Rosey the Riveter

Friday, December 30, 2011

100% Cranberry Juice

Have you looked for Cranberry juice lately?  I mean REAL, 100% Cranberry Juice?  I have.  And it doesn't seem to exist.  Even the stuff labeled as cranberry juice has 'Grape juice' listed as the number one ingredient.  What's a girl with UTI issues to do?

The answer, of course, is make her own! 

I picked up a couple bags of cranberries at the grocery store and rinsed them.  Then, I placed then in a large sauce pan and covered them with water.  Heat over medium-low until most of the cranberries are split (but don't boil), and drain the juice out into another saucepan.  Set aside.  Mash the cranberries and cover them with water again.  Heat over medium-low for about 5 minutes.  Drain juice into other saucepan.

At this point, I put the mashed cranberries into the dehydrator.  The plan is to use them in muffins and cookies.  Next time, I might try using them to make cranberry sauce.

Back to the juice.  Add about 1/2 cup sugar per quart, and bring to a boil.  Adjust sweetener if needed.  Let cool, then store in the fridge.  It's a great color, and I was pleasantly surprised at the taste. 

Price-wise, I would never buy the cranberries solely for making juice.  However, because the juice is a by-product, and the cranberries can be used for other things, I think this is something we'll be making on a regular basis.  Plus, it's really pretty!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

A Christmas Gift from Mother Nature

Now that the holidays are over and the company has gone, I took some time today to go check out the garden.  And I found this:

Remember the rhubarb I planted in October?  Yup!  It sprouted.  I'm fairly certain it's NOT supposed to come up at this point in time.  This was by the shed.

So then I went and looked over by the deck, where I planted two more.  And sure enough it was up. It even looked like Mr. Bunny got to one of the leaves, so I promptly surrounded it with chicken wire.

Then I went back to the shed to look for the other plant.  And I was completely blown away to see this:

WHAT?!?!?!  It's December, Rhubarb!  How in the world are you going to make it through til spring?  I looked it up.  Originally from Siberia, it's very hardy.  I'm banking on it.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Homemade Orange Extract

After making Homemade Vanilla Extract, I decided I wanted to try making some other flavors.  Orange seemed easy, so I decided to give it a shot.

Normally, I don't buy organic oranges (their thick skins protect the fruit from pesticides) but when I know I need to zest them, I do.  So, splurge on an organic orange and zest the skin.  You don't want any of the white stuff, as it's bitter.

Then, it's as easy as adding vodka.  Put it in a dark place, shake it occasionally, and in a few weeks you'll have some great orange extract.

I used mine to make some citrus icing to go over some cranberry-white chocolate cookies and I was really blown away.  The flavor is much better than store-bought stuff, and I know exactly what is in it.  I'll never buy orange extract again (and as soon as I can find organic lemons, you know what I'll be making next!)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Apple Cider Vinegar Update

As I mention, Mom and Dad are here visiting.  I had mom taste the apple cider vinegar (I don't know what it's supposed to taste like!) and she pronounced it fine.  It's definitely more mild than store-bought (I could tell that just by smelling... as in, it's not overpowerful.)

I wouldn't use this for anything where acidity is important (canning), but for cooking and household uses, I now have 3 quarts of homemade Apple Cider Vinegar which should last us awhile.  Mom said she used her home-brewed stuff to make pickled eggs, and Dad said he couldn't tell the difference.

Obviously, since it's really cheap to buy, this isn't a project that's going to save a ton of money.  However, I love knowing that I made something REALLY useful out of apple scraps that normally would have been dumped in the compost.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas from the Homefront

It's hard to believe that it was 4 years ago that hubby spent his Christmas in Afghanistan.  It wasn't our first Christmas apart.  Probably won't be our last.  We don't usually exchange gifts with each other, and this year was no exception.  Because it's enough to be together.  Military life has taught us to appreciate the important things. 

This was also the first Christmas since that deployment that we were able to celebrate with my parents, so it was wonderful having family here.

I much prefer cooking Christmas dinner over Thanksgiving... probably because there's no turkey to stress over... spiral hams are pretty idiot-proof! 

Poor Max didn't know what to think of things.  "Go plant my cat-grass, woman, I want a feast, too!"

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Garden Trellissing

Yesterday was a gorgeous day, and since Dad and Mom are here visiting, I thought I'd take advantage of his skills and get the trellises built for the garden.  I've seen it done several ways, but the directions in my "Square Foot Gardening" book were by far the easiest.

