Tuesday cooking from the garden

Fried potatoes with beets and beans

Today I was so tired and it was so warm when I got home from school that I decided to stay inside. I was trying to watch Jeopardy when I fell asleep on the couch, pretty standard event for me. I love that show, but I fall asleep almost every time I watch it. Afterwards I proceeded to work on supper. I peeled a couple of the cucumbers from yesterday’s picking and put them into a vinegar and cream mixture. Next I peeled and cubed the beet, and about five small potatoes, then I sliced up some of the beans all from yesterday’s gathering and put all of them into a fry pan with a couple of tablespoons of butter and a bit of olive oil. I salted them with some sea salt, this is good for flavor and makes the beans weep which adds enough moisture to enhance the cooking.

Fried potatoes with beans

This is sooooo tasty. The potatoes and beans are great alone, but the beet adds a little color and gives a little sweetness to the dish. A pan of this never has left overs, which is my newest issue in my anti-clutter mission.

I also took the one frozen pie crust that was left in the freezer and used it to make a couple of apple pie tarts. For filling I used half a quart of apple pie filling that I canned last year. I have been hoarding those jars because I know we don’t usually have a large apple crop two years in a row. But it might be time to use a few of them now and then. It was a welcome desert this evening and gets another corner of the freezer emptied. I need to clear out whatever I can as there will probably be a few items to add before the snow hits. I have a feeling when the frost comes and those flower plants are gone, we will finally find a good beet and carrot crop. Yikes!! What I should harvest this year are the seeds from the cosmos plants. I wonder if I could find an outlet for them. For that matter maybe I should consider the holly hocks. Well, I guess enough rambling for today.

Jam Thumbprint cookies

Jam Thumbprint cookies

This recipe is from Homemade Cookies Cookbook from Better Homes and Gardens.

Last night I made cookies. I was so sure that the chokecherry jelly was too thick and so would never spread that I dug around for a cookie recipe that could use up the jelly. Well surprise for me when I opened the jar, the jelly was the perfect consistency to spread on bread. I made the cookies anyway. James said I can make them again anytime with any jelly.


I, par for my style of baking and cooking, did not fully follow the recipe. I omitted the nuts and did not put the meringue on the cookies. I am guessing that is why they are a bit dry. Of course it could have been because I used vegetable shortening instead of butter. They taste like a cross between a sugar and a shortbread cookie. All I know is they go great with a cold glass of milk and I plan to double the recipe the next time I make them. We only ended up with about 32 cookies instead of 48, but then we may have made them a bit larger than we were supposed to.

What have you been baking???

Choke Cherry Jelly

Bowls full enough

Tree full

Last Friday when it was too cold to have the pool open, meaning Paulina was home in the afternoon, and my Aunt Glenda was still in Phoenix, Paulina and I took two medium sized bowls and went to Glenda’s to pick the choke cherries. I normally don’t bother her tree, but after I had posted the pictures of our little tree, and she commented that someone should pick hers, I took that for permission. We filled those bowls as you can see on the picture, and still left plenty behind for another picker.

Mashing the cherries

It took until Sunday afternoon before we got to the actual canning part. It should have been sooner, but things never quite work out on the weekends. Here is what we did. We washed the cherries in a strainer and carefully picked out all of the stems that were still on. Next we put all the cleaned cherries into a large pot and put them on the stove on medium to heat up and eventually boil. As they got hotter, we took the potato masher that we reserve for canning purposes and mashed them down.

stirring in the cone

Eventually–well after the jars were washed and the counter was cleared of all the other dirty dishes, we got to the stage of running them through the canning cone. I don’t know what the exact name is for this thing, but to me it is the cone. I also have an original from back in the day so to speak. You can buy these new again. I am not sure how old this one is, I bought it used when we were first married, so I have had it fairly close to 35 years and have used it every year we had a garden. Because of the high stain value of choke cherries, I made sure everything we used was either glass or stainless steel. I should have checked the dish towels more carefully or insisted on paper. In the clean up, I found that my “like new” dish towel that I use to cover the bread dough was in the clean up mix and now after treatment has three blue spots on it. Oh well, nothing nice ever keeps that way it seems.

So the next phase was actually making the jelly. The recipe which I took from my New Salem Band Cookbook that I purchased many years ago while taking a writing workshop in Bismarck. I bought it from a workshop classmate whose daughter was in that band, but introvert me, I never kept track of her name. Anyway, the recipe verifies with the one from the Sur-Jell box.

boiling up the syrup

In the jars.

