Dehydrating Food 101

 

You don’t have to grow your own food to dehydrate fruits and vegetables. I had a dehydrator for years before I started using it regularly. Part of me couldn’t believe that such a small amount of heat could make food edible let alone more delicious than before.

It’s true! Drying foods concentrates the flavors.

jerky

This is beef jerky halfway through the drying process.

My first foray into dehydrating was making beef jerky. But I’ve since dried tomatoes, okra, beans, peas, strawberries, and squash.

There are few rules to dehydrating.

• Always slice your meat, vegetables, or fruits the same thickness. If some are thinner than others place those on the top trays so they don’t dry out too quickly.

• For best results, freeze your meat until it’s firm (but not frozen through). It will make it so much easier to slice.

• Wash fruits and vegetables, then pat dry.

• Never let your food touch each other. You want air to circulate freely on all sides.

• You can make fruit leathers if you blend fruit into a puree then pour (carefully) into liners on the dehydrator trays.

• Check for doneness. They should be flexible but not rock hard. You can dry them until hard if you plan to pulverize them.  Many people do this for onions and garlic, but also for tomatoes and celery. Heck, I’ve seen people dehydrate tomato skins alone and turn them into tomato powder.

***

For meat, you can add a dry rub from any number of prepared mixes from the store. I’m a purist. I prefer salt and pepper.

For veggies like green beans, I coat them in a little olive oil and toss with fresh ground salt. They are DELICIOUS! Greg and I polished off an entire batch in one sitting. (That ended up being our dinner.) They’re great snacks when you want something other than potato chips or popcorn.

I don’t season tomatoes at all. I dehydrate until semi soft and put them in the freezer. When I make soup, stew, pasta or pizza sauce, the dried tomatoes go in the pot and I let them reconstitute there. It will take your meal to an entirely new level of flavor. Every year I dehydrate tomatoes rather than can them now. They are that good!

Dehydrators come in all shapes and sizes. Some are very fancy, others are nothing more than a light bulb at the base of the machine.

If you have a big garden or a big family, go with a larger dehydrator, otherwise you’ll have that machine running for days at a time. This is the Excalibur 2900ECB. Within my circle of gardeners and cooks, this brand is the hand’s down favorite.

The one on the right is the same brand but about $50 more. It also has a 10 year warranty compared to the one above with a 5 year warranty. You can click on the pictures to take you to the Amazon page.

The dehydrator I currently have is pretty old. It doesn’t have the nicer trays or higher wattage of these newer models. When it finally dies on me I’ll probably opt for the Excalibur since all my gardening friends speak so highly about it.

If you don’t need something this big, try the Nesco Snackmaster. It’s just the right size for people who won’t do a ton of drying but still wants to do jerky or fruit leathers.

If you have teenagers, jerky and dried treats are way healthier for them. Better for junk-food eating husbands too. 😉

Oven drying: You can dry food in your oven but between you and me, it’s kind of a pain. Not only do you waste a lot more money on energy usage but it pretty much monopolizes your oven until the drying is done. I don’t recommend it unless you have no other choice.

Outdoor drying: There is one other option for you heartier, back-to-the-land folks, and that’s solar drying. If you live in a climate like mine where it’s hot and has relatively low humidity, you can dry your food outdoors. The reason I’ve never done it is because you have to make sure no insects can get inside your drying trays. I’m real touchy about this which is why I prefer to stick to the machine.

green-beans-ready-for-drying

Oiled and salted. Ready for drying.

green-beans-dried

Same green beans, dried and ready for snacking.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Have you ever tried making jerky or dried fruits or vegetables? I always say I’m going to dehydrate snow peas, but somehow I never have enough left over. 🙂  The green beans were the real surprise though. "=D They were absolutely delicious. Greg wanted more but I only planted a few token green bean plants. Next year, I’m doing a big bed of them.

 

 

This Week’s Menu, September 25, 2016

Modern studio background, sepia look

Menu for the week of September 25, 2016

Sunday
Breakfast: Cheese omelette
Lunch: Leftover chicken
Dinner: Steak and potatoes

Monday
Breakfast: Steak and eggs
Lunch: Crab salad with veggie dippers
Dinner: Taco night

Tuesday
Breakfast: Bagels with cream cheese
Lunch: Grilled veggie pita pockets
Dinner: Shrimp stir fry

Wednesday:
Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch: Sushi
Dinner: Baked chicken and macaroni

Thursday
Breakfast: Bacon and eggs
Lunch: Tabouli
Dinner:  Burgers

Friday
Breakfast: Homemade egg McMuffin
Lunch: Leftover tabouli
Dinner: Bowtie casserole  (It’s like Hamburger Helper except homemade)

Saturday
Breakfast: Kolaches
Lunch: Leftover casserole
Dinner: Spaghetti with garlic bread

Cabinets are in, but the job isn’t finished yet due to problems with materials. Also some cabinet doors didn’t come in or were the wrong size.

I should be able to move my stuff back this week, but it might be two more weeks before they can finish the job properly.

Since we’ll be in the midst of moving back in I plan to keep meals simple this week. At least I have my stove back. It’s been a hassle cooking with only a toaster oven.

