Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Chick Pea Love

Advent is another vegan season for us. And as I get older the more I fall in love with "ethnic" foods. Such as Arabic, Indian and Mexican. There are many varieties in the spices that we don't have in American food and the more I eat it, the more it becomes comfort food. These are some staples with the traditional Chick Pea that are our favorites.

The hummus and the falafel recipe both require a food processor. I was 36 years old before I bought my first processor (just last year). I really thought I didn't need one...and I didn't. But there were more and more things that I just couldn't make like the recipe I cleaned out space in my cupboard and bought a used one. I'm so glad I did!

I canned 14 pints of chick peas on Saturday and made a giant batch of hummus for coffee hr on Sunday. We're ready for Advent!

This recipe was given to me by a special friend. This is almost exactly as she wrote it for me.

3 cans garbanzo beans - one with juice and two drained. Coarsely grind in a food processor. Save some juice in case you need more liquid later.
2 1/2 Tbs lemon juice
1/4 c tahini
1/2 Tbs cumin
1-2 tsp salt (depending on the beans you use, if they were salted or not, start with less)
-while processor is running, drizzle in about 10 seconds worth of olive oil in-
 2-4 cloves minced garlic
Season variation of the day:
thyme, sage, oregano
smoked paprika (cayenne optional) we like this one
zatar seasoning (contains salt!) we love zatar, need to find an Alaskan source!
roasted red pepper (top with pinenuts)
feta cheese
*just discovered: basil pesto hummus, so flipping good!!! I use a premade-pesto packet or two in place of cumin and other spice*

Add more seasonings 'till it tastes right. Try extra salt first, then tahini, lemon, olive oil. Flavors will blend if you let it refrigerate overnight.

Before serving drizzle over with sumac, paprika or cayenne. Drizzle with olive oil. Serve with pita or chips.

Pita Bread
This recipe was given to us by the same friend. It is our go-to pita recipe now, I have made it twice this week already.

2 c warm water
2 Tbl dry yeast
-let yeast proof-
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbl olive or veg oil
5 cups flour
extra flour

Mix the 5 cups of flour into the wet ingredients. You want an almost sticky dough.

Let rise 'till doubled. Preheat oven and baking sheets at 450-500 degrees F. Punch down. Pull apart into 2" balls, form balls, place on a well floured surface. Starting with first formed balls (they have risen some by now) roll them out (remember extra flour) and place how ever many will fit on a baking sheet. They should take about 8-10 minutes to puff up and bake. Best to store in a bag right away to keep them soft and pliable. If you used too much flour they will be much more crispy and not as soft.

A bowl of hummus and fresh pita.

For this recipe I give full credit to The Shiksa in the Kitchen. Her recipe is fantastic. It is the first and only one I have tried making from scratch (I used to buy boxes of falafel mix, a great alternate!) But after I bought the 25lb bag of dried chick peas I was committed to finding ways to use them. This recipe is so good and easy, it's worth trying. I think the reason I like it so much is it works perfectly and I never changed it.

1 lb (2 cups) dry chick peas/garbanzo beans
-cover with 3" of water and let them soak overnight-
1 small onion, rough chopped
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley (I have used dried)
3-5 cloves garlic (she likes roasted)
1 1/2 Tbl flour
1 3/4 tsp salt 
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (I almost always skip the hot stuff)
Pinch of ground cardamom
Veggie oil for frying (grapeseed, canola, or peanut)

Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans well. Pour them into your food processor along with the chopped onion, garlic cloves, parsley, flour, salt, cumin, ground coriander, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and cardamom. Pulse all ingredients together until a rough, coarse meal forms. Scrape the sides of the processor periodically and push the mixture down the sides. Process till the mixture is somewhere between the texture of couscous and a paste. You want the mixture to hold together, and a more paste-like consistency will help with that... but don't overprocess, you don't want it turning into hummus! I prefer mine more fine than coarse. Pour out into a bowl, mix with a fork, fish out large chunks, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate one or two hours.

This is the part where she lists all sorts of suggestions if it's not behaving itslef and variations on the recipe. I'll skip to the frying...

Fill a skillet with oil to 1-1 1/2 inches. Heat slowly over medium heat. Form some falafels into round balls or small patties...I prefer small egg shapes I make with my table spoons. Fry for 2-3 minutes on each side to brown. Turn down heat if it goes much faster, heat up if it's too slow.

Drain on paper towels. Serve them traditionally with hummus and tahini sauce...or our favorite way is in a pita with lettuce, onion and tomato with some tzatziki sauce.

She also reccomends other "add ons" such as:
Israeli salad
dill pickles
french fries
cucumbler slices
roaste peppers
roasted eggplant
sunflower seeds
feta cheese

Tzatziki Sauce
This is my "vegan version" of it. It's not as great as the sauce made with the yogurt, but it's a great sub-in if you don't eat dairy. Some people also prefer it with sour cream.

1 cucumber -peel, de-seed, and grate or chop very finely, put to drain in a sieve or cloth-
1 cup vegeniase (you could try soy yogurt, but I always have vegenaise on hand) 
1 Tbl lemon juice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbl chopped fresh dill (I use dry if it's winter)
salt and pepper to taste

Combine and let refrigerate 1-2 hours. 

Slather it on everything and enjoy!

Here is Shiksa's beautiful photo of her falafel.
And just for fun...every time I make hummus or falafels we must watch GoRemy's "Falafel Song" and the "Hummus Rap". They are a hoot.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

I reject your Monday and substitute it with my own.

What am I doing today? I am rejecting your Monday and substitute it with my own snow day. We will add in a sprinkling of chores, work and school. It will also be accompanied by a warm fire, fresh baked sugar/nutmeg cookies, Play-Doh, Alvin and The Chipmunks, Polly Pockets (the original ones you can swallow, of course!), Wartime Farm on youtube, a kid's movie production with friends and lots of hot chocolate and coffee.

My 3 littles enjoying the snow. Our last snow was in September!

Older 13-yr-old son cutting kindling in the garage.

