Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween Treats

What's beyond exhausted? This had been a very long day but look at those smiles that greeted me this Halloween morning.

You moms know just how tiring holidays are with small children. This one has been a all out marathon. This morning was storytime at the library.
Wednesday mornings are always storytime but this day I took my bippity boppety blue, fairy with me.
She doesn't get too far from me. That's okay, everyone needs a good fairy to watch over them. And that little red ball on the black little head is an antennae of a six month old lady bug, our youngest. Pretty hard to get a photograph when she is always in your arms. 
This afternoon was the school parties. A dear friend came to my rescue and helped me haul in two trays of treats, drinks, and costumes while my lady bug hitched a ride and my fairy trailed along behind.  
My daughter really out did herself today on the school treats. These were a Big hit. Rice Krispie treats made into pumpkin shapes. The orange cast was achieved with orange die and the stems are tootsie rolls with frosting as leaves.  You could even use these for November since pumpkins are in style yet for another month.

I love Pinterest for ideas. I occasionally scan through it and save things like this that can be used for fun holiday treats.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Butterflied Chicken

 Butterfly cuts on chicken breasts is a great way to slim down those chunky pieces allowing them to cook quicker. It makes me think I'm getting more meat because the size is larger. Oh I know it's not true but it fools my brain into thinking I'm getting more and that means I don't reach for another piece.  
 It is a great first move before pounding. I don't know about you but my pounded chicken breasts look like moosh if I don't first butterfly them. You simply cut horizontally halfway through the meat.
But  leave just a tiny bit of meat not sliced in the center and then you can pound it or simply cook.
That is what I did tonight. I rolled the butterflied chicken breast in a combination of dried bread crumbs, dried onions, basil, flour,  and dried Parmesan cheese. Not in order according to amounts. Next time you serve chicken breasts give it a try. 

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Wood Window Wells

 Decisions, decisions, that is what remodeling is. We've been at it for years, slowly redoing one thing at a time. Trying to upgrade and create a thing of beauty on a budget.

In the present fore front is the drainage problem from the dirt sinking down directly around our house. We may be in a drought but the drought will someday end. If you happen to be talking to the Lord, please tell him soon would really be nice.

 Our house sits on the slope of a hillside. Not a steep one but enough to cause some water to slip down our way. Originally there was a dip in the yard that took care of the water, directing it around the house. Then the ground sunk against the house, the dip in the yard dissapeared as the ground shifted upwards. The constant shifting can be attested by our doors that are either too loose, too tight, and never just right. Aggrivating because you can't fix the problem permanently.  
 We couldn't just bring in lots of dirt filling up within a couple inches of the bottom of the house frame without changing window wells. The dirt would be over the top of them. With fall expenses of hay, a steer, soon a sow to butcher also and the usual stocking up for winter, money was a keen issue on this project. Kirk did some research and didn't seen any way we could afford to buy ready- made window well frames but I had an idea.

We live in a high plains desert area with on average 12 inches of precipitation a year, not much. If we add no watering with a hose close to the house, which is what we've been doing, you have very little moisture that will effect the window wells. Our daughter has some wooden window wells at her home she rents in Colorado and I thought ones somewhat similar would look great at our ranch style house.   
 We used pressure treated wood square posts 4inches by 12 feet long and the plan is to pile red shale on the dirt after it settles and then go over that with varigated color and sized river rock. The shale is less expensive and would do the fill work while adding more color and the river rock would add a nice contrast. The river rock I have in mind also has red rocks in it. The dirt is going to be sloped away from the house and what we will use to retain the rock is a mystery to be solved next summer after the dirt settles. I've also got drainage to figure for the downspouts and a rock path to figure out around the back of the garage.  

What we didn't realize when we decided to make this a do-it-yoruself project ended up a huge advantage. The window wells in the back both have to be shaped differently. The front window wells will be the same as each other but not the same as either one of the wells in the back. How would we purchase that?
When I first mentioned that we should go wood, Kirk looked at me and said. "Show me". That was hard. All I found was a building site on the Internet that explained how to build wood window wells, not ones completed. He went along though with a kind of, idea.  I checked with the Town Hall on building requirements for basement windows. The idea being we, excuse me, he would build them to updated specifications in case we ever decide to change basement windows. The rules for new or replaced windows being much larger than our existing ones. No plans to change the windows exits since we still have miles to go on the upstairs and outside of the house BUT who knows the future?
Interrupting this blog, I took my husband out to the front porch which has pulled away from the house and is sagging terribly to one side. I've got plans to build over the top with a small decked porch that will, in my mind at least, be the focal point for the front of the house. Yes, everything artisticly should have a focal point.
One of the smartest things I ever did was a self study program of photography. The rules of composition and texture have been the foundation for almost everything we do from Halloween costumes, to decorating our home, to Kirk's knives.
 I once visited with a acting judge and she also said one of the smartest and most helpful things to her career was studying under a photographer. After all a stage is a live painting, texture, placement of actors etc. is the basic visual framework for a play. 
When we are done I'll give you a gander.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Substitutes For Buttermilk

