29 June 2014

Canning Cherries is a Cinch!

I adore cherries. They are sometimes called "nature's candy" (the sweet ones anyway), and they are scrumptious. But there's only a short window (about this time every year) that fresh cherries are available at a reasonable price. You might even be able to get them for a great price. My local store was having a four day sale, and sweet cherries that are regularly $6.99 per pound were going for $2.99 per pound. That's probably very close to the best price I'll see during the window, then it will be gone until next year.

I grabbed up six pounds of sweet cherries, and started the preservation process this morning. I plan to eat some straight from the bag (highly recommended), use some in a brownie recipe, make some freezer jam, dehydrate some, and can some. Today was canning day.

After washing the cherries and removing the stems, I set to pitting. This is the only part I don't like, but it's not difficult. If you have a cherry pitter, it's a breeze. But I don't have one. Still, as I said, it's not that difficult without one. I just use a small star cake decorating tip. You know the kind that go in icing bags? Just place the end of the cherry where the stem was over the top of the tip and press down. The cherry will separate and the pit will be pushed through.



It only took me about 45 minutes to pit all six pounds of cherries. And since I only do this once a year, I'm sure to be slow!

Incidentally, since a cherry pitter is something I probably wouldn't buy myself, and since Christmas is only six months away, if any family member out there is looking for an idea for something I might want to open in December...take a look at this.

Now on to the actual canning bit! Cherries can be preserved with the waterbath canning process. The absolute easiest way is to pack as many into a jar as will fit with a 1/2 inch headspace. Then pour boiling water over the cherries, also minding the headspace. Apply lid and ring, and process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes.

If you want to add a sweetener, feel free. I pack my cherries in a light syrup. My goal is to have them as close to fresh as possible, since I don't always know what I'm going to be doing with them in the future. I just use a water / sugar ratio of 4 to 1. Today, for example, I combined 8 cups of water and 2 cups of sugar. Brought it to a boil, and poured it over my jarred cherries. And since I love the combination of cherry and vanilla, I added a teaspoon of pure vanilla extract to each of the jars.


Nothing could be simpler!  Six pounds of cherries with the 8 cup water / 2 cup sugar simple syrup gave me 8 pints of canned cherries.

There are other slight variations that can be made, as well. You can actually can cherries without pitting them. I've never done this, but I read you just need to poke the cherries with a pin so they won't burst. Also, if your are wanting softer cherries, cook them in the simple syrup of your choice for five minutes. Then ladle cherries and syrup into your canning jars for process.

Shared at Nifty Thrifty Sunday and some of these other fine hops.




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Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a very small commission if you click the link and buy something. This helps support my mountain homestead dream as well as my blogging activities, and the price you pay will be no different than if you arrived at the same destination through any other link. My opinions are my own, to be sure. If I link to a product and say I like it -- I truly like it! :-) Thanks for reading and following Stephlin's Mountain.

26 June 2014

Delectable Dump Cake (Is it a Southern Thing?)

I don't know why, but I equate Dump Cake with the South. So imagine my shock and surprise when I discovered my southern born B had never heard of it, let alone tasted it.

I'm not quite sure what brought on the recent desire for Dump Cake to begin with. I remember reading a post about it online, then a few days later it was mentioned in my vicinity off-line. I guess I took that as a sign from above. Must. Make. Dump. Cake.

Dump cake also brings back memories.  Grandma Logue used to make it for us, and I bet it had been twenty years or more since my last bite.


Dump Cake as it is traditionally prepared, unfortunately, is not good for you. Don't worry, I didn't let that tidbit stop me. Yet I was feeling extra bummed about "dumping" a box of chemical-laden cake mix on top of my canned fruit. So I searched around for a recipe, and made my own. There! Now I feel a little better. (I really wanted to make my own cherry pie filling, but I just couldn't bring myself to pay the price for fresh cherries. I know they're going to be on sale soon, so I've put canning some for next time on my to-do list!)


The topping also includes a couple of cups of chopped pecans. I was able to use my chopping gadget to make quick work of some pecan halves my grandmother gave us. In fact, she's been supplying us with pecans for years.

I remember, when I was a kid, having to go to the tree in her backyard and pick them up off the ground. And I remember her and Grandpa sitting in the living room with a bowl full each, cracking them open.


