Posted in Food, Gardening

Harvesting Honey

Today we had the pleasure of experiencing our first honey harvest. Our bees have been busy visiting fields of clover and Queen Anne’s Lace over the past several weeks. After watching hours of video focused on harvesting honey and rendering beeswax, we finally took a leap of faith and carefully extracted the liquid gold produced by our very own bees.

Here’s a step by step look at the process:

We carefully swept the bees off of the short, capped honey frames to prepare for extraction.

We set up the extractor and a screened sieve to remove the honey and filter out the wax and other unwanted items. A clean and organized area is imperative. We had buckets of soapy water with sanitizer and tarped surfaces in the extraction area.

After the extractor does its work (we have a hand crank version), the gate can be opened to pour unfiltered honey into a clean, food-safe bucket. The sieve and filter will take out the impurities.

We cleaned and sanitized our honey containers prior to setting up our bottling station.

The filtered honey is ready for bottling. We used 12 and 16 ounce jars. We wanted to try a mixture of plastic and glass jars.

We were able to bottle 12- 12 ounce, 12- 16 ounce, and 2- 4 ounce jars. What a delight to get so much honey from just 8 short frames.

I order a few different labels from Amazon to finish off the process. I think I’ll order a set of more personally printed labels for next year.

Now, it’s time to render the filtered wax to make our own beeswax blocks for future projects.

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Posted in Crafts

Making a Market Basket

Once again, I was able to join a great group of individuals at one of the local county parks for a day of basket making. I took several pictures throughout the day to capture the steps used to assemble this potluck or market basket. For those of you that are interested in basket making, I strongly suggest you find a class in your area. This is a dying art and learning the basic skills will build toward ideas for advanced methods. Local libraries, park district programs, and 4-H program leaders often offer hands-on opportunities to assemble basic baskets. Many basketmaking supply shops also offer classes. I really enjoy the process and certainly, the complete project. I always sign my baskets as I look forward to handing them down through the generations.

Sharing a few basketmaking tips…

We experienced some weather difficulties so we relocated to the interior of the old 1920’s barn. This June morning was cold and rainy. We usually meet in a covered pavilion but the winds were very strong and continued to blow away our supplies.

First, I measured 15 inches of weaving material (strips) for the length of the basket.l

I numerically marked all of my strips to help me weave a pattern on one side of the handle. Then, I duplicated the process on the other side of the wooden handle. Centering the project is very important.

Then, it was time to start working on the sides. I wanted to maintain my pattern up the side of the basket, so I used clothes pins to help me achieve this. The first row is always the most difficult to manage. The clothes pins act as another pair of “hands”.

Continue working up the side of the basket, adding any details desired. I added a colorful pattern of dyed strips. Make sure to alter the starting point for each strip, rotating the basket a half turn for an altered starting point for each row. Continue to shape the basket while building the sides.

Trim and bend alternate strips along the top edge of the basket making sure to leave enough length to insert strips under the existing basket weave.

Now it’s time for the finishing touches. An edge is placed on the top of the basket and sea grass is placed between the (half-round) edging strips. Once again, clothes pins act as extra “hands” to hold it all in place.

Lashing is used to complete the project and pull all of the finished edge pieces together.

A final dip in a black walnut wash finishes off the project by adding a weathered or aged look to the basket. Here the baskets dry in the shade of the old barn.

I love the size and shape of this beautiful basket. I can’t wait for our next basketmaking session!

Posted in Crafts, Gifts, Sewing

Machine Embroidered Sweatshirt

My daughter had seen one of the famous Fixer Upper hosts wearing a sweatshirt with the words, “Book Club” screen printed onto the front of the garment. Being an avid reader, she immediately declared her desire to have a shirt like this for Christmas. After looking up the cost for said sweatshirt, I decided to make one of my own using my trusty embroidery machine. Carefully reviewing the garment, I quickly found a few heather colored sweatshirts at the discount store and identified a font that would work the the “Book Club” design. I didn’t care for the font used in the original design so I settled on a text style that looked just like one found when reading a book; a contemporary spin on Times New Roman. Here are the steps I used to embroider font or text onto the front of a basic medium-weight sweatshirt.

Use a temporary spray adhesive (found in the sewing department) to adhere a piece of medium weight stabilizer to the wrong side of the fabric. Make sure the stabilizer is large enough to cover and extend beyond the outside of your embroidery hoop.

Crease the sweatshirt to find it’s center and position the embroidery hoop paying close attention to desired design placement.

Audition various threads to decide which will work best for your design. I used a heavy weight black thread for the book style font.

After you have created your design (I use my laptop), send the design to your sewing machine and begin sewing.

I usually stay with the machine for a simple design and trim threads when possible.

When the machine has completed the design, remove hoop from the embroidery arm and trim any threads carefully.

Remove hoop and turn the garment inside out to sparingly trim threads from the back of the design. I usually leave connecting threads intact to further secure the design. Trim stabilizer, if needed.

With a thick pressing cloth or towel, carefully iron the crease out of the center front area.

Fold the sweatshirt neatly and get it ready for gift giving…

Have fun creating other “book related” designs…

Posted in Crafts, holiday, holidays

Handmade Pumpkin Basket

Saturday’s unseasonable temperatures made for a very chilly (end of the summer) basketmaking workshop. Wearing several long-sleeved layers didn’t do much to shield us from the brisk winds during this cool and breezy day. It was hard to imagine that the temperatures had climbed to nearly 100 degrees the weekend before. Despite the weather, we happily socialized as we worked beneath a shelter at a local county park. The item that we were to assemble was a cute round, (continuous weave structure); a pumpkin-shaped basket. Here are the steps that our incredible instructor took us through during this four-hour weekend event.

Dividing the disk into 4 equal parts, place 23 spokes within the well of the disk; weaving while working in the spokes.After weaving 6 continuous rows, gently begin shaping the basket upwards. Continue weaving upward for 14 more rows; loosely weaving to shape the belly of the pumpkin.

At row 19 or 20 begin to tighten the weave to form the top of the pumpkin.

At row thirty, the weave is complete.Bend down, every other spoke. Clip; mark remaining spokes to bend under and secure under weave.Secure wire handle before finishing rim of the basket.Complete basket rim with sea grass and lashing.We enjoyed a beautiful, but chilly, day at our local county park!

Posted in appetizers/snacks, Food, Home Food Preservation, Kids in the Kitchen, lunch box, Uncategorized

Strawberry Fruit Leather

  
When strawberries are in season, I usually try to make several batches of fruit leather for my family. Rolling strawberry fruit leather on wax paper strips makes for a delicious, nutritious, summer treat.  

On my daily drive home from work, I pass a local strawberry farm so I usually stop by to pick up a few buckets of fresh berries. There are lots of recipes for fruit leather, many encourage the addition of sugar and lemon juice. For me, I’d rather find the sweetest, freshest berries possible, pulse them in a blender, and pour them into trays to dehydrate. Simple and sweet, a pure delight. Here’s what I do…

Start with sweet fresh berries… Mine are freshly picked

  
Puree 6 cups of fruit and evenly pour onto fruit leather dehydrator sheets.

   
 Dry at 135 degrees for 4-8 hours. Using your finger, press to make a small indentation in the fruit leather. It should not be wet or sticky. It should be tacky. Check in a few areas around the fruit leather disk. Peel the disk off of the silicone sheet while still warm.  Lay on a sheet of waxed paper.

   
 
Using a scissors, cut into strips and roll up tightly. Store in a lidded container in a cool, dry place.

   
   
Make plenty because they disappear fast! 

