Woah, I Miss You Blogger

Jan 13... That was the last day I posted. I can't even believe it! The last 3 weeks have gone by insanely fast. School and work have taken over my life, exactly as I predicted they would. I did however, get time (no idea where) to find my seed sowing chart and get my shelf and plastic set up. I still have to hook up all the lights and mats and whatnot, but at least the structure is up. I didn't take a picture, but here is a link to last year's shelf, which is the exact same setup this year. Although this year, I was able to find REAL seed starting cells rather than those tiny crappy things you find at The Big Orange Store that need transplanting after like, 2 weeks. Yay!!

As I was looking for a picture to show y'all, I came across an old post entitled WTF is Up With This Weather?! that was from January 17th... It seems that last January also had two unusual warm ups, so, I guess this year could be considered normal? I wonder if I should start keeping a weather journal?? Yeah, like I need another thing to take care of and keep track of around here....

It seems that everyone out there is having the same thoughts as me... Seeds Seeds Seeds! WTF is with the weather?! Spring is around the corner!!!


Appliance Woes

The past 6 months have NOT been a great time in the life of the appliances at Tiny Gardener Homestead... Last summer the fridge and freezer died. Recently, my vacuum died. Last week, my washer (front loader) started leaking water out the door seal. Today, the washer is gushing water out the detergent drawer and not even dripping into the washer drum...

I have googled this issue, and the instructions said to remove the drawer, clean it, and check the top of tube for clogs. Nada. That is all I can find regarding the issue... Has anyone else had this issue??? I REALLY don't want to have to buy a new washer, but if I do, I am getting a top loader. I have had enough of these front loaders...

Update: Thanks for the advice everyone! I finally found a link online from a lady that said "I make my own laundry detergent, and sometimes it clogs the tube so I routinely clean it with near boiling water." I thought, OMG THAT IS ME!!! DUH!!!! It worked like a charm!!!!!


Lessons in Freezer Meals

Ok, so my first attempt several months ago at making freezer-to-pot crock pot meals was a decent success. We found meals we liked, and ones we didn't. BUT the biggest lesson I learned was in my method and tools.

Method - CHOP CHOP CHOP everything before you start scooping into bags. Chop all your carrots, celery, garlic, etc and place into bowls to make an assembly line for scooping and divying into your freezer bags.

              - COOK your meats (if needed) while you chop. This should come to you as a DUH thing, but to me it did not the first time around. I have no idea why...

              - FOr gawd's sake, label your bags. Let me tell you, if you haven't done this before, once everything is frozen, it all looks exactly the same. I haven't screwed this part up yet, but I did lose my sharpie twice today... It was almost an ugly situation... 

Tools - I learned the hard way, aka leakage, spillage, and other messy things, that you should NOT skimp and use the cheapo bags. Get the good bags... With the zipper tops... Double, triple, quadruple sealing bags.... You get the picture?

         - If you can learn to NOT fill your bags so full that they look like a fat woman in a corset, you probably won't need to worry about buying the good bags. I, unfortunately, have NOT learned this lesson... Yet...

         - Make SURE you have room in your freezer for this stuff. Today, I made about 14 freezer meals, and uh, had nowhere to put them. I rearranged my freezer upstairs and could fit them... But I have to work on my freezer in the basement in order to make room for the 6 quarts of pasta sauce I made today... Yeah... I think I need another freezer... Hold up! Why, oh WHY do only TWO people need another freezer?! This is almost an asinine statement I just made... Honestly, at this point, we should not need to purchase any groceries.... For a long, long time... Except maybe fruit and milk....

So, here for your enjoyment and happiness, are some recipes! Note, none of these are my original recipes, but I did adapt them for freezer-to-pot cooking. Oh, this is in NONE of the recipes, but you will want to partially thaw your bags in order to get everything into the crockpot without going insane. OH! Some of these recipes call for you to garnish with bacon crisps... Just freeze your bacon leftovers in a little baggie and zap in the microwave to make them crisp again.