Ready for the recipe, yet? Don't worry. I won't leave you hanging in suspense much longer.  ;-)


Delectable Dump Cake

Delectable Dump Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 (21 oz.) can cherry pie filling
  • 1 (20 oz.) can crushed pineapple, with juice
  • 2 full cups homemade yellow cake mix (or 1 box store bought)
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tbsp pure vanilla extract (make your own!)
  • 2 cups chopped pecans

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat 9x13 pan with non-stick spray.
  2. Dump pineapple and cherry pie filling into pan. Swirl together and spread evenly over bottom of pan.
  3. Dump and spread yellow cake mix evenly over top of fruit.
  4. Dump and spread chopped pecans evenly over top of cake mix.
  5. Mix vanilla in with melted butter, and pour evenly over top of pecans.
  6. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour. (Mine took 55 minutes.)

Shared at All Things Thursday, Fabulously Frugal Thursday, Four Seasons Blog Hop, Thrifty Thursday, Thriving Thursday, and some of these other fine hops.




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25 June 2014

Make Your Own Cake Mix in a Box

Mine ended up being cake mix in a freezer bag, but I digress.

All I wanted to do was make a Dump Cake. In my ever constant (never ending?) attempt to eat more real food and less chemicals, I was a bit frustrated with the "dump a box of cake mix over the top" step in the recipe. Of course, that's not the only recipe like that. There are plenty that include "1 box yellow cake mix" as a single ingredient.

So off to Google I go. While I eventually found the recipe that follows on several blogs, I will credit the first place I saw it -- Brown Eyed Baker. Thankfully, I can now add boxed cake mix to my no-need-to-buy list!

Per the instructions, I used my trusty food processor to easily whip the mix together.

Mixed dry ingredients.

Cubed butter tossed in flour mixture, and pure vanilla extract added.

DONE!

Here's the recipe. I'll be back later tomorrow with that Dump Cake!

Make Your Own Cake Mix

First seen on Brown Eyed Baker.

For a cake recipe using this mix, visit Mel's Kitchen Cafe.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1/2 cup milk powder
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 in. cubes, chilled
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Instructions

  1. Add all dry ingredients to bowl of food processor. Mix for about 15 seconds.
  2. Add butter cubes and slightly toss in flour mixture, making sure all are coated. Add vanilla.
  3. Process with 10-15 one-second pulses, until mixture is fine and crumbly -- like boxed cake mix!
  4. Store in freezer bag or container in freezer for up to 2 months. No need to "thaw". Simply use straight from freezer in any recipe calling for cake mix.

Yield: 5+ cups





Shared at Life Lately Link Up, Homemaking Party, Wake Up Wednesday, Backyard Farming Connection Hop, Lovely Ladies Linky, Mountain Woman Rendezvous, Wonderful Wednesday Blog Hop, and some of these fine hops.


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a very small commission if you click the link and buy something. This helps support my mountain homestead dream as well as my blogging activities, and the price you pay will be no different than if you arrived at the same destination through any other link. My opinions are my own, to be sure. If I link to a product and say I like it -- I truly like it! :-) Thanks for reading and following Stephlin's Mountain.

19 June 2014

All Things New by Lynn Austin: a Book Review

I think I've found a new favorite author. Seriously!

First, let me give a shout out to Amazon and my local library. They work together and allow me to borrow digital books and download them to my Kindle Fire -- a free service provided to me as a library patron. I found Lynn Austin's book All Things New by browsing the Georgia Download Destination.

While I thoroughly enjoy historical fiction and women as lead characters, I don't often enjoy Christian fiction. To be fair, it's likely due to my limited exposure to the genre. In my experience, however, there is a bit too much "sugar coated-ness" for my taste. I firmly believe God performs miracles on a daily basis. Yet, I also believe the events leading up to those miracles are not always pretty.

No danger of sugar-coating in this book! Ms. Austin was able to portray a tumultuous time in (Southern) American history with accuracy, but without overly graphic or crass language.

All Things New is primarily set on the White Oak plantation not far from Richmond, Virginia. The time period is Reconstruction, immediately following the Civil War. The story has three main characters: a mother and her daughter (with a Southern aristocratic social standing), and a newly freed female slave. Each chapter is told from a different character's viewpoint.

The mother (Eugenia) wants nothing more than for her life to return to the "way things were" before the war. She has no intention of changing her beliefs regarding slavery or those enslaved. The daughter (Josephine) is eager to embrace change, not only in terms of the abolishment of slavery, but also in the roles women generally play in Southern society. The newly freed female slave (Lizzie) is just plain terrified. She wants to move forward and have a better life for herself and her children, yet she trusts no one outside her family. Her bravery is noted in the small steps she takes toward that better life, risking her personal safety in the process.