 What's a girl to do if she doesn't have some nice home made buttermilk? Well, I have been creating some wild substitutes. Oh I've gotten several batches of milk canned, some frozen, and some butter and ghee made but then the milk utilization ground to a halt beyond drinking and cooking with it. Life is simply getting in the way of self-sufficiency pursuits in the milk department.

Chicory here, who has been the foundation of our herd, if you can call six goats a herd, has me deeply concerned. She had an udder that was congested. Congested because it didn't have mastitis. She always gets one after kidding but this has been a huge problem over the last month and she kidded in April so the initial congestion problem was long gone.

 A couple weeks ago in frustration, I dosed her twice in a three day period, both teats, with mastitis medication. She acted slightly sick from so much penicillin. I didn't know what else to do. Her udder would be HARD and I'd have to massage and massage to get the milk to drop down enough to squirt out. What little amount there was. Then after a week of this, for a single day she'd have a fairly decent udder in stark and back to HARD once more the next day. The craziest thing since it happened over and over again. A week after medication her udder has calmed down a bit and the HARD isn't as hard and the softer is more of the norm. Did the medication do it or was time the factor? I don't know.

The problem wouldn't be so.... noticeable except Meagan has the softest textured udder I've ever encountered. You want to touch it, it's so velvety soft and there is no firmness what so ever. She milks down to a wrinkly sack.  I've begun to dry Chicory up hoping she will recover. And to think she started out with the highest milk production of her four years of life.

I'm not sure she is still going to remain with us though since she moans and groans something fierce. Her feet bother her terribly as she tenderly walks upon them. Is this connected to the udder problem? I'm not sure. Maybe she foundered when she turned one and kidded. This was before our entry into her life. We bought her because she was eliminated from a show herd because of weak pasterns that were never fully remedied. It is not a trait she passes on to her kids. Since founder can happen to one goat and none of the others in a herd eating the same feed who knows. After having ten kids in four years, maybe that's part of the problem too for though I've kept her feet trimmed, she is exceptionally right now.

I'll give her a months break without grain since she won't be milking, (our grain mix is very low in corn) and we'll see where she's at.  Can we get one more batch of kids out of her? That is the question. I do have a daughter, a grand daughter, and a great grand daughter from her so we shall see.  This means we have a yearling, Chicory's grand daughter as our only source of milk since the great grand daughter and daughter are just kids.

Though Meagan is milking far more than any other yearling I've ever owned. I've owned goats for over 27 years. She is still a yearling.

So now that you have heard my sob story, I'll tell you what I'm getting done about my beloved buttermilk, NOTHING. Life is interfering and so all those great recipes calling for buttermilk have had to take a major tweaking. I've begun dumping in whatever dairy product I have in the refrigerator as a substitute along with goat milk to create the same consistency.

My awesome buttermilk pancakes are likely to have a combination of cottage cheese and sour cream but yogurt is not beyond being thrown in either if I happen to have plain. I stick the cottage cheese in the blender and voila, a few pulses later and it is nice and creamy smooth. You'd never know I was using cottage cheese. I usually do this with the eggs called for in the recipe.


 If you simply add milk instead of buttermilk and toss in a little more flour, the taste of your baked good is bland. Also of note is in my opinion, Land O Lakes makes the best dairy products in our supermarkets here in Wyoming.
And lets not forget yogurt. It can often be used as a substitute also. Vanilla works pretty good in pancakes but use plain for things you don't want the vanilla flavor in.

The thing I have NOT done in many years is substitute a cup of milk with a Tablespoon of lemon juice or you can use a Tablespoon of vinegar as a substitute for buttermilk. It's bland though, lacking the flavor pizzas of buttermilk. That is why I've gone to using sour cream, cottages cheese, and enough milk to create the correct consistency.

