Sunday, March 22, 2015

Ribbed Cast On

A new-to-me cast on that is perfect for my socks and mitten knitting. What a wonderful tutorial for a fantastic ribbing!!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Blue Ribbon Canning by Linda J. Amendt

Blue Ribbon Canning
Award-Winning Recipes
Author: Linda J. Amendt
Publisher: Taunton Press
Pub Date: Apr 28 2015
ISBN: 9781627107693
Paperback: 272 pages

About the Book:
Blue Ribbon Canning takes readers on a canning journey and celebrates two American traditions--preserved food and state fairs--with more than 140 prize-winning recipes for jams, preserves, pickles, vegetables, fruit, and more, plus tips and methods for making delicious--and safe--blue ribbon recipes at home.
My Thoughts:

When one hears mention of canning and preserving, for many it seems to have a connection with older women or someone's grandmother and days gone by. I have been told that canning is going out of style. Why should one work so hard to produce things that could be purchased in the store for close to the same cost to possibly even cheaper than it can be made?!

Blue Ribbon Canning answers that question with the delicious recipes that are provided in this gorgeous book. These are award winning recipes from fair and competition winners and will be winners on anyone's table! Believe me, there is nothing that comes close to the taste of home canned food and preserves. Remember when you thought no one cooks like Grandma? It's true. You can't get these great tasting foods from the grocery store. It just doesn't happen.

Perfect for the newbie as well as the seasoned canner, this beautifully photographed book will delight the eyes while making the mouth water as one tries to find the perfect recipe to start with. There are so many to choose from ranging from the everyday Strawberry Jam to some of the more unusual recipes like Eggplant Caponata and Georgia Peach and Basil Preserves.

The book is well written with clear and concise instructions. It has canning safety information and USDA recommendations and seems to have food safety well covered. I love the stories of the blue ribbon winners that have been included throughout the book and especially love the serving suggestions that are included with the recipes. It's nice knowing how to use these more unusual recipes once you've put them up. At the end of the book are secrets for canning for competition for those that want to "show off" their talents.

This is a wonderful book that would be a well-used addition to any canning library. Make sure to add it to your must haves - you won't be sorry that you did!!

I received a copy of this book from NetGalley courtesy of the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review, but instead, one that gives my honest opinion.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Rooting Roses

I have been successful rooting roses from bouquets in the past, but for some reason, I never thought of doing this with the $2 roses I bought until a couple of days ago. The roses themselves were past their prime, so I'm not sure if they will successfully root or not. I really have nothing to lose except for some soil, a little rooting hormone and time.

I took the roses and cut off the bottoms of the stem at an angle just under a leaf bud. I made sure to remove the woody part and am using only the younger green part of the stem. The next step is to remove the flower down to a leaf bud and then to trim from 1/3 to 1/2 of the leaves that are left off.

Dip the bottom in root hormone then put this stem in potting soil. There are two ways to do that - first is to put just a small amount of soil in the bottom, put the stem in and fill in around it or you can put the soil in first, poke a hole with a chopstick or dowel and put the stem in being careful not to brush the hormone off when inserting the stem. Some people say not to use soil, but instead use soaked perlite, then fill the container with water. Others say to just use water to root the plant in. I didn't have perlite on hand, so I opted the soil method.

Since roots aren't happy in light, I covered my container (the one from my amaryllis purchase after Christmas) at soil level with brown paper to keep the light out. I then inserted the whole container in a 1-1/2 gallon Ziploc bag, misted it some and then zipped it half way closed to allow for humidity retention but also allow for air circulation. I put them in the brightest window in the house and they will need to be kept warm - the way roses like it. In 6-8 weeks we will see if the roses survived and any sent out roots. I'm not sure how this is going to work with spent roses. I did crowd all 12 branches in the container, as I'm not expecting them all to live. Some say only expect half to root, and since my roses were spent, I'll be happy with just getting one! Keeping my fingers crossed.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Chicken Bone Broth, Bone "Meal" & Kitty Food

I've been collecting chicken bones from both legs and thighs - both after being cooked or when I debone the thighs before cooking. I have been putting them in a Ziploc in the freezer and finally got a full enough bag to make some bone broth.

I put all the bones in a crockpot and then poured enough water over them to cover. I added an onion, a couple of sticks of celery plus leaves, a couple of carrots and a few spices: garlic powder, salt, pepper, a bay leaf and a little poultry seasoning. I also added a little vinegar to draw out some of the calcium out of the bones and cooked it on low for a good 12 hours.

The house smelled so good, but the best part was straining the broth and a sample taste to make sure it was seasoned correctly. OOOOHHH! Every time I make some of this, I can't help but to think back to my grandmother's chicken soup. She made the most yummy soup with celery, onions and carrots and poured it over her homemade Lane Kluski (Polish poured noodles). I never learned how to make it the way she did, but my broth is about as close as I'm probably ever going to get.

After straining and cooling the broth, I put it to chill and will remove the fat layer that forms on the top. My broth will be quite like jello and will need to be reheated to either can or make chicken soup with. I haven't decided what to do with it yet. Everyone here is now begging for soup since it smelled so good when it was cooking.

