TP, Compost Bins; try Canning Lids

The search for a new compost bin was successful in an unexpected way. Instead of spending lots of money to replace my broken tumbler, I got a stationary bin for — free. Free, free, free. Yes, you heard me, free. I was driving home from buying tomatoes for salsa, and I saw a big hulking black thing on curbside. I couldn’t stop then, but I made mental note of the location. The next day, Chuck and I drove the van over to that spot, and found the big hulking black plastic object with a new sign on it: FREE COMPOSTER. I looked it over. It was dirty (um, no problem), but all the parts were there, so we loaded it up in the minivan and brought it home. I’ve hosed it out a few times, and it will replace the collapsing composter of doom. What a deal!

Last time Chuck and Amigo went grocery shopping, I put canning lids, regular size on the list. They came home with two boxes of exactly what I needed. Good thing, too, because now – less than two weeks later – the store shelves are empty of canning lids. Friends elsewhere in the state have complained that they can’t even find jars to buy. I’m lucky; I have a very good supply of jars, and a fair amount of lids. I hope to buy more lids as I dive into the Tomato Crazy and Applesauce Season. I’ll keep my eyes wide open for unusual sources of lids for my canning jars. So far, my online searches have suggested a few I hadn’t considered.

So, readers, if you’re running low on lids for canning, either regular or wide mouth size, where do you go? Brick and mortar or online, I’ll take your suggestions.

Share and Enjoy !

0Shares
0 0 0

(Farm) Market Day?

One loss I’m feeling deeply is the lack of local farm markets. My downtown farm market usually starts at the end of June on Saturdays. The main street of our fair city closes, and the vendors fill several blocks. It’s a wonderful atmosphere; live music, the smell of egg rolls cooking and corn roasting, and all the produce that’s in season. Not this year, thanks to Covid19.

Thanks to Covid19, our downtown farm market will start two weeks later than usual and support about one third of the usual vendors. Live music will not be allowed, and prepared foods will no longer be available. I’ll go, and I’ll buy veggies and fruits to freeze and to can for the winter, but it won’t be the same. Not by a long shot.

Today I drove past Festival Foods, the store that hosts my favorite midweek market in their parking lot on Wednesday mornings. As I got closer, I saw – could it be – a tent! A white canvas top with a point in the middle! Maybe the market was back! Maybe…maybe…nope. Just a fireworks stand. Sigh.

Fortunately, Chuck’s mother, Robin, called and told us of a farmer selling fresh strawberries from the back of his truck. She’d bought some herself, and said they were delicious. I didn’t drive there immediately (it was noon), but I may try tomorrow. Maybe the strawberries will be there again, ready for me. That may be the solution this year: without the usual market, I need to find the independent sellers. It’ll be a little more work, but I can still fill our freezer for the winter.

Readers, is your local farmers’ market still going on this year? If not, what are you doing to get fresh produce for your family?

Share and Enjoy !

0Shares
0 0 0

Corona Cooking – at home, of course

Our menus are looking more and more like midwinter comfort food or even dorm cafeteria food. Tonight it was baked macaroni and cheese – from scratch, of course. I have a sizable stockpile of various pastas, and we always have cheese. Throw in a cup of frozen peas, reach for the closest Italian season, and there it is. Comfort food, Wisconsin style.

Like a good pantry prepper, we have canned tuna. I’ve made tuna casserole recently (pasta, tuna, yada, yada, yada), and tuna salad would only work for Chuck and me. Amigo doesn’t go for cold. I got creative with the English muffins in the refrigerator, topped them with tuna and (or course) cheese, and ta-da! Tuna melts.

Last night I pulled together paninis. Sandwich ingredients, grilled with my cast iron press, and then – soup, of course. An ultimate comfort food, but instead of made from scratch, I’d picked it up at a local restaurant. Soup and sandwiches! Simple, but satisfying.

Then there was the shredded pork on a bun – with my own homemade rhubarb barbecue sauce. It makes a big batch; I put half away in the freezer for another day.

It’s not restaurant quality. It’s not even Master Chef style. But comfort is in short supply these days, and I can cook up darn good comfort in the form of lunch and supper.

Readers, what are you cooking these days?

Share and Enjoy !

0Shares
0 0 0

Random Thoughts of – spring?

Someone called me the Compost Lady recently, and I realized I hadn’t written as ComposterMom in ages. A lot of my shorter posts end up on Facebook. I’m on the computer all day at work, so I don’t automatically pick it up when I come home. I need to be offline for a while every evening.

