Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Kosher Style Pickles is to Pucker Up for!

I'm a lifelong dill pickle lover! Lost most of, if not all of my baby teeth in a big ol' dill pickle when I wasn't to much younger than my twins are now!
I love all kinds of pickles...sweet, icycle, bread n' butter...you name it, I eat it!

When my husband and I first bought this property, we decided that we were going to plant a garden that next spring...and WE DID! Neither one of us had done much in the way of gardening since we were both kids. When we were first married, my husbands mom would can eveything from ketchup to applesauce!

Spending time with her in the kitchen during those long weeks of hot and humid August weather, seemed almost unbearable, until the end...when you got to taste and savour your finished product...and oooooh, mmmm, so good! Then, you counted your blessings for all that the Lord has provided you with for that season, and called it good til' next year rolled around.

Anyway, here we are now...in our own home, raisin' twins...trying to make ends meet, and keep everyone healthy! It only makes sense, then, that we would have fresh foods to eat from our own garden...and what we can't eaat right away, well...we preserve! And we try to do it as a family, to make the experience more enriching! It's a lifeskill well learned, if you're paying attention!
And so it goes...cucumbers are in season...and mamas kitchen is open!

Everyone always raves about my dill pickles, and it's not anything special really...thinkin' it might be the love I put into each jar as I make it! Either way, I'd have to say, though, that the BLUE BALL BOOK of PRESERVING...has been my friend from the start! And that's actually where my kosher dill pickle recipe comes from...it's no secret...it's just good common sense!
If you're interested to find out more about it, you can go to http://www.freshpreserving.com or anywhere that sells canning supplies will most likely have it for you to purchase.

In the meantime...let's make some pickles...kosher style!
If you don't have a garden, it's okay...the farmer's market in your town will have everything you need...from cukes to garlic, they'll hook you up! Buy fresh, however...you want them to be crisp when you're starting out...and as well, wash em' up good too! We don't want any dirt or bugs in our pickles!
After washing them all up...cut the tips of the ends off and set aside...get your jars ready for raw packing now...I always wash mine and put em' through the hottest rinse cycle possible in my dishwasher...but if you don't have one of those...just rinse and let stand in the hottest water you can in your sink...you could pour some boiling water over em' too...just make sure they're good and sterilized!
These are all the ingredients you will be using:
The recipe we're using today, calls for 8lbs of cucumbers...weigh em' on a scale to make sure you know what you have...and they use 4-6" cukes for their pickles.
You will also need the following:
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. canning salt
1 qt. vinegar
1 qt. water
3 TBS. mixed pickling spices
Green or Dry Dill (1-2 heads per jar, you can use your stems too...the more dill the better!)

Now, combine your sugar, salt, vinegar and water in a large saucepot on the stove...tie up your pickling spices in a cloth bag and then add it to your vinegar mixture once it's hot...then let it simmer for a good 15-20 minutes or so.

While your sauce is cooking down, you need to start 'packing' your jars. I use quart jars, but some people prefer pints (it's all up to you and how many people will be eating them at one time in your household!)
Also,...If your cukes are too big slice em' length wise, otherwise I like to leave mine whole if I can!

 Before you begin packing your cukes in the hot sterilized jars now, add the following to each jar:

1-2 bay leaves,
1-3 cloves of garlic,
 1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper,
 1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper,
 1/2 tsp mustard seed,
 and...about 3-4 black peppercorns....

Now, pack those jars tight with the cukes...you can gently take a wooden spoon handle or a butter knife and move them around to get the best fit...then, put your head(s) of dill on top in the jar (scrunch em' down in there!) and make sure nothing is sticking out over the rim.

Your sauce should be ready to pour into your jars now...again, your can move a butter knife down through, gently, to remove any air bubbles from the mix...fill to within a 1/4" from the top of the rim.
Wipe your rim and around the side clean and sterilize with a hot water ring around the rim quickly before you place both caps on...make sure it's tight...place gently in your water bath that you have already prepared, and let bath for 15 minutes now.
And once done, take them out and place em' on a thick towel or two on the counter...they will seal themselves within an hour or two...when cooled, store or eat! ....and that's how you do it!