————————–

While I used 6 cups of strawberries, here are a few adapted recipes recommended by Nesco Dehydrators:
3 cups applesauce
3 cups strawberries

Or, try mixing:

2 cups applesauce
2 cups bananas
In a blender, puree all ingredients. Pour onto Solid Fruit Roll Sheets.

Place on dehydrator trays. Dry at 135º F for 4 to 8 hours, or until leathery. 

Remove from sheets while still warm. Let cool, slice and wrap.

Roll and store in dark, dry, cool place or in freezer.

  
Of course, It’s always fun to make a very berry smoothly with the leftover purée.

Posted in Chicken, slow cooking, Soup, Uncategorized

Fiesta Crockpot Chili

  
My daughter was recently invited to a surprise party for a co-worker. She had just started working at the facility and was excited to spend time outside of work with this fun group of coworkers. After the party, she commented that she had a great time and was so happy to be included.  

Later, she told me about one of the items on the menu for the event that evening. She called it “white chili” and tried her best to describe all of the flavors she experienced while tasting the flavorful dish. Several days later, I found the recipe as it was placed on my kitchen counter. Her coworker had neatly typed up the recipe for many attending the party had requested a copy. After looking over all of the ingredients, I was delighted to find that most items were already in my kitchen fridge and pantry. We were experiencing a cooler than normal spring day so I pulled out my crockpot and threw all of the ingredients in (with a few minor changes).  

Here’s my version of the original recipe…

Fiesta Crockpot Chili

2-3 frozen chicken breasts

2 (10 ounce) bags frozen corn

1 (15 ounce) can black beans, rinsed

1 (10 ounce) can Rotel diced tomatoes with green chilies

1 (28 ounce) can diced tomatoes

8 ounces block cream cheese

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 package Hidden Valley Spicy Ranch Dressing

Cilantro to taste

Add all ingredients to the crockpot; except cilantro. Cook 6 hours on high or 8 hours on low setting. Shred chicken 30 minutes before completed hours, return to crockpot and add cilantro. When serving, top with tortilla strips and pour over tender noodles or cooked rice.
Here’s the recipe as I received it…

Jill’s Special Chili

2 frozen chicken breasts

1 bag frozen corn

1 can black beans, rinsed

1 can Rotel diced tomatoes with green chilies

4 oz cream cheese

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon paprika

1 package Ranch Fiesta

Cilantro to taste

Add all ingredients to the crockpot; except cilantro

Cook 6 hours or high or 8 hours on low

Shred chicken 30 minutes before completed hours and add cilantro

Posted in Baked goods, Baking, Cake, Desserts, Uncategorized

Moist Almond Bundt Cake

 I did a kitchen cupboard inventory yesterday.  On one of the upper shelves, I found a can of Solo Cake & Pastry Filling.  I pulled back the label of the almond flavored can and noticed a recipe for a Bundt cake.  Who doesn’t love the aroma of almonds and butter baking in a cake batter?  I immediately pulled out a few sticks of butter to soften on the counter and waited in anticipation for a beautiful baking experience.  Here’s the recipe: 

The cake turned out divine!  Just as I had suspected… A moist and flavorful mixture of goodness! 

 https://www.solofoods.com/recipes/almond-bundt-cake

Posted in Food, Soup

Easy Beef and Veggie Soup



We woke up this morning to another six inches of snow… Boy, I’m getting tired of the sub-zero temperatures and the heavy snowfall we’ve experienced this winter.  Yet, this is the kind of weather that makes me think of a number of piping hot soup recipes that can be made with simple kitchen leftovers.  No need to head outdoors with a long shopping list of ingredients. Just take a look in the fridge/freezer and you’re sure to find the perfect combination of ingredients on hand.

Having a big pot of soup boiling on the stove seems to warm the body and comfort the soul.  This recipe is chocked full of tasty kitchen staples.  When making soup, there’s no need to be exact with measurements.  Just take a careful sip here and there to make sure your headed in the right direction. Use any kind of beef you like, any assortment or fresh or frozen veggies you prefer, and any kind of grain or pasta your family enjoys.  Bona petite!

