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Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Thanksgiving Dinner

With the sales that are going on right now for holiday food, I am thinking about Thanksgiving dinner. A lot of the things I need for our Thanksgiving dinner will be purchased this week. I will also be stocking up on a few things that will last us beyond the holidays.

I always purchase at least 2 turkeys, sometimes more. There just isn't a lot of meat you can purchase for $.99/pound. I have picked up a couple of turkey breast for $1.79/pound, already. Anytime I can find meat for less than $2 a pound I think I'm doing good. Hams will also be on sale this week and while they are a little over $2 a pound I really like the brand that is going to be on sale, Cumberland Gap Semi-boneless hams will be $2.19/pound.

Canned vegetables, and soups will also be on sale for as low as I have seen them in a while. So I plan to purchase a couple of cases of both.

We have discussed our Thanksgiving dinner and here is what is on the menu so far.

Turkey (of course)
Giblet Gravy
Mashed potatoes
Green bean casserole
Broccoli Casserole
Corn Casserole
Pumpkin pie
Pecan pie
Sugar cookies for the littles

I think we've got the carbs. covered. 

Here is the recipe I use for the corn casserole

Corn Casserole
1 pkg. corn muffin mix
1 can cream corn
1 can whole kernel corn
1 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1/2 cup butter

Melt the butter in the casserole dish in the microwave. Add corn and sour cream, mix well. Add beaten eggs. Add muffin mix and mix thoroughly. Bake at 375° for 35-40 minutes.

I think I might try this in the  before Thanksgiving to see how it turns out. I have this slow cooker* West Bend Slow Cooker and I think it might make it very well. It seems to cook a little differently than a slow cooker with a crock. It browns meat much better and because of that I think the crust would set better in this than my other slow cooker.

Have a great day!

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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.

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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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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!

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

I Can Because I Can

I saw an apron at Meijer's the other day with the title of this post on it, it got me thinking. There are many reasons to can: to enjoy garden fresh produce all winter long, to provide healthy nutritious food for your family, to stockpile for lean times, because you enjoy it, to be able to stand back and look at what you've accomplished, or because you can.

All of those reasons apply to me. It is very satisfying to look back and actually see what you've accomplished, to eat fresh peas in the dead of winter, and to know that you have some healthy food stored up when you need it. But part of the reason I can is because, I can. At this time in my life I am able to pick green beans, pull some weeds, stand over a hot stove while making jams or jellies, and keep an eye on a pressure canner while it does its thing. There may come a day when I can't do those things, but it isn't today. The good Lord has given me the opportunity, the ability, and the knowledge to can. So, to be a good steward of all that he has given me, including the produce, I can. My back may be hurting and me feet swollen at the end of the day, but I really believe when you quit doing what you can do, life just will not be as good.

There are many people out there who can can for various reasons. Some are not physically able. Some don't have the equipment, the knowledge, the space, etc.  Some just don't care enough to try they are like the Grasshopper in the old story "The Ant & The Grasshopper". But if you have what it takes to can, I encourage you to can. At the end of the day you will see your accomplishments!

Canning Cupboard

Some of this year's bounty

I Can Because I Can

Have a great day!
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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Canning Peas

Since we are finally getting peas I am canning everyone of them I can get. My favorite are Zipper Cream and we aren't getting as many of them as we are the Purple Hull peas. I keep forgetting to take pictures of the Zipper Creams before I can them. But here is a picture of them and some Purple Hulls that I did can.

Zipper Creams & Purple Hulls

You can tell the difference because the Zipper Creams stay green. The Purple Hulls turn a brownish color.  They have the texture of a bean.

To can them you shell them, then wash them. They tend to have a lot of ugly black blossoms stuck to them and they need to be washed and picked through. Then you pack them into clean, hot jars. You don't need to tamp them down or pack them too tightly. Put a 1/2 teaspoon of canning salt in each pint or 1 teaspoon for quarts. Fill the jar With boiling water leaving 1 inch of head space. Wipe rims of jars and place lid and ring on jar. Place in your pressure canner and process for 30 minutes at 10 lbs of pressure for pints or 40 minutes for quarts. Allow the pressure to release then use a jar lifter to remove jars from canner. See complete instructions here

This is the first year that I have been brave enough to actually start using a pressure canner. I love being able to preserve our produce so that we will be able to enjoy our garden all year. It's a lot of work during the summer, but it's so worth it. Especially since you can't buy Zipper Cream peas in the grocery stores here.

