Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sweet pickle relish...

It's one of our favorite pickly things.
Hubs loves it on burgers.
I love it in tuna salad sandwiches.
It's also good for tartar sauce.

These jars stay in our pantry, but I made three half pints of dill pickle relish for my daughter-in-love. She prefers dilly pickly things.

One little tip for relish: If you haven't enough cucumbers (like me) you can use zucchini, seeded. You can also add more of the other ingredients like peppers. If you click on the top picture, you will see the recipe from my old Ball Blue Canning Book.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Rustic crackers....

Now this is my kind of snack!
Homemade crackers and pepper cheese.

I found the recipe for what I call Rustic Crackers in the current edition of Mary Jane's Farm (Oct/Nov '09). At first I was skeptical, but I decided -- what did I have to lose but a little flour, salt, an egg and some vinegar? So I gave it a trial run and I am most delighted with the final product. I'll share the basic cracker recipe with a slight change that I made to it. Mary Jane has some nice variations to her cracker recipe that you'll want to try too -- sun dried tomato, garlic dill, rosemary, and tamari and pumpkin seed. As you can imagine, you just add the flavors and herbs you like to the dough recipe.
Rustic Crackers

1 1/2 c. flour
1 1/2 t. cream of tartar
3/4 t. salt
3/4 t. baking soda
1/4 c. oil (I used olive oil)
1/2 c. water
1 medium egg
2 t. sugar
1 t. balsamic vinegar
1/4 c. sesame seeds
course salt for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 350* and lightly spray or wipe cookie sheet with oil.

In a medium bowl, combine first four ingredients and mix well. Add oil and stir until mixture resembles course meal. Add water next and stir until dough forms and sticks together.

In a small bowl, whisk together egg, sugar, and vinegar. Set aside.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface and roll out very thin. (think pie crust) Brush generously with egg mixture and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Sprinkle lightly with course salt. Cut, tear into strips, or use cookie cutters to make any cracker shape you want. (I used a pizza cutter and then tore off pieces from the strips) Transfer to a baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 350*. Bake time will vary with thickness/thinness of the crackers. Transfer to racks for cooling. Store crackers in an airtight container. If they ever pick up moisture and lose their crispness, just pop them into a 250* oven for a few minutes.

I found that the more of the egg/vinegar wash I put on the dough, the browner and tastier the cracker. I didn't brush it on until I had already cut and torn the dough it pieces so I had one batch with more egg wash and one with less. I preferred the ones with more. I didn't oil my cookie sheet, but instead I lined it with parchment paper. (I missed that part of the directions)

Now I'm imagining a plate with all sorts of delicious cheeses on it and a bowl of these rustic crackers to sample them with. Add a bottle of wine and you've got a party!

Monday, September 28, 2009


In anticipation of a possible frost, yesterday I snipped all the flat leaf parsley and basil and brought it in to be dried. In the past, I have tied bunches of herbs by their stems to dry, but it seems like such a crumbly mess when it comes time to untie them and separate the leaves from the stems. This year, after reading a page in the Martha Stewart Living, September '09, I decided to do my herb drying a little differently. I held my herb stems upside down and snipped each leaf away individually from the stems. I dropped them onto newspaper to air dry for a couple of days or so. Martha says to dry herbs on a tea towel for 2-4 days and then store them in an airtight jar. Another bright suggestion I may try is to combine equal parts of the dried herbs (finely crumbled) with an equal amount of course salt and use it as a seasoning for all your cooking needs. Wouldn't these herb'd salts make nice gifts too?

I have yet to gather up my mint and the wild rose hips. Once dried, I use these for teas. Mint tea will settle a queasy stomach and rose hips, crushed and steeped, have more vitamin C than any citrus fruit. I sometimes combine the rose hips with other teas I like for added nutritional value in the winter months when colds and flu are rampant. For more ways to use your herbs, you might like to click over to Martha Stewart's page on medicinal uses for herbs -- most of them used in teas.

I left the rosemary and thyme in the garden, thinking that they are hearty enough to withstand a light frost. I'd like to continue using those fresh for as long as I possibly can. I adore these two herbs together in stews, on roasts and brisket, and they are delicious with pork too. Chicken on the grill on in the roasting pot is also deliciously enhanced by rosemary and thyme.