Yogurt can be substituted in equal amounts for buttermilk but the store version is a bit dull if just plain - no flavor - in comparison to home made buttermilk's richness when made from fresh milk. That's where the sour cream or cottage cheese comes in. Better yet use home made yogurt from fresh milk as a substitute.

Nope, I don't run to the store if I don't have something. I reach into the fridge or cupboard and get creative for I can't go shopping and get just one thing and the one need explodes into a cart full of things. So I stay out of stores when possible. I am a born bulk shopper. If one bottle of Ranch dressing is good then three more has to be better especially if it is on sale. LOL

For more details on substitutes for buttermilk you might try this informative website.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Trapping, My Latest Skill of Necessity

I LOVE Wyoming but if you aren't fond of traveling like I'm not fond of traveling, the wide open spaces have a large draw back. You have to travel to get anything. I needed fabric and foo foos for Halloween costumes so off our daughter and I went between the hours of school time. That was Monday. Tuesday off I went to get supplies for the window wells hubby is building. 

Wednesday storytime and ballet with the three year old while the six month old was in arms and early school release at 1:00 followed by library afterschool specials with the older grand kids, younger ones in tow. Thankfully that was in our small community.

Then Thursday was a whirlwind to get anything done before Friday. It began at 4:30 a.m. as we hurried to do chores and travel five hours to pick up Gracie, our sole remaining yak. Then home again to do chores and set traps before picking up the four grand kids to spend the night.
Oh did I fail to mention that I'm now adding trapping to my resume? Not by choice but necessity which has been the mother of most all our acquired skills. Just like window well building has become my hubbies newest skill since we priced ready made metal ones. We'll talk about how later. 

It was necessity that sent me to borrow live traps once more from the town Animal Control Officer, in other words the dog catcher. The same kind of live trap that I caught the skunk under the shed at the house.

Warm winter, nice spring and the population has exploded. Now after a summer drought, their are too many for the available feed supply. In they move to terrorize my poor chickens, sucking eggs, and possibly killing one hen. Possibly because this is what we found in one of my traps Saturday morning, a raccoon. Now I didn't scout out no raccoon trails. Nope, I had been going to the corrals just after dark to watch for skunks to see what direction they came from and try and figure out where they denned up.  I concluded they were in a small culvert since the grass was pressed down at the entrance and that proved to be true. 

Since coons love chicken dinner, I'm not so sure the missing hen wasn't its doing. I trapped this one over in our neighbors pen by their now empty chicken coop. The coop that once was full of chickens which all became varmit dinner.

As I asked permission to set traps in neighboring club member's pens, I discovered that chickens were going missing elsewhere too. Others may tolerate annihilation of their girls but you mess with my girls and you mess with me.
No more of MY girls is going to make anyone but us people a chicken dinner and nothing sucks MY eggs for free without asking as the two skunks who were caught in the act can attest if only they were alive to do so.

Though the skunks to my knowledge are not longer trespassing in the chicken coop, I'm left with a bad case of  PTSD  hens. Think I'm kidding? What would you call 1 to 4, at the most, eggs a day from 8 hens if not a bad case of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome? Can't blame them, bullets flying over head and nightly invasions by threatening marauders. I might have it too if I weren't at the other end of the gun.

You might think just secure your pen tighter, well you have to do that too but our neighbors thought they had, a year old coop with buried wire underneath but still, they lost all their chickens. If something is hungry enough, they are going to find a way in. It is why population control in the animal kingdom is so... important. We do it or mother nature does. That is what the EHD that killed Jasmine was doing. I say was because cold weather has killed the flies.

 Mother Nature sent EHD to lower the deer population since we have a bad drought and no food. And wow,  has it wiped out a huge population of white-tails in particular along with some mule deer and antelope. She sends starvation, rabies and other nasty diseases to control skunks, racoons, and rabbits when needed. But for all you softies who say let Mother Nature take care of things, I want you to weigh the difference between a quick death by bullet or Jasmines death which did end by bullet but not before her organs turned to mush and she hemoraged out every orfice.

 I say population control by bullet is far kinder than disease and starvation so forgive me but since I've seen many forms of Mother Nature's population control, I favor the bullet and I favor trapping to control over population.

