Michigan Tart Cherries – The Most Wonderful Time of Year

Tart cherry season here in Michigan has been open for about two weeks. Last weekend we made a family outing of picking cherries and raspberries. The picking was easy because the fruit was very plentiful. If the family hadn’t spent more time arguing than picking, we probably would have been done a lot sooner, but then it just wouldn’t have been a true “family” outing if that were the case.

DSCF5170

Why is it that we can’t have just one family outing where everyone gets along? If I go out with Grace alone or Zeb alone or Hubby alone, everything is great. We have a good time, we laugh, we relate, we make some great memories. Throw anyone else into the mix though and it’s a constant battle. There’s teasing and picking on, ganging up, and bullying. By the end, actually it doesn’t even take that long, at least someone isn’t talking, someone is grumpy, and I’m left wondering why I even suggested we go out as a family!

The silence was deafening!

The silence was deafening!

I thought as the kids got older they’d mellow and we’d fall into an easy, getting-along stage. At ages 20 and 22, we haven’t gotten there yet. Perhaps Hubby at 53 and me at 48 are the problem. Who knows?

Actually though, for all the fighting and bantering, I wouldn’t have wanted to leave anyone home. While they all got into their little tiffs and exchanges of words, I kept my distance and enjoyed the day with each of them individually. I didn’t dare try to converse with more than one of them at a time. Separately they were fine. It was just as a group things weren’t going to mesh. So when we got home Grace wasn’t speaking to Hubby, Hubby wasn’t speaking to Zeb, and everyone was still speaking to me. That works for me!

Oh well, what’s the saying “This too shall pass.” I sure hope so. Growing pains aren’t much fun on family outings or vacations.

With the 20 pounds of cherries we managed to pick I’ve been busy canning. Recipes for Danish Cherry Sauce and Cherry-Rhubarb Pie Filling can be found at Simply Grateful Canning. I’ve also updated the Fruit Page to include sections for all the recipes from Simply Grateful Housewife and Simply Grateful Canning for Sweet Cherry Canning Recipes and Tart Cherry Canning Recipes. Check them out if you need some ideas for canning either of these fruits.

Michigan cherries are some of the best and picking them every year has become a tradition for me. It’s unfortunate the family couldn’t set aside their differences and make the most of the time we had together, but I didn’t let them ruin it for me. Family dynamics aren’t always easy, but taking them in stride helps ease the pain a bit, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Advertisements

What to do with those beets!

Planting beets has become somewhat of a tradition here at our house. For the past three years now I have enjoyed success with growing beets and because of this it was only natural that I would plant them again this year. The trouble with this is the pantry is already full of canned and pickled beets. Not that they’ll go bad or anything, but there is only so much space in the pantry and beets have taken up their allotment.

DSCF5069

Yesterdays Beet Harvest

In the past I’ve done four things with the beets we’ve harvested from the garden:

  1. Pickled Beets
  2. Canned Beets
  3. Beet Jelly
  4. And the last is Beet-Horseradish Relish which I made last year for the first time.

I posted the recipe for the Beet-Horseradish Relish on Simply Grateful Canning if you’d like to check it out.

Besides making the relish I also decided to try and make the most of the beet greens. We aren’t too big on eating a big variety of greens around here, but when I read I could freeze them and use them to make stock I figured what’s the worst thing that could happen? I’d end up throwing out a batch of stock if it didn’t taste good. The only precaution I read was that the beet greens would probably turn the stock reddish or brownish depending on what kind of stock you were making. No worries, I can deal with that and if it gives the stock another dimension of flavor, well that’s just an added bonus on top of the added nutrients.

The process for freezing beet greens is posted on Simply Grateful Canning Making The Most Of Your Beets, if you’re interested.

I plan on planting another crop in August for the fall. Why? I’m not really sure, but when I’ve had as difficult a time in the garden as I have had this year, I need a little gardening success. I might can them or perhaps I’ll just give them to the neighbors. Either way they won’t go to waste, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Does anyone have other ideas for canning or using beets?