Despite the inconvenience, I got a lot done outside. I wish the kitchen job could’ve been finished in one go, but it wasn’t meant to be. At least they’re adamant about getting the job done correctly. I love conscientious workers.

 

 

Cheap Trick: Wash Your Produce

 

I watched a couple of little kids climbing the apple bin at a grocery store once. Their little hands had touched everything from snotty noses to picking stuff off the floor. A few seconds later, an old man had picked through the same apples. Someone else waited patiently until it was his turn to fondle the fruits.

In the end, I decided not to get apples that day.

Much to Greg’s annoyance, I wash EVERYTHING, even if it’s from my garden. Granted no human hands, other than mine ever touch the produce from my garden, but you can’t stop bugs or birds from landing on them. Not to mention, my new enemy, the deer.

cheap-tricks-wash-produce

Greg thinks I’m being overly cautious, but I say better safe than sorry. I even wipe the tops of any can I open.

How about you?

 

Is It Waste or Want?

 

How much time do you think you waste in a day?

I was reading an article about how much time we spend on the internet, tv, radio, streaming, email, using apps, and social media. In the US, we average an astounding 10 hours and 39 minutes a day doing all these activities.

Some people can listen to radio while they work so I don’t see this as a valid addition, but the other stuff? Yeah. I can see that. According to the study, we’re divided by age. The over-50 age bracket watches more tv than Millennials. And it comes as no surprise that younger people surf the net and use more apps than older people.

It can be argued that you’re not really wasting time if that’s how you decompress, but I think that’s kind of a cheat. The brain doesn’t rest if it’s constantly being stimulated. That’s why medical professionals tell you to turn off the tv and computer a couple of hours before bedtime.

On average we watch 2-3 hours of tv or streamed movies a night. Greg might watch a little more because I tend to get antsy when I know I have something to do.

I spend another two hours on the net in the morning usually reading and responding to emails, with intermittent breaks throughout the day poking into social media and blog reading. For the sake of argument, I’ll be generous and say I spend an additional two hours on the net for a total of four hours a day.

That means I spend 6-7 hours a day on the net or watching media. Some of that time is either work related or necessary viewing to stay abreast of current events, but the rest of it is entirely for folly.

Sometimes when I hear people say they have no time, I wonder if they take their “down time” into consideration. Do we really have no time to exercise, eat right, or play with the kids, or are we hiding behind Facebook and online games?

For years I refused to get the internet at home and at work. I know I speak blasphemy, but it’s true. I knew even back then it was a rabbit hole.

I prefer to be physically active only because I’m the fidgety type. The only time I actually enjoy sitting down and doing nothing is after I’ve worked my keester off. If I’m too tired to lift my arms, all I want to do is watch an old movie, something I’ve already seen so my brain doesn’t have to engage.

I’m old enough to remember pre-internet days. For some reason I don’t remember anyone back then saying they had no time. I’ve actually given this some serious thought. We were busy, but when the work was done we spent time with family or actual flesh and blood friends.

We read more. We savored every page of a newspaper. Meals were always sit-down and slower. And we took more Sunday drives to nowhere in particular. I miss the drives. We used to pick a new destination every week and discover our “back yard”. Going to the movies was date night. Eating out wasn’t just grabbing a bite. We actually had real conversations over dinner.

So what do you think? Do you know how much time you spend a day on media, social media, and the internet? If you’re old enough to remember pre-internet days, what did you do back in the day in your spare time?

 

All Hands to the Pump: The Demolition Begins

 

The cabinet people called Friday to schedule their crew and install my new kitchen cabinets. I was no where near ready. I had hoped they would give me a week’s notice, but no such luck.

All weekend, I rushed around emptying my cabinets and putting everything into boxes. –Didn’t think I’d be doing that again for a long time! Thankfully, the boxes only have to move into the next room.

I moved here almost eight years ago, yet I still managed to accumulate a ton of clutter. The kitchen seems to be a catch-all for anything coming into the house.

Some of the clutter are duplicates or things that get tossed in a drawer for “safekeeping” then quickly forgotten, but some things are bulky items I might use only once or twice a year. There’s a punch bowl, a literal ton of cast iron cookware, Christmas serving pieces, and a large and odd collection of glassware.

There are the fancy water goblets that I’ve used maybe twice since I’ve been here. Then there are the pots and pans from Greg’s house. When mine wear out I’ll replace them with his. Until then, they’ll be stored in the attic. There were also entire drawer full of kitchen utensils that I use so rarely I’d forgotten I had them.

I have an insane amount of cookbooks. I didn’t realize I had that many. I’d hate to get rid of them, but I use maybe three or four–tops.

cookbooks

There are a lot of antiques in my clutter stash too. I found a gravy boat that I bought an antique auction decades ago. I never thought much of it. It was sold as part of a box lot. I looked it up and it’s worth $80 now. I think I spent five bucks for the whole box.

I’m sick of clutter, but I’m not ready to have another garage sale, so I’ll just store all this stuff for some other day. Before I put anything back in that kitchen, I plan to take a long hard look at what I’m putting back. If I don’t love it, or I haven’t used it in a year, it’s going in the attic.

Wish me luck this week. We’ll be without a working kitchen for at least 5-7 days. They’re supposed to put up plastic to keep the dust down in the rest of the house, but I suspect the entire house will need a thorough airing (and dusting) by the time they’re done. It’s bad enough our routine will be disrupted, but the poor dogs will be upset with strangers in the house too.

