Monday, December 15, 2014

His & Her Jams

            Here we are, less than 2 weeks till Christmas, are you still needing some gift ideas? I've come up with his and her jams. The perfect gift for those really hard to buy for people on your list. My annual Christmas jam is sweet and festive and easy to make and can be dressed up for the occasion.


Christmas Jam

2 c. cranberries
1 orange, peeled & quartered
16 oz. frozen strawberries, thawed
3 c. sugar
3 oz. liquid pectin
5 half pint jars (ready to fill)
Coarsely grind cranberries and orange sections in a food processor. Spoon into a heavy saucepan, add strawberries and sugar. Bring mixture to a full boil, stirring for one min. Remove from heat and stir in pectin, skim off foam. Pour into prepared jars and process for 10 min. Makes 5- 1/2 pints



       And for the man who LOVES bacon, this bacon jam will make him squeal with delight! I must admit, when I seen this on Pinterest my first thought was "not another bacon recipe", I love bacon but this whole bacon craze is getting out of control ( bacon toothpaste, really!) but I may even try this, might be good hamburgers!


Bacon Jam


Yields 1 pint
1 pound smoked bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, sliced
1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon  hot sauce
1 cup coffee
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup maple syrup
Black pepper to taste
extra water
In a dutch oven, fry the bacon in batches until lightly browned and beginning to crisp. Remove to paper towel lined plate and set aside. Drain all but 2 tablespoons of bacon grease out of the pan.
Fry the onion and garlic in the rendered bacon fat on medium heat until translucent.
Add the bacon to the onions and garlic, and add the rest of the ingredients except for the water. Simmer for 2 hours adding 1/4 of a cup of water every 25-30 minutes or so, and stir regularly.
Jam is done when you can’t tell the onions from the bacon. Cool for about 15-20 minutes and then place in a food processor. Pulse for 2-3 seconds so that you leave some texture to the “jam”. Refrigerate up to two weeks.


         There you have it, the perfect gifts for when you run out of ideas or money! I'm curious and will be trying this recipe, may even surprise the boys with a jar! Have fun in the kitchen, baking up some love this afternoon too! 

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Tis the Season....

     
          Here we are, the final few weeks of the year and my blog is messed up! Ever since connecting it to Google Plus, there's no way for comments to be left here or even a setting for me to correct that? So, after the holidays, I'll be re-vamping this blog into something new and hopefully exciting for 2015! On the bright side, my Google Plus page has over 4 million hits since I started it over 6 months ago! Got to love stats!!
     I've had one amazing year!! We gained a grand daughter and son in law, making our family a grand total of 19, 20 if you count Ruger, and we do!  My personal life has exploded in creative ways to express myself, and after decades of wishing, my writing gig came true! I'm enjoying writing about cooking and gardening in my local newspaper, I've got so many ideas to run with! My photography still keeps my eye on everything, it really has changed the way I see the world, insight is 20/20!
    Family and friends continue to bless our life, good health is something you must work at, in this age bracket and chasing those dreams can be reachable! I hope everyone has a memorable year to share, even the small things can turn into big blessings! Merry Christmas!!

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Apple Peel Jelly


   I'm cooking up apples this morning, for pies and jelly, not to waste a thing! When it's all said and done, the cows will get a treat as well! Try this recipe next time you make a apple pie, add some cinnamon red hots and your jelly will have a sweet kick to it! Happy harvest!!!

Apple Peel Jelly

4 c firmly packed apple peels
5 c water
1 1/2 c sugar
1 tbsp lemon juice
In covered stainless steel saucepan, bring peels and water to boil. Reduce heat: uncover; simmer 20 minutes. Strain through jelly bag of cheesecloth.(Do not squeeze or you'll have cloudy jelly). Measure juice (you should have about 2 cups); return to same saucepan. Stir in sugar and lemon juice. Bring to boil over medium heat; cook rapidly, uncovered, stirring, remove saucepan from heat. Pour immediately into 2 sterilized 6 oz jelly jars. skim off foam; cover; cool;store in refrigerator. Makes 2 6 oz. jars.

       If you'd like a pretty red jelly, just add some red food coloring to the jelly when you return the juice to the saucepan, but either way, it's a good, cheap and a extra treat from  your apple harvest.  It's good to be thrifty!  Enjoy!

We Survived the Wedding!


