02 Oct 2015 2 Comments
01 Oct 2015 Leave a comment
Tuesday’s storm blew over one of my tomato plants. It was a little top heavy. That’s the risk of not being rooted in the earth or tied to the balcony. I’ll have to fix that. Two hard green tomatoes flung off the plant and rolled under the table & chairs on our balcony. Maybe they were ducking for cover.
I’ve been hoping the few tomatoes we have left would ripen and be yummy. Now I might have to look into green tomato recipes like pickled tomatoes or the classic fried green variety. I hope I can still coax some to ripen on vines or the windowsill if nothing else.
Bonnie Plants just posted on their Facebook page that now is the time to pick green tomatoes still on the vines. “Nooooooo!” Where? Everywhere? Or just up North? I still want to leave some on the vines to grow and ripen, but Mother Nature may have other ideas for them. Maybe I’m a little ahead of the times with my two green tomatoes.
We’ve had more rain here this week than most of the summer combined with the exception of early on when it seemed to rain every single afternoon. It’s like bookends.
Hurricane Joaquin may hit inland near here in the next few days. Or not. Who can say. The rain seems to be announcing it’s approach as if a red carpet were rolled out. But winds change. The scruffy superstar may not show up inland. It may only rain a lot.
I’m both a little relieved and a little worried that my mom and stepdad have moved out of their old house and into a newer house that’s farther away. The new home isn’t yet storm-tested but the old had a beautiful large oak with branches over and behind the house. It is somehow both protective and precarious.
In the meantime, I’ll need to move our table & chairs to someplace less exposed just in case part of the storm reaches us. Our balcony gets very windy. I’ll also need to move or tie down any remaining plants. The rest remains to be seen.
26 Sep 2015 Leave a comment
Crud, I started this post before summer was over and here it is, autumn already. Happy Autumn, folks!
I love fall, but I’ll miss summer and one of my favorite things about summer — all the yummy, fresh, local produce. Never fear, summer fruits are still to be found. The fresh local ones will be gone very soon though! Around here, this weekend will be the last for pit fruits like peaches.
Luckily, I can take some of summer’s fresh fruit with me into fall by making macerated fruit. These juicy morsels stride the line between fresh fruit and preserves like some kind of zombie fruit. Living and dead. Summer and Autumn. Maybe I should call it Zombie Fruit? I think I will. The yummy goop doesn’t smell anything like zombies. As far as I know zombies don’t smell peachy, but the macerated raspberry juice can look kind of like blood so there’s that.
Like jams, jellies, and pickles, a lack of free water and a high concentration of sugar (or salt or acid like vinegar) actually helps prevent or slow the growth of mold and bacteria. Check out the science behind it here at wisegeek.org. That’s part of how jam came to be — folks used the process as a way of preserving their fruit harvest. But even great jam tastes like jam and not so much like fresh fruit. So without cooking or freezing we can keep some of that fresh-fruit taste in the fridge for weeks (or sometimes even months) by making macerated fruit in sugar. Even with the added sugar, the juices and wee morsels of fruit are softened but manage to keep a lot of the fresh fruit taste since it isn’t exposed to heat.
All it takes is fresh fruit and sugar and a refrigerator and, for some fruit, a little bit of a product called Fruit Fresh. Spices can be used too. Note that this will work best if you use the FULL amount of sugar. This isn’t the time to watch carbs. The sugar draws the water and juices out of the fruit and is a critical part of preventing nasties like mold and bacteria growth. While it will take some time to completely dissolve without heat, it will eventually dissolve though it may take a week. If a small amount doesn’t dissolve it will settle to the bottom where you can scoop it out when you’re done with the rest of the goop and add it to hot tea or oatmeal.
Zombie Peaches (aka Macerated Peaches)
1 cup fresh peaches cut up
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar (preferably raw sugar)
1 1/2 teaspoon Fruit Fresh
The peaches should be cut in to bite-size pieces or medium-to-thin size slices to allow the juices to flow. Be sure to cut out any bad or bruised spots. You can leave the skin on (wash really well before slicing) or you can remove it.
