Monday, October 27, 2008

Christmas Jam

I am one of those people who holds true to the notion that all things Christmas should be set aside until the day after Thanksgiving. That's quite a test when both kids are practicing Christmas music for their recitals and jamborees and I am being bombarded with irrisistable Christmas fabric from the quilt shop. Alas, I gave in this weekend and made a double batch of my Christmas Jam. So these photos are for you dear friends - I had to force myself to set up this little display, but what are friends for?

This stuff is so easy and we look forward to it each year. I try to make enough to last all year, but it never seems to last that long because I enjoy sharing it with my friends!


2- 20 oz packages of whole strawberries or 2 1/2 quarts fresh strawberries (I used fresh)

1 lb fresh or frozen cranberries

5 pounds sugar (this is A LOT of sugar! I use about 3 pounds per batch -we like it kind of tart, and yes, that's STILL a lot of sugar!)

2 pouches (3 oz each) of liquid pectin

*Grind strawberries and cranberries in a food processor; place in a large kettle. Add sugar, Bring to a full rolling boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Add pectin. Cool for 5 minutes; skim off foam. Pour hot into jars. Adjust caps and process for 15 minutes in a boiling water bath. Yield: about 7 pints.

I was short a few strawberries this time so I just dumped in some frozen blackberries and loved the end product! This morning I realized that 1/2 of the first jar has disappeared!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

New Recipe Thursday - Extra Special Zucchini Bread

The fabric in the photo will soon become my next apron.

Brrrr....! It's cold! We had our first official freeze of the season last night and it made it all the harder to climb out of a cozy bed, draped with flannel quilts, when the mercury was hovering in the high 20s. Seems as if its always colder here than in town - funny how a little bit of distance can make such a difference.

I'm thankful we don't have any trips on our agenda today, even though the day promises to be a busy one. Yesterday we had a full day in town. DS came back after 8 - he had spent his evening volunteering at the Republican Headquarters. I love that he's getting involved.

I started out this morning by trying out a new recipe for DH's breakfast.

Let me back up and confess that I am a recipe hoarder. I am one of those people who collects cooking magazines and ends up with large piles of 'I've got to try this' or 'this sounds wonderful' selections. Then they sit. Why? I don't know, maybe they get yummier with age? In any case, DD gives me a hard time about my collection of untested recipes.

In my defense, I do have a photo album -a very old, falling apart, thick and held together with packing and duct tape, photo album - that is home to all of our favorites. Everyone has strict instructions to grab it if we should ever have to evacuate in an emergency. It is nicely organized and I'm quite proud of the family favorites it contains, seeing as I couldn't cook a lick 20 years ago.
So yesterday I ran across a new recipe that looked promising and this morning I actually made it! It never made into the pile and DH gave it a thumbs up. I'm not sure how anyone can consume grilled jalapenos for breakfast, but he loved it. I snagged this recipe from the Pioneer Woman who is a pretty darn good cook! I like her cooking site and understand that she is in the process of publishing a cookbook. So anyway, her Cowboy Breakfast Sandwich gets a thumbs up around here. She's already shared it on her site so I won't repeat it here, but I do have a new recipe to share for Zucchini Bread.
Now don't turn up your nose like the kids did! Both of our kids despise zucchini. They didn't used to so I think it's just something they made up. I think I'm going to rename this Harvest Bread or something - I'll bet they'll eat it then! I love it and this time of year, this versitile vegetable seems to be in abundance. I'm planning a big garden for next year and you can bet it will include zucchini. I know, from past gardening years, that it is wild and unruly and multiplies exponentially. This recipe only requires 2 cups of grated zucchini which is about 1 zucchini so you won't exactly use up your excess, but every little bit helps!

Extra Special Zucchini Bread

3 eggs
2 C sugar
1 C vegetable oil
8 oz cream cheese, softened
2 C flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp nutmeg
2 C chopped walnuts
2 C shredded zucchini

*Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 2 9x5", or 7 5x3", or 15 2x3" loaf pans.

*In a large bowl, beat the eggs, sugar, oil and vanilla until smooth. Beat in the cream cheese.

*In a separate bowl, whisk flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinammon, salt, and nutmeg. On
low speed, gradually beat into the egg mixture.

*Fold in walnuts and zucchini. Evenly divide the batter between your pans. Bake the large pan for 60 minutes and the smaller ones for 30, until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.

DD just wandered into the kitchen and commented, "OK, I'll have to admit that it smells really good!" I imagine that DH will wander by sometime during the morning and devour them after he has slathered them with butter as well.

