Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year Pie!!

Well, this year, we got the kids over for New Year's Eve. I served a pork roast, potatoes, leeks and kale and a pie. A pie that I saw on Pinterest. I thought, why not....well, it is yummmmmmy!
You take your pie crust, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar and re-roll it. Then, you slice it like you would for  cinnamon rolls. Yup, then you squish into the pie pan....


Then, when your pie is covered with little "cinnamon rolls", you fill with your filling, which in this case was apples also dusted with lots of cinnamon sugar....
Then put your top on...in this case, the top got a bit of cinnamon sugar also....
And bake...in my oven, it took about 40 mins....
And voila! A beautiful yummy pie .....
 Serve with freshly whipped cream, and now my family says this has to be served every New Year....in fact, they are calling it New Year's pie!
Yummy indeed....
Happy New Year!
Nancy

Monday, December 29, 2014

New doings....

Just so you know....I've been busy!
I have started a new baby quilt for my daughter's friend....using a new technique that I found....

These half squares as they are called, are simply created by sewing two squares together. Yup, you draw a diagonal line and sew a quarter inch seam on either side of the line, then cut on the line! So easy and you can whip up 110-120 squares in no time....This is the first layout, and then there will be a border.....
Then, for Christmas, Hubby got me the Ball Canner! It is a hybrid of a water bath canner and a pressure canner.
I have already used it, I made blackberry jam using the jam/jelly maker....21 mins and while the jam was cooking the canner was preheating the clean jars (10 mins) and held them at the ready until it was time to can. When the jam goes in the jars it is 26 mins to a finished canned jam that is shelf stable. After they cool, I washed them and labeled them and put them in the new part of the craft room closet that I created a shelf to put canned goodies!
Yeah, I have been recreating closets!
 First, here is the craft room closet.....it may look messy, but actually this is organized! Granted I have some "tweaking" left here, but now I have a shelves that I didn't before. Shelves are the Closet Maid from Home Depot....super easy to do! I now have at least one shelf for jams, jellies, pickles etc.....
 This is the "wrapping closet" where I had a dresser before. The dresser was big and didn't hold as much as you'd think. It is gone, and in its place are those shelves....way more organized!
Which lead me to the Master bedroom closet. Here I had a dresser also....it was a very old one that was designed for children's clothes. I am still in progress here on this one...but 5 shelves or more organized than 5 drawers! And I don't have to fight the drawer and closet door anymore! Hooray! Now, I know it needs lots of work still....but if you are looking for easy shelving units....Closet Maid is good. I chose the solid shelving, as opposed to the ventilated...which for some reason is double the price of solid....
In any case, as you can see I am still working on this....
Isn't that amazing? Organize with shelving....
Really.....simple! It is very similar to the Elfa system from Container store....but much less expensive. It is a system that uses a main bar across the top with two standards hanging from the top and then you put on your shelves. This way the pressure is not directly on the screws, more evenly suspended. It also makes up for the fact that no wall is plumb! Almost idiot proof....and I can do it in minutes! Literally! I had the gift wrap closet done in 10 mins! Then, I spent time organizing.....
So....I am off to babysit today....
Nancy

Friday, December 26, 2014

Cooking for Christmas

Oh what cooking we did for Christmas!
On the day before Christmas Eve I cooked two chickens on the new roasting rack, so I would have chicken that day, but especially to make a chicken pot pie for Christmas Eve.
These were two large fryers that almost didn't fit....and the rack flips up to hold the chickens upright...they came out so tender and juicy!
Then on Christmas Eve I made bread, some for that dinner and some for Christmas....These buttermilk rolls were a big hit...everyone said they tasted great (I had gluten free biscuits that were ok, certainly not yummy....)
 Buttermilk rolls.....
 gluten free biscuits....
I also made French bread for sandwiches and extra should the rolls run out...which they did....
Now for all the clean-up that occurs after a party, even if it isn't at our house.....
Hope your Christmas was wonderful....ours was at our daughter's house and was extra special with our little grandson and we shared with our son-in-law's family.
It seems odd that with all the build up of getting ready for Christmas, it is over so fast.....
Well, off to clean....
Nancy

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Bottling and such

Today is kind of restful.
Really.
The gifts were wrapped days ago. Nothing on the calendar for today. We got to sleep in.
Lovely days like this, I actually made breakfast!
Seriously, I am in my bathrobe and decided today was good for bottling the Lavender Liqueur that has been steeping in the guest room (the coldest room in the house).
So, I brought the beautiful liqueur from there and got out the funnel and the bottles I had prepared...
Of course, according to the recipe, we have to wait now until at least June to enjoy it.

Recipe:
50 lavender heads
2 cups (400g) superfine sugar
3 1/8 cups (750ml) vodka

Put lavender heads, sugar, and vodka into a large, sterilized jar. Seal the jar and give it a good shake.
Store in a cool dark place for 3 months, giving it a shake once a week.
Strain the liquid through a piece of fine muslin or cheesecloth. Pour into sterilized bottles and cork. Although it will be ready for drinking immediately, it will improve with age.