Chokecherry Jelly: 5 cups chokecherry juice, 7 cups of sugar, 1 box Sure-Jell fruit pectin. In a large kettle mix juice and pectin. Bring to a boil stirring constantly. Add sugar and again bring to a boil stirring occasionally. Boil 1 minute or until 2 strands come together when poured from a spoon. Pour into clean, hot jars and seal. The Sure-Jell box said this would make 9 cups. Ha Ha!! I read and followed the instructions right up to the word occasionally. Apparently long words are getting hard for me to understand, or at the best, my patience for long instructions is fading. I stirred constantly and did not stop the boil at 1 minute. I kept trying to figure out how we were going to make it turn into a strand. I kept thinking of the consistency of hard candy. Ah-Duh! Jelly or Jam is to be spreadable. I am afraid of opening the jars. I think we might have the consistency of a firm jello, or perhaps a chewable jolly rancher. At the worst, Paulina and I are thinking we will reserve this for making those cookies that call for a jelly in the center. Who knows they might be rather good.

We were able to keep a nearly full pint of just syrup. That was put in a jar and set in the fridge to use as ice cream topping. I am looking forward to that. When I was little I always hated that because I wanted chocolate and we didn’t buy chocolate because we had chokecherry. Now I understand what a treat we had.


Embroidery: Dishtowels

First six days of the week.

Just wanted to share the set of dishtowels that I finally finished embroidering. I actually finished them last week. They were started years ago and I simply had no push to finish them until I needed a shower gift. I sent them with Paulina to take to a bridal shower for a wonderful young woman who grew up with my two oldest daughters. Lindsey is now the owner of her own very successful salon business and I am delighted to say as such is also my hairdresser. I finished these and added two of my knit dishcloths as my gift. I will be officiating her wedding early this summer and I am looking forward to finding a few minutes between now and then to go over some of the details with her and her fiancé Adam.

All finished.

What was left to do last Sunday

In the meantime, just wanted to share these bits of embroidery. I don’t necessarily love doing these, probably because I am not fussy enough to make them look as nice as some others I have seen. I do, though, really enjoy working the crewel embroidery kits that come out looking like a picture. I have many, many of them in a container stashed away. I should really dig them out and get on them. Chalk up another of those projects to help eliminate the clutter. Of course if I finish them next I will have to figure out what to do with them. Enough for now!!

Bread baking disaster!

The yeast is working

The yeast is working

Bread baking 101: Epic fail! Yesterday I tried to make bread from scratch. I used to make wonderful loaves of bread–from dough that I had done up inside my bread machine. Every now and then for whatever reason the dough would over rise and plop, fall into the cellar just before or as I transferred the pans from the top of the oven inside the oven. Yesterday was such a day with the dough from scratch took a nose dive. At first I was going to blame the yeast. Well as you look at the picture to the left, I don’t believe it had anything to do with the yeast.

Bottles and containers of all sorts of things with which to cook and bake.

Bottles and containers of all sorts of things with which to cook and bake.

So, let’s back up a bit. I took my recipe from the bread machine booklet and converted it to a regular scratch recipe. Paulina does it all the time and it works for her…. I started by putting the water into the bowl for the big mixer and adding the yeast. Now Paulina warned me that she thinks the last time her water was too hot. I pulled out the candy thermometer and tested it. I even dug around until I found the original recipe with the optimal temperature listed on it. Something between 100 and 115 degrees Fahrenheit. I boiled water then needed a few ice cubes to get it right, but it was spot on. The yeast bubbled and fizzed for a bit. I covered the container with a dishcloth until I thought it had worked its magic.

Dough hook at work

Dough hook at work

In the meantime I mixed together all of the dry ingredients including the powered milk that is called for in this particular recipe.  The picture in the paragraph above and to the right is of some of the containers on the counter. The short one is where I store the powdered milk. I love those older unusual containers for things and  when they are all full and waiting to be used, it makes the baking or cooking go so much faster. Anyway, after adding the dry ingredients to the yeast mixture, I let the mixer with the dough hook do its magic. It was great and I love how that dough hook works!!

Covered dough

Covered dough

Final product, nearly flat bread, yikes!

Final product, nearly flat bread, yikes!

When that was all finished, I dropped the dough into another container and set it on the stove covered by a clean dishcloth. The trick that I used when the dough came out of the bread machine was to put it on the stove under cover with the oven warming at 150 to 200 degrees. This would keep the dough warm and help it rise. OK, duh in the past it warmed in the bread machine then I took it out and put it straight in the pans not into another container. After a little bit, I divided it and put it into two pans. The problem is that I didn’t get it into the oven at the right time. Instead I turned the oven to 350 and put in a double batch of banana bread, which if you have made that, you know it takes forever. So, now the dough was in the pans in an area to hot to gently warm for too long. By the time I got the actual bread dough into the oven, it had fallen flat. This will learn me! Next time only bake one item at a time and put the dough straight into the bread pans. Yikes!

