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Gratitude

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Temperatures have finally begun to cool and we sigh a breath of relief.  The growing season is almost done which means our canning and preserving will now drop down to only small amounts each week.
I cannot tell you how grateful I am though, that while there was so much work to do, each and every day, we now have so much more in our larder.  But even more, I have learned so much more this year about canning and preserving that it shocks me to think back to even four years ago.  We have tried so many new things this year, so many new recipes.  I'm just so glad that I have posted these here so that in several years from now I can retry these again later.   Next year we will not be canning or preserving to the extent we did this year as next year we will be moving. Whether it is due to a military Permanent Change of station (PCS) or retirement.  My husbands time of 20 years of serving his country in the US Army is about up and it's time for us to begin the life we really want.

A Eulogy for my dear friend of 18 years

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Today I said goodbye to a dear friend of mine.  Eighteen years ago we found her in a humane society office outside of Junction City, Kansas.  She was tiny, very young, maybe only a few weeks old, gray colored with white paws that looked as if she had dipped each one in flour.  It looked like she had mittens on her paws.
So, we brought her home and named her Mittens.
She and I became good friends as I learned her meows, what her favorite foods were, and some of her little quirks that, of course, we all have.  We moved from house to house around Kansas because the military kept putting us in older housing and then would require us to move.  She began to really hate the sound of packing paper and tape.
I still recall to this day, when I came home after visiting my husband during his mid tour leave in Hawaii, I was tired, jet lagged and worn down.  Yet after saying goodbye to my husband and knowing that I wouldn't see him for another 6 months, that it was back to the everyday loneli…

30 Day Challenge ~ Crossing the finish line

We did it.  We finished our September challenge!  And since we did not spend a single dollar during the last weekend of September (other than gas and eating out because we did not know we'd be away from home so long on Sunday) we finished the month spending a grand total of....$53.83 at local grocery stores and $432.52 at local farms, farmers markets, dairys and chicken or beef producers. 
Total for a family of three for 30 days: $486.35
Had we removed some of the items that we purchased to help us stock up for the winter, this final number would have been more near $350.00.
Some people claim that "But It costs so much to eat healthy!"  Well here you go.  It cost us $486.35 for the entire month and we were eating pretty darn healthy and we were stocking up our larder for the winter!  Fresh produce, straight from the farm, fresh milk straight from the dairy, fresh delicious eggs with buttery orange yolks, wonderful, tasty pasture raised chickens and hormone and antibiot…

I wasn't always this way

This weekend my husband and I watched MasterChef.  The thing that I found most amusing and unusual was that a good portion of the aspiring chefs when asked what was their motivation to learn how to cook like they do answered "because I ate crap growing up and I'm tired of eating crap"

Same here.  Nothing against my Mom, I love her dearly, but as a child I was reared on fish sticks, hot dogs, burritos made from canned refried beans, and macaroni cheese from a box. 
As I became an adult my tastes began to change.  I found I could make pretty good food that was not from a kit (think Hamburger helper).  My culinary world began to open a bit wider when my husband and I attending a Food Network day long function filled with chefs cooking delicious meals with ingredients that I had never heard of.
This inspired me to learn more.  What else could I possibly make? 

As I grew older and more educated about food I decided to challenge myself constantly more. 

Now, about 2 1/2 years …

30 Day Challenge ~ 27 Days In

We're nearing the end of the first 30 days of our Challenge that we set for ourselves and I have to say, I really miss, most of all, pretzels. 
Small, Snyders pretzels. 
That was my favorite snack food at work and for almost 30 days I have not had any of those.  I really miss those.  Instead my snacks have been the usual grape tomatoes and sliced cucumbers, apples and cheddar cheese and saltines and a bit of goat cheese that I managed to make last for almost the entire month.  Today I treated myself and made a big ziploc bag of air popped popcorn topped with melted coconut oil and a tad bit of butter and then I sprinkled Nutritional Yeast, some salt and paprika on top. The end result is very similar to movie theater popcorn but loads healthier.  Yeah, I was craving junk food today. 
My son has been thrilled lately as he's gotten as many apples as he has wanted (Actually he's only allowed two per day)
Still though, we've managed to stay on budget.  Here's the bre…

Delectable Winter Squash Seed Giveaway!

