Welcome to our House

Monday, September 26, 2016

Air Fryers

As many of you know, I love my pressure cooker and write about it often.  I have another small appliance that I like but until recently it never occurred to me to write about it.  It is called an air fryer.  It is an appliance that looks like an old fashioned egg shaped hair dryer.  Young people won't know what I am talking about, but the older generation will have seen them and some of you have actually used them.

This is my GoWise air fryer.

Hair dryer from the 1960's

Almost ten years ago I had pelvic radiation as part of my cancer treatment.  As a result, I am unable to eat fried foods.  Fortunately I don't like deep fried or greasy foods.  My husband, on the other hand likes fried fish, french fries, onion rings and mozzarella sticks.  He also likes to have fried potatoes and bacon with his eggs in the morning.  I usually don't make this for him but several days a week he cooks this kind of breakfast for himself.  Needless to say, it isn't that healthy and the stove gets splattered with grease.

After seeing demonstrations on TV, we decided an air fryer might be just what we needed.  We all know that deep fried foods require a big pot of hot grease.  You heat the oil to a certain temperature and lower the food into the oil.  You cook the food until browned.  Then you have to drain the hot grease from the food and eat right away.  A lot of the fat remains on the food and smells up the kitchen and your clothes.  Even pan frying foods leaves a lot of fat in the food.  Air fryers don't use extra oil or very little depending on the food.  It heats the air in the fryer and circulates it really fast around the food.  It causes the naturally occurring fat in food to brown.  Most frozen foods already have fat on the surface so none needs to be added.  Homemade recipes may need a little oil added.  I have a sprayer from Pampered Chef.  I just give the food a little spritz if it needs it.

Put your own oil in the bottle and spray.

To use the fryer, you just put whatever food you want to make in the fryer basket.  It looks a little like a deep fryer basket, but there is no pot of grease. This is digital so you can choose the preset food you want to cook or manually put in the time and the temperature recommended by a recipe specific to the food.  You press the start button and it will beep when it's done.  If you want to check as you go, you just pull the pan out and when you return it to the fryer the timer starts where it left off.

My husband is really liking the result.  We often make sweet potato fries and onion rings.  They are hot, dry and crispy on the outside without being greasy or soggy.  If you put the food on a plate or paper towel, there will not be a grease spot. Grilled cheese turns out perfect.  It is heated and melted all the way through and is crispy not greasy.

Grilled ham and cheese.

Air fried onion rings from frozen.

Sweet potato fries and homemade chicken nuggets.

The air fryers come in different sizes.  I have the smaller 3.7 quart size which is perfect for the two of us.  They also come in a 5 and 10 quart sizes.  My husband can put in a cup or two of frozen hash brown cubes sprayed with a little oil and some bacon, push a button and have his favorite breakfast.  This fryer is also very easy to clean.

This is the pan after making a grilled sandwich.  Nothing to wipe out but a few crumbs.

There are Facebook groups and hundreds of recipes on Pinterest.  People rave about the chicken they make that tastes just like the rotisserie chicken they buy at the grocery store.  I haven't tried that.  The chicken nuggets I showed in the picture were made by dipping the piece of boneless skinless chicken breast into some melted butter, and then into the flavored crumbs.  I just placed them in the fryer and fried for 15-20 minutes.  They are crunchy on the outside and moist on the inside.  You can also grill food or bake a cake without heating the oven or a frying pan.

People say they don't have room to store all these small appliances but because of these two appliances, I have eliminated my rice cooker, egg cooker, the George Foreman grill and other gadgets.  I think it's worth the money and cooking at home and controlling your ingredients is always a better option for many reasons.  You may have a different experience, and this is only my opinion.  I would say if I didn't like it and I am not recommending any specific brand.  You will have to research the features and the price.  As with everything the price varies a lot.  After using my Amazon and Ebates points it reduced my cost to $29.  If it didn't work out I didn't have a lot invested.  I'm glad I took the chance.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Boiling Eggs The Easy Way

I remember forty years ago.  My mother-in-law wouldn't eat an egg.  She had high cholesterol, and her doctor told her not to eat eggs.  She would rarely have one.  That idea has changed over the years and now eggs are a very good high protein food.  We like them and have them in many different forms.

Recently the price of eggs is way down.  It is sad for the people who make a living selling eggs, but for the consumer it is great.  There are a lot of people raising their own chickens which may effect the supply and demand.  Organic eggs are even priced for the normal budget.  Our local Piggly Wiggly had them for 29 cents a dozen this week.  I realize that is a "come on in" price, but if they are able to do that it indicates how low the regular price is.