Again...I like to gift mine at the holidays...so, a few giftbaskets might be in order after you get em' all done...time to go thrift shopping again, don't ya think?! I'm game! See ya next time...for some more fun in the kitchen and around the farm!

Jam makin' session...Margarita Style!

Hey all! I'm back with a whole new adventure in jam and jelly makin'!

Remember last time we were talkin' about zucchini? Well, today we're talkin' cucumbers!

It's still the beginning of the season for us here in Wisconsin...we have a little later start to our canning season than most of you on the east coast or down south. But that's okay...gives me a little more time to play and have fun in the sun...and not cooped up here in my kitchen on a beautiful sunny day! It's the price you pay, when you have a garden I suppose...either way, it's all fun in the kitchen!

So, here we are...in my kitchen...cukes ready for chopping!
Since I knew I was going to have more than enough to make my special dill pickles...I took out the larger ones and chopped em' up for our Margarita Jam that we're getting ready to make here...
Gotta start ya off, gettin' all your ingredients around...You'll need to start off with: 2 limes (that you'll cut up before putting in the blender), along with 1/4 cup of lime juice, and 1/4 cup of lemon juice...blend well!

Then, take your cucumbers and core any big seeds out, while removing the outside rind from your cuke...you'll want to chunk it up...about 4 big cups worth...and then chop it all up fine in your blender with your current lime mixture that you started with.
 I like to use my handy dandy Tupperware Chop n' Prep here before adding it to the blender...just helps in the break down process...but it's not necessary....

Now that you have everything in your blender...all blended up...you can take and pour it into your pan that you have waiting on the stove for you and start to bring it to a boil on medium heat....all the while remember to be prepping for your hot water bath, prepped jars and lids for your future jelly storing...
Plus, you'll need to get the remaining ingredients that we're about to add to your jelly...
As you're starting to heat up your cucumber lime blend...you will add 1/3 cup of pectin to the mix as it is starting to heat up now....stirring all the while...bring it to a boil, and let it boil for 1 minute, then add 1 to 1-1/2 shots of Tequilla Gold...(depends on how strong you want it to be!)
Stir it all in...for another minute now...

then add a pinch of canning salt, and finish adding in 4 cups of sugar, all at once...allow to boil for another 3 minutes,
keep stirring occassionally (it will begin to get a bit sticky now)..and then, remove from heat after your 3 minutes are up.

Now take your pkg of lime jello and add to your mixture til' it's well blended...it will turn a pretty margarita green now!
Whoo-hoo! Aren't you lovin' it?! It's just so festive! Now, pour it into your prepared sterilized jars...I used pints, because it's what I had...but most people would use jelly jars, or 1/2 pints for their jelly storing purposes...they make great little gifts in that size as well! Make sure your lids are sterilized, and you've wiped down your jar rim with some of that hot boiling water from your lid water...then, your jars are ready for the two-lid application...gently place in your hot water bath...putting your lids back on top and processing for another 10 minutes now...then you have these pretty jars of 'Margarita' Jelly!

And remember, I said you could gift them...how bout' a mix of Strawberry Zucchini Jam & Festive Cucumber Margarita Jam together in a basket with a little christmas fabric!

Now...for the tasting! My favorite part! Get a small plate of cream cheese and add your margarita jelly to the top, like so with a few lime tortilla chips...and dig in my friend!
mmmmmm, so refreshing and limilicious!

Remember, this DOES have alcohol in it...so, you might want to serve this up when the kiddos are in bed sleepin'! Then, you can have some fun mixin' up a batch of margaritas to go along with it...or a cerveza or two! Whichever, enjoy the summer flavor, anytime of the year...and make sure to share it with a friend or two...just makes it more fun that way!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Zucchini...It's What's For DINNER!

