Saturday, October 31, 2015

Today I am making a carrot cake to take to my Master Gardeners’ book club meeting tomorrow. I brought in fresh carrots from the garden and I had purchased black walnuts from the Amish Farm last week.

I used my mom’s recipe for carrot cake.  She made them every Christmas and sometimes for my birthday.  It is my very favorite cake.  I top it with caramel icing that is a pain in the butt to make but so very worth the effort.

The chore I dread most making this delicious cake is getting it out of the bundt pan.  I larded it this time and floured it thoroughly.  I took a deep breath as I upturned the pan.  I spanked it a few times and left it to cool a little longer.  When I went back to dump it out I lost a couple of pieces.  I pieced it back together and ate the crumbs.  I think I put too much clove in this time but it tasted pretty good nonetheless. 

The food processor that wouldn’t die made it through shredding the carrots and will live to process another day.  I did notice that I have broken off one of the hinges that hold it together but it worked anyhow.  Thanks again Diane and Jeff.

I just realized that I don’t have any milk to make my icing and am so very bummed.  With this face of bruises I am not going out.  I have milk powder but I am afraid that it will ruin the frosting.  I’m going through my list of friends and neighbors to figure out who to ask.  The hubster is working and I don’t want to disturb him.

I wrote this a week ago and forgot to go back and finish it.  The hubster brought me milk the next day and I finished my lovely cake.

I made it to the Master Gardener Book Club meeting and shared my treasure of a cake.  I sent home a piece for each of their husbands.  That left me a piece and the hubster one piece.  He gave me half of his, wasn’t that nice of him?  He has his days.

A couple of weeks ago I came across this recipe for Caramel Apple Jam.  Those of you who know me know that I am a freak for caramel.  Not the chewy kind but the melt in your mouth buttery kind.  I tucked away the recipe thinking, “Christmas presents.”

I was in Brodhead, Wisconsin recently and stopped by the local produce market.  They had the usual pumpkins, potatoes and apples.  I purchased a nice looking bag of Mackintosh apples.  I wanted a little tart to my jam so I got two Granny Smith apples to add.

The recipe called for three pounds of apples.  I took the bag to my bathroom scale and weighed it.  Two pounds.  I took it upstairs to the better scale and that scale wouldn’t register it at all.  Confound it!

I decided that the bag and the two big Granny Smiths were about three pounds.  I got out the food processor that wouldn’t die (thank you again Diane) and went to work.  I did one apple at a time and sprinkled it with lemon juice.  (The recipe didn’t call for it but I added it because a little lemon juice adds to everything.)  I didn’t want my apples to turn brown while I was prepping more apples.

The recipe called for half cup of water and half teaspoon of butter.  Seemed like so little liquid for so many apples.  I ended up with half a big pot of apples.  I wanted to cook them today so I could make the jam at a later date.  Again this is why I added the lemon juice.

I realized that the recipe called for dry powdered fruit pectin and I only had the liquid stuff.  I got it the next day when I was in town.

Yesterday, I settled down to making Caramel Apple Jam.   Before I started, I admit I did add a couple of tablespoons of water.  I got my jars all ready to go into the washer.  I had forgotten that my sink had gone on the fritz a couple of days ago and I couldn’t use the kitchen faucet to get the water hot to start the dishwasher.

I ran the hot water in the bathroom next door hoping that would get the water hot.  It did not.  I had to boil water to dump the jars into before I used them.  At least they were clean.  Things like this put me in awe of women in our past who used to can hundreds of jars of food with no running water and no range in the kitchen.  Just the old wood stove and their practical knowledge.

I did notice in my pot that the Granny Smiths had not turned very brown but were still quite white.  Note to self and on the recipe for future use.  Maybe try all Granny Smiths with just a couple of Macks.

The process went well.  The jam came out lovely and all of my jars sealed.  The person who wrote the recipe said they got six jars and a little extra.  I got two pints, five jelly jar sized jars and two squatty jelly jars and a little leftover.  I figure that is about 98 ounces of jam, which is about six pints and a little left over.

I am planning to save my little jams and surprise some folks at Christmas (holiday) time.