But anyway, random thoughts.

Shopko is bankrupt and going out of business. Their clearance and liquidation sales are disappointing a lot of people. I haven’t even stopped in to check it out, to be honest. They’re at the point where the liquidation company, not the Shopko corporation itself, is running the show, and shoppers can tell. Discounts are weak, inventory isn’t very high quality, and there are more complaints than deals. We did get lucky with the smaller Shopko Express’ clearance. They transferred most of their inventory to other stores before the ax fell, but they couldn’t do that with their liquor stock. We picked up wine and specialty beers for pretty darn cheap. And that was all.

Meanwhile, we reminisced about the irony that is our kitchen. We bought some very high quality pots and pans and other equipment dirt cheap from not one but three high end kitchen stores that were going out of business. One was in Green Bay, one in my little burgh, and one in Rochester, Minnesota (we were there for a barbershop chorus competition). Those were small shops, not corporate entities, and the owners were interacting with customers as they made deals.

Oh, what a difference! Cast iron cleaning tools, towels, scrubbing cloths, and the best, a really nice wok. The Wire Whisk had used the wok for cooking classes, so we made an offer. The owner accepted the offer and reluctantly let it go. She talked about cooking classes, gave me good advice about seasoning it, and I think she shed a tear or two as I left with this wonderful piece of cookware in my arms. I hope she knew we’d treat it well – literally and figuratively speaking.

Meanwhile, we are appreciating the newly remodeled kitchen and especially the storage space. The pantry cabinet has so much room it feels like a luxury. We have cupboard space for basic everyday goodies, and we have room to stock up when there’s a sale. I haven’t reached prepper stockpile level (yet), but it makes more room for my own canned goods, too. No longer do we have to trek down the basement for a new jar of jam or pickles.

So on we go, my friends and family. It’s a crazy world out there, and I hear there’s a possibility of another late snowstorm next week. I hope the forecasters are wrong, but you know the saying – whether the weather, we’ll weather the weather.

Share and Enjoy !

0Shares
0 0 0

The Year Without a Canning Season

It started with kitchen construction. It ended with a brain aneurysm treatment. It makes sense; I didn’t can very much last summer. I’m still a little bummed.

With a major kitchen remodel in progress, I got up by 7:00 every morning even after school let out in June. I moved both vehicles out of the driveway so the carpenters could pull in. Then I would start my coffee, watch the morning news, and all the rest. I didn’t make jams or jellies because I didn’t have a stove in June and July. One result: rhubarb takes up much too much space in the freezer this year. I must find a way to use it up. Maybe in May. But anyway, no stove? No canning in early summer.

Later on I went under – not under the knife, but under a catheter. Part I: cerebral angiogram to determine the size of the aneurysm. The nurse wore Crocs with the Swedish Chef on them. How awesome is that? But I digress.

You can guess what followed – an overnight in the hospital after a three hour surgery to line the aneurysm so it will not get bigger. I had this done on a Thursday, and then headed off to school meetings the following Monday. And yes, I was tired.

But back to canning. In between the two events, I managed to can a batch of sweet bread and butter pickles and a batch of kinda-meh dill pickles. I put up one batch of tomato sauce – only one batch, and it shows. We opened a jar of store-bought tomato sauce last night. I used commercially canned tomatoes last time I made chili. All the homemade ketchup, the last jar of enchilada sauce – it’s all gone.

I’m a little sad looking at all the empty spots on the shelves that usually overflow with the goodies from the garden and the farmers’ market. Next June, I’m going to start canning like crazy. Canning like crazy and loving it, too!

Share and Enjoy !

0Shares
0 0 0

Cooking without a Kitchen – still

Monday was a Planned-overs type of day. Planned overs are like leftovers, but cooked on purpose. In this Era of No Kitchen, we are cooking planned overs at least once a week so we have something decent that can be reheated in the microwave.

So, Monday. Burgers were on the menu. Side dishes, cooked on the coals in foil, were potatoes – diced reds and fingerlings with Scarborough Fair seasoning (parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme) and green & yellow zucchini squash with onion, salt, and pepper. These turned out very well.

Ah, the planned overs. We had a pound of French Onion bratwurst from the local meat market, and brats are always better on the grill, so I jabbed them with a fork and cooked them on the top rack. Someone recently suggested cooking bacon on the grill, so I tried it. As I pushed the burgers out of the flames so they wouldn’t get charred, I wondered if Someone had cooked bacon on a gas grill, not charcoal. The bacon smelled good, as bacon does, but it had a definite char look to it. I tried a piece on a BLT, and it tasted like bacon. Okay, it was okay, but I don’t think I’ll try that trick again.

