Kitchen/garden clutter and zucchini jelly

Orange Zucchini jelly

In my last post I wrote of getting rid of more clutter, particularly in the craft area. Today my thing to mention is about the kitchen. I have no great stories of cleaning or organizing or even sorting, though I did manage to toss out two raggedy looking oven mitts that were causing more burns than they were preventing. I still prefer pliers to take out the steak plates and the small bread pans. Last week, I finally had enough of the zucchini on the counter. I took the two large ones and shredded them up and turned it into a batch of zucchini bread and one of jelly. There was even enough left to put two bags into the freezer for later.

The jelly (in the picture above you can see 3 pints and 3 1/2 pints) is a recipe I have posted before, but I will leave it at the very bottom for anyone new to this site. The flavor comes from the gelatin of your choice. It calls for orange, but you can really use anything that suits your fancy in terms of jelly. I didn’t happen to over boil this batch, so it is a bit more runny than some of my others in the past. I did notice that this time the orange flavor really reminded me of those little baby aspirin that we used to get way back before anyone knew that children should not be eating real aspirin.

Funny story on those pills. There was a near tragedy at our house way back when. My mother found my brother and sister with a bottle of empty baby aspirin and she wasn’t sure who had ingested more. My brother was older and when she asked them what happened, he pointed to my sister and said she is the one who ate them all. As expected, my mother swooped up her little girl and rushed to the hospital. There it was decided to keep her for the night and monitor her. They didn’t see the need to cause her excessive trauma by pumping her stomach since they were not sure how much or if she had actually eaten any of the pills. The truth is no one was sure how many pills were even in the container. She survived the night and when it was all said and done my brother confessed to having eaten the pills. He blamed her because he figured she wouldn’t get in as much trouble as he would because he was older. True story!!

Orange Zucchini Jelly (Sharon’s version)

6 cups of grated zucchini-no peelings, 1/2 cup lemon juice, 1 cup crushed and drained pineapple, 6 cups of sugar and 2 packages of orange Jell-O.

Boil the 6 cups of zucchini for 15 minutes on medium high. This may seem impossible without extra liquid, but believe me it has enough juice to make this work. (If you use frozen try to thaw it and drain as much of the excess liquid as possible, or boil it off. Add the lemon juice and pineapple and sugar and boil for 6 minutes. Stir this so the sugar does not stick to the bottom and use a fairly large container as the sugar doubles the volume. Take off the heat and add two boxes of Jell-O (flavor of your desire). I have used orange, apricot, raspberry, strawberry, and even lime. Ladle into jars that have been washed and are hot. Seal up with fresh lids, no need to process. If by chance your lids do not seal, put in the refrigerator and use within a month.

In the 15 plus years that I have used this recipe, I may have had a few jars go bad. Mostly the issue is making sure that your jars are clean, your lids are new and that you bring the mixture to a full rolling boil for the amount of time listed in the directions. As always if it is moldy or smells bad, do not eat it. That is a good general rule for all foods, especially those we can ourselves. Good luck and hope you are able to enjoy this jelly.

Catch up post on a snow day!!

Snow today

It was snowing most of the morning and has finally let up now that it is nearly noon. I took a picture of the back door of my mom’s house as I had to go and change the laundry there. I cheated and went over with the vehicle after I came home from getting the mail and stopping at the bank. I need to go back and switch the loads again and fold what is dry, but I am too lazy to leave the house at this time. If I would not have wanted the bank statements and to deposit some money, I might not have left the house today. Of course, I did need to go to the mail because some people seem to forget that winter shows up around this time in North or South Dakota. Paulina was home two weekends in a row, and never thought to take her heavy coat either time. Fortunately it wasn’t real heavy in terms of sending it through the mail. I found a second one that she had stuck away in another closet and forgot about. When I showed it to her on the phone as we were Face-timing, she declined wanting that coat. I promptly put it on and am keeping it for myself for now. It is super warm and has a hood. It is also black which seems to be the only color I wear lately. I am beginning to feel like the women of the frontier who always had their good outfits in black so they would have something to wear in case of a funeral. How bad is that. I don’t have black for that reason, it just seems that it matches with anything and so you don’t need so terribly many different outfits. Ha!! The worst part is that black shows every cat hair like there is a spotlight and a magnifier on them.