So for two nights, I timed my entry into the corrals to just after dark to attempt to discover if indeed skunks were lurking in the small culvert under the road. FWI, Skunks hole up together in the late fall for warmth and sure enough on the second night I saw two skunks tottering down our lane. This was after we had already gotten rid of two that got into the chicken coop.
As I told you the last time, skunks LOVE cat food and so it makes a great bait. What I didn't know is how unnearving it is carrying the crate with them inside. Luckily, the two trips we've made, no perfume has been donated.
More unnerving yet than carrying the cages is putting my hands in the front to slide the metal rings upward and opening the trap door.  So far nothing has tried to bite or scratch.  Not true if you accidently catch a kitty cat in a trap.  Five skunks and a racoon so far has left me wondering if we've got them all. I hope so. We go this morning once more to check, then on the road again. I've got to go help the folks at a business meeting.  
Oh yeah, got to have the educational part. I called a friend whos son's job is trapping for the goverment and he said fish oil and marshmellows is the best bait for racoons. Also, just keep setting the traps in the same spot you caught a varmit the last time for their friends will just keep coming until they are all gone. Then move on to another area and try there if need be.
Yes indeed, a woman of many talents, master of none, that's me.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Christmas Gift Idea

 Have you got kids or grand kids. I've got an idea for you for Christmas. This would make a great family gift or one for the small children of a family. We spend hours in the winter playing card games with the munchkins. Popcorn, juice, and cards and the smiles just keep coming. Sometimes we use a game as a reward for  quickly getting ready for bed and picking up their toys.

But anytime the cards come out the smile are turned on. We don't care who wins, we are too busy laughing. Rules are just suggestions for which imagination and adventure can twist and turn at will.
Our 3 year old here volunteers fish to help her sisters to fill out their hands. Discourage it. Of course not. We wouldn't miss for the world the way she lights up when she offers a fish. It is one of the special sweet things about this child we hope never changes.
 So if you are looking for ideas, how about card holders, card games and if you want to add popcorn and candy I'm sure it would make an awesome gift basket. It is also a great stocking stuffer.
I highly recommend this particular brand of card holder. The ones we bought three years ago have held up excellently and the handles are perfect for small hands. Our grand daughters wouldn't play without them. I'm going to be looking for another holder as we have another grand daughter. Just six months old but she has to have one too for when she is just a year older. That's when our three year old grand daughter began playing with Papa as her guide.

The card holders sell around $5.00 dollars a piece making it inexpensive. A tip on buying card games is to look for the ones that are bold, with simple pictures on the front. Even our youngest can describe the fish if she doesn't know what it is. The pokey fish or the Nemo fish etc. And their favorite games are Go Fish and Crazy Eights.

If there is a choice between board games or cards, cards win out almost every  time. I love them because they take up far less room in the closet.

Another awesome gift is dress up clothes. This is a great time of year to pick up costumes at the second hand store to collect and box up for Christmas. Add some jewelry, shoes, and you've got hours of winter fun. Yup, it's time to think about Christmas.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Butterfling Meat

 Butterfly cuts is the first thing I learned to do as a child old enough to handle a sharp knife. In fact all I ever remember doing was the loins, trimming and wrapping the meat and writing on the packages.  My mom, dad, and later brother did all the technical stuff and so it went when I got married. With little ones to get to bed at the same time Kirk launched into cutting up a hind or font quarter after work each night meant I once more did the same tasks as a child.

And though I've cut up a few deer on my own since then, for the most part, I still do the trimming, loins, wrapping, and marking. But now I'm head cuber also.

Loins are always butterflied. It's what you do when the piece of meat isn't large enough for the traditional cut. The loin above  had the inner loins trimmed off and saved whole for marinating. The narrow strip that was left is prime meat but small.  
You begin your first cut but only go 9/10th's of the way through the meat leaving a small amount of tissue holding the two sections together. The second cut you slice all the way through.

This gives you double the size piece of meat. The one side which is on the bottom is quite flat but the top picture depicting the backside has two little ridges along the center. You can pound this out a bit or just cook it as is which is what we do. This method could conceivably be done to make a long rectangular strip if you made a series of 9/10th's the way through cuts and then a final 10/10ths. It would look a bit like an accordion.

I do this for chicken breast too, only sliced horizontally instead of vertically.  I'll have to show you sometimes as this is super handy on thick breasts that you want to pound out and bread. If you simply pound away, they turn mushy before becoming flat. This horizontal butter fly gives me a nice thin piece and fools my mind into thinking I'm getting a bigger piece of meat.

So tell me, is butterflying meat just a Wyoming thing or is it done around the world?

If you haven't gotten enough of me, check out The Calico Bush I'm talking about knitting socks toe up.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

I Love My Cuber!

