Thursday, March 21, 2019

Time Flies When You're Having Fun


It seems like it's been forever since I posted. That might be because it kind of has been. I have been up and down highways so many times. Down the interstate to see Little Sister sing a solo in the church play. Up the highway—and up a mountain—for a knitting retreat in the neighboring state. And I leave tomorrow to head back down the highway to celebrate two birthdays.

With all the coming and going, we have mostly eaten out of the freezer And it's been good to use things up. If you are a regular here, you know that I love keeping a well-stocked freezer. But sometimes we have to remember to use up the food stash before it has lingered in the freezer too long.

Are there rules for how long to keep frozen foods? Yes. I'm linking a couple of reliable resources if you want to learn more.



A huge part of how long foods can be frozen is related to how well you store those foods in the freezer. Proper packaging is so important. "Freezer burn" can ruin food and it's caused by the freezing process sucking the moisture out of the food. Freezer burn won't make you sick. But the food isn't going to taste as good.

Food should be wrapped air-tight with a freezer appropriate wrap or bag. Use the FREEZER bags, not the storage bags. Use HEAVY-DUTY foil and not regular. Two layers of regular foil do not work as well as one layer of heavy-duty. The freezer products are thicker and made to prevent that moisture loss that causes freezer burn.

Your freezer should stay at 0º. Use a thermometer to check. If you get really picky, a non-self-defrosting freezer is the better choice because self-defrosting freezer are constantly thawing and freezing. It's that cycle that keeps the frost away. I've had the old-style freezer. I'm going to stick with my current frost-free version and live with the consequences. Defrosting a freezer is not fun. Seriously, I have not had a problem. It might be that using the foods up fast enough is the solution.

So, what have we eaten up in the last few weeks?

Chicken Taco Soup
Turkey Pumpkin Chili
Salsa Chicken
3-Packet Pot Roast
Stew Beef
Swiss Beef
Hot Dog Chili
Spaghetti Sauce
Baked Ziti
Bourbon Marinated Pork Tenderloin
Applesauce Muffins
Cinnamon Rolls

Foods, like soups and stews and saucy recipes, are good freezer choices because that extra liquid helps prevent freezer burn. Some casseroles freeze well. We have learned which ones we like. Baked goods freeze well, but they won't keep as long as meats and casseroles. Again--freezing longer won't make you sick, but the quality won't be as good.

When we get home from this trip, it will be time for me to replenish the freezer. I don't do the big freezer cooking sessions that are so popular. (Google if you want to know more.) Since there are only two of us here, I make my regular recipes...sometimes I might double one...and divide it into meal size portions. Or, even single serve portions. Then Daddy-O can grab and thaw something when I'm away.

Now I'm headed to the kitchen to bake a birthday cake. And next week I'll start cooking again. Daddy-O will be happy.

This week's super moon shining on our barn.






Tuesday, March 12, 2019

I Wish I Could Thank You...


Let me take a minute to tell those of you who take time to make a comment here on the blog how much I enjoy reading them. For a long time I replied to each one. But for computer-y reasons I don't understand—or internet reasons which I understand even less—I can no longer reply to a comment. I've tried to do in all the ways possible. Rest assured each of your comments is read and appreciated even when you don't get a direct reply.

To the most recent commenters...Barb, I love hearing from you. I feel like I know you now. Chloe, I'm happy the pork chop recipe worked out well for you. We've used that one for ages. And GoodnightGram, I read your blog and know you are one busy lady. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your wisdom. Angela, where we live, one hour of falling snow counts as a snow storm! And Jane, this hat is so cute on a newborn head! I've made dozens of them.

There are other readers who let me hear from them by email and texts. And some locals will tell me in person when they've tried a good recipe from here. And if you only read and never comment that's okay, too. It's all good.

Some of you have told me that you've found it hard to make a comment here. I've searched all over the web to find out why. I've changed a few settings, but I'm not sure that made any difference. But I did try. There might be a more efficient blogging platform available, but I'm old and not sure I have the wherewithal to start this whole thing over in a new place.

Let me toss in a few other blog thoughts while we are on the subject....one thing I would love to have here is a "print" button for the recipes. But "cut & paste & print" will have to do for now. Not fancy but it works. The coding to add a print button is more than I can handle. Maybe you have noticed there are no ads here. Nothing popping up in your face. No affiliate links. I don't make money from blogging. I do this because I enjoy it. Let's put it this way...I'm embracing simplicity!