Apple pie

Last batch

I want to say I have been too busy to post lately, but that is only partially true. I have taken pictures of things going on around here, but I have just been too lazy to share them. The table of tomatoes is nearly gone. The last two times that I did any canning it was all whole tomatoes. The last batch was actually 12 quarts and 1 pint when it was all finished up. I didn’t think it felt like that much, but it took forever because so many of the tomatoes were really small. There are two boxes left on the table, but I am not sure if they will ever get made into anything. I also finished off the “bad” apples from the box I was given. I was going to do up all of them into some apple pie filling, but when I thought of how good they taste just sliced up, I decided to peel and slice the ones with bad spots on them and made a single pie. I will not give you a recipe since I didn’t really follow one anyway, and though it is edible, I have a little more practicing to do before it is really good. I had a few left over slices and ended up just eating them. So good. James agreed that we would just keep the rest on the counter eating them until gone. Last count gives us 9 apples, so they should last about 4 days or less.

I have also been trying to keep my hands busy at night while I am watching television and not playing on my iPad. This has been hard, but not really so hard since I started this crazy crocheted lap blanket. I recently ended up with all of the left over yarn from church now that we have officially finished up any possible quilting there. We did up all the quilt tops that had been made in the past by women of the church and so any left over yarn went to me, and the left over material that could be used to make more tops went to the Lutheran Church in Eureka. They still have a fairly active group, and we thought it was best that the material is used in a good way. I did take one small box home of the stiffer material. I hope to make some of the drawstring bags to give away in the future. I have a post about them some place titled “sling bags.” I will have to find that and at least get the date for it in case anyone is interested in it. Maybe if I ever get that table cleaned off in my room, I can work on that plan. For now I have made a bigger mess as I sorted out the yarn and reboxed some of it into thinner, medium, and thicker thread sizes. The lap blanket I am working on is the medium-sized yarn. I will have to post my three main projects, but not here. I am almost tired of my tendency to jump from one task to another or do several at a time. I finally see how it is more of a time waster, but I realize that I do it because I get bored doing one thing for too long. Oh such a life. Ha!!

Great day for soup!

here is what we just saw outside. 

Roger had to look too.


I made some soup to ward off the cold

Pizza Sauce and other tomato canning

Today was another day of working on the tomatoes. I looked back and the last post on tomato work was done on Oct. 2, 2017 and I wrote out the soup recipe at that time. I think today’s soup was much better, but that is probably my opinion. Today we took every last ripe tomato off the table, out of the boxes and out of the sleds. There is a post back someplace in this past month that shows how we were running out of space to store the tomatoes that were picked but not quite ripe, and so we grabbed the long plastic sleds from the garage and used them. It was a great way to transport them too.

I am happy to report that by the end of today, the sleds have been emptied and all of the tomatoes are in the house on the extra table under newspapers waiting to ripen. So far we have not had to throw very many away, which is nice. Each year several spoil with the ripen them in the house method, but the alternative is to allow them to freeze outside and they are all lost. I think this is a better idea.

So, I should have done this canning yesterday, but after Thursday’s marathon of house cleaning, I was not moving too well. Today we also had one extra hand as Paulina was home. I started the day with a batch of bread but that didn’t turn out so well this time. Paulina ended up cutting it into cubes and tomorrow she will brown them into croutons. We will see how that turns out. I tried it one other time with very little luck, but knowing her it will be great.

When we were finished with the tomatoes today, we had 5 quarts of juice, 4 quarts and 1 pint of soup, and 16 half pints and 3 pints of pizza sauce. This is the biggest batch we have done this year. James and I figure we should be at about 3 or 4 more times of processing tomatoes before the year is over. As for the soup recipe, it is on the post from Oct. 2. I looked and looked for my recipe for the pizza sauce and could not find anything. I looked at the single jar of it left in the pantry and found I had done those in 2015, so I was sure that I had posted it on the blog, but no luck there. I finally went to the Ball Blue Book and checked, and the only thing I could find was tomato sauce, so we went with that.

Truthfully, I have come up with my own concoction based on what I know about canning. The issue is that I never have a firm handle on how many ounces or pints or gallons of tomato liquid I am dealing with when I start. It is always sort of a hit or miss sort of thing. I wish that I had a way to measure the level of acid in what is in the pot, but I usually add lemon juice just to be sure of hitting enough acid to prevent any sort of spoilage or sickness.

