About Me

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Wife, Mother, Mimi, lover of all things creative... sewing, embroidery, painting, collage... God and family are the most important things in my life.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Yummy Cake

If you haven't tried the Apple Cream Cheese Bundt Cake recipe that was pictured on the September issue of Southern Living, you should! It is marvelous!!! I couldn't wait to try it. It called my name the first time I sat down to look at the magazine. My mouth started watering and since I still had oodles of pears left I knew I could substitute them and make it right away.

I don't have a bundt pan anymore because I never could make a pound cake turn out right in it, so I got frustrated and gave it away. I now have a tube pan that works perfect for a pound cake every time, but it doesn't make this cake as pretty as the one pictured on the front of Southern Living. However, it didn't effect the taste. It was a great recipe that I will make again, probably pretty soon, since this one was history in two short days.

You can find the recipe here.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

After the Whipping We're in a Pickle

Many of you got a kick out of my post about whipping the okra found here. More than one friend has explained to me that the reason this works is that it puts the plant under stress and causes it to go into "fight for your life" mode. I've been told that it does work for other plants as well. Who knew? Surely not me!Well, after the okra decided to start living it's life to the fullest and producing I picked a bucket half full and pickled a batch. The recipe I used was very loosely based on the one by Alton Brown found here. Instead of rice vinegar I used white, instead of dried peppers I used fresh, and instead of fresh dill I used dry. This is a favorite with most of my g-kids. When they all are here at the same time we go through two jars at one meal. So yes, I did put up more than three jars.

My Blue Monday

Linking up with Ruby Jean again for another Blue Monday. Washing and canning, that's what my Monday holds today.

Happily, there will be a little break at lunchtime that involves seafood and tasty dessert!

If you have time check out the other Blue Monday participants all listed on Ruby Jean's blog.

More With Pears and Peppers

Saturday I worked some more on canning pepper jelly. I made a couple of batches and then decided to try my hand at making hot sauce. I couldn't find that much about it on line. There were loads of sites on pepper sauce, you know the kind where you heat up vinegar and spices and pour the hot vinegar over the peppers that you leave whole of sliced in the bottle. That wasn't what I wanted. I wanted to try my hand at a flavorful sauce to can. Although I didn't find exactly what I was looking for I did find a few hot sauce recipes that were not meant for canning. I looked them over and decided to just wing it. My sister-in-law from Georgia brought us this really great sauce made with hot peppers, sweet onions, and peaches. It is amazing! As a matter of fact I had to buy some more last time I visited her. I wanted to try something like that, a little fruity, a little hot and very flavorful.

I began by roasting the peppers, once again, a mix from the garden. I used jalapeno, small red peppers that I call tabasco peppers, I'm not sure what their real name is, and red and orange banana peppers. I chopped up onion and about half a head of garlic, I added some honey and balsamic vinegar, I roasted two pears peeled, quartered and cored. I did not let them fully roast, but heated them through a little bit. Then I added the juice of a lime and an orange and a little orange zest along with some salt and pepper. After I tasted the sauce I added more vinegar, white this time, and a little sugar. I didn't measure anything. I whirled it all together in the food processor for a while then I cooked it for 30-45 minutes.

It has a really nice flavor with a bit of a kick. I am surprised that it turned out so well since I didn't have a clue what I was doing. I poured the sauce in a couple of glass jars and a pretty little cruet and will store it in the refrigerator.

A New Refreshment (for me at least)

Ever since reading this post yesterday on the blog Well Preserved I've wanted to try cleaning my jelly jars with something fizzy. The writers of Well Preserved recommend cleaning the leftover jam from your jar by pouring some club soda in the jar, swishing it around, adding ice and drinking the remains. Of course, this meant I had to empty a jar and since I've been filling them this week instead of emptying them I thought it might just be a while before I got the chance to give this new idea a shot.

