Gadget Crazy

It doesn’t matter if it’s a kitchen gadget, a gardening gadget, a scrapbooking gadget, a house cleaning gadget, or really any sort of gadget — I love them all. So when I came across this little gadget to help figure out if I was watering my tomato plants too much or too little, I had to have it.

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It was cheap enough, compared to some that I saw online for over $30 and the one they had at Home Depot for $24.99, so I snatched it up when I found it at Wal-Mart for around $6.

Don’t know if it will be a tomato-saver, but along with some new pertinent information about my tomato plants, I’m hopeful that tomato leaf curl will become yet another stepping stone along my gardening journey. Check out my post at Simply Grateful Gardener Tomato Leaf Curl Epiphany.

Some gadgets are bought and then get lost in a drawer or forgotten in a cupboard. This is one I think will be worth it’s weight in — let’s go with TOMATOES here — and for this I am, Simply Grateful.

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It’s Out Of The Box!

Yep! I finally opened it. I received a huge box about a week ago from Amazon and this afternoon I finally opened it.

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You might be wondering why it took me so long. How could I wait for nearly an entire week before opening this very big, super heavy box? Wasn’t the suspense killing me? Didn’t I want to rip it open, pull out its contents, and find out what was waiting for me? Well, sort of.

Yes, I did order it.

Yes, I knew what was inside.

Yes, I have wanted it for a very long time.

Yes, when Hubby finally told me to order it I jumped all over it and did it that night.

Yes, I could hardly wait to hit that “Purchase” button.

Yes, I tracked the shipment from the moment I hit “Purchase” until the day it was to arrive.

Then reality hit.

What if this wasn’t something I would really use?

What if it came in and wasn’t all I’d hoped for?

What if I’d just wasted more money on a truly nonessential than I’d ever done before?

Buyer’s remorse?

I’m not really sure. All I know is by not opening the box I was in a wonderful state of denial that was only disrupted slightly every time I passed by the unopened box sitting in the foyer.

This afternoon however I finally mustered up enough courage, curiosity, whatever you want to call it, to finally open the box and then open the box that was in the box, and finally open the box that was in the box that was in the box and pull the most expensive kitchen gadget I have ever owned.

Coming to the decision to purchase this did not come easy. I’ve been thinking about it for a long time. I blame television for this. Specifically the food channels. Watching cooks enjoy the convenience offered by all the wonderful gadgets their gourmet kitchens are stocked with, is bound to cause me to have a certain amount of kitchen-envy. And when I shared my desire to have one such convenience in our kitchen, Hubby told me to order it.

Well now, this was before he had any idea how much something like this cost. Hesitantly, almost in a whisper, I told him this was not an inexpensive little investment. No, this was not a purchase to be taken lightly. It was one that would require more than $10 – $15 for say a whisk or $100 for an induction burner or even $150 for a really big microwave. This would take close to $300 and honestly it is not a necessity — it’s a dream, an indulgence, a toy.

Sure there were more expensive ones. A professional model could cost anywhere from $1000 to $1500, but then where would I put such a monstrosity. The trouble was that there were cheaper models for say $30 – $70, but then they wouldn’t have the cool features that made this gadget the indulgence I so wanted.

Sheepishly I told Hubby the price. He didn’t even flinch. He said, “Buy it.” Then he added, “Or I’ll buy it for you.”

Wow! That was a surprise. It probably shouldn’t have been because he would certainly reap the rewards of this indulgence, and he knew it. Still, who in their right mind would spend this amount of money on such a luxury?

Me I guess!

So this afternoon, while Hubby was out of the house (why I waited until he was gone I have no idea because he was the one who told me to order it) I slit the tape open on the box and opened it. Peering inside, what did I see — another brown box staring at me. (Too many years of reading Brown Bear, Brown Bear What do you see!)

I cut the tape on that box and opened it, only to find yet another box inside. This box though was different, it was the box for what I’d ordered. I flipped open the tab on the side of the box and Grace helped me lift out my brand new, never before seen in this house, stainless steel, 2.1 quart self-contained frozen dessert maker that does not require pre-freezing with extended cooling function and high-efficiency compressor.