Soup, pizza sauce and juice. The bottom of the sign says “seasoned with love”

For this sauce, which turned out to be 5 1/2 quarts of liquid, I used 1/8 cup of canning salt, not quite 1/2 cup of sugar, 1/2 cup of lemon juice, about 1 Tablespoon of garlic salt and 1/2 cup of Italian seasoning. We used only Roma tomatoes for this batch. Throughout the entire process I kept pouring off the runny liquid and blended and sieved out the seeds of that and poured it into jars until we had exactly 5 quarts. Paulina peeled the Roma tomatoes, while I peeled the Celebrity and the Big Boys. Those that I peeled were blended separately and put into their own stock pot to make the soup. I also took the liquid off the ones I peeled, and added it to the juice. I think this is the first year that I have planted the Celebrity variety, and I find them to be a bit sweeter. The juice from them has been fantastic. I hope to plant more of them next year and a few less of the Romas, though they produce so much better. Actually for me the Big Boys don’t seem to produce very well, but I probably don’t feed them as much as they need. I will have to try some different methods with them. I also might try rotating where the stands go. I have some stands that seem to always grow smaller plants. I wonder if it has something to do with the medal that they leach into the soil? I guess that is enough of my tomato making story for one day. I need to get to working on my message for tomorrow. The gospel scripture is on rendering to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s. Not sure how to drag that out for 10 minutes, but I will have to find something. Catch you later!!

A Day in the kitchen

All the breads

I knew it was going to be warm out today, but I also knew that there was a whole list of items for me to do inside, so I started early with the idea that I might make it outside later. So, later did not happen yet. Mainly I wanted to get the apples off the counter, but instead I started with making bread. Since I knew the oven would be where I would want to set the loaves of bread to rise, I wanted the oven hot baking something, so the day began with making banana bread. A double batch turned out 1 large loaf and 3 small ones, 2 with walnuts and one with chocolate chips for James. Next came the regular bread, 2 large loaves and 1 mini just for fun. While the banana bread was in the oven and the other bread was rising on the stove top, I peeled the mini potatoes boiled in their skins to make fried potatoes and green beans for supper.

Pie tastes better than it looks according to my husband, hurrah!

Apple sauce on the stove.

About when I thought I should be taking a break, I began to peel the small, somewhat not so good apples. This is the second batch of them, and apparently the first of what we picked. Most of these were salvaged off the ground and by many standards might have been tossed. I decided to do up what I could. The only bad thing about that set of apples was the paring knife I was using. I think I could whittle a wooden knife out of the wood in the shed stacked up for fire pitting, and I would have an easier time peeling. Oddly it is my left hand that hurts instead of my right that did most of the work. Apparently I do more with my left than I know. I ended up making a pie with them, which is ok, but I need a little practice on the crusts. I had more apples than the pie needed because I went through the batch of good apples and also peeled the smallest of them and any that had bad spots. I put the extra of what I peeled into a kettle and boiled them down into apple sauce and ended up with 1 quart and 1 cup, which I am enjoying as I type this. I added about 1/4 cup of lemon juice,  1/2 cup of apple juice and 1/2 cup of white sugar to the apples then put them on the stove on medium heat to boil down. Just wish I had some whipped cream in a can to add to this. There is nothing so delicious as hot apple sauce topped off with whipped cream.

About the time I was finished with the pie and ready to take a break James came home. He decided that he needed a hair cut and since the beautician is located right beside the campsite, which needs a final mowing for the season, he decided to drive across town with the mower and take care of both before supper. While he was gone, I cut the potatoes into the fry pan and added a small bag of frozen beans from the garden this summer with some butter and let it set to wait for him to return. Then I finally got to work on the part of the apples that was my original intent of the day. Boy talk about procrastination.

Slicing apples

In the dehydrator

My all time favorite thing to make with apples is dehydrated apples. I sprinkle a little cinnamon on them and sometimes put a little lemon juice on them before they go on the dehydrator. I could eat them all day, and really need to be careful to get enough liquid when I do eat them. James does not like them because he dislikes the texture of dried things. I think that is why I like them because of the texture. At any rate, I also really enjoy making these. I have an apple corer from Pampered Chef and that works so well. I also enjoy the rhythm of using the slicer or mandolin as I understand it is technically called. I have some family members who do not like it so much because they think it is dangerous. Again, mine is not real sharp and for some that might pose a problem, but I am used to how it operates and so we get along pretty well. I also know about when to switch from doing it by hand and using the sliding piece. When I had the bowl filled, I stopped to check home many would fit in the dehydrator. I actually had a few too many, which was great for me.

