Sunday, October 31, 2010

Plain Old White Bread

Now I know it has been a while since I made plain old white bread because Michelle said, "So what is the point of that?" I told her she would see the point when it was done .... and she did.
So this is plain old white bread from the Betty Crocker recipe:

Pumpkin Cake

I have not made a homemade cake in a pretty long time and I was really surprised at how soft the frosting was, not in a good way, it was too soft really, hard to cover the cake and the black that I bought in the little tube ($3.76--never again!) was actually liquidy at first. When I made a pumpkin cake when the kids were little, it came out a lot better than this one but I had more to work with then (I believe I have thown away my cake decorating stuff, I can't find it anyway, what I wouldn't give to have my grandmothers stuff again).
Anyway, this will have to be good enough.

By the way, this is not actually pumpkin cake. They didn't have any box mixes of that. This is carrot cake with cream cheese frosting.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Dipping Candles

 The problem with jar candles and pillar candles is that the wick burns down through the center of the candle, its flame diminishes and the only light you get is above the candle. They just aren't real useful if you really need actual light from them. Dipped or tapered candles will be much more useful in an emergency situation. They are easy to make although the process can be a bit tedious.

My dipping can is an old spaghetti sauce can which I have put in a pan that has a few inches of water in it. The wax I have in there are all just old candle wax; edges of pillar candles or small stubs from tapers. Cook it until all the wax melts. This will take a while. Even after you think it has all melted, upon stirring you will find more lumps; be patient.

It would be really nice to have a stand to set my candles on for dripping but some boxes and chop sticks will do. Tie a wick to each stick.

When the wax is completely melted, you start your dipping. Dip each string one at a time and set it back on the "rack/boxes".  After they cool a second straighten them slightly and dip again.

Keep dipping.
From time to time you will have to turn off the stove because if the wax gets too hot it the layers it puts on the candles will be very very thin. You will also have to trim the bottoms of the candle because the drips stay on the bottom and if you are making the candles the size of your wax can, like I was today, if you don't trim the drips off the bottoms your candles will get thinner and thinner at the tops.

Keep dipping.

Keep dipping.

Eventually you will have the candles the thickness that you want. Leave them to cool. Then untie them and cut the wicks.

There you have it. Perfectly good candles for the cost of some wick, that will burn great this winter when the power will inevitably go out.

Friday, October 22, 2010

What To Do With Bananas

Because I can buy bananas here marked down to $1.49 for a whole bag, I have several recipes that I use so that I can use up the bananas before they go bad.  If these recipes do not finish off the bag, I just mash the bananas, add a little lemon juice and freeze them in 1 cup bags and save for later use.
Banana bread is an easy one to make. I have tried several recipes but we really just like the standard one from my Betty Crocker Cookbook:

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup margarine or butter, softened
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup mashed ripe bananas
1/3 cup water
1 2/3 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup chopped nuts

I seldom add the nuts and I basically just mix all the ingredients together; grease the bottom of the loaf pan; pour in the batter and bake for 1 hour (350 degrees).
The bread in the picture above was made with my " mistake" banana butter . I made a double batch and just added two jars of the banana butter in place of the bananas and sugar. The bread didn't really taste any different than it normally does.

Here are a few more recipes you can make with your extra bananas:

Banana Cookies

2 1/4 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup shortening
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp lemon extract (I never have this. I add a little lemon juice)
3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup ground walnut (I never add walnuts, since Phil hates them)

Preheat oven 350 degrees. Lightly grease or line baking sheets with parchment paper. In large bowl cream shortening and sugar. Beat in eggs, vanilla and lemon extract.  Beat in bananas and nuts. Gradually add flour, baking powder and salt. Drop by spoonfulls onto cookie sheet. Bake 12-15 minutes.

Here is a recipe that I just found in our local newspaper yesterday. I am going to try this one as soon as the banana bread is gone.

Banana Breakfast Coffee Cake


1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup finely chopped walnuts


2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup mashed bananas
1/3 cup 2 percent reduced-fat milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9 inch pan.

Combine ingredients except walnuts in food processor and process until resembles fine crumbs, stir in walnuts.

Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg and salt in medium bowl.

Beat butter with mixer at medium speed about 30 seconds until smooth. Gradually add sugar and beat 3 to 4 minutes until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each. Add vanilla and bananas and beat well until well blended. Add flour mixture alternately with milk, mixing after each addition only until smooth. Pour batter into prepared pan; sprinkle with topping.
Bake about 35 minutes, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack.

Banana Smoothie

This recipe has no measured out ingredients. You put several bananas in the blender, add whatever other fruit you have. We really like strawberries with ours. Add milk and a little sugar if you wish. Add some ice cubes. Blend until smooth.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Banana Butter Part 2

Let's start with the recipe this time:

3 cups mashed bananas
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup minced maroschino cherries
6 1/2 cups sugar
1 bottle liquid pectin

Put sugar, lemon juice, cherries and bananas in a pan. Bring to rolling boil and boil hard 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in pectin. Mix well. Put in jars. Boiling-water-bath 10 minutes (pints).

So I made it right today with the liquid pectin and it didn't separate this time. So the moral of this story is: never use powdered pectin when making banana butter.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Crockpot Chicken and Rice

I have never made chicken and rice but today I did sort of by accident. I had some chicken in the freezer(leg quarters) that really had been there a while and needed to be used up. I work evenings so needed it to go in the crockpot.
I started by putting the chicken in, then adding a package of Good Seasons Italian dressing, 1/4 to 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar and enough water to cover the chicken. I then got looking around the cupboards and found two cans of tomato soup and a can of whole tomatoes. I added these and left my daughter with instructions to put two boil-in-bag rice in right before Phil got home. He cut open the bags when he got here.
It is wonderful. The italian dressing adds a nice light tang to the tomato which is great.

So here is the recipe written up right:

Crockpot Chicken and Rice

3 leg quarters
1 package Good Seasons Italian Dressing
1/4 to 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
2 cans tomato soup
1 can whole tomatoes

2 bags boil-in-bag rice

Put the first 5 ingredients in the crockpot. Cook on high for 4-5 hours, push the bags of rice down in the liquid, cook until rice is done.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Banana Butter Part 1

So I haven't made banana butter in a long time but got a good deal on bananas and thought I would make some. Picked up the maroschino cherries but forgot that it used liquid pectin. Oh well, I have some powdered pectin at home, I'll just use that. I never before used the 6 1/2 cups sugar that the recipe called for, I always used 5 cups and it was plenty sweet enough.
Looks fine in the pan.

Not so fine in the jars.
This picture was taken the next day after the second try to can it. Yes, it still separated. Never seen banana butter do that before but then I never used powdered pectin to make it. Lesson learned. Oh, it won't go to waste. It still smells and tastes just like banana butter just has an odd texture. I will use it in banana bread and waffles or something.
So stay tuned for part two where I make banana butter the right way.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The $30 Dryer!

Yesterday there were a few yard sales in town and one was just a couple lots down from one of the stores I stopped at so I walked down to see what they had. There were 3 families with tables. It was mostly baby stuff but I got a few toys for my grandbaby and some books and then as I was leaving a paper on one of the tables caught my eye. It said, "Dryer $40".  Ok, that stopped me and had my mind frantically racing to try to figure out how I could get a dryer home (I drive a Cavalier).  I thought maybe I could get my brother to help if he wasn't busy so I stopped and asked about the dryer, how it worked et cetera and got the people's phone number in case I could find a way to get the dryer before they sold it. Then the lady says to me,"We have $40 on the paper but we'll take $30"--just a little more incentive! So I rush around doing shopping; get home; (I don't have a cell phone, by the way) call Phil and he says get it if I can find a way. Call my brother and he says he is in town and is just getting off work and can come right over and pick it up. Call the people back and THEY STILL HAVE THE DRYER! My brother and I meet them in town and bring the dryer home. When Phil comes home later he and I carry the old dryer out (to add to the collection of dryers and washers in the back yard, sigh) and carry the new dryer all the way around the house and up the back steps into the laundry room. Michelle had already washed a load of clothes and when we tried out the dryer it worked beautifully.
Some days are just good, you know what I mean?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Oh No! Not A Clothesline!

My children are so spoiled. Yesterday the dryer broke, just quit working and my daughter looked at me and said, "So what are we going to do?" I think I gave her one of those "duh" looks. I said, ''We're going to use the clothesline, of course." She gave me one of those "icky" looks. "The clothesline leaves the jeans and towels all stiff," she said. I told her she might as well get used to it until Phil has a chance to look at the dryer because it wasn't getting fixed until he did.
When my daughter-in-law, who lives with us, heard. She said she would just hang hers to dry in her room (God forbid if any sunshine or fresh air ever touch her clothes!).
I, who grew up never having seen a dryer and never had one through the whole 10 years of my first marriage, am just amazed that these children think they can't do without one.
How in the world are they going to ever get through any real hardships?