Now that is the recipe I started with.
Cruising through the internet I have found variations to it. One said, if you are using dried lavender (which I admit I was) strain when the liquor has taken on a good color. It did that in two weeks, so I strained it. I have bottled it to let it ferment in the bottle for at least two more months.....

The book I used, Making Wines Liqueurs & Cordials, by Beshlie Grimes, was a gift a couple of Christmas's ago. How perfect to try some out.

However, my friend and I are following an Italian recipe for Lemoncello, but using limes instead. So far we have bottled that and I have to say, it is amazing. The difference here? The lime rinds steeped in Everclear for two weeks, then we strained and added a sugar syrup and they have to sit for 6 months before testing. They smell divine!

Am I a big drinker?
Nah, just a person who is looking to use all of our harvest.
Remember how I made jam and marmalades? Yeah, this is just more of the same.
Have I tried any? Nah....I can wait. I just think it is nice to be able to use everything in more than one way.

So as I clean up around the house today getting ready for Christmas Eve, I want to wish you a Merry Christmas and hopefully a bountiful New Year at home and in the Garden!

Nancy

Thursday, December 18, 2014

A Christmas Party

We like to have our neighbors over for a Christmas gathering, but the last few years that hasn't happened much.
This year we opted to have just a few close neighbors over, keeping the numbers down make it more approachable....
However, whether I have 3 people or 30, I approach a party the same way.
I plan...a lot. It drives my Hubby crazy sometimes, but without the planning, things don't go smoothly.
This year because it was cold and damp, I added chili with the trimmings to warm everyone up as well as warm cider on the stove.
As neighbors came in they could choose what they'd like and make themselves comfy in the family room...overall I think it went well....
Here are some glimpses of the set-up..
 Here you can see I am laying things out, labeling platters with what goes where helps me a great deal...
I chose a red tablecloth and used this fun paper as a runner...it was quite wide, which helped protect the tablecloth....mostly.
 Here is the maple pecan bread....
 Butter cookies with cocoa in them done with a cookie press, a fleur de lis....
 Our famous Buckeye balls....
 More Butter cookies....
Snowballs, rum raisin, and chocolate chip....
 I always offer a veggie plate....it is always safe, served with hummus....
 Here I have a marble tray with two kinds of cheese, one a soft goat cheese with homemade pepper jelly and a French soft cheese...
I find if I put some dried fruit and some nuts, such as pecans it looks nice, but for some wonderful reason, people eat more....
 I also offered olives and cornichons....
 Here was the chili....it was a hit...I literally put all the ingredients into the crockpot about 5 hours before, and let it do its thing, I would occasionally stir it, but so simple and a great payoff! I added sour cream, grated cheese, avocado chunks and extra spices for people to "doctor" it up....Not much was left...
For every party, I always have savory and sweet....and way too much to eat. But in this case I had a plan. You see, today my daughter is having a party...and leftovers get to go to her house. How smart is that??
Friday, we have another party to go to, so extra cookies can go to that or the freezer for a tea party we are planning in February.
Of course, the big hit besides food at this party...my little 9 week old Grandson...he sort of stole the show...what a ham he has become!
I hope you are having a fun and festive season!
Nancy

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Design Dilemma

If you follow my blog, you know what my livingroom looks like.
I have a dilemma.
You know already I have my eyes set eventually want a fireplace surround, but what I am looking into now is different than just the fireplace. I am hoping I will get some ideas from you....
Here is a view of what I have now....
But what you don't see is ......light!
This livingroom is quite dark. It has two lamps that are on the chair side, and when the Christmas tree isn't there, a light sits behind the couch....That is it. Three lights.
In my old age that is creeping into my life, I have noticed it is quite dark.
Do I get a chandelier? It would hand from our 8ft. ceiling in front of the fireplace mantel....
Or do we get recessed lights??
Ok, here is the messy living room (real life) complete with tree and boxes that are going out...(organizing)...
Would a chandelier be too crowded? If not how big? or should we just do some recessed lights??
I'd love to hear from you!
Nancy

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Lime Marmalade

Well, our lime tree was very prolific this year. It produced oodles of limes. So, what does one do with a great harvest?
Make marmalade!

First step bring in your harvest.....
Wash and dry your fruit. My garden is organic, but it still gets dirty, especially since it often falls to the ground...so be sure to wash...
Then, thinly slice the fruit and put in a bowl. There should be about 2 1/4 pounds of fruit to start....
Let your sliced fruit sit about 8 or so hours, covered. Overnight is good.
Then, when you are ready, put the fruit into your very large pot and add 7 cups of water and bring to a boil. Once its to a boil, turn it down to a simmer until the fruit is tender.
Once it is tender, turn off the stove and measure (careful...this is hot....) the mixture into a another bowl. You want to add one cup of sugar to each cup of mixture. Now, I have read all kinds of directions about heating the sugar etc....I found "bakers sugar" which is Ultra Fine Sugar. If you can get that, use that...it dissolves faster and mixes in very well...worth the extra effort.....
Bring that mixture back to a boil, and let it cook down about 30-45 minutes or so. It should cook down about an inch or more in the pan...
Test a spoonful on a frozen dish to see if it is ready to gel....it kind of wrinkles and slows when it hits the dish....
You can also see in the pan you are cooking in that the sides of the pot are getting thick....
Now if you are planning to can this wonderful marmalade, your pot should already be on and hot and ready to go...the lids washed and in a hot pot waiting...
When the marmalade is ready....spoon it into hot sterilized jars with a 1/2 inch headspace.
For this I used 1/2 pint jars....
I processed in a hot water bath for 12 minutes for those 7 1/2 pint jars. There was still lots left over, which went into pint jars that I cooled and put into the refrigerator.
Take the jars out of the canner when the time is up and let cool completely...
When they are completely cool, wipe the jars down and then label and give!
What a great gift!
Now, if people don't like marmalade....no problem, marmalade is fantastic as a cooking sauce! Lime marmalade is terrific with teriyaki sauce and cooked on chicken or pork! Use it as a finishing sauce on a roast chicken and you will have a delicious meal.
Enjoy!
Nancy