Each of these characters also struggle with their relationship with God, specifically their trust in Him.

The ravages of war, gender roles, class roles, suicidal tendencies, forbidden love, violence against a race of people, and trying to figure out whether God even plays a role in it all -- in 400+ pages. Great read by Lynn Austin!

Shared at All Things Thursday, Fabulously Frugal Thursday, The HomeAcre Hop, Simple Lives Thursday, Thrifty Thursday, Thriving Thursday, and some of these other fine hops.


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a very small commission if you click the link and buy something. This helps support my mountain homestead dream as well as my blogging activities, and the price you pay will be no different than if you arrived at the same destination through any other link. My opinions are my own, to be sure. If I link to a product and say I like it -- I truly like it! :-) Thanks for reading and following Stephlin's Mountain.

18 June 2014

Fudgy Blueberry Brownies (and Martha Stewart Helped!)

I have a confession to make. Prior to yesterday, I had never made "real" brownies. You know, the kind that do not come from a box. Please don't ask what took me so long. I'm ashamed and have no answer.

One of the things I'm most pleased about since I have been slowly transitioning to real food, is the amount of actual ingredients I now keep in my pantry.  I no longer open the door to a bunch of pre-packaged box dinners made with Lord-only-knows-what.  It's quite exciting for me.

So you know why I was tickled pink (blue?) when I came across Amanda's recipe for Blueberry Brownies at i am baker. Blueberries, butter, chocolate chips, sugar, eggs, vanilla, cocoa powder, flour, and kosher salt -- check!

The recipe is extraordinarily easy. So much so that I promise to never make brownies from a box again. Seriously. Ne-ver.

And the blueberries? Oh. My. Imagine taking a bite of fudginess, followed by a literal burst of berry flavor. Yep.

Another gadget that made these brownies super simple is Martha Stewart's Brownie Slice Pan*. The chances of me ever purchasing one for myself would have probably been slim to none (think "who needs that?"). However, it was a gift from my loving mother. And now that I have used one, I adore it!

It reminds me of a shallow square springform pan, the difference being you lift the product out of the pan instead of "springing" the pan off the product. Get me?

The pre-sliced sectional is a bonus; inserting it is not required.  One of the suggestions from the box is using it with rice krispie treats, and I do think the pre-slice thingamajig would be great with those.





*Note on product link above: First, it's an affiliate link (see disclaimer below). More importantly, this links to the "Chicago Metallic" pan. I assure you it is the same pan that came in the Martha Stewart box I have. My pan even has "Chicago Metallic" imprinted on it. Feel free to look at the "Martha Stewart" version here. As of this moment, it appears to cost about $2.50 more for her name.

Shared at The Homemaking Party, Lovely Ladies Linky, Mountain Woman Rendezvous, Wake Up Wednesday, Wonderful Wednesday, and some of these other fine hops.


Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a very small commission if you click the link and buy something. This helps support my mountain homestead dream as well as my blogging activities, and the price you pay will be no different than if you arrived at the same destination through any other link. My opinions are my own, to be sure. If I link to a product and say I like it -- I truly like it! :-) Thanks for reading and following Stephlin's Mountain.

14 June 2014

Dehydrating Onions for Fresh Flavor with a Long Shelf Life

Too many onions? So many you know you'll never use them before they go bad? Or, you want to take advantage of a sale, but don't for fear of rot and waste?

Get rescued by your food dehydrator! Turn those onions into dehydrated onions and onion powder. The fresh flavor will remain, and you'll have the added benefit of a product that lasts for months.

I was at Aldi's the other day and picked some sweet onions they had on sale at 79¢ for 2 pounds. I already had some dehydrated onion in the pantry, but I've been wanting to add onion powder to the arsenal. Having each of these on hand is pretty important to me. First of all, I'm rather lazy in the kitchen when it comes to savory food preparation (but I'll happily spend all day making sweets -- what's up with that?). And second, I detest the burn that results from chopping an onion. I usually beg kindly request someone else to do it for me.