How are you with clutter? Do you sort out your junk drawers regularly? And if you don’t have a junk drawer, I don’t think we can be friends. LOL! You’re too perfect!

junk-drawer

This Week’s Menu, September 18, 2016

Modern studio background, sepia look

Menu for the week of September 18, 2016

Sunday
Breakfast: Pancakes
Lunch: Veggie platter with pimento cheese spread
Dinner: Burgers

Monday
Breakfast: Leftover pancakes
Lunch: Corndogs
Dinner: Enchilada supper (Freezer meal. All I have to do is pop it in the oven.)

Tuesday
Breakfast: Bagels with cream cheese
Lunch: Burritos
Dinner: Sausage and peppers sandwiches (Another freezer meal.)

Wednesday:
Breakfast: Toast
Lunch: Egg rolls
Dinner: Lasagna (Premade freezer meal)

Thursday
Breakfast: Orange Danish
Lunch: skip
Dinner:  Pizza (Frozen, not homemade this time.)

Friday
Breakfast: English muffins
Lunch: skip
Dinner: Chicken take out

Saturday
Breakfast: Kolaches
Lunch: Cold sandwiches
Dinner: Chinese take out

 

This week features an atypical menu. My new cabinets have arrived, and we’ll be kicked out of the kitchen starting Monday. I’m told they’ll need at least 5-7 days to get the job done. Our stove will be out of commission, and of course, I still don’t have a microwave, so I’m left to make what meals I can with my toaster oven.

Dinners won’t be too bad. I have a lot of frozen meals already made up. All I have to do is stick them in the oven. But side dishes will be a bit trickier.  Breakfasts will be mostly toast or breakfast sandwiches I can cook in the toaster oven.

I’ll have a makeshift kitchen in my studio since I already have a sink there, but I’ll have no access to my real kitchen for a whole week. With a work crew in my house it also means someone needs to stay at home at all times. I might send Greg out for burgers or chicken if things get too chaotic.

It’ll be like home camping, but with more inconvenience. 🙂 I’ll have a better idea of how long I’ll be without my kitchen once the work crew gets here. Things would be a lot easier if I had a microwave or even a hot plate, but we’ll make do.

***

Red Snapper Ponchartrain
I made this dish last Sunday. I wish I had taken a picture of the finished meal but it was so labor intensive, all we wanted to do was eat! But I can report that this fish was absolutely scrumptious. The fish was flake-tender and the light and flavorful sauce was the perfect complement. You just wanted to savor every bite.

It was a lot of work because I had to make a shrimp stock to make the Madeira sauce for the fish, but you couldn’t ask for a more elegant and sublime meal. At one point I think I was using five of the six burners on the stove!

Fortunately, we didn’t use up all the sauce for the fish. I froze what was left over so we can have it again at some later date.

If you ever want to try a really delicious and fancy fish dinner, I highly recommend this recipe.

 

What Can You Live Without?

 

Guess what went out now? The microwave. The irony is we sold our spare microwave at the last garage sale.

hole-in-my-life

A hole in my kitchen

The one I sold was a counter top model and I need a built in. If you’ve ever priced built ins, they are outrageously expensive. On top of that you also need to buy a “trim kit”, basically a metal frame to make your microwave look like it was part of the cabinetry.

Only one trim kit can’t sub for another. Oh, no. That would be too convenient and cost effective for consumers.

Each trim kit only fits a specific brand. And you can’t mount the much cheaper counter top model in place of a built in. You can, if it fits in the hole, and if it can vent properly, but guess what won’t fit? Yup. The trim kit.

I’m seething because I don’t want to buy the same model I had before. It only lasted five years. It’s a Frigidaire Professional Series. Unfortunately, it might come to that. At least I won’t have to buy another trim kit. It’s ridiculously expensive for a piece of pressed metal. I hate the idea of Frigidaire making another sale from us after they soured me on this one.

The sad part about all this is it made me realize just how much we use our microwave. It surprises me how quickly we accustomed and embedded ourselves to technology–even me–Nanook from the Wayback.

I don’t think we even had a microwave until the 1980s, so why is it so hard to live without one now?

It made me wonder what else I’d hate to lose.

•  Cell phones
Handy, but I mostly use it to look up stuff on the internet.

• The internet
Wonderful as it is, the few times I’ve lost internet has been more of a blessing. I get so much more done without the distraction.

• Television
We don’t watch a lot of tv, but we do stream movies. Guess Greg and I would have to come up with something else to do. 🙂

• Printer
I’d really miss this. My hands hurt too much to print everything by hand.

• Electricity
The Mother of all Inventions. We have solar energy at Greg’s shop so we could theoretically live without electricity.

• Toilets
Okay. If there was one thing I absolutely would hate to give up more than anything else, it would be the toilet. I make no apologies. That’s the line in the sand for me.

How about you? What would you hate to give up more than anything?

 

Labyrinthitis and Vestibular Neuritis in the Stubborn Patient

I’ve been unwell for several months brought on by sudden attacks of dizziness. At first, I thought it was a sinus headache because sometimes a change in barometric pressure can make me lose my balance. It would come and go. I’d no sooner think it was over when it would come back. Once I’d lost my equilibrium I’d wallow in an abyss of annoyance because that meant my work was piling up. I felt useless and unwell. There’s no other way to describe it.

