Monday, December 31, 2012

What's new for the New Year?

In the upcoming year of 2013 I am going to do some articles on animal husbandry, gardening for food and of course my favorite hobbies of food preservation and preparation.  We will also throw in some fun articles through the year just to break up the monotony.

January brings me to perusing those wonderful seed catalogs and the hopes of a warm and wonderful spring.  I know it's spring when I smell newly mown grass and a fire from a barbecue, quite possibly the most wonderful smells of all to me. 

I love looking through those seed and gardening catalogs which are free by the way if you just cruise through the Internet for free gardening or seed catalogs.  They are very helpful in providing me with ideas for my vegetable garden every spring.  I do like to use mostly heirlooms and more and more are becoming available each year.  When it comes to buying heirloom seeds however I prefer FREE.  OK you say, how do I do that?  Well, you start visiting produce stands, farmers markets etc.  You buy one extra item, for instance you are buying some heirloom yellow tomato's for your dinner but buy one extra, then if you like or love the flavor you take the extra one and keep the seeds. (I will provide some directions later on how to keep the seeds.) Then about 2 months before planting you will plant the seeds in  small containers and by the time they sprout and are hardened (more explanation's later) you will have plenty of your favorites to plant. 

Some of the items I have planted from farmers market produce is: winter squash varieties, pumpkin varieties, tomatoes, potatoes (sweet, yam, purple, white, yellow), garlic, beans (dry varieties as well as green bean varieties, Asian bean varieties, corn, melons of all kinds and just so many other items.  Some items it is just easier to buy seeds such as lettuce, cabbage, collards, mustard, chard, etc.  I also plant many varieties of sunflowers and zinnia just to attract the bees and butterflies for pollination and because I admit to loving the cut flowers in my house. 

I will show you how to make enough sweet potato plants to provide yourself with enough sweet potatoes to go through the whole winter from only 2 sweet potatoes!  You can do the same thing with just a handful of regular store bought potatoes.  You don't even have to have a huge yard or garden to plant them if you practice upright planting... more on that later.

If you live in the city and don't really have a yard you can still be a gardener by doing container gardening or if you have a house in the suburbs where you can't actually grow a real garden there are ways to include some veggies right in your landscaping that will look nice and no one will know its a cabbage or some peppers  grown there in the shady area and not an ornamental!

Kids, while they love growing and harvesting don't always enjoy the weeding and watering.  Well, watering they like on a hot day but and its a big "but" they don't always water much more than themselves so don't trust that the job will be done to your satisfaction.  

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Christmas Recipes

I decided that for the December post I wanted to get recipes together for Christmas and share them with everyone.  We all enjoy making Christmas goodies for our families and friends and sharing recipes.  I love combing through magazines, blogs, on-line sites and eve TV for yummy recipes.

Here are some of my favorites:

Chewy Oatmeal Raisin

You can add some cinnamon, chocolate chip, nuts whatever you want to personalize this recipe. I often double it and divide it into 2-3 smaller batches and add different things to each batch.  I use a small cookie scoop that give me walnut sized balls of dough and I get about a 3" cookie.  I also use parchment paper on my cookie sheets instead of greasing or spraying them.  It can be used over and over.  When using parchment paper you sometimes have to make your bake time a little longer.  I baked mine at 350 for 15 minutes and they were perfect.

Whisk together and set aside

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Cream wet ingredients
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
Then stir in
3 cups oats (not instant)
1 1/2 cups raisins

1 Preheat oven to 350°.

2 Whisk dry ingredients; set aside.

3 Combine wet ingredients with a hand mixer on low.

4 To cream, increase speed to high and beat until fluffy and the color lightens.

5 Stir the flour mixture into the creamed mixture until no flour is visible.

6 (Over mixing develops the gluten, making a tough cookie.) Now add the oats and raisins; stir to incorporate.

7 Fill a #40 cookie scoop and press against side of bowl, pulling up to level dough (to measure 2 tablespoons of dough).

8 Drop 2-inches apart onto baking sheet sprayed with nonstick spray.

9 Bake 11-13 minutes (on center rack), until golden, but still moist beneath cracks on top.

10 Remove from oven; let cookies sit on baking sheet for 2 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool.

Big Batch Peanut Butter Cookies

This makes a huge batch of cookies just perfect for giving away for Christmas!
If you want you can put a mini Reeses in the center of each cookie as it comes out of the oven, you can add chocolate chips to the dough or put some jam in a pastry bag, make a dent in the center and fill it with the jam.

4 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

3 tsp. baking soda

1 1/2 tsp salt

2 jars (18 oz each) Creamy Peanut Butter

2 C butter (4 sticks), softened

2 C packed brown sugar

2 C (plus 1/4 C) granulated sugar

4 eggs

2 tsp. vanilla

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, stir flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until blended. (  I use a whisk)

In large bowl, with mixer at medium speed, beat peanut butter, butter, brown sugar and 2 cups graunlated sugars until creamy.  Occasionally scraping bowl with rubber spatula.  Reduce speed to low, beat in vanilla, then eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape bowl, now beat on medium speed 3 minutes or until creamy.  Reduce speed to low.  Beat in flour mixture just until blended.