So, while everyone else was out at WalMart and Target, we went to Home Depot and picked up some rebar, some electrical conduit, some 90 degree elbows, and a hacksaw and extra blade.

And literally, in no time at all, the conduit was cut to size, the rebar was hammered into the ground, and the whole thing was up! (Hubby and Dad did it all, so I can't claim any credit.)  I placed them along the northern side of the garden so they wouldn't shade anything... and because they span 4 beds, it will allow me to rotate crops.  I just have to get the netting tied on and we'll be ready for the watermelon, cukes, and peas.

4 elbows @ $5 each... $20
4 10' pieces of conduit @ 2 each... $8    (2 pieces were halved, for 5' height.  The other two were cut to the length of the beds.)
4 3' rebar @ 2 each... $8
(I'm not including the hacksaw, that was an early Christmas gift for hubby!)

The netting will probably run around $15... so for about $50, I've got priceless vertical planting space.  Wahoo!

Monday, December 19, 2011

I'm a Lumberjack and I'm Better Than Ok!

**This is a guest post over at   ... and my mother just informed me that my grandmother never made them.  She got the recipe from a cookbook she received as a wedding gift.  So much for thinking it was an old family recipe!!!!

I grew up in Massachusetts, a couple towns over from Sturbridge, home of the famous Old Sturbridge Village.  For those of you not familiar with it, it is a living history museum much like Williamsburg or Old World Wisconsin.  It is one of my favorite places to be, and also where my husband and I went on our very first date.  During our annual visit home this summer, I was pleased to discover that my kids also love it!

Decades ago, my grandmother started making the molasses cookies that the Village Bakery sold.  The recipe for these "Lumberjack Cookies" was published in an OSV cookbook that I would love to get my hands on!  Anyway, long story short, my mother made them while we were growing up and now I'm making them.  It wouldn't be fall or Christmas without these wonderful cookies that instantly bring me back 'home.'

First, gather your ingredients (and pardon the construction zone.  One of these days I'll have new counters and a new backsplash!)

1 cup sugar
1 cup shortening, melted
1 cup dark molasses
4 cups flour
1 tso baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ginger
2 tsp cinnamon

I am trying to stay away from hydrogenated fat, so I use Earth Balance's natural shortening.

Cream together the sugar, shortening, eggs, and molasses.  I use a glass measuring cup to melt the shortening, and then I use that same cup for the molasses.  It just pours right out.

Dump in the dry ingredients and mix well.

Your dough should look like this:

Scoop out a walnut-sized piece and roll in sugar.

Bake at 350 for 12 minutes.


Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Book Review: "Make the Bread, Buy the Butter" by Jennifer Reese

I absolutely loved reading this book.  The author has a great style with just enough snark/sarcasm to be very entertaining.  It was very reassuring to me that it's *okay* not to do it all... impossible (and unwise) to make absolutely everything from scratch in the kitchen!

But this is more than a book... it's also a cookbook which has already proven to be a great resource.  (I bought it sight unseen because our library didn't have it, and I'm glad I did.)  The English Muffin recipe is amazing... I'd been promising my oldest that I'd make them and finally got around to it.  The verdict?  On a scale of 1-5, she gave Thomas' a 4.5 and these a solid 5!  They remind me of the Portuguese Sweet Muffins I used to buy at The Christmas Tree Shop, only not sweet (although they could be with some added sugar, I'm sure!)  Next time, I'll be sure to roll them thinner (I had to finish them off in the oven because the outside was burning before the inside was cooked.) but these will definitely be added to the breakfast rotation.

Last night I made the granola and everyone went gaga over it.  I am especially excited about that because now I have a good replacement for store-bought cereal, which I haven't bought in awhile.  Now that the chickens have slowed laying, it's been difficult to find local eggs which had been a breakfast staple... and I don't really relish having to make the English Muffins every week (they are somewhat time/labor intensive.)

I didn't have great luck with her every-day bread recipe, but that might have been because I didn't let the whey come to room temperature before using it.  I think it was too cold and killed the yeast... it tasted great but didn't rise at all.

The author has a blog at The Tipsy Baker which I highly recommend, as well.  Currently, she is cooking her way through many of the cookbooks in her collection.  Be sure to check out the book and the blog.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

A new addition to the homestead!

My little hiatus was due to computer issues.  Nothing that a new laptop can't fix  :-) 

In the mean time, I am happy to announce our new addition, Max.  He's been sleeping in bed with us since the first night we brought him home... he's an absolute love.

This is him nestled between my legs as I was watching tv tonight.  If I can't have chickens I will most definitely settle for a cat.