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In other words — I bought an ice cream maker! An ice cream maker with a built-in freezer! 32 pounds of stainless steel.

This isn’t just any ice cream maker though. This one is pretty much a set-it-and-forget-it type ice cream maker. No ice to worry about, no salt, no cranking. None of that for me. I just mix the ingredients, let cool if necessary, put in the removable bowl and press start. In sixty minutes or less I have up to 2.1 quarts of homemade, from scratch ice cream, sherbet, gelato, ices, sorbet, or even drinks.

Seems like a lot of fuss over an ice cream maker, but making homemade ice cream with any other type of machine seems like a whole lot more time and effort than I have to give. The one we bought should cut the time necessary making it in half.  Okay, so absolutely not a necessity, but how nice it will be to serve fresh, homemade ice cream to the family far more often. Plus, won’t guests be surprised when I serve them hot from the ice cream maker desserts (or rather cold from the ice cream maker desserts).

Of course, once out of the box yet another dilemma confronted me. What should I make first? Something rich and decadent? Something quick and simple? Something, anything…please!

Well, my initial plan was to make the ice cream mixture first thing in the morning and then freezing it in the ice cream maker just before dinner. This was out because it was already past three o’clock. So, I did the next best thing and whipped up a batch of vanilla bean custard base and will freeze it tomorrow afternoon right before dinner. Hubby has already had his hands/fingers in the custard base and can’t wait until tomorrow!

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream — and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Rebel With A Cause – Pressure Canning Against The Rules

I don’t always break the rules when canning, especially when it comes to pressure canning, but sometimes there are just no other options.

Such is the case when it comes to me, pressure canning, and using my glass top stove.

It wasn’t that I necessarily wanted to use my “highly recommended against” glass top stove, although it is certainly easier than any other option, but when it is all you have that works, what other option is there?

So I am a rebel, again.

Good news though. It works. I don’t know why it is recommended against, but using my glass top stove has proven to be the easiest, most fool-proof method of pressure canning than any other I have tried and as long as I have a glass top stove, it will be my go to heating choice. Check out my post at Simply Grateful Canning Pressure Canning on a Glass Top Stove  for the complete story.

I’ve been working on canning beans all week and have two more days still to go. Then it’s out to the garden to get some spring crops started, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

The Tenth Day of Christmas

On the tenth day of Christmas there was freezer space I found

And lots of pork and chicken that needed to be ground.

Remembering ‘not to sweat the small stuff’ is really important when something unexpected happens. This was really put to the test when I decided to grind some meat to fill our freezer.

Since we bought our meat grinder last summer I have enjoyed grinding all sorts of meat and filling our freezers with it. So when I noticed that the freezers were looking a bit empty, I knew it was time to pull out the old meat grinder and set to work.

The meat grinder we selected is a manual, heavy-duty one and quite heavy. Because of this, Hubby told me to attach it to our marble dining room table when I used it so it was at a height that was comfortable and where it could be attached to the end easily with clamps.

All summer and fall I did this without incident. I admit though that cranking the handle on our grinder certainly wasn’t easy. In order to get the meat to go through the blades easily, it had to be partially frozen, which certainly made the turning hard. The end result however made it well worth the effort.

Ground pork at the store goes for nothing less than $3.00 per pound but more often $4.00 per pound. I can buy boneless pork butts for $.99 a pound and grind it myself. I think a little bit of work is worth saving $2 to $3 per pound, especially when we use more ground pork than ground beef.

Well, the saying ‘All good things come to an end…’ took a shot at us on the tenth day of Christmas. As I was cranking away at the meat grinder yesterday the unthinkable happened – CRACK! Yep, I broke the corner right off our dining room table. And it wasn’t a clean break. Basically the corner crumbled into pieces, leaving me holding the meat grinder by the handle and shards of marble all over the dining room floor.

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I suppose most people would probably freak out if their table were to break as they were grinding meat, but after the initial shock, I just shrugged and moved my grinder to another corner of the table. What else could I do?