Our Esse wood cookstove looking as handsome as ever.
11-yr-old son offered to bake cookies today rather than shoveling manure.

Mama's happy feet.

Checking on the cookies. Not sure why, but they seem to taste better when baked in the wood oven. I have learned that when the temperature gauge is pointing directly down at "hot" your oven is at a just right 350*. If it's hotter you can bake cookies in half the time. I have baked them perfectly before for only 2 minutes.

Cookies are done. Oldest daughter looking way too grown up and beautiful with out her braces.

My sweet "F" having frosting fun.
And just in case you can smell the cookies from will definitely want the recipe. I think the magic to my grandmother's sugar cookies is the NUTMEG! They are so wonderful, soft, moist and delicious with or with out frosting.

Grandma Johnson's Sugar Cookies
2c sugar
1c shortening (you can use part butter, but shortening is nice in here)
2 eggs
-cream together these three first, then gradually add:
1 c buttermilk (I never have buttermilk so I always add a tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice to the milk)
Dry ingredients, sift these and add slowly while mixing:
1 tsp salt
1 tsp nutmeg
2 tsp baking soda
5 c flour (this can vary)

Refrigerate overnight or for 2-3 hours. This dough is very soft, you will want plenty of flour to roll them out and if there's not enough, you can always kneed in a bit more flour before not to add extra if you can help it.

Bake @ 375* for 10 minutes. You want them just barely turning brown on the edges.They have a perfect crunchy bottom and moist middle and a nice top for decorating. My favorite is when they just come out of the oven with no frosting.

Both of my grandmothers raised their families on farms. I lived in Alaska growing up and they stayed on their farms in MI and VT and came to visit from time-to-time. When I make their recipes it makes me feel closer to them. The nutmeg smell always reminds me of these cookies and of her Long Johns; her famous doughnuts that were rectangle shaped and also contained nutmeg. She must have really loved nutmeg.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

How to get a job. If I could do it, you can too.

Yesterday Matt Walsh wrote a post called, "Some people don't deserve a living wage." What I got out of that post was how I'd like to tell my stories about how I learned the value of money, how I got my first job and jobs there after. Then after becoming a business owner, what I now look for in employees. If this post can help give someone the confidence they need, then it was worth telling.

When I was a kid, my parents didn't have a large income. We lived in an unfinished house (was a small cabin when they bought it). Little by little they finished off parts of the house. My dad is a jack-of-all-trades and he, with other contractor buddies, would add on sections at a time to make the house larger and more beautiful. They let the three of us kids know early on that they would not just hand us money when we wanted it. They would not be able to afford to put us through college. And they would not buy us a car. They were kind enough to give us a weekly allowance of $5 per week, I always thought that was a lot when I was younger and just made me more careful with it as I got older. My dad taught me the now famous "Dave Ramsey's Cash Budget" system before it was popular. I had: tithe, travel, spending, saving, and clothing envelopes. Those would change names and dollar amounts from time to time. He encouraged me to never get credit cards as they can suck you into their evil lair and clean you out in no time. I thank my father for this basic training and it has provided me with a good foundation for my lifetime.

When I turned 11 or 12 I got a lot of babysitting jobs and added those monies to my envelope system. (For boys out there, lawn mowers are needed! Undercut the fancy lawn service that is currently mowing your neighbor's lawn, and get to work!)

When I was 14 my aunt and uncle moved to Australia and they were going to adopt another baby...then she found out she was pregnant. This would be the only pregnancy of hers she would be able to carry full term. She basically had twins and wanted me to come stay with them for the summer. I could not pull off paying for the trip that year, so I got a regular babysitting job that summer at a neighbor's house and saved up enough to fly to Australia the following summer. My parents paid for my passport and many other expenses related to the trip, but I distinctly remember handing the travel agent $1500 in cash to pay for my tickets. That's a lot of money for a 15-yr-old kid.

When I came home I only had my drivers permit at the time, but my mother was willing to drive with me to the nearby town only 3 miles away. She told me it was time to get a job.

I was 15. There are laws about hiring a 15-yr-old. I was also the most bashful teenager I'd ever met. My mother had me choose from a store that had higher turnover, I chose Safeway. She told me that I would brush my hair, put on good clothes, go in there, ask to speak to the manager, introduce myself and ask if they were hiring bag-boys (girls). If the answer was no, I would ask again in 4 days and not give up until I got a job.

The first time I went in I found the assistant manager. He gave me an application and sent me on my way. I returned with the application the next day and gave it to him, so he'd see my pretty little face. I came back in 4 days and asked again if they were hiring, he said no. I returned in 4 more days and asked him again. This time he remembered me, he twisted his face and said, "I wish I was... but I don't have anything right now." I went back the next week and he said, "There you are! I couldn't find your application so I could call you. I want to hire you today!" We headed upstairs and he did a quick interview, he had me re-fill out an application and I was informed of my new schedule.

Why was I hired? Because I did not give up. I showed determination, even if it was my mother providing the backbone and push to get me there...I am the one who found him while she waited in the car for me. I am the one who got that job and I worked there for two years. I was even able to use my work towards my high school credits, it was great! Did I love being a baggar? Hell no. It's hard work. I hurt my back, it snowed a lot, pushing carts in the snow is really terrible, I had to wear a skirt, I had to carry 2 dinky bags to cars outside with a smile on my face, I had to load bags of dog food into the back of giant pick-up trucks. I built muscles, integrity and confidence. And most of all, I had to put aside my bashfulness for the sake of good customer service.

After I turned 16 I started helping in the bakery when the store was slow. They were teaching me the ropes and soon realized that I could be a valuable member of the bakery team. I was transferred back there and given a raise and trained on our small cash register. I was moving up.

Later they wanted me to be a checker and I went through checker training. It was fun. I was not as fast as I wanted to be, I have never been a fast paced person. I really wasn't a good checker, I didn't move my rear. I started getting longer hours up in the check stand and one Sunday they assigned me to 8 hours in the Express line out in an Anchorage store in a not-nice part of town. That was one of the most miserable days ever. Cranky customers with a new checker who could move quickly in an EXPRESS line...not a good combo.