Eating the extra’s reminded me of sitting and watching my Grandma Freda make apple pie. She would peel the entire apple usually in one long peel. I would pick those up from her and eat them. After she had the apple peeled she would cut it in quarters and core it then slice it straight into the pie crust. She made the best pies ever, and it didn’t matter the flavor. Man I wish I had taken notes and kept better track of what she did. Perhaps it would be good to keep practicing, but basically it is too late for me. I am too old to start now to ever get to her standards.

Well enough of all this for one day. I am about tired and tomorrow I have a long day and evening at church. Happy Fall or Spring Gardening to you all as the case may be!!!

Long day of labor

James and I opted for a Saturday at home. It was supposed to be a day of much needed rest, but instead it was far more labor intensive than we spend during the week as teachers and preachers. I guess. Anyway the issue was to do as much as we could in the garden. I had a really hard time getting started, and in fact thought it would be best to let the tomatoes have as much time on the vine as we could allow today.

James started by digging out the rest of the potatoes. He said it might have been better if we had taken them sooner. It seems that there were worms or slugs or something underground eating on them after it rained. I stayed inside while he was digging and made some vegetable soup. I wanted to use up the carrots in the crisper before we dig out our carrots and store them there. I also had this idea about baking bread.

Opps I almost forgot, in the meantime before I really got going on the bread, I peeled up all of the damaged apples and made a batch of apple sauce. How could I forget about that. It took longer than the bread mess that I have printed out below.

So, here is the bread thing. I used this recipe that Paulina left behind. I misread the yeast amount and by the time I was adding the 4th cup of flour, I knew that something was very wrong. I needed 4 teaspoons and had read it as 1 tablespoon, so I was only off by 1 teaspoon, but something else must have been off. I actually accused her of being another Grandma Freda.

James asked what I meant, and the thing is that my grandmother would never really share any of her recipes because, well she just didn’t. If someone insisted on having her recipe, she would leave something out, or give it just a bit off, so that no one else could do what she did. I remember watching her bake pies and I was never smart enough to write down exactly what she did. No one could make a pie the way she did.

Finished Pretzels

Pretzel dough

OK so now I had this dough, and it was either figure out a way to salvage it or dump it. I know that 95 percent of my family would dump it. I am such a Scrooge that I pondered until I came up with a solution. I know that knepfla dough involves milk and eggs, so I added about 3/4 cup of milk and two eggs them mixed it as best I could. Next I turned it onto a floured board and kneaded it up. I flattened it out and cut it into strips then rolled it into a rope in my hands and made pretzels with most of it and bread sticks with the rest.

Bread twists

strips of dough

For the bread sticks, I sprinkled it with Italian seasoning and garlic salt. I let it rise for a bit, though it really didn’t rise much then I baked it at 350. Sadly I over baked the pretzels, but with a slathering of butter and some sea salt sprinkled on them when they were got out of the oven, they almost tasted like actual pretzels. The flavored bread sticks were quite good with the homemade vegetable soup. It was good dipping either in the hot soup after we came inside from working in the garden.

The tomato harvest

Close to 4 p.m. about when the sun was starting to head for the horizon, James and I went for the tomatoes. I started with the celebrity and the big boy plants. James had a table readied in the garage (the van will have to sit outside until the table is emptied), and we began to fill it. I filled the box seen at the end of the picture and the small section on the table that is covered with papers with the round tomatoes. James started picking the romas. Those seemed to take the longest, but I believe we had 20 plants of them. We filled and refilled and filled some more. I finally asked where the long plastic sleds were, and we filled them too. There is now only the plant beside the pumpkins left to be picked and those are extra-large cherry tomatoes. The small cherries are just going to be left, neither one of us has the inclination to pick them.

Pumpkins and one tomato plant left. Outside of the fence is the wheelbarrow filled with the pulled plants.