Just an Update

Just wanted to put in a little update here. The garlic bulbils I planted are now just starting to sprout. I had to move them out of the greenhouse to a sunnier spot. No my greenhouse does not sit right in the sun. During the winter when the leaves are off the trees it is plenty sunny but in the summer when it is so hot here in Georgia, the leaves shade it and this works out pretty well, however the leaves haven't fallen this year so the bulbils had to come out.
In the raised bed the free lettuce seeds I planted have come up and look really good. For such a small amount of seed, they did well. I also see some peas coming up but no kale. I have not ever had much luck sowing kale seed right in the ground anyway. Mine seem to do better if I start them in pots. Oh well, we'll see.
At work yesterday one of our parents brought in two big mums and our unit director gave them to me. I am quite pleased as I would never pay what they want for them in the stores.I planted them in the front flower garden.

However, I did buy these little ones for $.50 each and planted them in this planter behind the mailbox.
The broccoli and cabbage are also doing well. Not growing quite as fast as I would like them to but doing well all the same. Please excuse the tangle of tomato vines behind them.

I am also cannning the last of the potatoes that I got in sale today. Just 4 more quarts and they will all be done. 

Friday, October 8, 2010

Christmas Potpourri Jars

This was another project I did today. You will need any type of jar with an lip around the top. I found these jars at the Dollar Tree. A doily--also at the Dollar Tree but, of course, you could crochet your own. Potpourri. A set of lights--I have a set of 20 white lights. Anything that you think you might want to decorate the neck of the jar with--lace, ribbon etc. And a glue gun.

Start by putting a little potpourri in the bottom of the jar, then add some of the lights trying to push them towards the sides, then a little more potpourri, then more lights etc. until you have all your lights in and your jar is filled almost to the top with potpourri on top.
Now you need to center your doily on top of the jar and glue it all around with your glue gun.
Now all there is to do is to glue on lace, ribbons or whatever you want and plug it in.

As the potpourri gets warmed by the lights it will smell wonderful. Please keep in mind however, that if left plugged in too long the jar and potpourri can get very hot. Do not leave unattended and do not pick up the jar after it has been on a while without using an oven mitt to protect your hand. 

No So Pumkinny Pumpkin Cans

I saw this cute idea to make out of tin cans in our local newspaper. Apparently they had tougher cans than I did for my first try. I do intend to try again with any larger cans that I can find.
You take your can and draw your face on it:

Then get out your hammer and nail and start making your holes:
As you can see, here is where I rean into the problem. The cans aren't real sturdy anymore and it bent a lot so that I had to bend it back constantly.

Next paint your can orange, let it dry and then clean the paint out of your holes again. Add a little ribbon handle.

This may look a lot better in the dark with a light in it. I just don't have my lights yet. 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

When my kids were younger and we were still doing the jack o'lanterns one of the best things about it was that there would be a snack with it because we would roast the seeds. We eventually tried different flavors and one of our favorites was just to melt a few teaspoons butter, put that in the bowl of cleaned seeds, then add a good healthy sprinkling of garlic powder and several shakes from the salt shaker. Roast them at 350 degrees until they are lightly brown turning them once. Then another sprinkling of salt.

Here are some other variations I found in our local paper. Perhaps we will try one of these next time.

Mole Spiced

Add these ingredients to your seeds before roasting:

3 T. brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
3 T. cocoa
1 T. finely ground coffee(not instant)
2 T butter, melted
1/2 tsp. coarse salt

Sweet and Salty

2 T. melted butter
3 T. brown sugar
1/2 tsp. coarse salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Spicy Herbed

1 T. chipotle chili powder
1/2 T. onion powder
2 T. sesame oil
1 T. dried parsley
1/2 tsp. coarse salt

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Is It Spring Yet?

Ok, so I know it is coming into winter and not anywhere close to spring but I just have this need to plant things.  The broccoli and cabbage are doing great in the lower garden but there's the raised bed was with its new (slightly crooked) fence around it, empty.
I had gotten some free lettuce seeds from the eBay seller that I got my tomato and pepper seeds from. It was such a small amount though so it needed a small bed and then there were some old pea seeds in the drawer. They might not grow. I have never planted them in the fall but they certainly weren't growing anything in the drawer. And I had lots of red Russian kale seeds that I just bought.
So that is what went into the raised bed today. Maybe we can harvest something before the first frost or maybe I will just throw some plastic over the whole thing until we do. I don't know but I feel better for having planted that bed anyway.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Getting Things Done