Crock Pot Dinners

Pumpkin Soup with Bacon
2 t olive oil
½ c raw pumpkin seeds
3 slices thick cut bacon
1 medium onion, chopped
1 t salt
½ t chipotle chili powder or more to taste
½ t black pepper
60 oz pumpkin puree (2 cans)
4 c chicken broth
¼ c apple cider
½ whipping cream

For the freezer: sauté all vegetables in bacon fat (reserve the bacon crisps for garnish) then add all seasonings and pumpkin puree. Place in freezer bag, mark with Add 4 c chicken broth, stir in cider at end. Cook on high for 4 hours. Garnish with bacon crisps and pumpkin seeds.

Parsnip and Carrot Soup
1 medium leek, thinly sliced
Garlic, minced
4 parsnips, diced
4 carrots, diced
4 cups stock
1 bay leaf
½ t salt
½ t pepper
½ c cooked pasta
1 T parsley
1 c croutons

For the Freezer: sauté leek and garlic, let cool and place in bag with carrots, parsnips, and seasonings. On bag, mark add 4 cups stock, cook low 3-4 hours or high 2-3 hours, garnish with parsley and croutons

Chicken and Vegetable Chowder
1 pound chicken breasts, cut into chunks
1 can (14 oz) stock
1 can cream of potato soup
1 package broccoli florets, thawed
1 cup sliced carrots
1 jar (14 oz) sliced mushrooms
½ c chopped onion
½ c corn kernels
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ t dried thyme leaves
1/3 c half and half or cream
For the freezer: Combine all ingredients in bag, then mark with “cook on low 5-6 hours”, stir in half an half just before serving

Mushroom and Barley Soup
8 and 1 c chicken broth
1 package (16 ounces) sliced mushrooms
2 carrots, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 stalks celery
½ c uncooked pearl barley
½ oz dried porcini mushroom
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 t salt
½ dried thyme
½ t black pepper

For the Freezer: Add all ingredients to bag and mark with add 8 cups stock, cook on low 4-6 hours

Leek and Potato Soup
6 slices bacon, chopped
5 cups shredded potatoes
3 leeks, chopped
1 can cream of potato soup
1 can (14 oz) stock
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 can (5 oz) evaporated milk
½ c sour cream

For Freezer: sauté vegetables (not potatoes) in bacon fat, reserve bacon crisps for garnish. Place all ingredients in bag and mark cook low 6-7 hours, stir in sour cream at end of cooking.

Italian Sausage Soup
Meatballs:     1 pound Italian sausage
½ c breadcrumbs
¼ parmesan cheese
¼ c milk
1 egg
1/2 t dried basil
½ t balck pepper
¼ t garlic salt
4 cups chicken stock
1 T tomato paste
Garlic, minced
¼ t red pepper flakes
½ c uncooked mini pasta
1 bag (10 oz) baby spinach, chopped
Grated parmesan cheese

For Freezer: make meatballs, bake in oven until cooked. Combine all ingredients in bag and mark “add 4 cups stock, cook on low 5-6 hours” and top with parmesan cheese
Chuck and Stout Soup
2 T olive oil
3 pounds beef chuck or stew meat
Salt and pepper
8 cups stock
3 large onions, thinly sliced
3 stalks celery, chopped
6 carrots, chopped
Garlic, minced
20 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 ounce dried porcini mushrooms
4 sprigs thyme
1 bottle stout beer

For Freezer: Season meat with salt and pepper and brown. Bring stock a boil and reduce by half. Place all ingredients in bag and mark cook on low 10 hours.

