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Friday, October 3, 2014

Harvesting & Drying Herbs and My $1 Drying Rack

A few of my herbs are still producing like crazy, so this past weekend I spent some time cutting, washing & preparing them to dry.

I try to cut my herbs early in the morning. I have read that this is the best time to do it because they have rested overnight and their oils and moisture are concentrated in the leaves. During the day they are growing so the oils and moisture are spread throughout the plant.  They are then taken in the house and given a dunk in some nice cool water.

Herb Bath


Then they are laid on a towel to drain for a bit. Once they have drained I fold the towel up over them and pat them dry.

Draining
I have tried several ways to tie them up and have settled on twist ties. They are very flexible and if you add two of them together they are long enough to tie around the herbs and whatever you are going to hang them on. When they begin drying the stems shrink and fall out of strings and rubber bands. Twist ties allow you to tighten them up as the herbs shrink.

Herb Bundle with One Twist Tie

Second Twist Tie Added for Length


Then they are hung on the drying rack. Remember the drying rack I told you I bought for $1.00 at a yard sale? Well here it is not quite loaded but still doing it's job.

$1 Drying Rack



It even has room on top to put extra egg cartons. I am sure this is not what it was intended for but it works really great for this purpose.  The Okra is for decorating purposes, and the Sumac may be used for tea and decorating.  I really like that color for Fall and am thinking it might look pretty cool stuck in the Christmas tree. If I use it for the Christmas tree, I might have to figure out how to dip it in something to keep the little balls from falling off.

I am loving how it looks and smells!

Have a great day!
Mae

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Herb Chicken

My new electric pressure cooker finally arrived and it has been being put to the test. I have boiled eggs in it, roasted potatoes in it and my latest adventure was a "throw it in the pot and see what happens chicken". I used boneless skinless chicken breast, salted and peppered them, and browned them in the cooker with a little olive oil. Then I added, onion, celery, fresh basil, oregano, sage, chives, and garlic. Then some dried rosemary. Put the lid on and pressured it for 20 minutes. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of the finished product before it was devoured.

Chicken Breast with salt & pepper

Onion & Celery

Herbs & Garlic

Browning in the Cooker



 It was really good. Nice and tender and very flavorful. I didn't add any liquid to the pot but when it was done, I had a whole pint jar of broth that I am saving for another use. There really wasn't a recipe for this since I just threw it all in the pot and let it cook. But I will try to recap what I put in.

2 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt & Pepper to taste
2 large cloves garlic (cut in half)
1 Onion, sliced
1 rib Celery, chopped
5 chive tops
1 small bunch fresh sage
1 small bunch fresh oregano
1 small bunch fresh basil
1 Tbsp. rosemary

Salt & Pepper chicken and brown in olive oil. Add remaining ingredients and place lid on Pressure Cooker. Bring to pressure and cook for 20 minutes. Let pressure release naturally for 10 minutes then release pressure.

I bought these Fresh Herb Scissors the other day. And found them very useful.
 




They cut the herbs in little strips, not a fine chop, but for this recipe they were great. I didn't chop anything too fine. The onions were just sliced and thrown on top of the chicken.They are made by Ball and I am loving how they work.

What is your favorite kitchen gadget? I would love to hear about it.

Have a great day!
Mae

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http://newlifeonahomestead.com/2014/09/mondays-homestead-barn-hop-178/

Friday, September 19, 2014

Update on Peppers

Remember the picture of the peppers I hung to dry?
Peppers Drying

Well, I wanted to show you an updated photo of the peppers. They have truly been amazing me. First off, I thought they would just dry. I didn't expect them to change colors. I don't know what I really expected. I just imagined all those pictures you see of red peppers on a string and wished for that. Guess what? I think I might get my wish.

Peppers After 6 Weeks

Peppers After 6 Weeks

Aren't they beautiful? When I first hung them, I loved the green colors together. Now They are yellow, red, orange and green. I hope they all turn red and I really think they are going to.

I love using my dehydrator but I like to dry things naturally, also. I know the dehydrator doesn't use much electricity, but it does use it and if things dry naturally they aren't costing you anything to dry them. The dehydrator also takes up counter space and in my tiny kitchen there isn't a whole lot of that to spare.

I bought a rack at a garage sale for $1.00 that has three round rods on it that is perfect for hanging things to dry. I have it hung on our back porch/mud room (which is enclosed) and I am going to be using it to dry a lot more things naturally. Once I get it filled with herbs and other things I will share a picture with you.