Well, a couple months ago...tt started with a few seeds, and grew into this plant...
 that created many more zucchini than we could ever care to eat in a week! So......then, this mama has to GET CREATIVE!
Every day this week, I've been making something with Zucchini IN IT! From breakfast, lunch, dinner and now, to DESSERT...it has become a staple in our house this month!
This was a 'Zucchini-Carrot Cake' that I made and used this recipe...

One night...we decided to make something fun with the kiddos in mind..."mexican-italian"! Lol!
"Pepperoni & Cheese Zucchini Quesedillas"...from start to finish, it was a fresh lil' dinner that we'll definitely be repeating before this summer is over!

Start with your zucchini...slice it with a potato peeler (or cheese grater), so it's nice and thin! Next, get the rest of your ingredients around for this recipes' quick and easy assembly as your grill gets nice and hot...

 either way you decide to slice it up...make sure it's nice and thin...like cheese (they won't know the difference here, as long as you remove the rind!)

Since I didn't have any pizza sauce, I took some of my own homemade spagetti sauce (or you can use your favorite store bought brand) and a can of tomato paste...added it to a sauce pan, stirring constantly with about 1/2 cup of your sauce...and in just a few short minutes you have some thick 'pizza sauce' on hand to use! Yippy...I'm all about makin' it if you can...then, you get the consistency you're lookin' for to make that recipe of yours...even better! Then, set it aside, off the heat...you don't want it to burn after it's all done cooking...you can spoon on your flour tortilla when you're ready to start assembling...any leftovers, you can easily store in an airtight jar/container in the fridge for future use.
Now, you're ready to start compiling all the other ingredients to your soft flour tortillas...I like to quickly oil em' first...either side with a little salt, pepper and garlic mixed into your oil for easy prep before placing on the hot grill...gives em' a nice flavor at the end!
Then, start pilin' on the goodies...sauce, pepperoni, cheese (I used a pizza mix here; mozzerella/colby) and then added the shaved zucchini and some other herbs, like my favorite... 'Onion-Onion' from "Tastefully Simple"'! Whatever you have on hand is fine...you can just add your own favorite herbs...like basil, oregano, garlic and some salt/pepper to name a few. It's your quesedilla...so, you decide!
...either way, you just keep layerin' em' up and add a little more cheese to the top, and put on your last 'oiled' flour tortilla and then, begin grilling!

 I used my stove top grill, but you can take em' out on your regular outdoor grill as well!
Once they're nice and hot, flip it over for the finishing grill time needed to cook it through, and then simply flip on top of your cutting board for easy cutting and serving to your hungry crew, patiently waiting at the table!
Whichever you decide to serve with it, have fun...make it colorful and festive! And remember, it's summer and it's hot...make a quick salad to go along with it and add some fresh cut cantaloupe for some juicy fun at the table....we love finger foods...just make sure the napkins are handy...for the slurppers in your bunch!
This is Grade A...good food, here, mamas! Packed full of fun, nutrition....no kid can resist...not even my finicky two!
Tomorrow....we're lookin' to make some zucchini jam...they say it tastes like strawberries! We'll see...check back in for 'Zucchini Week, Part 2"!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Small space gardening, with big ideas!

Good afternoon all! Thought we could get cozy in the garden this week...hope you don't mind getting better aquainted! I've never been much of a 'green thumb', even though my maiden name was Green for the first 24 years of my life...and now I'm a Potter, LOL! Guess God really wants me to dig into dirt, eh?!

How 'bout you? Ever get a hankerin' for some cool dirt to be underneath your toes, plantin' a few pretties you picked up on sale...and then, hope for the best?! Then, sweetie...we have alot more in common than you think! What I don't know, I make up for in reading, surfin' the net, and simply askin' lots of questions to perfect strangers that look at me funny! I'm kind of quirky that way, ya know....it makes life much more interesting I think! I'm okay with the fact that not everyone's going to like me...as long as I like me...that's all that counts!