We also pulled all of the plants and the cages, except the one that the pumpkin went through. That will stay until Monday night when I pick the three pumpkins. It is supposed to frost really hard that night and by then we hope to have anything of significance inside the garage or the house. I guess the onion will need to be picked tomorrow, but the beets and the carrots are waiting until that frost because it helps sweeten them. Well that was our day…I have a feeling we will both sleep well tonight.

math class, my way

I am not sure how much I have posted regarding this long-term substitution stint I am doing. I have only one week left at the school and I will have to say this will be the hardest to leave of my three times there. The students have really been amazing to work with even on the days when a couple of the younger ones have been so frustrated with situations that they didn’t want to cooperate. I may give you more on that later, but for now let me just say that I could really feel for them in their situation rather than be frustrated that they were not doing what they were told. Let me also say that part of my attitude about teaching has changed and mostly it is because of age and even more it is since being a grandmother. I look much more at these youngsters in “how would I deal with my grandson/daughter in this situation. It has really made a difference for me in terms of my attitude. I also feel much less stress than when I was thinking of my own children in this situation. Wow, it is so amazing to see age as a positive thing for a change.

Today I wish to tell you about our math class. We began with 3 younger high school students (after a transfer, we now have 4) who all spent time in the resource room. Math at that age begins to go the way of algebra and geometry and all sorts of really beyond me things like graphs and slopes and I want to run away and scream. Well, these three youngsters were put into a class of functional math. The lessons in the beginning were all about fractions with the dynamics of money. It was learning about what the top and the bottom numbers on a fraction really represent (equal division of a whole and the number of those parts used). We also learned quite a bit about measuring with a ruler in the beginning.

Well to make a short story long, the big issue is that the math teacher decided to stay home with her baby that was born last spring and so the school advertised for a new teacher and to date has not been able to fill the position permanently. There is a teacher who comes once a week, while the administrators (both certified in math) fill in. The resource room (me and one of the para-professionals) fills in on three days a week to teach the students that fit there. We have been focusing on the book work while the certified teacher has been filling in with labs of measurements (they built a bookshelf) and computer work.

One day in a brainstorm about the math, our para said that measurement is more than just using a ruler, it is also about work in the kitchen. The resource room just happens to be located in the room of the building that was originally built for a home economics (now called Family and Consumer Science) classroom. We have the perfect spot, our own kitchen complete with sink, stove and little fridge. We decided to learn fractions in a more hands on and life skill way by cooking with the students. The first week when I was at the homecoming in Jamestown, they made cookies in a mug in the microwave. This week was my week. I decided it was time make banana bread. It was a blast.

Students holding their Banana breads

The brief version of what we did. First we made them take the recipe and double it, which gave them a bit of work with paper. I divided up the tasks we needed to do and they were able to choose their assignments. One boy did the mixing because he felt comfortable with it. I was not into teaching that on this first try. Another measured oil, one measured sugar, a third cracked all the eggs and dropped them into the mixing bowl. The student on the eggs is not actually in the class, but was in the room and we invited him to participate. The other two students did the dry ingredients, flour, soda and baking powder.

The final addition was the bananas. They were all so curious about how to cut up the bananas and measure them. Ha! The joke was that I brought 6 frozen bananas that thawed in the fridge overnight. They were gooey and sticky and the students panicked about who might get the job of peeling them. I showed them how to carefully pull open an end and squeeze the banana into a bowl then drop it into the batter. Then I looked at them and said if they wanted their bread (I had individual loaf pans for the baking) they had to each do one banana. They did and I think they loved it and will never forget this lesson. I also brought some chocolate chips and let them drop some into their bread. It was a great day and makes me wish I had gone into FACS. Because these are minor children, I will not post their faces or their names. They loved the joke of how we took this picture and it being like the parents on Peanuts cartoons. The English teacher who does the school newspaper took a picture of them and will put an article into the paper about what we have been doing in that class. Hopefully it is a hit with the public.

I hate to make this post so long, but I will share the recipe here: Banana Bread (single loaf) 350 F

Mix dry ingredients and set aside: 1 1/3 cups flour, 2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp baking soda.

With mixer combine: 1/3 cup veg. oil, 3/4 cup sugar and 2 eggs. Mix and add part of dry ingredients. Add 3 ripe bananas and remainder of dry ingredients. I often add walnuts to the mixture. Some prefer chocolate chips or whatever you enjoy. Bake, cool and eat up.

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