I mentioned it to my friend, Mel, and she put me on a Facebook chat with her sisters, both medical professionals, one a doctor in Brazil. I didn’t think it would do much good, but I agreed and received a long distance diagnosis of Labyrinthitis. I was told to give up caffeine and sugar which I promptly did because the flare ups were so severe I was nearly bedridden.

Fast forward, things got better, but not great. The onset of the dizziness was rapid and unpredictable. If I looked up too high or turned my head at the wrong tilt, I’d start walking to the left. The worst was at bedtime because the room would spin if I tried to lay on my left side.

I never knew when it would flare up. I became paranoid about moving too suddenly, fearful the room would start spinning.

As usual, I put off going to the doctor, but last week enough was enough. My left ear was still tender and warm even after months. I knew it had to be some sort of infection. I had tried high doses of anti-inflammatory drugs and that seemed to help for a while, but that in turn created holes in my stomach lining which made me feel worse. That’s what finally made me go and see the doctor.

Guess what? She immediately diagnosed Labyrinthitis. She put me on steroids and antibiotics. For the first time in months I finally had a good night’s sleep. I can’t say I’m cured because my ear is still tender but the spinning room is under control. Chances are the infection is viral and not bacterial, which means only the steroids are helping me at this point.

Unfortunately, I waited too long to see a doctor and there’s a chance I might’ve caused permanent nerve damage to that ear. I’ll have to cross that road when I get to it.

The moral of this story. Next time, go to the doctor.

Are you a good about seeing the doc when you’re ill, or do you wait until you’re at death’s door?

 

The Fall Checklist

 

In the northern hemisphere I see everyone getting ready for fall, but I find I do a lot of the same things to prepare for spring as I do for fall.

Cleaning: We’re used to saying spring cleaning, but I’m even more aggressive with fall cleaning, probably because I’m more likely to have frequent guests and drop-ins. This is the time to give the inside and out a thorough airing, clearing off the cobwebs, and dusting the high and low places I normally can’t reach.

The kitchen is the worst because grease accumulates there. It’s going to get a facelift in a few weeks so I want to attack all the upper shelves, hanging lights, and the various decor on high.

Can I add that one of the best presents I bought myself was the Roomba? I got the Roomba 880, and I have run it everyday and sometimes twice a day since I got it. I love my Roomba. Even Greg loves it. It’s one less daily chore off our list, plus it cleans under the beds, something I was never able to do before.

It’s not as maintenance free as they claim–either that or my house is a lot dustier and furrier than the average house. But it’s very easy to take the machine apart and clean the innards.

I thought I would regret an extravagant expense, but I haven’t. For once I’ve been pleasantly surprised.

 

The outside also needs a good cleaning, but I want to wait a few more weeks since it’s still in the 90s here. On my list:
• gutters
• animal pens
• walkways

Weeding and Pruning: This is a big job, one I’m biding my time for cooler temps.
• Trees along our paths need to be trimmed back
• Weeding! Ugh! The vegetable garden is in good shape but my front yard needs a lot of work. That’s a whole post in itself. I was bad, and I have a confession to make in a later post.

Raking: In the north, raking leaves is probably a fall chore, but our trees don’t lose their leaves until very late in the year. I usually rake in January if the weather isn’t too cold or wet.

Essential Checks
• Check water spigots for leaks and prepare them for winter. We’ll be wrapping them in foam when winter is closer.
• Check the fireplace for soot buildup.
• Check all doors and windows to make sure they’re sealed. We did this last year so I suspect everything is still good, but a scorpion did get in the house this year, so we’ll have to find the lapse. If it can get in, cold air can get in.

You might worry about cold, but my mortal enemy are the scorpions. Oy! We did well this year, but it’s still not impenetrable.

Plant a fall garden
If you’re in the South, you still have time to put in a fall garden. Radishes and peas are fast. Carrots, onions, chard, spinach, cabbage, broccoli and Brussel sprouts can stay in all winter with little or no protection.

Or prep for spring by planting bulbs now if you live in the north.

Clean the garage, or in our case, Greg’s shop. Our garage is pretty tidy now that we got rid of a couple of bulky things, but Greg’s workshop needs a team of professional organizers.

Unfortunately, all he has is me. I really want to tackle it this year. Chances are it’ll go right back to being in disarray within weeks, but I plan to take a picture of the clean shop to prove I’ve at least done my part.

What’s on your to-do list this fall (or spring)? Is there anything you absolutely have to do when the seasons change? Is there any chore you dread more than others?

 

 

This Week’s Menu, September 11, 2016

Modern studio background, sepia look

Menu for the week of September 11, 2016

Sunday
Breakfast: Bacon wrap
Lunch: Cheese and crackers
Dinner: Red Snapper Ponchartrain with asparagus (This is the recipe I’ll use.)

Monday
Breakfast: Oatmeal
Lunch: Leftover fish
Dinner: Cheeseburgers

Tuesday
Breakfast: Bagels with cream cheese
Lunch: Chicken salad sandwiches
Dinner: Pizza. Something small. I have lots of veggies to use up.