Before you start thinking “Wow, this girl really knows how to keep her cool” I should tell you, this isn’t the first break we’ve had in our marble table. When we tried moving it about 10 years ago to change the carpet in the dining room, the table broke in half. At that break I went into hysterics. Hubby assured me he could fix it and did. He attached a large sheet of plywood to the marble base and then placed the two pieces of marble on top of it and somehow cemented them together. Viola! It was fixed. This time however, I seriously doubted this table was salvageable.

Marble is not the best material for tables. We had a coffee, two end, and a couch table made of marble and every table cracked after just a few years. The cracks did not go all the way through, but they were cracked none the less. And this wasn’t from abuse or misuse. You might argue that perhaps this was from wear and tear, but if that were the case, then how can you explain the cracks in the bases as well. There certainly wasn’t any wear and tear on those. They just sat there, undisturbed, never being moved, never being touched. Nope, marble is definitely off my list of materials I will ever buy furniture made from again.

Hubby wasn’t upset at all when I told him about the break. In fact, he right away asked me if I wanted to get a new table. I flatly told him NO. We rarely entertain anymore so why spend money on something we don’t need. I’m more concerned with where I’m going to attach my grinder.

He broke up the rest of the table, which basically crumbled when he tried to pick it up, and we are left with the board he had put on the base years ago. Good enough!

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I threw a table-cloth over it and no one is the wiser. It’s slightly narrower than I’d like, so Hubby said he’d get a bigger sheet of wood and attach it to the top and we’ll be all set.

Even though my meat grinding didn’t go as smooth as I would have liked this time, I still have ten packs of ground pork in the freezer, and for this I am – Simply Grateful.

Oh Happy Day! We’ve Got A New Addition

Yep, it’s true. We have a new addition to our happy home. I have been wanting this for a very long time, longer than I can remember, and finally it’s happened.

Monday morning, as I sat on the couch, avoiding opening the refrigerator and facing the 25 pounds of plums still sitting there waiting for me to do something with them, I made a decision. I was NOT going to can one more plum this year.

Nope! Not me. And if I don’t do it, no one will, so other options needed to be explored.

The only method for preserving plums that I don’t think I’d tried was to freeze them whole, or at least in half, seeing as I would definitely want them pitted first. In order to do this, there could be no more excuses, delays, putzing, or any other form of putting this off — I needed another freezer.

Financially a new one was really out of the question, so off to Craig’s List I did go. Knowing selling this to Hubby was not going to be an easy task in the first place, I decided to make sure to look at freezers within a 15 – 20 mile radius. Luck must have been on my side, because I found two that had been listed within the past three days. Crossing my fingers I shot off an email to both sellers inquiring if their freezers were still available. Within minutes I got a response from one indicating she still had it.

This freezer was only 12 miles away, upright, less than 9 years old, in great condition, clean, in the garage (Hubby would not be receptive to having to lug a freezer up basement stairs, seeing as he’d be lugging it down ours), frost-free, and she could let me take a look at it that afternoon. I called Hubby and asked if he wanted to come with me or if he just wanted me to make the corporate decision.

Now me giving Hubby the option of coming or not might seem a bit harsh, because there was no discussion as to whether or not I was going to get one, just that I was going to, but we have been at odds on this subject for far too long and I don’t ask for a whole lot. Plus, I had $100 from my birthday in June that has been burning a hole in my pocket, so if this is what I chose to spend it on, I think I should be able to.

I’ve done my homework and know how much an additional freezer will cost per year to run, measured the area out in the basement where it is going to go, and have been sending baked goods and fresh picked veggies from our garden home with Hubby’s buddy that he works out with that has a truck for months now, so I felt fairly comfortable that I had everything pretty well thought out.

Hubby chose to come with me, in fact, he was all too cooperative — it made me nervous. Still, I was too excited at the prospect of just pitting and freezing the rest of my plums that I didn’t over-think it.

At 3:15 Monday afternoon we headed out to the woman’s house and found ourselves looking at an upright freezer larger than anticipated (a good thing), newer than I thought, ice-cold inside, and in excellent condition. She was asking $125 for it and from our conversation on the phone I knew she REALLY wanted it gone, so I offered her $100. She accepted. In fact, she jumped at it.

