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Friday, December 30, 2011

What We've Been Making Around Here

My husband made a pasta drying rack

That collapses down for easy storage

And a thread rack

I updated my sewing room/office, you can see the thread hanger on the right (do not look under my craft table though...  I know!  It's really messy!)

Yesterday I took come Christmas money and bought the wall saying, and fabric to cover the bulletin board  and pillow (but didn't buy tacks, so the board is empty right now..)

The shelves my husband lined with fabric for me on the left

Oh and I FINALLY made myself some gloves!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Homemade Ravioli

So I treated myself to a pasta maker.  Unfortunately I used it exactly twice before it broke.  I'm returning it tomorrow and planning on ordering another online.  Anyone out there own one they love or hate?  If so, I sure could use a recommendation.

I made whole wheat spaghetti, AND MY KIDS LIKED IT!  Totally worth buying one just for that!  I have to admit, I eat whole grain, but not my pasta, I just don't like the texture of it.  This was great though, so I'm sold on a pasta maker, just not the one I got.

Today My son and I made ravioli.  Any item that gets my kids cooking with me, also worth the price.  We made caribou ravioli and cheese (my daughter is a vegetarian). 

Pasta Recipe:
2 cups whole wheat flour, (or white, or 1/2 white and 1/2 semolina)
1/4 cup salt
4 eggs beated

Mix try ingredients and place on cutting board (I used a bowl, I'm messy), make a well and put eggs in center.  Mix with a fork until mixed and a dough forms, if too dry add a little water.  My dough is always a bit sticky and I take small amounts dredge in flour and roll out or put through pasta maker.  It usually takes several times of dredging and folding before the dough holds together nicely.  Roll out to desired thickness and fill with either of the following fillings. 

Meat Ravioli Recipe

1/2 # ground Caribou (or beef)
1/2 chopped onion
clove garlic pressed
1/4 c. chopped parsley
1/4 c. parmesan cheese, grated
2 small eggs

Cheese filling
1 cup ricotta cheese (homemade recipe here)
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
1/4 cup grated parmesan
2 small eggs or 1 large egg
1/4 c. chopped parsley

We used a ravioli stamp to shape ours.  Place on floured or greased cookie sheet in single layer, and freeze and place in zip lock bag, or cook 5 minutes in salted simmering water.  We served with marinara sauce yesterday and alfredo today.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Ham and Bean Soup (with a Balkan twist)

Sorry about the bad picture, it's taken with my iPhone and backlit.  The tree goes up the day after Thanksgiving, and will stay up until the day after New Years.

I hope all who celebrate have a wonderful Christmas or Chanukkah.  It's always enjoyable, but I'm glad to have the gift making behind me, and am looking forward to relaxing a bit.  I don't think that is going to happen just yet though, we still have a fair amount of cleaning up to do. 
The table that usually lives in my craft room needs to go back upstairs.  Oh and ahem... the rest of the dishes and empties need to go....

If you are like me you have some leftovers to deal with.  We always cook a ham for Christmas and my favorite thing to make is bean soup from the ham bone.  Here is my recipe below.

Ham and Bean Soup (with a Balkan twist)
Mmmm with bread and a nice glass of red wine....

1# of Navy or Great Northern Beans, rinsed 
Water to cover beans by 2-3 inches (about 6 cups, I doubled mine and 12 cups was perfect)
Ham bone and chopped ham ham, ham hocks also work (I also make this with kielbasa, sliced thickly and added about 45 minutes before serving if I don't have ham)
3 carrots, sliced
3 potatoes, chopped (use a variety that holds up well like red, I use Yukon Gold also)
2 celery 
1 onion chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
3 bay leaves
2 Tbsp chopped parsley
2 Tbsp Tomato Paste
5-6 whole peppercorns
Salt to taste 
3 Tbsp olive oil 
1-2 teaspoons Paprika
2 Tbsp flour

 Rinse and pick over beans, add to pot with ham bone or ham hocks, chopped onion, bay leaves and peppercorns and simmer until beans are tender.  You can soak the beans and add fresh water, but this makes a thinner soup.  I like it thick and hardy, so I don't do this.  Remove bone and pick off meat, I like a lot of ham so I usually add chopped ham at this time too.  Remove bay leaves.  Add carrots, celery, potatoes, tomato paste and garilc and simmer until tender.  Add salt to taste.  15 minutes prior to serving, make a roux, heat olive oil, add paprika and stir, add flour making a paste and add to the soup.  I find that adding a little broth and thinning it out some before adding, makes it easier to add.  Simmer to thicken a little. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Homemade Kimchi

Ok, so kimchi is not your typical Christmas food or gift, but well I'm not typical I guess...

  This year I decided to make most of our gifts to make them more personal and less commercial.  My stepfather was stationed in Korea in the Army and loves kimchi, so I decided to make him some as a gift.  Since he's had actual Korean Kimchi I wanted to try to find an authentic recipe.  Probably making something I've never made before is not the best idea, so I'm feeling a tad insecure about it.  I also have never actually tasted it so I have no idea if it is right or not!  

I found many, many recipes out there.  Most with very similar ingredients so I kind of combined them all and the following recipe is what I ended up doing, hopefully with good results.

Kimchi Recipe:

  • 2 Heads Napa cabbage, chopped into 2" squares
  • Salt  the cabbage with 1/2 cup kosher salt, mix well to coat, I placed mine in 2 gallon ziplock bags for about 5 hours.  Many of the recipes called for much more salt, but comments of being way to salty were common and people cut the salt way back.  
  • Rinse the cabbage very well and squeeze as much of the water out of it as you can. 
  • 2 carrots grated
  • 1 bunch of green onions chopped into 1/2" - 1" pieces.
We are lucky enough to have a Korean market, and my husband (who had to ask for directions to the products for a change because none of them were in English) was kind enough to go pick up my fish sauce and Korea hot chile pepper powder.  It's hot, but not as hot as cayenne, more like hot paprika, but maybe even not that hot.

 In a bowl mix together the following: 
  • 2 tablespoon fish sauce (recipes varied from 1 Tbsp to 1/2 cup for the same amount of cabbage)
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (I used organic cane sugar)
  • 1" chunk of fresh ginger, grated
  • 5 heaping tablespoons Korean chile powder
What the mix looked like in the bowl

Wearing gloves mix the spice mixture into the cabbage vegetable mixture.  Place into a clean container.  The mixture fit into 2, quart canning jars.

  Pack the mixture in tightly, and I placed the lids on loosely so pressure doesn't build up (and blow up the jars).  Ferment at room temperature for 4 days, then refrigerate.  Most of the recipes say it can store for 1 month, but I've read it can be stored much longer and will continue to ferment.

So that is what I did, I'll let you know how it turns out.  Has anyone made kimchi, and if so, do you have any suggestions for me?

Follow Up:  Everything seems to have worked well with this recipe.  I never ended up tasting it, I had a stomach bug when it was ready.  The person I gave it to said it was better than the ones he has gotten at the store.   I guess I'll have to give it another try and actually eat some this time...

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

More Mittens ... a scarf... the crafting continues

So again I had planned on getting a post done sooner, who's idea was it to make most of the Christmas gifts this year?  It always sounds like such a good idea, but in the midst of it, it feels kinda overwhelming!  I do see light at the end of the tunnel now!  Here's what I've been working on...

Mittens, lots of mittens!

With some trial and error (errors like mittens that would fit an infant instead of the 3 year old I was trying for, making 2 right hands instead of a left and right, lots of seam ripping, I have managed to make several pairs.  The adult women gloves on the right of the photo are 110% of the pattern found here  The pink fit a 3 yo and are made at 77% of the pattern, the orange and gray child at the top left was at 90% and fits a 7 year old boy, and 85% fits about a 5 year old. 

Another gift for someone at work (we drew names)
The gloves were made with the above pattern at 110%.  The scarf pattern can be found here.  It was quick and pretty easy to make.  My yarn was larger than the pattern, I used a H hook, and ended up dropping a section to make it not be too wide.  I started by chaining 31. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Recycled Mittens, My Craft Obsession, and Everything Else

We had a nice Thanksgiving and family time.  I hope that all of you who celebrate did too.  Ok, ok, I do realize it's now December and Thanksgiving is long past, which means I'm again behind in my blogging.  I managed to not take a single picture of the food ( I know really? As I blog about, you know, food...).  My update on the brine.  I liked the Alton Brown recipe better than the one that I tried previously.  I think I overcooked the turkey a bit, and lost some of the juiciness, it was still really good and I think I'll try that brine again.  Although I think I read on a blog about another one that uses a lot more sugar, twice as much sugar as salt.  Maybe I'll give that one a try next....
Photo Credit

I went to Anchorage for a few days for a conference.  Trips to Anchorage or "outside" meaning out of Alaska, usually involve shopping.  As we have exactly one "mall" which is by no stretch of the imagination an actual mall, we call it a "hall". I caught some great sales and managed to come with an almost empty suitcase and leave with a full one.  One of the speakers at the conference, talked about the healing properties of wild berries.  It was very interesting, and I was hoping to make a post on that, but I'll have to do it another time because I haven't been able to access the slides again.

Two weeks ago we were -40 degrees, a lot changes in a couple weeks, we've had a temperature swing of about 80 degrees.  Sunday we warmed up to over 40+ and got freezing rain.  I think we are the only place that closes school for rain, but never for snow!  We are back to normal now and are back down 1 degree.  I like it to warm up, but never enough to rain, it just causes a mess!

I thought things would settle down in the winter and I would have more time.  Yep that hasn't really happened.  My crafting obsession resurfaces during the dark, cold winter days, and as usual I have several projects going at a time.  
My husband fixed my sagging craft cabinet, and put the nice fabric to dress it up too.
Crochet baby blanket for my new niece
The weekend after Thanksgiving I took a recycled wool mitten class.

Reverse side
 The directions for felting the wool and making the mittens can be found at this web site: studio5 recycled mitten pattern and instructions. 
There is a printable pattern available on the web site.  The class we took found the size a bit small for some women, it works well for teens and smaller women.  The pattern I used was increased on a printer to 110%.

Well that's whats going on around here.  What winter crafts are you all working on?

Monday, November 21, 2011

Brining Your Thanksgiving Turkey

Photo Credit

Do any of you out there brine your turkeys?  Brining is supposed to improve flavor, and make a more juicy and tender bird.  Most store bought turkeys are "flavor injected" so brining them may become too salty.  I honestly never considered brining before we started growing our own turkeys, which we've done for two years now.  

It is a really simple process that basically involves a turkey, salty water, added flavorings and a large pot or bucket to soak the turkey in.  The past two years I used a recipe that brined in spices and apple cider, but was underwhelmed with the results and really couldn't tell the difference. 

Photo Credit

After searching the web, and finding several positive references to Alton Brown's Good Eats Roast Turkey (Click on the link to get the recipe)  I've decided I'm going to give this one a try and I'll keep you posted with the results.  It loooove stuffing cooked in the bird, so I'll have to change the roasting directions because of this.   

Anyone out there have a tried and true brining recipe?

Saturday, November 19, 2011

What's On Your Thanksgiving Table?

Photo Crecit

I can hardly believe that thanksgiving is right around the corner!  We have a few Thanksgiving traditions.  The past couple years we have grown our own turkey, I make homemade cranberry sauce and Alaska Tea (aka Cranberry Tea), and the annual Thanksgiving XC-Ski.  Sometimes it's crazy warm and we can barely ski because it's slippery and above freezing, some years it's stinkin' cold & occasionally we have to skip it because we are too cold (my cut off is -15, it's like skiing on sandpaper).  My sister is usually my partner for the ski while the turkey is cooking, but she moved to Bellingham this year and will be greatly missed, so my husband agreed to ski with me, IF it warms up today it's still -25. 

On our table will be turkey and dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, sweet potato casserole, homemade rolls, brussels sprouts (my husband's favorite all time vegetable), roasted broccoli and cauliflower, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie, apple pie, cranberry tea and sparkling cider.  Mmmmm I'm hungry already!

What's going to be on your Thanksgiving table?

Photo Credit

Alaska Tea Recipe
1 quart cranberries
1 cinnamon stick
10 whole cloves
3 quarts of water
1/2 cup of lemon juice
1 can orange juice concentrate
sugar or honey to taste

Simmer cranberries, cinnamon, cloves and water until berries are tender (about 25 minutes), strain or may remove the spices and blend the cranberries and water for a thicker, richer drink (CAUTION do not blend while hot, it may, and by "may" I mean "likely will" blow the top off of your blender, spraying red cranberry goo all over you, your cabinets, counter, stove, and the springer spaniel who is always under foot, and I "may" over a year later, still find spots of it occasionally.  Just sayin).  Add lemon, orange juice concentrate, straight from the can, not mixed with water, and sugar or honey to taste.  Heat until warm and dissolved.  Serve warm.  For gatherings I keep this in my crock pot on warm.

Homemade Cranberry Sauce

6 cups of cranberries (fresh or frozen)
4 cup of sugar
3/4 cup of water (or may substitute orange juice)

Blend all in a sauce pan and bring to a full rolling boil, boil until a small amount on a spoon gels, approx 25 minutes.  Ladle unto sterilized jelly jars and seal.  This does not require processing.  Sometimes I make ahead, and other times I just cut the recipe in 1/4 and make the day before thanksgiving.  I use wild, frozen lowbush cranberries (also called lingonberries) straight from the freezer, not defrosted first. 