If you remember (or pinned!) my tomato powder posts, you might have the gist of what we're going to do. A difference, however, can be found in the initial preparation of the onions. With the tomatoes, I used my mandolin. For the onions, I used my food processor (links to exact one I purchased six months ago). It has a wide mouth, so I could easily feed it large chunks of onion to slice finely and quickly. Minimal effort, minimal tears!




After the super fast slicing, I quickly loaded up my dehydrator. A few tears were shed, and a couple of nostrils burned a bit -- nothing I couldn't handle. :-)

Since I was going to suck every bit of water out of these guys, I didn't worry about touching or layering. In fact, I forced all of the sliced onions onto just four shelves. If I had more (I really should get some), I would have thinned the layers so they would have dried quicker. The onions literally took a full day to dry at 135°.

If you are looking simply for dehydrated onion -- you're done! Just break up the pieces and throw them in a jar. Use them in anything and everything that you are already adding a bit of liquid to. They are just as flavorful as a freshly chopped onion, and even retain the texture! Here's some I jarred up a while back.


My end goal for today was onion powder, so I pressed on simply by filling my blender and letting her rip on a high speed.

Um, may I interject here? I'm starting to think I need a new blender. Mine is at least 17 years old -- no joke -- and I really thought I was going to burn the motor up the other day when trying to make a smoothie. Any cheap frugal suggestions?

...And we're back to the onion powder.  Well, really, we're done.  That's it.  Store the powder in a jar in your pantry.  Out of 4 pounds of onions (minus 2 singles I left for someone else to chop if they so desired), I got a full 1/2 pint jar of powder.


Shared at Simple Saturdays Blog Hop, Simply Natural Saturdays, and some of these fine hops.





Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a very small commission if you click the link and buy something. This helps support my mountain homestead dream as well as my blogging activities, and the price you pay will be no different than if you arrived at the same destination through any other link. My opinions are my own, to be sure. If I link to a product and say I like it -- I truly like it! :-) Thanks for reading and following Stephlin's Mountain.

08 June 2014

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Protein Smoothie

I saw this recipe for a Chocolate and Peanut Butter smoothie on two other blogs -- 4 Sons 'R' Us and Sallys Baking Addiction -- and had to try it for myself.  I believe the former got it from the latter.

While I will never shy away from the chocolate and peanut butter combination -- good for me or not -- this is thankfully one of those rare, good for me occasions. This smoothie packs a protein punch, and is sweetened with a banana and honey. I'm thinking it would be great for breakfast on the go.

The way I prepared it resulted in 20 grams of protein power.  If you use Greek yogurt instead of regular, bump that number even higher.

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Protein Smoothie

Adapted from Sally's Chocolate Peanut Butter Protein Smoothie here.

Chocolate & Peanut Butter Protein Smoothie

Get ready for lots of protein ahead!

Ingredients

  • 1 large banana, peeled, sliced, and frozen
  • 3 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 6 oz vanilla yogurt (use Greek for even more protein)
  • 3/4 cup whole milk (or your preference)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 2 tbsp natural peanut butter

Instructions

  • Add all ingredients to your blender, in the order given. Blend until smooth and creamy. It will be a little thick, but not so much as to require a spoon.

Yield: 1 tall glass, filled to the rim


Shared at Heritage Homesteaders Hop, Nifty Thrifty Sunday, Simple Life Sunday, and some of these fine hops.




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07 June 2014

Turning a Closet into a Drying Room

I'm trying to lower my electric bill. [Who isn't, these days?] One way I'm going about it is by reminding myself that my clothes dryer is a luxury and not a necessity.

So I bought a drying rack. With the intention of placing it outside on pretty days, and using it inside on not-so-pretty days. And I failed miserably. The habit never caught on, at all. Likely for a couple of reasons: the darn thing is just too small, even for only two adults; and there's not enough room in my laundry area for it to stay up for any length of time without it being in the way.

Truthfully, I dream of a clothesline. But I live in an apartment complex, and it explicitly says in my lease that I am not to have one across my patio. I don't blame them; that's a policy I don't disagree with.

I've read different articles online about rigging one up inside, but really wasn't high on the idea.

Fast forward to when I started cleaning out one of my closets. I got rid of anything in there that I didn't love or need. It was very liberating, I must say. When I was done, marveling at all the "new" space, it hit me. Why can't I make this into a drying room?

The walk-in closets in my apartment are really nice. One side has a mid-high shelf and a high shelf. Each one has a place for hanging below. The other side has a sorta high shelf, also with a place for hanging below.