Wednesday:
Breakfast: Biscuits and gravy
Lunch: Salad with grilled chicken
Dinner:  Chili (It’s still a little warm for chili, but I’ve had a yen for it.)

Thursday
Breakfast: Leftover biscuits and gravy
Lunch: Soup
Dinner:  Salmon

Friday
Breakfast: Bagels with salmon-cream cheese schmear
Lunch: Leftover chili
Dinner: Pesto pasta

Saturday
Breakfast: Breakfast out!
Lunch: Peanut butter and jelly for Greg. I’ll scrounge whatever’s in the fridge.
Dinner: Shrimp fried rice

 

Today is 9/11. It’s strange how one date can be so globally recognizable. It affected so many of us. There are those who are tired of hearing about it, but I don’t get tired of it. I don’t want to forget.

Greg and I were not living together at the time. He was in SE Texas and I was working in Dallas. On September 11, 2001, after we had heard about the Twin Towers, my boss called and told me to send my employees home. I think it was a common edict among many offices because the highways were packed.

My most vivid memory of 9/11 was a strange one. My drive home takes me past DFW airport, a busy airport on the best of days. I was struck dumb to see not the usual dozen jets miles apart preparing for approach, but more planes than I could count.

They filled the sky, each one setting down one after the other. None of us knew why at the time, but it sent a chill through my bones because I knew things had to be much worse than we had heard.

None of us were ever the same again.

To all those who serve in the military, the Red Cross, doctors, nurses, police, and fire departments, to thousands of nameless volunteers, and to the strangers here and abroad who opened their hearts and homes when we needed help; I will never forget. You are what’s best in the human race.

***

A note about Red Snapper Ponchartrain
We had this dish at Pappadeaux’s, and it’s one of Greg’s favorites. I promised him I’d try to duplicate it and he found the recipe online. To gild the lily I’m also making him pumpkin pie for dessert. I dislike the taste of pumpkin so this pie is only for him.  Although I follow the recipe exactly, I’ve never tasted it. He loves it though so I guess I did all right.

I’m a keeper. Ha!

 

Cheap Trick: Bath Time

Cheap Tricks, shower for dog

I must’ve bathed dogs thousands of times. My dogs and other people’s dogs. I don’t even look at it as work. It’s just something that has to get done.

I’m short so most of the time my breasts ended up plastered against the tub. It could be torture depending on the size of the dog (or cat), plus I always ended up drenched.

Since I was already soaked, I usually dashed off to the shower to clean up, and that’s when it occurred to me that it would be easier to wash the dogs there too.

I prefer to wash the dogs in my shower. It’s smaller, and they seem less agitated in a confined space with me. We also have a huge walk-in shower where we used to wash extra large dogs like Tanky. He’d go anywhere if it meant he was getting a massage out of it. With cats or small dogs I usually bathed them in the laundry room sink. It’s ample enough for a small creature and easy with a spray nozzle.

Is pet washing a big chore for you? Are your pets easy to bathe or do they fight the suds?

 

Review: Samsung RF23J9011SR, Flex-Door Refrigerator

Samsung refrigeratorWe recently bought a Samsung refrigerator with Flex-door, an optional quadrant of the refrigerator that can be programmed from freezing to cool. It took us months of research to finally decide on this one.

Price: We were lucky too since I had months to check on prices and watch them fluctuate. It’s amazing the games retailers play. For the record, major appliances generally go on sale around a major holiday, then glide back up to their original price. While other appliances drop significantly after summer, refrigerators stay consistent in price and only drop during major holidays.

The price? $2498. But then we got a 5% discount for using the store credit card bringing it down to $2373.  The price jumped back up when we added the 5 year warranty for $150.

Warranty: Normally we don’t buy the extended warranties, but today with these gadgets running on so many electronics, we made the exception.

Pros: I really like the Flex-door. Flex-door means that it has four quadrants. Two (the top ones) are for refrigerated items, one is the freezer, and the fourth door can be readjusted from freezing to cool. I leave it on ‘soft freeze’ to keep my drinks icy cold. I also store cheeses there.

It’s pretty. It looks nice with my other stainless steel appliances, but it isn’t smudge proof like my old Sub Zero, so I’m constantly wiping hand prints.

It has a lot of room considering it’s quite a bit smaller than my old fridge. This is because it takes one quadrant away from the freezer, yet it can still be used as a freezer if you so desire. Since I have two stand alone freezers I don’t need another one with the fridge. I keep ice cream and pie shells in there. Things I don’t want schmooshed or broken.

Cons: This is a biggie and it might steer you away from this model. The ice maker makes a lot of noise. It’s not the noise of it making ice. It’s the sound of running water.

I was frantic the first couple of days because I kept hearing water running, expecting a puddle on the floor, but it was nothing. We learned that it’s the air pushing the water through the tubing. It doesn’t do it 24/7 but I seem to hear it constantly. That and I have sensitive hearing so I’m more aware of it.

In time, I’m sure I’ll learn to ignore it. It’s not a deal breaker for me. Overall, I’m quite happy with this appliance. I like the advantage of the four quadrants.

There is a three door model with a Flex-zone drawer, but the capacity was much smaller and I didn’t like the feel of the handles. It felt like they might eventually get loose or break. The model I bought is much more streamlined and it felt sturdier to me.