This week I have been trying to get more done outside as well as inside. The temperatures are beautiful and in the 70's so it is a perfect time to get things done without sweating.
This was my raised bed last year. It did great with some lettuce, kale and onions. This year it was a barren wasteland because I let the ducks out to forage each day and hadn't done anything with the raised bed. Today I decided to remedy that. I cut some small posts from some mimosa trees (very straight hard wood) and pounded them into the ground on each corner of the raised bed and then surrounded it all with chicken wire so the bed will once more be useable (as long as the chickens don't take it upon themselves to fly over it).
This was just one project that I got done before work today. The other was the canning of more potatoes--8 quarts to be exact.
Yesterday was also a busy day. The fig tree at one end of the house has become completely overgrown too. I went at it with the bucksaw and got all but the largest branch down. That one is leaning over the roof too much and I just didn't dare attempt it by myself.
I also tackled the rose bushes which haven't been pruned for the last couple years, which brought me to the front garden where the 4 o'clocks and morning glories had been trampled by the loose chickens, so I cut the bed all back, found where the chickens had thrown the solar lights and got them put back together.
The chickens themselves were another issue. When we had so many problems with the racoon, I had let several of the chickens go because they did not get killed in where they perched in the trees at night. Now that the racoons are gone, the chickens needed to be penned again. I managed to get most of the bantams in the pen and one of the larger roosters and a brown hen that has been loose forever. The rest will have to be caught one by one and put back in so that they will stop tearing up things in the yard. I especially want them in before next spring when I plan on planting again.
My "to do" list is long but I am making progress.

The Tablecloth

Here is my tablecloth. Isn't it pretty? The sides are scalloped..well except one side. I got both these clothes at a yard sale. I didn't know that I would use either of them for tableclothes when I got them. The red one the lady said was new and had never been used. It didn't have a single stain or mark on it and I felt $2 was a fair price. I didn't know as I would like the red on the table but it was red cloth and Christmas is right around the corner and I might need it for something.
At our house no one ever throws anything away without asking me and a lot of the time I have to say,"No, we'll keep that. We might need it for ...something."
The lacy top I got for a quarter. I got it for a quarter because it is actually a curtain that did not have a matching half. It was only after I got it home and put the red cloth on the table that I realized how pretty it would look with the curtain on top. No one would ever know it was a curtain, unless I told them but I am not too worried about what people think so I tell them, and I also am proud to have such a pretty tablecloth for just $2.25, and I tell them that too.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Colony

At one time I thought "preparedness" meant you stored a whole bunch of food but my thought was that if your emergency lasted any amount of time, you would be better off learning how to produce that food instead of storing food because when you ran out of your stores, you would need to know how to do without them or produce your own. I still believe that this is true but a recent post on the forum ,"The Colony" post, has taught me a lot.
Our scenerio in our Colony post was really basic, all the food was poisoned and you couldn't buy anymore. We are going day by day on what we think would happen to our family. Immediately we all realized that we didn't have enough of anything stored.
I think sometimes people fool themselves about how prepared they are for any disaster. I don't know how many times I have heard people say, "Well, we have the garden and the chickens so we would be alright." Are you kidding me? Unless that garden is an acre and those chickens are large enough to be meat birds and can brood and hatch their own (and you can live without meat until they do), you don't have a decent source of food. You might be slightly better than a person without chickens but not by much.
What our Colony post did was made us realize that we could survive but we would survive a lot better if we had certain things stored. For weeks now this has changed my whole way of shopping. Stocking up on necessities has become so much more important.
Not everyone will have the same list of necessities. It all depends on your situation. I have always had kerosene lamps and candles stored because we have lost power during the winter several times for a couple days each time and I know I will need these. I did not have to add these to the things I needed to store, however I didn't have a good supply of matches or lighters. None of us smoke so we just hadn't had a lot of need for these.

Food is, of course, on everyones list and we had quite a bit but there were some things that our house would be lacking if we couldn't get to the store each week. I had to stock up on more flour, sugar and salt to name a few. I got a really good deal on coffee so there are 5 of those large cans stuffed up in that cupboard.
Canning jar lids was one of the first things that came up in our "Colony" posts on the forum. I kept very few extra in the house so for several weeks now I have been buying extra each week.
Yeast and having a working sourdough starter became extremely important again, along with baking powder and baking soda. How could you bake anything without these?

The Colony post has shown m a lot of other things that our house was lacking in: soap, shampoo, vinegar, vitatmins, toilet paper.. all sorts of things that we might need that we hardly had a weeks worth of stored.
As our Colony game goes along we are still finding things to store and learn how to do or make, so if you want to see where you are lacking as far as preparedness goes, come play Colony with us or just play it by yourself. Write your own Colony post for each day and see how well you do.

You can see our Colony post here: