Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Nebraska Sky



It's Wordless Wednesday, and I wanted to share a picture I snapped the other afternoon on a walk with Teddy Kent.  It was a wonderfully hazy day and the sky was very photogenic.  Happy Hump Day!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Nebraskan Barn



It's been a great week and I have been busy with the kiddos, the County Fair, and I am finally getting some produce from the garden to can. 

I wanted to share this picture of the big red barn.

I really miss seeing these giants dot the landscape and I appreciate everyone who has taken the time to restore their barn to it's former glory.  It has been said that the barn was typically built better than the house.  Farmers and Ranchers painted them red, typically, because red paint was the cheapest.  This photo was taken at Stuhr Musem in Grand Island, Nebraska earlier this summer.

In honor of my love for the State, I thought I would share a fun post, shared by Christine at Movoto, about things a person should know before moving to Nebraska.  Some tips are truer than others, but I think it depends what side of the State you live on. 

Please check it out-  it's a fun read-  especially if you are from "The Good Life" State!


http://www.movoto.com/blog/opinions/moving-to-nebraska/

Saturday, July 26, 2014

How To Can Green Beans Safely


"My Dog Green likes to roam.  One day he went far from home.  He came back squeaky clean.  Oh, Where has my Greeeen beeeen?  Greeeen Beeeen, Greeeen Beeeen.  Oh Where Has My Greeeeen Been?"

I have this song stuck in my head and it keeps replaying over and over.  If you have never heard this children's song, consider yourself lucky.  This song is becoming my theme song as I pick and pluck beans from the garden.  I am desperately trying to can as many pints and quarts as possible this year and singing in the garden is one way to pass the time.

I thought I would give a detailed post about how to can green beans safely.  I am amazed at the number of people I have encountered that don't know the right way to preserve beans.  I thought I would share the pressure cooker method, just in case you were curious about it. 

A lot of people shy away from this method, because they have heard stories about a pressure cooker that exploded or the fact that Grandma never used one. 

"We've always done it this way and nobody has ever gotten sick," is the mantra I hear over and over.

I promise you that it's not scary

Actually, it is scarier if you don't use a pressure cooker for canning green beans.

Germs and bacteria are killed at the heat only a pressure canner can achieve.  If you don't properly seal and heat the jars, a surprise of deadly bacteria can flourish inside your harvest.  Don't risk it-  do the job properly and everyone wins. 

Would you risk your family's life for a can of beans?

I hope not.

So-  here is the lowdown on how to safely put up green beans. 

To begin you will need

  • a  pressure canner-  To ensure you don't have an explosive experience remember to add plenty of water when you begin.  That is the key to avoiding a catastrophe.
  • canning jars-  Use real jars specifically made for canning.  Please don't use leftover mayonnaise or jelly jars from the store.  You will not get the proper seal and your food will not be preserved. 
  • canning lids and rings-  You will want a new lid for every jar.  You can reuse the rings, but avoid reusing the lids at all costs.  Proper sealing is your highest priority.
  • cleaned and snapped green beans-  Wash and rinse.  Repeat.  Dirt and debris can harbor bacteria.  Preserve all your hard work-  clean it properly.
  • boiling water
  • canning salt-  You can purchase salt specifically made for canning.  It is a higher quality salt, but table salt will work. 
  • clean towels
  • a jar grabber or sturdy tongs
After you have assembled all of your equipment and veggies, you will need to do the following:

  • Place water inside your pressure canner and start heating it on your stove.  I fill mine up about halfway, but consult the manual that came with your pressure canner for the exact amount.  Remember you want to keep plenty of water inside.  If it runs dry, you will get booming results.  Check the water levels before placing the beans in the canner. 
  • Clean and sanitize your canning jars.  You can boil them the old school way, but I prefer to fill them with water and microwave them for a few minutes.  I let them sit with the hot water in them until I am ready to fill.  I have also ran them through the sani rinse in the dishwasher.

  • Fill your empty jars with the snapped beans.  I try to squeeze as many in and fill empty spaces.  I fill up to the bottom of the rim.