Today while making pepper jelly I poured my jelly into handled mason jars given to me by my mother. I did not realize that though the lids fit on top, the rings did not, so I had to empty those jars into others, and while this usually would have frustrated me, this time I was almost excited. I found some sparkling water hiding in the bottom of the pantry so I mixed it with the left over pepper jelly and squeezed in a little fresh lime and took a little tester sip. It was a very different taste, but I liked it. I like the combination of hot and sweet anyway, but I wasn't so sure I would appreciate that mixture in a drink. Now I'm wondering how a little jalapeno slice would be in lemonade? If you need a little something different to wet your whistle this week you might want to t give this odd concoction a try. Who knows, you might be pleasantly surprised.

Butterfly Dance in the Pepper Patch

Yesterday while picking peppers and okra in the garden, right after I took these pictures and put my camera away, the sweetest little butterfly came flittering around me and seemed to ask me to dance. She beckoned me with her gentle sways and tried her best to get me to join in the splendid ballet she was preforming so gracefully.

Sweet thing that she was, she had no idea how clumsy and unrhythmic I am. I went on with my pepper picking, and ant dodging and she with her twirling and soaring. I must admit that her performance made the sweltering hot chore so much more enjoyable, and soon it seemed as though even my spastic bending and rising, stooping then stretching, picking and plopping peppers into the bucket took on a rhythm that for a brief moment was interwoven with her genteel elegance and satisfied her enough that with one last pirouette she twirled and flew on her way.

I finished my chore with a smile thinking of how we sometimes see glimpses of God’s glory in His creation.

“Marvelous are our works,

And that my soul knows very well.”

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Garden Lore

If you live in the country or know many people that do you eventually hear all kinds of "old wives' tales" about any number of subjects. Sometimes there is a little truth hidden in them, and sometimes you just have to laugh at the absurdity of something the teller actually tells believing wholeheartedly that it is the truth. Sometimes they are so convinced that they somehow manage to convince you. I often wonder how these oddities came to be, where they started, and how they have lasted through many generations.

The thing that got me thinking along these lines happened a couple of weeks ago. The okra that got planted later in the season than normal hadn't bloomed. It was mid August and though it was very tall there was not a bloom nor a pod to be seen. My husband was commenting on this to a friend of his when the friend told him that he knew exactly what to do to remedy this situation. He told my husband to "take a switch to it." Not sure that he understood what his friend meant he asked for more clarity.

His friend explained again, "Go pick you a switch and whip the okra." How he kept a straight face I'll never know because when he came home to share this information with me I cracked up. That was one of the funniest things I've ever heard. I laughed off and on about it all evening. My husband laughed right along with me, but the next morning without saying a word to me or anyone else he slipped off to the garden and carried out the old timey prescription alone. Well, he thought he was alone. Our son pulled up as his father was in the middle of his unorthodox gardening procedure. With head cocked to one side he gingerly asked his generally sane father if he was alright.

"Yeah, I'm fine," he exclaimed a little sheepishly.

"Are you, (slight pause) whipping the okra?" our son ventured gently.

"Yes" came the reply.


Now at this point I must point out that our son works with his dad and I'm sure he was thinking along these lines, "if he's beating the okra first thing in the morning with a switch, just exactly what is the rest of this day going to hold?" but he didn't share those thoughts, he just waited patiently for his dad's reply.

Father told son what he had heard and how he figured it wouldn't hurt anything, and when asked by his friend he could honestly say he had indeed given the prescribed advise a try.

Well, Monday my husband came in the kitchen and casually announced that the okra pods were so big we were going to have to throw the first batch away. It seems they bloomed right away and got seriously busy producing a bumper crop! How's that for odd?

So my question for you is this: Have you ever in your life heard of such a thing as this, and if so can anyone offer any sort of logical explanation? Believe me I'm shaking my head like crazy over this one.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Full Time Canning Mode

So here is the rundown of my last couple of days: Picking produce, washing produce, paring, coring, and dicing produce, even a little smashing produce, cooking produce, and canning produce. I've mainly been working with muscadines, scuppernongs, pears, and
peppers. I have picked a little okra, but so far haven't done anything else with it.

Funny how we keep changing as long as we live, and yet parts of us always stay the same. If you would have told me twenty years ago I would be all excited about canning produce I would have laughed you right out of town, but I'm really enjoying it! If you would have told me I would be eating pepper jelly, I would have brazenly scoffed, but it's really yummy, especially with cream cheese and crackers!

