Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Garden Photos and Chickens

Summer is here, and...

with my canning and preserving list ready, I am waiting now on Mother Nature.  I will hopefully be getting my cucumbers at the end of the week.  The farm I get them from didn't have enough small pickling cucumbers yesterday, but they said they will be ready by Friday or Saturday.  Green beans are still a little too expensive at the market since they are just now coming off, so in the meantime, I plan on making a brandied blackberry jam with these babies (more on that to come).  

At this point, I am trying to keep my own garden growing nicely.  My goal with my garden, which consists of four 4 x 8 raised beds, is not really to have enough to preserve.  Rather, I try to grow enough to give us fresh veggies through the summer so that when I do spend money on produce it is to put it up for winter.  Yesterday, I harvested my first round of potatoes.  There were 18 plants which yielded about 20 pounds of potatoes, some Yukon Gold and the rest Red Pontiac.  I am considering putting in another planting of potatoes for a fall harvest.  I have never done that before, so we will see how it goes.  

My squash have been blooming profusely, but as of right now they only have a few squash forming.  They remind me of those types of people who are all talk and no action.  Their leaves look lovely and they are very large, but nothing much is being produced yet.    

The cucumbers are also doing well, with many small cucumbers growing and tons of blooms.  The pepper plants are being attacked by something though, so I don't know how well they will fare.  My cucumbers are doing a nice job of climbing their little trellis this year without much coaxing on my part.    

The tomatoes are beginning to produce, but I am never very good with tomatoes so I have no high hopes (and they say they're some of the easiest plants to grow...ha).  

My green beans are looking good.  I had very good luck growing bush varieties last year and was even able to get several plantings out of them before fall.  I am hoping for that kind of success this year.  As of right now, they are blooming like crazy and looking beautiful.  

The basil was a little slow to germinate, but once it did, it took off.  I am hoping to have enough to use in my pasta sauce this year and maybe make a little pesto.  It is growing at the front of the green bean bed, but I am getting ready to plant more where the potatoes were.    

And, lastly, one of my beds holds a lone squash plant that wouldn't fit anywhere else along with my sweet potato plants (bush variety also).  I have never grown my own sweet potatoes, so I am hoping these do well.  

As for the chickens, they are growing like weeds (the picture below was taken a few weeks ago) and should not be too far from laying.  I am anxious for the first egg.  They are enjoying the chicken tractor that my husband and father-in-law built.  They can't wait to get out everyday to enjoy the grass and bugs.  They are also very fond of watermelon on these hot summer days, and when we walk out there each day, they think they should have a treat of fruit or vegetable scraps.  Crazy chickens!

So, until canning/freezing get into full swing, I will be here working in the yard and enjoying the summer.    

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Using What's Been Put Up: Lemon-Squash Loaf with Lemon Glaze

Taking inventory helps you see what you need to use before preserving season gets into full swing.  One thing that jumped out at me that needed to be used was frozen shredded yellow summer squash.  Actually I wondered why I had even frozen squash that way until I was cleaning off one of my Pinterest boards and saw this pinned there.  It all made sense.  Last summer we had tried and loved this delicious and easy to make lemon loaf which is kept moist by the addition of shredded squash.  Since we enjoyed it so much I had frozen some of our squash from the garden to use in it throughout the winter.  

Well, as often happens we did not actually make it again as I intended.  So, with it back in the forefront of my mind I made it again.  And you know what?  It was as delicious as it was the first time which is why I am now going to add it here.  You see, if I post about it, I will be much less likely to forget it and much more likely to make it again.  That's just how it works around here. 

I must say that this is not my recipe.  It comes from Nancy CreativeI post it here to have a record of it.  I made the recipe with very few changes, however, I used shredded yellow squash in place of the zucchini (mainly so other picky eaters around here wouldn't know I used squash at all).  By the way, the squash disappears so nicely into the loaf that you can easily disguise it so that little ones and other squash-averse folks will never know what hit them.  

Lemon-Squash Loaf with Lemon Glaze- makes one 9x5 loaf

This loaf cake is moist, tart, and delectable.  It can be served as a light dessert or snack or even as a breakfast cake if you are so inclined. 

For the Loaf: 
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
Juice of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 lemon
1 cup grated yellow summer squash (if frozen, drain before using)

For the Lemon Glaze: 
1 cup powdered sugar
Juice of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 lemon

For the Loaf: 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour a 9×5 loaf pan and set aside.

In large bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, and salt.  In medium bowl, whisk 2 eggs, oil, and sugar. Add the buttermilk, lemon juice, and lemon zest to the wet ingredients. Fold the squash into the wet ingredients and stir until evenly distributed.  Add the wet mixture to the dry ingredients in the large bowl and blend everything together until just combined. 

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Cool in pan 10 minutes, then remove to a wire rack and cool completely. While loaf is cooling, make the glaze.  