I started looking elsewhere. Three of my girlfriends had cool jobs at our local "Copy Center". I wanted to work there with them so badly. It was low key, not many customers, using computers to lay out brochures/fliers/business cards, etc. But the owner already had more workers than he really needed. That did not stop me. I looked at my schedule at Safeway and told the owner at the Copy Center what days I could work. For free. My home-girls could train me for two weeks, then he could decide if he wanted to hire me or not. It worked! He hired me after two weeks of volunteer training,

When I graduated I wanted to go visit my grandpa and uncle on their farm in MI. My uncle had told me anytime I wanted to come visit I could have a job alongside the other teenagers in the town planting or harvesting strawberry plants for him. I adored my cousins and had a glorious 3 week visit working HARD every day, passing out on their recliner, eating giant cucumbers from their garden, driving three wheelers around their farm, playing with the barn kittens, swimming in their river, visiting my grandpa, indulging in my aunt's mid-western cooking, and getting the best farmers tan of my life. It was the most amazing working vacation.

I returned to barely having a job at the Copy Center, my hours had been drastically cut. My dad was a manager at the glass shop in Anchorage and offered me a job. I was their "go-for" girl, basically their servant. I would sneak up to the front and get trained on the computer when I had time and soon enough I was transferred to another store to be their "CSR" (customer service rep) and work the front counter for them.

I got married. I got a new boss and he was a jerk. My husband encouraged me to quit and not work for an ass who accused me of stealing from the 'till and who enjoyed checking out my front-side instead of looking me in the eyes. So I quit. But then I was bored.

So I walked into the cutest little deli restaurant and convinced the owner that he needed me, I had a flexible schedule, didn't have kids and could pay me what ever he liked 'cause I was bored and my husband now paid the bills. I worked there for the summer and had a blast.

I know how to work hard. I also know how to play hard. I can be lazy or choose to hustle. It's all a choice, a decision I make every day. Thanks to having kids most of my slowness has disappeared and I passed it on to one of my kids. My mother giggles about that.

I can never thank my mother enough for giving me the pep talks that I needed and really pushing me to get that job at Safeway. What an invaluable lesson I learned. I know that no matter what, I can always get a job if I ever were to need one. Will I make as much as I want? Maybe not, but it's hard to bosses not to notice good workers and if they are smart they pay them well to keep them around.

Now as a business owner of 10 years, I am disappointed in the work force of today. I want someone to waltz in and ask me for a job every 4 days so that I can see that if they are that determined. Because if they are that determined to get a job, they will be a fantastic worker. I have poached one employee from Sears after seeing her confidence and professionalism. My bashful self tried rearing it's ugly head and I almost didn't ask her. It was like I was asking someone on a date...I feel sorry for guys. But I did it, I turned around, handed her my business card and said, "If you are interested in working for me, please give me a call." She called me and worked diligently for me for two years until she moved out of state. I have had a couple amazing employees and a couple real doozies, that is really difficult to deal with.

Since I have turned into a confident, capable adult I have been offered two different jobs out of the blue. And I had to turn them down. What an honor to have someone recognize your strengths and ask you to work for them!

I am all for poaching. Why should I post a job opening, wade through applications, listen to people maybe tell the truth about themselves in an thanks. If you are a good hard working employee at your grocery store or local McDonald's it will show! Keep your head up, shoulders back, speak clearly, work hard, move fast. It makes a difference, I promise you! You will stand out from the crowd. You may get offered a job or if nothing else a better position in your company!

If you have a bright idea and think you can start a company. By all means, try! Being a business owner is fulfilling and rewarding. Hustling is a must. There is nobody there to keep it afloat besides you. If you are young and can live off of ramen and tuna then try it. Even if it is not a "success" you will learn a ton. If you put "owned a business" on your resume, that will get you big brownie points.

I truly believe everyone is capable of getting a job; be confident, respect yourself, put in clean clothes, speak up and keep going back and talking to the same person until they can't tell you no anymore. Be willing to take little money and work hard. Volunteer at a smaller business if you would die to work there, your time will pay off. You have to stand out from the crowd, this is a huge start.

I nabbed this adorable picture from here. Of course, this advise is for men or women. Roll up your sleeves and get to work.

Verbs of this moment

Currently: I am listening to : CCR Bad moon rising.
Having: a deep discussion about religion with a girlfriend on facebook.
Helping: my daughter write a comparison of Metropolotin PHILLIP's homily and the history they have been studying this semester at St. Raphael Ortho. Online School.
Planning: a new, fun idea for our church's Country Fair for this next summer.
Elapsed time since starting this blog post...appx 42 minutes. Am I good our what?!
Currently listening to: Phillip Phillips, So Easy.
Wishing: that I had some decent food to eat besides these retarded Resse's Peanut Butter cups.
Ignoring: the girls...they are having a pre-birthday slumber party for my almost 10-yr-old.
Thanking: my mother. She was kind enough to take my youngest for 2 nights, that helps.
Wanting: to write about something more meaningful, but my brain is fried.
Shutting down: Quickbooks and Excel. Bye work, see you tomorrow.

Check this out, my sister took two of our kittens home with her home tonight. This is the picture she posted and the caption...whoops. We feed them canned cat food. They are pigs!

You should have warned me they were such messy eater.
Currently listening to: U2, In the name of love
Update. Time elapsed since last update has been about 10 minutes. DD is still trying to write a paper and not bash the computer in. She keeps asking me things like, "will he notice if I don't send it in?" "why is school so not fun?" "this is so stupid!"...I just realized that she wasn't complaining...that's 'cause she was playing a game...grrr!!!
Relieved: that today is Friday. Tomorrow I plan to not think or go anywhere. Looking forward to that. Crap, I'm hosting a birthday party. Reason #32 not to have birthday parties.
Currently listening to: Front Porch, When the sun sets. My son wrote it. I LOVE this freaking song.
20 minutes. I gave my DD a firm pep talk and told her to underline ANYTHING relating to history in his homily.
Currently listening to: Phillip Phillips, Gone Gone Gone. 
Currently listening to: my boys in the room next door being spaz-oids at 10:45pm. I love them, but as they get older, they are much much louder and thump-ier and sound more like elephants when we are underneath of them in our bedroom.
Wondering: where DD snuck off to...oh right, I told her to get the bible.
Happy: that today is Friday. That sounds repetitive. I said that already, didn't I?
Figuring: I should send DD out to milk the goats, feed the cats and go to bed so I can go to bed too.
Currently listening to: 3 Doors Down, Kryptonite
Knowing: hubby is getting annoyed with how late I'm still up.
Just one more: Johnny Cash, Hurt (cover from Nine Inch Nails).

