Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Oh Boy!

Guess what!?

We're having a baby boy!

And we're super excited : )

See his little feet?

They're super cute, in case you didn't know.

And as you can see, we're pretty excited - I'm even showing him off in my Halloween costume! (Thanks to this idea from Make it and Love it).

Right now I'm 20 weeks, so that means Baby Boy is due to arrive sometime in the middle of March, and we can hardly wait!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Homemade Half-Pint Canning Rack

Whenever I think of "half pint", I think of Little House on the Prairie (it's what Pa called Laura), and smile a little inside : )  At some point in my growing-up years, though, I realised that a half pint is really just one cup.  And I never understood why people would say "half pint" when they could just say "one cup".  I guess I still don't really understand that one.  Anyway. . .

Is anyone else ever really frustrated when they want to can up something in half pint jars, but their only water-bath canner is made to fit quart jars?  What a waste of time, water, and energy to heat up a pot full of water that is made for quart jars!  Well, obviously, I am frustrated by this.  But, at the same time, I definitely don't want to risk breaking my jars by just sticking them in any old pot and letting them bang around with the force of boiling water!  What's a girl to do?

Why, make her own half-pint sized canning rack of course!

Luckily, I have tons of extra electric fence wire lying around my house (it's a long story), which is really easy to bend into whatever shape you want it.  So, I bent, and bent, and bent some more, until I got what I was looking for!

First, make two rings, one just small enough to fit inside the pot you are intending on using, and one smaller than that.

Then, make three of these thingys in roughly this shape.  (You know, this is a very precise art ;)  The only really important part here is that the middle flat part is wide enough to fit the bottom of your intended jars.

Then, arrange in a criss-cross pattern something like this.  Lastly, put the smaller ring outsidet the bumps around the center of the rack.  Sorry I didn't take a picture of that last bit, but if you have a regular sized canning rack, I think you know what I mean.

I tried fussing around with making it stay together in a nice, sturdy, easily moved manner, but it was getting to be too much of a hassle, so i just put it in the bottom of my pot with a couple empty jars to keep it all in place nicely.  Then I filled it with water and heated it that way.  When I was ready to add my filled jars, I put them in and took out the empty ones, and it kept its shape nicely, even under boiling water.  I suppose if you had a soldering iron it would be really easy to make it nice and sturdy, but since I don't have one, I'll just make it do this way!

Anyway, now I have another size pot I can use for canning!  Mission accomplished!


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Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Today I made some homemade ketchup.  I have been wanting to try my hand at making ketchup, and since we still have lots of tomatoes from our garden, we figured we might as well use some for this.  Clint found a recipe on a website called the Hungry Mouse.

Recipe originally from Saveur
1 28-oz. can tomato puree (we pureed 2 lbs of our own San Marzano tomatoes)
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and quartered
1 clove garlic, crushed and peeled
1/2 fresh jalapeƱo, stemmed and seeded (we used a whole serrano from our garden)
2 tbsp. dark brown sugar
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 cup water
Pinch cayenne
Pinch celery salt
Pinch dry mustard
Pinch ground allspice
Pinch ground cloves
Pinch ground ginger
Pinch ground cinnamon
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Yields about 4 cups of ketchup

If using your own tomatoes, core them and puree in a blender.  Then, add onion, garlic, hot pepper and brown sugar to the tomato puree in the blender.  Blend until smooth.  Add cider vinegar and water to puree, blend again for about a minute.  Dump mixture into a pot, add spices, mix.  Bring mixture to boil, stirring occasionaly, reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour or until mixture has reached "ketchup" consistency, stirring occasionally.  Put entire mixture through food mill to remove seeds and skins.

Apparently, the ketchup will keep for about 1 month in the fridge.  We tried canning it, but then weren't comfortable eating the results, so I wouldn't recommend doing it that way.  Next time I make it, we'll probably half the recipe and just keep it in the fridge.



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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Quilt Pattern

I have had this quilt picked out for quite a while, but I have just now gotten started on it (thanks to encouragement from my amazing husband).  It's called square in a square in a box.  I found it on, but I think it originally was published in Quick and Easy Quilting Magazine in 2002.

Square-in-a-Square in a Box

Of course, my quilt won't look like this, because I'm not really following the color guides exactly, since I've acquired all my fabric from the stashes of various relatives.  And, it will be quite a bit bigger, since I want it to fit our queen size bed.  I think it will take about 210 squares to make it the size we want.  So, I've got a bit of work ahead of me, but that's okay!

Since I've never made a quilt before, and I'm used to using patterns, I decided to go ahead and make a pattern for this quilt design.  Basically, this is it (click to see original size):

I'll post next week about how to assemble the squares, so be sure to look for that!


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Monday, October 3, 2011

Tortilla Soup

Since it has suddenly decided to become fall around here, we have been able to enjoy soups again!  This is one of our all time favorites, it came from a blog that is no longer active, but still is floating around on the internet at this address.  Anyway, we have modified it a bit (of course), so this is how we do it here:

2 Tbs olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced (we do more, cuz garlic is yummie!)
1 Tbs ground cumin
28 oz can fire roasted tomatoes (we do 2 pint jars chopped tomatoes or about the equivilant fresh or dried)
1 qt vegetable stock (or chicken)
15 oz can beans, rinsed and drained (we do about 2/3 cup dried black beans in the crock pot on high for a few hours before)
6 corn tortillas, torn up
Salt and pepper
Shredded cheese!

Heat oil in large pot on medium high.  Cook onions and peppers in oil until soft.  Stir in garlic and cumin, cook for 2 minutes.  Pour in tomatoes with juice, stock, beans, and tortilla strips.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 25 minutes.  Check for salt and pepper.  Serve with shredded cheese on top.  Delicious!

