Tuesday, December 28, 2010

How NOT to Grill a Christmas Turkey!

This year was the closest to "The Christmas Story" dinner we've ever been! This is how not to grill a turkey. It shouldn't look like this. It should be a pretty dark brown and juicy! What we ended up with was charred and dry. It was a 'series of unfortunate events'. First, my hubby filled the entire grill with charcoal, instead of the usual placing of the pan to catch drippings, and building coals around that. It was a rather large turkey, so maybe he thought he needed the extra coals. I then, had the bright idea to place the bird in a roasting pan to try to make a buffer between the coals and the heat. That proved to be a bad idea. It caught on fire. After about an hour of grilling, our turkey looked something like this, although not quite as bad. (This is the look after trying to save an unsavable bird!)
I made the frantic call to my mother in law to ask if she just happened to have a spare bird. Luckily she did. I left in a flash to pick up the back up bird to roast in the oven~ by now, we figured we had to play it safe. The third of our series of unfortunate events came to light as I realized that I now couldn't make the cookies and desserts I planned since I now had a 15 lb. turkey in the oven! Again, I jumped in the car to desperately attempt to find an open convienence store~ hurray for Get-Go! Get-Go was opened for business and packed with holiday shoppers. Did they all burn a bird, or was it just me? Probably just me. I was able to pick up some chips, pop, and goodies for fill my dessert trays, and I was relieved to know that they also sold subs, just in case my back up bird didn't cook in time. I devised a plan then, that if by 4 pm., I didn't have a cooked bird, I would head out again to Get-Go, to buy holiday sub sandwiches! Good eating! Meanwhile, the hubby tried to save the burned bird.

He tried, but there wasn't much left to save. What he did 'save' was DRY! At this point, I thought the only thing worse that could happen would be the pack of hungry dogs running through the house, and devouring what was left of our bird. They didn't come and we're making turkey rueben's tonight with the grilled, dry bird! We were able somehow, to find humor in this day of near disasters. Everything somehow came together. We didn't have to eat at Get-Go. I've never prepared side dishes so fast as I did this Christmas. I was a chopping, slicing, shredding, mixing and baking maniac! I felt kind of like a ninja.

This is how the day ended. Nice. Cozy. Happy. The way every day should be! And, we have a story to tell for years to come. And I was tired...very tired.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Cold day for the birds...

It's COLD here in PA today! The 24 degree F temps outside with lots of strong wind gusts have kept some of the birds hiding in cover this morning, but some are hungry enough to brave the wind to scoop up some food from the backyard. Enjoy!The cardinals~ especially the males look so majestic perched in the trees.This little tufted titmouse came around for some sunflower seeds. I was waiting for a bluejay to swoop down for some of the nuts, but this little guy happened along first. It kind of surprised me. I took the picture as soon as it landed because the jay's are so quick to eat and run!

Even this bluejay looks cold today, darn those northwestern winds!

So, this female cardinal will continue to get lighter throughout the winter to look almost entirely olive color with that stunning black face mask in February. She's a gorgeous bird.

This one might be Christmas card worthy.

I need to make a point of getting a good pair of gloves, a warm scarf, boots, and coat ready for my next birding date...it's way to cold to sit out (or hang out the window) without them!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Thankful List