There is one more con which has more to do with my kitchen than the appliance. The old Sub Zero was huge, really HUGE, and it left a big gap within the built-in space it occupied. To counter this, Greg is building me a full sized pull out drawer.

I’ll do a tutorial on this once it’s complete. He’s already completed the guts of the mechanism. I wasn’t quite sure what I would store there, but he’s made it sturdy enough to hold almost anything. It’s really pretty nice!

Time will tell how long this fridge will last. Every salesperson I spoke to said that no refrigerator, even the high end ones are as durable as the old ones. Planned obsolescence.

I miss the old mechanical appliances without all the electronic gizmos. That’s when they were reliable workhorses. I still have my 25 year old fridge that we keep as a spare. I sold my 25 year old washer and dryer at the last garage sale. I would’ve gladly kept those if they had been big enough to handle comforters. I hate my current washing machine.

What’s your oldest appliance?

 

State of the Homestead: September 2016

Another season done. I’m gronana at hay barn2wing a winter garden but nothing taxing, mostly greens and the brassicas. The garden did great this year, but it came to an abrupt and inglorious end when deer figured out how to go around the iris barrier to get to my soybeans, strawberries, greens, and beans.

It was a massacre!

They didn’t touch the squash plants. They left that to the squash beetles which devoured my plants like a plague. I couldn’t pick them off fast enough so I had to pull all the vines. I’ll be curious to see if anything overwinters. Wherever I plant squash and cucumbers next year, it won’t be in the beds I used this year.

Every time I think I figured out how to defeat a garden foe,
sookra, 2016mething new comes up to test my mettle.

Garden: Greg and I have talked about setting up a little produce stand outside our fence line next  year. We wanted to do it on the honor system but I don’t know if it’ll work. One bad experience and that would be the end of that. We’ll talk about it again next spring. It would be a nice way to earn a little extra cash.

We were talking to the guy who sells us hay. He used to sell his hay on the honor system but he lost a beanslot of stock last year. I can’t even imagine stealing someone’s livelihood. That’s beyond despicable.

Rabbits: My three rabbits are doing fine. It was getting pretty hot for a while which is the most dangerous time for a rabbit. We were cooling them off with a fan 24/7 and bottles of solid ice. The worst is over (I hope).

I’m afraid the male rabbit I was holding back might not work. He’s older than the female I held back recently and he’s still puny. He’s got his mother’s beautiful blue coat, but unfortunately he inherited his father’s small size. I’m on the lookout for a replacement.

Chickens: We sold all the Marans, which leaves us with a few pure breed Australorps. We also have backup chicks. The boys will go in the freezer, the girls will be allowed to grow up and be sold as laying hens next year.

The chickens went into a premature molt a couple of weeks ago. When chickens go into molt, they lose their feathers and stop laying eggs. I think it might have something to do with the two weeks of gloomy weather we’ve had. A couple of them are laying again, so I hope I didn’t miss my window of stockpiling eggs for the winter.Buttercup feeling at home

Goats: The Nubian girls are settling in great. They’re getting bossed around by our Boer doe, but that’s normal. She’s the dominant one. We are really liking the Nubians. I’ll have to wait to see how they look full grown, but they definitely have a sweeter temperament than the Boers.

freezer meat, 2016

Freezer Meat, coming to a BBQ near you.

Freezer Meat, the goat, is destined to see goat heaven in a couple of weeks. Although we can process a goat in under three hours, the cooler the weather, the better.

I’ll probably sell the other male kid next year and that will leave only Ray Charles. Despite the horns and the heft, he’s pretty laid back most of the time–as long as you don’t have a feed bucket in your hand.

Right now the males are in rut and they smell atrocious. Ugh! I can barely stand to go into their pen.

smelly boys

Smelly boys!

 

On the home front: We finally finished our hay barn. We still have the front to put up but that will only take a couple of hours. We wanted to get it done over the weekend, but both of us were down with sinus headaches.

The big job was loading and UN-loading 42 bales of hay. Boy, were we sore the next day.

We went to Canton, TX Trade Days in search of rabbits, quail, and a piglet, but came home empty handed. This isn’t the right time of year to look for animals, but it was a pretty day and we wanted to give it a shot.

The next big project on my horizon is to refinish the floors. Greg is fighting me on it, mostly because he doesn’t want to do the work, but I really don’t think it’ll be as bad as all that. It’ll certainly be easier than painting the ceilings. At least my neck won’t feel like it’s locked in a vise.

The only hard part will be the sanding. If he can help me with the sander–and moving furniture, I can stain and varnish the floors on my own. I really would like the house showroom ready for the holidays.

How about you? Are you shifting gears as the weather changes? Any new projects on your radar?

