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Monday Musings: 10.28.2013 Edition October 28, 2013

Posted by Toy Lady in canning, meal plan monday, Musings.
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Do you remember how, a couple of weeks ago, Peeps and I got a little carried away and picked about 50 pounds of apples?

Well, what does one do with 50 pounds of apples, anyway?

Hint:  that is a LOT of pies for two people who don’t really eat a lot of desserts. .  but I went ahead and tried a few pints of apple pie filling – it certainly has the potential to make our holiday baking easier, doesn’t it?

Also, we’re going to try some apply-good oatmeal some time this week. . . and maybe I’ll stir some into yogurt for breakfast one morning.  I hope I’m going to have enough left for pies!

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Speaking of holidays – can you BELIEVE Halloween is just around the corner already?  We still have to pick up a big bone for Jarly – we’ve found that’s the best way for him to deal with the parade of costumed strangers stamping around on the front porch – he pretty much doesn’t care if he’s in the back yard busy with a bone!

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So the whole apple pie filling worked so well that we decided to try a half-batch each of blueberry and cherry filling!  I’m telling you, when it comes to the holiday pie thing, I’m just going to be phoning it in this year!

And, since we were in a canning mood (not to mention a cleaning-out-the-freezer mood!) we also did a batch of chicken stock – seven quarts canned PLUS 2 quarts to use during the week.

Like I always say . . . anything worth doing is worth overdoing, you know?

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Although we’ve been nattering on about clearing the freezers out for, oh, half a decade now (yikes!), we’ve decided that we definitely need to get serious about it.  Besides the fact that there’s an embarrassing amount of meat down there that’s not getting any younger, we really do need the space.

See, after a lot of research and consideration, we’ve decided to change Jarly’s diet to “raw.”  He’s been suffering with some tummy issues (you don’t want to know) for a while, and, really, about the only thing left that could be causing his problems is his diet.  I just don’t think dogs are built to eat grain, you know?  Or at least this one isn’t.  We’ve been testing the new diet on him for a couple of week now, and it really seems to be agreeing with him.

So. . . in less than two weeks, I’ll have just over 100 pounds of meat to find a home in the freezer for.  Wish us luck. . .

See above about “anything worth doing.”

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And once again, it’s time for the weekly menu plan.  We haven’t done a lot of prep ahead of time this week – but hopefully it’ll all still be perfectly manageable.  We’re fairly simple anyway, right?

Monday –  You’ll recall that we roasted a chicken last week, which was fantastic.  There is the added benefit of leftover chicken, which, in this case, means Moravian Chicken Pie.  Since that’s become one of our all-time favorites, well, who’s going to complain?  I’ll steam some of the green beans we froze this summer, just to make sure we’re getting our veggies, too!

Tuesday – Our supermarket had Alaskan whitefish on sale, so we picked up just enough for dinner – we’re thinking some sort of crispy baked fish thing – not exactly sure what yet.  It’ll go nicely with some sort of grain (sorting out the rice/bean/grain shelf in the pantry is definitely on my list of things to do when I have all the time in the world. . . ) and some pan-roasted broccoli which, I think, will be very nice with some of the lemon-garlic vinaigrette I made the other day.

Wednesday – Oh my gosh, we have this FAVORITE fall recipe for cider-glazed pork chops – we always use fresh cider, and since we can only get that in the fall (unless we freeze some) we try to make it a point to make this when we can.  We had ONE package of pork chops in the freezer, and it’s close to the last week the apple place will be open, so . . . it’s like it’s fate.  Plus I’ve got some Brussels sprouts that need roasting and will be perfect with the sweet chops and with some homely veggie mash that we’d stashed in the freezer.

Thursday –  We also roasted a turkey breast last weekend AND sauteed some kale, both of which left us with leftovers.  Then I stumbled upon a recipe for Avgolemono Soup With Chicken, Rice & Kale – I figure turkey’s pretty interchangeable with chicken, and the leftover cooked kale is just kind of a short cut.