  • Add 1 teaspoon salt for pints or 1 tablespoon for quarts.

  • Pour boiling water over the beans and salt.  Fill just above the beans.

  • Burp the jars.  Use a spoon or knife to apply pressure to the beans.  This releases air pockets inside the jar.

  • Wipe the rims and seal.

  • Insert the jars inside the canner.  Check the water levels and make sure no jar is touching the sides or each other.

  • Place the lid on the canner.  Wait until steam starts to come out of the top before placing the weight.

  • Add the weight at 10 pounds.  When the weight starts "rocking" and making noise, start your timer.  20 minutes for pints and 25 minutes for quarts.  Keep an eye on the canner.

  • Remove the weight with your tongs.  Steam will shoot out as the pressure releases.
  • Wait several minutes and soon you will be able to remove the lid.  The lid will not move until it is at a safe pressure. 
  • Carefully remove the jars from the hot canner. 
  • Place the steaming jars on a cloth towel.

  • Listen for "pings" as the jars seal.
  • Do not move or mess with the jars for about 24 hours.
  • If you notice a jar didn't seal, you can let it cool and refrigerate it for immediate consumption.
  • Wipe down the jars.
  • Remove the rings.  THIS is very important you do this so you can tell if there was a bad seal. 
  • Write the date on the lid.  You typically want to use canned goods within a year.
  • Store in a cool, dark place.  Do not stack the jars-  you want to keep the seals intact or notice if one is bad.
  • When you are ready to use, open the jar.  The seal should make a "woompf" sound.  Smell and examine the food.  Bring it to a boil for at least 15 minutes.
  • Serve and enjoy your food all year long!

What have you harvested lately?  Check out other canning recipes in Simple Living.

Friday, July 25, 2014

An Ode To The Bean...


Feeling A Little Beany?  You are NOT Alone...

I stumbled across a plethora of funny videos this afternoon when I was trying to find the words to a children's song.  I had no idea that the lowly green bean was such an inspiration to the world.  I was impressed with the variety and quality of some of these videos so I thought I would share some love of the bean with you. 

It will give us something to ponder the next time we pop open a jar of beans or kneel in the garden picking bean after bean.

What are you waiting for? 

Pull up a seat, grab a bowl of green beans, and enjoy these videos...


 







And here's one not about beans, but sung by String Beans about my favorite state, NEBRASKA!


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

A Colorful Cabbage


Here is another Wordless Wednesday post to brighten "hump day".  I love the vibrant green of this gorgeous cabbage-  if only the humble cabbage knew it could be pretty?

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Tips On How To Cook Morels

 


Look at the lovely treasures my oldest son brought home for us! 

Morel mushrooms are a real find and they are only around for a short period of time during the spring.  The first time we tried to cook these little guys up it was an epic fail!  I didn't know what I was doing, so we enjoyed a mouthful of gritty sand.  Fast forward a few years, I am now able to serve up some savory morels that will melt in your mouth.  They are a perfect side to steaks, burgers, and pastas.

I had to ask around the neighborhood and learn a few tricks before I was able to create a good morel dish.  I thought I would share a few tips of the trade so you don't waste a valuable heap of mushroomy goodness.

Here are my favorite tips:
  • Fresh is best!  Prepare them shortly after picking or within a day or two.
  • Store the freshly picked mushrooms in a brown paper bag in the refrigerator if you are unable to cook them right away.
  • Cut the mushrooms in half to make them easier to rinse.  The insides can be full of sand and they are hard to clean unless they are halved.
  • Clean them gently.  I use a colander and rinse them several times with "soft" running water.  If you turn your faucet up high, it might break the stems and tops into small pieces.
  • Rinse and rinse again.  I always rinse them several times, because sand isn't very appetizing in your dinner.
  • Let the excess water drain off or blot them carefully with a towel.  I always let ours sit in the colander for a bit before I cook them so they are dry.
  • Fry them!  I like them sautéed in butter with a little salt and pepper.  My son prefers to dip them in pancake batter and cook them that way.  I have a friend who is adamant that you need to roll them in eggs and Ritz crackers before frying. 
  • Serve and enjoy!