 Have I told you about my cuber before? It is AWESOME!!! Ours attaches to our meat grinder but you can buy a separate unit. For us that takes up too much room and we are already over run with equipment in too small a space to house it.  But anyway you buy it, it is one sweet piece taking tender to a whole nother level.

 Feed lot fed antelope or deer meat are pretty good for teeth grinding ability but elk can be a bit chewy at times. Huh, you say. What's feed lot fed antelope? It's what we use to call the deer and antelope on the ranch my dad managed. They ate off the oat and alfalfa feeds so they had lots of fat on them and would be akin to something feedlot fed. They were especially yummy but Dad is retired and hence access denied to those green pastures. But a meat tenderizer isnt' limited to wild game. Pork is my favorite thing cubed. Take a roast or the ham area (the rump)) before you cure it and make ham an slice it, cube it. bread and fry it and you have a little bit of heaven. Ask my sister, she started doing it on my recommendation and she's in love also.

Beef's tougher cuts are no longer with a few runs through the cuber. You've had cubed steak from the store haven't you. Well, this is better because we run ours through three times and the store I think only does it once.
It is a huge relief to my TMJ joints keeping them happy and quiet. Before this hummer, you could literally hear my jaw joints popping way across a room when I ate something chewy. Now quiet, I don't make everyone wince in pain including me. And knives have become ornamental as it doesn't take much to cut these pieces of meat.

The first rule of course to meat cutting being that you cut your meat across the grain not with it. See the grain of this chunk running horizontally? You would cut vertically or you will add to the toughness of every bite.

You then take individual cuts and put them through the cuber one direction and then picking it up you turn it another way and run through once more and once more again at another angle if possible.

All those little knives inside the cuber make cuts, tenderizing the meat without pounding it to a pulp.
And it will look like this. Breaded and fried it will be, yum, yum!

I'll have some more meat cutting tips tomorrow. For now sleep is calling my name so sleep tight and we'll talk later.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

EHD Was the Cause of Jasmine's Death

It is official, Jasmine died of EHD, epizootic hemorrhagic disease, where her organs turned mushy and she bled to death inside. I've put off telling you, it is a pretty sore spot. The breeder where she was at the time said it was a horrible death. The loss hit me hard as I had such high hopes of building a small herd around her bloodlines. She was my wool, meat, and some cheese plans for a more self-sufficent future.

You always think what if I had been there to give her shots would it have made a difference? Many cattle make it on their own or with the help of anitbiotics, why not her since she was in prime physical condition? The breeder even commented several time on the fact of how good she looked when she arrived. The very least, we could have shot her, ending her misery sooner but What If's dont' change the facts. I lost my favorite yak and I morn her still though it was the 15 of September when she died.  When I read on the Internet that most cattle recover, I wonder why my sweet girl didn't? Lord, what was I to learn from this? Then again Job, in the Bible, was probably saying the same thing. Not that I'm suffering in anyway to his level. I still feel sorely tried.
My husband thoroughly discouraged wants to abandon the project and sell off Gracie. I just can't make myself do it so I'll return to pick her up soon. Though Cory is in their pen (the Corrientte steer) and has begun following me around. I suspect he's fond of me for all the food I'm piling on trying to cover those bare ribs, I still miss terribly Jasmines grunts of greetings in the morning and her tail high in the air as she torn around the pen playing, her tongue hanging out. Those big brown eyes, large bushy bangs hanging thickly, just melted my heart.

Gracie is supposedly pregnant. She's bred anyway but she wasn't much to look at and her personality is cantankerous. It was my Jasmine which I loved and had such high hopes for and Gracie was going to be sent down the road in a year or two. Now she is all that is left so why since I don't really like her can't I let go?

Why she wasn't bit by the Midge fly that killed Jasmine is a mystery since they are never very far apart. This year hundreds of deer, especially white-tail deer have died in our area from the viral disease. One man told Kirk he found 18 dead deer on his place over an hour south of us. Why such a disease now when we have so few flies because we are in such a severe drought? I think it has been 8 years now that we've been without much water. The 300 foot and greater water wells which are the least depth you have to go to find water are running low and the ground is parched down deep.
It took all I had in me to dig the two window wells in the back yard. I finally had to have my hubby pitch in near the end. Us both taking turns with the pick ax to loosen the rock hard clay soil. His shoulders are giving him problems and he tries to limit his shovel time for it sets off lasting back aches. Though I have bulging discs ever other one all the way down my back and a plate in the bottom, I get by pretty good. Not counting that right now T-11 and 12 are screaming for a undisclosed reason. Could be trying to sleep with little ones.
The three year old  has her turn to sleep with Grandma tonight and as I type she is tucked in my bed. Think I'll have room to sleep or will I get crowded out? LOL

So if you hear me shout whoo hoo to the freezing cold weather we've been having, you'll know I cheer for the death of thousands. Thousands of flies that is.