I tried making a combination pear/pepper jelly yesterday, and it is really good! See the little pieces of pear suspended in the top of the jelly? I'm including the recipe if you want to give it a try.

Pepper Pear Jelly

peppers - I used a mixture of jalapeno, red banana, and bell enough to make 2 1/2 cups cut roughly into 1 inch chunks

1 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar

3 pears, I used sand pears, peeled,
cored, and chopped into small pieces (mine were about 1/2 in. cubes)

5 cups sugar

6 0z Certo

In a food processor process pepper pieces with vinegar until you reach a fine, but not mushy consistency. (How's that for precise?)

Mix sugar and pears, then combine with peppers and vinegar.

Bring to a boil, and boil for about 5 minutes.

If you have a lot of foam on top of the jelly you can add 1/2 tsp of butter. (I didn't need to do this, but I do sometimes when making plain pepper jelly.)

Cool a couple of minutes and add Certo.

Pour or dip into sterilized jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace at the top.

Top with hot lids and rings, and process for 10 minutes in hot water bath.

Remove jars and let cool on a towel on the counter.

Check to make sure your jars sealed the next morning. If you have any that didn't seal refrigerate and use first.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

My Blue Monday

I'm linking up with Ruby Jean today for My Blue Monday. If you haven't visited her blog or her Etsy shop you really should! She has the most gorgeous, feminine skirts, aprons, bags, and more. Christmas is right around the corner and that would be a wonderful place to shop.

Now on to Blue Monday
Focusing on the color blue, these were the first things that came to mind.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Favorite Things Friday

Of course it's no secret that my favorite things aren't things at all, but people. I'm crazy about my crazy family, each and every one of them. The family members over 21 are particularly choosey about the photos of themselves that appear on my blog, so since I don't have express permission on any of their current photos I'll share the ones of the younger set.

I marvel at the differences in these sweet little personalities. Each one has been created with such an individual diversity from the others. Each processes information in a different way, and expresses their thoughts differently. I often wonder what path each life will take, and how we as family can best equip each one for the things that lie ahead. I wonder what God has in store for them, and how each one will make a difference in the world. We seldom take the time to think about it, but we all do make a difference in one way or another.

I sometimes listen to the news and feel a little discouraged about the future, but when I look in these little faces, and remember the God we serve, my hope is renewed.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Canning Grape Juice

A few years ago my husband and I bought the most amazing muscadine and scuppernong juice at arts and craft festival near Cade's Cove. It was wonderful in flavor and reported to be very beneficial to one's health. I always wanted to try and can some, but never had enough fruit to afford the opportunity until last week when some friends offered to let us come and pick from their arbor full of seven different species of grapes.

It was suffocatingly hot and I wasn't really excited about the outing to start with, even though I was greatly anticipating the enjoyment of the end product.

When we arrived I was amazed at the beauty of the arbor and the fruit heavily cascading from the canopy in every direction, and in a variety of hues. There were grapes of varying tones of green, gold, purple, violet, and some bordering on red. The sizes varied almost as much as the colors.

Some hung in clusters that you could pick by the handful, and others hung in singles.

Of course, we sampled as we picked and the taste and textures were as individual as the appearance of the fruit. An array of birds were none too happy at our carrying off a large bounty from what they obviously viewed as their private stock. Some put up a fuss, but thankfully that's all they did.

We came home with full tummies and high hopes for our own pantry to soon be stocked with purple or golden nectar.

We decided to just mix the varieties and see what happened.
After reading many sites on canning grape juice and realizing that there was several different ways to do it, using specific equipment like a steam juicer for many of them, I opted to try the two methods that didn't require special equipment since I did not have any. I was surprised that all of the methods I found called for sugar. I was hoping to stay away from that. I decided to use the least possible amount of sugar figuring that we could always add it later if it was needed. The first strategy I finally decided to try called for mashing the grapes, cooking them, squeezing them, straining them twice, heating the juice again adding sugar and making sure it melted, pouring the juice into sterilized jars and processing it. It was concentrated and will need to have water and a little more sweetener added to it when we open it. It was pretty labor intensive especially trying to squeeze the juice from the grapes manually using nothing but cheesecloth and a strainer. I'll be on the look out for a food mill before I try this again!