What do you think of when you thing of Thanksgiving? Oven roasted turkey with potatoes and dressing, hot buttered corn, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie?
We all think of the dinner, and everything that goes into it, but not just this day, but everyday, there are so many things to be thankful for.
Here's some of my list. This list will continue to grow. What are you thankful for?
1. My three pretty girls~ I have no idea what I did in life before you girls came along, life is complete with you. I love you more than you'll ever know.
2. My husband~ You tolerate my need to be a country girl, you don't fuss (too much) about my planting sunflowers all over the yard for the birds and critters, and you know family is the most important thing in life.
3. My brothers, my sisters, my family~ We've been through so much together, I love you all, always.
4. My pets~ Megan, Sadie (RIP), Nikki, Emma, Hermit Crab, Finny, and all those before, thanks for loving me unconditionally.
5. The sunshine, the warm gentle winds of summer~ you make me feel alive.
6. The changing seasons of Pennsylvania~ an everchanging landscape is good for the mind and soul. Even the snow. But maybe not the ice.
7. My God and my faith. It's important to know that there is always guidance from above, and someone to answer to if I choose the wrong path. Or words.
8. My Country. We may not always agree on how things should be done, or who should lead, but this Country is unique, we have so much and so many rights that others can only imagine, it cannot be taken for granted.
9. My ablility to bake a mean apple pie. Even if I don't like apple pie.
10. Chocolate Chip cookies.
11. Soccer and Hockey. It is the love of my girls, so it is a love of mine too. It has provided new and lasting friendships, confidence, discipline and the skill to work as a team. Good qualities to have in life.
12. Peace and Quiet. It doesn't happen too often, so I'm thankful for every second!
13. And Noise~ it's funny when all is quiet, I miss the laughter (not the yelling) of the girls in the house. I'm thankful I have healthy girls who can be best friends and worst enemies without any advance notice!
14. Health. I am blessed to have healthy children, I thank God everyday, and pray for those who don't.
I will continue to add my gratitudes, check back, and add some yourself.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Peggy's Porcupine Balls (Meatloaf balls)

These porcupine balls turned out great. They were easy to make and start to finish in less than an hour. I started out with really fresh ingredients: fresh zucchini, green peppers, onion, all from my garden and carrots, ground beef, and arborio rice from the grocery store.
And an egg. This one was a double yoker. I have always considered double yokers good luck!
These ingredients looked so pretty in the mixing bowl, especially with the afternoon sun shining in through the window.
I love my Pampered Chef chopper and veggie spatula, and my hand grater. I use these almost every day.
Peggy's Porcupine Balls
1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
1/2 cup grated zucchini
1/2 cup chopped green pepper
1 chopped carrot
1 medium onion-chopped
1 1/2 cups cooked arborio rice
1 egg
2 packages turkey or brown gravy mix (enough to make 3 or 4
Dash of paprika to add to the gravy mix.
Add all ingredients in mixing bowl and gently mix and form into
3 inch balls. Place in baking dish (I use my cast iron skillet) and
bake 30 minutes until fully cooked, no longer pink in the middle.
Make gravy according to package directions and pour over
cooked porcupine balls. Serve with bread or noodles. Makes
about 18 porcupine balls.
There's no added salt in this recipe, the gravy mix adds enough to give this dish alot of taste.
I mixed this easy side dish up and baked it in the oven with the porcupine balls. It is simply 3 cups of chopped cauliflower, 1/2 cup fat free sour cream, 2 tsp. Hidden Valley Ranch dressing mix, 6 thinly sliced pats of butter and about 2 tsp. freshly chopped chives. Again, just mix everything together toss in the oven, stirring occasionally.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Love of...Mason Jars, and the Sauce that Goes in Them

These are couple of my favorite mason jars. Atlas Special Mason with the old time lids.
Some people like jewels, and shiny things, I like canning jars, what can I say? I'm a country girl.

I love mason jars. There's just something about them that feels very safe, very home. I was lucky enough to can LOTS of tomatoes this summer. So many that I had to enlist lots of old canning jars in the basement of the farm. These ones have been there for probably 25 years, just waiting to be filled again with love. I love seeing the old names not around anymore. Genuine Sarma Mason. I've only found one of these~ I wonder how old it might be?

These baskets of dingy, dirty jars once held sauce, juice, relish, peaches, pears, anything my Mom could think to put in them. My love and appreciation of canning and gardening to feed a family came from her. She would tell me stories of when she was a young girl living on a steep hillside in Pittsburgh, PA, of planting flowers and vegetables on the hill in and by their yard, and that she always looked forward to getting her seed catalogs~ her reference bibles~ every winter so she could plan the next spring's garden. She saved so many! She said if she ever forgot something about anything, she could just refer back to the description in the catalog. She was right. She loved thumbing through her catalogs, and dog earring pages, dreaming of a bigger and better garden for the next year! It's a trait she passed along. With some TLC, and a very worn out bottle brush, these jars came back to life!