          I'm still tired, but she's wed and we've gained another son! It really is true, how a woman is at her most finest glory on her wedding day, and our Heather was just that! The whole family gathered and worked to make this day just perfect! We are truly blessed!!
    Families grow, adding outsiders that seem to fit right in, when you think about it, it's amazing isn't it! Time is more than a moment, it's a universe! All the fuss, projects and labor aided this new union to start off a lifetime of happiness! Aren't weddings special!
    Now, onto the holidays, a new web project and the winter season, which I do believe was meant for resting and planning! We may of survived the wedding, but I'm not ready to let up on life just yet! Stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Boiled Cider


                 Now that you've made your vanilla for the upcoming baking season, have you ever made boiled cider? This stuff will change your life! Also known as apple molasses, boiled cider has become a autumn tradition at my house, we love it on biscuits, pancakes, warm bread from the oven and it's a must drizzled over apple pie! Super easy to make too, start off with a small batch and once you get a feel for the process, you will be boiling a whole gallon down, like I did over the weekend. Patience is key, it does take a couple of hours to cook down and be sure to stir it now and then so it won't stick. Just put 8 cups apple cider in a stock pot and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until it's boiled down to a thick sauce, once cooled store in the fridge where it will thicken up some more. A gallon of cider makes one quart of apple molasses, and a little does go a long way. It's the best thing since butter, I promise!

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Time to Restock!

Homemade Vanilla

        
                    I'm cheating today and repeating a annual post because it's that time, time to make your own vanilla extract for the upcoming baking seasons! So, if your one of my loyal followers, this is just a gentle reminder for you, and for the rest of you, welcome to the "make your own" club, I promise once you make your own vanilla and bake with it, you won't go back to the imitation or store bought stuff! 

             This is super easy too, so don't stress but do have patience because the longer you allow this to steep, the richer your vanilla will be, that's why I like to start now or earlier so I have it ready, it's my secret ingredient in all my baked goods, but don't tell anyone, pinkie swear!

Homemade Vanilla Extract


There really are no recipes for this, ok, there are if you do a search but once you figure out your favorite ratio it's a piece of cake. The budget comes to mind here too, because your source for the vanilla beans might change your mind, but shop around. I get mine from a local health food store that sells them by the pound, but  since I only use 4, it only costs me $3.50. And I know, to some, that is alot for vanilla beans, but believe me when I tell you, it makes a HUGE difference in your baked goods. And if your like me who bakes for other's and gift giving, it all adds into it. And if you price the real vanilla, you will see this way is much cheaper and you'll have a big bottle that usually lasts me till the next fall, depending on how much I bake.

Ok, this part isn't my favorite so I usually have my hubby do it or I'll add to my groceries one week. You will need a big bottle of vodka (750 ml) or brandy, both work well, but I think the vodka is cheaper, here anyways. Now, just slice your beans down the middle length wise and you can either scrap out the seeds or leave them in. I leave them in adding to the flavor and if some gets included in a recipe, they will never know. Just place the split beans into the bottle of vodka or you can put both into a pretty decanter like I do.  Then, just shake it up daily for the next 2 months, keep in a dark place while the vanilla beans mix with the vodka to become vanilla extract.


       This makes a lovely gift for those bakers on your Christmas list too, wrapped in a pretty bottle or jar with a vintage printed label, tied off in a festive ribbon or bow!  This is one of those finer things in life, so spoil your taste buds and make your own in time for the best baking season ever!!

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Seasonal Shift


              It's finally October, but time won't be slowing down for me until the new year, but I'm not complaining! Our youngest is getting married Nov.1 so there is alot to do yet, plus our annual fall fun nite here at the homestead is next weekend, complete with pony rides this year! Personally, I'm growing and I've taken the advice of a few and I'm working on going  dot com with a website that will combine my newspaper articles, so that is exciting, frustrating too, I'm doing all by myself! I've always said I like a good challenge and this may be it! But, you know, if you don't take a risk, you may never know and I don't want to wonder or miss a opportunity to go global. I'll keep this blog and will try to get more posts up, I do have some re-runs coming soon, those seasonal posts that are always a good reminder, for me too! The shift has begun, in more ways than one but it's all, life is good and needs to be celebrated, every chance we get!!!

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Free to Fab!