Maybe one day the blog platform will flip back over to the way it was. (I've lost some other tools, too.) But until then please accept this as a blanket reply and a big thanks to all of you for reading and sharing your thoughts!







Friday, March 8, 2019

On & Off The Needles


Pattern:  Herald, by Janina Kallio
Yarn: BlueberryChickYarn Kiawah Fingering
Needle size: 7

One of the "beach girls" said last week that our beach retreat had turned into a knitting retreat. There is some truth to that because everyone knitted somewhere during the week. I took this shawl with me for easy knitting and finished it soon after I got home. I plan to take it with me next week on a mountain knitting retreat. To provide a little pre-retreat group activity, we were all invited to make something green that we will wear for a group photo while we are there. Something green because this retreat ends on St. Patrick's Day.

I'm pretending it's summer. It's cold outside!

I won this hand dyed green yarn last year at another retreat. So the shawl will be a lovely souvenir of both retreats and of knitting time at the beach. When this shawl was finished, it blocked out light and airy and large enough (nearly 70 inches across) to wrap around my shoulder. I'm ready for summer. 


Earlier this week, I picked up my phone when it whistled. The text message read, "Mom, do you happen to have any baby hats ready? I'm going to a baby shower soon." I did have one ready, but I also have a baby shower on my calendar. These sweet hats are quick and easy, so I cast on another one for her. And almost immediately I decided I didn't like the color. Silly me kept knitting away thinking I'd like it better as I went along. Hoping the blotchy appearance was going to change. (What was I thinking?) After knitting four rows, I was sure I didn't like it. But in the knitting fantasy going on my head, I kept waiting for the colors to turn into softly blended shades of gray. Not gonna happen.  

I grew up thinking that "you finish what you start." That applied to books, food on my dinner plate, movies, classes, bottles of salad dressing. Anything. Everything. Even if I didn't like it. It's that waste not, want not philosophy that my parents taught us. That's not a bad thing, but at my age, I'm rethinking it. Do I really want to spend my time reading the rest of a book that I'm not enjoying? Or finishing a salad dressing that isn't a flavor I like? Just because I bought it. Or, in this case, knitting something that isn't knitting up like I hoped? I don't want to be wasteful, but my time is valuable, too. More valuable than a skein of yarn.


Finally I was honest with myself. Honest after four inches. I should have been honest after four rows. And last night I pulled out a nice solid blue yarn and whipped out a traditional baby boy hat. In time to deliver to Jessica this weekend. The half-done hat and three more skeins of this gray tonal yarn are going into my "donate" box. It might be a real treasure for someone to find at the thrift shop.


And while I was in hat mode, I cast on another hat in a deep denim blue. I grew up in the era of pastel blues and pinks for babies but I think this will be a fun baby choice. The next time I get a call for a baby hat, I'll have one ready to finish in no time. And that baby will probably be a girl!


Now this afternoon I can get back to my regular knitting. This one is Piper's Journey in a bright green alpaca yarn with the color name "Bells of Ireland." I didn't know this was the color name when I bought it, but I think it's a sign. I'm getting ready for my knitting trip to Ireland! The countdown is now in weeks, not months.


PS...here is the link to the baby hat that I've made dozens of times.










Saturday, March 2, 2019

Friendship


I got home last night from the annual "beach girls" trip. We qualify for the term "girls" only by gender, no longer by age. But "beach girls" we shall be forever. Trips like this are how friendships move from casual and to close to dear. Early morning quiet conversations in pajamas with a cup of coffee in hand give us opportunities to share. Truths are easier to speak without the filters of makeup and jewelry, maybe because we are more vulnerable. 

We are such a mix. We hold different views of the world. Our ages span more than a decade. We have varied backgrounds. Some of us want our food spicy, others like it mild. When we leave the beach house, some of us are decked out in beautifully coordinated outfits while others—like me—throw on a pair of jeans and a turtleneck and declare it enough. We have the good sense to avoid political discussions. And the differences matter not one bit.  

It takes years for bonds like these to grow and deepen. Although I've known a few of these ladies for 40 years, I'm newer to this beach trip mix than some. But they have made me feel like I belong. If you have friends like this, consider yourself blessed. It is nice to be included.  Being "included" is a validation of our worth. Thanks to whoever said years ago, "Let's invite her to come. She might be good company."


A picture of victory.

What do we do in our days away? Besides eat? That seems to be number one on the list. Eating in. Eating out. Snacking in between meals. We end one meal with a conversation about where we will have the next meal. I love it. 

