Cranberry Sauce – Daisy’s Way

1-2-3 Cranberry Sauce

1 cup water
2 cups sugar
3 cups cranberries

Bring to a boil, then simmer 20 minutes or until all the berries have burst. Add cinnamon to taste. Serve warm.

Now, the backstory. I brought this recipe home from kindergarten on a sheet of construction paper. We made it at home since it was so easy. It became a standard at Thanksgiving dinner, the tradition lasting long after the original paper faded.
A generation later, my kids started helping me make it every year. If we have leftover cranberry sauce, I use it in jello or add it to muffins. This little piece of my “saucy” childhood continues, along with Thanksgiving memories that will never fade.

Have a wondering Thanksgiving, readers.

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Progress in healing

Yet another cabinet member has been announced to a fanfare of “Oh, no!” Amigo didn’t remember the name, but he remembered enough to inform me that the new Secretary of Education will be a “billionaire school choice advocate.” I can only take so many of these announcements. They’re bad for my blood pressure. In the interest of my own health, let’s look for some silver linings.

The next time a woman runs for president, she will not have to jump the same hoops that Hillary did. Trailblazers, Geraldine Ferraro and Hillary Clinton included, blazed a trail so that others can follow.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. We’re bringing mashed potatoes, butternut squash, Packer veggies (peas and corn), and cranberry sauce. Have I forgotten anything? La Petite will bring the wine. The potatoes are in the crock pot as I type. Oh, pies! I bought pies from a local bakery this morning.

The nearby meat market (I love that place) was hopping. In fact, I changed my route to avoid the traffic on their corner as I was on the way to the bakery, another small business I love. I walked in, paused to inhale, and then picked up a box of cookies while I waited for my turn. The problem with shopping at a local bakery is simple; I always come out with more than I planned to buy. Problem? Maybe that’s not a problem. Small Business Saturday is coming up, and I saw two small businesses that were doing well already today.

Amigo has already found Internet radio stations that are playing 100% Christmas music. I’ll make a list, check it twice, and bookmark a few to listen to at work. Now if I can stop myself from singing along…

I predict January will bring another down period. This inauguration will be hard to take. But for now, let’s look at positives. For those who celebrate, enjoy your Thanksgiving.

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Buying a Dishwasher – fun?

We did the research online before heading to the Big Box store. On the short drive there, I tapped into as many Pokemon Stops as I could (to fill my bag with balls, etc.), and Chuck told me all about the features we could get.

Sales Dude in Blue approached, and we welcomed him. He knew what he needed to know, so we asked our questions, got answers, made our decision, and ordered a dishwasher to be delivered and installed in a few weeks.

That’s the short story.

Somehow, within this entire shopping journey, we discovered that we have a great deal in common with Sales Dude in Blue. Gardening, canning, foraging. Foraging! Water conservation, rain barrels, desire to see more cities rewarding those who conserve. Cataract surgery. Cataract surgery? Yes, indeed, Sales Dude in Blue recognized a particular glint that indicates eye surgery, and asked if I was satisfied with my results. For the most part, yes, I answered. If the left retina had stayed attached, I’d be more content.

But anyway, we’re replacing our aging dishwasher in a few weeks. Days, in fact, before Election Day. Oh, my, even the behavior of a major appliance can make me think of November 8th. I sense a theme here.

We didn’t talk politics with Sales Dude in Blue. We didn’t need to. And when we’ve had the dishwasher for a few days and Election Day is done, I’ll have more reasons to sigh with relief.

 

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Inventory

Wow.

Wow.

Top shelf, left to right: salsa; jams and jellies galore.

Lower shelf, left to right: applesauces (in at least three variations); juice concentrates; pickles, dill and sweet.

Expanding to a second set of shelves

Expanding to a second set of shelves

Bottom shelf: canning pots and a pretty blue aluminum stock pot.

Middle shelf: tomatoes; more tomatoes; enchilada sauce; tiny jars of jellies and jams, perfect for gift giving.

Top shelf: apple preserves (a.k.a. pie filling), more applesauce, and pear sauce.

Highest shelf: old laptop computers. This will eventually (hopefully) get cleared off and ready for more canned goods. Next year. Maybe.

This used to house small containers.

This used to house small containers.

Now it’s tomato sauce, tomato sauce, and more tomato sauce.

But where did I put the awkward and odd shaped small containers?

In my older, worn canner and a spare I picked up thrifting.

