Cannin and Jammin

To finish off the summary of our canning adventures from last summer/fall, I have to include that we also made black raspberry jam for the first time. We didn’t have enough berries for as many batches as strawberry jam, but we made enough to give it as gifts and to still have a few jars for us. The canning process went well, pretty much the same as strawberry jam. We left the seeds in, so it helps if you don’t mind crunchy jam. Here is a picture after the first batch of black raspberry (there were at least two batches), along with the strawberry, and a few jars of grape leftover from the previous fall.

lots o jam

For the last year or two, neighbors have given us a few jars of peppers that they had canned. These peppers had just enough heat and we put them on pizza, nachos, taco salads, salad salads, and more. They were sooooo good. So, last summer we planted peppers. A LOT of peppers, with the idea that we could can them like our neighbors.

peppers in garden

We planted Hungarian Hot Wax, Sweet Banana, Anaheim and a green pepper. Of course, we knew the green pepper wouldn’t be hot, but NONE of the others were either. Every now and again we’d get a pepper with some heat when we roasted them with cheese and bread crumbs, but by and large, they were heatless. Better than too hot, I suppose.

They sure were plentiful and pretty…

pile o peppers

It was truly our best pepper crop ever. We decided to can them anyway. On the up side, no worries about burning skin/eyes/etc as we spent hours seeding and slicing to fill the pot.

cooking peppers

We followed our neighbor’s recipe and cooked the peppers til they boiled.

cooked peppers

And we made a few batches.

canned peppers

Even though they are heatless, they are delicious! We have given quite a few jars away to friends/family and we always have one open in the fridge. When I placed our seed order a few days ago, I included peppers. Our garden will be “smaller” this year, but we are not reducing the pepper crop and hope to have enough to can more this fall.

 

Oh Fargo: Such a Bad Influence

Fargo is many things…crazy, energetic, entertaining, destructive, funny, sweet, intuitive, playful and more. But one of the best things about Fargo, is that he is a champion snuggler. This trait has had its pros and cons.

When Fargo snuggles, it is calming, therapeutic, warm, cozy, noisy (he’s also a champion snorer) and VERY hard to pull oneself away. Fargo snuggles have led to a little more couch time and a little less productivity, thus the Bad Influence designation.

fargo snuggle 1

fargo snuggle 2

Fargo snuggle 3

Canning Strawberry Jam

Three years ago, as we stared at a kitchen table covered with grapes, we had the brainstorm that we should make grape jam. We had never made jam, or done any canning. Instead, we had been packaging and freezing any extra garden goodies. But there were many, many grapes staring back at us from the kitchen table.

Here’s the thing, grapes require the extra step of squeezing the inside from the outside. Do you know how long it takes to squeeze enough grape insides from the skins to make a few jars of jam? I won’t even try to tell you in numbers, let’s just a A LOT! But it made some delicious jam.

Last summer, we had a CRAZY bumper crop of strawberries, so we thought strawberry jam might be a good idea…and it was! Still work, but a lot less work than grape jam. We still froze a ton, and gave away a ton as well.

strawberries

making jam

jars of jam

Oh, and we also made strawberry pie (and saved some for when the girls came home to visit that August…fyi, it’s not as good after freezing).

fresh strawberry pie

Oh Fargo: Tired Puppy Edition

Fargo had overnight company when friends with three boys came to visit. Fargo LOVES these boys, and he especially loves to nibble their ears. We often say that Fargo loves everyone enthusiastically…more enthusiastically than many people want to be loved…but these boys love him right back.

What we love is the laughter and giggles and the fact that they WEAR out our crazy puppy.  Especially today when the younger guy played in the snow with Fargo for quite a while.

This is what Fargo has looked like most of the day:

tired puppy

 

Sunrises and Sunsets (and the first week of training)

One of the things I am learning about myself as I get older is that my tolerance of the frigid temps (and the heat/humidity) gets less and less each year. As mentioned in a previous post, my bedtime and wake-up times have shifted earlier the past few years. I see most every sunrise, but in the summers, I sometimes miss the sunsets. I LOVE sunrises and sunsets, so one positive about the shorter days in winter is that I see them both.

I take so many pictures of sunrises and sunsets. They are cell phone pictures, so that does not always help convey the beauty. Pictures in general cannot necessarily capture the beauty, but I keep trying.

sunset 1

Sunset 2

sunset 3

sunrise

These are some of the better ones, but still, the real life versions were just so much more amazing.

Also, a note about the first week of the new Half Marathon Training Plan we are trying…DONE! BAM!! Got outside for two of the runs and the other two were on the treadmill, including the 6 miler due to daylight/temps/snow. Including a 2 mile walk on the TM for cross training, it was a 19 mile week for me.

This week the Friday run increases from 4 to 5 miles. The highest weekday mileage is 6. These are high for me due to the length of time it will take me to run them, but I am going to do my darndest. My treadmill pace for the 6 miler yesterday was about 20 seconds/mile too slow for a PR, but it’s early and the long runs are supposed to be slower, right?

 

So Many Food Blogs, and some other stuff

Before I started this new baking (blogging) venture, I was apparently oblivious to the food blog industry. I knew that people posted recipes here and there from different sites. Of course I would look up recipes online and get google results for Martha Stewart or Allrecipes, etc, but I had NO idea there was a food blog world.