Can you imagine a year where you didn't fight flies like crazy in the barnyard? This was such a year. I didn't even hang a sticky strip let alone a fly trap. Didn't need to and yet, this happens.

At least it wasn't Anthrax that she had, which was the other option the vet thought. Droughts raise it's ugly head too. Did you know it can sit in the ground for 60 years and to then be uncovered. As much dust as we've  had in the air this summer, that doesn't surprise me.  The close cropping of vegetation due to short grass can be one way of the inhalation of the spores by animals.

Yes, neither disease is typically spread from animal to animal and we are thankful that the breeders animals did not also come down with this disease though he lives near the river on the other side of the state.

Trials haven't stopped for I've got a goat that though she doesn't have EHD,  might have to be put down. We've medically and nutritionally treated her and treated her and she too has a shiny coat and is round and plump. Her udder though is growing harder and harder, her feet more tender to walk on. She tested negative for CAE last year but I'm afraid she might of had Milk Fever when she was one years old (before we bought her) because she had significant feet and pastern problems. They grew better as the years past and I treated them nutritionally. They have recently grown worse again. Why buy her in the first place. The selling price reflected this problem enticing us and we needed her. She had wonderful bloodlines and conformation beyond the feet and most of all we had only one other goat and time for her.

She has continued to have trouble especially around kidding time.  I think due to this beginning problem and as breeding season approaches, I wonder if we should even try for I'm not sure she will have any milk and before she reaches that point, will her aching legs stand the added weight. Her feet don't look that bad right now though worse than a month ago, so what's up? My Chicory can moan and groan about her problems so is it really serious or not? I might take her to the vet but I had a kid from the vets ask me what was wrong with his goat. The vets were all way off. They don't treat many goats in this country and so have little knowledge in that area. It isn't a resource I have much faith in.

Chicory can make it up on the milking stand without too much trouble and despite very little milk, I still keep massaging and emptying her udder. I had something mysterious like this happen to another goat years ago. Her feet were fine but her udder did the same thing. I sent a milk sample in to the state lab and no bacteria was found. A few months later she died.  

This has been a double tough year starting way last winter. Yet when I'm feeling like crying out, "Lord, I can't take anymore." I remember, "The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh, praise be the name of the Lord."

And indeed the Lord taketh my Sherman, Jasmine, my Mary Margaret, and maybe even our Chicory but he gaveth us Cory and next month a sow will arrive for the freezer and today my hubby and son both got a cow elk to  add to our meat supply. So at the end of the day, when I tally things up, I may at first see all the many trials that presently afflict us but then I count the blessings and see they far out weigh our problems. We are truly blessed. The Lord hasn't for a moment forgotten us. May I always remember that bent knees keeps me humble and gratitude keeps my feet progressing forward.   

Applesauce and Pumpkin Cookies, yum!

 While hubby is hunting, I'm not only going to try and get lots done but I plan on some special time with the grand daughters too. Each child has a night to themselves to stay and spend some time, just the two of us.

After getting crowded out of my bed by little feet, then a little hind end followed by a tummy and shoulders that crept further and further over into my side of the bed, I left for another where I proceeded to wake repeatedly from a back ache. I love my Temperpedic bed. It's the only one that I sleep in that doesn't give me a back ache. But I couldn't resist those blue eyes that begged, "Can I sleep with you Grandma?" 
Breakfast, livestock chores, and then she wanted to bake. What better kind than moist applesauce and pumpkin cookies? Besides, I had some pumpkin thawed to make pumpkin smoothies and  it was too much for just that. During the baking times we sat at the nearby table inhaling the homey smell of cinnamon waifing from the oven and played Crazy Eights. The applesauce cookies were by far her favorite and having had the two side by side, I'd have to agree. I think next time I need to add a little something to the pumpkins ones to bring them up a notch. What oh what shall that be. I'll have to think on it.  
(I forgot to take a picture so I've borrowed one from the Internet)

With cookies just out of the oven warming our tummies, we moved on to crocheting. She has wanted to learn and the last time, last spring, we didn't get past the chain stitch. Double crochet I could see would be a bit challenging so I began teaching her the Afghan stitch. That is what they called it in my grandmother's day. Now they call it Tunisian. Hooking those big stitches in front made things easier.