In my older, worn canner and a spare I picked up at a thrift store.

There you have it, folks. Storage, Daisy style. One problem: I don’t have room for the empty jars. Not that many jars are empty at the moment.

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The Search for the Perfect Pot

Stock pot, that is. For cooking. And canning. You didn’t think I was aiming my gardening talents in a new direction, did you?

I have an ordinary kitchen stock pot. It’s a good size, heats up evenly, and cleans fairly well, too. BUT – the nonstick coating is wearing through. I don’t really know what the coating is or was, whether it’s toxic or fine, just fine. I’ve made many, many jams and jellies in it. Now that the underlying material is showing, I don’t know if it’s safe for canning anymore. So let’s look at the rest of my stock (pun intended) in the basement.

To the right of my hot water bath canners...

To the right of my hot water bath canners are two other pots.

The one in front, next to the bright blue, heats quickly: too quickly. It allows applesauce or pear sauce to burn to the bottom of it before the mix boils down, and that’s not a good trait. It may be aluminum, too, which would take it out of the “non-reactive” category most canning requires. Lovely though it is, this pot might go to the thrift store with the next donation batch.

I found the bright blue in a second hand store. It heats quickly and evenly. It has thick sides that keep the heat in, and I haven’t burned anything in it – yet. BUT – this lovely stock pot has a few weaknesses, too. The handles heat up, which means hot pads on both hands whether I’m stirring or lifting or dumping. It’s nonmagnetic (except for the handles), meaning it’s most likely aluminum, too. #*@&!

I won’t even analyze the cast iron Dutch oven. We love it, but it’s heavy and it can be difficult to clean. I season it every time I use it, hoping the cast iron will eventually have just the right coating. Cast iron, like aluminum, is also reactive.

So, my friends, there you have it. The search, so far unsuccessful, for the perfect stock pot. When I find the perfect match, I’ll use it for jams, jellies, butters (not you, Buttercup, so be quiet), pickles, salsas, and more.

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Foraging again

I’ve been driving past this small, overgrown garden for weeks. This patch caught my eye each and every time.

Onions! Walking onions!

Onions! Walking onions!

These onions, the Egyptian walking onion variety, were HUGE. They had sprouted bulbs on top, as these onions do, and a few had fallen over to plant the next generation.

The appearance of the garden led me to think that someone wasn’t taking the time to care for it. The owners probably wouldn’t miss a few clumps of bulbs. But I wanted to be ethical and above board with my foraging. So when I saw a man in the driveway loading a car seat into his vehicle, I pulled over and asked him. He was more than willing to let me come over and harvest bulbs for my own patch, and he even warned me that they’ll spread.

I knew that.

It was a beautiful sunny Saturday afternoon when I tucked my phone in my pocket and grabbed a shears, gardening gloves, and an empty banana bag. I encountered a few Pokemon critters on the way, and walked my way toward hatching an egg or two. Trust me. Poke-fans will understand. The banana bag was about half full when I packed up to walk home again.

bunches and bunches of onion bulbs

bunches and bunches of onion bulbs

bulbs separated and ready to plant

bulbs separated and ready to plant

Forager Daisy strikes again! Next spring I’ll have more green onions than I need, and they’ll plant the next generation with or without my help.

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Family Foraging

I may have mentioned that the school in which I teach is moving to a new location. I visited the new building last Saturday, said hello to my principal as she was unloading boxes in the basement (we have a storage room!), and took a closer look at the location. A few observations:

The landscaping is overgrown. We noticed milkweed and black eyed Susans in the midst of lots (TONS) of day lilies, lilies of the valley, hostas, and more. Chuck, my chauffeur, overheard the principal saying that maintenance would be tearing out everything behind the building, including aging playground equipment. He asked if we could dig out the milkweed and black-eyed Susans before the big digging machines came in. She said yes.

On the way back to the Momvan, I noticed one of the trees alongside our new office building was an apple tree! I haven’t identified the variety yet, but we looked and tasted and decided to come back for a harvest. I’m now working on version 1.0 of apple jelly. It might end up being sauce, and that’s okay. I have plenty of apples in the garage waiting for me.

As we dug up the milkweed and the flowers, we discovered a like-new, unused compost bin. Principal will ask maintenance what’s happening to it. I have tentative permission to bring it to Habitat ReStore rather than let it go to the landfill.

