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.

Tomatoes, tomatoes and more tomatoes!!

Picked Sunday afternoon.

Largest tomato of the year.

We have been picking in the garden as much as possible each night. I have been taking the tomatoes as soon as they are a little pink or orange, though some are nearly soft ripe before I find them. Tonight I moved a few of the plants from leaning left and tipped them right in order to get inside of them and find the ripest ones on the plant. The days are getting shorter and cooler, though the sun was out most of the day, which was nice, but not much is growing anymore. Mostly they are ripening on the plant and that is fine. I really don’t have room for all of them in the house until I figure out what to do with the cucumbers that really are not all that good. Add to that the stack of zucchini that is on the table and I see why we can’t fit any more tomatoes in the house. Checking out those pictures, I think that for supper tomorrow night we just might cook up a batch of jalapeño poppers.

When I got home from school tonight someplace between 4:30 and 5 p.m., I went to the garden to grab another batch of tomatoes. It looked much like the batch from Sunday, but this time there were more romas and less of the really huge ones. I brought them all inside and sorted what was on the table into the sink and put most of what I picked back on the table. I was able to empty on entire box on the table and most of the second one. The tomatoes in those shallow boxes have been ripening under paper most of last week. I had put the ripest into the sink thinking that I would can a batch on Wednesday night, but there were not enough to start the water boiling. Tonight I found enough. I had no idea as I was washing them and dropping them into the water that there were so many. As I took them out to cool, I used four cake pans and a large bowl. I always use those fancy cake pans, one is a bus, one a turkey and the other a bear, plus just one that is a rectangle. They cool much faster, and I refuse to dip them in cold water because I am such a contamination freak. This method has worked for me for years and that is how it is.

I did change a little this year in how I deal with what I used to consider the excess liquid in the pans. I used to drain it away, and now I realize it is from the tomatoes, so I strain it through the cone and put it aside to make juice. Tonight I made three quarts of juice and seven quarts of soup. I held back the final container of peeled tomatoes and one batch that was in the blender while I was filling the jars with the juice. I had two quarts full but only 2/3 in the third quart. I kept draining the liquid and a little bit of the runnier tomatoes through the sieve until I had that third quart full. I added 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, canning salt and sugar to each of those quarts then sealed them up to process.

7 qts. soup and 3 qts. of juice

The soup was interesting as always the ratio of salt and sugar is always determined by the flavor of the tomatoes. I dropped in one stick of butter, then added 1/4 a cup of lemon juice to assure it has the correct acidity for canning safety. I put in 1/2 cup of sugar and 1/4 cup of canning salt then I whisked in 1 cup of sifted flour. That was a treat to coordinate. It became much easier when I began using the large whisk and switched hands. After a couple of taste tests, I added a bit more sugar and a touch more salt. In the end, I think I should have put in more flour. I didn’t want to over do the stiffness factor though because I was not sure how it would sit up after being processed. I used to really add lots of flour and ended up with really firm soup, almost like what you buy in the store. This batch has less liquid because I strained so much off for the juice. I wasn’t real sure on the flavor, but at the least it will be good when cooked up with a little milk and some chunks of fresh tomatoes. I did not used to like it that way, but it is pretty good on a cool fall day.

Well enough of this fun today. I hope to take some time tomorrow and share some of where we were this past weekend. It would be much easier if I had all of the pictures I tried to take. When I realized that my card was not in my camera it was already the second day of the reunion and I had missed lots of shots. Dang nab it. Oh well, I did still get some, and Paulina shared hers with me, too. Happy Gardening to you!!

Let the canning begin!

I finally washed up the tomatoes, took out the kettles, and did up the first batch of the 2017 season. In the end there are 4 quarts of juice and 6 quarts and one pint of the best spaghetti sauce that I have ever made. I say that because I know the flavor is always there, but this time, I figured out how to reduce the excess juice without boiling it forever, thus the 4 quarts of juice on the side. I strained off as much juice as possible and ran it through the jelly cone before I dumped the blanched-peeled tomatoes into the stock pot. In the end I  pureed a couple of tomatoes and added them to the juice to at least have some pulp. I also added 1/2 a teaspoon of canning salt, sugar and lemon juice to each quart.

Spaghetti and juice

For the spaghetti sauce I must have had about 6 quarts of tomatoes in the stock pot. I heated it on medium and added: 1/2 cup of lemon juice, 1/3 cup sugar, 1/4 cup canning salt and nearly a full cup of Italian seasoning and a shake of garlic salt. I usually stir it up and heat it just below a boil then check the flavor before I put it in jars. Each batch to me is a bit different because the flavor really depends on the tomatoes. Tonight I didn’t need to do anything else to it. I filled clean quart jars and sealed them up. After 20 minutes of boiling in a canner kettle, I set them out to seal, and happily all of them have. James thinks that we should have spaghetti for supper tomorrow night. We shall see.