Saturday, October 19, 2013

When you give a girl a scarf...

...she'll need a shirt to go with it.

And when she searches for a shirt....
...she'll need to raid her closet.

And when she raids her closet...
....she'll find that it needs to be cleaned.

And when she cleans out her closet....
....she'll need to try on some clothes.

And when she tries on some clothes...
....she'll need to take some selfies.

Outfit #1.

Outfit #2.
And when she takes some selfies...
...she'll need to share with the world how good she looks in her size 16 clothes.

Haha. Do you believe me?

Now, this is what "the bully" in my brain is telling me...

Do I listen to the bully? 

I hear him. Trying to taunt me...but I'm tired...tired of feeling this way. In fact...I'm's over...I'm over it... I'm having a boxing match in my own brain. And I know what it feels like to win, to beat the bully who was part of me, to punch him in the nuts, he deserves it, punch him, kick him where it hurts. I have tasted it, I have felt it...and it feels right and good and peaceful.

This is what I want for myself...this is my new goal:

Not to be fat.

Not to be skinny.

To be contented.

And with that; to be happy, peaceful, loving and kind.

I really think you can only achieve that if you love yourself. If you love yourself you MUST include all-of-you. Your belly rolls or your 6 pack abs, your thigh gap or great calves, your huge jugs or your petite girls, your gorgeous birthing hips or your cute boy hips, your great smile or beautiful eyes, your double chin or cleft chin. People don't stare at your belly rolls or sunken checks when they look at you, they look at your smile, your beautiful eyes and your confidence and inner beauty outshines it all!

This is all a pep talk for myself...if it makes an impact on someone elses life, all the better. But this has been my inner dialogue for a while getting stronger, the bully getting weaker.

We are made in the image and likeness of God. What does God look like? Is he too pale? Too fat? Too ugly? Too thin? Of course not! He is beautiful and kind and He loves you; He loves me. You should love you too. Don't you dare think that He created you poorly, He did no such thing. You insult Him when you speak that way. You are perfect in His eyes, don't second guess God, that's just a bad idea.

Now, look at me. (Posting this picture makes me squirm! But that's ok...I'm over it, right?)

Do you see my flaws?

Do you?

Look closer, look harder, they are there.

You don't see them?

People don't see yours either unless you point them out. Do you show up at work and tell your co-workers how crappy your customer service skills are? Do you tell your clients that you don't really feel like doing their paperwork that day? Do you tell your boss that he should fire you because you don't really know what the hell you are doing? Of course not! We do what we gotta do. We pretend. We emulate people we respect, we strive for something more, we try harder every day. We pretend. So this is me, pretending. I'm pretending to be self confident and I'm getting better at it.

Try it, I bet you'll get better too.

*This post is brought to you by the best. scarf. ever. My beautiful sister knitted it just for me for my birthday and I love it and I love her.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

17 years and counting...

It was another beautiful fall day. The trees were plump with ripe leaves, my very favorite mixture of colors covered the mountain behind the beautiful Orthodox church that day. The sun was shining in the clear blue sky. As the frost from the morning thawed everything dripped with a heavy dew. But I didn't notice any of that.

Because today was my wedding day.

I was nineteen. I was naïve. I was bashful. I was self doubting. I was ready to dedicate the rest of my life to my friend of five years who claimed to love me. Was this the "right" decision? That remained to be seen...

He was a gangly "geek" if you will. Geeky in most things like most geeks are...computers, Star Trek, Star Wars, Church theology, politics, etc. He was my opposite, if you will. He was also not at all like my father and not at all the type of person I had imagined marrying some day. But was that a bad thing? I was an Alaskan girl, after all, the state is full of robust hunter like men in all of their manly glory. Was I "supposed" to marry someone like my father? Someone less geeky perhaps? Someone less zealous in life? Someone less intent on having silly old me for themselves?? I really couldn't decide, you see, I hadn't "fallen in love" with him.

He certainly had with me. He had some compelling arguments and had great wit and humor that he used to try and convince me. I had to rely on my gut as my guide. His arguments did convince me that he would never leave me. His arguments convinced me that he loved me and that loving a wife is a husband's job. He convinced me that he had a great career, that he was awesome at what he did and that he would be a great provider so that I could be a mother (my life's dream was to be a stay-at-home-mom).

But, what if?

My indecision caused him great stress (not to mention my own stress). He was patient with me and didn't push me. I wanted to cancel the wedding and he said that was fine. My friend asked me, "do you love him?!" and I had to say yes, but I didn't think I really meant it. But the thing that really stuck in my craw was "Well, what if I let him go?  He runs off and eventually finds himself another woman?" No, that just wouldn't do. I was jealous of him before I ever thought I loved him and before he was mine.

That jealousy caused me to commit to him. I realized that if nothing else, even if I never had those warm fuzzy "in love" feelings that he would love me, take care of me and, if nothing else, be my friend. My gut and my head won the argument against my "heart" because it didn't know what the heck it was doing.

Seventeen years later I am here to report.

I realized those fuzzy feelings are typically feelings of lust. I have lusted my husband on and off for 17 years. Other men too. I tell him about those feelings as he tells me about his. We don't get upset or hurt by it for some reason...many other friends think we're crazy to talk about our "crushes" or "dang, he's hot" sort of things with each other. I don't know why we do it, but we do. The feelings and crushes disappear as soon as we confess them to each other too.*

Love is something different. Love is giving of yourself, it's HARD to love, because love is actions. Constant attention to the person you're supposed to be loving. That is difficult work. I personally suck at it. I didn't realize, until this year that I've had a wall up in our marriage for 17 years. The wall of self hate. That wall has caused me to not let my guard down, not be really giving of myself. This year, I had a giant light bulb go on in my brain and it blew my mind. I have not been the same since.

"You can't truly love someone else until you love yourself."

Very simple, but very true. It his changed me. It has changed the way I see people. It has changed the way I react to people. It has changed the way I talk, treat, respect and act to those closest to me. The ones who needed me to change are beginning to see the new/real me. The one who finally sees that God loves me like His child that I am, and with that true knowledge, it will drastically change a person.

All of this to say simply this:

17 years of marriage is very hard, very good, but mostly hard. It can, however, be done. You have to LOVE, give up your own will constantly, and take a verbal beating from time to time. Conflict in marriage is not a bad thing. If you don't ever fight you won't figure anything out. If you have the capability to simply discuss with no feelings involved, more power to you. My husband is quite fiery and I have discovered I am as well. So our fights are LOUD!

After 17 years of being married to this man I am now: the mother of 6 amazing children, the owner of a self made business of 10 years that I run from my home, not self doubting, still a little bashful in person at first, probably still naïve, confident and self admittedly, awesome.

I thank my husband for most of this (not all, after all, I am awesome). Not only for sticking with me, but encouraging me to come out of my shell, to embrace some of my more insane ideas and run with them. To remind me that I am awesome and I can do great things if I put my mind to it.

The cool thing is that as time has gone on he has grown less geeky and more robust. He has even started hunting in the last five years (that's hot). I think he's very handsome and am VERY glad he's not out there with some other woman. I'm glad he's mine, all mine.

*Please note that this practice of sharing so honestly is NOT for everyone. I am confident in the knowledge that he will never leave me and that is why I don't get offended when he says such things. Most women are not this secure and so I believe this would be hurtful in many marriages, not a positive thing.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Pictures and fall

Last Tuesday my daughter discovered a kitten with our cat, surprised at a kitten she didn't think one kitten was enough, she found two other "dead" ones and revived them. (long funny story, perhaps I'll talk about that when I have time and energy)

Sunday we drove down to Girdwood (hippie ski town 45 min from Anchorage) for our Anniversary "weekend" with my sister and her husband, we did this 2 years ago with them and it was great. It was a beautiful rainy day, I adore that drive along that coast. The tide was going out and the mud flats looked especially stunning.

One of the mountains on the way there, you could see the separation so nicely of fall and winter. I love this time of year.
Monday we woke up to snow outside of our shared Chalet.

Monday was a hard day of watching HGTV, eating an amazing lunch where we had real drunkards present (entertaining especially on a Monday at 2pm) and napping, oh, then the hot tub and sauna rounded out the day.
Tuesday we ate breakfast at "The Bake Shop" at the foot of Mt. Alyeska, it was clear and gorgeous. Time to head home.
When I worked for a living, I hated the commute to Anchorage, but now, I adore this amazing drive home. Here's the Matanuska River.

I took this picture of the Butte for Hillary. The Butte has always made me think of my sweetest cousin and now that she's moved I have dedicated the Butte to her. (it's the tiny hill out in the field in front of the cloud line) We finally got to climb it this summer and it was so fun.
This is the Experimental Farm we pass when coming home, I love the Midwestern feel of the homes in Palmer and on this farm. Reminds me of being in the L48 but happy to be home in Alaska as you can clearly see from the mountains and Knik Glacier on the right tucked back there. (above the shed in the filed, that white patch is the glacier)
Yesterday I was running errands and had to take my sister's birthday gift to her. The 3 mile drive to her house is out of this world this week. The undergrowth in the woods are so full of vibrant color, I had to take some pictures.

Sample of the leaves back there.

Had to snap a pic of my yard. Looking quite clean shaven and well dressed. The new fence is so handsome and the yard is inviting. (garden is also all brought in and put away, the chickens are loving the remains!) What a nice fuzzy feeling I have when things get wrapped up each fall.

My sister and me on the beach where we were looking at whales on our way home from Girdwood. Not my favorite picture of me but it's a wonderful one of her. This was on her birthday. I love that woman so much I think my heart might burst.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Our Sauerkraut

There are hundreds of recipes out there for sauerkraut. But if you have never made it before, it's very intimidating. Especially if you let it sit for a week before you check it and find the dreaded MOLD on it. It's scary, your mom probably didn't teach you how to make it, but what else can you do with all of the cabbage your garden produced?? My recipe will be no better than anyone elses, but perhaps I can give you encouragement to just try it out.

I have made sauerkraut for about the last 5 years, it was my first fermented vegetable. Fermented veggies are all the rage, it seems, and it's a good thing! The more people who do it and experiment with it, the more we all can learn! I just fermented my very first zucchini pickles last Saturday and they are fan-freaking-tastic.

Our Sauerkraut:

One large head of cabbage, about 5 lbs.
3 Tbl of sea salt

Slice cabbage into nice small strips, use a mandolin or slice by hand.

As you chop you can add a tablespoon of salt as you fill up a large bowl. You should have added about 3T of salt by the time the bowl is full, mix up the cabbage, and "punch" it down a bit. You actually want to beat up your vegetable. You can let this sit for an hour or more or put it in your crock or jar right away.

I used a 1/2 gallon jar this year and it worked great. I have a giant wooden pestle from Brazil my friend brought back for me. There it's used to crush sugar cane in their drinks but here in Alaska, we use it for smashing cabbage. Use a wooden spoon if you don't have one or your fist works too, the name on Amazon for the tool I use appears to be a Bar Muddler. Smash your cabbage into the jar. You should have plenty of brine rise up above the cabbage, but if you don't make a salt brine with 4 cups of water to 3 Tbs salt. Heat to dissolve the salt then let it cool before you add it to your cabbage.

This year I made my own fermentation lock lid, it worked pretty well, but I really don't know that it's necessary. If you put it in a jar (put something under to catch the juice) check your kraut after it stops bubbling (abut 3 or 4 days). It should not have molded, try some, you'll like it. If you see moldy stuff, pick it off the top. Fill the jar up with more brine (keep some brine in the fridge) or just shove your kraut back down. Put the kraut in a cool place (I keep mine in my garage) and you can always stick it into the fridge, but it'll keep fermenting and getting better tasting if it's not too cold.

Here's my kraut "posing" for the picture. The fermentation lock was put into the top of a mason jar lid using a 1/2 inch punch and the grommet you can buy with the lock on amazon or at a wine making shop.

There are lots of other methods for fermenting your kraut, but this is what I had so I used it! I ordered myself a Harsch Crock, I'm so excited for it to get here! I have a ton of cabbage this year!

I have cabbage, hear me roar!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Watermelon-Lime Jam

Ever forgot about a watermelon? What a bummer. I decided to turn my forgotten melon (that was past it's yummy prime) into 16 jars of jelly. I highly recommend not waiting 'till after the prime, because even with the addition of the lime that "past prime" taste comes through just a tad, but it's still good. Watermelon is a large, cheap fruit, even in Alaska, and has a very summery taste, so I'm happy to add this jam/jelly recipe to my collection of "must make" every year.

Watermelon-Lime Jam yields 8 pints
12 c watermelon pulp
~Blend the pulp for jam (stick blender time) or strain through cheese cloth or a pillowcase if you want to make jelly with no watermelon seeds. I don't mind little white seeds, so we went with jam. Less work.~
Put your blended watermelon in a pot then add:
2 c lime juice (I used bottled)
15 tsp calcium water (5Tbl)
~Heat to a boil.~
While heating watermelon mix in a bowl:
3 c sugar
12 tsp Pomona Pectin (4Tbl)
~After watermelon boils add sugar and pectin mix. Stir vigoursly for one to two minutes until all dissolved. Return to a boil and remove from heat.

Ladle into hot jars. Adjust 2 piece lids and process in a water-bath canner for 10 minutes.

*Recipe note: When I made mine, I didn't get enough of a jell in my jam, so I increased the recipe I'm posting here, I realized I had not accounted for the extra 2 cups of lime juice, so I think this recipe should work just right.*

Two half pints of watermelon-lime jam.

Taste test time: Watermelon lime tastes like summer. Not so intense like the raspberry rhubarb next to it. Nice and sweet and light with just a tad of kick from the lime. Would be perfect on an English muffin. As you can see it's a light pink and you can see how the spoon sunk down into my jar because I didn't use enough calcium or pectin, so I increased the amount for the recipe listed above.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Zucchini Madness, what to do with 30 beautiful squash?

On Thursday my 9 year old asked me what ironic meant. I tried my best to explain.

On Thursday my 15-year-old's "outside job" was to tend the garden, inspect it, throw out rotten zucchini, thin the carrots, pick me a cabbage and any zucchini that were ready. She brought in about 6 medium to large specimens. I was surprised because the week before my 11-year-old son told me there were no more zucchini to be found. You can tell I don't get out to do many garden inspections.

On Friday my girlfriend who helps at a local farm brought me the market leftovers (I was hoping for broccoli, this is how I have filled my freezer the last two years) but, to my suprise, she brought around 20 medium to large zucchini!

My 9-year-old asked me if that was ironic. I agreed, indeed, that was pretty ironic.

I will NEVER complain, however, about free food! I will adore it, love it, share it and have nightmares dreams about it.

Blogging has helped me get my booty organized in the past, so it's hopefully going to rescue me today. I will blog about how I plan to preserve and cook my abundance and hopefully in the future I can refer back for my own benefit. I always know where the computer is located but I can't always find "that" recipe that I need or can't even remember that I made and loved... I'll be posting things that I am doing and also adding in my friend's ideas they are giving me on facebook today.

My beautiful model with our stack. In this picture the 3 largest have been sliced or grated.

1st thing to do:

Slice it up and dehydrate some.

This is my first year using my dehydrator. I have dehydrated turnips before in my oven, but heaven knows why because we never did like those darn things and I don't know why I thought I'd use the dried up little bits of them in the future. My sister has inspired me with her mad dehydrating skilz this year and I'm ready to try it out!

2 sliced up, 28 to go...

Ready for the dehydrator. It's very warm today so I'll let them soak up the sun for a while first.
Day later update: Here's a very large zucchini shriveled down to a pint jar ready for minestrone soup this winter.

 2nd thing to do:

Skillet Fried Zucchini (fast and easy!)
Cut slices of zucchini thinly. 
Heat generous amount of oil, butter or margarine in a large non stick pan.
Put a teaspoon of minced garlic in the pan, heat it up.
Lay in zucchini slices so they are all in contact with oil.
Liberally salt and pepper zucchini.
After the bottom is nicely seared, flip all slices, cook on the other side only one to two minutes more and serve immediately.
We had rice on the side for dinner. I made about 5 or 6 pans of these and we ALL gobbled them up, they aren't even zucchini lovers but they loved it this way.  

We used some of the massive slices for this recipe from before...28 still to go...

3rd thing to do:

Give some to friends. Most people aren't overwhelmed by three zucchini, but be sure they want them before you give it to them. If they don't have a garden they will typically be thrilled. I left a bag with my goddaughter and karaoke partner last night, I am giving my cousin three today and have three saved for my mom. There should also be a food pantry near you, so remember them as well.  

I have now allotted 12 for other people, that leaves me with 16 to go!

4th thing to do:

Shred some up to make grandma's zucchini bread recipe, this has always been my absolute must with any zucchini. I make this every year even if I have to buy zucchini to do it. The recipe is EXTREMELY moist and is more like a really really good sweet muffin. We all love this.