Are you drying herbs this fall?
What kinds will you be stowing away for fall and winter cooking or for medicinal purposes? Do any of you keep indoor herb gardens?

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Last rose of summer....

Knowing that today the wind would whip her about, and tonight the cold temperatures might fade her lovely petals, I plucked the last rose of summer. She'll hold a place of honor in the center of the table on my old crocheted doily. Lovely isn't she?

'Tis the last rose of summer

Left blooming alone;
All her lovely companions
Are faded and gone;
No flower of her kindred,
No rosebud is nigh,
To reflect back her blushes,
To give sigh for sigh.

I'll not leave thee, thou lone one!
To pine on the stem;
Since the lovely are sleeping,
Go, sleep thou with them.
Thus kindly I scatter,
Thy leaves o'er the bed,
Where thy mates of the garden
Lie scentless and dead.

So soon may I follow,
When friendships decay,
From Love's shining circle
The gems drop away.
When true hearts lie withered
And fond ones are flown,
Oh! who would inhabit,
This bleak world alone?

~Irish poet, Thomas Moore

If you enjoyed the poem, you'll love it set to music by Celtic Woman.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Autumnal preserves and thoughts...

I always feel rich when I open my canning cupboard and see the bounty of the harvest and the work of my hands. We'll never grow bored this winter with a nice variety like this on hand.

Here's what's on the shelves:
Top Row: Colorado Peaches and Apple Sauce
Middle Row: Grape Juice, Crabapple Juice, and Chokecherry Juice, the red is Tomatoes and then more Apple Sauce.
Bottom Row: Lots of Apple Butter, more Peaches, and Chokecherry syrup

The grape juice is sweetened but you must strain off the grapes first to drink it. The other juices are unsweetened. I like to can them and use them later when I want to make crabapple jelly or chokecherry jelly. Today I'll add my homemade salsa to the cupboard. The recipe I tried this year was from Mennonite Girls Can Cook. Click here if you'd like to try it.

Nearly every day now there's another something to preserve from the garden or a gift of apples received from a friend. My tomatoes are in full blush and after picking a fruit box full, there are still more on the vine at various stages of ripeness awaiting their turn to be picked and processed into salsa or plain ol' canned tomatoes. I eat as many fresh tomatoes as is humanly possible, but beings I'm the only one in the house who likes tomatoes, a girl can only eat as much as a girl can eat. The rest go into mason jars for soups and stews.

A couple weeks back a dear friend of mine came out with seven 5-gallon buckets of apples from her dad's tree. For several years we have canned apple sauce and apple butter together. She brings the apples, I supply the sugar and the kitchen, and we both share the jars between us. We have a large assortment that go from her house to mine and back again. It works. This year we were only able to can 45 quarts of apple sauce and butter in a day's time. She left me with one bucket of apples and she took home the rest. I've been slowly dipping into the bucket for just enough apples for a pie or an apple crisp. Last night I made apple crisp for dessert and I swear, I ate half of it! With whipped cream! It was that good. Then what did I do today? Polished off the last two pieces. I did ask Hubs if he wanted any and he said no so I didn't try to persuade him any. I'll make another crisp when the Sons are home for the weekend.

I still don't have quite enough cucumbers for my sweet pickle relish. I'm thinking my dad might have a bucket or so that he would share. His cukes did remarkable well this year while mine just barely have gotten started. I might take some of my zucchini and fill in for some of the cukes in the recipe. They work just fine for relish too.

It is definitely feeling like autumn here now. Today we didn't even reach 60 degrees for a high. The wind howled all day long as the leaves were swept off the trees. I noticed on the drive to town this afternoon that the Boxelder Trees along the River are turning a gorgeous yellow and orange. Every kind of bird is flocking together now and I just know that one morning I'll wake up and not hear the meadowlark that I've grown accustomed to hearing each day. The blackbirds will take their rock band to another location and the geese and ducks will fly over in V's honking their last good byes. Every season has its own beauty and nostalgia in the Northland. Good-bye, Sweet Summer. Hello, Crisp Autumn!