All the way home Hubby kept talking about how nice this freezer was and what a great deal this was. The one thing he did say that stung just a bit was, “Why do I think though that you’re just going to fill this up and then want more space.”

OUCH! What could he be thinking? Hasn’t he lived with me for nearly 23 years now? Where was this accusation coming from? I was hurt — but far too excited that I was getting a new freezer to even acknowledge his comment. I just diverted him by asking him how big he thought it was. I had figured by the dimensions it was 16 cubic feet, but Hubby said it was at least 17 possibly even 19. Perfect! That’s exactly what I wanted…I mean needed.

Tuesday afternoon Hubby’s buddy picked us up and we picked up the freezer at 2:30 and unloaded it into the garage by 3:30. At 4:30 I was at Wal-Mart picking up some baskets for the shelves. By 6:00 I was home with my baskets and started cleaning the new freezer. I bleached it inside and out, although it really didn’t need much cleaning. Still, I felt better sterilizing everything and making it smell absolutely new. I plugged it in, put a cup of water in it to freeze overnight, and went to bed.

 

Wednesday morning I checked the freezer and the cup of water was frozen solid. Later in the afternoon Hubby and I moved the freezer into the basement, ran the extension cord, and plugged it in. It purred like a kitten. Right away I set to work at pitting my plums and placing them in the freezer on cookie sheets to freeze. By Wednesday night all the plums I wanted frozen were done.

Then today it happened. Remember Hubby’s questions/premonition about me filling the freezer…

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Okay so I filled it. Isn’t that what I’m supposed to do? Now I didn’t go out and buy a bunch of stuff to fill it with, I just reorganized my other three freezers and moved all the things I wanted in this new freezer in it. So although my new freezer is pretty full (I’m sure I can still get quite a bit in here), I have freed up a ton of space in my other freezers and can organize them a lot better so I can find what I’m looking for when I want and see what might have been forgotten about because it was buried at the bottom of my chest freezer or tucked away somewhere in the back of my refrigerator freezer.

I’m happy, oh so happy and Hubby is gloating because he was right, but at the same time not exactly, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Don’t Beet Me Up With The Facts!

Last week I harvested about half of my first crop of beets for the year. I planted three different types this year and although they might not have been as large as they could have been, I wanted to pick them while they were young, small and sweet.

The round beets were between 2 and 3″ in diameter. Perfect for the Beet Slicer and not a bit woody.

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The long beets ranged from 3 – 6″ long and for the most part were not woody.  I did notice that the longer they got, the more of a tendency they had to be woody, so picking them before they get too large is a good thing.

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The golden beets were few and small, but so beautiful.

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I absolutely loved how they looked in contrast to the red/purple beets after I cooked them for canning.

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Of course Grace had to burst my bubble when she came in and saw the golden beets sitting in the bowl of red beets by informing me, “You know, they are just going to turn purple if you can them all together.” She told me this after I’d told her I thought the yellow beets would look so cool in the jars of pickled beets in contrast to all the purple.

DON’T TELL ME THAT! THAT’S NOT WHAT I WANTED TO HEAR!

Sometimes the truth hurts. She was right. Unfortunately there were so few golden beets, which the package warned me that they were much harder to grow than round or long beets, that there weren’t enough to can even a small jar of just golden beets. Oh well, maybe when I make the final harvest of the first round of beets next week I’ll have just enough for a jar or even half a jar of just golden beets. If not, I’ll always have the pictures of the freshly peeled beets all sitting together so nicely before I canned them.

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One batch of Pickled Beets packed away in the pantry, 7 pints, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Canning Cherries – The Real Work’s In The Prep

Before deciding if you want to can cherries or not, it is important to realize that canning them is the easy part. Most of the work involved in canning cherries, or any fruit for that matter, is in the preparation. Cherries especially are a labor intensive fruit and one where time is of the essence.