Mix the Fruit Fresh powder into the cup of sugar. Using a clean, sanitized mason jar put a layer of the sugar mix in the bottom of the jar. Spoon a layer of sliced peaches over the sugar. Add another layer of sugar mix over the peaches. Repeat until you’ve used all the peaches and sugar or until the jar is full but not overflowing. Finish the last layer with sugar so that the peaches are covered. Put the lid on the mason jar and allow the sugar to dissolve in the peach juice. The sugar will draw the juice out from the peaches and then gradually dissolve. There will be a lot of juice! This can take quite a few days (even a week) since we’re not using heat to speed it up. Air from between the peach pieces and granules of sugar will slowly bubble out. In the first few days, stir the sugar up from the bottom once or twice per day to help it along. (Lick the spoon. It’s yummy.)
Alternative method: mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl then spoon into mason jars. Then follow as above, stirring regularly. I find it less messy to do the layers in the jars.
Store covered in the fridge for weeks.
We spoon the mix over ice cream, pancakes, shortcake, or fruit salad. Use the syrupy liquid to flavor beverages. Sometimes we eat some on a spoon ’cause it is sooo good. While obviously sweeter than fresh fruit, it retains a lot of that fresh fruit taste and nutrition that is usually cooked out during canning or making jams. This also makes a great start to jam or preserves so you can also cook it down later and can it later for even longer preservation. You can also freeze it later too.
variation: Spiced Zombie Peaches
Same as Zombie Peaches, above, but add:
1/8 teaspoon of cinnamon
Mix cinnamon with the dry ingredients and layer as above. Cinnamon does more than just add flavor, it also suppresses bacterial growth so it can help the concoction last even longer. It does taste like cinnamon, obviously, so you gotta like cinnamon. 1/8 of a teaspoon may not seem like a lot, but the juices and sugar will draw out the flavor and you will definitely notice it.
Zombie Raspberries (aka Macerated Raspberries)
1/2 cup raspberries
1/4 cup sugar
Put a layer of sugar in the bottom of a mason jar. Then add a single layer of raspberries, then another layer of sugar. Repeat until you’ve used all your ingredients or until the jar is full. Try to finish the last layer with sugar so that the raspberries are covered. Since we aren’t cutting up the raspberries, press lightly on the top to squish the raspberries a little. This will help get the juices flowing. Cover and store in the fridge, stirring occasionally, as the sugar draws out the raspberry juice. Scientifically the solution is trying to reach a balanced concentration of sugar and water. Juices flow out of the fruit through osmosis. This reduces the free water in the fruit which slows spoilage when kept in the fridge. Keep stirring periodically until the sugar dissolves. It can take several days.
Store covered in the fridge for weeks (up to a couple of months). We spoon over ice cream, pancakes, french toast, shortcake, or even fruit salad. I use the syrupy liquid to flavor beverages. This also makes a great start to jams, preserves, or even cobblers which you can cook later.
You can use the same process with other types fruits too. For really juicy fruit, like nectarines, you’ll want to use the larger amount of sugar (like Zombie Peaches) while fruits with less water content, like blackberries, use less sugar (Zombie Raspberry recipe).
Note that this process doesn’t preserve the fruit as thoroughly as jams, so it must live in the fridge. It will, however, last a lot longer than keeping plain fresh fruit. I’ve had a couple of jars last almost a year. I’ll warn you right now, too, that there can be a small amount of fermentation. But even if fermentation starts, it will stall out with all that sugar and the refrigerator will keep it to a minimum. So you won’t end up with much of an alcohol content — about as much as a ripe banana.
Fruit Fresh is a product usually found near the mason jars and other canning supplies in a lot of grocery stores. It’s a powdered mix containing mostly citric acid and ascorbic acid (vitamin C) which help prevent oxidation, so Fruit Fresh keeps fruit from turning brown. It’s really helpful for peaches, apples, and other fruits that turn brown quickly once you cut them. It’s like lemon juice but without adding any extra liquid or lemon flavor. It also ups the acidity so it may help to preserve the food some just like lemon juice or vinegar. It can also affect the taste so keep that in mind. This is usually fine with foods that work well with a little tartness, but you’ll want to be careful with food like bananas or avocados.