PS  The hubster and I had some on vanilla ice cream after dinner last night.  He gave me a thumbs up.  It was very tasty.  I include the recipe:

Caramel Apple Jam
6 cups apples, diced and peeled (1/8 inch cubes, roughly – this takes about three pounds of whole apples)
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon butter
1 package (1.75 ounces) powdered fruit pectin
2 1/2 cups sugar
2 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Peeling and dicing the apples is really easy if you have an apple peeler/corer/slicer, something we found at a yard sale a few years ago for $1. You just stick the apple on it, turn the handle (easy enough my three year old daughter can do it), and the device peels the apple, removes the core, and puts a big spiral slice in that apple.
After that, you just have to chop the apple in the opposite direction to get the nice small pieces you need for the jam.
In a pan, combine the apples with the 1/2 cup of water and 1/2 teaspoon butter. Cook this over low heat for an hour or so, stirring regularly, until the apples are soft.
At first, it will seem impossible that these dry-seeming apples and this little bit of water will ever combine with all of that sugar to make any kind of liquid jam. What will happen is that slowly, the apples will begin to give off liquid and, as the apples get soft, you’ll have about as much liquid as apple in the pan.
When the apples are getting soft, you should get the boiling pot going. Put a towel on the bottom, then add water until your jars would be covered by two inches. Turn on the heat and get the water boiling!
Once the apples are nice and soft (use your own judgment – you don’t want them to be really crisp in the jam, after all, but some soft chunks are delicious), add the pectin, stir it in, then bring the whole mix up to a rolling boil.
Then, add the sugar. This is a fun part, because it all becomes a very thick liquid as you stir it. Bring it back to a rolling boil (and be careful here, it can splatter). Stir it constantly and let it boil for one minute.
Remove the jam from the heat, then add the jam to the jars with a spoon until there’s a quarter of an inch between the top of the jam and the top of the jar. Clean off the rim of the jar, put a lid on it, then put a ring on top of that, turning the ring until you just begin to feel resistance. Repeat until you’re out of jam (we made six jars, with a bit left over to have immediately on toast).
Take these closed jars and put them in the big pot of boiling water. Keep the water boiling and leave the jars in there for ten minutes, then pull them out. Put the jars on a towel with a couple inches free space around each jar. Let the jars sit for 24 hours to cool and make sure after the cooling that the lids are depressed (meaning if you push down in the middle, it doesn’t “click” – if it does, the jar needs to go).
And there you have it – wonderful jars of delicious apple jam!

Monday, October 12, 2015

Today’s retirement adventure I could really do without.  I threw my back out of place yesterday after we finished shooting part of the Movie.  I was changing in the bathroom and stepped into my pants and there it went.  Kerplunk!  I made it home all right but in the night I got up to use the restroom and it went kerplunk again and I fell into the sink.  I have a lovely black eye.  I certainly hope it is better before Sunday when we finish shooting the movie.

The movie shoot went well.  We worked from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.  Long day for me and it just got worse and worse.

We started at the University Of Illinois College Of Medicine.  They loaned us the facility for the morning.  I got into my hospital gown and crawled up onto the gurney.  It was hard as a brick and the back started its move into discomfort.  We did quite a few run throughs and then started the camera and sound.  I moaned and groaned and I was complimented on how miserable I acted.  (Little did they know?)

We broke down the equipment and went to lunch at Jimmy Johns.  I know I swore I would never eat there and I never will again.  Cold sandwich and it wasn’t even that good.  I ran Elenita and her mom, Kimberley, home to fetch their vehicle.  Then we drove to the director’s home where we would continue the shoot.

We did a shoot outside of my coming home from the nursing home.  It was such a glorious day.

I got into my robe and gown and slippers and we began the shoot.  We did a couple of hallway scenes where I sat in the wheelchair.  Then we did a couple of scenes in the bedroom.  I had to be helped into the wheelchair and on the first try I almost slipped and the back kicked into discomfort.

We picked up and packed equipment and then took a photo of the cast and crew.  I made my way home squirming the whole way.  The back was definitely out of whack.

I didn’t eat much dinner but had a couple of stiff drinks and went to bed.  I had to get up and I just can’t believe I fell.  It hurt like a banshee.