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My new favorite winter squash is the Black Futsu squash!  Really!  I think this almost qualifies as a new love of mine!
Let me just say this is the most delectable, the most tasty winter squash that so far I have yet to enjoy!
We purchased our seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom seeds because it just looked interesting.  Here is their description.
Rare, black Japanese squash, the fruit is flattened, round and has heavy ribbing. Very unique and beautiful. The black fruit will turn a rich chestnut color in storage. Flesh is golden color and has the rich taste of hazelnuts. Fruits are 3-8 lbs. each and vines give huge yields; did excellent here. Popular with European market growers. Good insect resistance makes this a winner here!  The flesh does indeed turn a wonderful, rich orange color and the flavor (at least to me) was more like chestnuts! Not really hazelnuts.  Also the flesh is not stringy like so many other winter squashes.  It is almost starchy like a sweet potato!  I can only imagin…

Time to make the donuts..no uh wait, plant the garlic

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This weekend we knew the time had come since the okra got knocked down during that storm last week.  It's time to plant the garlic.  Just remember, the best time to plant, by the way, is four to six weeks before your first predicted freeze.
For us in USDA determined zone 7A, that means we plant on or about mid September because our first predicted freeze is on or about October 29th.
Keep in mind, some gardeners do plant in the Spring but I have yet to try that.  In the future I might, but for now we stick to Autumn garlic planting.

You can go the the Farmers Almanac page for a handy dandy expected frost and freeze date chart.


This year we are going with four different varieties, two of which were the ones we used last year, Chesnok red and Persian star, the other two are completely new to us.
Those two I purchased from the farmers market and Brad's Produce.  The one from Brads is one of the hardneck varieties called German White.  The other is a soft neck variety that oh my…

30 Day Challenge ~ 20 Days In ~ Addiction to Consumerism Exposed!

Twenty Days Now.  And believe it or not we don't feel all that deprived.  We have spent $40.76 at the local grocery stores on groceries.  This includes things like parmesan cheese, some Kale that we forgot to pick up at the farmers market, peppermint patties and raisins.  Remember by the way, we're allowing ourselves a total of $60 per month at the local grocery store. We have spent a total of $366.93 at local farms and the Bel Air Farmers Market.  Last week helped that number inflate quite a bit as we spent almost $60 on fresh picked apples at Lohrs Orchard. So all told we have spent $407.69 this month on groceries. Now just remember however, some of these purchases have been towards items (like the apples) that will produce snacks, meals and desserts for the next year.  This time of the year we're squirreling away anything that can be preserved.  Whether it is dried into chips, canned in chutneys, salsas and sauces or frozen, we put a good portion of it away for the months…

I'll take this as a sign that it's the end.

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The end of the okra that is.

We have been deciding what to do with our okra plants that, this year, didn't really produce much.  This is mostly our fault for two different reasons.

We planted them too late.We planted them too few.

Number 1 was a new lesson.  We didn't have this issue last year as we didn't plant garlic two years ago.
This year the garlic did not come out of the beds until late June to early July and we didn't start our okra plants in pots ahead of time, we direct sowed them, so they had a late start. Lesson learned.  Three months is not enough time to get the okra up and producing fully.
Next.  Number 2.  THIS one we knew about and we made the mistake of doing it, yet again.
This is one of those moments when I smack myself in the forehead and exclaim "DUHH!"
Next year, we will be planting one heck of a lot more of the okra so we can have it fresh, rather than dehydrated or frozen. 

So, now here is the issue.  Our garlic tends to go into the s…

How about them apples?

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We are now in my sons favorite time of year. It's apple season here in North Eastern Maryland.
This weekend we picked a total of 72.2 pounds of mixed varieties of apples from Lohr's Orchard which meant we were busy, and yet I cannot express the joy I felt as I pulled quart jar after quart jar of preserved APPLES and not tomatoes. 
Honestly, I am rather sick of tomatoes.  Really.  As much as I love tomatoes I have hit my threshold for canning and preserving them.  I know by October I will not want to see another fresh tomato for probably, at least two to three months. 
As of lately my days consist of going to my full time job during the day, then picking our son up from his before and after care for school, and then coming home to see what tomatoes need to be picked, what tomatoes have fallen down during the day, what tomatoes need to frozen (which by the way, includes starting some water to boil so I can peel them first), and then work on all the other necessary things that …

Surprise!

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Really, I feel like that is what our garden has wanted to say to us as of recently. 










I feel as if the plants have been conspiring with each other, talking to one another, late at night,  to try to plan some surprises for us.
And last night we just walked in on them and caught them in the act.