If you would like to learn to can you might want to check with your local extension office. They may offer a class. Of course, there are all sorts of websites that are willing to teach you.

This post contains affiliate links.

Have a great day!

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Peppers, Sunflowers & Elderberries

This week's post is all about plants. Peter Piper could have picked his peck of peppers this week in my garden. I planted 8 pepper plants, 4 Jalapeno and 4 mystery peppers (they were supposed to be bell peppers).  You can tell from the pictures these are not bell peppers. I think they are banana peppers. Whatever they are they are really productive.
I picked 34 off of one plant. I still have plenty of pickled Jalapeno's from last year so I researched how to dry them on strings and this is the result.

I thought they look really pretty. They should dry within just a few weeks and then can be ground into powder.

We had a 3 volunteer sunflowers come up in the garden this year from some we planted last year. They were all 3 different. One had a lot flowers on it, one is just 1 smaller flower, and the other one was huge.
That is my 6 foot 2 inch son holding it and as you can tell it covers quite a bit of him. It has to be at least 1 1/2 feet across. I haven't measured it yet but I am going to. I think it must weight a couple of pounds. I am drying it now so that we can toast the seeds. The seeds are really large.

We have also been picking elderberries. I am making a tincture from them for the cold & flu season. This is the first time I have done this so I am not comfortable telling anyone how to do it and how it works. If you Google Elderberry tincture there are a lot of people who are willing to tell you how and how it works. I will have to test it out to see, but for now mine is brewing and I am shaking it everyday. The basics are to soak some elderberries in Vodka. Some people say only use 100 proof some say 80 proof will do. I am trying 80 proof.

I have also used the juicer attachment on my Kitchen Aid to juice enough to make elderberry jelly. And still have a whole bag to do something else with. I am thinking about elderberry syrup. I just have to buy some ginger to get this done. It sounds like it may taste better than the tincture.

Have you ever made anything with elderberries? I would love to hear how you liked it and if it worked as well as you thought it would.

Have a great day!
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Wednesday, August 6, 2014


I have been away from the blog for a bit. We took our vacation to Georgia to spend time with the family. Then when we got home it was Fair week. That week is always busy for me at work! Now the garden is keeping me busy. And I am thankful for that. I work during the day then go home and can.  So far I have canned 8 quarts and 24 pints of green beans, 4 quarts of purple hull peas, 7 pints of tomatoes, 6 pints of peaches, 4 pints of peach jam, 7 pints of strawberry jam, 3 pints of cherry jelly. and frozen 1 pint of tomatoes. I made one jar of dill pickles and will be making another jar tonight. And I have dehydrated several large zucchini and a couple heads of cabbage. I picked purple hull peas last night and there wasn't enough to can so I will put those in the freezer tonight. I also picked Zipper Cream peas and since those are our favorite I will be cooking some of those for dinner tonight.

I love being able to use the produce from our garden throughout the year and am so thankful for anything the Lord blesses us with from the garden.

If you aren't familiar with Purple Hull peas, here is what they look like.

Fresh from the garden

In the process of shelling

The results of the labor

They are called Pink-eyed Purple Hulls. In the south we just call them Purple Hulls. They are related to a Black-eyed pea. We usually eat them green instead of drying them like most people are used to getting Black-eyed peas. They are so yummy! And they are easy to grow. The vines will get eaten by insects but they really don't seem to bother the peas. However, the deer love to eat them when they are young.

Have a great day!

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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Squash Casserole

I know you've been wanting to hear about something beside chickens so here you go. Our garden is starting to "come in" as we say in the south. And of course the first things that starts producing are the squash and zucchini. I am not a big squash fan myself, but Greg likes it and so does Daniel. Greg picked 6 squash the night before last so I went on a mission to find a new recipe for yellow squash. I found a squash casserole recipe that I didn't even mind eating. Hey, if you add enough cheese to something, anyone will eat it. Well most anyone. There were a couple of people in the house that still wouldn't try it.

Photo from: Food Network Paula Deen's Cheesy Squash Casserole

I found this recipe on Food Network for Paula Deen's Cheesy Squash Casserole:

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
6 medium yellow summer squash, thinly sliced
1 large Vidalia onion, thinly sliced (I used just a regular yellow onion)
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar
1/2 cup sour cream
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 sleeve crackers, crushed medium to fine (recommended: Ritz)


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 2-quart casserole dish.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the squash, onion, and butter (I didn't add the butter here) until soft. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the Parmesan, Cheddar, and sour cream. Add salt and pepper, to taste.

Place in the prepared casserole dish and sprinkle the cracker crumbs evenly over the top (this is where I put the butter, in pats on top of the crackers). Bake for 20 minutes or until the top is golden and bubbly.
This stuff was so good it'd make you want to slap your grandma. Of course, you know better, though.
Enjoy, and have a great day!

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Cooking Whole Chickens

I realize a lot of people these days just don't know what to do with a whole chicken. When I was growing up that's pretty much all you got in the grocery store. Then they started selling them whole cut-up chickens and since they were about the same price it was easier and less time consuming to buy the cut-up bird. Now most people just buy the parts they want to eat. While I get that a lot of people think that is the most economical way to purchase chicken, because they may only want to eat the breast, or legs, it's not. You can still purchase a whole chicken at a price per pound that is a lot less than boneless-skinless breast.  My goal today is to help you with cooking a whole chicken.

If you are purchasing a whole chicken from the grocery, I recommend washing it. Remove any feathers, or yellow outer skin. One of my favorite ways to cook it is in the slow cooker. You will need:

1 onion, quartered
1 carrot, cut in half the short way
1 stalk celery, cut in half
1 stem of fresh sage, (optional)
Salt & Pepper
Poultry seasoning

Place the cleaned chicken in the slow cooker breast side down. Salt & Pepper the back side then sprinkle with poultry seasoning. Flip the bird over so the breast side is up. Stuff the cavity with the onion, carrot & celery. Then push the fresh sage as far inside as you can. If the sage is sticking outside the cavity that is okay. Salt & Pepper the breast side of the bird then sprinkle with sage. Cook on low for 6-8 hours or high for 4 hours.

I usually serve this with mashed potatoes and gravy (made from the drippings in the slow cooker), and a green vegetable.

You should have plenty of broth in the slow cooker to use for the next meal. Once you have finished you meal, pick any remaining meat off the bones and store in the fridge. Also, save the broth because you are going to need it to make a chicken casserole for another night. You can still boil the bones and make more broth. Just put the whole carcass, onions and all, in a pot full of water. Add more onions, carrots & celery (sometimes I use the tops of carrots and the ends of onions and celery, you know, the stuff you usually throw away) bring to a boil then simmer for an hour or so. Strain and freeze in 1 cup portions.

Chicken Casserole
2 cups cooked chicken, chopped
1 can cream of chicken soup
1 can chicken broth (use the can from the chicken soup)
1 bag stuffing mix (I use Pepperidge Farms cornbread)
1/2 stick butter, melted

Spread the chicken in the bottom of a 9X13 casserole dish. Mix the cream of chicken soup and 1 can of chicken broth together and pour over chicken.

Mix the butter, stuffing mix and enough broth together to give it a nice, moist consistency (usually about 2 cups). Bake at 350° until browned and bubbly making sure it is hot all the way through.

We usually have leftovers of this for lunches for a couple of days.

Sorry I don't have pictures yet, but will work on that this weekend.

Here is a link to another recipe for whole chickens:Rosemary Chicken & Potatoes

There is just so much you can do with a whole chicken that makes it so much more economical than parts. And, trust me, your family will not even know they are eating the parts they don't like when you put them in a casserole.

Have a great day!

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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Freezing the Birds

After getting the chickens processed they were given back to us packed in ice chest with ice water on them. Ice water gets into the cavity of the bird and cools them down faster than just covering them with ice would. It took us about 3 hours to get them all in the freezer. We ordered poultry shrink bags from Nayda's Poultry. I ordered them on a Friday night and received them on the next Monday. That was very fast!  We looked at the tutorial on this site: to get an idea of how to use the bags.  The bags came with a straw that you put into the cavity of the bird and then twisted the bag around the straw. That worked better for us than cutting a slit in the bag.

It was very easy to do and the finished product looks really good. I haven't printed my labels yet. I ordered blank labels from Growers Discount Labels and they arrived within three days of ordering them.

Here are pictures of our packaging process:
Washing and cutting off the necks

Drying the birds before putting in bags

Bird in a Bag

Dipping in 180-200° water

Shrink wrapped

The necks were left really long on the chickens so we cut them off down below the breast. I will use them to make broth. They had a lot of meat on them for necks. It is our goal to not waste any of the chicken. We haven't eaten one yet but will be cooking one this weekend.

Have a great day!

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