Just wanted to let y'all know that Pear Honey goes wonderfully with cinnamon-ginger pancakes! Yum!

Fast, Slow-Cooked Beef Stew  

I saw a recipe for slow-cooker beef stew. The concept was not new to to me but the recipe sounded so good that I decided to make it tonight. Poor planning, on my part caused me to have to "adapt" it, just a tad. =)  I didn't have all the ingredients and I didn't have enough time.

The missing ingredients weren't that hard to get around, actually. We didn't have stew meat, but we did have fajita strips. I went out to the garden and dug up some potatoes. I replaced some of the beef broth with wine and some with water. Also, I changed a few things to suit our preferences - less tomato paste and upped the amount of veggies.

The time issue was solved buy using a technique I often use when making stew on the stovetop. And that is, I roast the veggies in the oven, before adding them to the rest. Not only does this speed things up, but it adds color and flavor to the veggies.

So now I will try to get this into a recipe format so you can try it out and see your family enjoys it as much as mine did.

Fast, Slow-Cooked Beef Stew

1 lb stew meat (or fajita strips)
2 Tbs steak seasoning (recipe below)
All-purpose flour, as needed (about a cup)
6 or 7 medium potatoes (or as many as you care to dig)
6 or 7 carrots
1 large onion, chopped
~3.5 oz of tomato paste (I buy this paste because it comes in a jar so I don't have to use it all at once)
2 cups of red wine
3 to 4 cups  of water
1 tsp dried thyme
1 bay leaf
olive oil
salt & pepper, to taste

Spread out the beef and pat it dry with a paper towel (it doesn't have to be bone-dry). Season with steak seasoning and toss in flour to coat. Heat a few tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and brown the meat, a few pieces at a time, adding more oil if needed. As you remove the browned meat, put it in the crockpot.

Once all the beef has been browned and removed, put the chopped onions in the skillet and cook until tender. Stir in the tomato paste and the wine and scrape up any browned bits. Simmer for couple minutes and then into the crockpot that goes too. Add about 3 cups of water, thyme, and bay leaf. Turn crockpot on low.

Meanwhile dig some potatoes, or just retrieve them from your pantry. Wash and cut them into about 2 inch cubes (peel or don't peel - it's up to you), and peel and slice the carrots. Put the potatoes and carrots into a large baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, and season liberally with salt and pepper. Bake at 400ยบ until they are just tender and have begun to brown (do not overcook).

Stir the potatoes and carrots into the meat mixture in the crockpot. Add more salt, pepper, or water, if needed, and cook on low for about 3 hours, or until veggies are cooked through. Serve with buttered bread.

Steak Seasoning

2 tsp salt
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp freshly-ground black pepper
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp (that's a good sized pinch) coriander

This is the best steak seasoning I have ever had anywhere. I make up a large batch of this to have on hand. Besides using it on steak, roasts, and beef for stew, get some extra thin-sliced steak from your butcher and season with this mix before pan frying, for the best cheese steak sandwich you'll ever make at home. Yum!


I saw a set of cheater chopsticks that are hinged like a clothespin and I thought, "I can do that!" So I did. And you can too. Easy. Maybe not as easy as the rubberband trick, but a lot cooler. =D

So here's how you hack a set of chopsticks in five easy steps:

1. Get some to-go chopsticks and a clothespin.

2. Take them both apart.

3. Slip the end of the chopstick in the hinge from the clothespin, like this. Decide where you want the crossbar to go and mark it. Mark the other chopstick in the same place.

4. Make a small groove for the crossbar to fit into. Yep, I just used a butterknife.

5. Assemble. This may take a little maneuvering, but it's not *that* hard. You'll figure it out.

And there ya' go! Easy!

And here, Pickle is trying them out. If I did it again I would place the hinge a bit closer to the end and turn the sticks so that the crossbars went across the widest sides of the sticks, instead of the narrowest... and that is my advice to you. Have at it!

Pear Honey  

I looked at several recipes online and after checking with my mom (an experienced canner) I didn't follow any of the recipes. Here's what I did...

Peeled and cut up a bunch of slightly overripe pears, tossed them (with the peelings) in a really big pot and barely covered them with water. Brought this to a boil and then covered and simmered until the pears were mushy.

