Sunday, July 31, 2011

Eggs-Eggs-Eggs - 5

People with chickens crack me up. No pun intended.
Now, you can be sure that raising chickens is no easy task but if you have a large family to feed, I can understand it being well worth the effort. What has me tickled is the two families I currently know who raise chickens for eggs. One is my daughter who, with her husband, eat quite a lot of eggs but not the dozens they gather regularly so they give most of them away. Surely it is a blessing for their friends but..........??? Then, there is my friend down the street who has taken to selling her eggs (which is great for me) because her rather large family just doesn't like eggs. Hummmm?!

Anyway, I thought, for both of them, I would come up with some uses for their abundance of eggs. Some links are posted below and the recipe for "Overnight Eggs" follows. I will have more links & recipes in a few days.

Alton Brown's Angel Food Cake - takes 12 eggs
Baked Egg Custard - takes 4 eggs

Grandma's Lemon Meringue Pie - takes 3 eggs
Egg Tempera Paint - takes 1-2 eggs

Each time I post something new, I will change the number in the title so check back.

Overnight Eggs
In bottom of 9" x 13" sprayed pan, place:
  • 6 slices White Bread - cubed
Cover with:
  • 1 lb Cheddar Cheese - shredded
Top with some or all of these optional ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup Onions - chopped
  • 1/4 cup Green Peppers - chopped
  • 1 cup Ham - Chopped
  • 1 can Mushrooms - sliced
Beat together:
  • 8 Eggs
  • 4 cups Milk
  • 1 tsp Dry Mustard
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 1/4 tsp Pepper
Pour egg/milk mixture over all, being sure to completely cover everything.
Cover pan tightly with foil or plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
In the morning, bake, uncovered, for 1 hour at 350 degrees.
Served with fresh fruit, this makes an easy and absolutely wonderful breakfast/brunch for a large family or guests.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

RAIN - Some is Better than None

What a wonderful surprise to seek out a suspicious noise and find it to be the sound of windblown rain tapping at the screen door.
It wasn't a lot of rain (barely a quarter inch) but it was enough to bring hope, and for the next two days, I felt my spirits rise with each passing cloud.
On day three, the rain came again leaving a full inch behind. So that's an inch and a quarter just in the last week. It's a long, long way from ending our drought and even a greater distance to recovery. We remain in Water Conservation Mode for now but, as I said, it does hold hope. Perhaps our weather patterns are changing. Perhaps my little paradise will flourish again, if only for a short while, before winter sets in.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

"Blueberry Dats" - Stovetop Cobbler

Inexpensive. Easy. Delicious. I guess because my EEG was scheduled at lunchtime, the tech, Cynthia, and I began a conversation about food. As the test was lengthy, so was the conversaton and it inevitably turned to Southern Foods and "old ways". During our discussion of cobblers, she shared the story of her family's favorite...made by her father and called "Blueberry Dats".

Today, being our first gray and rainy day in three months and with a container of blueberries as well as the required roll of refrigerated biscuits in the refrigerator, I decided to give the stovetop cobbler a try. It is beyond good and it's simple. Although I didn't measure as I went along, I didn't have measurements from Cynthia either. So, I'll estimate for you as she did for me and hope yours turns out as well. It seems fool proof.

2 cups fresh Blueberries in 3-qt saucepan.
Cover with water 1" above berries and boil 10 minutes or until berries plump and begin to burst.
Add 2 cups more water and 2 cups Sugar with a dash of Salt. Bring to a rolling boil.
Reduce heat to slow boil for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir in 1 Tbsp. Ground Cinnamon.
Open a can of Refrigerated Biscuits and cut each one into small pieces with scissors, letting them drop into the boiling syrup.
Cover and let simmer 20 to 30 minutes.
Remove from heat and let stand until ready to serve.
Serve this warm with a scoop of ice cream in a fancy dish with a sprinkle of cinnamon on top and a mint sprig garnish and you will have a gourmet-looking dessert that actually tastes heavenly.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Water Conservation During Drought

A year ago, about this time, my Cypress pond looked like this. My flowers were in bloom and the garden was off to a good start. Not so this year.
Today the herons moved in to feed on what is left of the fish
in what is left of the pond.

In the last 90 days, we have had less than a collective total of 3/4 of an inch of rain. For the last 30 days, each afternoon weather report has offered the hope of a 75%+ chance of afternoon thunderstorms. And, it has stormed. We see the lightning and hear the distant thunder and if we get in the car and drive for 15 minutes in any direction, we are likely to get wet. But my neighborhood seems to exist under an giant, unseen umbrella and we passed desperate two months ago. First, the garden slowed down, stressed by the temperatures hovering around 100 degrees day after day. My watering of containers changed from once to twice daily and still the leaves would wilt. When the shrubs around the house began to show signs of stress, I set out the sprinklers, along with shallow containers to measure water amounts, moving to another location when a 2" soaking had been achieved. I realized I was fighting a losing battle when the brown grass began to turn black as the roots actually deteriorated and several shrubs, some distance from the house, actually died. Now my smaller trees, like the dogwood, look as if they are in trouble.