Now, gardening....like I said, I like pretty things and I love to decorate...so, contatiner gardening is really my speed of gorgeous, if I do say so myself! I just need to remember to water it every so often...like when it's wilting, then I run for the water hose! It gives me a little more exercise in my day...and that's a good thing!

In my search today, I found some great ideas that I wanted to share with ya'll....starting with this great website to get ya started...all made with reycled materials in small spaces...anyone can do this; including ME!


Got an old dresser you can't use anymore? Oh my goodness...what a great new use for it!
 Okay, who doesn't have one of these layin' around in the closet or on the back of your door, not being used to its fullest potential? I do! And this is what I'm going to do with mine! HERBS anyone? Or how bout' some cherry tomatoes?! Whoop, whoop! I just can't wait to get it planted...and you?!
This is incredibly simple...gutters! OMGosh...would've never given it a thought....I mean, WOW! This could be put anywhere...on the side of anything; cut to length, screw to the wall and plant your seeds...and let God do the rest!

Now, these are some pretty neat ideas, don't ya think?! I'm excited to go try at least one, maybe more! I found some cute old pallet ideas, along with old tin cans...if you can recycle it...why not REUSE IT?!
You might want to try some Haute-Urban Gardening..."it's sexy and you know it"! I love the Black Eye Peas...so much fun, you can't help but join in! And that's how I feel when I get into this article on small space gardening: http://ecosalon.com/10-ideas-for-sexy-urban-gardens/

Doesn't this look easy, and fun? Something you could definitely do with the kids, right?! That's what I was thinkin to! You could use any size can that you're recycling...you just need some dirt and flowers, and you're set! Apartment dwelling, condo porch, deck or window farming...it's all doable!

Well then, hope I gave you something to look forward to makin' in your little space, you call "HOME"! I'm going out to start workin' on mine right now! Can't wait to see what I can come up with after all this research...a few up & coming rummage sales might be in the 'forecast'! Ya think?!

Happy Day to ya'll...and remember, if you're not thinkin' outside the box here, you're definitely, NOT LIVING in your space!
Create and grow, my friend...that's what God engineered us to do. In fact, Jesus so instructed us to do exactly that...in John 6:12, He speaks volumes in the matter of 'waste not, want not', that I believe we should all be following in EVERYTHING we do...not just what WE THINK we should be doing with what we have!

"When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples,

'Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted'."

Friday, May 11, 2012

Treasure Hunting!

Hey all! Hope your having a wonderful PRE-MOTHER'S DAY! I decided to take the day off, and do a little 'Goodwill Hunting', along with some garden/flower shopping today. And shop, I DID!

Wow...what an exciting trip I had this morning, too! I went in search of containers for the garden...and I came away with soooooo much more than I bargained for! I swear, you can't ever salvage enough...it's great for the community, too! Everyone WINS! I love that part the most...because, someone can always benefit from someone elses' junk...or as I love to say, "TREASURE"!
 I had the cart full, from top to bottom before I left today!
 From old plates, different size baskets to fill up with some good ol' dirt and plants, to some crafting supplies...it was a well rounded trip!
 This mans tie compliments this one of a kind placemat...along with a few more dishes...couple more baskets, some star and flower doilies, and a glass jar decanter that's sloped in the front! Oh...and get a load of my chicken head...it was a whoppin' 39 cents...and I got 50 % off that yet! Who can beat a deal that good?!

 This cute lil' jean jacket is the perfect chair back cover, if I do say so myself! And the glass block...99 cents! Plus, this book is loaded with good stuff...from crocheting, knitting, sewing, and other types of needlecrafting! Again...99 cents! Seriously...you gotta start shopping at your local refuge center...you never know what your going to get, or who your going to be helping, either!
 I know...more plates, baskets and cool vintage planter material! I'm just so psyched...I went right over to the plant store after I left here, just to get what I needed, to come back home and quickly start planting! LOL!  There's no time...like the PRESENT, to act on our passion...right?! So...I urge you...get in your cupboards...stop at a rummage sale...don't let that unused, unloved stuff go to waste! Make it work for you...inside or out! Your world is your oyster...make it anything you want! I'm making mine....."Treasurable"!