Drop dough onto ungreased cookie sheets.  Put the remaining 1/4 sugar on a plate.  Dip fork tines in sugar and press onto the cookie ball in a criss cross pattern.

Bake until lightly browned, 12 to 14 minutes.
 Makes about 144 cookies!

Chocolate Chip Cheese Ball
1 pkg (8 ounce) cream cheese, softened
1/2 c butter, softened (do not use margarine)
3/4 c confectioners' sugar
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 c miniature chocolate chips
3/4 c pecans, chopped

In mixer, beat cream cheese and butter until creamy. Add sugars and vanilla and mix until well-combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Gather cold mixture into a ball and cover with plastic wrap. Chill another hour. Roll ball in pecans just before serving.
Usually, I skip the ball stage and serve this as a spread without the pecans. It's great on chocolate, cinnamon and honey graham crackers, vanilla wafers, shortbread or butter cookies.

Candied Walnuts
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup liquid (see vari1 egg beaten
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon soda
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoon melted butter
1/2 cup orange juice
2 tablespoon hot water 1 ground orange rind
1 cup cranberries
1 cup chopped nuts
Bake 1 hr 10 min at 325 in bread pan.
Store in fridge 3 hrs.ations below)
1 teaspoon white corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cup walnuts (whole if possible)
In 2 qt pot, mix first 4 ingredients.
Cook to soft ball stage 240f (use candy thermometer).
Remove from stove and add walnuts and stir until creamy.
Quickly turn out on waxed paper and separate with fork.

Orange:  1/2 cup orange juice plus 1 1/2 teaspoon finely grated rind and 6 drops orange coloring.

Mint (better):  1/2 cup milk plus 4 drops green coloring. Add 1 teaspoon peppermint flavoring.

Cranberry Bread

1 egg beaten
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon soda
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoon melted butter
1/2 cup orange juice
2 tablespoon hot water 1 ground orange rind
1 cup cranberries
1 cup chopped nuts
Bake 1 hr 10 min at 325 in bread pan.
Store in fridge 3 hrs.

Lemon Angel Refridgerator Cake

1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
6 eggs, separated
1 1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup lemon juice (2 lemons)
1 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon peel
1 large (9 1/2) angel food cake
1/2 cup whipping cream
Soften gelatin in cold water.
Beating yolks together with 3/4 cup of the sugar, lemon.
Cool over low heat until mixtures coat a spoon.
Add gelatin and stir until dissolved.
Cool beating whites until stiff with the remaining 3/4 cup sugar.
Fold into lemon mixture.
Tear cake into walnut sized pieces and stir into filling.
Spoons into 10: round pan and chill overnight.
Unmold whip cream and spread over cake.
Serves 16.

Molassas Cookies

These are fabulous cookies! Soft and big.  No one would know they have molassas in them but they just have a great taste that people have tried to identify and usually think its some sort of spice.  Believe me when I say nobody can eat just one.  They freeze well too. The directions say to chill but I did not and they still worked well. Just use that great cookie scoop!

Mix together:
 1 1/4 cups sugar
 1 cup lard
 1 cup molasses
 1 tsp salt
 1 tsp each ginger and cinnamon
 1/2 tsp ground cloves

 Add and mix well:
 1/2 cup cold coffee
 2 tsp baking soda
 2 beaten eggs
 5 1/2 cups flour

 Chill dough before baking. Drop 2-3 tbsp onto greased cookie sheet, top with a sprinkle of sugar or bits of crystallized ginger. Bake at 350*  for 12-14 minutes. (Reduce to 10-12 minutes if you use vegetable  shortening instead of lard.)

Peach Cobbler Dump Cake


2 (16 oz) cans sliced peaches in heavy syrup (approx 29 oz.)

1 (18.25 oz) box yellow cake mix
 1 stick unsalted butter
 1/2 cup brown sugar
 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, or to taste
1 cup coconut (optional)
 1/2 cup chopped nuts


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Pour canned peaches, along with syrup, into a 9×13″ baking pan.
Spread the yellow cake mix over the top of the peaches, covering evenly and pressing down.

Cut up butter into 16 pieces and spread over the top of the cake mix.

Sprinkle brown sugar, cinnamon, coconut and chopped nuts over the top of the cake mixture.

Bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees F, and remove to cool slightly before serving.

Top with whipped cream, ice cream, or serve plain.

Persimmon Bread
I used pecans for this recipe.  It was really a yummy bread, I used the mini-loaf pans and it made several; 6 I think.  I have also made one regular loaf, 2 mini loaves and 6 muffins from one batch.

Original recipe makes 3 - 6x3 inch loavesChange Servings
1 cup persimmon pulp
2 teaspoons baking soda
3 cups white sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2/3 cup water
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped walnuts


1.Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).   Grease three 6x3 inch loaf pans.

2.In a small bowl, stir together the persimmon pulp and baking soda. Let stand 5 minutes to thicken the pulp.

3.In a medium bowl, combine sugar, oil, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Blend until smooth. Mix in persimmon pulp and water alternately with flour. Fold in nuts. Divide batter into the prepared pans, filling each pan 2/3 full.

4.Bake for 1 hour in the preheated oven, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely.