Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Outdoor Canning Kitchen

I’ve always dreamed of having one of those outdoor kitchens. You know, the kind in the Better Home Than Yours magazines. My outdoor kitchen would be part of my imaginary wrap around deck with a double extra deep sink, cupboards to keep all my outdoor cooking equipment, and a huge gas grill with burners for big pots of whatever my fancy happened to be. Also in my little fantasy would be an ever-helpful-smiling child, chickens that stayed in their own yard, and dogs that did the dishes. But seeing as these things just aren’t going to happen….I decided to take things into my own hands. I built me my very own outdoor kitchen. Practical? Yes. Pretty. No. But it did allow me to can and pressure cook outdoors all summer and fall.

Three canopies, four 6’ folding tables, two propane burners (the kind you fry the thanksgiving turkey with), and a utility sink I got at a yard sale for $3 hooked up to the garden hose. Voila! Instant kitchen!

It didn’t take long for me to figure out how brilliant it is to can outdoors. Table gets dirty? Scrape everything on the ground and call the chickens! Jams, pickles, salsas, green beans, you name it – it was canned outside.

Then, sometime in August, we invited friends to a peach canning party. Five families canned 450 pounds of peaches! The best part? The waste of 450 pounds of peaches stayed completely outside! No peach juice running down my arm onto the linoleum floor with my feet sticking with every movement!

Shortly after peach season, hurricane Irene came through our part of the country. My favorite farmer called me a couple days before the storm to inform me that if I needed tomatoes to can, come and get them, otherwise there’d be none after the hurricane. "Ok, 150 pounds should do it, no problem", I say to myself. Not even realizing how much work would be piling up. That same day, my friend with a Pippin apple tree called to tell me her tree had already started dropping the apples. We decided they would not make it through the storm and picked them all. These apples do not keep long after picked, perhaps because they’re not sprayed? Not sure. Hurricane Irene rolled in, knocking the power out for days but that didn't stop us.

We peeled, cored, sliced and canned apples. Then we moved onto making tomato sauce and jarring that up, and WHAT? The upstairs freezer defrosted by the end of day 2 without power! We canned EVERYTHING in the upstairs freezer. Ground beef, chicken, sausage, buttermilk, lemon juice, ALL the veggies all went into soup jars. We worked hard and fast, but saved everything from being thrown away.

The season went from emergency canning back to regular canning. Our area farmer’s winter squash crops were having trouble – no keepers. The squashes were all spotty and in order to keep any, we’ve had to can them. Pumpkins and butternut squash were stuffed into jars this year.

The ‘squirrel’ season is over. The jars are all full. Canning season is never over, especially now that I don’t trust the freezer anymore.

The outdoor canning kitchen has been put away for this season. The only evidence of my extra room is the spotty lawn from the boiling over pots and beaten paths. Who needs grass anyway?

Enjoy the day -Wonderwoman

This post linked to the Homestead Barn Hop @

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Time + Dirt = Food

Time is one of those things that we never seem to have enough of, but with a little planning and some dirt you can invest your time NOW and thank yourself later this summer when the food pays off.

One of the many blessings of being a Keeper of the Home is to get to those things that many of us "never get around to"; like starting seeds at the right time of year so that they're ready to be planted at...planting time.

In years past I would simply forget about the garden until May OR the first sunny warm day and make a mad rush to the local garden center. One can quickly run up a big bill purchasing vegetable and flower plants that you can easily grow yourself with a little planning.
Our tomato, pepper, kale, lettuce, collards, and swiss chard seeds get started February 1st no matter what the weather is outside. It took me years to get this done at the right time; finally it occurred to me instead of mentally kicking my own butt for not getting it done when it should have been done - AGAIN - I simply took my calendar, turned to the last page and wrote myself a schedule for the following year. December of that year, I looked at the note to self (thinking how clever that thoughtful woman was to remind me) and scheduled it on the brand new calendar.

One can't go back in time, but you can start from where you are today. Today, my zone 6 calendar is marked to plant cucumber, squashes and sunflower seeds in our sunroom. Once they've sprouted I'll be carting the flats outside during the day and bring them in at sunset until the second or third week of May. The calendar is constantly being refined and polished to make thing go smoother for the following year. A new addition to the 2012 calendar is to get my sweet potato slips going a LOT earlier. They take FOR-E-VER to get going! When the mark is missed for seasonal chores, I just go the last page of my calendar and write a note to the future me...who is hopefully wiser as well as older. Enjoy the day -Wonderwoman

Friday, February 4, 2011

Bad Dogs Do Stuff Like This

The one sided conversation went like this:

"Eve, are you on the TABLE?"

"Bad dog."

She's not really a bad dog, she just does bad things.
Enjoy the day -Wonderwoman

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie - From Frozen Strawberries!

So good - it's gone! A winter project that I'm working on the little one with is making perfect pie dough on her own....blind folded and hands behind the back...or so it may seem to her. I know it takes a lot of effort to make pie after pie after pie (and eating all those pies - poor thing), but we're committed to the project. The challenge is that we're still cooking out of our pantry and freezer for the month of February, but there are plenty of blueberries and strawberries in the big freezer.

One family can only make and eat so many blueberry pies, so we thought we'd do some research and make pies with the strawberries. There also just happened to be a bag full of our garden rhubarb in the freezer, so why not strawberry rhubarb pie in the middle of winter? It seems like I may be the only person out there with that thought because I couldn't find any info on using frozen berries for this pie, so we decided to wing it. The results are here to be shared and were absolutely wonderful! Hands down one of the best pies we've made yet.

Here's the recipe if you happen to have frozen strawberries and rhubarb:

About 8 -10 cups of frozen strawberries, thawed and drained (reserve juice for smoothies)
About 2 cups of frozen rhubarb, thawed and drained
1/2 c coconut sugar
1/3 c agave nectar
1 T lemon juice
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 c tapioca
pie crust recipe for top and bottom crust (we used Martha's pate brisee but used white spelt, no sugar and 1/4 c plus 2 T ice water)

Mix the above ingredients together, brush the top of the pie with an egg yolk mixed with water, and bake for 20 minutes in a 400 degree oven. Reduce oven temperature to 350 and bake for another 25-30 minutes. Keep an eye on the edges of the pie crust and cover with foil if it starts to get too brown.

Life is short. Make your own pie crust. Do extra crunches and repeat as necessary.

Enjoy the day -Wonderwoman

Monday, January 24, 2011

Meal Plan Monday 1-24-11 & Butternut Squash Biscuits

The last couple weeks I've had a chance to get caught up on reading my favorite blogs and browsing through the wonderful journals of simple living and exciting kitchen adventures.

There seemed to be a common theme among the dozens of sites I like to read: getting back on track now that the holidays are over AND pinching pennies by planning menus around the freezer and pantry.

Life here is no different. It's nice to get back on track...into a routine. Routine is good. As far as planning meals around the pantry to save money, well, we planned for it last summer with all of the canning and food preserving we did.

Every year I will pinpoint one thing we did and be very thankful for it. Last winter it was the canned peppers. I just LOVE to dump a jar of peppers into a stew, chili or sauce, so much that we canned twice the amount this year.

This winter I am VERY thankful for butternut squash. Did you know that you can sleep better with a basement full of butternut squash? Oh, they were a pain in the garden.

In fact, they were the playground bullies of the garden trying to take over and plow everything else down. But I'd do it all again just for these little beauties:

Butternut Squash Biscuits - Yum!

Here is our menu for this week:

Breakfasts: Sausage Pancake Muffins, Knock Your Socks Off Bread w/ Cream Cheese, Eggs (the girls just started laying again) & Toast.

Lunches: Leftovers and/or Salad

Weekend Dessert: Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

Monday Dinner:
Chili left over from the weekend AND Butternut Squash Biscuits

Tuesday Dinner:
Venison Steaks & Butternut Squash Casserole (this recipe, but I'm going to use butternut)

Wednesday Dinner:
Black Bean Burgers & Salad

Thursday Dinner:
Mexican Rice Casserole

Friday Dinner:
Chicken Enchiladas w/ homemade tortillas

Saturday Dinner:
Leftovers with Refried Beans & Homemade chips (from the homemade tortillas)

Sunday Dinner:
Turkey Dinner and we'll sneak in some butternut squash too!

This menu is posted for participation in Meal Plan Monday. Check out the other great menus!

Enjoy the day -Wonderwoman

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Winter Salads

Don't you miss those summertime salads? I sure do. Winter salads are always a disappointment to me because of produce that is tasteless, shipped from far away, and coated with WHO knows what! But salads are a great way of balancing out the week's calories due to all the comfort food bubbling on the stove or crockpot this time of year. Salad night can be exciting even in the winter. A little creativity is all that is needed.

Romaine lettuce is my lettuce of choice for winter salads. It hold up really well and stays fresh looking much longer than other lettuces. Did you know that romaine lettuce is a very nutritious lettuce, full of nutrients and not just water?

I like to chop romaine lettuce into shreds instead of tearing it like the usual leaf lettuces. Believe it or not, that is the only vegetable I spend money on for winter salads....well, onions or scallions BUT that's about it. It's the other toppings that make this salad a meal.

Homemade feta hangs in the kitchen.

Homemade feta cheese, black beans, and croutons straight from the skillet are family favorites for salads this time of year. Toss with apple cider vinegar dressing, garlic mustard dressing or caesar salad dressing and you have a beautiful and nutritious winter salad.

Blissville Living Caesar Salad Dressing
2 egg yolks from chickens you know
1/2 lemon, squeezed
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 tsp naturally fermented tamari
1 tsp anchovy paste
3 cloves of crushed garlic
olive oil

Get out a big bowl and whisk the egg yolks until they are thick (this is a good form of kitchen aerobics). Get a helper to drizzle olive oil into the bowl as you continue to whisk OR just be a super woman and figure out how to hold the bowl still, whisk like mad AND drizzle the oil into the bowl yourself. Add enough oil to cover the size of the salad you've made...this ranges every time I make it but the dressings always come out yummy. Whisk so that the mixture looks like mayonaise. Slowly add the other ingredients as you continue to whisk. Pour over salad and toss!

Check out
Homestead Revival's recipe exchange and help spice up your winter salads.

Enjoy the day -Wonderwoman

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Morning Show

I'm not one to stay in bed in the morning - EVER. Which really annoys my husband on weekends. Why? I'm not sure. It's not as if I'm making him get up. I love to get up early and have time alone in the morning. Time to sip my coffee, pet the cats and browse recipes on the internet. While refilling my coffee cup in the kitchen, God blessed me with the beautiful sunrise posted above. Now why stay in bed when you can see a show like that?

Life is short. Enjoy each sunrise like it was painted just for you!

Enjoy the day -Wonderwoman