Weekend work

I hope there are not any more “last weekends of summer” because I really can’t take another one. I just want a weekend of doing a few odds and ends then resting for the upcoming week. I want to say that the resting part is more important to me now that I am getting nearer and nearer to the age when I should be retired (from the looks of things retirement is not in my life plan). The truth is that weekends have always been very important rest and rejuvenation times for me in fact one of my sisters commented on it just last night, how I would come home from college and just sleep. Currently sleep is not really a factor, but just a nice slow down would be good. Today was Labor Day, the day you should relax, have some family time, not go to work, take a break. Well, not so much around here. I wanted to work out in the yard, but the wind is keeping most things inside. Instead I was in the kitchen from the time I got up until Paulina and Katie packed up and left. I see I forgot to finish the post about Paulina coming home for the weekend and bringing her roommate. Opps!!

plums

Today I decided it was time to tackle the plums. I picked a large bowl of them last week and they have been sitting on the counter ripening ever since. I washed them up and got them ready for preserving last night before everyone came over for the Labor Day picnic thing that Paulina decided we needed (which was a good decision by the way). It was a good idea not to do it in stages. I did the cleaning, cooking and pressing through the jelly cone last night and so this morning all I had to do was cook them up for jelly. The recipes mostly call for using cheesecloth and letting the juice drip out. I am sure you can squeeze a bit more juice from them using that method, but I am just so used to using the cone. Of course that is much easier to use with tomatoes. It seems the larger the seeds or pits, the harder it is to get all of the juice by using the cone.

zucchini (cookie) bread and plum jelly

Bottom line is that when all was done, I had about seven cups of juice. I was supposed to add a packet of pectin which I did then boiled it for a bit. Next I was supposed to add more sugar than I had juice which I didn’t do because with the chokecherry jelly it ended up too sweet and sort of rubbery. Well after 4 cups of sugar both James and Paulina said enough (they like it a little tart) then I boiled it for about two more minutes and sealed it into jars. It appears that this will be a nice batch of syrup to use on pancakes or for a runny jelly bread. Oh well, there are more plums on the tree and I can try again if I am inclined to go through the process one more time. The bottom line is that they like it and they seem to. I have set aside a jar for Jaxon. He is always willing to take jelly as a small gift from grandma, so the next time I see him it is coming his way.

The other two projects were with zucchini. Paulina is always complaining about never getting any zucchini cake. She loves my recipe for chocolate zucchini sheet cake, which really is just right for a 9X12 pan. It starts with the standard zucchini opener: 3 eggs, 2 cups sugar and 1 cup of oil. Beat that while mixing the dry ingredients: 2 1/2 cups of flour, 1/4 cup of baking cocoa, 1 teaspoon of soda, 1/4 of salt and baking powder. I add about half of this and it gets pretty thick so then I add the 1 tablespoon of vanilla, 1/2 cup of milk and the 2 cups of shredded zucchini before I put in the rest of the dry ingredients. As I am typing this, I sort of think that I might have forgotten the vanilla today. I will have to find out from Paulina if it tastes ok. I also made a batch of zucchini bread. It was the kind with cinnamon in it that comes from our community’s Centennial cook book. Jaxon calls that cookie bread. It makes two large loaves, or at our house it is one large and three miniature loaves. I kept two of the small ones and sent one to Elisabeth and the large one to Jessica. I hope everyone enjoys their treats.

Digging in the garden

Potatoes

James and Paulina took a little time while I was making the jelly and the zucchini items to dig potatoes in the garden. Hurrah!! We sent a few of the baking sized potatoes to Jessica along with some cucumbers. I love being able to send little care packages from the garden. I just wish I were able to do it more often. We are finally maybe seeing that the tomatoes might ripen and then we will some of them to share also. So far the only things producing are cucumbers, zucchini, beans and a few beets, except for now the potatoes will also be ready to dig. James said what they did today was about 25 percent of what is there. I guess there will be a few nights in the garden after school this week or maybe even next weekend. I was impressed by the size of some of the larger ones. He thought it was quite odd that in the best soil the plants had larger potatoes, but very few. In the poorer soil there were lots of potatoes, but all were small. A few had to be tossed because something was eating on them. I guess the sooner they are out the better.

In the middle of the baking and before the garden digging, Paulina made the hamburger-rice and green bean hot dish that she loves. We had that for lunch with fresh corn on the cob from the corn that my sister Adie dropped off last night, yummy!! There was just enough of the hot dish left for Paulina to take back to college for a midnight snack. She and Katie commented that this year the cafeteria seems to be much busier than in the past. They are still trying to figure if the enrollment is up or if it is just that everyone seems to be on the same schedule. They are thinking of dropping to the lowest food plan and doing more cooking on their own if and when they finally get into the apartment housing that they signed up for. Currently their floor is under construction and they are hoping to be in place later this week or next.

So, that is all for my Labor Day 2017. If you want to read about the Labor Day when we watched the outdoor movie and had a bigger bash, you will have to find the post from early September of 2013, I can’t believe it was that long ago. Hope you all had a great weekend!!

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.

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