Wednesday, October 28, 2020

I'm Not Sophisticated

Nor is my cooking.  Or choice of cook books.
Katie C., who frequently comments on my blog posts, made a suggestion that I list my ten favorite cook books and why I like them.  
What a good idea.  Especially if you readers would then take the time to comment on your favorite cook books! 
So here goes.
You will see that I'm more like Betty Crocker than Martha Stewart.  I don't cook with ingredients I have to go to the big city stores to find.  I classify myself as a simple cook although I've been told I'm a good cook. 
That said, I confess I couldn't boil water when first married.  (Poor Papa Pea.)  

This was the first cook book I ever obtained.   In 1963.  (Yep, dear old Betty.  She and I have been best buds ever since.)  I devoured this book and my first attempts at cooking came straight from its pages.  I still look through it for new-to-me dishes to try.  Down-home, easy and delicious.

I also have these other four companion-type books obtained at a later date.  All chuck-full of good ideas.

This one may be irrelevant to most of you but considering my absolute love of rhubarb, it's one I dive into every spring.  No matter how many "keepers" I've already tried from its pages, there are still more that tempt my taste buds.

Many years ago there was a publication called "Farm Journal" put out for farmers.  As far as I know, it's no longer available.  In making a search I found a magazine called "Farm Journal Magazine" but I don't believe it has a connection with the one I'm remembering which was in the form of a thick newspaper.  There was a section where farm wives (or whoever the cook in the farm kitchen was) sent in recipes they regularly made for their families.  Subsequently, this cook book with a selection of many of the recipes was published and I've found lots of my favorite recipes in it's pages.  Contained is interesting information about the history of pies, cookies and breads along with all kinds of "tips" from experienced cooks.  Not all the pies and breads are sweet treats but also wholesome, main meal-type concoctions.    It's a big book and I'm a long way from experiencing all it has to offer.

During the years we followed a vegetarian diet, this book was my bible.  I think I opened it almost daily.  I still use it as an excellent source of information and make many of the recipes.

Some of you may be familiar with the Taste of Home publication.  At one time (I'm not sure if they still do), they put out an annual issue of recipes published (from real cooks who feed their families) in the magazine.  I have books from three years, 2002, 2003 and 2011, that I've kept as favorites of mine and I go to them time and time again.

My recipe box doesn't qualify as a "cook book" per se, but many of the recipes that are favorites from the above shown books are filed in there and on a day to day basis (unless I'm looking for a new dish), I use the recipes found in the box more than I grab a cook book.
I'll admit I only infrequently search for new recipes on the  Internet.  I guess you could say I'm addicted to my cook books.

A couple of years ago, I went through all my books and trimmed down the number to these in my cook book cabinet in my kitchen.

Well, those are all of them except for these that wouldn't fit on the other designated shelves.
I know I didn't list ten favorite cook books.   It was hard to choose the ones I did list.  Are they really my favorites?  I dunno, but I was getting a little wonky trying to make the decision.  With so many from which to choose, how could I list only the favorites? 
Thanks for the suggestion for this post, Katie.  Now I'll be really interested in hearing what are the favorites you all choose to list in the comments section.  I just hope I don't see too many that I have to buy!  