Do you have any tips for cooking morels?  Please share!


 
 


Friday, July 18, 2014

Tips to Pack the BEST Care Package!



It's summer time here in Nebraska and my middle son is away at camp for a week.  This is his first extended camp, usually they last for 3 days, but this time he is away for 7 WHOLE days.  His brothers and I decided we would send him and the Troop a package of goodies.  After a few hours of brainstorming and debating ideas of what to pack, we finally settled on a few treats.



Here are a few tips to help you pack the BEST care package!  EVER! 

  • Choose items that won't melt in a vehicle or the summer heat.  Can you imagine receiving a special package from home, only to find a puddle of chocolate inside?  Yuck! 
          Here are a few suggestions (a lot of these are from teenage boys):
Twinkies
Small Bags of Chips
Gum
Pop Tarts
Powdered Drink Mixes
Granola Bars
Non-Chocolate Candies
Caramels
Gummy worms
Pixie Stix
and
More!


  • Add something homemade or special for the recipient.  We baked up a batch of sturdy cookies for the boys.  My Grandmother used to mail O'Henry bars to my Uncle or his favorite sugar cookies.  If your package is going a long way, store a slice of bread in with your cookies.  This will keep them moist!
  • Include small books or cards.  These could be Sudoku books, word finds, jokes, playing cards, or trading cards. 
  • Enclose a hand written note or letter.  You are showing the person that you value them enough to sit down and write. 
  • Choose a box to fit your needs.  We used a flat rate shipping box from the Post Office, but you can use whatever your items to fit snuggly and prevent shifting. 
  • If you have extra space inside your box, use lightweight materials to secure the contents.  Here are a few ideas that are economical:
air popped popcorn
grocery bags
crumpled newspaper
  • Finally, don't include items that will get you in trouble with the United States Government.  Liquids, alcohol, and fireworks are probably on the no mail list.
I can't wait to hear how the boys enjoyed their care package!  Do you have any tips or suggestions?  Share them in the Comments! 
 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Zippy Zucchini Bread


I have a love/hate relationship with zucchini and the recipe below is one of my favorites to use this time of year. 

Zucchini is becoming plentiful and abundant, which means a lot of dark green veggies are needing to be devoured.  I am always on the lookout for a good zucchini recipe and a few years ago we found this tasty and simple zucchini bread.  It also freezes well, which is great if you are starting to tire of nature's bounty.



Here are the ingredients you will need:
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 1 cup oil
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup nuts (optional)
To make this treat, do the following:


  • Peel and grate the zucchini.  Gently squeeze the excess water off the vegetable.
  • Mix eggs, sugar, oil, and vanilla.
  • Fold in zucchini.

  • Add flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.
  • Mix well.  Add the nuts if you desire.

  • Pour into two greased loaf pans and bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • Cool and slice.

What do you like to use zucchini in?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Agitated?


Here's a wordless Wednesday post in honor of laundry day.  I am so very thankful for an agitator and Tide Pods...

I took this photo in Stuhr Museum at Grand Island, Nebraska.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Door to the Rails


Here is a simple photo for a Wordless Wednesday post.  I took this picture on our trip to Grand Island last month at Stuhr Museum.   

Monday, July 7, 2014

Some Good Clean Fun


Summer is in full swing and the weather has not been cooperating in this part of Nebraska.  Tornadoes and windstorms, inches and inches of rain-  needless to say, it's been a wet and stormy few weeks.  The children are a little storm shocked and craved an afternoon of water fun. 

The sun finally decided to pop out the other day and the skies were a clear blue-  perfect for playing in some H2O!  We were unable to drive into town for a splash in the pool, so we opted for a homespun slip'n slide.  I know it is a little sketchy and not very pretty to look at, but this activity was a hit.

We took a few large tarps, added a bit of hand soap, and let the hose run water.  It was so simple and refreshing!  Soap and water is cheap- and the kids enjoyed some good clean fun.


Do you have any easy water activities for the backyard?  Please share!