          Blogging has been slow, taking a back seat to life and a new project, so sit back and check out my new prop for my photo shoots! Found on a freebie site on Facebook, I was first to snag this free chair, it's sturdy, somewhat clean and would look great in a field of flowers for a photo shoot, or in front of a barn. The ideas ran through my head as I headed to town to pick it up! After inspecting it closer, the bottom seat was iffy, so my handyman hubby made me a new one. I had 4 different fabrics in mind for the seat cover but went with the heaviest one, to hold up longer. Then the fun began finding the perfect trim, I had it all along in my stash, along with the fabric. All I had to buy was a small can of paint and stuffing, I spent less than $10 on it.
   And I love how it turned out! But then, another idea ran through my already crowded mind, have my handyman make another seat so I can change them out, he's in the process and probably hopes I don't find anymore freebies/projects for awhile! He's a good sport though and I couldn't do it all without him! By the way, yes I spray painted the back cushion, it was much easier and worked out great! I love a good freebie!!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Passions


            The kids are back to school and summer is heating up, after a mild reminder that life does have a way of equaling it's self out!  The garden is a hot mess, how quickly the weeds can take over if you miss a weeding or two...maybe three? But, it's been very productive, and the summer has been one of my favorites by far! Made another batch of salsa yesterday and picked a good pound of elderberries too, those got picked over and placed in the freezer for a flu syrup this fall, there are more to ripen and I hope to get to them before the wasps do. Spaghetti sauce and ketchup has also been made from our tomatoes, my basil and dill are both huge, great crops this year, must be all the rain and milder temps. Yummy corn and tons of potato's have feed us many meals so far, with more to dig, then sweet potato's will be ready! Harvest of happiness to say the least! It's been the best gardening season ever! Even the wild flowers have been blessed by this summer's weather and reprieve. I've been using basil and cilantro in all my cupboards since I have so much, I just cut a bunch and throw it in the back of each cupboard, it's been keeping the country mice at bay.  I love those scents of summer!
       Another passion of mine has been keeping me busy as well, and last weekend I had a wedding to shoot, my ex husband and his third wife. I was his first, he was my second and so on...but we are all friends, and if a marriage has to dissolve, the friendship shouldn't, especially if children are apart of the union, as in our case. We have 2 sons together, his only children and I'm so glad we were able to show them how love really works.  This is just one of my favorite shots from their wedding, it speaks without words, like life at times. I hope your summer has been full of passions, flowers, harvests and family! Love life!

If you'd like to see more of my photography and this wedding, check out my Facebook page:
Shots by Sue

Friday, August 08, 2014

My Space

    Remember that social media hub, we'll I'm not talking about that, I was never into My Space but I am into this space of mine, my craft room/office that under went a little makeover recently. Top photo shows different curtains from my stash, love the checks! I also got rid of my corner desk and opted for a fold up table I already had, now I have 5 more feet of work space where I type from, sorry it's not in the shot!
   This huge and heavy cubby shelf was kept outside till I bought it, originally for a future greenhouse but since that project won't be built till next spring, I got the notion of bringing it inside for all my fabric and stuff, so I painted it blue and at the risk of a hernia, my awesome husband got it in the house, it weighs a ton and a half, maybe 2! But, for $20 I knew I had to have it and it's perfect in here! Of course, when you rearrange, you have to find a new home for old things so the hutch that used to sit here is now in our bedroom and right at home! It's the little things in life that make you happy, and the big blue beast is a big one!

Monday, August 04, 2014

Pickles and Politics!



                  What a busy summer this has been, not only is the garden heating up, so are the politics here in Missouri! We vote tomorrow on many issues but the one I'm mainly concerned with is Amendment One. We already have the right to farm, but due to the tricky wording on this bill, many will vote yes thinking it will keep that right, but it won't! If passed, big corporations and outside companies can buy up Missouri land, allow Monsanto to take over and control farms. Not only that, but even small family farms will be affected, all the way down to our drinking water that could be contaminated  if unsafe meat producers are allowed in. I'm voting no, to keep my right to farm/garden in the way the current bill allows. It's a shame big government has to trick us with vague wording to get us to vote their way! I'm a small voter who will fight to keep my rights to garden and raise chickens!
     The garden has been the best one ever, I can't remember a summer that has been so nice with rains just when we need them. The kitchen is a busy room with produce being processed weekly: salsa, sauce, pesto and pickles, alot of pickles! I can't imagine not having a garden, fresh and organic produce for our family is priceless! I can only hope and pray that everyone reads the ballot good tomorrow, and not rush through it! One wrong vote could change everything! Pickles aren't the only thing fermenting!

UPDATE: We lost by half of a percent! But, there is rumor of a recount so were still hopeful. At least this tight margin supports a second look and has made the concern aware and out there!

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