving tongues can add a few sprinkles of hot sauce
I use Hunts because the tomato sauce is thicker. I use the whole tomatoes because they are the closest to tasting like my home-grown and canned tomatoes that I can find in the store. Sometimes I pulse these in the blender, but one good pulse is enough. If you blend them too much, the soup is puree instead of chili. This recipe is not a science—I’m sure you could choose to cut it in half, buying the smaller sized cans, for smaller families.
You can make this ahead of time and pull it out to warm it when needed. It also can be thrown together in about a half an hour if you are in a hurry or you can toss it in a crock pot to keep warm until you are ready to eat it. Enjoy!
The raspberry patch has come to summer's end. Since our plants are a variety that sets fruit on new canes, we can mow them off in the fall and still have berries the following year--most raspberries set fruit on 2-year canes.
The trees are just beginning to change color. If we get a hard frost soon, the colors will be more brilliant than if the frost comes late. The corn would benefit from a late frost, however, since it was planted late in the spring due to wet weather, and if it has time to finish maturing, there will be more bushels per acre when we harvest.
Today is a rainy, dreary day. I put the cat food inside a bucket, and tipped the bucket on its side to keep the food dry. The cats do not like this arrangement as much because they cannot all eat at the same time...and waiting in line when Orion is trying to hunt them is unnerving. Not everything in a cat's life is hunky dory!
Weekends--a mixture of business and rest: 4-H, family reunions, teen parties, star parties, Sunday afternoon naps.
But the weekend is over and the week is here.
We need to make jam, jello and pies from the cherries, mulberries, and black caps we've been picking. My cherry bushes have been loaded with Nanking Cherries--those little cherries that take an hour to pit out four cups for one pie. I had the boys help. I used a recipe that my mother-in-law gave me; I have no idea where it originated. It can be used for any fruit pie you'd like to try, and an uncooked, refrigerated fruit pie seems especially good in the heat of the summer:
Fresh Fruit Pie
Stir and pat these ingredients into a pie tin:
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup oil
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons milk
salt (I always love it when it just says salt. I add a couple of shakes with the salt shaker and make it do. I suppose this is comparable to the "pinch of salt" in the old cookbooks.)
Bake at 400 degrees
for 10 minutes. Allow to cool.
Slice fruit into cooled crust (peaches, cherries, strawberries, berries...)--it takes something close to 4 cups for a 9", 3 cups for an 8".
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons cornstarch
Add 1 cup water and cook until thick; remove from heat. Stir in 3 tablespoons of Jello (the powder) that matches the fruit. Cool and then poor this mixture over the fruit in the pie tin. Refrigerate until set.
The garden needs hoeing, I need to pay the bills, I have letters to write and trips to make.
Sometimes I long for the lazy days of summer that I had as a kid.
While picking cherries the other day, I realized that I probably still have them in many ways; how many people get to pick cherries for an hour, listening to the birds, smelling the fresh mowed lawn, watching the donkey protect her herd nearby?
Go in search of beauty in the world that surrounds you...
This is a wonderful soup for the cold winter days. Better make it soon--warm spring days are starting to creep into the year!
Beef Barley Soup
1 pound stew meat (or large soup bone) or hamburger
1 cup sliced carrots
1/2 cup sliced celery
1/2 large onion, sliced
8 ounce stewed tomatoes (optional: my family prefers it without)
1/2 cup barley
1 tablespoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon salt (may need to increase that to 1.5 teaspoons--I cook lightly with salt)
4 cups water (more added if the pot gets too thick)
1 potato, cubed
I put this together and let it simmer on the top of the wood stove. If you don't have a wood stove, you can use a crock pot or cook it on the stove top. The original recipe called for hamburger. If you use this, just brown it first; then mix all the other ingredients together.
I prefer to use stew meat; even better would be a soup bone with plenty of beef attached. When I double this recipe, I use a pound of stew meat and a soup bone--a soup bone gives a much better flavor to the broth. Since the stew meat is a less tender cut, I simmer this on the stove or in the crock pot ahead of time. If I can, I cook the meat for several hours the day before and then put the whole pot into the refrigerator to cool. In the morning, I skim the fat off the top, measure the liquid to be sure I still have enough, adding water as needed, and then mix the remaining ingredients into the pot and simmer until the soup is cooked through.
Looking at my photo, it sure does look as though I added a bay leaf to the pot the last time I made it!
This recipe can easily be doubled. If you want to decrease the meat (not all of you are beef farmers), you can cut it to 1/2 pound of meat.
My first Lenten candle did not last through all of lent, so I've replaced it with one called BambooTeak. As a remembrance of the cross, a candle made with wood seemed like a good choice as we head towards Good Friday.
I never knew that twenty pounds could be so hard. As a child I was teased for being so skinny; they told me that when I turned sideways, they couldn't see me.
That is not a problem any more.
About the time I hit 40, my metabolism slowed down.
Twenty pounds later...
My sister who is a dietitian tells me that each time we gain back the pounds we have lost, it becomes harder to lose those pounds again--so I've been trying to change my lifestyle and slowly take the weight off so that it stays off; I'm cutting back on sweets and snacks, watching portions, jogging on the trampoline, and doing stretches and weight lifting.
It sounds great, doesn't it?
This must become who I am everyday, every week, every hour; even when I splurge, I must do so in moderation.
Obviously, I have a lot of room to grow in the area of consistency.
That is all that I've kept off since the beginning of the year.
16 more to go...
I never knew!