For the Glaze: 
In a small bowl, combine the sugar and lemon juice until blended.  If the glaze is to thick add a few more drops of juice until it is a consistency which can be spooned over the cake.  Once the cake has cooled, spoon the glaze over the top allowing it to drizzle down the sides.  Sprinkle the additional zest over the top to garnish.  

Printable Version

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Taking Inventory of 2012

Well, it's that time again. Time to take inventory of what is left from the foods put up last summer.  This is one of those things that is not necessarily fun but is important since otherwise we will end up with too much or too little of something which can mean a waste of money and food. 

As you can see, we went through most of what I made.  I did take a few jars of jams and pickles to work to sell when I realized we would not make it all the way through the batch, but I tried to limit what I took to no more than two jars from the batch.  That was a good way to recoup the money spent on jars and ingredients.  

So, here is what is left from 2012:  

3 quarts collards, frozen
3 quarts green beans, frozen
6 bags corn on cob, frozen (12 ears total)
1 jar jalapeno jelly (half-pint)
2 jars fig preserves (half-pints)
2 jars pear cranberry conserve (half-pints)
1 pint roasted salsa verde
2 jars chile garlic dills
5 jars roasted garlic pasta sauce
4 quarts peaches, frozen
2 pints zucchini, frozen
4 pints shredded summer squash, frozen

Taking inventory helps me see what we really liked using and what we didn't. This year when making my preserving list (which I did a few nights ago) I was able to see which quantities I needed to remain the same as well as which needed to increase/decrease.  

Here is what we really used/liked this year: 

corn, corn, corn (I will be putting up the same amount- 2 bushels)
crushed tomatoes (we ran out of these early- may double the batch)
roasted salsa verde (need same amount)
tomato soup (need same or more)
zucchini/frozen corn mix (enjoyed using in Chicken and Veg Tostadas)
frozen carrots (may try pressure canning if I can get them cheap)
pickled jalapenos (especially on Nachos Grandes)
chile garlic dills (we liked these better than other quick pickles)
dilly beans

Here is what we don't need as much of:

frozen peaches
frozen collards
shredded yellow squash

In addition, there are several items that I only make every other year.  For example, we don't eat that much jam or fruit butter, so I don't really need to make each variety every single year.  This year we are finally out of pickled beets from 2011 and apple butter, so those will be on my list in the fall.  

Let the summer begin!    

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Homemade Liquid Laundry Detergent

Before I get started, let me say that I know that this is a cooking and canning blog, but more goes on around here than just cooking and canning.  Life happens, and with life comes laundry.  With only two people, we don't have nearly as much laundry as some people I know, and yet I still find it to be costly when I'm trying to purchase detergents that don't contain lots of perfumes or dyes which can often be irritating to sensitive skin.  

So, I decided to make my own using a recipe I had heard worked well.  It has been one of those things hanging out on the back burner (and on one of my Pinterest boards) for awhile.  When the time came to purchase yet another bottle of expensive laundry detergent, I headed for the cleaning aisle instead and picked up a bar of Fels-Naptha soap (you can also use Ivory), baking soda, washing soda, and borax.  The ingredients cost me about ten dollars total.  

All ingredients except the Fels-Naptha bar

I began by grating the bar of soap (actually my husband did this because he is the official "grater" in the house), and I heated it in a pot on medium heat along with 4 cups of water until the soap was completely dissolved.  

Fels Naptha mixture before and after the soap melted

I then poured the mixture into a large bucket (I used an old five gallon bucket I had around).  To the soap mixture, I added 1 cup baking soda, 1 cup washing soda, 1/2 cup borax, and 2 more gallons hot water.  I stirred the mixture to dissolve the ingredients and I allowed it to sit until the next day at which point I stirred it again before storing it in the closet.  

My five gallon bucket filled about halfway with detergent concentrate.

To make it easier to use, I filled an old laundry detergent bottle halfway with detergent concentrate, and the other half was filled with water.  Now when I am ready to do laundry, I just pour the detergent from the bottle right into the cup in my front loader washing machine.  

If you didn't want to dilute the mixture, you could just add 2 tablespoons of detergent concentrate into your machine (if it is diluted, you are adding about 1/4 cup).  

So far, I find the detergent to be excellent.  It gets the clothes clean and smells nice but not strong like detergents that contain overpowering perfumes.  It has not been irritating to my skin either.  The only thing I don't like about it is that it is a little lumpy which could have been due to something I did while mixing it.  The small lumps have not interfered with the effectiveness of the detergent in my machine though, and they seem to melt quickly even in cold water. You could also make this as a powder detergent by simply omitting the melting of the soap.  

I am storing the excess detergent in my large bucket, and diluting it in the laundry detergent bottle as needed.  The recipe makes enough to fill my laundry detergent bottle at least three times (maybe more), and I have enough baking soda, washing soda, and borax to make at least 3 more batches.  Essentially that means I am spending about ten dollars on what amounts to at least 12 bottles of laundry detergent.  Now, that's what I call a deal!