Even the smallest of ‘critters’ can catch you off guard…

I forgot to share this very important event. The other day I got in my car, which was parked outside the garage. I get all buckled in and put my car into reverse. As I look at my display screen a HUGE spider was walking across it. My display screen is 7” and this spider almost covered the screen. I could even see all the hairs on it’s legs. I began screaming and climbing into the back seat, which wasn’t easy as I was seat belted in. Also I was in the reverse gear which made the car jerk violently when I took my foot off the break to save myself. I am cursing that I will never leave my car outside again…and Derek is in the garage just staring at me, because he can’t really hear me, but sees that I’m in distress, or having some sort of fit or seizure.
Then it clicked, the spider wasn’t in my car. It was walking across the backup camera and being magnified on my display screen. The spider, it turns out, was about the size of a lentil. Never had as many spiders in CA as I have now living in Oregon. 

Modern technology in our car’s is wonderful. But it can also cause heart attacks. ‪#‎Oregon‬

Fermentation – The Waiting Game

Time to  start another project. This one is based on harvest. It’s pickle time! These pickles are going to be fermented first for about 3-6 weeks. The recipe is – 4-5lbs pickling cucumbers. They should be about 4″ long.

The Brine
8 cups water
1/2 cup pickling salt, NOT KOSHER. It must be pickling salt, there is a big difference in salinity in various types of salt
1/4 vinegar (5% acidity)
2 cloves of garlic smashed
2 dried red chili peppers
5 dill fresh blossoms. You can use dried dill instead of fresh 2 Tbs.

Wash the cucumbers in room temperature water. Then be sure to cut about 1/16″ off the blossom end.

The blossom end has enzymes that will make the pickle soft and sometimes unsafe to eat. Dissolve salt in water and vinegar. Layer your cucumbers into a crock (mine is a 2 Gal), add the garlic, chili’s and dill and cover with the brine. Be sure to weigh the cucumbers down so they are below the liquid. Put in a cool place 70-75 degrees is best. Check them often as you may need to skim the top of the brine as scum will form. After 3 weeks it’s time to start seeing how they’re doing. They should be olive green in color, but not soft or slimy.

I am Officially a Master Food Preserver!

What is it like to become a Master Food Preserver? It’s exciting, it’s fun because you get to play with food and it’s serious. Let’s face it, the last thing we want to do is make someone sick.

I’m Denise Fennell, newly graduated from the MFP program and very proud to be part of this wonderful organization. I took this class because it was like the natural progression of where my education has been taking me. I graduated from culinary school in 2006 and ran my own personal chef business. Moving to Oregon in 2012 made me even more aware of knowing where our food comes from. So I promptly enrolled in the Master Gardener program.

So there I was. I could grow my own food and knew how to properly cook it. But what of long term storage? My freezer is only so big and it was quite full. Oh I had dabbled in jam making, but I knew there was so much more. Next up MFP.

What a great class! This was a course I thoroughly enjoyed. I must give serious thank you’s to all the veterans who put in so much of their time to make this class a success. THANK YOU!! What I did not expect, was, how much I would learn and later ponder and do more research. I became fascinated with fermentation and after first day I had to rush to the store on the way home from class to get cabbage to make my own sauerkraut. I thought if I didn’t learn anything more than that I would be satisfied. But oh no…then it was dehydration. I couldn’t find enough things to dehydrate. It started with some early tomatoes, which then became mushrooms, oh look shredded potatoes, onion….ah onions…yeah those really need to be done outside, like at your neighbors house outside. Once I got the smell of onions out of my house and dehydrator it was on to fruit leathers. You’d think that would be enough…but the information just keeps coming then you learn things like emergency preparedness, infusing vinegars and oils, utilizing your freezer, pickling – sidebar here, pickles are a joy. Seriously, when you go to a good deli and get that awesome sandwich, some good potato salad and look at your plate and don’t see a pickle, you are down right disappointed aren’t you? This is why pickles should be a staple in everyone’s home. And they are incredibly easy to do.

But I would be remiss if I did not mention safety. Every class there was an element of safety touched upon. This alone should truly emphasis the importance of cleanliness, cooking at proper temps for the proper time. I do believe we all could do with reminders now and then and I have even taken on new and safer practices.

For those that have taken the course, I am humbled by the experiences you must have. For those that have not, sign up. Do not delay because this course will open your eyes to some incredible, albeit safe, inspiration. I am now armed with knowledge I cannot wait to share with others.

I have a slogan that I have used for years. It’s so special to me I even have it tattooed on my arm “Food Creates the Memories that Feed Us.” We all have memories of various foods as we were growing up. What a better way to share food than when you can prepare it yourself. Taking that one step further, using your own home canned and preserved foods – priceless.

