Wednesday, August 31, 2011

You got new leags Lt Dan

I once read on a fellow blogger's blog that you should never blog as if you are talking to your best friend.  In some ways I agree.  You really don't want to know everything my best friend and I talk about well... mostly because you would think we were nuts most of the time.  We jive very well.  But this comment about blog "do's and don'ts" makes me hold back at times.  Maybe because I think I will be made fun of, thought badly of or just plain... no one really gives a poo.  So... I have come to the realization that I am just gonna tell ya .. ok!

So.. all that said here's my "You got new leags Lt Dan".... from Forest Gump.. you know!  I went to the eye doctor at Wal-Mart in the spring to get a new eye exam simply because I needed new contacts.  Whilst I was there... browsing the eyeglass frames and trying many, many pairs on as any curious kid would... I spotted the perfect pair.  This pair of glasses had pink frames, they fit impecibly well, they wouldn't allow me to look underneath my glasses and have to look down to see, and they reminded me of something Grandma Covington wore... large frames.  I knew they were the ones for me, but wait... frames are expensive and lenses are even more expensive and I am here for an exam and contacts today. I put them back on the plastic faux nose on the wall, said good bye and walked away with my new contacts.

I thought about these glasses more than a few times over the next month or two but toned down my desire for them by telling myself over and over I didn't need them.  Well I gave in when I had the thought of finishing the dove hunt magazine and having extra money when it was done.  I told myself I could have them... finally as a consolation prize and award for a job well done. 

The day came.  I stopped at Wal-Mart after work on a Friday and although I had not yet gotten my payday I did have enough to go ahead and order them so I thought.  I am pretty sure if I had been clocked on the way in the store I would have gotten a ticket.  I went straight for them, tried them on and felt the "Oh Yeah... these are the ones" feeling once again.  They are large and in charge and I can see the world with these!  I quickly turned to my left answering the eyeglass sales lady's question of "can I help you."  "How much are these frames?" I said.  She answered "Nine Dollars."  Hmmm? My first thought was ... and I waited all this time?  Ok.. "how much are the lenses for these frames?"  Well, she said, if you just get the normal plastic lenses that fit those frames they are 14.95 per lense.  My total coming to a wopping $38.95 for a fabulous pair of frames that I adored.  I couldn't believe it.  I never imagined, nor have I ever spent less than 150.00, that my new glasses would have only been forty bucks. 

I am glad that I didn't ask the day I got my contacts how much the glasses were nor notice the 9.00 tag right underneath the set... mainly because I didn't have my new contacts in at the time.  I walked away with a new pair of glasses and for a steal of a deal.  And my... don't I look smart!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

MayPops Jelly

What are May Pops did you say??  May Pops... Wild Apricots as Shaun calls them... or Passion Fruit from the passion fruit vine that grows wild as Christmas at the Denton's.  Here's a couple of pics of what they are. 

 Notice the beauty of it all.  The purple flowers are gorgeous and the fruits look like limes.. but they sure don't taste like limes.
In all my lust for natural items on our farm (free stuff you can eat) I read in several library books that the fruits of this vine are edible.  If you have ever stepped on one out in a field you know that they make a pop sound and there's really not much to them but rind and seeds. 

I must say that I have found this to be very intriguing as I found a recipe online and started making jelly.  These fruits smell wonderful and come to find out they taste wonderful too.  I have had samplers of the jelly say that it tasted like white grapes, honey, and pear preserves .. without the pears in it.

So my short but sweet story on the recipe is this... I found one online and made it.  The jelly turned out so thick a knife would stand straight up in it.  In my mind I either added too much pectin or cooked the sugar mix too long.  The odd twist to this story is that I went to the library to pick up a book I had on hold called A Naturalist's Guide to Cooking with Wild Plants by Connie and Arnold Krochmal (which I have on order for my birthday) and the very recipe was in this book.  What are the chances.. I mean really.  The only difference in the online recipe and the recipe I found in the book was the amount of pectin to use.... key!  The book recipe said to use half of a 1.75 oz package of pectin... not 1.75 ounces of pectin.. which would cause it to harden up like a baseball... like it did the first time. 

I got to work when I finished cleaning up supper dishes that very evening, this recipe truly only takes about 45 minutes, start to finish.  I made the recipe with half a package of pectin and it turned out great.  The color was prettier, the consistency while not quite as set as I think it should be, was much better, and the taste is wild and wonderful.

MayPops Jelly
2 cups ripe maypops, sliced
1 cup water
2 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 package pectin that is 1.75 oz

Combine the maypops and water in a 3 quart saucepan and boil gently for 5 minutes.  Strain through a colander pressing to extract as much juice as you can.  Toss the skins and seeds(throw away.)  Combine the liquid and sugar and bring to a full rolling boil.  Add the pectin and again bring to a full boil.  Remove from heat, pour into hot sterilized jars, top with hot lids and seal. 
Makes 2 1/2 pints.

P.S. This is a rolling boil... when the boil can't be stirred down.