I'm trying another new recipe for dinner too - after I make some jam! It's doubtful I'll make much of a dent in my collection, but it's a start!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Warning: Politics Ahead!

It doesn't matter what position you hold, I don't think anyone will argue that this year is filled with intense passion on both sides of the fence and at this point in the race, I think everyone's just growing plain weary of politics. That being said, I am going to go out on a limb and break the rule about discussing politics. I've always been a rebel anyway. Grin! After all, we are a country built on freedoms and this is my blog and I simply want to put my thoughts down because I am excited! After all these years I am finally an American citizen and this is my first year to vote in a Presidential Election! I can't wait! My excitement finally bubbled over yesterday - Sarah Palin had scheduled a stop in town and we were NOT going to miss it! Even if it meant waking groggy children in a hotel room early yesterday morning, in Abeline, Tx, where we had attended my niece's beautiful wedding, the night before, in order to make the 5 hour trip back in time to attend the rally.

We had 30 minutes at home before heading to town where we stood for 4.5 hours in support of the McCain/Palin ticket. I was shocked by the huge crowd and long lines. The endless boothes selling buttons and hats and shirts and all manner of political paraphernalia looked like the entrance to a concert.

I'll admit, it was a LONG wait and it was HOT, but it was an amazing experience! I really got excited when a man with a guitar appeared and they announced Hank Williams Jr! Very cool. I enjoy his music a lot although I wasn't sure he was the best choice for representing conservative, moral values! Grin! But there I was, rocking out with everyone else and it suddenly occurred to me that I was acting just like a teenager! LOL!

I love that the kids were excited about attending this rally! This is DS's first time to vote too. They were all good at entertaining each other during the long wait.

When Sarah Palin arrived, I really got excited. I love her. No, she does not have the foreign policy experience that everyone keeps harping on, but neither does Obama and he's running for President! Everyone keeps taking about change. I think she's a breath of fresh air and combined with John MaCain's record, I think they make a good team! I like what they stand for and I had ball yesterday!
I wasn't very confident that I would be able to snap any decent pictures, but I am pleased with the ones I captured.
I hung around after the rally in hopes of getting the opportunity to just shake her hand and I ended up not only shaking her hand, but getting a hug from her, getting her autograph and visiting with her for just a few seconds. She said, thank you, ma'am and that it's people like me that they want to represent and that they really appreciate our support. After she chatted with a few others, she looked back over at me and looked at me directly and said, "Thank you!" Even though there were thousands of people clammoring for her attention, she focused on me for just a minute and that made a huge impression on me. This gal speaks my language and darn if I didn't want to invite her over for a cup of coffee, a piece of pie and a round of skeet! It would have had to be a huge pie in order to feed the multitude of secret service men that flanked her from all directions though.

I believe in the issues they support and here's a list of reasons why they'll get my vote on November 4th:

1. National Security
2. Military / Defense - no-one favors war, but the fact is, we are a free country because throughout the years, we have been willing to fight for that freedom and defend our nation.
3. Pro-Life
4. Tax Policy
5. Experience
6. Energy Policy
7. Less intrusion of federal government
8. Character
9. Integrity
10. Honor
11. Ethics
12. Will not simply redistribute income, but will create income via an increase in jobs and let families choose how to spend it, not government.

I'm not looking for a debate here. Just voicing my opinion and excitement about living in a country where we have a voice to do just that.

I know things have a been a mess, but I think its our own fault. The economy's a mess because we've become a country of excess. A country who has become accustomed to living above their means. A Country who thinks everything should be handed to us on a silver platter. We have drifted away, far away, from the principles this country was founded on - namely, and most importantly - we have wandered out and away from God. The men who founded this amazing nation were Godly men who knew what was most important. They relied on His guidance daily. It scares me greatly to think just how lost we have become.

The Republican ticket is running on a slogan of 'Country First'. That's a big improvement over the 'Me First' slant I'm getting from the opponent, but how about we get back to what it really should be, "God First".

A friend and I were discussing this and she said that God will never remove His hand from His people, but I do think he has removed his hand from this country. That pretty much sums it up. Lets pray that we find our way back and put our trust back in God. That's the only change that really matters.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Quick Winter Project

Something about the arrival of winter gives me the urge to sit behind my sewing machine. I've recently been bitten by the sewing bug again. I have a 20 year old Kenmore sewing machine that has seen better days, but it has served me well thus far. Funny thing is, growing up, I never had any desire to sew. I even petitioned the school administration to let me take Shop instead of Home Ec in high school - and they agreed! I was 26 when I suddenly asked for a sewing machine for my birthday. I think my mother almost fell over.