Sunday, October 25, 2020

All Those Wasted Years

You would have thought I'd have gotten over it by now, but I haven't.  All the years I was in school, the only books I read were either text books or books as required reading for one specific course or another.
Now in the wisdom (ahem) of my later years, I'm a voracious reader.
So, why didn't I fill all those hours (years!) while in grade school, junior high, high school and beyond devouring book after book that interested me?
This may explain.
When I was growing up, nearly every elementary school had a good sized library as a part of the school building.  This was the "public library" that served all library patrons in the surrounding school district.  My childhood home was kitty-corner to the grade school I attended.  The library was in a bump-out wing of the school building with its own separate entrance.
I think I was about ten years old when one long summer day, I asked permission to go to the library thinking I might find a book to read to pass the time.
I had no idea how our neighborhood library was set up or just where I might find an interesting book in it, so once inside I started wandering around looking at shelf after shelf when Mrs. Ewing, the librarian, came up behind me and scared the bejeebers out of me by demanding asking in a not too friendly voice, "What are you looking for?"
Being a shy child, I'm sure I replied in an almost inaudible voice something to the effect of, "A book to read."
Mrs. Ewing then said (and I'll probably never forget her words or tone of voice), "Well, you're not supposed to be in this section.  Books for your age are over there."  She pointed to an alcove across from where I was standing.
Going to that area, the first books I saw were a series of biographies of famous people written for young readers.  I can still picture those books with the orange bindings lined up on the shelf.  I chose one and started to walk out of the library with it.
Oh, dear.  You can imagine my mortification when immediately accosted by the evil Mrs. Ewing.  Somehow, I managed to get signed up for a library card and leave with the book in my sweaty little hands.
A couple of days later, after reading the book and enjoying it immensely, I got up enough courage to venture into the library again and check out another one of the biographies.  I worked my way through every one of the series on the shelf, but never went back for any other books for fear of being reprimanded for straying out of the section I was supposed to be in.  (Did I mention I was very shy?)
The next library that gave me bad dreams was in my high school.  It was a very large library staffed by a husband and wife team, Mr. and Mrs. Whiteside.  They looked to be in their eighties (in reality probably only in their early sixties), were both short, squat, round and dour.  He was always dressed in a three-piece black suit, she in a black matronly dress.  They both had white hair.  He looked much like Winston Churchill.  So did she.
Upon entering the door to the library, Mr. Whiteside functioned as the official warden greeter, reminding you that there was to be no visiting while you were there, you were to find the material needed, take a set and be silent or check out your book, provided it was one that was allowed to be checked out, and immediately exit the premises.  (I'm not making this up, I promise.)  To say it was not an environment that encouraged young readers or anyone looking for materials that might further their education would be an understatement.
Fast forward several years to when I was first married and got up the gumption to give a library where I might find something interesting to read another try.  (I made my husband go with me.)  
We lived outside a small town which had a small but adequate library and, lo and behold, a librarian who couldn't have been more well-suited for her profession or helpful, pleasant and friendly.  Papa Pea and I started making one night a week our library night and spent happy hours browsing to our heart's content and checking out stacks of books that interested us.
That started my years of devouring books one after another.  To this day, I always have a book (I still prefer the kind with pages to turn and that you can actually hold in your hands) I'm reading (sometime two at once, but my mind isn't really strong enough to do that too often), and I always also have an audio book I'm listening to when doing less than stimulating tasks such as washing dishes or weeding in the garden.  
I have ready access to and can read as many books as I can find time for these days.
And yet, I still think of and bemoan all those formative pre-teen and teen years when I had the time to read as much as my little heart would have desired, but didn't.  What a waste.
A pox upon all men and women who choose library science as an occupation and should not, and blessings upon those who make the same choice but are able to present libraries and their books to children and everyone else in a way that opens for them the big, wide, wonderful world of reading. 

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

A Winner, A Winner, A Winner!

I'll make this short and sweet this morning.  Many thanks to all of you who entered the drawing.  (You know we'll have to do this again very soon for a set of holiday-themed --- Christmas-y --- potholders!)

The name drawn to receive the set of quilted fall season potholders is:


Send me your snail mail address, Dee, and I'll put the potholders in an envelope and send them on their way to you.

Hope everyone is enjoying this late fall season.  We're expecting 3-6" of the white stuff to fall and possibly accumulate today through 1 a.m. Wednesday morning.  I do believe Old Man Winter may be arriving early this year. 

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Seasonal Update (Brrrr) . . . and A Giveaway

Our fall colors are gone.  All gone.  Although it was a glorious season with more vibrant colors than usual, the trees are just about totally bare now, and our landscape is waiting for a soft blanket of snow to cover the current drabness.

My garden is tucked in for the winter.  Well, all except for my gladioli which are still standing up sturdy and green.  I'll give them a little more time and am hoping to get the bulbs dug and brought inside to cure before the ground freezes solidly.

We had a temp of 26° this morning with snow forecast to start around noon time and continue through early Sunday morning.  Will we actually get an accumulation on the ground?  Time will tell.  The forecasted temperatures say we will.