Got up this morning to go work at the front gate but I started crying and I tried lying on the floor to get my back cracked back into shape.  It did not work.  I texted my co-worker and told her I couldn’t make it and she said she would go.  Bless her heart.  Then my other co-worker called me and I couldn’t stop myself from crying.  She wanted to do something to help me and I almost asked her to come down and walk on my back.

As I sit here typing I have an ice pack on and a couple of pain pills in my system.  I am going to try the lying on the floor again and see if it helps.

I will keep you informed about the movie.  It is so exciting!

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Today’s subject – kitchen accidents.  The Jessie dog wants to be right next to me ALL the time.  When I cook I open the cupboard door and put a stool by it to block her from coming into the kitchen because I am convinced that someday there will be a horrible accident and either she or I will be so very sorry.

Of course, she can just go into the living room and around the hall and into the kitchen from the other side and she sometimes does that.  So far the worst accident has been me dropping food and her eating it.  The hubster once dropped an entire fresh from the grill pork chop and the blasted dog ate it bone and all.  I pick up her poop and I don’t remember that one.  (Thank goodness!)

When I was little my mom always had a parakeet.  (Not knowing I am allergic to birds, and they thought all along that I had asthma.)  Her parakeets would come into the kitchen and bathe in the sink while my mom washed the dishes.  They would also sit in her lap when she stringed beans and eat the strings.  One of the parakeets, Stinker, Chico or Stinker Two even learned to talk and would say my sister’s name.

My mom would open their cage a couple of times a day and they could fly free in the house.  Usually they only were in the living room and kitchen.  When Stinker Two was pretty old he flew into the kitchen and made a head dive right into my mom’s cast iron skillet.  End of Stinker Two and of having birds in the house.

It didn’t matter because I was sleeping in a feather bed on feather pillows. My family tried to kill me as a child.

In the 1960’s the comic BC was pretty popular.  The local gas stations gave you a BC glass with every fill up.  We had several of these glasses.  They were narrower at the top than the bottom.  My mom had had surgery and my dad was doing the dishes.  One of the BC glasses broke and cut the crap out of the web of his hand.

When Addi was little and just barely walking, Rick and I took an evening off and went out for dinner.  He had a dozen oysters and I thought I’d bring one home for Addi to see.  I wanted to teach her so much.  And that brain of hers wanted to know so much.  Well she was excited to see the oyster shell and tried to eat it.  Not being able to eat it the newness wore off pretty fast.  She took a couple of steps and stepped on the shell cutting her foot pretty badly.  What’s wrong with me?  Well she recovered but didn’t really like sea food for most of her childhood.

When Jess was barely walking she tottered into the kitchen and right into the edge of the lid to our electric frying pan.  I don’t think she bled at all but it left a neat little white nick right beside her nose.  She carried that scar for quite some time.

I once set a fry pan on fire.  I grabbed the baking soda and put it out in no time but still have a dark spot on one of my cupboards.

When Addi was in college she lived in the German house for a year.  There were diplomats coming from Germany to visit the campus and so the German house was putting on a big dinner party.  Addi invited me down and I made my sauerbraten to take to share.
We got all set up to cook and sure enough, Addi cut her hand so badly she couldn’t help cook.  She stood aside and gave instructions quite well, thank you very much.

I am in the kitchen so much that I have kitchen accidents all the time.  Slip in grease on the floor, done that.  Cut my thumb, hand, arm – yes I have done that also.  I also frequently cut off my fingernails.  Those of you who know me know I don’t have fingernails.  So that is an especially hurtful accident.

I have burned myself, forgotten the sugar in a cookie recipe, and substituted stuff you just wouldn’t believe.  (Think rabbit tacos.)  Not really.  But I have threatened hot dog fried rice before.  (I hate hot dogs.)

But without accidents in the kitchen I am sure food would be boring. There’d be no peanut butter and jelly, no gingersnaps in gravy, no vinegar pies.  I’m sure all these things happened by accident.

Yesterday’s accident was my making a recipe for the second time and adding chopped tomatoes to it.  Stuffed peppers with chorizo and rice.  They were fabulous.  And I didn’t even cut off one fingernail.

Photo:  we are having big ass salad for dinner tonight.