Zucchini Bread by Grandma Beryl Johnson taken from Algoma Christian School, Kent, MI cookbook, no date printed. Looks like a late 70s early 80s production. (vegan adaptation by me)
3 eggs     (or 3/4 c apple sauce or banana mash)
1 c oil     (or 3/4 c oil and 1/4 c water)
2 c sugar  (or 1 1/2 c)
3 c flour  (I typically do half whole wheat flour)
2 c grated zucchini
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp soda
(1 tsp salt, not sure why salt wasn't in grandma's recipe, but it needs it)
3 tsp cinnamon
3 tsp vanilla
1 c chopped nuts (not for us, but you do as you please)

Beat eggs, add oil slowly while beating. Fold in zucchini, vanilla, then sugar. Fold in dry ingredients. Bake in 2 loaf pans (greased and floured). Bake at 350 for 1 hr.

We shredded up our largest and most deformed zucchini and it yielded 8 cups shredded. Looks like I'll be quadrupling this batch today...if only I had sugar. This bread freezes very nicely. I bake in smaller loaf pans than it suggests, then cool it, then wrap in saran wrap then put in bags with labels. It's a great breakfast bread and it gets gobbled up at coffee hour on Sunday. Don't "save it" like I have done in the past, try to eat it with in about 3 months or the taste changes from the long freezer time.

1 large zuc grated, 15 to go...

5th thing to do:

Ask friends, here's what some of them suggested, they all sound wonderful!

Zucchini Lasagna: Cut in lengthwise slices and replace the noodles with zucchini.Yum!
Slice sourdough bread top with: sliced tomatoes, grated zucchini, basil, season, cheese then broil. Double yum!
Grate into anything: lasagna, spaghetti, hamburgers, meatloaf, white sauce or red sauce. Great tip.
Zucchini relish: I would make this, however, I made about 3 dozen pints 3 years ago, and we're good to go! (it is very good)
Deep fried zucchini: yes please!
Zucchini and potato patties (I'm thinking fried, fritter like, yum!)
Grate it and freeze it. If I do this I put 2 cups shredded into each bag. I don't love that the water separates out from the zucchini, but in bread you don't notice. 
Slice it, blanch it, freeze it. My cousin does this and has a great casserole recipe she cooks it in. I bet this helps the water stay inside the squash, I have not tried this myself.

Another cousin sent me this recipe, looks delicious and so easy...also uses dill, my favorite herb, and I grow it in the garden every year:

Herbed Zucchini Soup 
3 C reduced-sodium chicken broth (or homemade! Yes please!)
1 1/2 lbs. zucchini (about 3 med.), cut into 1-inch pieces
1 T chopped fresh dill (or tarragon) or 1 tsp. dried
3/4 C shredded cheddar cheese (3 oz.)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
Place broth, zucchini and dill (or tarragon) in medium saucepan; bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook, uncovered, until the zucchini is tender. Puree in a blender (or use a stick blender, I love mine for this) until smooth. Return the soup to the pan and heat over medium high, slowly stirring in cheese until it is incorporated. Remove from heat and season with s/p. Serve hot or chilled.

Ideas don't count...15 to go...

6th thing to do:

Eat lunch.

Zucchini Boats aka Zucchini Pizza!

I got the idea for this "zucchini pizza or zucchini boats" from Grad Gastronomy.
For mine I cut a nice straight zucchini in half, scooped out some seeds.
Slathered the top and bottom with olive oil.
Sprinkled with salt.
Filled the void in one of them with cheddar cheese (no mozz cheese in the house).
Then we picked out our meats: one chose pepperoni, another one chose goat hot dogs and I chose salami, hubby chose no meat.
Topped with tomato slices.
Top with salt, pepper, garlic powder and basil.
Now it's in the oven @ 350 for 20 minutes, then I'll add more cheese and broil it. Can't wait....

Finished product. So good! I tried the pepperoni and goat dog sections and they were great too!
One large zuc in my belly, 14 to go...

7th thing to do:

Get ideas from Alaska from Scratch. She even posted her own favorite list for National Zucchini Day.

This is a great food blog and I especially love it because she uses so many foods we can grow, harvest, forage and hunt here in Alaska. She also takes the most adorable pictures, is a pastors wife and a SAHM who has done a fabulous job with her new foodie blogger profession! Here's a short list of the recipes I still want to try. 
Baked Zucchini Fries 
Chocolate Zucchini Cake
Blueberry Zucchini Muffins
Grilled Zucchini Lasagna
Zucchini Cakes

Pictures she took of her zucchini treats, yum!
Still 14 to go...

8th thing to do:

Rub down with olive oil for counter storage. 

I have a great book called Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning. I can't find it at the moment...grr. However, I do remember it saying that if you rub a nice zucchini with olive oil and leave it out on the counter (to keep an eye on it) it will actually keep for a long time this way. I have done this with two and will see how it goes. I'll also pick two and not rub them (I'll pick nice, blemish free ones) and compare them. I'll probably forget to update this blog, so please ask me after a few weeks how this went. I will do my best not to let these go to waste, but I also really want to see for myself if this method works. If so, it may be the answer to the overwhelming feeling 30 zucchini can give.

*One week later update on the banister squash: I found the book, it did say to do this, it also said to rub again when you see mold appear. Today my daughter discovered extensive mold on the bottom of the oiled one in front. I discovered more mold on the second olive oil rubbed one. The olive oil ones also sort of morphed a bit and their color went to a deep green while the two in back stayed virtually the same spotty green. The ones in back (with no oil) also did not mold, but I chickened out today and put them into the fridge as the 3 in the fridge that were allotted for my mom are still just fine. 
I decided to put my zucchini on the banister as I walk past this daily and will be able to see it easily from different sides. The "control" is in the back and not touching each other (not oiled) the oiled zuccs are in the front also not touching.

4 more down 10 to go...

9th thing to do:

Pickle / Ferment some Zucchini into pickles.

I'm a noob to fermenting/pickling so I referred a lot to these sites today to talk me through this:
Learning and Yearning
Cultures of Health
Marks Daily Apple

I decided to go with dill pickles since those are my favorite vinegar pickle. Here's the recipe I came up with after reading these blogs 3x each...