Recently, I've been working on that quilt for DD, made some potholders, made that apron, and yesterday I made this tied fleece blanket that is sure to see a lot of use this winter.

Don't know why the backing material looks turquoise in the photo - it's really green. Oh and I'm sending out an invitation to anyone who has the urge to help me rid this house of that awful paneling!

I stumbled upon this material a few years ago and just had to get it since it was the same as the material I used to make DDs curtains and quilt. The fabric store is a dangerous place to be. Just remember to print out a 40% off coupon before you enter Hobby Lobby!

This a fun, quick project that can be whipped out in a few hours. I tied this one while watching a couple episodes of the Andy Griffith Show. In fact, I think I'll curl up with it right now - Leave it to Beaver's on! I don't watch much TV, but Opie and Beaver are welcome around here anytime.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

My Cooking Sabbatical is Over...Come on by...

Yep. You read that correctly. My self-imposed cooking sabbatical is no longer in effect. I kind of thought it would last a little longer!

Something about the cold front that blew through last night just beckoned me into the kitchen. Well, that along with the fact that I had a strong desire to donn that cute apron I made yesterday! So, as per request of me actually wearing the thing:

The cold, wet, overcast morning just called for a good hot pot of homemade green chile stew. Add to that a batch of cheese quesadillas and my trusty apron and you have a happy homemaker! That's quite a turn around coming from a girl who never wanted to get within a mile of a kitchen growing up!

So stop on by...stews on!
Just can't promise you that there will be any brownies left when you get here!

Monday, October 13, 2008

October 12 of 12

I've been good about taking these on the 12th of each month, but not so good when it comes to posting them. The challenge really involves making a scrapbook page from these photos, but that'll have to wait. The 12th rolls around way too fast around here! But I do enjoy getting the photos taken and looking back on the months. So here's a peek into my day yesterday:

With all that's been going on, where else would I start the day than in the kitchen? It seems to be the only place I've been these past few weeks. I'm being held captive and when I walked in this morning at 4 am, I was greeted by the first pile of clean dishes in the sink drainer.

First order of the day: cut out the donuts. It's become a tradition for me to make homemade donuts on the last day of works around here. I make the dough the night before and stash it in the icebox where it can do its thing.

Then, I'll be honest, I crawled back into bed for a few minutes while they began to rise. I made breakfast burritos a bit later, but caught a few winks before I started throwing those together.

Here are the fried donuts. So NOT healthy, but so VERY yummy! I sugared most of them, but glazed some as well. Sometimes I fill them with jam, but not this time. The donut holes are just too convenient to pop into your mouth and yes, I did just that!

The morning was cold and drizzly. It had rained most of the night and last 3 members of the crew pulled out about mid-morning and headed back to Texas. They were a huge help and we enjoyed having them, but as they pulled out, it was a welcome sight. We were pooped! I did not envy them the long drive.

More dishes, what else?

Here's a smart critter. Taking a cat nap seems like the thing to do!

So here I've been complaining about spending all of my time in the kitchen adn what do I do? - make a new apron?! However, I've been trying to get this apron sewn for some time now. I saw the pattern in the local quilt store and have been coveting this material at Hobby Lobby for a while. I just didn't know what to do with it - I think an apron will be so cute. I am a messy cook and I've ruined more than one shirt so an apron is the way to go.

Hello shoes. I've missed you! These are the hiking shoes I walk in every morning - well at least every morning when I'm not cooking for a dozen men.

A late afternoon walk was just what I needed. I can't begin to tell you how good it was to walk in the warmth of the fall afternoon. Yes, I was exhausted, but just getting out there restored my soul.

Everyone laughs at me when I talk about the 'golden light' that falls in the early mornings and late afternons, but there it is. The sun just sets things afire, especially in the fall.

Even the penned cattle seemed to be basking in the last remains of sunlight.

When I returned home, I finished up that apron and pleaded with DD to model it for me. I love it and will definitely be making a few more although it might be too cute to get dirty! There's some fall fabric that caught my eye last week.

That concludes our visit for today. After I snapped this photo - I headed directly to bed.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

10 Down...2 to Go...

Whew! We're in the middle, nearing the end, of our fall works. 3 meals a day, 12 - 14 men - can we say pooped?!