Aren't these georgously, mystifying?! What a story they have to tell! Can't wait to get them up on my wall....they're just so captivating!

 I like to take the kids "treasure hunting" too, because it teaches them that you don't have to buy everything brand new, and that it's okay to give as much as you recieve...like with their donatables, too! It's easier to get them to part with stuff they don't play with any longer, because they know it's going to a good cause. I try to use every trip like a lesson plan, for a rainy day...like more pennies in your pocket to do other things with...or the commitment to practice community service, like the workers at the thrift store where we like to shop...that they 'volunteer' their time...and give back in other ways to their communities. There's always a teachable moment...when we'thre paying attention, don't you think? 
This summer is only just begun girls...it's not even Mother's Day yet...don't just smell the flowers...get out there and create a new living scenery that you just can't wait to share with your family and friends! Treasures are what you make of them...and they don't even have to cost you a penny! You might already have what you're lookin' for and don't even know it! Look at everything as if it were the first time you've ever seen it...with inspiration and awe!
You could take your mom to a flea market for breakfast this weekend...and find some treasures together, while making it a Happy Mother's Day to remember!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Our "Alley" CAT!

My twins have a friend at school that just celebrated her 6th birthday yesterday...and so, it was fitting then, to gift her with something specially handmade...and represented her! Her name is Ally...and she loves to play dress up, go bike riding and play with all her pets...my husband nick named her ALLEY CAT...because she's like that little stray that you can't help falling in love with! She's perky and sassy, with a heart of gold...just like a playful kitten, looking for a scratchin' post!

When I saw a cat pillow, made by a lady on Ravelry...I just couldn't help myself, but to look into makin' of of my own...it was the perfect gift for our little Ally...however, it was missing the main ingredient! The PATTERN!...So, I set my pen to paper, and came up with some chicken scratch that I'm still trying to interpret...kidding, hahaha!
I just have to type it up yet...but in the meantime, I thought you'd all enjoy a picture of the finished Alley CAT...Happy Birthday to all you other ALLEY CATS out there! Enjoy!
She moved to fast for my camera here...this is the best I could do under the circumstances, but at least you can see how happy she looks!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Hairs the challenge!

First of all, I have to thank Chrissy for this extremely awesome challenge! And, after I saw the original photo of this little girls dress-up hat...I couldn't wait to figure out how to make it! And so........my story of HAIR unravels!

What little girl doesn't like to play dress up?! It's a pretty big deal when you're a little girl...especially the accessories, because every BIG GIRL knows that it's the ACCESSORIES that makes the outfit, right?! Come on girl...don't you kid yourself! We all started from the BEGINNING...when playing dress-up was FREE & FUN! So tell me...whose closet did you raid? Your moms or your big sisters...maybe it was your gramma or your auntie...either way, it was a blast! And that's why we girls know how to still have fun, when we go shopping right? I mean, really....how many outfits do you try on when you're out and about hitting the mall? What goes back in the rack...and what do you actually buy?! huh, got ya! Not much, I'm sure! Either way, it's still fun...unless you're really serious, and you can't find what you're lookin' for, then it's no fun.

But either way, any good lookin' outfit, always comes down to the right HAIR....cut, color and style! That Barbie doll never has a 'bad hair day', does she?! Like, really......what's that all about? That's just not natural! Really though, when you think about it....a wig is the RIGHT CHOICE...like Dolly Parton always says! You can be anyone you desire, and no one can take it away from you, 'cause you own it! LOL!

If you ever thought you'd like to be a redhead, try wearing a WIG first....it just might change your life. It did mine......literally! I tried wearing a wig the night before I got married, and I never looked back...trust me, that's a true story! LOL! I was a brunette for the first 24 years of my life, only to become a redhead for the next 20! And, yes...you guessed it...I still am! They say, redheads have more fun....and I'm living proof....hence, the 'let's play dress-up' today!
Aren't ya glad you came to see what was going on today? Who could have more fun, right?!
Let's make our little girl dreams come true, and make a crocheted version of a blonde haired, pig tailed girl!