I love to boil a bunch of eggs and have them in the refrigerator for a snack or a quick egg salad sandwich.  I have an egg cooker which works well.  I have used it for years.  Sometimes the eggs are easy to peel or hard to peel, but I thought that was just the way it was.  I heard the ease of peeling depended on the age of the egg.  I even bragged about egg cookers in a blog I wrote a few years ago.  http://www.thecabincountess.com/2013/02/the-wonderful-electric-egg-cooker.html

As with everything, we live and learn.  Everyone who reads my blog knows how much I love my pressure cooker.  It never occurred to me I could boil eggs in it.  I make everything else so it shouldn't have been a surprise.  I have blogged about the pressure cooker several times.  Today I watched a Facebook live video by the Humorous Homemaker.  https://www.facebook.com/humoroushomemaking/  She is very funny and showed how easy it was to boil eggs in a pressure cooker.  I tried it right away.

1.   Took out the pressure cooker

2.   Put a trivet into the cooking pan

3.   Put in 1 cup of water

4.   Put in eggs from the refrigerator

5.   Put lid on pressure cooker

6.   Set timer for 7 minutes on high pressure and pushed start

7.   Quick released pressure when it beeped

8.   Cooled eggs under cold water

9.   Tapped the egg and got under the membrane for easy peeling

10.  Out popped the egg.

It was the easiest and fastest I have ever boiled an egg.  She said it didn't matter how fresh the egg is, this method works every time.  It sure did for me.  This is how I will be boiling eggs from now on.  I boiled these 6 eggs in less than 10 minutes from opening the refrigerator to having them all peeled.  How great is that?

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Watching The Life Cycle of the Monarch Butterflies

It's mid September in Wisconsin.  The nights are cool and the days are warm.  I love this weather.  The air is so clean and fresh.  There is a feeling in the air that I can't describe.  Maybe it is something only Wisconsin, Michigan and Minnesota people can understand.  With the start of fall comes a lot of bees, grasshoppers and butterflies.  The flowers are getting to the end of their blooming life and these insects are eating all they can before the frost.  I look forward to seeing all of them but sometimes interesting things happen right under our noses.  All you have to do is look carefully for signs. 

This grasshopper is looking back at me.

Every year I see Monarch butterfly caterpillars or larva on the milkweed plants.  We let the milkweed grow wild in our flower gardens because that is the only food the Monarch butterflies eat.  I looked it up this year and read that it is a good idea to collect the caterpillars and raise them through the life stages.  The monarch populations are down and this protects them from danger.  I'm not sure if that is correct information because information from the internet can be sketchy at times.  I decided to put one in a jar with a few milkweed leaves and a stick for it to attach to.

We took it out to our daughter's house.  Her son loves nature.  He catches frogs and bugs all the time.  He observes them and lets them go.  He loved this caterpillar.  He loved it so much he named it Heart.  They fed Heart and watched it for a couple days and then one morning the caterpillar formed his chrysalis.  Some of the moth caterpillars spin a silken cocoon, but butterflies don't do this.  Their pupa stage is called a chrysalis. The previous stage can either be called a larva or caterpillar, but apparently it is not correct to call a butterfly pupa a cocoon, since it does not have a silken covering.  I never knew this and have been using the terms interchangeably forever.  She didn't attach to the stick, but attached to the jar lid.  The jar was a sprouting jar so it had a nice mesh cover that allowed air to circulate.

 I wrote about the times they raised Painted Lady butterflies in their butterfly habitat container.

They put the chrysalis in the butterfly habitat.  We read that it takes about ten days for the butterfly to emerge.  I found the caterpillar on August 29th, a couple days later she formed her chrysalis and then on September 13th the beautiful Monarch butterfly emerged.  After drying off and gaining strength the butterfly was ready to be released on September 14th.  It was so exciting for them.

During the same time our grandsons were raising their Monarch butterfly, I discovered a monarch chrysalis attached to our dining room window frame.  The chrysalis is light green and smooth.  They look like a leaf has been folded around the caterpillar.

The chrysalis is light green and shiny.

As the butterfly forms inside, you can see some darkening inside and a crack forming on the top.

When the light hit it just right on September 13th, I could see a fully formed butterfly.  I knew it wouldn't be long.

I wasn't as sure about the exact timing for this chrysalis.  I watched it everyday.  I didn't discover it until September 5th and ten days would be today.  However, yesterday on September 14th, I noticed it had turned black.  At first I thought it might be dead.  I had never seen this whole process in person before.  I'm sure it has happened here many times, but I never took the time to notice.

The chrysalis looks like it has turned black.

