CategoryKitchen

Random updates

stewed-tomatoes

The garden has been going crazy. A friend from church came over last week to help me can tomatoes – we got 24 1/2 quarts canned that day. That was a very tiring day but I’m SO thankful for everything that got done!

At the moment there’s a 3-gallon bucket full of lima beans to be shelled, and that same amount of tomatoes to be canned again (which should work out to 5 quarts or so of stewed tomatoes if I remember right). There are also green beans that have been snapped that need to be canned. I’m hoping to get those done this afternoon but we’ll see how the day goes.

We planted potatoes for the first time this year, but the millipedes ate most of them.

We’re having VBS at church tonight, tomorrow, and Saturday. My kids are thrilled.

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This silly boy fell into the crock and couldn’t get out. We all laughed before getting him out – it was just too funny!

God has sent an amazing amount of jewelry orders lately. I have been absolutely overwhelmed at His goodness.

My last piano lessons were this week. Was that ever bittersweet. It hit me more the next day though, when I started packing things up in the studio to store them. I’ve had a wonderful arrangement for years – including a keyboard/computer setup to allow easy typing and printing of music. Now that I’m no longer teaching the keyboard will go into storage. I didn’t expect packing it up to make me sad, but it did.

My brother-in-law is coming over today to move the piano out of the studio and into the living room. The studio is now going to be the girls’ room. Anna slept in there last night and did fine in there by herself, but I’m anxious to get the rest of the music equipment moved out to turn it into a regular bedroom for her.

Before the piano can be moved out of the room, we’ll need to move the bookshelf that’s in there, so sometime soon I’ll need to box up all my music reference manuals and extra teaching books. . .not looking forward to that either. Wow, I’m really going to miss teaching.

We’ve been rearranging things throughout the whole house. That’s been fun. What has been even more fun is I haven’t had to move any of the furniture myself (not that Stephen would let me at this point anyway), and I just get to decide where it goes. THAT has been fun.

Pregnancy-wise things are going well. I’ll be 30 weeks on Monday. I can’t believe things have gone this quickly! I feel okay, but keep forgetting that my energy level isn’t what it used to be. These three keep me so busy to start with, but thankfully they have been really understanding about me being slower than usual.

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I have had a lot of Braxton Hicks contractions this time, like I did with Anna. They serve as a reminder to keep drinking my water and not to push myself too hard. :O) Next week is my glucose tolerance test, and we find out if baby is still breech. Hopefully she’s turned since my last appointment though.

Lord willing, I’ll be delivering at a local birth center this time around and I am SO EXCITED about it. My midwife is wonderful. The hospital births I’ve had weren’t exactly terrible, but there were quite a few interventions both times that I didn’t feel were necessary. I’d hoped to deliver Anna at the birth center, but they opened about a month after she was born, so that obviously didn’t work out. This time though it has worked out, and I’m loving it so far. The facility is beautiful and the midwives there are wonderful. It really sounds like a huge dream come true.

YUCK!

cookiedough

I was washing dishes last night and happened to read the lid of this cookie dough container.

Look closely.

Shelf life:
Frozen: 1 year
Refrigerated: 6 months
Room temperature: 21 days

21 DAYS? What is IN this stuff that makes cookie dough shelf stable for 3 WEEKS????? YUCK!!

Now as for how the container got in my house. . .my inlaws use a variety of containers to store their homemade ice cream when they make it. It just happened to hold the homemade ice cream that I brought home with me last week when we were there.

The ingredient list is really long and honestly I didn’t take the time to read it. Just the shelf life label grossed me out!

Apple pie

Apple pie

On Monday, I made an apple pie. It looked all right and tasted pretty good.

The crust was a complete flop though. I tried a new recipe from Allrecipes.com – just searched for pie crust and selected one based on high ratings. Then I substituted coconut oil for the shortening. What a total failure.

It was actually kind of puzzling. I’ve been using coconut oil instead of shortening for a long time now, and have never had any bad results in any other recipe. But this time was different. The crust wouldn’t hold together for anything! All I can think of was that I didn’t let it chill in the fridge long enough (the recipe didn’t call to chill the dough at all). The bottom crust I started working immediately, and put the rest of the dough in the fridge to chill until I was ready for it. It just kept breaking and falling apart. I called my mother-in-law for help and she probably thinks I’m completely inept in the kitchen from our “my pie crust looks awful!” conversation. It was easier to work with the top crust, so chilling it did seem to help some.

It was the flakiest pie crust I have EVER eaten. It also would have been better with a touch more salt in it as it tasted a little bit bland. But other than that. . .I think I just might try the recipe again. . .maybe. . .

There is a reason I don’t make pies that often. Pie crusts and I just do not get along!

Freezer cooking ideas

Here are some of the ideas I’m considering to put up for when baby comes. A lot of it will be determined by space in the freezer as we just downsized to a much smaller one. I’m also thinking to just make double at mealtimes and freeze the extra, rather than having a couple huge cooking days.

Breakfasts:
Waffles
Pancakes

Quick Lunches:
Corn dog muffins – used a different cornbread recipe but my family loved these
Sloppy joe muffins
Tacos in a sleeping bag
Burritos

Just meats:
Taco meat
Chicken strips for fajitas/wraps – some taco seasoned, some plain
Hamburger patties (maybe not; need to figure out how to make these come out not so dry)
Meatballs

Meals:
Chili
Enchiladas
Lasagne
Pizzas (if there’s room)
Tomato soup (canned)

Breads:
Breadsticks
Garlic bread
Hamburger buns – I’ll wait on these until the very end since our freezer is really small

Sweets:
Cappuccino muffins (can’t find the link to this now – I’m sorry!)
Sweet breads – zucchini, apple, banana, pumpkin – or make into muffins
Chocolate chip cookies
Topping for Fresh Fruit Crisps – not frozen but jarred

Mixes to make:
Soup mix – rinse beans ahead, add dry seasonings
Bread – one loaf size – all dry ingredients minus yeast, add yeast when making (for some reason mixes made up with yeast added don’t do as well for me)

Also plan out meals for months of October, November, and first part of December ahead of time. I’m working on complete menus for July and August right now.