Obviously the first step in any canning prep is to get your fruit. Not everyone is going to be able to head out to their backyard or a local farm to pick their fruit of choice, but if you are one of the lucky ones, this is where the work begins.

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When picking cherries the most important rule to remember is LEAVE THE STEMS ON. Yes, it would go much faster and be a whole lot easier to just pull the cherries from the branches leaving the stems on the tree, and drop them in your bucket/flat, but this is a definite no-no. Cherries, especially tart ones, have a short shelf life and unless you are planning on heading home immediately after picking and canning them within a few hours, the fruit will begin to brown, soften, and even if refrigerated spoil. Believe me on this, I’ve been there.

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The first time I picked cherries I had no idea there was a certain way of doing it. I yanked the cherries off the tree, paying no mind to the stems and by the time I got home, they were already beginning to wilt and when I went to can them the next day, jam was my only option. Sweet cherries fare a bit better but unless you plan on using them in jam or jelly where it doesn’t matter how firm the fruit is, you had better plan on using the fruit immediately.

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Grace and I picked nearly 20 pounds of tart cherries in a three hour period. Upon arriving home, I was too exhausted from our outing to jump into a canning project, so the cherries sat on the counter over night. In the morning the cherries were just as fresh as when we’d picked them, except for a few that had lost their stems. The stemless cherries had already begun to blacken at the top and were much softer.

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When you are ready to begin working with your cherries, work in small batches, only what you plan on using for your recipe, and remove the stems.

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Next, rinse the cherries. This is important to do at this stage because the integrity of the fruit has not yet been compromised and washing the fruit wont wash away any of the wonderful juice.

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Once the cherries are rinsed and drained, it’s time for the pitting. I am very fortunate to have a pretty good cherry pitter that attaches to my counter and has a hopper to place a large handful of cherries in and quickly pits large quantities of cherries quickly.

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Before I found this wonderful gadget I used a hand pitter like the one shown below. I still use this when pitting small quantities for salads or lunches, but for the most part it sits dormant along with the antique pitter I happened upon at an estate sale a few years ago.

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Now that your cherries are pitted, you can begin your canning or cooking project. To prepare enough cherries for one batch of cherry pie filling, it took me nearly two hours. The canning part took about another hour, including processing time in the water bath canner.

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Unless canning pie filling, you can use the fruit immediately after pitting. If using for pie filling however, you will need to blanch the fruit for 1 minute in boiling water prior to canning. This helps preserve the color and the water used provides any additional liquid needed to add to the cherry juice you’ve managed to collect for the foundation of the canning gel.

My father happened to come by before I began working on our cherries and mentioned that he would like to make a pie himself. Taking the hint, I pulled out a bowl and began filling it with cherries. He looked at me and said, “Well, I don’t want cherries, but I’ll take some cherry pie filling after you make it.”

Now if you could have seen my face you would have noticed that the color drained from my cheeks and my lips pierced. I simply answered, “Oh” and put the cherries back in the bowl.

Perhaps I’m being a bit stingy here, but it takes between 9 and 10 pounds of unstemmed/unpitted cherries to make enough pie filling for maybe three pies. I’d have to pick three times what we picked in order to start handing out pie filling like I hand out jam. Needless to say, he will not be receiving any jars of our highly coveted tart cherry pie filling, but I’ll certainly invite him over for a piece or two.

I share all our jams, jellies, preserves, spreads, concentrates, and the like, with our family and friends without hesitation. When it comes to pie filling though, I draw the line. Pie filling is something I share when I make a pie and enjoy eating it right along with them, not something I just hand out so they can take it home.

Knowing what you are getting into before starting a project takes a lot of the stress out of the mix. Realizing how much work really goes into making a cherry pie can change your perspective on thinking that “pie” might not be as impressive a dessert as cake. My mother-in-law made the comment to me years ago, “Pie looks cheap when you serve it.” She told me this when I served pumpkin and apple pies for dessert on Thanksgiving. Gotta love your in-laws! — NOT! Well, pie IS decadent and any time someone wants to serve me a homemade pie, I’ll gladly accept a slice.