Used a potato masher to break up the pears and simmered for about another 20 mintutes. Strained this thru a cotton cloth [flat cotton diapers (not prefold) are great for this and you can by them cheap at Walmart] and measured the resulting liquid.

For the first batch, I had 10 cups. This went into a stainless steel pot and half that amount of sugar was added. So for 10 cups of juice I added 5 cups of sugar. I also added about 1/8 to 1/4 of a cup of lemon juice (to taste) and a teaspoon of vanilla (again, to taste). Brought this to a boil and simmered on med-low until it was as thick I liked. You can test for this by spooning a little on a saucer and sticking it in the fridge to cool down and then see if it is as thick as you want.

For the second batch I had 8 cups of juice so I added 4 cups of sugar, the lemon and vanilla, and it was cooked in the crockpot, on high, with the top off and an cloth draped over it. It took longer to get thick but I didn't have to stand and stir it toward the end, to keep it from burning.

For both batches, as soon as they were ready and still good and hot (keep them on low while you work) I ladled them into hot sterilized jars, wiped the rim, set the lids (these were kept ready in *very* HOT water) and screwed down the rings. Then I put the jars together on a towel and draped another towel over them so they would cool down slowly. Mom always does this and says it helps them seal better. They all sealed perfectly.

So there you have it. Not quite a recipe, but certainly a method you can follow to make your own Pear Honey. And it is SO worth it. Yum! See for yourself.

Leftover Oatmeal Cake  

The pear honey turned out worderfully! We had some on French Toast this morning and I have another batch going right now. This time I am trying to make it in the crockpot. I didn't want to stay up cooking it last night and I didn't want to try and find room in the fridge for the juice so I put it in the crockpot and left the top ajar with a towel over it. This morning, I took the top off and carefully draped the towel over the open crock. So we will see if this works.

Meanwhile, here's a recipe for Leftover Oatmeal cake!

Yep, oatmeal cake. Deeeelicious! I tend to think of this recipe as the second half of my crockpot oatmeal recipe. I used to make the oatmeal for the morning and then use the leftovers for this cake for after supper.

Leftover Oatmeal Cake

Cream together:
1/2 cup butter
2 cups sucanat (OR half white sugar & half brown sugar OR all white sugar plus 1 TBS molasses)
2 eggs
1 tsp of vanilla
2 cups (more or less) cooked oatmeal

Sift together:
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. (or more!) cinnamon

Add sifted mixture to creamed mixture and beat well. Pour into greased and floured 9 x 13 cake pan. Bake 35 minutes or until tests done. Add topping.


1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup margarine
1/4 cup cream or milk
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1 cup coconut.

Spread on hot cake and broil 2 - 4 minutes until the topping begins to brown. Watch closely! (I have made the topping without nuts or coconut and it was still great.)

This cake is very rich and moist so serve in small pieces.

Busy Getting Nothing Done  

I washed, peeled, and cut up some pears this morning. Put them, along with the peels, in a huge pot and covered them with water. I cooked them until they were soft, mashed them, and let them cool. The plan is to make some pear honey and jelly.

I went outside around noon, while the pear mash was cooling, and picked more pears and a few figs. But when I came inside and immediately felt like I was going to throw up and/or pass out. I had gotten too hot without realizing it. Honest, I didn't feel that hot and I wasn't even sweating that much. I took a nap. Now I'm trying to finish the pear honey and get a late supper on the table.

I did not get the fall garden seeds started, nor did I get the garden prepared. The kids pulled the corn stalks out, but appearently, that was as far as it got.


I will let y'all know how the pear honey turns out. I know it is tasting really good so far. But it will be a long night of cooking and canning it. Hopefully I will remember to take pictures if all goes well.... if I mess it up then there doesn't need to be photographic evidence of that, now does there? :)

House Mouse  

Not the furry kind of mouse. The computer mouse. I started goofing around with a photo of our house using 'Paint', the program the kids use to draw things on the computer. The result is not professional looking by any means. But I was determined not to spend a ton of time on it, like I tend to do when i get obsessed interested in something sometimes. So this was a "get it done", not a "get it perfect" project. Maybe in a few years we will make some of these changes in real life, but for now I thought I would share what I am thinking about for our little brick ranch.


house again

Right now, the steps to the porch are at the side, under the carport. This is very convienient on rainy days, but every time I walk out the front door I think there should be stairs on the front of the porch. It would look more welcoming from the "curb" (we don't have a curb in the country, but you know what I mean) and it would be more convienient when exiting the house to do orchard work --which is to the right as you go out the door. So I want to leave the current steps in place and add some grand front steps.