Just when we thought that the garden was slowing down, the plants were slowing down in their production.  Well that is when they have decided that it is time to get moving big time with growth and push out so many fruits and vegetables that we do not know what to do with them.
As of earlier this week we thought that the Black Futsu, the Marina di Chioggia, the Winter Crookneck and even some of the tomatoes were almost done.  The squashes were all looking yellowed and dead with mosaic virus, the tomatoes were browning out with a few green, unripe fruits hanging heavily from their branches. 
When suddenly, last night we took a leisurely walk around the garden and discovered a bit new life!
Obvious…

30 Day Challenge ~ 11 Days In

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Well, we're almost halfway through the month of September and here's how it goes thus far.
We've spent $34.29 so far at traditional grocery stores like the commisary or Walmart.  Now here's the kicker.  We've spent $135.15 on local groceries.  That means at farms like Brad's Produce, orchards like Lohrs Orchard and the farmers market at Bel Air.
This past weekend we visited the farmers market because we were starting to run low on things like kale, lettuce, ice cream and milk.
We also picked up one half chicken and one full roasting chicken at KCC Natural Farms.  Let me just say, this chicken was so delicious!  There was a big difference between this chicken and the traditional ones we normally buy.  The breast meat in this chicken was much, much smaller and the meat over all resembled more of dark meat than white meat.  The taste was richer and almost gamey and while the chicken was all over leaner, the drippings that came off in the rotisserie were extremely …

30 Day Challenge~5 Days In

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Five days into our challenge now and my son is already crying because there are no snacks in the house.  It didn't help that we had a three day weekend which we spent camping and we brought most of our fresh apples and peaches.  We do have two peaches left, one of which is getting kind of mushy.  That one will be turned into dried peach slices tonight in our dehydrator. 
We have an Excalibur Dehydrator and this time of year it goes almost non stop.  We dry everything from corn to carrots, onions to lima beans.  Anything we can not eat up in a few days gets dried, canned or frozen.
This means every Thursday we go through what we're getting from our share at Brads Produce and seperate it into piles.  There is the pile that goes into the fridge for consumption within the next few days and then there is the pile that needs to be preserved.  Usually a good share of our corn goes into the preserve pile, along with tomatoes, lima beans, and edamame.  The fruit we keep out so we can …

Kale Chips

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These are super easy.  Any time you have extra kale sitting around you can do this.  In the past I've purchased kale at the grocery store or even a bagful at Brads Produce and I almost never use the entire bit in soups or what not so instead I just make kale chips!  There is almost no reason to let your extra kale go to waste.  Also, kale is usually super cheap for a really big bag so this can make a super delicious and very nutritious snack!  Since this is salty and crunchy it can be used to satisfy any "potato chip" cravings one might have. I normally just make sea salt kale chips but this time I'm trying Cheese kale chips since I have nutritional yeast on hand. 
Cheesy Kale Chips

Ingredients:
1 large bunch kale 1 tbsp olive oil spray OR regular 1/4 cup nutritional yeast sea salt Directions:
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Tear kale into bite sized pieces, wash, shake dry and place in a bowl. Spray kale with olive oil OR use a …

30 Day Challenge ~ 3 Days in

This weekend was a bit hard to gauge how we're feeling.  We went camping this weekend and while we had a strict "No buying bread, pasta, milk, cheese, etc" rule we did splurge and buy a bag or two of M&M's or Amish Coconut Stacks.
I told Edward these expenditures could be considered slightly different since we were "officially" on vacation.  Normally I would classify all of this expenses under vacation/camping.  Not under groceries so....   Regardless, today we're home, and now we're fully into the idea of this.
It must have hit Edward today because he remarked that $30 every two weeks is going to go fast when I reminded him we need dish washing soap for the dishwasher.
Oddly enough, last week when I wrote about some of the things we that would be on our list laundry detergent was one of them.
Next thing you know, last week, I suddenly find on several blogs other writers talking about homemade laundry detergent and how easy and inexpensive it…

DIY Powdered Dishwashing Detergent

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Imagine my surprise when I discovered that you can make your own dishwashing detergent and if you are making your own liquid laundry detergent then you have almost all the ingredients on hand anyways.  Once again, killing the two birds with one stone.

Where I had really no definitive recipe towards the liquid laundry detergent I did use one almost exclusively for the dishwashing detergent.  You can find the recipe here at DIYNatural.com  I did make one extra adjustment, just to see if it changed anything. I had some Dr. Brommers Peppermint Pure Castile Soap from one of my Wegmans shopping trips so I added about a tablespoon to the powder and mixed it in thoroughly.  While the powder now smells nice and minty, it did not do anything to the finished product.  The dishes just smell clean but not minty.   Lesson learned.  It does not make any difference if I add scent to the powder.  It doesn't affect the finished product. (Finished product = Clean Dishes)
Now I must say, other than …