After my love affair with The Great British Bake Off began (thank you again, youngest), and we bought the pretty power tool mixer, I followed a link posted by a facebook friend to a Sally’s Baking Addiction recipe. This led me to peruse Sally’s site and I realized it was not just about the recipe. It was about the story with the recipe, and the oh so pretty food pictures, and the layout of the site, and the comments/interactions with followers, and so on.

I found another food blog, JoCooks, with the Dutch Oven bread recipe I’ve made a dozen times so far. And then Pinch of Yum, and then another blog, and then another, and another, and holy cow, you can get lost in all of these blogs. Each one has a unique personality, and cooking/photography style and more recipes than someone could ever sort through. A few of them include tips and strategies for people who want to start their own food blogs, and even earn income through blogging.

Very few of the food blogs are on this platform, most have their own websites. Thanks to my tech savvy mom, I now have my own site too, though it’s not set up yet. My blog is not a food blog, but food is a focus, right? I have no idea if people will be interested, as I am not providing unique recipes that I developed. I am using the blog as a way to share the every day, and the new in life, with the girls away.

We worked very hard to help our girls be strong, independent women. To think and choose for themselves, to problem solve. People compliment us on doing such an amazing job with our girls, that they were/are confident enough to have chosen the path they did. We worked hard to Teach Them to Fly, but we never, ever thought they’d fly quite so far. We are insanely proud parents, with a quiet house.

And now, we are trying to move forward, filling our time with a crazy puppy, experimenting with new foods/baked goods, gardening/food saving, running/training and (for me) blogging. Hubby dedicates time to his outdoors pursuits, and thankfully, keeping the wood furnace going in the COLD temps.

Back to the food blogs – found a new recipe for the rotation – so very yummy. I did add kale, because I had some and wanted to use it up:

http://www.ambitiouskitchen.com/2013/01/butternut-squash-and-black-bean-enchilada-skillet/

black bean butternut enchilada bake

Also, our wonderful friends invited us to dinner the other night. They had used the Hubbard Squash puree in a lasagna recipe. The recipe was vegan, though our friends used dairy milk instead of milk substitute. They also used half the garlic and a little extra spinach. Also an incredibly delicious recipe which we will try to replicate:

http://holycowvegan.net/2013/11/lasagna-for-twoor-four.html

Yes, I took food pictures at our friends’ dinner table…

vegan lasagna

It was a good day, it was a Fargo The Terrible day…

I put the early morning hours to good use today, or should I say that I put some more of the hubbard squash to good use. I tried another recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction:

http://sallysbakingaddiction.com/2014/10/13/130-calorie-chocolate-pumpkin-spice-muffins/

The recipe was slightly more labor intensive than I had thought upon first read. It didn’t help that as I was adding the melted coconut oil to the (cold) squash puree/yogurt/maple syrup mixture, Fargo needed to go out. Upon our return, I saw that the coconut oil had become solid on top of the puree mixture. I had never even considered that possibility.

I tried mixing it back in, but that was not working at all. Luckily I hadn’t added the eggs yet, so I scooped out as much of the solid oil as I could (along with some squash), and re-heated. The second time it all went a little more smoothly.

I didn’t have mini chocolate chips, so I added a few regular chips on top of each muffin before putting it all in the oven. The muffins are not very sweet so the chocolate chips really compliment the flavor. I think they are pretty darn yummy.

Here are my cell phone food photos:

chocolate muffins

more chocolate muffins

Last summer, we tried to start leaving Fargo out of the crate for longer and longer periods of time. He fooled us a few times, going weeks between being destructive, but eventually we had to crate him every time we left the house. For me, it means that I feel like I am tied to the house any time I am not at work because I don’t want him to be in the crate any more than necessary.

After the first of the year, we thought we’d try again to leave him for short periods of time. The past week has gone really well. An hour here, 45 minutes there, almost 2 hours last night. Hubby came home for lunch today and since I was going to be home less than two hours after he went back to work, he left Fargo out. I got home and all was well.

Then I let Fargo run around outside for about 20 minutes, played more fetch with him inside, and thought I wore him out. So, I left him loose while I went downstairs to hit the treadmill for 4 miles. Hubby came downstairs about 30 minutes later with this in his hand:

mangled glove

One of my new gloves. OH FARGO!!!!! The gloves were up on a table, not even within easy reach. At least it wasn’t another piece of furniture or another area rug. But I had just started to get my hopes up that I would have a little more freedom and a little less crate guilt. Fargo The Terrible decided it was not to be.

I did have a good run at least. Not as strong as the run yesterday, but still good. Day 2 of official half marathon training checked off on the calendar.

Early Early Mornings

I’ve been up since 4 am. Over the winter break I had been doing better, sometimes sleeping until after 5 am, but I seem to be back to the “way too early” wake up times again. I really don’t mind, though it makes it hard to stay conscious after 9 pm.

The past few years I have grown to appreciate the morning time. Sometimes it’s productive, sometimes it’s not, sometimes it’s solo, sometimes Fargo The Terrible snuggles with me, and sometimes it’s like this:

morning

It ALWAYS includes coffee!

When I share with people that I wake up in the 4 am range, they freely tell me I’m nuts. It’s most often not a choice. Why lay in bed getting frustrated that I’m not sleeping when I can just get up and use the time as I want. Is it so different than people staying up til midnight or 1 am? My internal clock seems to have a mind of its own, so I either go with it, and appreciate the quiet and the amazing sunrises and the puppy snuggles, or I fight it and miss my favorite time of the day.