Double Thick Baked Potato Soup
2 pounds starchy potatoes, cubed
2 cans cream of potato soup
1 ½ c chopped green onions, divided
¼ t garlic powder
1/8 t red pepper flakes
1 ½ c shredded chedder cheese
1 c sour cream
1 cup milk

For Freezer: combine all ingredients (not milk, sour cream, or cheese) and mark “cook on low for 8 hours, then add cheese, milk, and sour cream at end, heat through, and serve with green onions and bacon crisps”

Corn Chowder
3 T butter
3 leeks, cleaned and sliced
3 + 1 cups stock
5 cups corn kernels
3 sprigs thyme
Salt and pepper
½ cup cream

For Freezer: combine all ingredients and place in bag and mark “add 3 cups  stock, cook low 4 hours, add cream at end before serving”

Harvest Beef Stew
1 T olive oil
1 ½ pounds stew meat
1 quart canned tomatoes
6 carrots, chopped
3 stalks celery
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup apple juice
2 T parsley flakes
1 T basil flakes
2 t salt
Garlic, minced
½ t black pepper
2 bay leaves
¼ c flour
½ c water

For Freezer: season and brown meat, discard fat. Place all ingredients in bag (except water and flour) and mark “cook on low 6-7 hours.” Thicken with flour if needed.

Wild Mushroom Beef Stew
1 ½ pounds stew meat
2 T flour
½ t salt
½ t pepper
1 ½ c beef broth
1 t Worcestershire sauce
Garlic, minced
1 bay leaf
1 t paprika
One box mushrooms
2 carrots, chopped
2 potatoes, cubed
1 medium onion, chopped
A celery stalk, chopped

For Freezer: coat beef and flour, salt and pepper, brown on all sides. Place all ingredients in bag and mark “cook low 10-12 hours”

Mushroom Beef Stew
1 pounds stew meat
1 can cream of mushroom soup
16 ounces sliced mushrooms
1 package dry onion soup mix

For Freezer: combine all ingredients in bag and mark “cook low 8-10 hours” and serve over egg noodles

Tuscan Beef Stew
½ c hot beef broth
¾ c dried porcini mushrooms
3 slices bacon, chopped
2 pounds stew meat
3 cups assorted mushrooms, sliced
1 cup chopped onions
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup dry red wine
¼ c tomato paste
½ t sugar
2 T flour
2 T butter
For Freezer: Combine hot broth and mushrooms, let stand. Cook bacon, reserve crisps. Season beef with flour, salt, pepper, brown on all sides. Add all ingredients to bag and mark “cook low 7-8 hours.” Thicken with flour and butter mash if needed. Serve over pasta.

Beef Stew with Molasses
½ c flour
Salt and pepper
2 pounds stew meat
2 medium onions, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
8 ounces carrots, chopped
2 parsnips, chopped
28 oz diced tomatoes
1 c stock
3 T molasses
2 T cider vinegar
1 bay leaf
2 starchy potatoes, cubed

For Freezer: season meat with flour, salt and pepper, brown. Combine all ingredients in bag and mark “cook low 5 hours”


Molasses Maple Glazed Brisket
1 beef brisket, about 2 pounds
Salt and pepper
2 T olive oil
½ c maple syrup
¼ c molasses
2 T brown sugar
1 T tomato paste
Peel and juice of one orange
2 garlic cloves, mashed
4 slices fresh ginger

For Freezer: combine all ingredients in bag and mark “cook low 7-9 hours flipping at least once”

Turkey with Chunky Cherry Relish
1 bag (16 ounces) frozen dark cherries, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes with jalapenos
1 package dried cranberries (6 ounces)
2 small onions, thinly sliced
2 T tapioca
1 ½ T salt
½ t cinnamon
½ t pepper
1 turkey breast (1.5-3 pounds)
2 T water
1 T cornstarch
For Freezer: Combine all ingredients (except turkey) in bag, mark with “place on bottom” and turkey in bag with salt and pepper marked “place on top, cook low 7-8 hours”. Remove turkey and slice, thicken cherry mixture with water and cornstarch

Italian braised short ribs in red wine
3 pounds beef short ribs, trimmed of fat
2 large onions, sliced
Garlic, minced
16 ounces mushrooms, quartered
2 cups red wine
2 cups stock
2 t Italian seasoning
Salt and pepper

For Freezer: season ribs with salt and pepper, brown and discard fat. Brown onions and garlic. Combine all ingredients in bag and mark “cook low 6-8 hours, serve with potatoes or polenta.”