Note that this yummy fruit goop isn’t shelf stable so you’ll need to keep it in the fridge. You can also freeze it or can it later following typical canning protocol for food safety. As a general rule, if something goes wrong and it smells bad or tastes bad or it ends up growing mold then don’t eat it. If that happens, it means you should use a higher sugar-to-fruit ratio for future batches.
Here’s the process in pictures:
The last two photos were taken after several days of sitting in the fridge and stirring periodically. Remember ALL the juice you see in the jars came from the fruit. I didn’t add any water! So don’t throw that juice away, use it, drink it, mix it into stuff. It’s crazy yummy!
18 Sep 2015 2 Comments
in Games, Laundry, Mom Stuff, Plant Life and Balcony Gardening, Time-saving, WordPress, Wordpress Writing 101 Tags: balcony gardening, birthdays, busy mom stuff, cell phone calling plans, time crunch, wordpress blogging 201, wordpress writing 101
Urgh! I’m supposed to be writing stuff and somehow hardly anything has gotten done this week. I managed some reading because, with apps on my phone, I can do that just about anywhere in tiny bursts. To some extent I can do that with writing too, but it is slower. Much slower. I only got a bit of writing done. Somehow time in this past week has evaporated like the last wisps of summer sun.
For the past month I’ve been meaning to do my nails and shave my legs. I don’t get the bug to do my nails very often, but it does show up once in a while. So nearly every day I’ve been thinking, “oh, maybe I can do them today.” Then there’s laundry. Or a cat barfs. Or something else comes up. So that didn’t happen yet. The summer color I’d planned on doing just ain’t gonna happen at this point. I’m looking at you, Autumn.
Last week I had a follow up appointment with my Physical Therapist. I reeeaally should have shaved my legs if I was going to wear shorts there. Did it happen? Nope. If I’d have remembered this little tid-bit of info then I might have worn longer pants instead.
After that I should have, at least, shaved ’em over the weekend to avoid any more mishaps. Still no. Two days ago, I managed to haul my cookies up on an exercise bike again, guess what? I could feel my leg hairs swaying in the wind as I peddled. It’s not even like I can claim “winter legs.” At least I showered.
Earlier I managed to paint a card for my daughter for her birthday. I’m proud of the card (proud that I finished it befor her birthday was over), and I’m even more proud of her. I think she is a very cool young teen.
We had my daughter’s birthday party last weekend so it was a busy one. Plus we got her a nice but inexpensive cell phone, and activating it took a lot longer than I was expecting.
First I’d tried to set her up on Cricket which didn’t work at all. It should have been the correct type of GSM unlocked phone to work there, but I think something is whacky. I’ll probably need go into a Cricket store to get the SIM to work. Like I have time. I can’t even manage to shave my legs.
Walmart Family Mobile plan to the rescue! I didn’t even know this existed until a few weeks ago. I’ll even save $5 a month over Cricket (but with slightly less high-speed data). I hope the coverage works OK, but the website for the service actually makes me feel like somebody put some thought into making it family friendly. More important, it actually worked. Excellent.
I meant to bake maple or caramel apple cupcakes for her birthday party, but that didn’t get done either. Instead I purchased not-bad-for-store-bought cupcakes in vanilla and chocolate and decorated them with pumpkin spice marshmallows. They were a hit. Especially the marshmallows. I think they’ll be good in coffee or hot chocolate this fall.
We had a lot of fun at my daughter’s Laser Tag Adventure party. She has some great friends! The laser tag games are fun and the location was nice. But they had lots of video game redemption machines there, and some of the kids went a little wild with playing those. Seriously, why does it seem like so much fun for a machine to spit out paper tickets?
You can never get much with the tickets you trade in for “prizes” there or anywhere. Put in 25 cents and if you’re lucky you’ll be able to trade your tickets for a nickle worth of goods.