I was tickled how nice it looked with her uneven stitches, a real ego booster. We have plan to practice once more on Wednesday while her little sister does ballet. Hopefully this time, two ton Tessy here won't have to join her size eight shoes with the 3 and 4 year old's tiny toes doing chasses, First Positon, etc. to keep our three year old participating. I'm sure it was a frightful sight and spectators would rather not a repeat be.  

If you are wanting something soft and yummy while the weather outside turns cold, try these cookies. My mom made them when we were little.

I make mine with home-made applesauce. Non of that Transparent apple stuff. Transparent and Red Delicious are two apples I don't care for. Transparent is too bland and mooshy and Red Delicious not full bodied enough and I also don't like the grain of them. So since Winesap apples have disappeared from our availability, (I loved those apples) I have gone to buying a box or two of undisclosed strain of apples from a fruit truck that comes yearly from Colorado. They are sweet, sweet so I'm happy and that is what I make my applesauce from. 

So when you make your own applesauce cookies keep that in mind when choosing your applesauce. You might have to add a touch more sugar to get the sweetness just right for these cookies.

Grandma's Applesauce Cookies
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup shortening
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 1/4  cup applesauce
1 cup raisins
Cream the above ingredients thoroughly.
2 1/2 cup flour plus 1 teaspoon soda
Mix the flour and soda and stir this mixture into the above creamed ingredients  just until moistened. You do not want to develop the gluten in the flour. Bake at 350 Fahrenheit.  

One of these days I'm going to play with this recipe as my goal is to eliminate shortening all together from our diet or at least down to the rare useage. I'm running in to problems as butter and shortening aren't always interchangeable. I wonder if ghee and shortening are?

Anyway, tell me your favorite kind of cookie when the cold weather strikes and out comes hot cocoa.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Making Omelets

I'll admit it, I got a little carried away with the tomatoes but yum, yum, we love omelets. At least once every weekend we have them.  They are an excellent way to start your day with all that protein and vegetables.
 There are some tricks I've learned over the years to making a pretty omelet. Some is in the equipment and some in the technique.

The first rule is to have all your ingredients ready before you turn on the pan because this will go fast. I mince my onions and bell peppers to save me from having to pre-cook them. Then the sausage or chopped bacon is chopped in larger pieces. The tomatoes I prefer smaller than this but I was in a hurry. It was 10:00 and we hadn't eaten yet and I was in the middle of chopping lots of vegetables for another project.

We put a variety of things in our omelets from Canadian bacon, bacon, ham, and sausage, you know one or a combination of all those pork meats. Then for vegetables, we add what ever is available in the refrigerator of  zucchini, broccoli, tomatoes, bell pepper, onions minced. I think next time I'll even try some minced apple with a little mustard in the eggs for I'm becoming real fond of the Swedish pancake recipe. You can also add some spices beyond salt and pepper like chopped Cilantro or parsley. Some of you may shop to make an omelet but ours are determined by what's in the refrigerator at the time. Omelets are great for using up a little bit of this and that left overs.

What doesn't change in making our omelets is the technique.

1. We make a 2 egg omelet but you can make a 3 which will give you a thicker shell. We make 2 egg ones and lots and lots of filling. Place the eggs in a bowl, minus the shells of course, and add approximately a Tablespoon of water per 2 eggs. Then beat. Why approximately? Well, I just turn partially on and off the water tap in the kitchen real quick so the measurement isn't exactly real accurate. Except I do it the same each time. But just know that the more water, the more firm your shell will be until you reach that too much stage and then you just have a runny mess. 

Water is a crucial ingredient. If you add water you get a firmer shell that holds together better when flipped. No, you don't need one of those fancy pans that flips the thing for you. They are a waste of money in my opinion. Get the right water/egg mixture and flipping isn't a problem in a good pan. Which leads me to my favorite.

