Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year

Today is Tuesday recipe day, but it is also New Year's Eve.  I thought I could post a delicious recipe and then wish everyone a very Happy New Year.  I happen to have some left over cranberries and some yellow delicious apples that need to be used up.  Last week, on Christmas Eve, I posted a Banana Bread recipe that was made in a crockpot.  The recipe I was going to post today is also made in a crockpot. It was another quick bread made with apples and cranberries.   I got out all of my ingredients.  I chopped the cranberries and apples.  I put all the dry ingredients into one bowl, and all the wet ingredients into another bowl.  The first thing that went wrong was that the recipe called for orange juice.  I didn't have any or any oranges to juice.  I also needed the zest of the orange.  Oh well, I'll just use water.  The bread wouldn't be cranberry, apple, orange bread, it would just be cranberry-apple bread.  No big deal.  Then I started mixing it, but something was wrong.  It was then that I realized I had put in twice as much liquid as it called for.  My multi-taking skills are not as sharp as they once were.  I thought about throwing it away, but then I thought I would put in another cup of flour.  Actually I was going to double everything but the dough was really stiff with just one.  I wondered at this point if I had put in too much liquid or if it was the right amount to begin with.  Being very confused, I just put it in a loaf pan and baked it for an hour.  Maybe I will try again in the future and actually post the recipe.

This is the bread I made.  It looks pretty good, tastes pretty good
and you can't tell it weighs five pounds.

Later tonight we celebrate New Year's Eve with our grandchildren.  This year we will only have two at our house celebrating.  We have plenty of snacks and sparkling grape juice for later.  They wanted mashed potatoes for dinner and didn't care what we had with them.  I think I can handle that.  I made roast beef with the potatoes forgetting that Sam has braces.  Poor kid was trying to cut the meat into tiny little pieces.  I finally made him a hamburger, and that was easier for him to eat.  It should be a quiet entrance into the new year unless something else goes just slightly wrong.  Oops, my dad just got a nosebleed.   

They played their electronics for a while.

Even better, they are playing a board game.
Happy 2014 To Everyone

Sunday, December 29, 2013

My First Experience With Persimmons

It is always said that you are never too old to learn something new.  That happened to me recently.  Near the beginning of December we had some very good friends stop for a visit.   At one point in the conversation they began to talk about getting their first case of persimmons for the season.  They said that before the holidays were over they would eat several cases of the fruit.  I couldn't believe it.  I had heard the name persimmon because I believe there is an orangish crayon that color, but I had never seen one or tasted one.  I didn't even know you could buy them around here.  As we were talking our friend got up, went out to his vehicle and brought one in.  It looked like a tomato with a dried brown husk for a stem.

He told us to wait a few days before eating so they get nice and ripe.  We waited a couple days and finally cut it into thirds.  We each sampled a section.  I can't really describe the taste.  It looks like a tomato, but it is firm inside and tastes sweet.  Apparently they are very seasonal and only available in Wisconsin for a very short period of time near the end of the year.   I found out that they are pretty hard to find.  I looked every time I went grocery shopping.  Today I ran into the store for a few groceries and there they were.  They had three left, so I bought them.  I'm saving them to show my grandchildren when they come for New Years Eve.  They are a very pretty and interesting looking fruit.

Thank you Connie and David for broadening my world.  My world is pretty small and I imagine there are tons of things I have never heard of, let alone eaten.  

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Our January Thaw At The End Of December

I believe today we are having our January thaw.  It is still December, but the temperature is above freezing and the snow is melting.  Maybe this means that we are ahead of schedule and spring will come a little earlier.  We had bitter cold temperatures in December which usually don't occur until January here in Wisconsin.  Oops, I just heard the weather report.  They are predicting single digit temperatures for the high temp in two days.  Today is just a little tease from Mother Nature.  Sometimes I don't appreciate her sense of humor.

It is a nice day today and so that is what I will focus on.

We went for a walk in the woods following the deer trails.

Water dripping from the garage roof.

Birds finding fresh water to drink.