Fun in Class

Fun in Class

2015 Graduating Class of the Douglas County Master Food Preservers

2015 Graduating Class of the Douglas County Master Food Preservers

Water, Water Everywhere…

Water, our bodies need it, but sometimes it can be a bit boring. And soda just isn’t healthy. I recently started trying these home brewed infused waters and I am in love. Be sure to use ripe fruit and the freshest of herbs to maximize flavor.

Here are 8 home made vitamin water recipes to help you keep the water flowing and taste wonderful! (#8 is my favorite so far)

Infused Waters

Infused Waters

1) The Classic : Lemon/Cucumber:

Mix in a pitcher: 10 cups of water + 1 cucumber and a lemon, thinly sliced + 1/4 cup fresh finely chopped basil leaf + 1/3 of finely chopped fresh mint leaves. Leave in the refrigerator overnight before serving.

2) The Granite : Strawberry/Lime or Raspberry/Lime

Mix in a pitcher : 10 cups of water + 6 strawberries / 0r Raspberries and one thinly sliced lime + 12 finely chopped fresh mint leaves. Leave in the refrigerator overnight before serving.

3) The Digestive : Fennel/Citrus

First: infuse 1 to 3 grams of dried and crushed fennel in 150 ml of boiling water for 5-10 minutes. Allow to cool.

Mix in a pitcher: 10 cups of water + lemon juice (put the leftover lemon in the mix) + a small thinly sliced orange + 12 fresh chopped mint leaves + the infusion of fennel seeds. Leave in refrigerator overnight before serving.

4) The Antiox : Blackberry/Sage

Note that a part from the berries, sage leafs is the herb that has the highest antioxidant content.

Mix in a pitcher : 10 cups of water + 1 cup of blackberries that have been very slightly crushed + 3-4 sage leaves. Leave in refrigerator overnight before serving.

5) WATERmelon : Watermelon/Rosemary

Mix in a pitcher : 10 cups of water + 1 cup of watermelon cut into cubes + 2 rosemary stems. Leave in refrigerator overnight before serving.

6) The Exotic : Pineapple/Mint

Mix in a pitcher : 10 cups of water + 1 cup of pineapple cut into cubes + 12 fresh mint leaves finely chopped. Leave in the refrigerator overnight before serving.

7) The Traditional : Apple/cinnamon

Mix in a pitcher : 10 cups of water + 1 cup of apple cut into cubes + 2 cinnamon sticks + 2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon. Leave in the refrigerator overnight before serving.

8.) The Zingibir : Ginger/tea

In advance: heat 1 teaspoon of ginger in two cups of tea, let it cool down.

Mix in a pitcher: 10 cups of water with two cups of the ginger tea + 4-5 pieces of fresh ginger cut into cubes. Leave in the refrigerator overnight before serving.

Let’s Talk Chicken

Many of us buy it. But it’s getting expensive, at least if you buy it pre-cut. So I want to give you an example of some great savings. You just need to invest a bit of time, and I’ll break that down for you too. So at my grocery store whole chickens were on sale for .89 cents a pound. I bought 4 chickens weighing about 5.25lbs each at a cost of about $19.00 (I’m rounding up for easier math. I stopped helping my daughter with her math homework when she was in 3rd grade lol!)

Out of these I fabricated –

8 chicken legs (2 dinners)

8 wings (1 appetizer)

8 pounds of ground chicken (using thighs and breast meat) Store cost is $4.89 per pound.

I have 4 chicken carcasses that will be used to make chicken stock. I will get 16 pints of stock. At Costco a flat of Swanson chicken stock is $7.00 for 12 (14.5oz) cans.

Also have 4 chicken livers, 2 hearts (not always in carcass) and 4 giblets. These will be cat food. Thus reducing the amount of store purchase cat food she will consume 8 days.

If I were to buy all this separately –

Package of legs –       $4.35

Package of wings –    $1.99

Ground Chicken –     $39.12

Chicken Stock –       $10.00

Total –                       $55.46

I spent –                  -$19.00

I saved –                  $36.46

Now you’re saying, what about the time? To break down 4 chickens took me 20 minutes. Packaging up the legs and wings, 10 minutes. Grinding the chicken took about 40 minutes and packaging about 15 due to weighing out each portion. So for about an hour and half to save almost $40. I say that is time well spent.

Book Review

I love books. But I don’t have an unlimited supply of bookshelves. So I have to be very selective as to what goes on my shelves. Cluttering my shelves with numerous books on one topic just will not due.