Cherry season in Michigan is quickly coming to a close, but we have cherries for canning and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Daily Grind – Breakfast Sausage

A few months ago I blogged about buying two new gadgets for the kitchen.  The first was a meat cuber/tenderizer and I have used this countless times already.  The second has been used just as much, probably more, but without the success of the cuber.

This second gadget — a meat grinder, was purchased so we could take advantage of the great price on pork butts that seems to be an almost weekly occurence lately.  Hubby and I researched various options and chose a grinder that was heavy-duty so we could grind the pork to make our own sausage.

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The first time we used the grinder we discovered that although heavy-duty and literally “heavy” it would not sit on the counter while we cranked the handle.  This led to us using several clamps to hold it firm while we worked. Next we found that the grinding plate with the smallest holes continually got jammed with fat when we tried using it. I read up on it online and found that putting the meat in the freezer for 45 minutes or more would make the process of going through the grinding plate easier.

I cut up the meat, put it in a pan, and tucked it in the freezer for an hour.  When we fed the partially frozen meat into the grinder, it was better, but still not very good.  The meat still jammed and we were getting quite frustrated.

In order for us to grind the meat, we had to use the grinding plate with the larger holes. We did this and the grinding process went much easier. When we used the meat in burgers that night however, I was not happy with the texture of it.  It was chunkier than I like and still had a good amount of grizzle that had not been ground up.

Because of all the trouble we had with the grinder, it became more of a thorn in my side than an asset.  I didn’t want to use it.  I didn’t want to make more work for myself.  The purpose of the grinder was to save us money on buying ground pork, but in the process what I had really done was make a lot more work for myself.

After letting the grinder sit for about a month, I finally recovered from the initial disappointment of our purchase and decided to suck it up and try again.

First I cut all the fat off the pork butt I planned on grinding.  Next I cut all the meat into 2 or 3 inch pieces and placed them in a bowl with the fat.  After an hour in the freezer I was ready to start grinding.  With the large hole grinding plate in place I began to slowly feed the pork into the grinder.  The meat slowly eased through the machine and produced a coarsely ground meat.  Once all the meat was done I began feeding the frozen fat through the machine. Fat is a necessary component of sausage, so grinding the fat along with the meat is a must.  About 3/4 of the way through the fat the machine began to jam.  I forced the remaining fat through as best I could then put all the ground meat and fat back into the bowl and returned it to the freezer.

While the meat cooled in the freezer I disassembled the grinder, removed all the unground grizzle and fat, discarded it, and then cleaned the grinder.  Once it was clean I reassembled it and removed the cold ground meat and fat from the freezer.

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With the clean grinder I began to feed the ground meat and fat through the machine again to grind the meat finer.  After all the meat and fat had been fed through for a second time I again disassembled and cleaned the grinder. Then I got out my food processor and began to process the ground product in small batches.  This ground the meat fairly fine, removing most chunks of meat and fat that might have gotten by the grinding blades in the grinder.

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This procedure of grinding twice and then processing with the food processor worked!  I made pork burgers one night and moussaka another with the ground product and everyone agreed it was as fine as ground pork from the store, but far tastier.  Success!

With the grinding process down, I decided to set to work on a recipe for homemade breakfast sausage.  After several attempts, this afternoon Grace confirmed that the recipe I ended up with is a keeper.

Homemade Breakfast Sausage

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8 lbs. Freshly Ground Pork Butt

3 Tbsp. Salt

3 tsp. White Pepper

6 tsp. Rubbed Sage

3/4 tsp. Ground Ginger

2 1/2 tsp. Nutmeg

3 tsp. Thyme

1 tsp. Dried Rosemary

12 Ounces Ice Water

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.

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Mix well.

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I made small patties of the mixed sausage and fried them in a pan.

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I purchased a pork butt this morning for $1.19 a pound – 10 pounds.  After trimming, removing the bone, and grinding the meat we ended up with 8 pounds of meat. I used all of this for the sausage and now we have four bags with two pounds each in the freezer.  It works out to be less than 1/3 the cost of what breakfast sausage costs in the stores.