So I got a little carried away!  Saturday I made four batches.  It seriously didn't take but a few hours and for a winter's full of maypop jelly... it's well worth it!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Growing Fun

Every year, in our garden, I like to grow something fun and different.  Something outside of our regular tomatoes, corn, squash, okra and zucchini and all the other "normal" things that we grow.  Two years ago it was bird house gourds and luffa.  Last year it was Tennessee Twister gourds, luffa again and scarlet runner beans with the addition of flowers to cut and several herbs. 

This year we planted several things that neither of us had any experience with.  So far we have had a small crop out of each new venture.  We have black beans and green peas that have already been harvested.  Sweet potatoes and peanuts that aren't ready to be harvested.  My most exciting are the tomatillos!  So far I have picked five that were ready.  Since they normally grow in hot areas like Mexico I feel our hot summer here in Tennessee has been quite adequate for them to flourish.  I made roasted tomatillo salsa Sunday night that was fantastic (recipe link)  Wonderful taste and very easy to do. 

I am so thankful for my green thumbs and dirt under my fingernails!

Oh my goodness... So good!  We didn't have any tortilla chips so I cut a few flour tortillas and fried them in oil.  Super Yum... UBER!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Our Afternoon Walk

Lots of times I ask... "hey, want to walk in the creek with me?"  I don't usually get the answer that I want but today I did.  Shaun and Dottie and me took a hike to the creek then down the creek one way and back up the other.  Then through one field, through a fence, around the pond and back home.  I loved it... as I always do.  I feel like a kid when I am in that creek and playing in the woods.  There's just something about the way I connect with it that comforts my soul... until it gets dark... then I'm ready to be home although I feel that I know the woods well enough to find my way in the dark.  I've closed my eyes down there before. 

It is amazing that an hour spent with someone you love can produce a lifetime of memories.  I love this place.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Seed Packet dos

Here to share another seed packet design!  It's definately that time of year for collecting garden seeds and flower seeds.  For my seed packet you will need a printer, paper, scissors, tape and seeds.  Oh and a pencil for writing the contents on the front.  Enjoy and for seed safety please tape around the corners so none of your tiny gatherings end up on the floor!

For your free seed packet template, please click here

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Canned Tomato Basil Sauce

I finally gathered enough tomatoes to can something!  Garden-wise, our tomato crop of 53 plants had a rough beginning, as did everyone I talked to near and far around this area, not just up here on the hill.  We had a lot of heavy rains early on this summer followed by very hot, dry days in the 95-100 degree range.  Soaked soil + hot on top isn't good for tender roots of tomato plants apparently, at least that's all we came up with as an excuse.  When our tomatoes did start to turn red on the bottom they also started to rot on the bottom.  Or the tops began bleaching out before the whole thing had a chance to finish turning.  I had to start picking the tomatoes as soon as I saw them even slightly begin to turn colors.

Once our tomatoes seemed to be doing alright, they ALL started to turn.  After having thoughts of "we are never going to have tomatoes" and "just weed-eat and mow 'em down, they are breaking my heart" to "wow here they are... this is going to be a fast and short season!"  I am thankful for what we have gotten and have tried my hardest to make the most of what we have been blessed with.  I also made the most of what our neighbor Mr. Butler shared from his tomato patch in which I didn't have to be told twice to get what I wanted out of!

Since August 4th I have managed to can 7 pints of tomatoes and okra, 4 pints of seasoned tomato sauce, 5 pints of pasta sauce using Mrs. Wages mix (which is my favorite and seems to be obsolete around here) and 12 pints of tomato-basil sauce.  All in all I have used somewhere around 64 pounds of tomatoes.  I would like to put up at least two more batches of sauce that can be used in recipes from spaghetti to minestrone soup throughout the winter so we'll see.

I would also like to share the recipe I used to can the tomato basil sauce.  I wish it only took an hour start to finish and I wish you would end up with mega pints of sauce but sadly... no and no.  But the recipe will be a wonderful base for many dishes that call for pasta sauce and can be seasoned later on with garlic, Italian seasonings, vegetables... whatever you wish.  I know it smells fabulous cooking in the kitchen and will aid in keeping us healthy until next year.

Tomato Basil Sauce

10 pounds tomatoes
3 Tablespoons fresh, chopped basil, or 1 tablespoon dried
Lemon juice

Peel tomatoes by dipping in to boiling water for about one minute.  Allow to cool to the touch and easily remove skins.  Core tomatoes (cut the top off) and cut in to quarters.  Place half of the tomatoes into a large, stainless steel stock pot and bring to a boil, crushing with a potato masher.  Add remaining tomatoes, turn to a lower temperature and allow to simmer uncovered for two hours stirring often as to prevent sticking.  Remove from heat and stir in basil.  Put 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon salt (I use canning salt) into each hot pint jar.  Ladle hot sauce into jars, wipe rims clean, add hot lids and screw bands on finger-tip tight.  Process in a boiling water canning bath for 35 minutes.  Allow to cool.  Label jar contents and store.  Enjoy as you wish during the coming, fresh tomato-less months.