Monday, October 5, 2015

In my last blog I mentioned The Food Processor That Wouldn’t Die.  It is just the most fabulous kitchen aide there has ever been.

I first met this machine when I borrowed it from neighbor and friend, Diane, because I wanted to make cherry tomato spaghetti sauce and didn’t have a processor.  I used it one day and took it back to her.  I gave her some sauce to thank her.  The sauce used the entire cherry tomato.  We ate it but the seeds bother us now that we are older so I don’t make the sauce any longer.

I forget why I borrowed the processor the next time but I believe the third time I borrowed it Diane gave it to me.  She pointed out that it had a crack in the spindle and her husband had purchased her a new one.  It was now mine.  I think it has been at least ten years if not more that I have had old faithful.

I have grated zucchini, cheese, carrots, and potatoes.  I have spun sauces and pestos.  I could probably put some rocks in it and grate them up.  But I don’t want to push my luck.

A couple of years ago the spindle puked.  There was the nastiest black gunk ooze out of the crack.  I thought for sure that my precious food processor was done for.  But no – I cleaned it up with some soap and water and it was just fine.

I swear every time I take it out of the cupboard, I think to myself, “will this be the last time?”  I thought for sure those darn ginger snaps would do the thing in.  They weren’t hard eating them.  I don’t know why they were such hell to break up.

I am so very happy to have the Food Processor That Wouldn’t Die.  I don’t know what I would do without it.  (Probably go out and buy a new one.)

My adventure this week is making one of my favorite German meals – sauerbraten.  I am using the recipe from my Betty Crocker International Cookbook, which I think is an excellent cookbook.  I got my book out to make my marinade and noticed that I have to have gingersnaps.  I had forgotten that.  I decided to make homemade ginger snaps.  I have been trying to avoid preprocessed packaged food as much as possible.

I got my gingersnap recipe from my Betty Crocker Cookbook as the international one didn’t have a recipe.  I put them together and threw in some real grated ginger root.  I also didn’t have shortening on hand so I used some butter and lard.  (Well I had it on hand.)

The cookies came out delicious but sort of melted too much.  Second batch I made a little thicker. Lesson learned.  Next time I will break down and go get the shortening.  The house smells fantastic and the meat is marinating in the fridge.  I marinate it for three days.  The regular cookbook calls to marinate it for two hours.  That is so very wrong.

The reason for the sauerbraten is that we are invited to an Octoberfest on Sunday and I wanted to bring the sauerbraten as I am sure of lot of my friends have not tried it before.  I think most people order generic German food if dining at a German restaurant.

I also picked up one of my favorite wines to take to the party.  It is Zeller Swarze Katz (Black Cat) and it is so delicious.  I don’t buy it often so it will be an especially wonderful treat.
And it is now Sunday and the day of the Octoberfest.  The roast came out wonderful.  I made the gravy and had a heck of a time with those gingersnaps.  I first tried them in a ziplock bag and rolling pen.  Then I tried my heavy duty meat pounding tool.  The hubster said to use the food processor but I really didn’t want to wash it.  I own the Food Processer that will not die.  That is another blog sometime.

Got out the food processor and again it work a charm.  After about three minutes on high there was still a piece of cookie.  I ate it -- after I dipped it in the gravy makings.  It was great!   So I am adding my flour and water and brown sugar and I am wondering who in the heck thought up this recipe.

This is my theory.  This nice German wife was pissed off at her husband.  She decided that Sunday she would cook his favorite pot roast but she would spice it up and he was never going to eat it again.  She thought to herself, “I will start by marinating it in vinegar for one, no two, no three days!  I’ll put in all these seasonings and just leave it for three days.  After which I will take the vinegar and make gravy and I will put in a banana.  No cookies.  Yes, I’ll put in cookies.  This is going to be so much fun.”

And the German wife made the roast and the husband loved it so much he made love to the German wife so well that she forgave him entirely for whatever had pissed her off to begin with.  And they lived happily ever after and had sauerbraten for dinner every Sunday.

I realize that while I have been daydreaming, the gravy is starting to thicken, quickly.  I have a teaspoon in my hand and that is all I have to stir with.  I hurriedly try to find my whisk and the hubster comes to my rescue with a bigger spoon.  He has dried the whisk and put it in the wrong place and I want to kick him but he saved my gravy so I resist the urge. 