Also, we have thought about building an addition that would add a master suite and a dining room (not shown in the rendering). This would free up space to do a MUCH needed expansion of the kitchen into the current dining area. The concern with this idea is that we know we would never, ever, be able to find a match for the unique brick the exterior is clad in. So the addition would have to be 'wood' siding, and how do you make that blend with the rest of the house?

My thought is to add more wood to the front of the house so the addition won't look like quite so out of place. That is why I added craftsman-style pillars, a railing, shutters, a gable and chose wood for the steps.

And I would definately add better landscaping than what you see here... but like I said, I was determinded to not obsess.

Random Chicken  

A fine portrait of one of our hens. This particular hen is nameless.

Eggs: The Good, The Bad, And The Hidden  

egg by Whiterocks_pics

egg, a photo by Whiterocks_pics on Flickr.

I found a clutch of eggs that the hens had hidden under the lean-to of the shed. I knew that some of the eggs had been laid today, because the hens were locked out of the chicken coop and they couldn't get to the nestboxes. But some of them might be much older. Soooo I wanted to be sure they weren't bad... without cracking them open.

And as you know, the interwebz speaks to me whenz I googles it. Here's what I found out.

According to Harold McGee, author of On Food & Cooking (Canada, UK), Hannah Glass gave this practical advice to cooks around 1750, and it's as valid today — a "way to know a good egg, is to put the egg into a pan of cold water; the fresher the egg, the sooner is will fall to the bottom; if rotten, it will swim at the top."

A very fresh egg, placed in water, it will lie on the bottom. A week-old egg will lie on the bottom but bob slightly. An egg that is around three weeks old will balance on its small end, with the large end up. And a bad egg will float.

So now you know!


DSC_0324 by Whiterocks_pics
DSC_0324, a photo by Whiterocks_pics on Flickr.

Look at them! They look innocent enough, all cute and clucky, but they are troublemakers I tell you! A group of our youngest chickens have discovered our wonderful, sweet, elderly neighbors' flowerbeds. Bad chickens! Bad! The offenders are caged for now and some decisions about fencing will have to be made tonight. Then the wing clipping will begin. Bad chickens!! [sigh] I can't stay mad at them long.... they are so cute... and rotten!... and cute. [sigh]

Bunny Cake  

Bunny Cake by Whiterocks_pics
Bunny Cake, a photo by Whiterocks_pics on Flickr.

This is my version of Bunny Cake, a recipe given to me by a dear friend in the U.P. of Michigan, Jen Bach (hi, Jen!). It's called Bunny Cake because that is how some of her kids say Pannukakku. It makes a wonderfully delicious and easy breakfast! [Disclaimer: Even though I have kept the name, I do not claim that this is a propper Pannukakku.]

PANNUKAKKU (Finnish Pancake)
Pronounced "bun-a-guck-ooh"

1 stick butter
6 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
2 cups whole milk

In a 9x13 inch baking pan, melt the butter in the oven while it preheats to 375 degrees. Meanwhile, with electric mixer, beat eggs until blended and frothy. Add sugar and vanilla; beat until sugar is dissolved. In a separate bowl, stir salt into flour. Alternately add flour mixture and milk to egg mixture, mixing well between each addition. Add approximately 2/3 of the melted butter and mix in. Pour batter over the remaining butter in the pan.

Bake in preheated 375 degree oven for 35 minutes. Serve warm.

In the photo above, it has been dusted with powdered sugar and topped with sour cream and homemade dewberry syrup. But I think my favorite way to eat it is with powdered sugar and fresh raspberries.

Lamp Transformation  

bottleslampbefore by Whiterocks_pics
bottleslampbefore, a photo by Whiterocks_pics on Flickr.

Card catalog centerpiece  

I like this idea, but I don't haven any card catalog drawers. Maybe I can find an old box about this size.