The Last Word of a Bluebird
As told to a child

As I went out a Crow
In a low voice said, "Oh,
I was looking for you.
How do you do?
I just came to tell you
To tell Lesley (will you?)
That her little Bluebird
Wanted me to bring word
That the north wind last night
That made the stars bright
And made ice on the trough
Almost made him cough
His tail feathers off.
He just had to fly!
But he sent her Good-by,
And said to be good,
And wear her red hood,
And look for the skunk tracks
In the snow with an ax-
And do everything!
And perhaps in the spring
He would come back and sing.

~Robert Frost

Sunday, September 20, 2009

I am with you always....

But I know it is not the sense of His presence, it is the fact of His presence that is our strength and stay. And when our Father deals so tenderly with us, then we are very humbly grateful and we store such memories in our heart. And when there is not any feeling we rest on His bare word, "Lo, I am with you always, all the days, and all day long," and are content.

The bright flowers of the edelweiss waiting to be gathered among the rough rocks of difficult circumstances -- we may call the consolations of God what we will -- who are we that we should find such comforts anywhere? Love prepared, Love planted, Love led us to these enchanting discoveries. A child cannot bear to enjoy a delight alone; it turns to its friend with a shout of joy and shares its treasures. Turn so to thy Nearest, soul beloved, speak thy quick thanks and share thy joy. Forget not the Giver in the gift. Offer not the discourtesy of remembering thy Unseen Companion only when nettles sting thee, and thorns prick thee, and thy feet are cut on the stones.

~Gold By Moonlight
by Amy Carmichael

fall garden flowers and apple crisp with coffee

I have felt the nettles sting and thorns prick while interceding in prayer this past week. After nights of crying out to the Father, He has brought my loved one back to life. It's a second chance, a new day, a time for gathering flowers and celebrating what He has done! Thank you, Jesus!

Whom have I in heaven but you?
and besides You, I desire nothing on earth.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever.
As for me, the nearness of God is my good;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
that I may tell of all His works."

~Psalm 73 25, 26, 28

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Pattern freebies 4 U....

There are lawns to mow and flower beds to water, tomatoes to pick and put up, the house trim to paint and windows wash and repair before the cold days of fall and winter are upon us. But every so often I take up an itty-bitty sewing project to dot my summer days with fun. I tried out the free Buttercup Bag pattern at Made By Rae. It was quite simple to stitch up and the results are *cute-cute.* This little bag went to a five-year-old friend for her birthday along with 5 one dollar bills stuffed inside to spend. (She still thinks 5 ones are more than a $5 bill!)

A friend of my daughter's just had a baby girl. One of the things on her Wish List was a nursing cover-up, and so instead of spending a hefty $30 or so on one, I picked out this nifty Cath Kidston print from The Bakery and made her one for about $10. She loves bright and bold colors. Do you think this will do? Get the free tutorial here! Along with the cover-up, I made a cute stuffed pig to match with yet another free pattern, but I could've made three cover-ups for the amount of time I spent fiddling with piggy. Oh well.

Now it's time to get back to work. I'll unload the tomatoes from the pressure canner and step outside into the sunshine to touch-up the house paint that has chipped away. Tomorrow it's supposed to be only 60* for a high temp. That'll feel chilly compared to the 89 degrees of today.

Sunday, September 06, 2009


Do you spy the little weaver amongst the garden flowers? I believe this spider is a Black & Yellow Argiope. This particular morning we had a heavy dew which gave the webs a beautiful shimmer. I couldn't resist trying to capture the beauty of it.

One more....
A picture of this little garden fairy's feet. She loves to dig in the dirt like her grandma.

Thursday, September 03, 2009

I See the Moon...

Eloise Wilkin, illustrator

I'm thinking of loved ones far away.
Praying, waiting, hoping, believing.

As I take my walks in the evening I see the Moon. It always reminds me to pray blessings
upon my loved ones and friends far away. Have you ever wondered how many people are looking at the moon and thinking of their loved ones looking at the moon? All through the ages since time began, all the people in all the world have been admiring the moon that God set in place. I wonder if it reminded them to pray too? Jesus Himself saw the very same Moon I see tonight. It makes me feel blessed.....and small.

"Even the darkness is not dark to Thee..."
~Psalm 139:12

This is a little song that I sing sometimes when I see the moon.
Do you?

I love this verse of I See the Moon, especially sung with grandparents as it is here.


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