Fermented Zucchini Dill Pickles

Prepare brine:
2 quarts filtered water (non chlorinated)
5 T sea salt

Prepare jars, I'm using 4 quart jars. Into each jar place:

1 heaping tsp minced garlic
1 tsp black pepper corns
3 sprigs dill weed
2 tannin containing leaves (in 2 jars I'll use strawberry and in the other 2 I'll use raspberry, this is what I have on my property, I don't have oak or grape or any of the others I read about)

Ingredients ready to go. Strawberry leaves on yellow plate, raspberry leaves on blue plate. Dill from the farmers market, but I have more growing in my garden. Ended up using another zucchini. I fit one zucchini per quart jar.
Tightly pack jars with spears or rounds of zucchini. I did spears except for in my flip-top jar I did rounds. I also added rounds to the top of each jar for the "weight".
Ready to add the salt brine. On top of each pile of pickles I added another sprig of dill and another set of leaves, then the final "weight" zucchini for the top.

Chose to try two different fermenting "lid" methods. I have a bunch of jars, so I decided to try jar weights on two of them and regular lids on the other two. I didn't tighten them down so they can bubble and ooze out into the pan below. I'll check them in three days, skim any scum and re-add brine to re-fill them.

*Note 5 days later: I ended up closing my flip top lid all the way tight only 2 days after I posted this. I realized they way they are made is to allow air to exit the seal while canning them and not allow air back in. Those pickles looked the best. The two of the top round pickles holding down the zuccs in the other jars looked the worst (a bit moldy) when the brine had overflowed then gone back down. I threw away the moldy top rounds and ate a pickle from under the brine (very good) and added more brine to all 4 jars and put them into my cool garage that stays around 45 or 50 degrees Fahrenheit. From what I have read they will slowly continue to ferment. I'll check them again in a week and add more brine if needed.
5 days later, two of the top rounds were kinda moldy. Definitely check them and add more brine at the 3 day mark. If the brine isn't covering them they will mold.

Used up four on the pickles, 6 to go...

10th thing to do:

Go to church.

Yes, it's time for me to go to church and I think I'm done for the day. I'll throw the remaining 6 into the fridge and I'll try to make lasagna this week with them. I'll may also try this zucchini spread, it looks very good. Until next year when zucchini's slam you in the face.

Stuck the last 6 into the fridge...we're done for today!

*After church tonight my neighbor wanted to trade for some canned salmon. OK! Now we're down to 3! I'll have to choose wisely over the next few days how I use them.

*Week later update: Used 2 for the zucchini lasagna but I skipped the grilling part...not a great idea as zucchini add a LOT of water to your pan and it was soupy lasagna, however, it was very very good! Also made a batch of the zucchini chocolate cake. Will add the rest of the moldy zucc that I rescued from the banister to the Fabulous Borcht I'll be making for company tomorrow.  

Ok, seriously. This is never ending. I have to update this now a week and a half later 8/29/2013.

Sunday my family came over and I made the aforementioned Borscht (it was amazing, it really lives up to it's name). I added a zucchini to it, a new twist, but it was quite good and fit right in. There were NO leftovers *boo hoo*. After our company left I ventured into the garden. I discovered some very large zucchini and commanded my children bring me: my mud boots (I was still in church clothing), a large knife, plastic grocery bags and my jacket. There was work to be done! I worked 'till dark (about 10pm these days) and heard there could be a frost coming so we covered 3 of the plants that had the most babies with a tarp to keep the frost off. There were about 25-35 lbs of zucchini in the tub and some blossoms. We also harvested the rest of the spinach, a lot of broccoli, and 2 grocery bags of mustard greens.

Zucchini the next day.
Monday 8/26/13

We made another double batch of zucchini lasagna. I again added a ton of greens to the sausage, so delicious!

Tuesday 8/27/13

My girlfriend gave me a "recipe" for squash casserole. It was more like she printed a recipe then marked all over it the way she likes to make it...I muddled my way through it and...I had four I'M NOT TELLING helpings and still didn't really want to stop eating. (can you say glutton?)

Amazing Squash Casserole

1 sticks butter
1 c sour cream
1 can cream of mushroom soup (I'm sure any kind would do)
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped (or grated)
1 quart chopped squash (I'm totally guessing here. I chopped about 6 cups worth I think.)
1 lb shredded chicken (this is totally optional, I wanted chicken in mine)
1 TB ranch dressing mix (or one packet)
1 cup cheddar cheese (if desired, I forgot to add it, you could do this instead of chicken)
salt n pepper
1 package Ritz crackers

Heat dutch oven, melt butter. Add onion and carrot, cook 5 minutes. Add squash, salt and pepper. Mix in ranch dressing mix, sour cream, cream of whatever, chicken if desired, cheese if desired, mix it all together.

Smash up the Ritz and sprinkle over the top. I added squash blossoms cut in half to the top as well since I didn't feel like stuffing them. It made it pretty. Bake @ 375 for 30 minutes. I DOUBLED this recipe for our family of 8. There was about 1 cup left over.

The notes on the recipe I based this off of said you can divide this and freeze for later. Great idea! I think I'll make a quad batch on Monday!

Wednesday 8/28/13

Beer battered zucchini...YUM! I was not happy with the recipe I used (I think I used the wrong flour), so I won't post it. But you add enough salt to that stuff and it's awesome! We used up one large one that way. You could try this one, it's very simple, and easy. You can't (usually) go wrong with a beer batter (ok, so don't use corn flour, stick to all purpose and you should be good). You can add dill or paprika to that mix as well and give it more flavor. Also sprinkle with salt when they come out of the oil!!!

Thursday 8/29/13

Double batch of zucchini bread! About half one of the big ones grated made up 4 cups.

Spaghetti for dinner. Yum! It was really good spaghetti too. That took the other half of that squash.


Ok, so I was researching what I would make tomorrow and came across this blog Closet Cooking and her 25 Zucchini Recipes. I think we're soul mates... She makes a lot of Greek and a lot of Mexican dishes! She made roasted zucchini salsa...I have always wanted to do that!!! I will be reading for a few hours now...I gotta go.

This was tonight when I thought I'd better double check and found these four bad boys and a little pip squeak in my pocket (along with some peas and broccoli). I also sold a goat baby today, yippie!