The Atlas mason jars now hold the most incredible thick tomato sauce. I have enough to get us through winter, maybe even spring. That's even with giving a few away. Just a few, I can be stingy with my fresh sauce!

My Ball Perfect mason's hold beautiful tomato juice~ I've found my kids like homemade tomato soup, and that this juice makes the most wonderful base for vegetable beef soup! My girls like that too. I add cut green beans from the garden to it, it's one of the only ways they don't fuss about eating green beans!

This might be my favorite jar, Kerr's Self Sealing 'trademark reg.' mason. The older jars from Kerr don't have the 'trademark reg.' on the jar, so I figure another company picked up on it and the Kerr Co. felt the need to add the trademark. Man, cutthroat business even then, it just seems like a much more innocent time than now, but I guess a businessman is a businessman. Oh well, on to better things...

like these beautiful jars catching the morning sunlight. So simple, yet, so beautiful.

Adventure hit me this year too. As I was thumbing through my Ball Blue Book of Canning, I spied a recipe for Honeyed Yellow Tomato butter. I thought, WHAT??? , this must be either delicious, or tradition. Since I never heard of it before, I was thinking delicious. This was my first attempt at making any kind of 'butter', other than from a cow, and I have to say it was a success! And it definately wasn't great granny's fruitcake! It's very sweet, probably no sweeter than jelly, but since I'm not a jelly toast kind of girl, I'll use this beautiful butter as a glaze on turkey and pork. I added some applesauce to mine since when it was cooking, I just couldn't get it as thick as I would like, but I think it actually improved the taste. The yellow tomatoes are so mild to begin with, they can't even be tasted in this recipe. Plus, their my youngest girls venture of experimenting with volunteer tomatoes that just happened to come up in her raised bed this year! I may be partial to my little girls tomatoes, but I don't think so. This gorgeous honey-apple-tomato butter will have a special place at my Thanksgiving table this year, as I remember all of the things (and people) who are dear to me.

Happy, happy thoughts!! : )

Friday, September 10, 2010

It Found ME!!

The poison ivy I feared so much in the last post, has found me. Specifically my nose. I can't say I've ever inhaled the oil of the poison ivy vine until now. It sould be an interesting, akward week.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Under the Apple Tree...

I often find myself under, in, or around a big old tree. For some reason, I'm attracted to them. They reach out to me...they call to call to me "come here, under me, take a rest"... I find myself underneath in no time just looking at their beauty. I wonder how their branches came to grow as they do. I wonder what kind of animals call it their home, or which ones find shelter at the foot of her trunk. I wonder, I dream, it's what I do, what can I say?

I marvel at the color and texture of the bark. Some is rough and jagged, or like this gorgeous old sycamore tree on our tree line, smooth and inviting. The bark is beautiful with soft browns, mossy greens, and light tan patches saying "come and look at me, I'm beautiful". I found myself under her beauty, and I wanted to stay and sit a spell and explore more around her, that was until I spyed a poison ivy vine about five feet from my face, and then I decided it was time to move on. I was only hoping and praying I didn't touch it, or disturb it in any way. Poison ivy has a way of finding me and has the uncanny ability to make me remember that 'parting is such a sweet sorrow'. Yes, for about two weeks! So I moved on. I very quickly forgot all about the poison ivy.

I spotted what I was secretly hoping to see. Apples! I love apples and frequently get excited about them, but our farm has been in the process of being strip mined this past year. The ground is back in place now and the hill reseeded, so when my hubby, our two younger girls, and I ventured up to the top of the hill to take a look, I was so happy to see the trees we planted when I was a kid. Did I say I was happy? I wanted to jump for joy, but I was too tired from walking up the huge hill! So many years ago, my Mom picked these trees with care from a mail order catalog to plant in front of the tree line marking our property. She thought the other trees would eventually die out, so if we were going to have a tree line, it might as well be productive one! She would be happy to see her trees not only survived, but are thriving. So am I.