As of this year, we are all knitters. The last non-knitter of this group learned to knit on this trip. Knitting is a great activity for a group. And for binge watching a favorite TV show (800 Words.) The more experienced knitters help the newer ones. We are never too old to learn. 

Why is there a picture of a yarn ball posted above? That is a photo of triumph. I should have made a "before" photo of the tangled mess that it was. It was truly, without a doubt, the biggest, worst, most impossible tangle of yarn I have ever seen. I'm not even sure how it was possible to do that. But not wanting a newer knitter to give up on her first significant project, I volunteered to untangle it. I'll admit I didn't think it would be so hard. I've untangled lots of yarn. But this nearly defeated me. 

About four hours of serious focus and utterances of frustration and maybe some help from the knitting gods, the yarn was useable again. Another beach girl and I got the mess of yarn rewound into a beautiful ball so this newer knitter could start again. This photo is also a picture of patience and perseverance. This is what friends do for each other.

It was a wonderful few days away, but I was happy to wake up in my own bed this morning and have Daddy-O bring me coffee. Life is good.






Saturday, February 23, 2019

Keeping It Easy


Maybe it's all the rain. Days of rain. Weeks of rain. But I've been hit with a big case of inertia. Dreary days. Gloomy skies. It's been hard to get myself in gear.


The river is out of its banks. The pastures are soggy. The big heavy tractor just mires down when Daddy-O goes out every day to feed the cows. But the cows have to eat. And so do we. Even if I'm not in a mood to cook. We could go out for dinner, but that would mean getting out in the cold rain. Cooking at home seemed to be the better option.

So tonight's dinner, which is in the oven now, is one of the very easiest I know. We've been making pork chops and brown rice for years. It's delicious and the aroma from the kitchen is making me hungry. But the very best thing about this recipe is that you can have it oven ready in about 10 minutes...about the time it takes to preheat the oven. Then you can go sit down again.


First, turn the oven to 350 and start preheating it.
Then brown 4 boneless pork chops quickly in a hot skillet. Turn them over and brown the other side.


While the pork chops are browning and the oven is heating, slice an onion and cut a green pepper into strips.


Lightly spray a baking dish with PAM (or lightly oil the dish.) Pour in 1/2 cup of regular white rice.
Pour about half a can of beef consommé over the rice and mix it a little.


Add the browned chops on top of the rice. Top each chop with an onion slice and a couple of pepper trips. Pour the remaining consommé over all. 


Cover the dish and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. That's it!

This recipe has never failed to give me tender, moist pork chops. And since it only uses a half cup of rice, it's not a ridiculous amount for our small household.


Ten minutes of kitchen time and I could go back and sit down and pick up my knitting again. Hard to believe but this inertia has hit my knitting, too. I'd rather set this aside. But this piece has a deadline, so I'll keep at it.


PORK CHOPS & BROWN RICE

1/2 cup regular rice
1 can beef consomme
3 or 4 boneless pork chops
slices of onion and green pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Put rice in a 1-1/2 quart baking dish. Pour most of the consomme over the rice. Brown the pork chops quickly in a hot skillet. Put the chops on the rice, top each with a slice of onion and a couple of pepper strips. Pour the remaining consomme over the chops. Cover and bake at 350 for 1 hour.

I like to let the dish sit, covered, about 10 minutes before serving. 


So let it rain on tonight. Let the river rise. Other parts of the country are having serious and even destructive weather. Ours is just miserable.

We are inside and dry and well fed. And we are thankful. 









Monday, February 18, 2019

Long Weekend With The Littles


This long holiday weekend has been a real "grandmother gig" for few days. As I write, I'm looking at my kitchen table covered with construction paper, felt, blunt tip scissors and glue sticks. And I'm watching small hands "creating" and "crafting" (her words) things for the dollhouse. "I've never crafted in the morning before. I'm still in my nightgown." I've let the smallest grandchild work on her own, with minimal supervision. Yep. Scissors. Glue. Markers. I can clean up when the house is quiet and empty. The girls will "clean" up the big things. I'll finish up later.

It's a grandmother privilege to let them make a huge mess. Understand I'm talking about a creative kind of mess. I keep a good supply of markers and crayons, paper, tape, glue sticks fabric scraps and leftover yarn stashed where they can reach it. And this weekend we've learned to look for things we usually throw away, like bottle caps, and see that upside down, it looks like a dollhouse bowl. For two days we've been on a hunt for tiny trash that can be converted into treasure.