Papa Pea came in from chores this morning stating that it certainly feels like winter outside now.  Even the air has a different feel to it.  At 26°, I would think so.

We have a few things to accomplish outside before the predicted snowfall arrives.  Stashing the deck furniture away for the season is one of them.  But if we don't get to that on the list, it won't be the first time there has been an early snowfall on it.

I mentioned having a giveaway of some Thanksgiving-themed potholders a post or two back.  

These I'm putting up for grabs don't specifically say "Thanksgiving" but are still appropriate to the season.

If you're interested in having your name included in the drawing for them, let me know by sharing what your plans are for Thanksgiving this year.  I know it will be a different holiday for many of us because of . . . well, all that we're still having to factor into our lives.  I've read in the past that Thanksgiving Weekend is the busiest travel time of the whole year, but I'd bet dollars to donuts that statistic will change this year.  (A different and not happy situation for many of us.)

I'll add names to the drawing for the potholders until Monday night (October 19th) when I shut down my computer and the winner will be posted on Tuesday morning.

Everybody can use a brand spanking new pair of potholders, right?  Or they would make a nice little gift for someone you know.  Interested? 

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Honey Caramel Recipe - An Autumn Treat

I've made Caramel Corn and Honey Caramels, my two very favorite autumn treats (well, except for an apple pie or six two) and gotten that out of my system.  Also, out of my house, I'm happy to report.  Otherwise, Papa Pea and I would have already gained a couple of unneeded winter hibernation pounds.

Here's the recipe for the caramels:

Honey Caramels

1 cup butter                       

1 lb. brown sugar                

Dash of salt                          

2/3 cup light corn syrup

1/3 cup honey

1 - 15 oz. can sweetened condensed milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

Melt butter in heavy 3-qt. saucepan.  Add brown sugar and salt.  Stir until thoroughly combined.  Stir in corn syrup and honey and mix well.  Gradually add sweetened condensed milk stirring constantly.

Cook and stir over medium heat until mixture reaches 245° on candy thermometer, about 12-15 minutes.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.

Pour into buttered 9 x 9 x 2" pan.  Cool and cut into squares.  Makes about 2-1/2 lbs.

MY NOTES:  I don't use corn syrup anymore, but rather coconut syrup.  I've substituted it for corn syrup in several recipes with no noticeable difference.  If you use the light corn syrup, the color of your caramels will be lighter than mine using the coconut syrup.

The time for the mixture to reach 245° on the thermometer seems to depend on the cooking pot you use.  This batch took exactly 17 minutes, I've gone as long as 25 minutes sometimes and wonder if it also depends on the humidity of the day . . .  or something else.  (WOOOOooooo . . . )

I've always poured the caramel mixture into a 12 x 7-1/2" glass pan.  Using a 9 x 9" pan would make the caramels thicker than I prefer.  

Here's a visual of how I make the caramels.

Melt the butter in a heavy 3-quart saucepan.

Add the brown sugar and salt.  Stir until thoroughly combined.

Do the same with the corn syrup and honey.

Gradually add the sweetened condensed milk stirring constantly.

Cook and stir over medium heat until candy reaches 245° on candy thermometer which should take about 12-15 minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in vanilla.  Then pour into buttered pan.

To cool the mixture to ready it for cutting, I put the pan into the refrigerator for about an hour.  This particular time, I left it cooling for about two hours and the caramels were so hard when I tried cutting them, I had to let it sit out on the counter to warm up a bit.


This is the way I cut my caramels, but you may choose to do it differently.  I score strips about 1-1/2" wide across the pan.

Then I use a metal spatula to remove each strip from the pan.  (The first is always the hardest and does require some wiggling and coaxing.) 


Then using my small chef's knife, I cut the strip into the size caramels I want.  (During this process it's very important to taste-test a caramel [or four] to make sure they're good enough to give away for others to enjoy.)

Each caramel gets placed on a piece of candy paper and wrapped.  (You can use pieces of wax paper cut to size also.)

Done and ready to be distributed.  Or eaten.  Enjoy!

Sunday, October 11, 2020

I've Been Wondering . . .

Here's a simple question for you.  What do you do to relax?  What calms you down, loosens your tightened muscles so they release held tension, clears your mind of the thousand and one things you've been thinking about?