Freezer cooking

Just wondering here. . .does anyone do much freezer cooking? I’d like to start doing more, to get food put back for when this little one arrives. I’m just not sure what to put up, and am a little limited on energy at the moment too. ;O)

We have a huge upright freezer but will be downsizing to a somewhat smaller one because this one doesn’t work that well. Instead of stocking up on huge 9×13 casserole size dishes, I’d like to put some components up – like cooked taco meat, cooked and seasoned ground beef, etc. because they’ll take up a little less room than a bigger dish would.

In the past, I’ve done pizzas (make crust ahead of time, assemble, then freeze), chicken and broccoli casserole, lasagna, shepherd’s pie, and I forget what else.

What are your favorite freezer meals? Got any good sites to link to?

Thanks so much!!!!

Making Christmas cookies

We made Christmas cookies last night. Samuel kept telling me over and over again, “Thank you for letting us make cookies. I had SO much fun!”

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The boys got a bit sugar sprinkle happy. I didn’t mind until I looked at Caleb and saw that he had the entire bottle of blue sugar in his mouth. Good thing I noticed it after we finished and not while we were still decorating the cookies!

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Even Anna had fun pushing the cutters into the dough.

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We won’t be giving any of these cookies away as gifts – there was too much finger licking and dough snatching and thumb sucking going on – but we really enjoy them. I like that particular cookie recipe because it uses basic ingredients, isn’t too sweet, and you can use cookie cutters with it. Ok, that, and I have yet to find a regular sugar cookie recipe I really like, but that’s beside the point.

We had a lot of fun last night and made a huge mess. But the best part was that Stephen washed the dishes afterward so I could work on the boys’ quilts. What a wonderful husband I have!

Last night was great!

Wasted pickles

I wasted an entire batch of sweet icicle pickles yesterday morning. I’m still a bit frustrated about it. The pickles were on the second to last day of the brining process, until I flung glass into the container.

The last four days you’re supposed to drain and reheat the syrup that spices the pickles. I’ve been using a plate on top of the container to keep the pickles submerged, with a glass canning jar full of water on top. I took the glass jar out and went to set it on the counter, but it slipped out of my hand into the giant metal pot in the sink.

Water and glass shards flew everywhere. Many of the pieces were so small I didn’t see them, but could feel them when wiping up the water. It also gouged the bottom of my good stockpot. 🙁 We weren’t sure if any glass got into the pickle container but we know some of the water did. . .so we’re assuming the glass did too. The cost of ingredients isn’t worth keeping the pickles for the chance of eating glass, but I sure am disappointed we have to dump the pickles.

Canning tomatoes

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Today I was able to can 7 quarts and 4 pints of tomatoes. It probably doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s more than I thought it would be. It was quite the surprise to discover that there was enough for a double batch instead of the single I anticipated. This particular recipe is from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving book I mentioned in a previous post. It’s tomatoes with mixed vegetables. We really like the combination of veggies in it (tomatoes, celery, onion, and green pepper), and it was nice to be able to can more this year. Our tomatoes haven’t been going crazy yet like they have in the past, but they’re still doing well.

In the past, we’ve always grown a hybrid variety like Better Boy. This year we grew almost all heirloom varieties. The one we grew the most of was called Rutgers – I wanted Brandywine tomatoes but we couldn’t find them. We also grew Yellow Pear (they look really strange – I’ll have to pick some and take a picture) and Mr. Stripey. The Yellow Pear have good flavor but are more of a salad tomato since they’re so small. The Mr. Stripey tomatoes are some of the biggest I’ve ever seen, but we haven’t gotten many off that plant at all. My favorite this year though was the Sweet 100 – it’s not heirloom but those tomatoes are so sweet. They’re marble-sized and I eat them right off the vine when I’m in the garden. They taste amazing. Those are definitely on my list to grow again next year.

Usually we just buy half a flat or so of the same variety, but this year we changed things around quite a bit. We followed the garden in a day plan so Samuel could have his own garden, and let him pick what tomatoes he wanted (he picked Better Boy and Sweet 100). For mine I picked Yellow Pear and Better Boy because Samuel wanted another one. That raised bed garden (we doubled the garden’s size and then split it) did really well and was fun to plant.

The majority of our canning tomatoes are in the main garden with everything else. We changed that around too – we’ve been reading and experimenting with intensive gardening and raised beds. We are absolutely thrilled with the results. Our garden isn’t much to look at this year, but we’re getting more produce out of the same amount of space as before. What a blessing!

Apple pie filling

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The neighbors let us pick apples from their trees on Wednesday. So far, I’ve canned 14 pints of apple pie filling (recipe from my Ball canning cookbook), and there’s still plenty of apples left. I’m thinking of doing applesauce next.

Next week I hope to get some tomatoes canned, but our plants aren’t doing as well this year as they usually do. We’re getting a decent amount of tomatoes, but not enough at one time to can. Hopefully soon.

By the way, if you’re new to canning, I highly recommend the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. The instructions are very thorough, and everything we’ve tried out of it has tasted fantastic.