Here I hope to offer insight and help you chose some books that will compliment your bookshelves and provide information to help your gardens grow.

Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening – Louise Riotte

If you want to know if it is ok to plant onions in between your cabbage plants, then this book is for you. It’s like listening to my grandmother as she walked thru her garden planting the peas.

First published in 1975, it has served millions of gardeners, both serious and casual.   Many of us prefer to utilize pest-resistant planning over the use of chemicals. This book provides the information on what you should plant near another plant to not only resist pests and help deter them, but to help the sister plant thrive.

It also provides recipes for herbal sprays to control insects and what wild plants you should be encouraging in your gardens.

If you don’t have a lot of garden space this book will guide you thru utilizing a window box garden.

This is one of those books you will pick up year after year as you rotate your crops and want to maximize a variety of produce. For instance, did you know if you plant parsley with your carrot seeds you’ll repel carrot flies. Not only that but planting tomatoes and asparagus will give added vigor to both. Now go buy the book, I don’t want to give away the ending here.

I give it a 4 out of 5 wheelbarrows!


Thanks! Giving

I’m am so happy it’s November.

First for a narcissistic reason – it is the month I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl who to this day amazes me. I love you Laura!

Second, because it’s Thanksgiving. But this year I’m going to say Thanks! Giving. I want to thank my ability to give. I am very fortunate to be where I am in life. I am able to donate hours to an organization I’m proud to help with.

But this is the time of year we can probably all give a bit more. It doesn’t need to be in canned goods. You can help by visiting the elderly. I went to the home my father in law lives in. We go see him about twice a week. Today when we went to see him a group of young kids were just filing out. They had made cards for the residents. Some were simple drawings, others nice poems, but all home made.

I went around the dining room visiting some of the ladies I’ve help with gardening, saying hello, asking how they were. They all wanted to show me their cards, tell me about the visitors and how even the adults (the teachers) took the time to visit and (I quote), “Such a wonderful thing to have someone sit and talk me! They were oh so nice.”

Please, I ask each of you, be thankful and do not forget our elderly. It’s so easy to take a can of beans or corn and drop them in a bucket at the grocery store. But to take 30 minutes of one day, any time of the year, and stop by a senior center and just listen, it will change your life, and enrich theirs.

Old Friends

The other day I thought of someone. That thought stayed with me. How were they? How was their family? When was the last time I talked to them? Why did we lose touch?

I did not like any of these questions. They were questions I should not be asking. I should know, but I didn’t. It made me sad to think that this person was no longer in my life. So me and Google went to work! I rolled up my sleeves, cracked my knuckles and began my search.

Hours passed, I was frustrated. The “Yellow Pages” and “White Pages” on the net all charge you for information that is free in a phone book. Which is a huge pet peeve that these giant tree killers are still being manufactured. But we have to have them because the online version is not free. But that didn’t help me now as I no longer lived in the area where I believed him to be.

I’m sorry I digress.

And then my search displayed a web page. Checking the information yes yes….it was his page! I hit the “Contact Us” link and typed in a basic question, “Paul…you still around?” and waited.

My joy was when I checked my email, which unfortunately got filtered to my spam folder, and saw “Oh hell ya!”

I cannot explain my relationship to Paul. But he is someone I hold very dear in my heart. To look at him you’d just see his gruff exterior. You might frown at his tattoos (Of note he did take me to be my first one). He laughs loud and with such joy you simply must laugh with him or your life will feel empty if you do not. I once had someone comment “He’s a character.” I replied “Oh you have no idea. But before you say anything more let me say this. I would trust this man with my daughters life any day of the week!” He is a man of that kind of character.

He called me today and I swear it was like we hadn’t lost contact for a couple of years, but more like a few weeks.

My advice to you – Do not wait for tomorrow. You never what it will bring. Call your Paul.

Paul this is for you my friend –

Sourdough Bread

Sourdough Bread

Cranberry Ketchup

So the other day I was able to get my hands on 10 pounds of Oregon Coast cranberries. One of the greatest perks of living up here is the availability of some of the best produce I’ve ever encountered.

At first thought I wouldn’t have enough to do all the things I wanted to try. Well I’ve used maybe 5 pounds and today I canned 10 half pints of Cranberry Sauce and 9 half pints of Cranberry Ketchup. So stay tuned for another cranberry post on cranberry salsa.

One of the first recipes that intrigued me was Cranberry Ketchup. The uses of this condiment seems endless. Used to top a great turkey meatloaf sandwich, how about a juicy grilled turkey burger?