There are times, most especially during these unsettling national and world circumstances, when taking a few moments, hours or days (if necessary and/or possible) to relax, clear your head and reset your physical body to a more comfortable condition is beneficial, let alone vital, to your well-being and to that of those around you.

What do I do to relax?  

Although the kinds of handwork I'm passionate about are very satisfying and fulfill my need to create, I'll confess doing most of them doesn't fill the bill in the way I'm thinking of as true relaxation.  Perhaps knitting a simple pattern while listening to an interesting audio book comes close.  Maybe.

Or lying by the water on a sunny day and listening to the waves gently lapping up on the shore can lull me into a state of tranquility.  But not having a cabin on a lake, or having a heckuva lot of free days in warm weather when such a thing is possible, this opportunity rarely comes by.

For pure unwinding, loosening of tense muscles, shedding disturbing (or interesting . . . or necessary) thoughts from my mind, losing myself in a truly good book, peeling through the pages is what produces satisfying relaxation for me.  I'm temporarily transported to a different world, one that can entertain, uplift or even provide subliminal energy or revitalization.

Okay, your turn.  What do you do to relax?  Don't be shy about commenting.  Maybe your method(s) will give inspiration to the rest of us!  

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Change Is Constant, Change Is Good

It's now 7:18 a.m. as I write this post, and I already feel like I've gotten half a day's work done.

Papa Pea and I are both "morning" people.  Our mental (and probably physical) capacities are at their best once we've had our morning liquid libations so we've been concentrating on getting to bed earlier in the evening and, thereby, more easily able to get up and goin' earlier in the morn.

As you can imagine, this is accomplished much more easily when it gets dark earlier in the evening than it did during the long days of summer.  

Last night I could not keep my eyes open while looking through my latest quilting magazine, so I did the sensible thing (I did?  Wow.) and was in bed at 7:45 p.m.(!).  Picked up my latest book to read (didn't get very far) and then turned off the light before 8:15 because I was so cozy/comfy that I knew it was time to drift off into dreamland.

Woke at 5 a.m. this morning and was ready to get up.  Now if circumstances don't keep me from maintaining such a routine (no doubt self-discipline will enter into the picture more than anything else), I know I'll be happier and have a more balanced schedule for my days in short order.

* * * * * *

Last Sunday night we had our last-of-the-season outdoor get-together with friends.  We about froze our beezers.  Everyone had been warned to wear warm clothing including bringing jackets.  We had a fire in our small outdoor fire pit, but unfortunately the temp was only in the 40s (what were we thinking?) and, drat and darn, there was a breeze to boot.  I think everyone had a good time, but it did feel downright cold a little nippy.

* * * * * *

I harvested all our pumpkins late last week and several of them have already gone away to decorate other homes.  I had a great harvest and although some are not entirely orange in color, with luck they may still turn.  Did I remember to get a picture of the whole bunch of them?  Nope.

* * * * * *

There are still several geraniums out in the garden that need to be put into pots and brought into the house to, hopefully, add some cheery indoor color over these coming winter months.  Dear daughter plans on taking a couple/few, and I think I'll find a spot for two of them.

* * * * * *

I have a great recipe for caramel corn and everyone seems to like my Honey Caramels and . . . well, it's the season for indulging in both so I may spend a little time in the kitchen today stirring up a batch or two of each of them.

* * * * * *

I've had white valances over all my kitchen windows now for over twenty years (yes, I do take them down and wash them now and then . . . at least every 8 or 9 years or so . . . kidding!) but they no longer look bright and crisp so I just ordered new fabric (plain white again) to make replacements.

Also, I've recently spent a bit of moola on supplies (cloth and thread) since I've found a renewed interest in getting back into X-stitch work and haven't done any for . . . good grief! . . . about 30 years.

* * * * * *

You can tell my thoughts are planning for the winter months ahead and happy days at my sewing machine and hours on the couch in front of the open fire with needle in hand.

* * * * * *

Somebody said every day is a new beginning, and I believe it is.  Plus, living where we do, every season offers new and different activities, routines, opportunities and even different foods.  I love it.