Since the 4th

The 4th was a wonderful day of family, friends, food, and fireworks. I thought I was being clever by having Hubby, the kids, myself, and my parents all meet up at Planet Fitness for their FREE Pizza Night, but in the end I did just as much work (if not more) as I would have had I cooked dinner. Instead of dinner I made 6 appetizers for late in the evening and 6 desserts for after the gym. Two days in the kitchen cooking — so where’s the time savings?

IMG_2410 (1)

We did several of these lanterns. What fun and a lot safer than fireworks.

Oh well, when don’t I want an excuse to try a few new recipes and make a few old favorites? That would be never!

Now I’m enjoying the first true harvest from the garden and working on my first canning project of the 2016 garden season. Check out my post at Simply Grateful Gardener for July 6, 2016 Garden Harvest.

July is still hot and humid, great for the garden, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

 

Planning Ahead Pays Off

Back in March when it was too cold to garden and Hubby had just begun his experiment in retirement, I spent three days in the kitchen (while Hubby was settling in to his new spot in the office) canning bags of beans I’d accumulated from grocery store sales. I canned pinto, Great Northern, navy, and new to my bean canning roster — Garbanzo beans (chickpeas). I think in the end I ended up with somewhere around 70 jars (varying sizes) of beans.

DSCF3597 - Copy

For months now I have enjoyed using these beans in various recipes and can’t say enough about how nice it is to use home-canned beans right from the pantry whenever I want. I’ve especially enjoyed making Hummus with the garbanzo beans.

Today I made a batch of baked beans. It’s actually the second batch I’ve made this year, but although I took pictures of the first batch I neither did a post nor did I seem to find it necessary to save the recipe. I know we liked it, but I can’t cry over spilt milk. So this morning I spent several hours reviewing recipes, choosing ingredients, and then making a batch of quick, saucy beans.

DSCF4955

For the entire story and recipe check out my latest post at Simply Grateful Cooking for Saucy Homemade Baked Beans. These turned out excellent. It’s funny though, when I look back at the pictures of the ingredients I used for the first batch of beans I made, they look very different from the ones I used this time. I wouldn’t be surprised if I decide to continue my experiment with baked beans because there is always room for improvement.

Losing my first recipe could be considered a bad thing, but at least I found another one that everyone liked and got to experiment with some different ingredients, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Some Crops Aren’t Worth A Hill Of Beans

It took me several years to get a single bean plant to grow in my garden. To my delight last year not just one plant grew, but an entire garden of them sprouted, flourished and produced beans for months. We had more beans from our plants than we could eat or give away. I canned them, froze them, ate them, and when we finally couldn’t find another thing to do with them, I looked into how to dry them.

DSCF0890

Being the frugal gardener that I want to be, I couldn’t let a single bean go to waste. For months I let the beans sit on the plants undisturbed and at the end of October I harvested all the dry pods. Although my efforts were rewarded, they were not rewarded as well as I would have liked.

DSCF4924

Although I’d like to grow as much of our food as possible, for a suburban housewife this is one crop that isn’t worth the effort. That is at least not for the purpose of harvesting dry beans.

I love having had the success last year with our beans, but I am also very content this year that my bean crop failed, and for this I am — Simply Grateful. I know that must sound wrong, but check out my post at Simply Grateful Gardener To Bean Or Not To Bean for the whole story.

The Best Remedy for a Summer Cold

Summer colds are the worst! Not that a cold at any time is any fun but having one when it’s hot and humid just somehow makes a stuffy nose, aching body, and fever worse.

Every June and then again sometime in December I get a cold. It’s not really a cold, it’s a sinus infection, but it has all the wonderful symptoms of a cold just lasting longer. The one in December isn’t as bad, or at least it doesn’t seem as bad because there doesn’t seem to be as much a demand on my time then. In June however there is so much to do outside with the garden and inside with painting projects and other home improvements that get put off until the weather is nice that being down for even a day puts me behind.