The results of our foraging around the new-to-me building —

  • 2 large buckets of ripe apples
  • several Black-eyed Susan plants
  • a large bucket full of uprooted milkweed
  • a few seed pods from the aforementioned milkweed
  • the bucket I filled with milkweed (found buried in the hostas)

All things considered, I think I’m going to like the new location.

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A Little Paranoia is the Prepper’s Friend

Actual conversation on social media (name of network not used for confidentiality)

Friend of Daisy: Green beans, tomatoes (yes, more) and cucumbers are on the canning list today. Whew.

Friend of Friend: Busy, busy. It’ll be lovely to have them all come winter.

Friend of Daisy: Yes it will. It was great last night when we were without power. Just needed to open some jars of yumminess to make a satisfying dinner. But we need a better camp stove.

Daisy joins in: Ah, the camp stove. Our next door neighbors have one. It’s good to be prepared!

Daisy adds: I filled my minivan with gas today. I don’t like going below 1/4 tank. I don’t know if it’s a touch of paranoia since 9/11 or something else, but I don’t want to have to refill in an emergency.

Friend: That’s brilliant! I do the same thing.

Daisy: It feels more paranoid than brilliant, but it helps me keep calm and carry on.

Friend: Well, paranoia is the friend of “preppers”.

Daisy: Exactly!

On that note, I think I’ll put down the laptop and bring up a jar of tomato sauce to use with supper. Enchiladas!

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Prepping for – What?

I have joked in the past that I prep for the Walker Apocalypse. Many teachers I know are in a Cautiously Paranoid condition; we know the future of public education in our state is shaky, at best. We’re looking to provide for our families one way or another. My method consists (in part) of filling the freezer and the pantry with decent food, mostly organic, much locally grown.

I’m still cautiously paranoid about what happens in my state capitol. Education budgets keep going down, down, down. My pantry stock keeps going up, up, up. This year’s new project is jelly. I’ve always made jam, with pieces and chunks of fruit. Jelly is clear, and it takes an extra step: draining the juices through a piece of cheesecloth or through a jelly bag. Jelly also can take a little longer to set.

strawberry-rhubarb jelly in the making

strawberry-rhubarb jelly in the making

So far, the jellies are looking good. I remade one batch that didn’t set right away; it’s on my counter now, looking much better.

cranberry - cherry jelly

cranberry – cherry jelly

Even as I work toward electing Hillary Clinton, I’m prepping in case of a Trump apocalypse. Expect the shelves in the basement to fill up and the freezer to be stuffed.

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A Way With Words – not.

It’s all in the presentation, I guess. I emailed Chuck to tell him we were having chicken soup for supper, and I included a few details. I felt rather proud that this soup came from ingredients we had in the house: a pretty darn good pantry raid, that is. However, my email ended up sounding…well, er…not so appetizing.

Tonight’s chicken soup includes a broth from the basement, last night’s waste water from the steamer, and some small turnips and parsnips from out back. It smells good.

I meant well. I really did. The broth was a homemade broth from the freezer downstairs. I keep a pretty good stock of various broths (haha, pun intended) to make cooking quicker and easier when school starts for me and Chuck is tied up in NFL football season shows. So for the broth, it came from the freezer. It was thick and delicious.

I also added the leftover water from the previous night’s vegetables. When I cook vegetables in the steamer, I like to include that water in a broth. It just adds another element of flavor and conserves water, too. Leftover water – that’s a better term than “waste.” Okay, two revisions made.

Turnips and parsnips came from the garden. The bunnies have been nibbling on the carrot greens as soon as they emerge above ground. I suppose the parsnips and turnips must have not-so-tasty greens from the wild rabbit perspective. I’m planning to add replant that section of the garden soon, so I pulled what was there: 2 turnips and 2 parsnips, all rather small. I cleaned them up, diced them, and added the vegetables to the soup.

Also from my backyard, I added two green onions. I planted these in a container on the deck last spring, and they just keep coming up. Yum. If I can provide enough light, I’ll bring the pot of onions inside for the winter.

As for chicken, there were two chicken breasts left in a bag in the freezer. Thighs are my favorite for soup, but breasts will work. I browned them in a skillet and then dropped both chicken breasts whole into the soup to simmer all day.

A couple hours before serving time, I added some little star noodles (memories of chicken and stars soups in a can, anyone?) and shredded both chicken breasts with two forks.

The end verdict: not Dickensian, as Chuck suggested, but delicious. Please, sir, may I have some more?

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