The bones I used - especially the ones I deboned, still had some meat on, so I took all the meat scraps, a little of the carrots, celery and onion and put that in my mini food processor and ground it up, rolled it into serving sized balls and made some homemade kitty food. My cat goes NUTS over this stuff! They were flash frozen and then put in a Ziploc to store in the freezer for future use.

The bones were soft and easy to break, so they were broken up in small pieces to add to the compost - not exactly bone meal, but will easily break down since they are broken up into pieces. These will help increase the calcium and give other nutrients to the garden. The rest of the veggies that didn't go in the cat food also went into the compost. Nothing was wasted except for the skin and the fat from the raw chicken. I didn't use that but should probably look up how to use that as well so I don't waste anything from the chicken.

Chicken thighs run $0.99 a pound here. I bought a 3.81 pound package and after removing the skin, most of the fat and bone, I ended up with 2.25 pounds of chicken. I had about $1.25 of waste. By making the broth and kitty food plus the bone "meal", that waste which normally would have been thrown out, became something delicious and useful (except for the skin and fat, that is).

The Self Sufficient HomeAcre
Homeacre Hop #109

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Long Week & a Finish

It has been a very long week here. My husband was in a tremendous amount of back pain but didn't know what triggered it. He was unable to walk, sit or stand and could only lay in one position for some relief. After a trip to the Dr. and then a referral to a physical therapist that wouldn't treat him but sent him to the ER - we found out that he has a couple of herniated disks. That then took us to the orthopedic clinic where he found that his disk is pushing on a nerve. Right now, he is trying the least invasive treatment, but it doesn't seem to be working. Next up will be steroid shots and then disk surgery if that doesn't work. It amazes me that he went from being happy and normal to now using a walker and unable to stand for more than a minute or two.

Not much has been done here at home - just the minute trivialities of homemaking. I did take a little time last night while my husband was sleeping to make a dishcloth. This photo was taken right after it came off the needles and is not washed or pressed. It was an easy pattern and can be found on the Knitting Knonsense website along with other letters and numbers.

I have another cloth on the needles that should be finished soon. There's something about knitting that seems to calm and soothe me. Guess it's cheap (and well needed) therapy :)

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Frugal Valentine's

Every year since the time we met, my husband gives me a single rose for both Valentine's Day and on our anniversary. He has been creative with giving the roses - especially on our anniversary. Not all of them were alive or single long stem roses. In the past, I've received a necklace, pin, water globe containing a real rose, a Capodimonte rose, a rose plant, etc. Usually though, Valentine's Day brings a single long stemmed rose. This year, he gave me a chocolate one!

Valentine's gifts have always been so expensive, and when we were first married, hubby used to feel badly about not being able to afford a nice gift. I soon talked him out of seeing things that way by showing him just how wonderful it could be the day after. Everything is marked down at least 50% and really, what's one day? We started hitting the sales the day after and even stocked up on our chocolate for a few months. So many times you can find other things - not just the overpriced boxed hearts, but things like Hershey Kisses, Snickers, Reese's, etc. as well as baking items and even apparel. I've come home with some really nice sleep pants and t-shirts at a huge savings - just because they had hearts on them or were marketed for Valentine's Day!

This year, I got to the store later than I wanted to, but still found a few good deals. I picked up 7 bags of Hershey Kisses at $1.44 each, 1 bag of Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate strawberry filled squares and a couple of Brookside Dark Chocolate Pomegranate and Brookside Dark Chocolate Acai each at $1.50.  All roses - actually all cut flowers were marked down and I ended up bringing home a dozed peach colored roses for $2. They look gorgeous displayed in the glass holder that my after Christmas purchase of the 98 cent Amaryllis was housed in.

Remember, being frugal does not mean you have to give up the finer things in life - it just means you know when to purchase them.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

A Good Day for Onion Soup

The wind and snow today made for some interesting whiteout conditions. I went outside to take this photo and found it almost impossible to breathe with the wind and snow hitting me hard in the face. We are under wind chill warnings until Monday with gusts of wind up to 50 mph. That makes for some interesting sounds here in the house! Plus I really have to  feel sorry for the poor birds. They were hitting the feeders hard today and when I went out, I saw one trying desperately to hold on to the feeder and eat. What a harsh life they lead!

One can no longer see anything out the windows. We don't have storm windows, just screens on them and the screens are plastered with snow and the window is spattered with what made it through.

With all that snow and wind going on outside, it seemed like a great day for some French Onion Soup. Nothing warms the soul like a good hot bowl of soup - and it feels like the soul needs a lot of warming today!

Onion Soup is both quick and simple to make. You slice up some onions and sweat them in butter. This makes them soft and sweet  - no matter how "hot" they were when you started.

Then you add some broth, Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper if you desire. Top it with toasted French bread or croutons and Provolone cheese and it's ready to eat!

French Onion Soup

6 to 7 cups thinly sliced onions
1/4 cup butter
32 ounces beef broth (I used Emeril's Organic)
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
Salt & pepper (optional)
French bread or Croutons
Provolone Cheese

Sweat the onions in butter over medium heat for about 20 minutes or until the onions are soft. Add the broth, Worcestershire sauce, and salt and pepper to taste. Heat to boiling. Serve in bowls with toasted bread or croutons floated on the soup. Put a slice of Provolone cheese on top of bread. If desired, you can heat under a broiler to melt the cheese, but if you do so, make sure you use broiler safe bowls.