This dollhouse and the critters who inhabit it belonged to their mommy. Who would have thought that 30 years later children are still playing with it? Saturday we made knitting things for the dollhouse mother. All houses have knitting sitting around, don't they? Toothpicks, leftover sock yarn and LOTS of patience and an hour later, we had actual knitting and a knitting basket for the mama bear.


When the dollhouse critters needed to rest, we baked. Both little girls have kitchen skills. This time it was Baby Girl who helped me bake while Little Sister was out on the tractor. Little Sister gets her turn in the kitchen later today helping Mommy bake cookies to leave a treat for Daddy-O when they head home tomorrow.

For generations, our family have been good deed doers. My mother was the best to take food when there was a need. And to make sure no child was cold in the winter. And to make sure people knew someone cared. These little girls are learning to carry on that tradition. Yesterday after church we delivered muffins and a get-well picture to a friend who is home with her foot propped up as it heals.

Applesauce Muffins

Here is this recipe again. These are among our favorite muffins to make. The recipe makes plenty to share. Or, to freeze for later. It's simple enough for little hands to help. The smallest hands can put paper liners in the muffin tins. As they grow, the "help" increases. Baby Girl likes to pour in ingredients. Little Sister can crack an egg like a pro. So far, no one loves cleaning up afterwards. 😊

APPLESAUCE MUFFINS (2 dozen)

1 cup butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups applesauce
4 cups all-purpose flour 
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup of your favorite add-in...diced apple, raisins, or chopped nuts (optional) 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  

In a bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add egg and vanilla and mix well. Stir in applesauce. Combine flour, baking soda and spices. Stir into creamed mixture. Fold in add-in, if using. 

Fill greased muffin cups about 3/4 full. (Or use paper liners.) Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean. 

Cool for 5 minutes and then remove to wire rack. 

Makes 24 muffins.  Pop some in the freezer for later. 



It is going to be very loud silence here when everyone is back at home tomorrow. No more little girls crawling into our laps in the morning. Sleepy eyes and messy hair and little bodies still warm from the bedcovers. Daddy-O gets one girl in his lap. I get the other. I'll miss having the little girls crawl into my bed at night, one on each side of me, to hear bedtime stories before they head to their own beds. Yes, the house will cleaner and quieter. But goodness, it's going to feel empty.









Friday, February 15, 2019

After All The Valentine Candy

Marinated Chicken Thighs

Our little granddaughters arrived last night for a long weekend visit. We had a supper plan, but it was one of those weeks. So many crazy things kept changing my schedule and I never made it to the grocery store. I needed to make dinner from what was in the fridge. I sent a quick text to Jessica and asked her, "What can I make that's quick and easy with a pack of boneless, skinless chicken thighs?" She instantly sent back this recipe and said it was one of their favorites. 

Both daughters have been using some Whole 30 recipes and Jessica said this chicken was from one of her favorites sources of many delicious recipes. My version is NOT Whole 30 because I used my normal pantry ingredients. (Soy sauce instead of coconut aminos.) But it was delicious. And one of the easiest things I'm made in ages. 

I lined my pan with a double layer of foil to make clean up extra easy. 

MARINATED CHICKEN THIGHS
                      ....from Just Jessie B

1 package of boneless, skinless chicken thighs.
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon fresh orange juice (or lemon or lime)
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon onion powder

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line baking sheet with heavy duty foil. (I used a double layer.)
Put all ingredients, except chicken, in a medium bowl and whisk to blend ingredients. Put chicken thighs into marinade and turn to coat. 
Cover and let chicken marinate for 30-60 minutes. (I put it back in the refrigerator for about an hour until I was ready to cook.)
Put chicken on foil-lined baking sheet and roast for 40-45 minutes, or until the edges begin to brown and crisp.


For a side dish, I pulled out every vegetable I had on hand and made a pan of oven roasted vegetables--green beans, carrots, red pepper, potatoes. It was an easy meal and one well suited to follow a day of Valentine parties at school. 

We are not following the Whole 30 plan but I think some of those low-sugar, no-processed-foods recipes might be good to add to my menu plans. I'm all about balance. 

Hats off to Mommy who works to develop good eating habits in her children. So far they have only looked at their Valentine candy. They have guessed what the flavors might be. They studied the shapes. They have talked about when they might eat one. Neither had ever had a heart shaped box fo candy. How much fun I've had watching them NOT eat this rare treat. It's been more like entertainment for them than a goodie. Way to go Mommy!