My daughter got some Now & Laters — little hard taffy bricks that I’m pretty sure are nothing but an evil ploy of evil dentists. My daughter chose banana flavor. Against my good judgement she convinced my to try one. I promptly pulled a crown off my molar. I should have known better. Taffy is pure sweet evil incarnate, and this is not the first time that that crown has come unglued. It’s a fairly shallow, flat tooth. At least I didn’t swallow it this time. That happened. And that’s another story for another time.
My mom and stepdad are moving in these next few days. I’m excited for them but also nervous as they’ll live farther away. This will be a big change. I helped with a few things yesterday, and I’m determined to help more this weekend.
I’m also determined to get some writing done, so here’s something. It looks like I’ve actually managed a blog post. I also have a couple of Cherokee Purple tomatoes finally ripening in our balcony garden. What’s not to like? It could be a good weekend.
I’m resetting my goals for the next couple of days. I am setting aside time. Still haven’t done my nails or shaved my legs though.
07 Sep 2015 2 Comments
This fine Labor Day we’re traveling back from South Carolina where we were visiting my dad. Visits like these invariably involve lots of yummy food, fun, and a good bit of driving.
We bowled, saw a movie, relaxed with my dad and ate a lot of yummy food.
Southern food like real barbecue, chicken, and cornbread is a guilty pleasure I’ve learned to relish on trips like these. My years of living near Nashville primed my taste buds. Why oh why does grease, sugar, and salt taste so good?.
My dad manages a stellar pulled pork, some of which we have frozen in a cooler in the back if the car. We’ll enjoy that at home. Yesterday we ate rotissery chicken that he cooked on the grill. Tender, juicy, and that awesome browned crispy skin. I love the brown crispy skin!
Now I’m munching on fried catfish at the Cracker Barrel. I love those crispy edges! Second verse same as the first. Cracker Barrel actually manages an excellent fried catfish. My daughter had fried chicken salad which is like a hybrid of southern and contemporary eats.
We finished with pumpkin custard n’ ginger snaps. Also yummy and kind of an excellent way to welcome in the fall days ahead.
01 Sep 2015 Leave a comment
I accidentally froze a bar of Fels Naptha laundry bar soap … for two or more weeks … in the freezer at work.
I’d made a quick, lunch-hour trip to Walmart. I put a bag of frozen food into our freezer at work so I’d have some quick lunch options. There were several packages of Lean Cuisine and some bags of frozen veg. Lean Cuisine are not my favorite lunch by any means, but they are quick when I feel like something hot. Servings are wimpy so I usually add extra veg. On the same trip I’d also purchased a few items for home, one of which was a bar of Fels Naptha laundry soap. I sorted all the items and thought I left non-parishable items for home in the car. I guess I forgot about the Fels Naptha somewhere along the way. That was two or three weeks ago.
Today, I reached into the bag and pulled out what I thought was another box of Lean Cuisine from behind a bag of frozen peas. It was a bar of laundry soap instead.
I decided to have a sandwich for lunch.
In other news, my daughter had “Locker Night” at school this evening. (Not really evening, more like late afternoon.) It was very hot and crowded, but my daughter got her locker and schedule for the upcoming school year. She’s excited for school to start back up again. I’m excited for her though I wouldn’t mind a few more weeks of summer. It was so hot I was sweating and kind of thinking that a bar of frozen soap might feel good about then.
Why Fels Naptha? I still like Zote, but I wanted to test Fels Naptha a bit again. Read my comparison of laundry bar soaps here: BAR FIGHT. And why I use them here: What Kind of Freak Uses Laundry Bar Soap?
Not the prettiest lunch. Pepper jack cheese with a pepper jack & turkey sandwich on whole grain white and a container of pudding from home. Later I enhanced it with a couple of fresh cherry tomatoes and a chili. That helped! (I did not eat the Fels Naptha, but couldn’t resist a photo.)
31 Aug 2015 6 Comments
We got our Saturn 10 days before September 11, 2001. Saturn was a revolutionary company at the time.
Their slogan was:
A Different Kind of Car Company. A Different Kind of Car.