I also read about an old time, quick way of making juice by adding a cup and a third of clean grapes to a sterilized jar along with a third a cup of sugar, then pouring boiling water over the grapes and sugar and processing for twenty-five minutes. This seemed much too easy to be good, but I tried it just to see. We sampled a jar the next morning after cooling it down, then refrigerating it. It seemed a little on the sweet side to me, with a taste that wasn't as flavorful as I would have liked. I suspect that it will have a stronger grape taste when it sits a little longer. Using a pressure canner to infuse the grape flavor would have been a good idea. I may borrow one from a friend if I try this again, and I will definitely use less sugar.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Gifts Abounding

I am so blessed with friends! Some I see quite often and others only occasionally. I have had friends that I've lost touch with over the years, that happens when we move, get busy with life, pursue different interest. Now with all of the technology available finding an old friend isn't as hard as it used to be.

I have been blessed to get reacquainted with a friend from my past over the internet and telephone in the last year. We still haven't seen each other, but that is coming soon.
This friend is very adventuresome and is able to travel and has done so extensively. Our lives have taken very different paths, but we still have much in common.

Well, this precious friend just returned from a trip to Guatemala and Costa Rica. She sent me the most wonderful packet of treasures! Look at these beautiful things! The zippered pouch is covered with lovely embroidery. The bracelet is handmade and the bookmark and worry dolls are precious! The gorgeous aprons are full of beautiful weavings, embroidery, fancy trims, and the sweetest little zippered pockets! And just look at the swatches of lovely woven fabrics! I think I might try and make a purse from those.

From what I understand women from different villages are identified by the aprons they wear. They are so pretty! I know my grand-daughters are going to really go ga-ga over the child's apron! I'm going to have to throw a party just so I can have occasion to wear/show off the red woman's apron. Won't it be perfect at Christmas time?

We also have a friend close by who has a tree loaded with pears, more than they can use, so they graciously offered some to us. Last year I put up tons of pear preserves. They are so good! This year since I still have plenty of the preserves I decided to make pear butter. I've worked on it for two days and just have a few jars to show for it. I love the stuff and so does a lot of my family, but it is a very long cooking process to get it right. Some of it I ended up not cooking long enough and it doesn't have the rich deep brown color with the equally rich taste that it should have. So far I only have 4 1/2 pints that turned out the way I like it. I think I'll just cook it down more as I open the other jars. That should work, I hope. It's not bad like it is, but it's not as rich in flavor as that that has slow cooked for 24 hours or more.

Anyway, I'm feeling wonderfully privileged to be so honored with gifts and most of all with friends.

This last picture is another lacy, little gift left on our porch by a visiter that I'm not sure I would call a friend.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Sweet Cousins and a Wise Old Owl

Angel Eyes is such a girl after my own heart. She loves all of the things I do and is so excited to do anything that involves creating something new. How many 7 year olds would hang with you as long as you want in a fabric store ohhing and awwing right along with you?

She spent the night a few nights back, the first time in a long time, and right off the bat wanted to finish a sewing project we started back in February. I got her machine out, and we went to work at once. I was amazed at how her motor skills have improved and how well she actually did at keeping the fabric lined up. I helped her a little at guiding around the small areas and turning, but she really did a great job.

She couldn't wait to finish the owl softy and give it to her little cousin Pooh Bear. He loved it too. I couldn't get a picture that wasn't fuzzy of he and the owl because one of the two were moving.

This was Angel Eyes second sewing project and she has given away both of the things that she made. Her first project was a pillowcase for one of her little sisters.

She wanted to bake a cake, go swimming, paint, and sew some more, but we ran out of time and swimming was the only other thing on her list that we were able to do.

I helped by appliqueing the eyes, and I did part of the hand sewing where we enclosed the stuffing, but she caught on quick and wanted to finish the rest of the hand sewing herself. I think she did a nice job, and Pooh Bear thinks so too!