Although the process of grinding my own pork is not as easy as I first thought it would be, now that I have a procedure to work with the task isn’t as daunting. I don’t mind having to do a little work to save some money and produce ground meat that I believe is of a higher quality than can be bought at a grocery store. With fresh breakfast sausage ready for cooking in the freezer, my next task will be to test recipes for Polish sausage and begin learning how to stuff sausage in casings.

New gadgets are great, most of the time, especially when I finally get them to work the way I need them to, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

Gardening Gadget-Couldn’t Garden Without It

Have you ever received a gift that although you thought it was cool and interesting, never thought you’d use it?  I received one of those this past Christmas, but boy was I wrong!

By the time my girlfriend Suzanne and I got together to celebrate Christmas 2014, it was all but over.  We had both been so busy throughout the holidays that getting together had just not been in the cards.  So early January 2015 we finally connected and enjoyed a morning or gift exchanging, conversation, and some final holiday bliss to close the end of the holiday season.

Suzanne had tons of little goodies for me to open.  It was like Christmas morning as a child all over again.  Every gift was well thought out and definitely something I could use or most certainly wanted.  There was one gift however that when I opened it, even though appropriate for my interests, I just wasn’t sure it was something I would take the time to use. The first thought that went through my head was This is neat, but where am I going to keep it?  Not, when am I going to use it, because honestly, I didn’t think I would.

This is one of those gadgets that the manufacturers sell millions of, but how often they get used is probably far less than they advertise.  Like all those kitchen gadgets sitting on the shelf in my basement, I thought this one was destined for dust collecting somewhere in a corner in the garage. Even Hubby looked at it and admitted it was interesting, but maybe his father would get more use out of.

Well, from day one out in the yard this 2015 Gardening Season, I am happy to say, this little gadget has been affixed to my behind — literally. My father-in-law would have to pry it from my cold dead body before I’d give it up and I will never doubt Suzanne and her ultimate wisdom again.

What the name of this little thing is escapes me, but I refer to it as my “Garden Saver!”

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Now I’m not saying that this little chair is for everyone, but for someone who is suffering with some sort of degenerative knee injury, it is an essential tool to sow seeds in the ground, pull weeds from the freshly tilled soil, and all the other gardening tasks that would require me to do any sort of kneeling, squatting, or dare I say sitting on the ground.

Several years ago I damaged my right knee while working in the yard.  I don’t remember the specifics but do remember the pain to the left of the knee cap on the inside portion of my leg. It was after several weeks of working on my knees, near the end of my project.  When I would stand up from my kneeling position I had to stand still for a few minutes in order for my knee to stretch out so I could put some weight on it and then hobble a little to start moving again.  Within a few minutes, things would loosen up, the pain would dissipate, and everything went back to normal.

This pain came and went throughout the past two years, only bothering me if I was sitting on the ground with my knee bent for any extended period of time or if I sat on my right leg. Still, the pain would quickly go away once I started moving again.

A month ago, the pain on the side of my knee began to bother me whenever I was sedentary for more than 15 minutes.  Not moving around gave my knee an opportunity to stiffen up and every time I got up from a chair or even out of bed, I would hobble around until things loosed up and the pain subsided. Kneeling, squatting, or sitting on the ground were pretty much impossible.

Now the pain is almost constant, even when I do move around or am standing, there is a tinge of pain in my leg and limping seems to be more of a norm than an anomaly.

With the progression of pain and no relief found with Tylenol or wrapping my knee, I seriously questioned how I was going to do any gardening this year.  Well, there it was, the little gardening chair I’d gotten for Christmas.  I took it with me when I turned over the pea garden and used it to separate the weeds from the loosened soil.  Then it was used when I planted row after row of pea seeds.

When I moved over to the large garden in the back and had ten rows of root vegetables to plant, there was no way I would have been able to complete the task had I not had this little seat. Although the pain is still in my leg, it is far easier to get up from this seat than rolling over from a seated position on the ground to my knees and trying to stand.  With this little gizmo I just rock back and forth a bit, and pop right up. There is far less pressure on my knee, not to mention how much easier this is making things on my back.  Plus, let’s not forget how my butt would feel after sitting on the cold ground if I had to scoot around the garden sowing seeds on it.