The roast is cut up and warming in the crock pot for the party today.  I cannot wait.  My good friend, Nancy, is making German potato salad and this meal is going to be great! 

Meanwhile back at the ranch.  The party was so much fun.  There were at least five kinds of sauerkraut dishes.  My sauerbraten went over well.  Nancy didn’t show but friend, Lauri, made the German potato salad and it was marvelous. 

I saw so many friends and got to talk and catch up with them.  Even friends, Lorraine and Vicky, who are usually working, came and relaxed and had a great time.

We had a fire going in the fireplace and I kept it rolling.  Love me a good fire!  We mostly sat at a picnic table in front of the fire.  We sampled a couple of kinds of German wine.  And we ate on and off.

The guitars were brought out and the singing began.  Friend Gary who we NEVER see out and about sang first.  He is getting forgetful and forgot some lyrics but friends sitting next to him kept him on track.

Friend, Lauri, got the guitar and did a couple of her tunes that she wrote.  Joe Clark, as always, kept the songs going.  He has a song book that is three ring binder and it is full of old tunes.  We sang Garden Party by Ricky Nelson which is one of my favorites.  He played Anticipation and had me sing it.

Unfortunately, the hubster wasn’t feeling his best and we left around 4:30.  But I am so thrilled that I got to spend some quality time with a lot of my very best friends.

Life is good.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Yesterday friend, Garnet Smith, and I decided to go kayaking again.  She arrived around 10:00 and we took off for the Southgate Marina.  As we were putting in, a fishing boat with a couple told us that it was pretty rough out on the water and to be careful.  We tooled out past the boat ramps and sure enough we started getting some wave action.  The wind had really picked up and we were too busy chatting to notice.  We stayed out about ten minutes and we decided to go back to the marina.

Well gosh, we had planned to have another adventure.  What were we to do?  We loaded up the kayaks and hopped into her truck.  I had forgotten that her driver’s side window didn’t work.  She rolled down mine and when I went to roll it up at the gas station it quit working too.  Garnet loves it that I broke her window and now have to repair it.  Right!

I asked if she had been to that forest preserve near Winnebago and she hadn’t.  We got gas and took off some of the extra clothing we had worn and took off on our unknowing adventure.

I kept my eye out for the sign for the forest preserve but didn’t see one.  We took Route 2 south and drove west from there.  I laughed and said we must look pretty funny driving around where there is not much water with two kayaks in the back of the truck.  We came to a crossroads and I saw the sign I had been looking for.  It said “Severson Dells Forest Preserve”.  We had found it!

Garnet drove right past the sign.  It was the first turn around for us that day.  There would be two more.

We turned around and  while driving through the preserve Garnet realized that she had been here before and had hiked the trails.  We just drove through and didn’t stop.  I guess neither one of us was up to hiking.

Talking on the way we both admitted that we would like to go through a corn maze.  We decided to drive to Edward’s Apple Orchard and walk through theirs.

While driving back I noticed that we passed Montague Road and told Garnet that we were going the wrong way.  She didn’t think so.  I told her we had gone south, then west, then north and now we were going west again.  She told me not to get distressed that she knew where she was going.  Then out of the blue she turns south.  I’m like going nuts because I ABSOLUTELY know that we are not going in the right direction.

About that time we pass a sign that says, “Corn Maze”.  I burst with laughter and tell Garnet that it was like fate that brought us to this corn maze.  We made our second turn around and head back to the corn maze sign.  We turn to the east this time.

I had remembered reading about this corn maze years ago.  I always wanted to go through it.  It is close to Byron, IL where the nuclear power plant is located.  I hate Byron, Il. Because I hate nuclear power.  (Where are we going to put all this waste and protect the Earth?  No where, assholes!)