"Let's play dress-up & be a Blondee"

Start with some yellow (red heart or your preferred 4 ply yarn) and an I hook;
Row 1: ch 3, and make 9dc in the first chain =10dc (first ch3 counts as 1dc)
Row 2: sl st to the top of ch3, and ch3 (counts as the 1st dc of that row and every row thereafter.)
inc by 2dc in each st, and then every st around =20 dcs
Row 3: sl st to top of ch 3, and ch 3, 2 dc in next st, *dc in next st, 2 dc in next st*, and repeat around from * to *; = 30 dcs
Row 4: sl st to top of ch 3, and ch 3, dc in next st, and 2 dc in next st, *dc in next 2 sts, and 2 dc in next st*, and repeat around from * to *; = 40 dcs
Row 5: sl st to top of ch 3, and ch 3, dc in next 2 st, 2 dc in next st, *dc in next 3 sts, and 2 dc in next st*, and repeat around from * to *; = 50 dcs
Row 6: sl st to top of ch 3, and ch3, then dc in each st around, til end of that row. = 50 dcs
*(now, if you're lookin' for this to be a baby/toddler size hat/xsm; I'd stop here, but if you're lookin' to make this pattern a bit larger for a small to medium size child, then increase to 60 sts in the next row 7, otherwise skip this row and go to row 8)
*Row 7:(optional/for larger child size) sl st in top of ch 3, ch 3, then dc in next 3 sts, 2 dc in next st, *dc in next 4 sts, 2 dc in next st*, and increase around from * to *; = 60 dcs.
Row 8-11: sl st to top of ch 3, ch3 and dc around. repeat for each row. =60 dcs (ea. row)
The beginning of your hat/beanie is now made...
Now, for the fun stuff...the bangs! Whoop, whoop!
Row 9: sl st to the top of ch 3, and ch 1 in same st as joining; at the same time, pull up long loop (about an inch or so...this is your hair/don't make it too long..they're going to be your bangs!)
do this twice in the same st, and then, in each st around (front loop only)... = 120 sc/loops at the end of this row.

 Once, you get all the way around, this is what it should look like when you get all the way around that row.
Now, Row 12...from last sc/loop combo...place your hook in the BACK of the remaining st from the previous row and slst into that next st, ch3 and then dc and next back loop, and around, to last st, sl st in top of 1st ch 3 and tie off. = 60 dcs.
Weave in your ends to finish this part of the hat. I did make bangs to go around the head...to be more like hair all the way around...so, you could actually make it into a boy if you liked...otherwise only make the bangs in the front area only and then sc around the rest of the hat/beanie in row 11.

Now it's time to make the tassles for the pigtails that we will be attaching to either side of the beanie/hat...you'll want to make 2 of these, approximately 6 or so inches...or longer, depending on how you want your dress up hair to look when it's all done!

Start with a book...something hardcovered, like this...
then take your yarn from your hair/hat/beanie you just created, and start wrapping the yarn around the book (short or long way, depending on the length your striving for.) I wrapped mine 80 times around...
Now, take your needle and a length of yarn and put it through the middle on the top, like so...and tie as tight as you can (double knot it!)...then turn it upside down, while squeazing it tight (so you have a nice even cut with your scissors)...

then, flip it back up on the table, and take another length of yarn and place it about 1/4 way down from the top and tie around, doubling the knot again, to assure its tightness.
then, make 1 more...and trim the bottoms carefully with your scissors before attaching to your hat...

Attach in the third row down from the center on either side...make sure its tightly secured again with a double knot,
then weave ends to the inside of the hat....and whala...your 'dress-up girl hat with pigtails'
 is ready to wear!
Say cheese, Quirty! ....and the real ones are on the left....hehehe! 
So, what do ya think of our transformation?!