And it was.
It was the no-haggle car company. You paid the same price as anybody else who purchased a Saturn. It was supposed to be the American answer to the Japanese competition. They built them differently. The plant was all new.
The doors and side-body panels were made of polymer instead of steel. This made the car lighter in weight which gave it better gas mileage. But even better was that the entire outside of the car was like one giant bumper. So your car didn’t suffer the normal dings and dents in parking lots. And rust was never an issue for the panels.
My 2002 coupe had a cool little side-door that opened backwards— a “third door,” they called it. It made life about 1000 times easier when my daughter was a baby. It was super easy to get the car seat in and out. The leather seats made it easier to clean up vomit. No need to cave and purchase a mom-car. We were even able to fit a large TV in the car one time because of the cavernous space created if both the regular car door and mini car door were opened at the same time.
We almost drove it all the way to Chicago in the days after September 11. We were supposed to fly on the 14th for my cousin’s wedding. But flights were cancelled. Rescheduled. Cancelled. Along with all the sorrow of the disaster and the joy that I looked forward to at my cousin’s wedding, I was worried about driving my brand new car the more than 700 miles to Chicago. We scored train tickets. The car would go on to last for many many miles.
It was the most reliable car I’d owned.
But recent years were not as kind.
Perhaps because my Saturn was lower to the ground and less visible than all the SUVs around here or because so many drivers are distracted these days, other drivers kept crashing into me. Rather, into my Saturn. Stop lights. Parking lots. Somehow, drivers managed to hit me in ways and at times that I could not avoid.
Then the basic repairs started coming. Nothing that wouldn’t be expected from a car pushing 150,000 miles. But it adds up.
It was time.
Thanks for carrying our family so far!
29 Aug 2015 Leave a comment
Years ago a friend showed me how to cook rice measuring the water using only her hand. Years later, I use the same basic method but instead measure with my thumb or finger. I felt a little weird plopping my whole hand in the pot.
This actually works great. I love that I don’t have to get out a measuring cup. It scales it up or down. It’s very easy. I’ve thought about purchasing a rice cooker, but we’re short on space and this works with the multitasking pots most people already have.
Brown Rice Method:
Put rice in a pot. The pot should be a good size for the amount of rice — use a larger pot for a lot of rice and a smaller pot for a little. The uncooked rice should have room to cook and expand, but be deep enough in the bottom so that it comes at least 1/3 of the way up the side of the pot.
Rinse the rice if you do that. I find that brown rice doesn’t need as much rinsing as white, but I know some people don’t even rinse white.
Keeping the tip of your thumb at the top of the rice, pour water into the pot so that the water comes up to the first knuckle on your thumb. On me, this is about 1 inch.
Bring water to a boil on medium heat. Then cover with a tightly fitting lid. Turn heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. DO NOT remove the lid. (Treat it like it will release a cloud of poisonous fumes if you do.) Clear glass lids can help resist the temptation to remove the lid and take a peek.
Turn off the heat and allow the pot to sit for 15-25 minutes. Leave that lid on the entire time! Once a minimum of 15 minutes is up, you can remove the lid and fluff with a spoon or fork before serving.
Cooking Brown Rice, A Recap:
1.) Put rice in a pot that has a tightly fitting lid. Use a big pot for a lot of rice, small pot for a little rice. Uncooked rice should come at least 1/3 up the side of the pot, but leave enough space at the top for rice to expand. Rinse rice if you do that.
2.) Fill pot of uncooked rice with water so that water line sits about 1 inch above the uncooked rice. On me, this is to the first knuckle on my thumb.
3.) Using medium heat, bring rice to a boil.
4.) Once it’s boiling, pop that tightly fitting lid on the pot and resist the urge to remove it while the rice cooks.
5.) Turn the heat down to low. And simmer for 30 minutes.
6.) Turn off the heat. LEAVE that LID ON! Let the pot sit for a full 15-25 minutes.
7.) Fluff with a spoon or fork and enjoy!