Friday – The tomatoes are done, sadly, so for pizza night it’s homemade sauce for me – either roasted tomato or roasted eggplant – either one is very, very good.

Be sure to click on over to The Organizing Junkie’s Monday Menu Plan post for loads and loads of other ideas.

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Monday Musings: 03.17.2013 Edition March 18, 2013

Posted by Toy Lady in canning, Eating Down the Fridge, Garden, meal plan monday, Musings.
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I noticed the other day that my garlic was starting to peek up!  I was going to take a picture at the time, but then it snowed.

The snow melted, but we had time-change and it was always too dark in the morning.

Then it snowed again, but the snow melted AND I managed to scoot out to the garden with the camera, so . . . hey, look, garlic sprouts!

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The sprouting garlic reminds me that the winter is nearly over – yay!  However, it also reminds me that, if I want to make chicken stock, I should do it sooner rather than later – it’s just foolish not to take advantage of the cold nights and chill the stock on the deck overnight.

Plus, of course, it’s always appreciated when I salvage the meat from the leg quarters and have treats for the, um, children.

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Speaking of whom. . .

We’re still continuing our tolerance training – it’s amazing how well everyone gets along when they’re being feed bits of chicken, isn’t it?  I swear, the cat practically climbs in my lap, with the dog right there watching – and waiting patiently for his turn!

By the way, please pay no attention to the red socks and purple shirt combination!  I’m not much of a fashion plate at that hour of the morning!

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Embarrassing confession time.

You know how, around the holidays, all the supermarkets are practically giving away turkeys?  You know, a whole bird for 29 cents a pound with a $25 purchase, or some such foolishness?

Well, it’s been a couple of years since we’ve bought a turkey – there are only the two of us, after all.

Or, um, maybe it’s been more than a couple of years.   It’s amazing what you’ll find when you dig around in the bottom of the chest freezer!  Fortunately, the bird’s been safely in its original cry-o-vac packaging, so it’ll be just fine, safety-wise, anyway.

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Say, Jarly’s been doing very well in his obedience class – again!

This is the “advanced” class, and the intention is to train the dogs to be SO obedient that they can perform off-leash.  In public, or, more specifically, in a room full of people and other dogs.

And, given Jar’s particular history, the “other dogs” part is the biggest challenge!

However, this week, he worked very hard – he did all of the exercises he was asked to do, AND he heeled properly – in the proper position, ignoring all distractions (like the room full of strange people and dogs), and he did it without his leash!

Our boy enjoyed his well-deserved nap!

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And once again, it’s time for the weekly menu plan.  I am hoping that after this week, things will settle down for me at work for a little while.  I am SO TIRED of going in early, working late, and, worst of all, having no time at all for my normal slacking!

Monday – I picked up a few more Meyer lemons last week, and, rather than let them go to waste, we’ve been using them here and there.  We’ll finish them up in an old favorite from Cook’s IllustratedSpaghetti al Limone.

Tuesday – Since winter is winding down (really!) Peeps mentioned that we hadn’t made our favorite pork sugo in a while –  we’ll have some for the freezer when we’re done (just what I need!), and I’ll probably send some home with the Boy the next time he stops by for something.  That’s what moms do, right?

Wednesday – Since we’re kind of grooving on old favorites this week, I guess some white chili is in order.  Besides, I have GOT use some of those beans!  We’ll use some cooked turkey instead of chicken.  Obviously.

Thursday –  Of course, we can’t roast a turkey without making hot turkey sandwiches.  We’re not barbarians!

Friday – Friday night is always pizza night – I have decided that olive oil, ricotta cheese and salami, with mozzerella or provolone, is my favorite pizza of all.  At least it is at the moment.  And I’ve got just enough ricotta filling for ONE more pizza night.

Be sure to click on over to The Organizing Junkie’s Monday Menu Plan post for loads and loads of other ideas.

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Monday Musings: 11.12.2012 Edition November 12, 2012

Posted by Toy Lady in canning, Musings.
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Boy, I’ll bet you’ve been wondering what’s happened to me lately, haven’t you?