Last Weekend of Freedom

I will be spending my last 2 days of educational freedom cooking, baking, cleaning, laundering, and anything else you can think of in order to get your house ready for you to not take care of it. For 16 weeks.

The semester starts on Monday, and I will finally be at the Big University, not community college! Yay for me! Unfortunately, with my **planned** workout schedule, classes, and work, I will be gone from about 8 am - 830 pm. Every. Single. Day. Well, except weekends of course, but those are going to be reserved for laundry and a tiny bit of down time. Oh, and to spend time with that wonderful husband of mine!!

So what will I be making this weekend? I have 16 freezer-to-pot crockpot meals, banana bread, granola bars, spaghetti sauce, vegetable stock, and other various baked goods planned. Oh, and pasta... Gotta use up those eggs...

Want to know what else I will be using this weekend? My dishwasher. I took out all my jars and put them in a giant tupperware storage thing, and made room for all the dishes I am going to make. Yes, I use my dishwasher for storage... You see, in general, I never use it. The machine kind of sucks and I have to wash the dishes before I wash the dishes. So, it makes the perfect place for jar storage and easy sanitation! Just turn it on, get the jars hot, you are ready to roll. I guess that plan isn't so important in the winter time, but hey, I am a creature of habit. I guess now that I have my fancy storage room, I don't really need to store my jars in there... I plan on keeping a sink of soapy water and just plunging the plates/bowls/mixers/stuff and then sticking them in the washer. I hope I am able to keep my head this weekend....

So, I am sure I will blog on Sunday, but bear with me over the next few months as I really won't have time to breath, let alone blog. Although, maybe it won't be as bad as I think??


Finally! Storage!

Look, if you had exactly 2 closets in your entire house, you would be as excited as I am about this too!

I have had plans for awhile about turning our back room into a storage room, and have finally done it. It is a nice little room, but really isn't suitable for anything except storage. We tried it as an office and as a bedroom... As a spare bedroom, it was insanely tiny, as we only have queen size beds. As an office... Well, honestly, no one in their right mind wants to spend any time in there because in the summer and winter, it is usually about 15-20 degrees warmer/colder than the rest of the house.

We were using the only closet (unfinished and dirty and ugly) on the first floor as an everything room. Cat litter, recycling, storage... You name it, it was in there. Seriously, everything. I got my shelving set up, moved everything out, cleaned up, and replaced only the cat litter boxes and litter, cat food, and recycling. If we didn't have a dog who considered "anything cat" a delicacy, we would have moved those out too. Hubby intends on finishing that room at some point this year, which will entail insulation, drywall, and flooring.

But, I know you are dieing for pictures, so I will stop rambling and present to you.... My New Storage Closet!!!! Can I just say that I am sooooo happy I finally have a home for the vacuum cleaner?! I am sure my guests (once in a blue moon, but guests nevertheless) will enjoy NOT sleeping in a room that contains my extra storage bins, vacuum cleaner, and boxes of junk.
The now clean and very empty "cat room"
View from main entry door in the foyer. This old shelf was left in the basement (because it weighs a gawd-dang ton!) and came from an old church and used to hold bibles. I figure it is strong enough to hold my canned goods and miscellaneous leftover office junk :)
view from the cat room door (next to the bible shelf) These shelves hold my canning supplies and tools, as well as miscellaneous food stuffs that won't fit in our regular pantry such as extra pasta and cereal, condiments, and soon... Coffee (I go nuts when this stuff is on sale) Also I am going to bring in my winter squashes that are probably frozen solid from the garage. This room will stay cold enough during winter to keep them fresh(ish)
View from the back shelves, the cat room door
View of the other wall from the back shelves... An ENTIRELY EMPTY SHELF UNIT!!!!! I have no idea what I am going to do with myself!!! (Well, except for my vacuum attachments) Oh, and don't forget Oliver...
Now, I know you are jealous... That is ok, it is a perfectly normal reaction when you see something so awesome. (Perhaps I am too excited about this?!) Now, I am going to answer a question for my mother... Why did you make this room storage when you have a basement the size of your entire first floor? Well, honestly, because I am lazy. When I am in a hurry or need something from that room, I don't want to have to trek into my old, dirty, dark basement to get it. That and, I can now say I have THREE closets in my whole house.


