Pumpkin Donuts? Donut Pumpkins?

Now I'm hungry for donuts.

Now I’m hungry for donuts.

My friend Rebs sent me this link. They’re not difficult to make – just paint some pumpkins – but the entire Universe was conspiring against me actually doing it.  The dollar store, where I went to buy paint, didn’t have many colours (so all 3 of mine are frosted with pink icing). The grocery store where we normally get pumpkins didn’t have any that were the right shape (so I bought squash instead).

But, all that aside, they turned out nicely and I’m pleased.

Amigurumi Bunny.

Oh, how I love the idea of amigurumi and oh, man, I am awful at tiny fiddly things. But my friend Michelle sent me an amazing amigurumi maneki-neko recently and it inspired me to try again. With something simple. Not a maneki.   I have basic crochet skills, so I didn’t want anything too ambitious.

Another friend had sent me a link to Nerdigurumi a long time ago. There are some really neat (and nerdy) free patterns there – but, more importantly for me, there were also some video tutorials. And the videos were row-by-row.  I clicked over to the simple Kawaii Chibi patterns, grabbed some yarn, and proceeded to make this little bunny.  (I added zombie eyes spontaneously. )

Little tiny bunny.

Little tiny bunny.

Tiny Star.

My friend Rebs sent me a link to what looked like a fairly simple pattern for crocheting a small star. I decided to pick up the supplies for it – only to discover that the local Michaels store only had white in the size crochet thread (30) that I needed. I’m not much for plain white anything, so I went for the next size up (10) and scaled up my hook accordingly.

It’s worth noting that I gave up knitting because it made me too tense – though I tease that I quit because my husband was so much better at it than me (it’s true, he is). I was giving myself headaches and sore wrists from clenching things too tightly and contorting myself to knit. It was ridiculous.

It’s also worth noting that crocheting is only marginally more relaxing for me.  I need more practice, ultimately, so that I can stop death-gripping the yarn and the hook.

In short, all of my yarn-related projects are infused with a great deal of muttering and profanity.

Halfway through working on this star, I realized that the tension on my stitches was all over the place and I had made a few mistakes. I decided to just keep going anyway. Maybe the next one will be less lopsided?

Loonie to show size

Loonie to show size

At least it didn’t take me a lot of time to make this – though far more than I’d have hoped.  That tiny crochet thread is ridiculous to try to hold onto and kept slipping from my hand!

Organizing The Spices.

Our family loves spices. We almost always double the amount listed in recipes – other than salt (with few exceptions, we don’t use salt at all).  We keep pepper available in the kitchen, and we have one main “spice drawer” in our kitchen filled with the items we use the most often. We have several additional boxes of lesser-used spices that we keep in a high cupboard.  The smell of them is fantastic!

But.. our spices get messy. SO messy!

This morning, before work, I organized my spice drawer. Surprisingly, it took me less than 15 minutes. I took everything out, wiped down the inside of the drawer, then decided to use Sharpie markers to write the spice names on the lids. It occurred to me that most of the mess has been as a result of needing to pull out all the different bottles and jars to see what the label on the front said, so this should help significantly.

Here’s the before and after shot. I’m pleased – but we’ll see how long it stays tidy..

spices

I used a regular (purple) Sharpie on the lighter coloured lids and a metallic silver one for the black lids.

The overflow boxes of spices are still up in the cupboard and, at some point, I may decide to clean them out a bit too! Easy peasy!

Spicy Smoky BBQ Sauce.

Stacked pints!

Stacked pints!

I wanted to continue to involve my 13 year old son in the process of canning things, so we decided to make BBQ sauce together. The process didn’t involve much chopping or dicing (though he was unimpressed with the onions stinging his eyes and the amount of time that it takes to press the garlic) and it came together fairly quickly. It was messy, however, and involved a lot of measuring.

We used this recipe and doubled it (for a total of 15 pints). We then pressure canned it (so we could stack, as noted in the photo above).

One jar leaked (ew) and two didn’t seal properly (so they’re in the fridge) but the taste is pretty darned good!

Potato Leek Soup.

This is another one of those soups you make ahead of time and, when you’re ready to eat them, just add some cream and heat!

Unfortunately, Potato Leek soup is not particularly pretty. it’s sort of a greeny-yellow colour, in fact, with specks of pepper floating in the jar. But oh, man, this is some GOOD stuff to eat.

Not pretty, but SO tasty!

Not pretty, but SO tasty!

Here’s the recipe:

Potato Leek Soup

Makes approximately 7 quarts

Ingredients:

2 pounds of yellow potatoes, peeled and chopped
2 pounds of leeks, washed and sliced (here are some tips!)
2 bunches of celery, washed and chopped
4 quarts of water
2 tablespoons of kosher salt
2 teaspoons of black pepper (or to taste)

Directions:

  1. Combine the potatoes, leeks, celery, water and salt in a very large pot. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer until everything is soft and happy.
  2. Using an immersion blender, puree until smooth.
  3. Return to simmering for another 10 minutes.
  4. Fill quart jars, leaving 1 inch head space. Wipe rims, apply lids and rings.
  5. Process for 45 minutes at 11 pounds of pressure.