Be assured that all is well here – we’re the regular amount of busy, the time change hasn’t defeated us (yet) and, at the moment, no one is sick!

It’s that darned computer.  You’ll recall that we sent it out to be fixed, and, well, it turns out that we’re going to have to not “fix” it so much as “replace” it.

That was not in the plan.

However, I’ve ordered a new machine from Woot! and it’ll be here . . . when it gets here.  So until then, it’s me and the Fossil Laptop.

Seriously, it gets miffed if I open more than two windows. . .

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We’ve been enjoying a bee-u-tiful weekend here in upstate New York – sunny and 70+ degrees!

You do know what that means, though, right?

Yard work.  Raking and pruning and cutting back trumpet vines.  Cleaning out flower beds.  Pulling up those STUPID things that keep trying to take over my irises.  Giving the herb garden its fall trimming.  Although there’s still one tree that just won’t give up its leaves, we managed to fill SEVERAL bags with lawn trash.

I persuaded Peeps that after a day spent outside working, we don’t want to fuss with dinner – we want to fire up the grill and throw on a couple of steaks!

For the record, though, he didn’t need a lot of convincing.

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You know, it turns out that, when you have to just rely on WORDS to do a blog post, well, the whole thing is a lot more daunting, you know?  I mean there’s such pressure to be interesting – if I’m going to present people with a screen full of nothing but text, without even a photo of a chopped onion to break it up, well, how can I expect anyone to actually read all that?

So. . . if you’re wondering where I am over the next couple of weeks, well, just know that words are hard sometimes!

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I’ve been wanting to mention Jar’s new dog class and how well it’s been going!

You’ll recall that our star student completed the “Basic” class three times before he was promoted to the “Advanced” class.

Keeping in mind, of course, that it’s not about the skills – he can do the work – how hard can Sit, Down, Stay, and Come all be – the third time around?  No, our boy is just uncomfortable – the point of being jerky – in a room full of strange dogs.  He hates ‘em.  In a way, I can’t blame him too much – I’m not a fan of strangers either.

However, we’ve just completed Week 5 (of the 6-week class) and he’s been doing so well that we’re going to . . . turn around and take the class again!

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I think I mentioned last week that the Bean Guy is back at the Public Market – yay!

Next weekend, I’ll be buying more beans, and I really want to do something fantastic with fresh, dried beans. (Yes, fresh AND dried.)  So I’m trying to decide between chili or baked beans.

Rough choice, huh?  Well, which would you do?

Oh, and we did our Bean Experiment last weekend – I pressure canned three pounds of mixed dried beans – a pound each of kidney, small red, and pinto beans, all mixed together.

It worked!  Do you know what this means?  It means I’ll never buy canned beans again!

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And once again, it’s time for the weekly menu plan.  We’ve got a moderately busy week ahead – and weather-wise, we’ve got a great first couple of days, followed by, well, November.

Monday –  Peeps has been wanting to make his Cincinnati chili for a while now – and believe it or not, an opened jar of tomato sauce that needs to be used before it spoils provided all the excuse we needed!

Tuesday – It’s getting back into soup season, and, since we’ve not been eating as much seafood as maybe we should be, we decided to put the two together and make that fantastic fish chowder that we liked so much.  This is why we stock up on wild Alaskan whitefish when it’s on sale!

Wednesday -A few weeks ago, I made Rick Bayless’s green enchiladas – and they were very good.  Which is darned lucky because I doubled the sauce and ended up with a TON of it in the freezer.  Well, this week, I’m going to make green PORK enchiladas using some of Peeps’s unsauced pulled pork from this summer.  Yum – smoky pork enchiladas. . .

Thursday –  You know, I’ve still got tons of kale in the garden.  I’m not too worried about it, though, because it’ll keep well even into the colder months.  But it’s not doing me any good at all if I don’t use it, right?  So I found this recipe for Rustic Squash and Kale Tart – besides the kale, I’ve been picking up random squashes at the market too.  And really, who doesn’t want pie for dinner?