Monday, as you see, was an adventure. I didn’t take any pictures because I was too busy moving bacon around to prevent total burn-to-a-crisp status. The veggies were a hit, the burgers were delicious (Amigo had two), and the bacon and brats went into the meat drawer for later.

Tuesday, I learned how to bake a pot pie in the toaster oven. Here I am, in my 50s, and I’ve never used a toaster oven. Now I can cross “Toaster Oven Use” off my bucket list.

Tuesday night I decided to do an experiment with the multitude of green onions in my garden. I pulled up several. Okay, if I’m honest about it, I pulled up a lot. I cleaned them up in the bathtub – no sink, remember – and packed the green tops into a crock pot set on low. I left it on Keep Warm overnight. In the morning, I removed the green tops, added the white bulbs sliced small, and seasoned the onion broth with a little salt and pepper and garlic.

Share and Enjoy !

0Shares
0

0
0

Market Day with a Missing Kitchen

it’s Farm Market season again!

Lettuce, spinach, parsley, strawberries, blueberries, peas, kettle corn (for me!), pomegranate lemonade (for me!) – did I miss anything?

It’s Saturday, and it’s the first Saturday of the downtown farmers’ market. It’s also hot. Hot, muggy, steamy, sweaty. I heard several little kiddos complaining that they couldn’t walk anymore or that they were hot and sweaty. I saw even more young ones with beverages in hand. Families were smart and kept themselves and their kids hydrated.

But other than that, it was a normal and pleasant market. I got a good parking space in my usual ramp, there was still time on the meter, and I grabbed my rolling bag and headed out to stock up on good food for the family. I may have come back with more food than planned and a lighter wallet (dropped tips in three buskers’ cases), but it was a good First Market of the Season.

However, prepping is a challenge because we have no kitchen. I have no sink. Half of the colanders and bowls I usually use are stored in the basement. My favorite knife for shelling peas is also stored somewhere – where, I wish I knew. I rinsed the lettuce and spinach in big colanders with the hose – yes, you heard me, the garden hose. The peas were small enough to rinse in the bathroom sink. I had to set aside the strawberries and the asparagus – just no time to figure out how and where to get them cut up and cleaned.

The next few days may be ridiculously hot. I can spend my time inside, prepping strawberries and asparagus.

Share and Enjoy !

0Shares
0

0
0

Coping without a Kitchen

“How do you survive without a kitchen?”

“Are you using paper plates?”

“Do you get delivery and drive through fast food?”

Actually, we’re doing quite well. It’s not easy, but we planned for it and we’re keeping up fairly well. Planning ahead, then and now, is essential to coping while the kitchen is under construction.

Making Chicken Dinner

Rice: Minute white rice and Uncle Ben’s ten minute brown rice, cooked in chicken broth (the freezer is full of good things like this) in the microwave

Chicken breasts: thawed and cooked on grill a few nights ago as “planned-overs.” I diced and reheated the chicken in the microwave.

Beverage: Sun tea, made on the deck on a (what else?) sunny day

Chicken Dinner!

A few pieces of leftover zucchini and onion, and there it is: chicken dinner, all prepared without an actual kitchen.

Not bad! But seriously, I look forward to having a kitchen again – and what a kitchen it will be!

Share and Enjoy !

0Shares
0

0
0

Demo Day!

This kitchen project has been consuming us since…since…oh, at least since December. And finally, finally, it’s happening. The guys were here today. They hung a plastic tarp so the dust didn’t fly all over the house (it only piled up in the dining room), and they did demo. Big time. I can show you better than I can tell you, though.

Here’s one angle.

Here’s another way to look at it.

And that’s that. Nothing left. No sink, no stove, no dishwasher. And that’s where my good old Girl Scout ingenuity came in. We might go to paper plates sooner or later, but Daisy the Compostermom isn’t ready to go there yet. I washed dishes the way I learned at Girl Scout camp, minus the dunk bag.

One bucket with water and dish soap, one with hot water for rinse.

The result?

Air dry for a bit, and then we’re done.

And Chuck was surprised I found the dish soap under the bathroom sink? Hah. I’ve only just started to show my coping skills.

Share and Enjoy !

0Shares
0

0
0