Then after some wiggling, out came the butterfly.  She seemed a bit small but as she hung there and dried out, she stretched out.  Every once in a while he wiggled and opened his wings slightly.

Here she is shortly after emerging.  As strange as it seems, you can see the chrysalis covering is transparent.

View from inside the house.  She decided to spend the night here. 

I went to bed at 11:00 pm and she was still hanging there.  I got up early to check and she remained in the same position.  I heard they like it to be 60 degrees and at 7:00 it was still only 52 degrees. As the temperature climbed, she became more active.

As the temperature approached 70 degrees, she opened her wings and broke free from the chrysalis casing.

It was hard for me to believe that the butterfly actually fit in such a small casing.  Very slowly she moved down to the side of the house.  I could tell it was a female when her wings were totally spread out.  The male Monarch has a small black dot on the lower wing.

First she moved to the side of the house.

Next she moved to the ground.

As I was waiting for our newly emerged butterfly to fly away, another one flew in.

After waiting for quite sometime, the Monarch flew off into the wild blue yonder.  I can't wait for next year to see if can observe this process again.  As I watched her, I wondered what she was thinking or if it is all instinct.  Whatever it is, it is truly amazing.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

A Challenge For The Hummingbirds

Early in May we always look forward to seeing the Hummingbirds return to our area.  They show up about the same time as the Baltimore Orioles.  I have seen videos showing hundreds of hummers attacking feeders with great enthusiasm.  We don't have that happen.  It would be an amazing sight to see.  Our hummingbirds seem to be very territorial.  They don't like each other very much.  We also have difficulties with our feeders.  The problem is raccoons and bees.  We have to position the feeders carefully or they get knocked to the ground.  Pieces get broken off and all the sugar water drains out or the raccoon drinks it.  If we put the feeders where the raccoons can't reach it, the bees take over.  The hummingbirds try but the bees usually win.  The bees either chase the hummers while drinking the sugar water, or they crawl into the feeder holes and drown contaminating the water.  When they die, they plug the holes of the feeders and need to be cleaned out almost everyday.  I refer to these flying insects as bees, but they are actually wasps or hornets.  I believe they are called Bald-faced hornets. They are not a true hornet, but they are part of the wasp family.   I believe these are the hornets/wasps responsible for making the beautiful paper nests we have on our property.  I wrote about the nests two years ago.  http://www.thecabincountess.com/2014/09/beautiful-paper-wasp-nests.html

At this time of year, I usually give up on feeders.  Fortunately we have a lot of flowers that the hummingbirds love.  Since there are more choices for the birds, they don't fight as much.  Right now the birds are bulking up for their long trek south. Soon they will leave for the winter, but next May we will be excited to see them again.  I did get a suggestion from a blog reader.  He suggested I attach a brown lunch bag to the feeder.  The bag mimics a paper wasp nest and the wasps think they are in a territory already being occupied.  I tried this for the short time left in this hummingbird season.  It has somewhat worked.  I have a lot less wasps and the hummers have been feeding.  It may be that the weather is cooler and the wasps are less active, but I will definitely be trying this method next Spring. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Stages of Life

The past few days I have been noticing the Monarch butterfly flying around and the caterpillars eating the milkweed plant.  Every year I am fascinated with the life cycle of this butterfly.  They fly around, lay some eggs, the eggs hatch into caterpillars,  the caterpillars spin a cocoon or chrysalis and then a new butterfly is born. I wrote about this before so I won't do that again. 

Watching this 30 day life cycle that happens every year, made me think of the human life cycle.  If we are fortunate enough to experience the whole process, there is an interesting thing about getting old.  Rather than live in the present or the future, the mind tends to recall things from the past.  I noticed this with my parents and now with myself.  It seems we have no control over where our mind wanders to.   Sometimes I can't remember the name of the person who does the local news (which I watch almost every day), but something from fifth grade pops into my head.  Today, I was trying to think of the name of an actress in a commercial I was watching, when suddenly I remembered doing a report on Aluminum when I was ten years old.  From that thought I remembered once a week we listened to a radio program called "Let's Sing".  Through the Wisconsin School of the Air on WHA, we had an introduction to music.  I guess we didn't have a music teacher.  We would get sheets of music printed out on a mimeograph machine.  I can still remember the smell of the ink.  Out of the blue, I started singing this song.  I wonder how many from my fifth grade class remembers this radio show and this song.

I love the day of Purim so!
For then to synagogue I go,
And hear them read the story old,
Of Esther brave and Haman bold.   
O Purim O Purim O Purim full of joy
For every, for every Jewish girl and boy.
Have a party, sing a song, turn the grogger loud and long
Sha-lach Ma-not give and take,
Eat your Hamantashen cake!
O Purim O Purim O Purim full of joy
For every, for every Jewish girl and boy.