 

This Week’s Menu, September 4, 2016

Modern studio background, sepia look

Menu for the week of September 4, 2016

Sunday
Breakfast: Pancakes
Lunch: Roast beef sandwiches
Dinner: Pasta primavera

Monday: Labor Day!
Breakfast: Corned beef hash and eggs
Lunch: We’ll probably skip lunch and have an early dinner.
Dinner: Grilled chicken with corn on the cob and potato salad

Tuesday
Breakfast: Leftover pancakes
Lunch: Another early dinner and no lunch
Dinner: Spare ribs with baked beans

Wednesday:
Breakfast: Bagels with cream cheese
Lunch: Grilled cheese sandwiches
Dinner:  Leftover ribs

Thursday
Breakfast: Orange Danish
Lunch: Chicken salad sandwiches
Dinner:  Grilled pot roast and roasted potatoes

Friday
Breakfast: Steak and eggs
Lunch: Corn dogs
Dinner: Steak salad

Saturday
Breakfast: Breakfast out.
Lunch: Chips and dip
Dinner: Fajitas

 

We made it to Trade Days in Canton, Tx on Saturday, but we came away empty handed. No piglet, no new rabbits, and no quail. There were several pigs I was interested in, but the owner never showed up even though we visited his stall twice. Oh, well.

The trip wasn’t a total loss, we spent a couple hundred dollars on hay for the winter. I think we have enough hay stored now but we have room for 20 more bales if we want to make another trip. That should easily keep us in hay until next June.

I miscalculated one year and ended up paying twice the going rate at the local feed store. It was a tough year, and I doled that hay out like it was gold. I never want to go through that again.

This is Labor Day weekend in the US, which means lots of barbecues and beer for the grill-masters. In a way, that makes it easier for me. Greg grills so much food, it lasts all week. All I have to do is come up with side dishes.

If you’ve noticed, I notched a couple of lunches as “no lunch”. Lately, and I don’t know why this is, but we haven’t been particularly hungry. We’ve been missing lunch on purpose, or eating a big lunch and skipping dinner. Not that we can’t afford to miss a few meals. 🙂

To finish off my week, I’ve been without internet for three and a half days. It finally came up again late Saturday. It’s amazing how much the loss of internet affects our daily lives. I don’t mean social media, but practical things like paying bills online, replying to emails, or starting one of my cover jobs. If I can’t browse art files, I can’t get started on the work.

It’s really thrown my schedule into disarray since I do most of my blog posts on the weekend. Now I have to hustle for that too. The internet hasn’t been very reliable either. It’s gone up and down all night. I’m hoping by the time I schedule this, it’ll be during one of it’s “up” times.

And no, I still haven’t finished the last two ceilings. Earlier in the week, we had a severe storm front move through the area. That meant the sinus headache from hell, and a whacked out equilibrium. I didn’t want to be climbing ladders while I was that dizzy. The dizzy spells last a long time too. I’m only just now managing not to bump into things.

If you’re in the US, are you celebrating Labor Day with a BBQ? Are you working Labor Day?

 

Did You Know…

Walmart has bought Jet.com for 3.3 billion in cash and stock. I know Walmart’s been trying to get a better toe hold in online sales, which is almost impossible while Amazon is in power. The deal is expected to close later this year.

Jet.com put up a valiant fight. I bought some stuff from them that was not only cheaper than Amazon, but they worked very hard on customer service. The search engine for their online store needed work, but it wasn’t bad for a start-up.

With any luck Walmart can give Amazon a run for its money. Lately, Amazon has been less than hospitable with customers. Twice, they turned me down when I pointed out a lower price. They never used to be like that. A competitor with weight might make them more genial again.

In other news, Amazon is toying with the idea of a new model for grocery shopping. The idea is to order online and then pick up your order at a specific location.

So far the only two hubs will be in Seattle and the San Francisco Bay area.

I’m not sure that would appeal to me. I like to examine the packages first.

Would you try online grocery shopping? How about Jet.com once Walmart takes over?

14 Essential Pantry Staples

My pantry is well stopantrycked because it’s a 30 minute drive to the nearest grocery store. You can hear me scream like a banshee if I ever run out of something.

Not only do I keep my cupboards full, I always make sure I have a backup package in reserve. Efficiency should be my middle name.

Unless you have special dietary needs I think you can get by on fourteen items to make pretty decent meals without leaving the house.

• canned tomatoes
Whether they’re whole, crushed, frozen, dried, or canned, tomatoes are useful in a wide variety of recipes.

• broth (chicken, beef, and vegetable)
I use broth a lot. Every time I boil chicken for the dogs I save the broth and freeze it for future meals. Great for soups, casseroles, gravies, and sauces. Making your own broth is far tastier than the high sodium store bought variety.

• beans
There are so many varieties and packaged in many different ways. Since I cook a lot of Mexican inspired meals, I like to pick up refried beans when they’re on sale. I could make them from scratch, but this is one convenience food that saves me a lot of time.

• pasta
This one is probably a given. We use both wheat and rice based pasta for a variety of dishes from spaghetti to stir-fry.

• rice
Another no brainer. I try to mix it up between basmati and sushi rice. I keep plain white rice too. It was our staple for years but Greg has gotten snooty about rice and now asks for variety. Neither of us like brown rice so we don’t keep that in stock.

• onions/garlic
Unless you can’t stand the taste of onion or garlic, you should always keep some handy. It’s a healthy way to flavor food. Thankfully, both of us are lovers of garlic and onions. It was a match made in heaven.

• potatoes
I always try to keep fresh potatoes handy, but just in case I run out, I also stock canned and dehydrated potatoes. They’re not as tasty as fresh, but in a pinch, they serve well.