2. Use a nice crepe pan. I make omelets, Swedish pancakes, and crepes in mine so it gets used on average a couple times a week. If Kirk didn't leave so early in the morning for work, it would get used more often than that.  
My favorite omelet cookware is a blue steel pan by de Buyer. One of these days I'm buying more blue steel cookware because of the performance on this pan. I just checked the Internet for you and it sells for around $25.00. Some site a little more and some a little less, so not an expensive pan.
This narrow spatula I've shown you is awesome too for going under the edges of your shell and loosening it for the flip over the other half stage.
But before you go putting your egg/water mixture in the pan, be sure and grease it and let it get hot. Then as you pour in the whipped mixture; oh yeah, did I tell you to whip the eggs and water together with a fork -- well, do; then pick up the handle and rotate the mixture evenly around the pan letting it creep way up the sides like you would a crepe.
This pan will help you get under your egg shell and reminds me a little of cast iron in how it works.

 When the egg shell is nearly cooked, sprinkle your shredded cheese all around. Doing this first makes sure it is going to melt. We like to add a of cheeses determined by whatever is in the refrigerator.  Feta, cheddar, smoked cheese, and Kirk likes Pepper Jack are all great cheeses to combine.

As for whether to lightly cook your vegetables first before adding. That's a taste issue. Sometimes we do and sometimes we don't. We like a light crunch to some of our veggies and so sometimes we stir fry part of them and part of them not, or not at all when in a hurry like on this day.

I add the meat next to the cheese so it gets warmed and then the veggies. I pre- cook all our bacon before hand and freeze it so I don't have to cook it before making the omelet.

Sprinkle salt and pepper on top or mix it in with the whipped eggs in the beginning is also your choice. I add mine on top because I like and need more salt than hubby.

Our all time favorite omelet has hash browns in the shell and I'll share my method another time. Just know it isn't store hash browns but good ole home-made so stay tuned. I'm also fiddling with home-made granola bars. Whether you use the thicker ones or the quick oat type is changing my outcome. Learning, learning every day. 

Friday, October 5, 2012

Hunting Lists

Whoa, in all the rush of the week, I didn't realize I hadn't blogged past Tuesday. Katy bar the door though because hubby is leaving next week to go elk hunting and boy do I have plans, organize the freezers, sew, sew, sew, knit, make meals for the freezer, clean the chicken coop, and my mare's shed and pen. If the weather warms, I might even get the filthy windows clean. Four months of construction on the street out front will dirty, dirty windows make. 

I'm sure it is far more than I'll ever really get done but hey, a girl can dream. Whew!, my chronic fatigue that I've had a horrible time with lately, had better step aside. I've got plans and yes, there will be lots to write about and some more time to do it.

But for today, I've got to cook to get some food ready for our son and hubby to take up on the mountain. The perfect day to do so since it is snowing outside and brrr... cold. Old man winter has shouldered his way in and flipped the switch. I hope Fall fights his way back at least on occasion. Though in this country, he wears pocket protectors and doesn't know what a bar bell is. Yup, we have two seasons, winter and summer.

I did something really smart years back and I'm still thanking myself. It wasn't originally my idea as I followed the advice of a friend but at least I was smart enough to be led. If you have a hubby or maybe you that likes to hunt or if you go camping lots, you've really got to do this. My wise friend who had six kids and one income had to carefully budget everything. Hunting had it's own bank account and money was set aside for it all year for the big family elk hunt in the fall. A pre-made master list makes preparation far easier.

I didn't use her list but made one up of my own since no two families are the same. My guys do things more basic than many others. We actually have two lists. One is comprised of a basic menu and snack ideas for which to shop and cook from. The other is a list of items to pack.

This way I feel more comfortable sending my guys to an area where the last 7 miles by four-wheel drive takes an hour. Not someplace you want stuck when a bad storm comes in without enough supplies. These well orchestrated trips beat the hunting trip I went on with my step-dad where we had to get really creative because of the cazillions things we forgot.

 The thing that made it different was the easy access road allowing a greater safety level.  It will always be memorable for Ferny, his horse. After a hike into heavily downed timber, we stopped and ate on a rock. My step-dad held his sandwich to the side as he reach for something else in his pack and Ferny plucked it from his hand. He chopped down discovering the healthy helping of Miracle Whip. His eyes grew large and his Morgan head began shaking side to side spraying the white clumps in all directions.

Though being unprepared can give you lots of funny memories, it can also risk your life so if you don't have a list, make one. You, like me, will thank yourself time and time again for. 
As for this morning's antelope hunt, Kirk went out in the hills near town and came home empty handed. Where were the antelope? In our yard of course, where they couldn't be touched.  There was even a really nice buck that missed getting photographed because my camera battery went dead.