Friday – Speaking of pie for dinner – Friday is always pizza night! Last week’s pile of herbs on my pizza was a nice reminder of why I love my herb garden!  This week, I’m hoping to have some leftover steak, because I do love a cheesesteak pizza!

Be sure to click on over to The Organizing Junkie’s Monday Menu Plan post for loads and loads of other ideas.

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No Pumpkins Here! October 17, 2012

Posted by Toy Lady in canning, Cooking, random stuff.
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Have you ever noticed that this time of year, right around October 1, practically every single food blog in the world, it seems, is all pumpkins, all the time.

I mean, pumpkin is okay and all – I like it all right.  But to be honest, I prefer sweet potatoes or butternut squash, myself.

And what is UP with this pumpkin latte stuff that everyone’s so obsessed with, anyway?

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So anyway.  I’m more of an apple gal myself – and you should still be able to get some good late varieties, though locally, the apples, what there were of them, anyway, are pretty much done already.  It’s been a really short season!

I am hoping to score some Granny Smiths at the public market, though, this weekend – those are Peeps’s favorite, and I do love a crisp, tart apple too.

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So far, I’ve only gotten  Honeycrisp and some Empires – the Honeycrisps are early and very, very sweet, and the Empires, well, they’re still on the counter.  I’ve been taking them to work with my lunches, just like when I was a kid and lunch was a sandwich and an apple.  (Only now it’s salad and an apple.)

What I did with the Honeycrisps was . . . make jelly!

Yes, I know it’s kind of a no-brainer – after all, where does pectin come from?

Apples.

What do we add to other, low-pectin fruits to help them gel?

Apples.

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What’s going to be the safest jelly for a veteran jam-maker but a novice jelly-maker?

Apple.

Guys, I made apple jelly!

Without a recipe!

Who knew it would be so easy?

You may remember that, not too long ago, I had some success with peach jam – I even inspired a loyal reader to try it herself!

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This was basically the same deal, only a little different.

I macerated the washed fruit – skins, cores and all (I used about 3/4 cup of sugar to a pound of fruit – Honeycrisp apples are SWEET!), and then I strained them – I ended up with about 4 cups of apple liquid.

Then, I took the strained apples, added 3 cups of water, and brought them up to a boil.

I wanted to get the full effect of the pectin in the apple skins, you see.

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I strained the apples yet again – this time, though, they’d been cooked, and I ran the remains through the food mill, with the pectin-y water/juice getting added to the syrupy sugar/juice from straining the fruit before.

And I actually made about a quart of respectable applesauce – I enjoyed that over the course of the week with my breakfast.

After all, an apple a day, and all that, right?

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So I took what was, in all, 6 cups of sweetened apple juice and I used the same process as I’d used for the peaches, only I didn’t add any fruit.

So you know what I got?  I got apple jelly – three and a half (half-pint) jars of apple jelly.

Next batch?

Apple mint jelly.

Or apple cranberry jelly.

Or maybe apple vanilla cinnamon jelly.

Endless possibilities, I’m telling you!

Monday Musings: 10.15.2012 Edition October 15, 2012

Posted by Toy Lady in Big Lug, canning, meal plan monday, Musings, random stuff, Stupor Kitty.
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Well, the garden is pretty much tucked in for the fall.  It’s kind of a sad day, isn’t it?  They were forecasting a “killing frost” for Friday night, which, apparently didn’t happen.  Or maybe it did – it’s hard to tell.  Peeps had frost on the top of his car Saturday morning, but not on the windshield.  And the late row of green beans seems to be unscathed, yet of two baby “volunteer”  tomato plants I found, one was brown and shriveled (frosted for sure!) and the other, just inches away from it, was at least partially sheltered by ridiculous kale leaves, was as good as new.  (Until I pulled it up.)

Our one row of garlic is in, the kale will be good until . . . whenever it gets used, and the komatsuna should be okay at least as long.

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So we were out shopping this weekend, and Peeps pointed out that we didn’t have anything sweet in the house.