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Keeping the Chickens and Rabbits Warm in Extreme Cold


I'm often asked how we keep our animals warm in the extreme cold.  We only have rabbits and chickens than we keep year round. I covered a lot of this in a previous post here

When we have a good amount of snow, it's getting below freezing a lot and they are staying in the house more than out, and their water is freezing in the house, we close the house day and night, keeping the chickens in  for the rest of winter.  We have two windows that we can open if it gets too warm and leaved cracked for ventilation.

When laying starts to decrease and we are losing a lot of light, we add a regular 100w light during the day for 12 hours of light. When it's -10 or colder, we add a 100w red light during the night to help it stay warm enough without the extra light.  Surprisingly this works well to keep the coop above freezing until around -20, after that we have to put in a heat lamp.  We use the red heat lamp so they don't have 24 hours of light, and continue the regular 100w bulb for 12 hours during the day.  We made that mistake once, and when the cold snap was over, we abruptly went back to the 12 hours of light and they completely quit laying for weeks. 

The rabbits do well with the above plan too, unless we are having a litter.  When we are getting close to having a litter, we put a reptile heater at the bottom of the nest box.  It has a warm to hot temperature controller so I can't say exactly what it's set at, but it's warm to the touch without being hot at all.  This has kept the bunnies nice and warm even during this -30 to -40 degree weather.

Not my typical morning......

Partly Cloudy Clear


It’s never my favorite kind of day when I wake up and it’s -38f, but not at all unusual for November in Interior Alaska.  However this morning was just not a good start.  On Wednesdays my son’s high school has a late start, so I will drive him to school because the bus comes at the usual time and hour earlier than he needs to be there.  Immediately when I went into the garage I knew something was up, it was HOT in there.  Apparently the zone valve is stuck, and it was 72, even though the thermostat was at 45.  So I run back upstairs to tell my husband. 

I get in my car to go, and its dead.  I had accidentally left my keys in and partially turned on.  So now hubby comes down to jump my car. I Get the son to school, slightly late for his Chemistry class, which has a test of course, because it’s that kind of day.   

Then head for the gas station because I had forgotten to fill up the night before.  I get to the station and realize I have no gloves!  Really?  Today I forget them when it’s -38?  Oh and ½ of the pumps are down, and the other half have people at them.  Great…..  So head over to a neighboring station, dig around in my car and come up with a thin, leopard print glove, and a hot pink fleece mitten, thanks to my kids who leave such things behind. A lovely look I might add, that I get to sport all day.  I pump my gas and FINALLY head off to work.  When I get there I realize I’ve been driving around in the dark with my headlights off!

The rest of my day was pretty uneventful, here's hoping tomorrow morning is the same, because it certainly won't be any warmer.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Around Our Place

We have a small litter of Flemish Giant bunnies, they are 2 weeks old
Soon I'll make a post about rabbit meat, we aren't sure yet of the cost of raising the rabbits for meat.  This particular litter will probably go up for sale.  Around here Flemish Giant's sell for about $75 each
We have a blanket of snow covering the garden now, enough for my first cross-country ski of the season

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Canning Homemade Chicken Stock

I bought a 23 quart presto pressure canner on sale earlier this summer.  I had high hopes of canning vegetables from my garden, however due to a pretty mediocre harvest, there wasn’t enough to bother.  I have to admit, I went into the idea with a little reservation.  Growing up my mom canned, but only high acid foods, she was always afraid of possible poisoning.  So hearing this my whole life, I have always steered clear, until now.  After a lot of reading about it, really it’s easy, and as long as the directions are followed, I have nothing to fear.   
So the past couple weekends I have put my pressure canner to work canning chicken stock and it was really easy, and I've pretty much gotten over my fear of it.  Well maybe not entirely, I haven't eaten any of it yet...
Chicken Stock recipe and directions HERE
I strained my broth through a wire colander, which left quite a bit of sludgy stuff at the bottom of the jar.  The second batch I strained through cheesecloth in the wire colander and it was a lighter broth without the sludge. Both taste good, one just looks a bit nicer.
Ladle hot stock into clean hot canning jars, leaving 1” headspace.  Check to be sure jars are not cracked or chipped.
Wipe the rim of the jar clean and place on lids and bands and place in pressure canner.  Mine has a rack that goes in the bottom for canning, you don’t want the jars sitting on the bottom. 
Add boiling water to canner – mine calls for 3 quarts of boiling water
Process at 11 pounds of pressure for 20 minutes for pints and 25 minutes for quarts.  This seems to be the same no matter what canner you use.  Higher altitudes over 
Homemade chicken stock to enjoy throughout the year!
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