• vinegars
I stock wine, cider, and white vinegar. I use the wine vinegar specifically for when I make salad dressings, the cider vinegar for marinating meat, and white vinegar for canning. Sometimes I buy other vinegars like sushi and malt vinegar, but they’re not essential.

• canned tuna or other meats
In a pinch, a can of tuna or chicken makes a quick meal with very little effort. Tuna fish salad sandwiches are regular meals at my house.

• oils
I stock canola, olive, and sesame oil. I rarely use the sesame oil but since I dabble in Asian cuisine, it’s often required in the recipe.

• jelly or fruit preserves
These are handy to have whether it’s for a jelly sandwich or filling for a puff pastry.

• cheese
Cheese is a staple in our house. Cheddar and cream cheese is always on hand. You never know when we’ll have a hankering for a grilled cheese sandwich or a bagel shmear. We buy other cheeses too, but these two are staples.

• milk
We don’t drink milk, but I use it a lot for baking and cooking. I buy dry milk in the big box and ‘can’ it with my FoodSaver. Canning sucks all the air out of the container and it lasts for a very long time. I never know when I’ll need milk, but this way, I never have to make a special trip for milk.

• bread/tortillas
I envy those of you who bake bread. I just don’t have the knack for it. Greg makes a decent Italian loaf, but I leave all the other bread families to the grocery store. It’s the one thing I always buy regularly from the store.

Tortillas on the other hand are ridiculously easy to make, but I’m lazy and refuse to make them while there is a nearby store that has its own tortillaria. I buy them whenever they go on sale and freeze them.

That’s my list. These are the fourteen items I will always keep stocked in my pantry.

How about you? Is there one must-have ingredient you keep in your pantry?

 

 

This Week’s Menu, August 28, 2016

Modern studio background, sepia look

Menu for the week of August 28, 2016

Sunday
Breakfast: Biscuits and gravy, a Southern tradition!
Lunch: Pastrami sandwiches and potato salad
Dinner: Stir fry

Monday
Breakfast: Cheese quesadilla
Lunch: Pastrami sandwiches
Dinner: Leftover stir fry

Tuesday
Breakfast: Bagels with shmear
Lunch: BLT
Dinner: Shrimp pasta with pesto

Wednesday:
Breakfast: Bagels
Lunch: Soup
Dinner:  Samosas and tabouli

Thursday
Breakfast: English muffin toast with cheesy eggs
Lunch: Leftover samosas
Dinner:  Spaghetti and salad

Friday
Breakfast: Bacon and eggs
Lunch: Egg rolls
Dinner: Steak and baked potato

Saturday
Breakfast: Breakfast out.  I’m hoping to make it out to Trade Days in Canton
Lunch: Cheese and crackers
Dinner: Enchiladas

 

It took me all day just to do the bedroom ceiling. My neck felt like it was in a vice all week. I still have the kitchen and living room ceilings to do too.

I took a break by weeding the garden two days in a row. What was I thinking?!

Come hell or high water I need to finish the other two ceilings this week. Lots of furniture moving and climbing ladders. My legs felt like lead after the bedroom, and the living room/kitchen is three times as large.

If I can finish all the painting, I plan to take a well deserved break next week.

This week I’m attempting samosas. I’ve eaten them in restaurants but never made them. Greg said he’d be willing to try something new so I’m going to spring it on him this week.

Have you ever eaten a samosa? I’m fond of the vegetable samosas, but I’m going to do some with beef to satisfy my carnivore husband. If they turn out good, I’ll share the recipe.

 

Could You Cull a Pet

 

As an animal lover I found this article friko head, croppedom the BBC News shocking and painful. I had mentioned in an earlier post about British Farms that during WWII much of their livestock was culled because they couldn’t afford to feed such big animals.

What I didn’t know until now is that the government began a campaign before the start of the war urging people to destroy their pets because food was certain to be scarce. In the course of one week, Britain destroyed 750,000 pets.

I know Britain suffered greatly during WWII. Rationing barely kept body and soul alive. A very good friend of mine lived during the war and she often told me about the shortages they endured. She never mentioned the government had urged them to destroy their pets.

She was obsessive about her dogs in her adult years and now I wonder if that cull had anything to do with it. We worked at the same veterinary hospital.

I can’t put myself in their place because we deliberately created a situation where we could provide for ourselves and our pets. If the government started urging me to destroy Nana and Iko, they better hope they never tell me that in person.

There is very little I get worked up about, but when it comes to my dogs, that’s where the line is drawn.

In the US, we eat too much anyway. I can afford to eat a lot less if it means my dogs get to live.

I do want to give kudos to the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, in operation since 1860. According to the article, with only four people on staff, they took in 175,000 dogs during the course of WWII.

I have no right to judge, never having experienced that kind of shortage of resources. I just know I would not, and could not comply to such a request. I have the luxury of living in the country and growing my own food. As long as Greg or I draw breath, our animals will be safe.

To be fair, I’m a little more suspect of the government for starting such a panic. Back then though, people were much more willing to do as they were told. Today we question everything, and we should. If history has taught me anything, it’s that governments are not infallible. They make mistakes and sometimes they’re whoppers.

How would you feel if the government warned you today that food would be scarce for the unforeseeable future and urged you to euthanize your pets?  How awful would life have to be to make such an painful decision?