Back to the corn maze.  We drive this road and see no sign for the corn maze.  We did see a bunch of Baptists in a cornfield that is the future home of their church.  We drive on and come to Byron, Il which I hate by the way.  We turn into a gas station and we go in and ask where the corn maze is.  The lady behind the counter isn’t sure and asked the customer behind us if he knows where the corn maze is.  Sure enough it was the Baptists.
Driving back to the corn maze, Garnet is singing “what a friend we have in Jesus.”  She swears that if it is the Baptists’ place she is not going in.  “They will trap us in there and try to convert us,” she declares.
I reply, “Just say no.”
We come upon the Baptists and Garnet drives right past.  I tell her it is our fate that we go through this corn maze and then I start singing corn maze to the tune of rag mop.  She reminds me that I broke her window and I wonder if that was fate also.
She drives a little further and turns around for the third time that day.  I am amazed that she turns around front of car first.  I always turn around back of car first. I back in and then pull out.

Back we go to the Baptist corn maze.  She drives past it again and pulls into the road that is right beyond.  I’m laughing saying we should drag the kayaks over and tell them we want to go through the corn maze with them.  She says she hopes the Baptist don’t steal the kayaks while we are in the corn maze.

We meet this really nice guy who is a Baptist and he tells us that they have walkie talkies and if we get lost they will come get us.  He didn’t offer us a walkie talkie.  He pointed to the tree line and said if we get disoriented to look for the tree line.  There was also one of those alert sirens sticking up to help us orient.  It is probably for when that nuclear power plant shuts down.  I’m kind of looking forward to growing another head or arm.  I could actually use another arm.

Our Baptist friend gave us a form and a pencil.  There are clues all around the corn maze and if we can answer three out of five we will get a free apple cider or hot chocolate.  The subject is superheroes so we are out of the running because neither of us are fans.  We are our own superheroes.  She for beating cancer twice and me, because I am retired.

We enter the maze and are amazed.  The sound is so very nice.  The wind that we hadn’t noticed this morning is blowing the corn and it is like a symphony.  A corn symphony.  I start singing, “Baby I’m Amazed.”  Garnet is still having a friend in Jesus.

We came to the first “Y” in the road and I had to recite Two Roads Diverged and I blah, blah, blah.  I figured it was called the right for a reason.  I took the lead and every time I stopped and turned to talk to Garnet she was right behind me with her head down and almost ran into me.  There were a lot of really unique stones on the ground and we commented on them.  At the next “Y” junction I told Garnet to decide and she took the lead.  At that point I decided to mark the paths that we trod.  I took one of those lovely rocks and put it at the “Y”.

I caught up with Garnet and told her wouldn’t she just crap if she turned around and I wasn’t there.  She’d been scared, I know she would.  We made a couple more turns and I marked each path with a stone or an “X” of cornstalks.  Wind will probably blow them away.

Garnet said she had found something and I eagerly followed her to whatever she had discovered.  It was the first clue sheet.  I had been looking for paper hanging out in the corn or under the rocks and there was this podium with a typed message and Plexiglas to keep it from getting wet.

The subject was Superman and I rocked the clues.  I had been such a Superman fan my whole entire life.  Christopher Reeve’s picture is on my bulletin board still to this day.  Where did Perry White work?  Check.  What city was it in?  Check.  Garnet was amazed to see what I knew about Superman.  I’m not sure I got his real name correct.  I sometimes confused it with his father’s.  I just checked and I got it right.  Kal-el.

We managed to find three of the five stations of clues.  We didn’t do very well with them and I realized that I had put my Superman answers on the wrong number site.  Oh well, no cider for us.

After singing “Valderie, valderah” for a while we decided we had enough of the corn maze.  I sighted the trees and we made our way back from which we had come and came out the entrance.  Ta da!

Our friendly Baptists welcomed us back to the real world.  We had found a set of keys out in the corn maze and gave them to the Baptists.  Garnet said she could have had a new car today but for my big mouth.  And the windows would work.
The Baptist gentleman explained how he created the maze and even gave us a map.  He got a chuckle out of the fact that we came out through the entrance.  He didn’t seem to appreciate my navigational skill.

We ended our day in Pecatonica where we had a snack at the little basement restaurant in town.  We had taken the kayaks for a joy ride.  Just two girls, two kayaks and two broken windows.

And when she got to my house she didn’t pull into the driveway.  She said she didn’t want to back out and hit something with the kayaks in the truck.  I had forgotten about them.  That is why she turned around frontwards – to protect the kayaks.  Awww!