One of the best remedies for a summer, or any cold is hot soup and fresh bread. I know you might think that a hot bowl of soup on a 90 degree day isn’t comforting, but for some reason no matter how hot it is outside, that hot soup coating my throat when I’m not feeling good, picks up my spirits right away. This is where planning ahead really comes in handy.

Last fall when I was canning all the wonderful tomatoes from the garden, I managed to make two large batches of Tomato Soup and freeze it for just such an occasion. This meant all I needed to do was defrost a couple of bottles, make a loaf of bread (check out my latest post at Simply Grateful Cooking for the absolute best Gougere Bread recipe), and enjoy.

Does it get any better than that? Homemade soup and I didn’t have to do anything other than heat it up. I am definitely going to look into freezing more soup bases this year, as long as I can find the space.

Being sick is awful but having dinner done in the freezer makes it a lot more tolerable, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

 

But We Don’t NEED Anymore Strawberry Jam!

Where is it written that you can only make something when you NEED it? I mean honestly, just because I have a pantry with 2015 jars of strawberry jam still on the shelves, does this automatically mean I can’t make some 2016 jars?

Isn’t there something about fresh-from-the-pot strawberry jam on lightly toasted bread or a hot from the oven biscuit that can’t be duplicated, even in home-canned strawberry jam. Sure I love my canned goods and am grateful the pantry is brimming with more than 70 different jams, jellies, preserves, and spreads, but given the opportunity to make a fresh batch to eat straight from the pot, I’m just going to have to do it.

This year I didn’t plan on making jam, but once those berries were safely home and sitting on the counter, filling the kitchen with their sweet smell, something came over me and I found myself whipping up a batch and then two.

DSCF4829a

Never fear though, the first batch was gone within hours (given away and eaten) and the second batch isn’t going to make it the pantry. Changing up last years recipe a bit yielded a jam so good, I can’t keep it from being devoured. Check out my post at Simply Grateful Canning for Strawberry Jam.

The rest of the berries were frozen or dehydrated or eaten. It’s amazing how fast 20 pounds of berries can get used up. Maybe I’ll have to head out for another 20 pounds or so. I don’t really NEED them or anything, but where is it written…

And for this I am — Simply Grateful.

 

 

Catching Up Is Officially Out Of The Question

I want a secretary!

NO, I NEED A SECRETARY.

I am either the most incapable blogger out there or maybe I’m inept at everything I do and blogging is finally bringing to light the fact that I really don’t have any potential for success at anything.

Why is it I have more blog posts on my “Blogs To Do List” than I’ve got posted on my blog since I began nearly two years ago? There really doesn’t seem to be an end in sight here. No sooner do I finish a post, than there are at least two more I want to post from what I’ve done or what happened that day.

I literally have a file box filled with 3 x 5 index cards, each with an idea, recipe, or happening for a post. At the same time I started blogging, I started this box. I thought I would keep ideas in this box on the slim chance I ran out of current ideas to write about. Well, it turns out that I haven’t run out of things to write about. The only thing I’ve run out of is time to write my posts.

If I were to write one post every day I might catch up by say 2018, late November or early December, but then we’re going on the assumption here that nothing else happens or no new recipes are explored between now and then. Plus, I’d have to commit to write a post each and every day, come hell or high water. The chances of this happening…well, I’d put it right up there with the chances of me EVER catching up on my blog posts.

What’s worse is that many of the notes I’ve made, recipes I’ve tried, posts I decided just had to be done, are history. Yep, history. I can’t remember the gory details of what I was doing at that particular time. My scribbles might be illegible, my notes cryptic, or my recollection gone. I swear I’ve read a few of the note cards and if I didn’t recognize my handwriting, I’d swear someone just threw it in there to confuse me — like I need any help there.

This could be frustrating, if it wasn’t so scary. I mean, where in the world did all these ideas come from anyway. Some cards have just a word on them, while others have both the front and back completely filled with teeny, tiny writing, and still, I haven’t a clue as to what I was thinking. I suppose I must have jotted down a word in a rush, assuming it would spark a memory that at the moment seemed clever or useful, but a year or more later it’s just a word without any meaning attached to it.