Friday, December 27, 2013

In Need Of A Roof Rake

Well, we got our wish and got some snow.  It has snowed a little bit everyday.  It's amazing how getting an inch or two of snow everyday accumulates.  Not only do we have to remove the snow from the sidewalk and the driveway, the snow has to be removed from other surfaces as well.   That is why they invented Roof Rakes.  In case you don't live in the northern climates and don't know what they are, here is my husband assembling it.  There are four sections.  One section is the rake and three extensions to make it the length you want.  Actually they call it a rake but it looks more like a backward snow shovel on a stick.

Here is the house showing the snow on the roof.  The people living in this house also have snow on their roof.

Beginning to pull the snow off the roof.

Snow is cleared off until the next big snowfall.

Next project is the deck.

For some reason this deck post has all this snow on it.

The deck is cleared.  Fortunately the snow was light and easy to remove.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Day After Christmas 2013

It's the day after Christmas.  All the work of the last few weeks is over in a few hours .  It's fun though.  The kids get so excited.  I know soon they will be too old to enjoy sitting at Nana and Papa's house, but so far they get excited.  We are always the last stop.  My daughters go to their husbands families on Christmas Eve, then they make sure they are in their own homes for Santa to come on Christmas morning.  When all of that is finished, they come to our house.

Here we go, we're all ready.  This is the calm before the storm.

The first thing we did was get the Christmas card from Grandpa Dux.

Then the Christmas stockings.  Santa puts the stocking stuff in bags so he doesn't disturb the stockings on the mantel.

Superman Ewan got socks and gloves, oh goody goody.  Probably not.

Let the gifts begin....BAZINGA!

Sarah getting new silverware.

Playing with each others toys.  Come on Heather open your presents.

The gifts are opened and most of the kids are downstairs playing with their new toys.

 Ewan and the big boy dads are playing with his new fire station.

It was a great day.  We ate, talked, laughed, played games and relaxed.  Heather and Bret took a long snowshoeing trip around the marsh.  The little dog Piper went too.  She walked the whole way and was covered with ice balls when she got back.

Piper covered with snow.  See her cute sparkly green collar.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Crockpot Banana Bread

Today is Christmas Eve.  I'm getting my Tuesday recipe out early today so I can hit the kitchen running.  Does anyone know what this item is?

What is this?
Does this next photo help?

It's actually called a Crock-pot Bread and Cake Bake.  I bought two of these years ago at an outlet store.  I see one almost every time I go to a thrift store so I guess they weren't much of a marketing success.  I have a small size which fits a small crockpot, and this one which fits in a five quart crockpot.  This is what I use to make "quick" breads like banana bread, pumpkin bread or cranberry bread.  I turn "quick" breads into "slow" breads.  All you do is mix up the cake or bread.  Then you put it into a greased pan.  I use this special pan but you can use a metal coffee can or even a loaf pan.  It's a good idea to put a little metal rack on the bottom of the crockpot first.  Place the pan on the rack, set the crockpot on high and forget it for 3 - 4 hours depending on how hot your crockpot gets.  Some recipes say two hours but mine is never done in that amount of time.  If you don't have this pan and use another, put a towel over the top of the crockpot and then put the cover on.  The towel absorbs the excess moisture that forms when the bread bakes.

Banana Bread ingredients ready to go.

Crockpot Banana Bread

1 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
4 small ripe bananas, mashed
3 tablespoons water or milk
2 cups flour
1/2 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Cream sugar and butter.  Beat in eggs, one egg at a time.  Add milk or water and bananas.
Thoroughly mix in remaining ingredients.  Pour into greased pan.  Place in slow cooker and bake on high until done (3-4 hours).  Toothpick or skewer will come out clean.

This doesn't look like your normal loaf of banana bread.

When cut up, it looks and tastes the same.

I had a few extra pieces for my dad's bedtime snack.  Anything is good slathered in butter.

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Snowstorm of 12-22-2013 Finally Arrived A Day Later

Yesterday we were supposed to have a big snowstorm.  Many places in our area had six or more inches of snow.  We didn't get all that snow.  We probably got three inches.  We were disappointed because we want to go snowshoeing on Christmas Day, and my husband has a new snowblower that he hasn't been able to use.  We were pleasantly surprised when we got up this morning.  We had another three inches of unpredicted snow overnight.  It was very pretty.

