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

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.

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.

Ode to the Souffle’

So today I got new eggs
Their shells so clean and new
I knew for sure that I would make
A dish that was my debut.

I gathered my ingredients
And strengthen my resolve
Tonight I would make a dish
And hope I had the gaul.

The soufflé I exclaimed!
And whipped up my egg whites
I browned up some bacon
Much to my delight.

More cheese! Said my hubby
I told him do not worry.
The cheese you see me adding
Will make it nice a gooey.

We watched the timer ticking
And wondered how it would taste
The smells were fantastic
I dare not use pull with haste.

Alas it was done!
And ready to devour,
We scooped it up and love it,
It was gone within an hour.

Cheese Souffle'

Cheese Souffle’

Small Town Living

Oh the joys of living in a small town. Ok so I don’t have the big department stores like Target and Bed Bath and Beyond (cries a little), or even a variety of restaurants. But I have people. People that are not caught up in the hustle and bustle, and work to make a difference. Whether that is by helping others,  animals, or just providing entertainment.

We have, of course, our Master Gardeners and Master Food Preservers. These are volunteers who put in hours of their time to help folk with their gardening, orchard, insect, weed issues and how to safely preserve food either by dehydrating or canning.

Then there is the Duchess Sanctuary. They provide sanctuary for horses in need, using “best practices” for equine management while preserving and protecting the environment for the benefit of the native plant and animal species.

And for the smaller pets you must check out Saving Grace Pet Adoption.

The Oakland News Gazette is a great community page. They are constantly giving updates on animals that need help, sister community events and really support the town.

Did I mention that when you live in a small town and drive by someone you might remotely know they wave! They wave like they’re happy to see you and they use ALL their fingers.

There ya have it. A few links, some great folks and peek into the rural life.

People…

I am so very fortunate. I know that some out there do read my blog, for whatever reason. Perhaps a random search that pointed them my way, or a friend of friend who’s curious. Either way I’m grateful. Not because they read it, that’s GREAT, but because I’ve reached some more than others. I won’t mention names but I had one the most fun conversations with a woman who contacted me about my old stove. She had recently purchased one similar and had questions. Then there was the man who contacted me about becoming a Master Gardener, we’ve exchanged several emails. And yet another couple who wanted to get a greenhouse and we also ended up chatting for about 45 minutes. It made me feel happy to know that, maybe, in small way I helped them.

It became a day of reflection for me.  Then I saw a video of people doing acts of kindness towards others, like stopping their car in the middle of the street to help an elderly woman cross, or a lone man pushing his car thru the snow only to have 3 people stop, jump out of their cars in the cold to help, and a woman who just sat down with and elderly man in the park and took his hand, it made me sad. I cried…no I wept.

I was even more sad when I realized why the tears streamed down my face. It was not only because I watched something that touch the heart, but more importantly because I was watching some rare…wait rare? Yes rare! In our fast paced world today of tweets, blogs, Facebook and all the social media we have our faces buried in technology. We would rather not miss the all important text of WYA and BRT, than to look up and perhaps see someone who needs our aid. Whether to cross the street, or help load groceries into the car or just smile at them and tell them they look nice.

While I am all for bringing awareness to specific needs like cancer and ALS, it saddens me when I see people making more of themselves dumping ice water on their heads than the reason they are doing it. Now it’s more about them making their video’s getting all the ‘likes’ and attention on themselves rather than the reason. Narcissism at it’s finest.

I reflected more…then smiled. I, too, am guilty of ‘being in a hurry.’ But for the last few weeks I’ve made more of an effort to be there for my fellow humans. Be there for them, not for my FB page.

And with that I leave you with this challenge – what will you do now?