Let’s gather our ingredients. The only thing not in the picture is the brown sugar and Worcestershire sauce.

Cranberry Ketchup Ingredients

Garlic Germ

Garlic Germ


One of things I want to point out is the garlic. Always slice your cloves in half. If they sprouting or green in the center, take a small pairing knife and lift the germ out. (Some call it a pip) The reason for this is when it’s green it can impart a bitter flavor.


Minced Garlic

Minced Garlic



Now lets talk about mincing your garlic. We see this in so many recipes and yet when you watch a lot of cooking shows you will see the chef do a basic rough chop. This is not minced. Minced is what you see here. Very small, compact. This will yield a much better garlic flavor in your dishes because the oils of the garlic are released into the food.


When you add the cranberries they will be dense, but as they heat up they will swell. It will seem like there isn’t enough liquid to cook them down. Fear not there will be plenty. Once pureed they will be rich in color. As you add the sugar and spices the aroma is fantastic. You can smell the garlic, the tartness from the cranberries and the sweet brown sugar.

When it’s all cooked up you’ll be the hit of everyone on your Christmas list!

Final Product of Cranberry Ketchup

Final Product of Cranberry Ketchup



Cranberry Ketchup (Yields 8-9 half pint jars)

This is a Ball Canning Recipe that has been tweaked to add more flavor. I talked to 2 very experienced Master Food Preservers who gave the nod that this is a safe recipe.

11 cups cranberries (fresh or frozen)
2 TBS Olive Oil (no more)
2 cups chopped onions
5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups water
3 cups lightly packed brown sugar
1 cup vinegar
2 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1-2 TBS Worcestershire sauce (optional)

In a large stock pot add olive oil and sauté onions until tender. Add garlic and sauté 2-3 minutes more. Do not brown. Add the cranberries and water. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and boil gently for 6 to 10 minutes, until cranberries pop and become soft. (I used a manual potato masher to help release the juices).

Transfer mixture to a blender or food processor fitted with a metal blade, working in batches, and purée until smooth. (I used my Ninja blender with the bowl attachment. It gets things a bit smoother than a food processor. You could also use a food mill)

Return mixture to saucepan. Add brown sugar, vinegar, mustard, cloves, salt, black pepper, allspice and cayenne. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, until mixture is almost the consistency of commercial ketchup, about 30 minutes.

Prepare boiling water canner. Heat jars in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil.  Wash lids in warm soapy water and set bands aside.

Ladle hot ketchup into hot jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and re-measure headspace. If needed, add more ketchup to meet recommended headspace. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band and adjust until fit is fingertip tight.

Process filled jars in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.

The Dangers of Rest Stops

I now have a fear of rest stops. Not for the reason you may think. Today I was traveling down the I-5 to visit my folks in California.

Here’s what happened. I arrive at the rest stop to stretch my legs and tinkle. I get into the restroom which has 3 stalls. I could see the first stall was clearly occupied, but I wasn’t sure about the other 2 stalls. I lean over to do the ‘foot check.’ Can’t tell…lean a bit further and see that the farthest stall is occupied but no feet in the middle stall. Awesome.

As I open the door, the slow motion kicked it. You know the way time stops when you A) realize you’ve done something you should not have and B) you cannot believe what your eyes are telling you? I experienced both simultaneously. As I opened the door, which was not latched, it FLEW open! But it was promptly stopped by a woman’s head. Who was standing on the toilet seat and squatted over the toilet doing her business. Yep she had both feet firmly planted on the seat of the toilet and skirt hiked up around her waist. The slow motion horror show continues, because as I whacked her in the head it threw her completely off balanced. She falls over to the side and hits the wall. Her her left foot hits the ground, which must have been taboo, thus the reason for standing on the toilet and her right foot is now firmly entrenched in the toilet itself. I am mortified! So I grabbed the door and pulled it shut saying “Oh I am SO sorry”…but this will do no good. What I had not realized was that, as she fell sideways she had grabbed the top of the door to stable herself. As I grabbed it from the side to close it and step away I then pulled her off balanced and she is now in the position of right foot in toilet, left foot on taboo floor and now both hands on the ground in front of her. A nightmare version of Downward Dog.

I quickly left, no one was behind me, I am so grateful. I get to my car and make a quick get away. I knew I could not wait and see her walk out. Making one sad wet squishy footprint. Of course I couldn’t stop at any other rest stops for the rest of way for fear they would be following me. I can only imagine the story she told to those she was traveling with. If you hear on Facebook about a crazy lady who opened the door on a woman doing her business…could you ask her why she was standing on the toilet please?

This is something that may traumatize me for life.