12 days total. That's a lot of dishes folks! No dishwasher here. All that remains is a washed up old cook with bleached out hands.

We've got a new crew this year, a pretty good bunch. In fact, DS mentioned that she wished they could stay forever. Huh?! I mean, I'm all for hospitality, but come on... I am not cooking for them FOREVER! In fact, Sunday is the end of the road and before the dust from their trailers has settled, this kitchen will be officially CLOSED! So anyone who happens to wander this way had better not show up expecting to be fed! I think I have earned a few days off. Even if I haven't - I'm taking them! One of the guys asked me whether I enjoyed all the cooking. Well, it depends when you ask me. Day 1 - you bet! I love all the excitement and anticipation that surrounds the ranch during fall works. Day 12 - not so much! Grin! DH told me that I spoil them and that they don't deserve the extra mile. I told him I don't do it for them. I do it for him. We're a team and I want to do my part to make this a successful outfit. Unlike some places, we really do try to make this place run in the black. Like so many families and businesses today, that's getting harder to do. Cooking is the one thing I can do to help.

I am ready to come up for air though. Seems it's been busier than usual and this time around I didn't get the opportunity to sneak away to snap pictures. A couple of mornings I had to take about and hour and a half to haul a pickup and trailer to the other end of the ranch and drop off the crew, but daybreak was still a long ways off and it was too dark to take any. The other morning I did run some vaccine to North Camp, but I only had 5 minutes before I had to head back and tend to my kitchen duties. Then this morning I sat out in the rain on the highway waiting for the crew to gather the cattle on the south side of the road. I pulled the truck across the road to stop traffic so that the crew could move the cattle across to the north side.

Often times, people are really excited to see the guys working at the side of the road, but today there was an extremely rude driver at the head of the line, he just lay on his horn and honked numerous times. Hey, take it easy buddy, you're about to cause a wreck. Cattle running amok along the open road is not the desired outcome.

Around here we're always, always busy, but ranch work does not lend itself to getting in a hurry. Speeding up just tends to get someone hurt or something broken, both items we wish to avoid. The pace around here is so very different from the outside world, I tend to forget that and on occassion, when I am reminded, it makes me want to run for the hills - or at least for my dirt road. I am simply not wired for living out there and I am so thankful that the good Lord knows that!

Every so often though, the world tries to creep in. Last week my washer quit on me, my sewing machine died, and the computer crashed - all in one day! Ack! So this week, in the midst of juggling my kitchen responsibilities, I had to haul the washer into town (it was out for a week, but thankfully under warranty!), pick up my sewing machine (because I really want to make that cute apron), and order a new computer (although I'm not thrilled about dropping the money). Most people would wave that off as just another usual day and I must admit, I handled it pretty well, but I couldn't do that on a daily basis. When I got back home, I threatened the stove and refrigerator. If they had chosen to act up this week, it would have put me over the edge. Do you think the fact that I talk to my appliances means I've been in the kitchen for too long? Wait - don't answer that!

DH just phoned and let me know they probably wouldn't be in for dinner until at least 1. No problem. Through the years I have become accustomed to feeding them any time between 11 and 3, but he's always sweet to call and give me a heads up.

That means I may have time to load my pictures and see if there's anything worthwhile (probably not) and get my dough made for the donuts I'm making in the morning. Homemade donuts on the last day of works have become a tradition. Not sure whether I'll be able to get the dessert made for tomorrow before they pull in though. I often make the next day's dessert the day before. It helps to have that done when I've got to make a run to drop off guys and horses in the morning.

Yesterday I made fried chicken and although I have been told that one cook was fired for cooking chicken for a crew, it was a huge hit with this bunch. Darn! I could have used a break! Grin! They dug into that chicken like they hadn't eaten in a week. I made baked beans and Granny's potato salad, and rolls and jalapenos stuffed with cream cheese and wrapped with bacon. Gone. All gone. No leftovers. Then I had to make Dave's favorite dessert - Ice Cream Sandwich dessert. I already made it once, when we worked the Corrientes the last part of September, but I made it again because he asked so sweetly. I have tried not to duplicate any of my menu this fall and so far, with the exception of a side dish or two, I've managed to do that. No one complained about eating the Ice Cream Sandwich Dessert twice though.

Through the years we've been blessed with good crews. Looking back, I can't imagine what I fed them 21 years ago when I didn't know how to cook. My apologies go out to those poor men.

Well, I had better scoot - if I burn another batch of biscuits, I might get fired. Maybe I haven't learned as much as I thought I did!
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