My Cooking Exploitz

So I decided to do the battle of the jams. I have been going through my new cookbook “Food in Jars” and I found a lovely peach jam that I really wanted to try. My mother just gave me a whole bunch of ripe peaches from her last excursion to the fruit stand, and I think I have enough to do both types of jams that I have recipes for.

1) Freezer Jam

My mothers grandmother got this freezer jam recipe from a neighbor in New Kensington, which is on the outskirts of Pittsburgh. Both my parents grew up there. We mostly use it to make strawberry jam. Many people have told me that her jam could be used as a currency in lieu of cash, and I’m pretty sure this jam is what got me on my in-laws good side the first time I went there for dinner. I…

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So I have discovered a new book I absolutely adore! It’s called “Food In Jars” by Marisa McClellan. We found the book at Cracker Barrel and I won it by right of my sister couldn’t fit it in her luggage to go back to New Zealand. Any hoodles, I am already planning to use several recipes as money-savings Christmas presents! My husband and I can’t afford many presents, so we usually do cookies and scones. Problem is, so does the rest of his family. His grandmother alone usually makes more than seven dozen cookies and distributes them to the masses. All I can usually have time for is snicker doodles and chocolate chip. She does blossoms, snow balls, jam prints, chocolate chip, etc. You get the point. We still had a plate from her alone several months later in our freezer, but I digress.

Food in Jars is nice in that it provides canning for SMALL AMOUNTS of food or produce. Most of my recipes yield several large jars, but I don’t always have enough from the garden to warrant a full-scale weekend of battle canning. For me, Battle Canning is when my mother-in-law and my mother both come over for a whole weekend and we do nothing but can huge quantities of whatever the star recipe is (my mother-in-law usually does the spaghetti sauce recipe, and that is the biggest pot I have ever seen fit on a stove. Next year, it’s going in the turkey roaster!).

With my mom, it is usually large batches of strawberry freezer jam (general consensus in the area is that her jam could be used as a currency instead of paper bills).

I am very excited and I already have several recipes from this book I am excited to try! The link to the blog can be found here. She does lots of pickling recipes but has loads of neat stuff.

I plan on at least doing the beer bread and chocolate cake in a jar as well as some of the roasted tomatoes recipes.  I planted some 4 dozen tomatoes of different varieties, here goes!  Also, my husband went and planted a load of radishes and cauliflower, so also trying this recipe (Pickled Carrot and Radish disks), and this one (Lemony Cauliflower Florets)!

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It’s that time of year!

Well it is the time of the year when we beg a rototiller from a family member and proceed to till our little patch of nutritional and money saving heaven! At least, that is the goal. Last year, we were able to put our garden in a little chunk of the field that had been next door. Grandpa brought up the big tractor and we had a very decent size garden. Unfortunately, bunnies and groundhogs made short work of most of our peppers, peas, and every freaken. Single one of our sugar snaps!
We couldn’t afford a big fence- so this year, we are going old school.

I scavenged some wood from the freebie dumpsters outside the furniture store.

20130601-204718.jpg (No this isn’t my garden-not nearly that green)

We put stakes up with fishing line on them to discourage deer and bought anti-animal pellets to help and deter bunnies. It also deters armadillos, but haven’t seen any of those in Pennsylvania yet. Must keep vigilant!

This years crop includes several dozen tomato varieties, several hot and mild peppers, lavender, Italian Parsley, Chives and cabbage, broccoli, corn, peas, and beans. We may end up replacing deer eaten peppers, or onion.

What is the best soil for basil? I have rotten luck with it in the soil where we live, as well as with carrots. I know carrots need sandy soil & we are more clay. We are also surrounded with pine trees, which tend to make soil rather acidic. Great for tomato crops though.

I am aiming at buying a Rose Heirloom tomato- in the south I had heard of a grower getting 20 lbs of fruit from one plant. I would be happy with half of that, however- it grows more like a vine and can be over six feet tall. You can even get several vines.

I only hope that we will be able to have enough of everything to do canned spaghetti sauce, canned salsa, and canned hot peppers. we shall see!

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Terry Pratchett Books

Terry Pratchett is one of my absolute favorite authors. Lets call him the top 5. Okay, maybe top 3. Who am I really kidding except myself? I’d say that he is number one, with the writing team Ilona Andrews coming in an equal if not close second place.

Seriously, how often do you read a book that makes you laugh yourself silly in public? On a regular and even predictable basis even? I have had very few series that can attest to that level of entertainment.

I crave books. I must constantly be reading and chewing on story lines just to stay sane. I have been reading as long as I can remember (started avidly around 4th grade and was rated college-level the same year). This is not a boast- but an idea of scale. Imagine how many books can one person read in a decade or more? I can read a standard romance novel in two hours (and yes, I use to read a lot of those). Not so much any more. I have moved on to urban fantasy.

Terry Pratchett is a singular constant. He has one series that, I believe, has several dozen books. I have never read an author who weaves so rich and intertwined a fabric of stories, and better yet, places. The setting has as much, if not more character then some of the walking ones (especially in Ankh Morpork- it has enough character to choke a person (and has done so on several occasions)).

Discworld is a flat world that is balanced on the backs of 4 giant elephants, on the shell of an even larger turtle swimming through space. If you want to know said turtles gender, please read the books. Magic is just another job on Discworld, and the vast ray of characters that appear repeatedly in the storyline tells some interesting tales.

My favorite character is Death (yes the 6-foot tall skeleton) who rides a white horse named Binky. This is done so because flaming horses tend to set their stalls on fire. He even has a granddaughter! (Adopted, but family is in the soul.)

Read any one of his books and become engrossed for all hours of the night as you chip the grit from your eyes so that you can see to turn another page.

His humor is one of a kind, and you will often have to read a book several times to get everything.

Don’t miss out!

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Now what?

So what do I write about here? The one thing I can extol with great virtue (or at the very least, length) is mostly cooking. It’s rather the one thing I do constantly. I have so many hobbies that I never really accomplish any projects but I have learned a small amount about many things.

People love to exchange recipes and talk food. Very few people care what I do in my spare time that doesn’t involve feeding them. This is not an insult nor a complaint, but merely an observation. How many people are so bored and have so very little to do that they would prefer to spend their precious moments listening to another individual ramble? (And I am not including or bashing daytime television. I think it is a marvelous tool for realizing how much worse your life could be.) And I do ramble. And write improper sentences with lousy grammar. Seems you have to learn the rules of writing before you can break them. Once you do, you can get put on the high school reading list for having a sentence that runs twenty pages. I call that a failing grade in English. How does that even work? I’d forget the beginning, go for coffee break, and check emails all before getting to the end!

Any ways, mini-literary rant aside, I suppose the only person I ever expect to read this is me. I will use it as a mini-documentary of the life of moi. I can never keep track of all the journals and notebooks that one accumulates when one has an untreated stationary fetish. I love writing so much, I went and bought a fancy fountain pen because I love the way the ink flows across the page.

I will post crafty things involving sewing machines and musical instruments. Puppies and books. Living in the forest and gardening. Pretty much anything a magpie with the attention span of a dyslexic gnat on speed can stay on for two seconds before bouncing to the next shiny.

If by some chance, some poor soul stumbles onto the path of randomness, may they find a road to happiness. Or at the very least, chocolate.

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