Do you have anything like this that turned out so much better than you hoped for? I'd love to hear about it.

Have a great day!
Mae

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Monday, September 15, 2014

What to Expect When You're Expecting...Your First Eggs, That Is.

I can remember when we first got chickens. It seemed like we waited forever to get our first egg. Twenty weeks sure seemed like a long time! Then when we got that first egg as exciting as it was it was still a little surprising to see how tiny it was. So if you are about to get chickens or already have chickens and are waiting on your first egg, this post is for you.

When I walked into the chicken coop to find that first little egg, I was so excited. Then I realized just how little it was and began to wonder if I had the wrong kind of chicken. I wanted those big brown eggs, I had seen so often. Then I took that little egg into the kitchen and cracked it. Well let me tell you, it would have taken a dozen of those eggs to make a meal. And cracking it was a whole other story. The membrane was tough and hard to pull apart. But finally there was a little tiny yolk surrounded by a fair amount of white.

Since that time we have had many first eggs and our newest batch of chicks started laying last week. We have had about 2 dozen of those little tiny eggs so I thought you might like to see what they look like.

Tiny Eggs
 As you can see from the picture above they barely are taller than the dividers of the egg carton. And this is a carton for large eggs.

What you can expect from your fist eggs.

1. They will tiny.
2. The shells will be a little harder than what you may be used to.
3. The membranes will be tough.
4. They yolks will be hard to break.


Scrambled eggs

I scrambled 12 of the eggs for 3 adults (2 hungry men) and it was just the right amount. As you can see from the picture above, they scrambled up nicely. It's really about all you can use them for. But please use them. They are a little harder to scramble because the yolks take a lot of beating before they break.

You should still get excited when that first egg appears, because it just means there are bigger and better ones to come. But enjoy the little ones, also.

Have a great day!
Mae

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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Under Pressure!

Have you tried pressure cooking? Let me tell you, it's my latest craze! Someone at my work ordered a pressure cooker from an infomercial. I am not a fan of infomercials by any means. But, she brought this thing into the office and we cooked a chicken dish from frozen boneless skinless chicken breast in less than 30 minutes, start to finish! So, I had a stove top pressure cooker at home that I got from my mother's house after she died. It sat in a cabinet for 11 years. But seeing how well the one at work worked I decided to try it. Since it had not been used for at least 11 years, I put it on the stove with some water in to see if it would seal. It did! I was so excited! The first thing I cooked in it was smothered pork chops, then I tried the same recipe with steak. Then I made BBQ chicken thighs and legs in it. They all turned out delicious! And quick. I have the Maitre's 4 Quart. But I would definitely recommend a larger one such as the Rochedo Maitre's 8 Qts Pressure Cooker 

I was allowed to take the electric one from work home and give it a try. A 3 pound pot roast with potatoes and carrots was done in less than 30 minutes from start to finish! I broke down and ordered an electric one like the one from work and can't wait til it gets here. I am still considering ordering a new stove top one that is bigger in case I ever need to cook in it on the camp stove if the electricity is out.

One thing I noticed about using a pressure cooker instead of a slow cooker is the food retains it color and flavors. In a slow cooker it seems like everything taste the same. The potatoes taste just like the roast. Textures are different but the flavors are all the same. In the pressure cooker a potato still taste like a potato and carrots still taste like carrots. They pick up some flavor from the roast but they still retain their own flavors and everything isn't mush. I still love my slow cooker, I don't think I could live without one but the pressure cooker may be winning me over.

Smothered Pork Chops
6-8 bone in pork chops
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 can beef broth
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, diced
1 cup sour cream
2 Tbsp. corn starch
2 Tbsp. water
2 Tbsp. olive oil

Heat olive oil in bottom of pressure cooker, brown pork chops. Remove pork chops from pressure cooker. Add onion and garlic to pressure cooker and saute' until translucent.  Add cream of mushroom soup, beef broth and pork chops. Place lid on pressure cooker and heat until the pressure regulator starts to rock back and forth. Adjust heat to maintain pressure. Cook for 10 minutes. Allow pressure to release naturally. Remove lid. Remove pork chops. Mix the corn starch and water together and add to pressure cooker. Bring to a boil and boil for 2 minutes. Add the sour cream and heat until warm. Serve with mashed potatoes or noodles.

These were quick and delicious. I also used this same recipe with round steak. Both were fork tender.

Have a great day!
Mae

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