---These have both died---
Last week I noticed a change in my well water. The iron content is greater and there are tannins, all signs that the well water level is dropping. So, conservation is now a necessity. Here are the things we're doing to reduce our water usage:
  • Brushing teeth with the water turned off.
  • Placing a 1/2 gallon jug of water in the toilet tank to reduce the amount of "flush water".
  • Reducing shower time and frequency by half.
  • Hanging bath towels to dry and sanitize in the sun after showering to launder less often.
  • Combining darks & lights into a single load of laundry.
  • Eliminating use of the dishwasher.
  • Keeping a dishpan of soapy water in the kitchen sink for quick hand washing.
  • Watering container vegetables using a watering can instead of the garden hose.
  • Cooling water used for cooking pasta & vegetables for use on garden containers.
  • Accepting the fact that some plantings will be lost.
For us, the drought is a matter of inconvenience. For the area farmers, it's a tragedy. Corn crops are ruined. Cotton did not even come up. The loss of summer grasses and winter hay endanger livestock and much of the livestock is having to be sold for lack of water.
These are difficult times but we will all get through them. Somehow, we always do. And I've noticed that, whether we were inclined to roll up our sleeves or get down on our knees, when we look back on hard times, we seem to have gained strength or pride or self-confidence in having come through them.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Fitting a Bar-B-Q for 25 into the Budget

Although we build our Independence Day celebrations around the history marked by the occasion, we also look forward to the food, family and fun of the equally traditional 4th of July Bar-B-Q.
This year, we themed it as an old-fashioned, red, white and blue, birthday party and it couldn't have been any better with lobster and crisp linens.I love the versatility of my chalkboard. It's just a piece of Masonite that I painted with blackboard paint and placed in an old frame, distressed to "shabby chic" with a coat of white paint and sandpaper. When the chalkboard is not heralding some special event, I use it as a fireplace shield. It almost disappears behind the firescreen and hides the unsightly, sooty view.
Everyone attending shared in both the effort and the cost by bringing something. The drinks cleverly kept with the color theme with the blue labeled bottles of water and red cans of Coke. The wash tubs were perfect containers and my prized, very old chair made a perfect stand.
Although new and a gift from a daughter, the frosty lemonade container looked equally old-fashioned sitting on an old step stool and made it easy for the children to get their own refills.
All decorations were from years past, just re-purposed. The patriotically painted, slat basket was the ideal container for baguette halves. And although I didn't think to get a photo of it, we used an old, weathered section of redwood fencing set on sawhorses as a buffet/serving table.
So as not to break my self-imposed budget, a couple of months ago I began purchasing and freezing the slabs of pork ribs and beef brisket. Here's my hint for not slaving over a grill for hours while you have guests: Brine the ribs and apply rub or marinade to the brisket overnight. Spend your time at the grill early in the morning. Then, sauce and wrap each slab or brisket tightly in double layers of heavy duty foil just when they look gorgeous, long before they are actually done. Keep them on a heat-controlled grill or in the oven at 185 degrees for 2 to 6 hours and remove 15 minutes before serving time to let them rest. The flavor will be wonderful and the meat will fall off the bone. AND...that's great for everyone except me. I like my ribs the genuinely old-fashioned way... where you have to tear the meat from the bone with your teeth like a hungry dog. To that end, I cooked one slab completely on the grill and tossed it, uncovered, in the oven for about a half hour to reheat before serving. (in photo above)
Click HERE for Brunswick Stew Recipe using leftover bar-b-q.
My Texas daughter brought CORN SALAD...scrumptious! Here's the recipe:
  • 1 Red Onion - diced
  • 6 cups Corn (fresh or frozen)
  • 1 bunch Cilantro - chopped
  • 1 carton Grape or Cherry Tomatoes - cut in half
  • 1 Jalapeno - finely diced
  • Feta Cheese - crumpled
  • Juice of 2 Limes (& zest from one)
  • 2 Tbsp Butter
In Butter, saute 1/2 of the Onion. Add Corn. Remove from heat and add everything else. Salt to taste. WONDERFUL!!!
We used the red & white & blue serving bowls and star-spangled dinnerware from last year...
and a daughter found these wonderful paper baskets for the children. (Don't know how or why this child is holding a white Styrofoam cup instead of a red one.)
In addition to red, white and blue decorated cupcakes, we had a cool, light and fluffy concoction made with lemon Jello and whipped cream, topped with strawberries and blueberries...
homemade ice cream sandwiches were made with big oatmeal cookies and rolled in red, white & blue sprinkles. And they would have photographed much better had I not spent time trying to find my camera. They really are cute, tasty and easy...just remember to make them ahead of time and freeze several hours before serving.
In the middle of a terrible drought, we didn't dare bring out any fireworks but the children were more than happy with glow sticks and sparklers after potato sack races and 3-legged races and relay races and laughter and giggles that still ring in my ears.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Holidays & Kids Plays