Maybe this song was an attempt to introduce us to other cultures.  This was well before the politically correct curriculum became the norm, so perhaps not.

Like it was yesterday, I can remember the poems I learned in seventh grade, but I'd be hard pressed to remember what I made for dinner last night.  I wrote about some of these poems a few years ago.  http://www.thecabincountess.com/2013/02/adventure-bound.html

These unexplained thoughts also come forth in nighttime dreaming although the night dreams usually are a combination of many life stories and thoughts.  Most of them make no sense at all.  Dreaming really confuses me.  Last night I dreamt that someone from my past was having a heart attack but when I went to do CPR, he had someone else's face.  I suddenly woke up and my husband was talking in his sleep and making guttural sounds just like the dying person.  I went back to sleep and had another ridiculous dream that stressed me out.  It put me in a bad mood for hours.

I won't try to figure out why my mind jumps around the way it does.  I think it is because it can.  When you are young and either raising children or working in a job to make a living, you don't have room or time for your brain to jump from thought to thought.   Now it's actually kind of nice at times.  As long as the mind is active, you aren't dead.  In fact, I have a theory.  I believe this is another stage of life.  First you live in the moment and try to survive, then you move to a stage when you try to make the most out of life, third you think of times gone by and and relax about the little irritants but still get annoyed,  pretty soon you realize you aren't going to change people and they have to learn their own lessons, lastly comes pure calm, contentment and acceptance.  It is all good.  Hopefully I have a ways to go since I am in the times gone by stage.  When you notice I am in the calm, content and acceptance stage, I will be in the final phase.  Until then "Let's Sing".

Disclaimer:  These are only my personal ideas and feelings.  They are not based on any scientific research or fact.  I'm sure everyone makes their own journey and some people can be jerks up until their dying day and others have always been cool, calm and collected.  

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

A Summer Day With Nana and Papa

I just realized it has been almost two weeks since I have written a blog.  It isn't that time stands still, it's just that history repeats itself, and I have already written about most of the topics in previous blogs. I see the same birds, I make the same food and although I am getting older my world remains very similar year to year.

Speaking of history repeating itself, we usually have our grandchildren for the day some time during the summer.  With school starting in less than two weeks, we thought today would be a good day.  About 8:30 this morning all five of them arrived.  We have a granddaughter who will be 16 in two months, a grandson who will be 15 in two days, a grandson who is 12, a grandson who is 8 and our youngest grandson who is 6.  A lot of different ages and a variety of personalities.

I tried to get a picture of all of them together but it reminded me of wack-a-mole.  I never got them gathered in one place all day long. 

Here is how Melissa spent most of her day.  She watched TV,  she had her ipod in one hand and her iphone in the other and she drank her large bottle of Starbuck coffee drink.  She is the only girl and playing hide and seek and running through the woods wasn't her thing.  I am just honored she wanted to come spend the day again. 

The two oldest grandsons, Dylan and Sam, played outside with the younger boys.  They did come in for a while to play an electronic game.  It was pretty hot outside and they came in to cool off.

The two youngest grandsons Jack and Ewan wanted to do a project.  So after lunch Papa took them out to the workshop, but first I spoiled them all.  I had a short order kitchen going for a while.  I made fried potatoes for Melissa, dumplings for Sam, a ham and cheese sandwich on a homemade hamburger bun for Dylan, hotdogs and a cinnamon roll for Jack and chicken soup for Ewan.  I said they all are unique personalities and obviously like different foods.

I wasn't sure what the project plan was but I followed them out to the garage with the camera.  They were making something interesting.

With safety glasses on they began sawing wood.

Jack didn't like the screeching of the table saw so he found ear protection.

Ewan learning about the drill press.

Jack drilling his board.

The "project" is being assembled.

After using the nailer, the projects came together.  This is what they each made.  It is a Candy Dispenser.  We had to make a little trip to the store to buy some M & M's to see if it worked.  Jack wanted regular M & M's for his Dispenser while Ewan wanted peanut butter ones for his. 

Hopefully they don't get too sugared up tonight, but they were both proud of their project with Papa.

Before it was time to go home, Ewan had one more thing to do.  He counted eight squirrels in the yard and was determined to eliminate a few.

I spotted  this serious hunter with a shovel on the trail camera.

The trick is to be sneaky.

Alas, the squirrels won again. 

After a very nice day, it is again quiet in our house.   Who knows how many years we will be able to make this happen.  Soon the older kids will be off to college and starting their own lives, but for now we will appreciate days like this.