Vegetable soup made last night.

Vegetable soup

On the other hand, I was able to pull together a kettle of vegetable soup and a “killer” kettle of Knepfla soup. The vegetable in our house yesterday was made with: 1 quart of whole tomatoes, 1 quart of tomato juice (the really runny kind made when skimming the excess liquid off spaghetti sauce or salsa before adding the seasoning) a couple of cups of cubed frozen beets and carrots and cubed pre-boiled potatoes. I also add a cup or two of slightly boiled rice. The flavor comes from adding some beef base. I prefer Orrington Farms because of the no MSG.

Because I can never boil just a cup of rice, I ended up with enough left over from that to make a bread loaf pan of baked rice. This amounts to the rice, about 3 tablespoons of butter, 1/2 to 1 cup of whipping cream, about 1/4 cup of sugar and a handful of raisins all sprinkled with cinnamon then covered with aluminum foil and popped in the already warm oven.

Paulina begged for Knepfla soup. She thought it would make her feel better. She did eat, finally.

A pot of Knepfla soup.

The Knepfla soup took a little more work. The picture to the left is an old one from way back, but it is the same soup. It involves an egg or two, a bit of oil and about a 1/2 cup or more of milk. Then add flour until you have a thick dough. This time I made it in the large mixer and it was much easier, but I had it a bit too thick for the mixer. There is a good explanation for how to make it on a post on Feb. 2, 2013. After the dough is made, I cut it up and drop it into boiling water for a bit. The boiled dough balls are technically noodles. The broth is cream of celery with milk, half and half and some water. I add cubed potatoes and carrots partially boiled. Celery is also good, but this time I didn’t have any. I have also made it without cream of celery if I have almost a full stock of celery to cube and boil into oblivion to get a broth. I also use chicken base, again, Orrington Farms. I love this soup, but I am developing an intolerance for milk products and this really gave me a sore stomach today. I don’t know how I survived teen years and adult life as I was quite intolerant as a child to whole milk. Perhaps the 2 percent and the skim were ok then, but sure not now. We have tried the lactose free and that is good, just didn’t have any in the house, and it seems rather sweet so might not work in this soup.

Jan. 6. Third item revealed and dividing an aloe vera

Scooby doo burp rags!!

Scooby doo burp rags!!

So yesterday I wrote about making three items, then stopped short of telling you the third one. Today I am able to tell you what the third item is because it has been delivered. Item three is a set of 4 burp cloths. They don’t really look like a set, and I did a horrible job of setting them up to take a picture of them, but they are off to the left. The picture shows two with print side up and two with the burp puke on me side up. I used some material left over from making a shirt I made for Victoria when she was a CNA. Little did I know that the neck line wasn’t right for her, and I ended up donating it to a thrift store. I sure had fun sewing up that top. My big thing was doing the pockets. They were matched up so well you couldn’t tell they were there. Anyway, I did some research on what material is the best at absorbing liquid and I came up with a flour sack dish towel. I had James pick up a couple of new ones at the drug store before he came home from school. I used less than half of one on this project.

Samples of notches

Samples of notches

As I mentioned yesterday, this is a simple matter of having two pieces of material that are the same size with the right sides facing and sew around three sides and part of the fourth. Trim the corners with a V notch, turn and press or press and turn then top stitch the edge that was open in order to turn it. This is basic common sense and beginning to end it took me less than an hour. The hardest part was squaring up the scraps of print material.

The plant I took apart was the one in the background.

The plant I took apart was the one in the background.

Gift for Marva

Gift for Marva. I tied it up to brace it for a bit.

One other item that I want to show off is the aloe vera plant that I repotted and took off the new little ones and repotted them. I was after a gift for my church secretary. She had picked up one of the little aloe plants that I took to church a couple of years ago, but it ended up dying. I always give away plants with the idea that they have a life-time guarantee. So here is her replacement plant. I took the main plant and put it in a rather large pot, but because these aloe vera plants are so large and top heavy, I realized that it needed to be braced up.

The large plant repotted and baby plants given a new home.

The large plant repotted and baby plants given a new home.