Of course there are a lot of note cards that have great meaning, wonderful meaning, meaning that if I had the time — or that darn secretary — could become a great post. But here I am wallowing in self-pity over not having the time or at the moment inclination to play catch-up.

I’m not a complete loser though. I did make a post this evening on Simply Grateful Canning for Canning Fresh Enchilada Sauce that I put on my to do list back in August 2015. It is definitely a “catch-up” post, but also timely because it relates to the post I made yesterday for https://simplygratefulcooking.wordpress.com/2016/02/08/roasted-pork-tamales-a-dish-not-to-be-taken-lightly/ on Simply Grateful Cooking. Perhaps that’s how this is going to have to go. When I have a current post related somehow to a post on my “to do list,” I can pull out my note card and finally do it. Otherwise, I fear I’ll be throwing out all these cards because sooner or later I’m going to forget what each and every one of them is about. Of course I’m working on the assumption here that I can actually remember that I have a post on my “to do list” that somehow relates to a current event. Yeah, like that’s going to happen on a regular basis.

Oh, and by the way, the file box I have for my note cards is only wide enough to hold about 300 cards, but I have a stack at least 300 cards thick sitting on top of it as well. Granted, some of the ideas take up more than one card, but honestly! Do I really have that many interesting recipes, stories, or epiphanies to share? I guess I must have thought so at the time, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have wasted the note cards on them. Looking at them now however I can’t imagine anyone being that full of useful information.

For now I’m going to take the file box and stack of file cards on top of it and stick them in a drawer. Having them sitting on the table staring at me, mocking me, reminding me of what now seems like an impossible task, is not doing anything for my mood. It has however inspired me to dream about putting an ad on Craig’s List for a secretary. Really now, how nice would that be?

Dreams are what keep us going and dreaming of my very own secretary that I could dictate my blog posts to as I meander through my day — wouldn’t that be wonderful, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Stocking The Pantry – Banana Bread in Jars

The time has finally come to begin restocking the pantry. Throughout the past three months tons of canned goods have been flying off the shelves. Boxes are filling up in the garage with empty canning jars and there are definitely some major gaps forming in various areas of the pantry.

Although I won’t be able to do anything about goods I can during the summer months from home-grown or locally grown produce for quite a few months, I can definitely work on canning projects that aren’t contingent on seasonal foods. There are a lot of these sort of projects.

This morning seeing as I had some bananas that were well past their prime, too ripe for freezing even, I decided to whip up a batch of canned banana breads. Check out my post at Simply Grateful Canning – Canning Banana Bread.

Only six of the seven made it to the pantry. I had to test one you know — it’s the law! Even so, six jars more in the pantry, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

The Sixth Day of Christmas

On the sixth day of Christmas the time did come to can

Fresh pineapple marmalade and jam.

DSCF2879

A few weeks ago a local grocery store had a sale on extra-large fresh pineapples — $.99 each. So being the ever vigilant bargain hunter, I bought 16 of them. What could I possibly do with 16 pineapples you wonder? Well, can them of course.

Now pineapples aren’t typically ready to eat right when you bring them home, at least this hasn’t been my experience. This being the case and knowing that I wasn’t going to be in a position to can them right away, I picked out pineapples as green as they came.

For two weeks they sat on my dining room table waiting, ripening, until a few days ago. As I entered the dining room, the sweet smell of pineapple overwhelmed me and I knew right away it was time to set to work.

Some of my favorite things to can with fresh pineapple include crushed pineapple or using the juice in sweet & sour sauce, but with this batch of pineapples I decided to start with some Fresh Pineapple Jam and a Mixed Winter Fruit Marmalade, both recipes can be found at Simply Grateful Canning.

These recipes made only a dent in my pineapples, so I’ve got lots more things I can make, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

PS:  Happy New Year!