This is the McIntosh. It's the first one I saw when I got to the top of the hill. The other trees are about 30 feet away from this one. All of us found ourselves picking and reaching as high as we could to reach these beauties, acutally using my daughter's jacket as a 'basket' to carry our bounty down the hill. Luckily some of them aren't yet ripe yet, so we can head back soon with our fruit picker, the only way to reach the perfect ones the deer can't reach, and the only way to assure no unplanned trips to the ER because someone fell out of a tree! They are so good. I predict apple cake, applesauce, apple pie, and apple crisp in our near future! Yum!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

~ An Open Letter to all of the Important Girls in my Life! ~

To all of the important girls (and boys too) in my life. I don't have pictures of everyone here, but you all are important. Dove Beauty products has a 'Beauty within' campaign running right now and posed the question: "What would you like every 13 year old girl to know?". Here's what I would like to tell every girl. This applies to any girl 13, 23, 33, 43 etc... (and the boys too!)

This is what I have learned in life ~~ so far.

Remember no matter what anyone or any group of people say, you matter, what you think matters, that you are beautiful and special, and you can accomplish anything!

Parents aren't perfect. Sometimes we guide you in the wrong direction out of our own fears and wants. Listen to what we have to say, but in the end, remember you are your own boss, and make your own decisions.

We freak out sometimes because we don't want you to make the same mistakes, or walk down the long, windy, wrong way paths we may have walked down before finding our way.

Remember to be patient with us, most of us worry out of love.

Be true to yourself! Don't do something stupid because you see others doing it, or saying they have done it ~~ they probably haven't.

Listen to your inner voice, it's usually right. Most importantly, remember that you are loved and worth loving!

You are loved and cared for by people who may not ever know you. After all, we are all ONE!

Always be yourself, after all that's what makes 'you', you!! Be yourself!!

Down Time...at the Farm

These two beauties are quarter horses from the farm across the road from ours. I call the black stallion 'Black Beauty' for two reasons: first is that he is beautiful and majestic as he grazes in the field, secondly, because I can't remember his registered name! So, to me, he's Black Beauty. The pretty chestnut mare is 'Brandy'. I also can't remember her registered name (registered names are often so long...) but thankfully she has a nickname, and it is indeed 'Brandy'. She is very docile, so is Black Beauty, especially for a stallion!

My sister and nephew visited last week from Boston, and Eddie decided to feed the horses. He always likes to visit them when he's here, it's just something he doesn't see in Boston. He loves to grow things in the garden, explore, and be outdoors, so visiting the horses with my girls was his cup of tea! The horses were very thankful, because the grass really is greener on the other side of the fence! They enjoyed their afternoon snack very much!

Afterwords, the kids thought pushing each other on the tire swing was the thing to do. Well, I think it's the thing to do on a wonderful summer day too. Tire swings never get old!

The tree in the above shot is a bit deceiving. It looks like my daughter is going to crash into it any second, but it's really about 7 or 8 feet out, thankfully from the trunk. They've only hit the tree a few times, without any injures, thank goodness. It kind of reminds me of "George of the Jungle" when he yells "Look out for the...tree".

All in all, they had a great time, and I got a great picture!

I was able to tend my garden, leisurely, since we had company, I was very thankful for that and due to a cloudy morning, my morning glories were tricked into staying open into the afternoon. It was a great day!!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Busy, Busy Bee

So, I went to our local nursery yesterday to buy some flowers to put in my gardens for some late summer punch. These are 'Sonata Mix' cosmos. They are so cute, AND were 50 % off! I always get such good deals on plants towards the end of summer. These look nice and healthy too, a definate added bonus for this time of year. They also are loaded with pollen. I placed them by our garage along with some verbenas and kolhrabi plants, until I can get them planted. In just about an hour, I saw a bumble bee collecting nectar. I thought I'd snap a few of shots of these flowers since they're so pretty, then I spotted this little guy. I couldn't believe it! I've heard people say that they sometimes 'sleep' on the flower after gathering nectar before returning to their hive. I've never seen it though, what a treat! I took a few pictures before gently shaking the plant. I wasn't sure if he was dead or resting. He was definately resting, and started to fly like mad, not at me, but just as if he was in a fog. I sometimes do the same thing when I've realized I've hopelessly overslept! The bee did the same thing. I think I heard him buzz 'oh, crap~~I've got to get back home!' And then he just disappeared. I hope back to his hive. And I hope his queen was happy.