Now, while that is probably a good thing in the long run, we’ve grown to enjoy something dessert-like in the evenings, without actually committing to, say, baking anything.

We came across this new candy – it’s called Unreal.  The idea is that it’s better for you than “regular” candy in that it’s got more real ingredients and NONE of the objectionable ingredients – no corn syrup, no artificial colors or flavors, no hydrogenated oils, and no GMOs.

Basically, it’s hippy candy.  But it’s really, really good hippy candy.  If you see it available, do give it a try.  Really.  You’ll thank me.

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So we’ve been working on Puppy-Kitty Tolerance – and boy, is that fun!

Basically, after I get back from our morning walk, the dog gets fed, and the cat gets a little one-on-one treat time with me.

Then, when the dog’s done with his breakfast, he comes out to the kitchen and lies down next to me while the cat skitters away.

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However, the magic of chicken, pork and hot dogs will lure her back, even to within a tongue’s length of the Big Scary Dog that she goes out of her way to annoy.

The two of them take turns having treats, and I’ve been getting them closer and closer together.  I even got Peeps to play along!

Besides the whole treat thing, the two of them are becoming ever-so-slightly more tolerant of each other – the Kitty will come out and prance around the the living room and dining room, and the dog will pretty much ignore her as long as she doesn’t start whining to be fed.

It’s something. . .

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Poor Jar – every time I set up his pills, I marvel at just how much “stuff” he’s on!

Mostly it’s because of his joints – he’s on MSM supplements (from the horse aisle) and glucosamine supplements twice a day, plus the meloxicam (his miracle drug) once, and antacids with it because it tends to cause nausea.

And he’s still on the Prozac, too – we’ve actually increased it a bit, so now he gets the big pill in the morning and the smaller on in the evening.

I feel like a pharmacist sometimes. . .

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Oh, exciting news!

For the very first time EVER I canned a batch of soup!  I made one of my absolute favorites – the Spanish kale and bean soup.  I made a couple of adjustments to the original recipe (and may make a couple more), but I researched the heck out of canning soup, beans, bean soup, and soups with meat, and I have had 8 pints of lovely, lovely soup.

I can hardly wait until I try a batch of chili!  Or even while chili!

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And once again, it’s time for the weekly menu plan.  Gosh, doesn’t it seem like there’s always so much going on?  I started to say “in the fall,” but then I realized that there’s a lot going on in the summer, too.  And the spring.  So I guess the only chance we get to really relax is in the winter, and even that’s not without its share of busy-ness, either.

Monday –  You know about Groupon, right?  Well, Peeps and I try to get out periodically on Saturdays for lunch – it’s cheaper, and going out for dinner gets late.  However, I have one that’s expiring very soon, and we just weren’t able to get there Saturday for lunch, they are closed Sundays, so Monday we’re going out to a Korean place – and I’m very much looking forward to it!

Tuesday – We dug some veal chops out of the freezer – Peeps picked them up on sale a while back, so, rather than let them get lost in there, we’ll go ahead and grill them while we can.  We have some sort of fries in the freezer and some fresh broccoli from the market.

Wednesday – You’ll recall that I picked up a couple of nice squashes last week – time for soup!  I found this Roasted Butternut Squash Chowder that sounds quite nice – Peeps will start the squash roasting when he gets home from work, so the soup will be freshly made at dinnertime.

Thursday – Part of our never-ending project of emptying the freezer is to cook and eat the large hunks of meat that have made their way to the bottom of the freezer – this week it’s roasted chicken with potatoes and the beets I pulled from the garden.  And for bonus points, we’re going to take the the leftover chicken and mole it up for dinner over the weekend.

Friday – Friday pizza night – the tomatoes are done, though I did manage to make a micro-batch of roasted tomato sauce that went into the freezer – just enough for two meals for the two of us.  We may use that, or I may save it for the depths of winter.  I guess we’ll see what kind of mood we’re in, huh?

Be sure to click on over to The Organizing Junkie’s Monday Menu Plan post for loads and loads of other ideas.

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