Chicken Issue

Ok, so this is going to sound weird when I explain it, but I am concerned. Blondie (Americauna) has a saggy butt. Seriously, it looks like her fluffy butt feathers are hanging down an inch or so lower than where they should be. I picked her up and checked her out, and her vent looks fine, not prolapsed, albeit slightly pinkish and irritated. But what it DOES look like is that she sat in a pile of poop which is now weighing down her feathers.

I tried to clean off the poop with a warm rag, and I was not successful. I got the poop off the skin around her vent, but I can't get the poop off her feathers. I thought about giving her a warm bath (yes, I have "bathed" a chicken before, but in the sense that she was egg bound, not that she was dirty and needed a scrub down) but decided against it because it is, well, flippin cold out!

It is supposed to warm up and rain a ton this week, so I am thinking I should just wait it out and let the rain take care of the poo. I also changed the light in the coop so that it goes on at 7 instead of 5, giving their little systems a break. And we are NOT hurting for eggs, so I really don't care if it slows down. And the other hens don't seem at all interested at pecking at Blondie, so that is a very good thing. All her health signs are good - red perky comb, keeps an appetite, runs around with the other hens - so I am not too horribly worried, but she just looks so weird with that saggy butt!!!

Update since early this morning - She laid an egg at about 10 am, so at least I know she isn't egg bound


Resolution Re-Do and Dark Days Challenge

Ok, so I will try to keep true to all those goals I made in my New Year's post, but I wanted to write out something more. I resolve (yes, resolve) to be truer to myself and to keep my word. So, part of this means getting back on track with my blog, and keeping promises.

The blog has been falling to the wayside lately, and I don't think I am happy about it. I need to get it re-focused, re-energized, and re-everything.

So, to start this resolution off on the right foot, I am bringing you my first Dark Days Challenge post! Sorry I have not been on the ball Nancy!! For those unfamiliar with the Dark Days, we are supposed to post once weekly about a meal that is prepared with as many local ingredients as possible. Challenge because it is, well, winter! So here it is.

Tonight I made pasta with tomato sauce. It was a lovely bowl of summer, and one of our favorite meals. I used eggs from our hens for the pasta (the semolina was grown local, but is locally milled) and tomatoes, peppers, and garlic from our summer harvest. The onions/olive oil/salt and pepper were not local, but tasty nonetheless.
Are you doing the Dark Days Challenge?

Holy Brrrrrr!!!

This morning, like always, I walked the dog and fed the chickens and took care of their water. But this morning, a new task was added... Ice Removal.

My phone's weather app says it is 13 degrees, but feels like 2. Yes, I can definitely attest to that!

On a good note however, my seed order arrived! My seed organizing book is bursting at the seams! I can't wait to get going on planning the garden for this year. Yippee!


Happy New Year!

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all had a safe and fun night!

The year is starting out in kind of a crappy way, and as I see it, we can only go up from here. Lots of family stuff, ya know how it goes.

BUT! All that aside, I have big plans for 2013! As I have said before, I don't do well with resolutions, but am better with goals. So here are my goals for the year ahead. 

~ Get down to my goal weight of 125-130
~ Have a better garden. This year was pretty good, but I did not have enough time dedicated to it with my school work and job. This year, I will do better.
~ Take better care of myself and my husband. And by care I mean health. We need to be more active and eat healthier food.
~ Eat more veggies!
~ Be nicer and more patient!

What are your goals for the next year?