You get the idea.

My drying rack now has a permanent home in the "new drying room", and anything that doesn't fit on it is hung up.


I still use the clothes dryer for a few things.  My work uniform, for example, goes in due to lint issues.  We've cut our use of the machine for which I have a love / hate relationship way down, for sure.  Hopefully it translates into a lower electric bill!

Tell me! Do you consider your clothes dryer to be a luxury or a necessity? Do you have any other ingenious ways to get by without it?

Shared at Simple Saturdays Blog Hop, Simply Natural Saturdays, and some of these other fine hops.

06 June 2014

Super Simple Succotash and Sausage

Succotash is a food dish consisting primarily of corn and lima beans or other shell beans. Other ingredients may be added including tomatoes and green or sweet red peppers...so sayeth Wikipedia.

Have you ever added meat to your succotash? It might not be traditional, but I love to make a main dish out of my succotash by adding some smoked sausage. If I'm really feeling frisky, I'll add an additional vegetable -- potatoes. (Since I adore potatoes in any fashion, I'm usually feeling frisky.) As always, fresh vegetables are best, but the procedure could also be as simple as opening a few cans.

First, I sauté a small onion (diced) with an 8 oz. sausage link (sliced). I use simply smoked beef sausage, but go with whatever you like. (I might also add some diced bell pepper if I have it on hand. Neglected to do that today.)


After the onion is translucent and the sausage is browned, in go the vegetables: corn, lima beans, diced tomatoes, and diced potatoes. When using canned goods, I drain all but the tomatoes.

I just cracked myself up over the lack of brand loyalty on display here.

As for seasonings, I use freshly ground black pepper and fresh garlic. I don't add salt since the canned goods and sausage have plenty for me. Additionally, I might add one or both of the following: worcestershire sauce and hot sauce. I can't help it. Both make me happy!

De-licious!

Succotash and Sausage

Ingredients

  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 8 oz link smoked beef sausage (or your preference), sliced
  • 1 can lima beans, drained
  • 1 can diced tomatoes
  • 1 can corn, drained
  • 1 can diced potatoes, drained
  • black pepper and garlic to taste
  • olive oil for the sauté
  • bell pepper, diced (optional)
  • worcestershire sauce and hot sauce to taste (optional)

Instructions

  1. Sauté onion and sausage in olive oil until translucent and browned (respectively).
  2. Add in canned goods and seasonings. Stir together.
  3. Allow to simmer until at least heated through. I let mine go about 30 minutes.
  4. Additional items can be added: bell pepper with the onions; worcestershire and / or hot sauce with the seasonings.
Yield: about 4 servings



Shared at Fiesta Friday, Freedom Fridays, From the Farm Blog Hop, Old-Fashioned Friday, and some of these other fine hops. A special shout-out goes to the Thrifty Couple's inaugural Thrifty Thursday.

05 June 2014

My Favorite Time of Day

I like to camp. Most preferably in the mountains. And the absolute most favorite-est part of the day to me is waking up to the birds chirping (loudly!) and the sunrise shining so bright the rays penetrate the tent.

Once we rouse, B promptly starts the coffee and begins to prepare breakfast on the old Coleman stove given to us by my grandfather. Breakfast burritos are a staple camping breakfast for us. Eggs and sausage, for sure. Sometimes a bit of diced potato. Topped with cheese (lots for me, please!) and any other condiments you'd like. Salsa? Sour cream? We always have those two on hand in the cooler.

Morning mist on the water in the mountains of north Georgia.

Sun shining through the trees at Red Top Mountain.

Believe it or not I used to be a night owl. Work changed all that. Over the past ten years, my average get-to-work time has been 2 AM. Though I know for sure that is an unnatural time to go to work, my favorite time of day "naturally" shifted to morning. And that also applies when I'm not in the mountains.

Even on my off-days I'm up before the sun, and that's my favorite time to walk Bear. Listening to the birds. You might be surprised how many are up that early!

As soon as the sun starts to lighten things up, up goes the window in my home office. That way I can continue to hear the birds and feel the morning breeze. The view from my desk isn't half bad, for an apartment complex in the city.


And if I lean over just a bit, I can see the sun come up before I leave my desk to marvel at the beauty of dew in my garden.


What's your favorite time of day?

Shared at The HomeAcre Hop, Thriving Thursday, All Things Thursday, Four Seasons Blog Hop, and some of these fine hops.

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