Monday, December 8, 2014

No Fake Trees Allowed Here

It is an ongoing "discussion" between my Hubby and I. Every year it is the same....
In any case, we have a real tree again this year.
Since water and wood floors do not mix so well, I have a routine we do.
It is a bit neurotic I admit, however, it can't be helped and it does work....
First you put down the crib mat that is waterproof (or was 30 years ago)...
Then the galvanized bucket....
Then a black plastic bag, just in case the bucket leaked....
And then the Christmas tree stand and tree.....
and voila! A Christmas tree.....
And yes, I think it does look like its leaning, but it is the tree itself....well, no tree is perfect....it is so much thicker on one side than the other...
I does smell nice, I have to admit....however, there are needles on the floor....
After the tree was done, we did the mantel...
Hope you have a great day!
Nancy

Friday, December 5, 2014

Christmas Tree Decorating

Today is the day.
We are going to get our Christmas tree.
We have had all kinds of discussion about "real" versus "fake", and Hubby still insists on a "real" tree.
I am personally tired of cleaning up after trees during this season, tired of having to wait to get a tree, when one could just get it out of the garage. Tired of worrying about fire hazard, the drying out and getting down on my knees to "water" it. I want a "fake" tree. But, alas, I have again lost the battle. He wants the "smell" of a "real" tree.
So, today is the day.
Then, I have to decorate it.
I always have great plans to make it look designer, but also simple is good.....
How do you decorate?
I found these samples on Pinterest....



It used to be I had all colors of ornaments....now a days I tend toward white and red....but these trees are inspiring..
What do you do with your tree?
Nancy

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Canning Jam

I think it was watching the "Buying Alaska" marathon yesterday....it spurred something in me along with my success in making marmalade...I woke up planning to can jam.
Well, actually, I pulled out frozen figs from the freezer to thaw, knowing I was going to make jam.
After all,  the equipment was already out. Why not?
So, after a quick breakfast and a couple of cups of coffee, still in PJs, I began.....



Yup, that messy kitchen is mine...I am known for being a whirling person in the kitchen...
The first batch was ready and the jars were not, so off I went to the freezer to get more figs. But of course they were totally frozen, not thawed. So, I tried to break them up, and ended up using the blender...which of course makes a different product...so we will see.
With jars almost done in their boiling sterilizing bath, the second batch of jam should be ready soon. Hopefully, this time my timing will be a bit better. I hate having a few jars in the big kettle. I really need the small batch canner....(I told Santa so)....
So, in the meantime, I am getting you up to date on my plans....
Four minutes remaining.....
Have I told you how much I love the small batch jam/jelly maker?? It cooks to perfection, every time.
So far, what I have tasted of the fig jam, it is pretty yummy. So, imagine this. I was given beautiful figs, about 3 years ago. I put them in the food saver bag, so they were completely sealed. These are the figs I am making jam from. It was definitely time.
Batch one, from the thawed overnight bunch.
Batch two, from frozen to jam.
The first batch was beautiful...just as I thought.
The second batch I had my doubts. It looked pretty mushed. But, when the jammer was done, it was the same beautiful hue, just a bit thinner, no doubt due to water content.
In twelve minutes the canner will be done....
And it is only 10 AM.
Now, here they are!


After almost 32 or so years of canning, I am still amazed by the whole process and final product.
It requires timing, which I often don't do quite right....ie, the canner isn't ready or the canner is ready and the jam or fruit is not. So, bringing them together successfully, is amazing.
It requires planning...I do, but even the best laid plans......
And it requires patience...which every time, I am made to develop.
I really like the idea of canning on a rainy day, versus the hot summer day. Freezing delays the canning until you are ready. I do however recommend the thawing of the fruit. If it is sealed, air can't get in and it gets "happy" in its juices.
Of course, one cannot freeze whole veggies that need to be fresh for pickling for example, but for jam it works.
I respect the canner, sometimes it can be a bit scary and a whole giant kettle of hot boiling water should be respected and carefully watched especially around little people.
I have yet to ever be brave to do pressure canning.
Any of my readers do that?? Do you have a brand of canner you like?
Well, now to clean up that mess I made and do some sewing....
Nancy