To Serve:

Add 4 tablespoons of heavy cream per quart.   Heat the soup and serve!

Sloppy Joes!

I recruited my 13 year old son to help make some pressure canner sloppy joe sauce – and he pretty much did the whole thing himself with me giving him the tips and tricks as we went along. It’s his first time canning anything – I couldn’t be prouder.

Still bubbling!

Still bubbling!

Here’s the recipe:

Sloppy Joe Sauce

Makes 6 pints.

4 lbs ground beef
2 c. chopped onion
6 tsp. Worcestershire
3 cups ketchup (make sure there are no thickeners!)
1/2 c. water
4 T. brown sugar
4 T. apple cider vinegar
4 tsp. mustard

Directions :

  1. Prepare 6 pints, lids, and rings.
  2. In a large stainless steel pot, cook beef and onion over medium heat.
  3. While cooking the meat, mix all of the other ingredients in a large bowl, whisking to make sure it’s well blended.
  4. Drain the meat and onion mixture very well, removing as much fat as possible.
  5. Add all of the ingredients together in the large pot and bring to a boil, stirring often.
  6. Continue to cook at a lower heat for 20 minutes.  Remove from heat.
  7. Fill jars to 1 inch head space. Clean rims and apply lids and rings.
  8. Process pints at 11 pounds for 75 minutes.

To serve, open the jar and scoop into a pan. Heat it up and put it on bread, toast, buns, or whatever you normally use for your Sloppy Joes! (2 pints makes approximately 9 sandwiches.)

Pulled Pork.

Meat – the final frontier.  Or something like that, at any rate.

I’ve seen a lot of different recipes for pressure canned meat and figured it was worth a try. My canner came with basic information about canning meats, so I figured I’d go with something simple.

Pressure Canned Pulled Pork.

Ingredients:

12 pounds of pork shoulder (boneless)
1/2 cup of water
4 quarts of no-salt broth

Directions:

  1. Place pork shoulder into crockpot and add water.
  2. Set crockpot to “HIGH” and leave it for 1 hour.
  3. Turn crockpot down to “LOW” for 8-9 hours. Meat should be mostly cooked (“rare”).
  4. Bring 4 quarts of broth to a boil.
  5. Shred the pork, taking care to discard as much fat as possible. Put shredded meat into hot, quart-sized jars, leaving 1 inch of head space.
  6. Add boiling broth to each jar, leaving 1 inch of head space.
  7. Wipe jar rims clean and put lids and rings onto jars.
  8. Process at 11 pounds for 90 minutes.
  9. Jars should seal. If jars don’t seal, put them in the fridge and eat within a few days.
Pulled pork in jars!

Pulled pork in jars!

You can eat the meat straight out of the jars (it’s fully cooked!), drain it and heat the meat up with sauce (for pulled pork sandwiches), or you can use the meat in soup or other recipes.

Pickled Ginger.

I love pickled ginger – I like to eat strips of it when we go out for sushi. There are small bottles of it for sale in the grocery store near me but, as I discovered, the ingredients include food colouring (to make it pink) and aspartame.

Yes, aspartame.

I searched for a recipe, adapted it slightly, and here’s the result:

3 pints of pickled ginger.

3 pints of pickled ginger.

Here’s the recipe:

Pickled Ginger.

Makes approximately 3 pints.

Ingredients:
2 pounds of fresh ginger
4 cups of white vinegar
1 1/2 cups of white sugar
2 tablespoons of kosher/pickling salt (for brine)
2-3 tablespoons of kosher/pickling salt

Directions:

  1. Peel the ginger. Using a mandolin, slice the ginger as thinly as possible (no thicker than 1/16 inch).
  2. Place ginger in a large bowl and add 2-3 tablespoons of salt. Use your hands to ‘stir’ the ginger to try to get as much coverage with the salt as possible. Let sit for one hour.
  3. After one hour, drain and rinse the salt off the ginger.
  4. Prepare waterbath canner, jars, and lids. Keep everything warm.
  5. In a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat, combine the vinegar, sugar, and 2 tablespoons of salt. Stir until the sugar and salt dissolve, then increase the heat to medium high and bring to a boil.
  6. When the liquid boils, add the ginger. Stir gently to soften it (about 30 seconds).
  7. Drain the ginger in a large colander over a bowl and reserve the vinegar mixture.
  8. Using tongs or a ladle, place the ginger strips into hot jars – fill to approximately 1/2″ head space. Press down gently, but don’t pack the ginger in the jars.
  9. Pour in the vinegar mixture into the jar and fill to 1/2″ head space. Remove air bubbles, and add liquid if necessary.
  10. Wipe rim and place lid and ring on the jar.
  11. Process in a water bath for 15 minutes at a full boil.
  12. Remove lid from canner, wait 5 minutes, then remove jars to cool.
  13. If any jars don’t seal, place them in the fridge and use first.