I had just been in the cupboard filled with old flower pots and ribbons and such, and had seem a bag of small dowels. I used them around the plant to hold it in place. I also took one of the long plastic sticks that holds the card in a bouquet, and used it to brace up the plant for Marva. I also found a cute decoration that is a silver wire that curves around the plant perfectly. I also tied them up loosely to give the plant some support until it gets settled in the pot and takes root. As much as I want to get rid of the clutter, I just can’t toss things when I can find a use for them as I did in this project. I think more than tossing, I need to do some sorting and reorganizing so that I am better able to find things when I am looking for them. Well, hope you have enjoyed these little projects. I love to give things I have made myself or something that I have. Making all three of the projects that I wrote of yesterday and today, were really fun to put together and to sew. I also am very happy when I have a plant that is good enough to share. If anyone knows me they understand that when I give you one of my plants it is like giving a part of me, so you know it is special.

Leaving Linton

Leaving Linton

Well that is all for today, catch us tomorrow and hopefully there will be something exciting, though I am not sure that I will really have anything. We are currently in Jamestown. We drove here today to help Paulina move onto campus at University of Jamestown. We are one day too early to get in on a couple of basketball games. Rats!!! We will try to get home in the light tomorrow. The roads coming on US 83 were not the best, though I 94 was just fine getting into Jamestown. OK. enough!

Make something: 3 examples.

Two posts ago I wrote about my philosophy about frugal living. Item #4 was learn to do it yourself and one example that I listed was sewing. Today I want to share a few projects that I have been working on recently. The first one is one of the Christmas presents that I made for my middle daughter. I should probably wait to post this since we have still not met to exchange gifts this year. With the weather and time factors, it just has not worked out this year. Oh well such is life.

cloth napkins

cloth napkins

Ok, so item 1 is cloth napkins. I love this idea because it is simple, it saves money because you no longer have to purchase napkins or use paper towels, which really gets spendy, and in this case, I was able to use up some material that was already in my possession. Many years ago while the older girls were in 4-H, we purchased 1 yard each of several different pieces of cotton material to be used for small projects such as make up bags. Anyway, I took two of the left over pieces and divided them into squares of about 11 by 11 inches. Not all worked out exactly that size, but that was the goal. I ended up with 13 of one color and 9 of the other. After they were cut and squared up, I folded the edges over by about 1/4 an inch and zig zagged around them. The one pictured above shows what they look like. On this one I only sewed around 3 edges because the 4th edge was the selvage. I didn’t trim it because it saved time and length to keep it. I tried to simply zig zag without folding on a couple, but they did not turn out so well. After a washing and a trimming of any stray thread, I ironed and folded them up and placed them in an empty candy box as the gift wrap. Hopefully she will enjoy them.

Blanket for Twin B, I already gave Jessica and Tony the blanket for Twin A, that one has a brown back.

Blanket for Twin B, I already gave Jessica and Tony the blanket for Twin A, that one has a brown back.

Project 2 is the second of the baby blankets that I sewed for the twins. This is such a simple project though not exactly a recycle or super frugal, though it is fairly inexpensive. I simple purchase flannel in 1 yard lengths. I normally choose one as a print and the other a matching solid color. The flannel is usually a 44/45 inches wide fabric, so when paired with only one yard, you start with a 44 by 36 inch rectangle. I had not really thought of it until this last time when I was having it cut, the lady in the shop told me that I couldn’t possibly be making a baby blanket because the dimensions were all wrong. I guess I am supposed to purchase 1 and 1/4 of a yard. I told her that 1 yard matches with 1 yard and that is all I have ever done.

Notch the corner.

Notch the corner.

Poking out the corners

Poking out the corners

So this is a pretty easy pattern. Lay the print fabric face up and the solid face down on top of the print matching the sides and corners as best as you can. Trim if necessary and sew around, but be sure to leave an opening on one side so you can turn it inside out. One of the things I learned early on with sewing is that stopping to iron at certain phases is almost as important as the actual sewing. For these blankets to have a nice edge it is important to iron the edges open. This is not really easy once all sides have been sewn, but to iron the seams open is helpful. Before you turn it is also important to trim the corners by cutting a V so there is enough room for the material when you make the turn. I use the point of the scissors to push the corner out. It is important to push firmly, but not hard enough to poke through. After I have the blanket turned, I zig zag around the entire blanket. I did not get a good picture of this blanket, but below is a picture of one I did a few weeks ago.

Finished blanket

Finished blanket

Project three is … well something that I will have to share at a later date. I haven’t revealed it to the intended yet, and I want them to see it before the rest of the world. It isn’t much, but just another little item that can be made up fairly quickly in exactly the same way was the baby blanket but with much different intent. Ok, enough said. Hope you have enjoyed this idea of how to make something for someone, and especially how to use up some of your left over cotton material to save a little money. I have always thought cloth napkins are a great way to save some cash and the environment. Not only does it keep the paper napkins out of the land fills, but it puts out less demand for paper product.

So, what have you done yourself that will save you in a couple of ways???

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