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Although this is something that is making gardening bearable because of injury, I also think it would be something I would have appreciated if my body wasn’t falling apart.  It is amazing how much easier it is getting up from just a foot off the ground compared to ground level.  Even Grace has taken to the seat and steals it from me whenever I ask her to help out.  For her I think it’s mainly because she doesn’t want to be in the dirt and she sits and rocks in it while I work, but hey, at least she’s comfortable while keeping me company.

So, to Suzanne I have to say THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!  I couldn’t be out there gardening without this, and for YOU I am — Simply Grateful.

A New Gadget For An Old Favorite Meal

I love kitchen gadgets, but at the same time I hate them.  There are so many wonderful, time-saving appliances and utensils out there to make preparing food easier, more fun, and certainly quicker, but how many of these can we honestly justify keeping out on the kitchen counter.  Because you know if you don’t keep it on the kitchen counter, the chances of you digging it out of the cabinet are slim or God forbid it be in the basement and you have to trudge down there and search for it, it will no doubt be used only once or twice before it is forgotten until your next yard sale and you end up selling it because you really never used it anyway.

Well I admit I have lots of gadgets sitting in the basement that are rarely, if ever, used.  When I was cleaning out the storage room last summer to make room for my pantry expansion, I ended up donating more than half of my stash.  The remaining gadgets were put on two shelving units in plain view, so every time I go into the pantry area, there they are staring at me, begging me to take them upstairs and use them.  This has worked out for the most part, but whichever gadgets aren’t used by this summer, will promptly be donated, thus making room for new, hopefully more useful ones.

During the past month I have bought two new kitchen gadgets that I know will be getting a lot of use.  First of all, they will both be stored right in the kitchen, one on an open shelving unit in the nook and the other in a cabinet that I go into at least three times a day.  Second, they are gadgets that will save me money and open the door to many opportunities for new meals and improving on some old ones.

Today I want to share one of these gadgets with you.  The second one will have to wait for a later post.

Meet my new Meat Cuber:

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What sparked my sudden desire to make my own cubed meat was one of those wonderful cooking shows on television. The other day a restaurant was featured that cubed pork butts for a cornmeal crusted, deep-fried pork butt sandwich.  Well, that was all it took.  I had to have a cuber of my own, seeing as cubed pork is not something common in the grocery stores around here. At the same time, I knew that this gadget would not be exclusive for pork butts.  There are so many meals that I make or want to make that call for meat to be pounded.  This cuber does the job in an instant instead of me standing at the counter pounding away for 30 or more minutes.  It can be used on beef, pork, chicken, veal, and probably even lamb if I wanted.

I know this might not seem like a practical gadget on the surface, but with the continuing rise of meat prices I am faced with every week at the grocery store, being able to buy a cheaper cut of meat, using the cuber to tenderize it, and thus producing a delicious meal, is definitely something handy to have around.  This morning I used the meat cuber to cube round steak.  Cube Steak at the grocery store is $6.99 per pound.  I bought a large package of round steaks for $4.25 a pound yesterday and cubed about 2 1/4 pounds for dinner.  This is more than a $6.00 savings just for this meal and all it took was less than five minutes time to cube it.

The cuber I bought claimed I could use meat up to 1/2″ thick.  That was pushing it a bit, so I sliced the round steak in half horizontally so it was just over 1/4″ thick. The meat slid easily through the cuber and I ended up with perfectly cubed steak.

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So, tonight rather than using store-bought cube steak to prepare a family favorite, All Day Simmer Cube Steak, I have freshly cubed round steak cooking in the pan.  Actually though with this home cubed round steak I don’t think I’ll have to cook it all day in order to attain the cut-with-your-fork tenderness we’ve enjoyed in the past.  I tasted the meat just after I’d seared it, which basically cooked the meat because it was so thin, and it was already tender.  A few hours in the pan and this will be falling apart.

Saving money and improving on an old family favorite, does it get any better than that?  And for this I am — Simply Grateful.