White Rice Variation:
Generally speaking, white rice doesn’t need as much water or to cook for as long as brown. I measure water for white rice to the first knuckle of my index finger. This is about 3/4 of an inch.
Bring to a boil, put the lid on, and simmer on low for 20 minutes. Turn off heat and let sit for 15 minutes. Done and yum!
Note that this method is not for quick-cooking rice.
25 Aug 2015 Leave a comment
The Daily Post’s Daily Prompt is No, Thank You.
It asks: If you could permanently ban a word from general usage, which one would it be? Why?
There are lots of words I wouldn’t mind hearing, or seeing, less often.
Some people use the same expression over and over. At one point, when I was a kid I said “super” to everything I liked. Now I tend to say “cool” or “awesome” — twice the variety!
Books sometimes repeat the same phrase or words over and over.
Spoken or in print, I cringe at too much swearing. Though it works well for some characters and stories. But in many cases if every other word is a swear then the words lose some of their power for when you might really need a good swear word. Like if you’e having an unusually sucky day or slam your finger in your car door.
If I’m super mad, I feel better with a good swear word or two. Sometimes three. It doesn’t happen often. I think it would lose some of it’s therapeutic benefit if I swore all the time.
Let’s say I had a friend named Polly and every day she says, “Where’s the fu***** ice cream?” If she says it again today then I would assume things are good with her.
But if Polly almost never swears until just now when she comes in where I’m about to dig-in to two scoops of rocky road and says, “Where’s the fu***** ice cream?” Then I’m going to have a pretty good idea that either Polly had one spectacularly sucky day or that there’s something very wrong with the ice cream and we must dispose of it immediately before it injures someone.
I don’t like too much repetition of any word or words — particularly swear or cuss words. But I wouldn’t ban any of them. It would sensor expression. It’s akin to book burning.
Even the worst of swears might save someone from a batch of dangerous ice cream.
24 Aug 2015 Leave a comment
One thing that makes this time of year extra yummy is harvest — there are still lots of yummy fruits and veggies to be had from gardens and farmers’ markets. I’ve been seeing a lot of farmers’-market specials, many adding bulk discounts as they have lots of ripe produce and want to move it while it’s still sooo good. It’s great to stock up if you have room in your freezer or for canning. Or just make lots of yummy stuff to eat soon!
One recipe that can help:
Contrary to the name it doesn’t require cows, boys, fish eggs or eggs of any kind. This is basically a bean salad with corn, tomatoes, peppers, and herbs. It can be eaten like a salsa with corn chips. It can be a topping on a salad. It can be heated and spooned over rice, added raw or heated to burritos, tacos, or nachos.
It’s fairly healthy with protein, fiber, and fresh veg. It goes quickly around here so I usually double the recipe.
Cowboy Caviar ingredients:
1 can (15 ounce) black beans, drained (or equivalent)
1 can (15 ounce) black-eyed peas, drained (or equivalent) I like the seasoned kind.
1 can (14.5 ounce) diced tomatoes, lightly drained (good using diced tomatoes with chilies) or about 1-1/2 cups of fresh, diced tomatoes. That’s what I’m talking about.
1 can (15 ounces) corn, drained or 2 cups fresh-cut or frozen corn
1/2 red (or green) bell pepper diced (or similar amount of other sweet peppers)
1/2 small onion, diced
2 or 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped (or 2 teaspoons garlic powder)
About a cup or half a bunch of chopped cilantro (leave out if you don’t like cilantro)
About a 1/2 cup or 1/4 of a bunch of fresh chopped parsley
1 or 2 fresh chopped jalapeño peppers (to taste)
Salt and pepper (to taste, it doesn’t need much salt, just a couple of pinches)
2 tablespoons raw apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup Italian salad dressing (Paul Newman’s Lite Italian works nicely)
Mix it all in a large bowl adding the vinegar, olive oil, and Italian dressing last. We like to let it sit out of the fridge for an hour to let the flavors mix. Enjoy!
Store covered in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. The vinegar in the apple cider vinegar and salad dressing helps to preserve it longer than if it were just fresh-diced ingredients.