Easy Beef and Veggie Soup

1 lb. leftover beef roast, cubed

1 onion, diced

3 celery ribs, rough chopped

3 carrots, rough chopped

2 (14 ounce) cans petite diced tomatoes

3 tablespoons beef soup base

2 teaspoons garlic powder

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 cups water

1 pkg. cheese-filled tortellini, cooked as directed

In a large pot or dutch oven, sauté celery, carrots and onion in oil until onion is cooked, about 7-10 minutes.  Add remaining ingredients, bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and simmer uncovered about 30-45 minutes.

Serve over a bed of cooked tortellini and season with black pepper, hot sauce, or shredded Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Posted in Baked goods, Baking, cookies

Easy Pistachio Cookies

This is one of the easiest cookies you’ll ever assemble.  These little gems are melt-in-your-mouth delicious and take no time to prepare.  The festive green color makes these cookies a great addition for a spring or Easter dessert, a spring wedding or baby shower luncheon, a St. Patrick’s Day celebration, or even a Christmas holiday table. I often add a lightly drizzled glaze with lemon zest to the top of each cookie but this is completely optional. 

Easy Pistachio Cookies 

1 pouch (1 lb. 1.5 ounce) sugar cookie mix

1 box (4-serving size) pistachio instant pudding and pie filling mix

1/4 cup flour

1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1 cup roasted and salted pistachios, chopped

(Optional: Powdered Sugar Glaze)



Heat oven to 350 degrees.  In large bowl, stir together cookie mix, pudding mix and flour. Stir in melted butter and eggs until soft dough forms. Add pistachios and mix well. Using small cookie scoop or teaspoon, drop dough 2 inches apart on lined cookie sheet. Flatten slightly with your fingers.

Bake 9 to 11 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Cool 2 minutes; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely. 

Optional: Prepare glaze and drizzle over cookies. I often add some fresh lemon zest for a tart addition.  Store in a tightly covered container at room temperature.



Posted in Crafts, Gifts, holiday, holidays

Wrapping Things Up…

In the midst of all of the holiday hoopla and Christmas shopping, I realized that there may be a load of practical gift cards that might be received far better than any piece of clothing or fancy kitchen gadget.  For students, especially those living in highly populated cities, transportation can be an issue.  Gift cards focused on shuttling a person from one destination to another might be much more appreciated versus a piece of clothing.  Train passes, Uber gift cards, bus passes, etc. are all good ideas.  Last year my sister in law gave my children transportation gift cards and they were used to shuttle them to the local grocery store, to the airport, and home from the local burger and brew joint.  (Each of my children are in college and over the age of 21.). They also received gift cards from the local drug store where they were able to by toiletries, milk, and basic groceries while on campus.  Another great idea for college students, gifts cards for sandwich shops and local eateries.  Many dorm cafeterias are closed on Sunday evenings so having a gift card for a local diner is always appreciated.

Be creative as you think of ways to “wrap” your gift cards.  Think of using beautiful paper scraps, college themed papers, Christmas wrap, or themed scrap book papers.  I recently purchased some high-end soap from a local discount store.  The soap was wrapped in a beautiful heavy weight paper that I just couldn’t throw away.  This gave me the idea to use the paper as a wrap for a small gift; hence, a gift wrap for the gift card.  Here’s what I did…

I found a template here. Or, Google various gift card envelope images for the shape you prefer.



I gathered an assortment of scrap paper, and the beautiful wrapping paper found on some milled soaps.

I printed the template and traced the outline on various scraps.I penciled in some fold lines.

I thought it might be nice to have a contrasting liner.Using a few paper punches, I fashioned a gift tag.



Use Christmas paper, shopping bags, newspaper… Whatever you like.This is an enjoyable way to personize and make personal, an ordinary, yet purposeful gift card.