The original blog post points out that the recipe is a great vegetarian recipe, and it would still be delicious as a vegan recipe without the cheese.  So, if you happen to have vegan freinds come over for dinner, this would be perfect.  Even if not, it's still a quick, simple, healthy, yummie recipe!


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Thursday, September 29, 2011

One Sock, Two Sock. . .

I have officially finished one sock. It was meant to be a gift for someone else, but since it fits me quite well, I doubt it will fit the intended recipient. So. . . some re-eveluation is in order!

Complete Sock

I have decided to make the other sock the same size, so at least they'll be a pair.  The only other option was to tear out the first sock and start over, but Clint wouldn't let me.

Half a sock

Anyway!  This is what I'm working on right now in the crafty department.  This pair should be done soon, then we'll have to decide what to do with them. . . Maybe I'm just knitting myself an unexpected pair of socks!

One and a half socks!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Best Banana Bread

This is seriously the yummiest banana bread I have ever eaten.  I absolutely love it!  I got the recipe off a blog, but I can't remember which one, and I can't seem to find it.  Thankfully it is a recipe I wrote down, because I have tried others since finding this one, but I keep coming back.  It's that good!

6 Tbs butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
2 Tbs sour milk (to make it sour, add a few drops vinegar or lemon juice)
2 over ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour (I use whole wheat pastry, to help it be a little softer)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (or more!)
1/2 cup chocolate chips (or more!)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Mix butter, sugar, egg, and milk until smooth.  Add bananas, mix.  Add flours, salt, baking powder and soda, mix.  Add walnuts and chocolate chips and mix.  Fills 12 muffin cups at 1/3 cup batter.  Bake about 15 min.

Or, grease loaf pans and bake for 1 hour for one large pan or 45 min for two small pans.  Your choice.

I always do sweet breads in muffin form because they just seem easier to eat to me.  Less of a hassle and therefore more likely to get eaten than a loaf you have to cut a slice off of every time you want a bite!  But, that's probably just me. . .


Monday, September 26, 2011

Making Mozzarella

I was inspired by Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and encouraged by a couple people I know at work to try my hand at making mozzarella.  I was pretty intimidated by the idea at first, but really, it is very easy to do.  I just followed the directions given at Animal, Vegetable, Miracle's website for 30-Minute Mozzarella

The first thing to do is gather all the required ingredients:

1 gallon whole milk (pasteurized is okay, but not ultra-pasteurized)
distilled water
liquid rennet
citric acid
The milk and water are pretty easy to come by, but I had to go to the home brew supply shop here in town to get the rennet and citric acid.  The citric acid was really cheap, just a couple bucks, but the rennet was a bit more spendy, I think around $12.  But, it lasts for a year in the fridge, and since you only use 1/4 tsp per gallon of milk, it's really not that bad.
Measure out 1 1/2 tsp citric acid mixed with 1/4 cup distilled water in a ceramic cup and 1/4 tsp liquid rennet mixed with 1/4 cup distilled water.
Put the whole gallon of milk into a large pot and gently heat to 55 degrees F.  I only have a candy thermometer, which means it doesn't register temperatures that low, so this part is always a little bit of a guessing game!  At 55 degrees add the citric acid mixtuer to the milk and mix.
Around 88 degrees, the milk should start to curdle.  When it's curdled, add the rennet mixture and mix into the milk with an "up and down motion". 
Keep heating until just over 100 degrees. Good sized curds should be forming by then and the whey shouldn't be "milky" any more.  These pictures were from my first time making it, and I have since gotten better curds by letting it heat a little longer.
I used a strainer to strain the curds from the whey, catching the whey in another pot to be fed to the dog and chickens.  Then, while the curds were still in the strainer, I kneaded them to remove excess liquid.

Then, into a microwaveable bowl the curds went to be heated for one minute.  Then I kneaded (with a spoon, those curds are hot!) again to remove liquid.  Then into the microwave for 30 seconds, then keaded, then microwaved for 30 seconds then kneaded again.
This is also when you add "salt to taste" which I think is the most annoyingly vague direction in the world.  Give me a starting point and then say "or to taste" because I have no idea how much salt these curds will take to taste like mozzarella!  Anyway, I didn't put in enough salt the first time, but since then, I think I've found that about 2 tsp is a good "taste" for me.
Anyway, after all the microwaving and kneading, you stretch the ball'o'curds until it gets a smooth, shiney, elastic, mozzarella-y texture.  Animal, Vegetable, Miracle describes it like pulling taffy, but since I've never pulled taffy, I can only guess what, exactly, that means.
Once it's to the proper texture, I made it into little mozzarella balls to be stored covered in whey in the fridge.

See how my whey was still a bit "milky"?  I have since gotten it less so during the "heat to just over 100 degrees" stage.  Theoretically, you should get about 1lb of cheese from 1 galon (10lbs) of milk.  I weighed my efforts the first time I made it and came up a bit short, but I chalk that up to not getting the best curds, too.  I haven't weighed since, but I think I'm probably getting closer to the 1lb of cheese mark.  At least that's what I'll tell myself!

Anyway, we have used this cheese on pizza, baked pasta dishes and for caprese salad.  It usually shreds nicely (I do bigger balls of mozzarella when we're planning on shredding it) and melts great.  Only one time I made it and instead of melting when baked, it sort of just dried out and got crusty.  I don't know why.

Well!  That, so far, has been my foray into the culinary genius of dairy products.  Next, I hope to try making yogurt.  I'll be sure to update you all when that happens : )


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