My husband finally got a chance use the new snowblower.  There wasn't as much snow as we thought, but enough to try it out.  We found out that we should have raked the leaves a lot better in the fall.  The leaves and pine straw made it a little more difficult, but it worked well.

We are all plowed out.  It looks like the temperatures will remain cold enough to keep the snow for a while.  In a month, I will be telling a very different story.  The first snows of winter are exciting, but after a while all we want is Spring.  That is the beauty of living in Wisconsin.  We have four distinct seasons, and we love it that way.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Blog Updates From Fabric Bags to Pulled Pork and Beef Sandwiches

I haven't been blogging much the last few days because I have been busy getting set for Christmas.  I did make it much easier on myself by making the fabric bags.  They aren't pretty but wrapping the presents was quick and easy.

Presents wrapped and under the tree.


We were expecting a big snowstorm last night, but that didn't amount to much.  My husband got a new snowblower a couple weeks ago, but hasn't used it yet.  He is hoping the wind will kick up and the snow will drift enough for him to use it tomorrow.

We got some snow but not enough to cover the grass in the marsh.


I lost the first gold crown I had put in 44 years ago.  I will have to call my dentist tomorrow.  It doesn't hurt so I don't know when I will get in to get it fixed.  Hopefully I will be able to have the quick fix method and not something more extensive.


Lastly I have an update on a blog I did earlier.  It was for the Pulled Pork and Beef sandwiches I make often.  I took a short cut today and it worked out beautifully.  Instead of putting the Pork Roast and the Beef Roast in the slow cooker for many hours, I used the pressure cooker and pressured them for 1 1/2 hours (from frozen) in some water.  They became very tender.  Then instead of shredding the meat with two forks as I usually do, I put them in the bowl of my Kitchen Aid mixer and set it on a low speed.  It shredded the meat perfectly.  No mess and such a time saver.

I know I have a lot of gadgets but I cook a lot, and they save so much time.

The pork and beef shredded to a perfect size.


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Be Careful Where You Store Your Birdseed

I'm going to start this blog out with a disclaimer.  If you are eating or are the least bit squeamish then either wait to read this or don't read it at all.

As you know, we feed the birds.  We feed them all year long.  I know that some people don't feed the birds in the summer because they feel there is plenty of natural food.  We not only feed the hummers sugar water and the orioles grape jelly, we feed the other birds a variety of seeds.  We feed them for many reasons.  Mostly to keep them close by so we can enjoy seeing them all the time.  They also depend on us because they know we have available food when they are hungry or need to feed their young.

Generally we buy large 40 pound bags of sunflower seeds.  This lasts us quite a while, but after a period of time we started noticing some cupboard moths in our garage.  Then we noticed them in the seed.  My husband thought that the seed wasn't sealed up tight enough, and the moths were getting into the seed.  So next time the sunflower seeds were on sale, we bought a bag but didn't open it.  Eventually we used up the old seeds, and then a few days ago we opened the new bag.  Guess what we found?  The moths were not getting into the seeds, they were in the seeds themselves.  Apparently there are eggs in the seeds.  If not used within a certain period of time, the eggs hatch.  Fortunately it is winter and everything had frozen.

Laying on top of the sunflower seeds was a mass of larvae.

As you can see in the photo, on top of the seeds were a mass of larvae.  They were intertwined in a heavy duty web that resembled tissue paper only it was very strong.  I scooped it up in one sheet of web and worms and put in on the platform bird feeder.

 A sheet of web embedded with worms.
Isn't this disgusting?  

The larvae are frozen and I think the good part is that all the eggs have hatched in the sunflower seeds.  What is left is probably fine to feed to the birds.  The positive part of this story is that I no sooner had put the larvae out on the feeder, and the purple finches showed up in record numbers.  They were fighting to get to them.

Not only had the finches come to feast, so did the chickadee's and the sparrows.

Chickadee with a larvae in its mouth.

They are still digging in for a few that are leftover.
He found one.

The lessons learned are that you should use the seed you buy within thirty days in the warm summer months.  It takes about 30 days for meal moths to go through their life cycle but a little longer if the weather is cool.  

Never store bird seed in your house. Heat from the house can cause the eggs to hatch and grow quickly. You don't want the larvae to hatch into moths and then get into your cupboards.  A shed or garage is the best place to store your seeds.