There may be no better teaching tool than to involve children in a play, especially when there is no stress and it is actually "play" itself. This year, with no time for rehearsal or learning lines or making costumes, we cobbled together enough historical fact and fun and makeshift costuming to have an absolute ball.
With 12 grandchildren participating, the 2 older teens, who helped with staging and the 10 little ones, ages 2 to 11, we found roles for everyone. A granddaughter, with a chest of treasure, was wrapped in a bathrobe and crowned with foil-covered poster board. Here she is studying the lines of "tax and tariff" King George.
Act I, Boston Harbor, 1773: the teens slide the jon boat into the scene where tea from Great Britain is to be unloaded but the cost is too great.
The colonists suggest that some dress as Indians, to board the ship and throw the tea into the harbor. After the teens pull the jon boat back out of the scene, our little Indian, dressed in dishtowels and with a feather in a headband, sneaks across the scene after the jon boat.
At the close of the scene, the colonists having declared "We'll just drink COFFEE", the participants take their bows.
A last minute thought for distinguishing the founding fathers and players of import was the addition of "powdered wigs" which were nothing more than plastic grocery bags gathered at the back and tied with strips of black fabric. Signs were worn by two of the players identifying them as Paul Revere and Patrick Henry.
A step ladder was used for the church tower in which two lanterns were lit, signifying that the British were approaching across the Charles River and not by land sending Paul Revere to ride his stick pony into the audience whispering to each member to secure their arms because the British were coming.
Having learned recently that Paul Revere was actually arrested by the British and warned them not to go into Lexington allowed us to insert an actual quote of another Colonial prisoner as the Lexington church bells (our dinner bell) rang out, "The bell's a'ringing! The town's alarmed, and you're all dead men."...and our "red coats" fled.
Whereupon our powdered wig clad, Colonial notables gathered to write the Declaration of Independence amid comical comments about it's length.
After some editing by Benjamin Franklin, the three older children read the entire document before the cast gathered for final bows.
It was fun. It was funny, historically accurate and memorable. What a great way to start a 4th of July celebration.

Friday, July 1, 2011

4th of July Ideas - Easy/Affordable

I am re-posting 4th of July Ideas from 2010 for those of you who missed them. An inexpensive but memory-making event.
2011 Independence day ideas will be posted after the fact.

Independence Day Festivities

This year we are seriously getting back to basics, celebrating the birth of our nation with all things American - Baseball, Hot Dogs and Apple Pie. We are doing it simply, inexpensively and with a touch of nostalgia. It will be a day with family and friends coming together for fun, food and a fresh look at all that is wonderful about being an American.
Here are some ideas, some links and some of the things that we will be incorporating into our celebration. Pictures will be inserted into this posting as things materialize. Some will be posted after the fact so I hope you'll check back later.

(Click HERE for a quick link to the recipes - posting June 20)
  • Fly the flag proudly.
  • Print copies of an "Uncle Sam Wants You" poster or images of the flag, found HERE, to use for invitations or decor.
  • Set outdoor tables with red and white or blue and white checked table cloths tied at the corners with blue ribbon or use red ribbon from Christmas supplies.
  • Use your red candles left over from Christmas.
  • Craft Ideas - link HERE
  • Decorations - link HERE
  • 4th of July Craft Ideas from Disney link HERE
  • Don't feel crafty? Try clusters of red, white and blue balloons
  • Have limited funds? Decorate with red, white and blue crepe paper streamers
  • Fireworks - if allowed should be handled by adults with safety in mind - tips HERE
  • CD of patriotic music
  • Invite a member of our military to join your family affair
  • Hand out pocket sized copies of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Link HERE
  • Say the Pledge of Allegiance once guests have arrived - Link HERE
  • Read the Declaration of Independence. Link HERE
  • Read "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere" - Link HERE
  • Print the words to the National Anthem("Star Spangled Banner") to sing before playing baseball - link HERE
  • Print the words to "God Bless America" for the children to sing before the meal - link HERE
  • While eating, ask each person to tell what freedom means to them
  • Paint T-shirts with patriotic colors. No need to be an artist...wide stripes and crooked stars are perfect or see how to paint eagles with children's hand prints - HERE
  • Play games:
Baseball - gather gear from those who play or get set up with Nerf ball substitute so adults and children can play together. Bases can be made of fabric bags (like smaller pillow cases) and filled with sand or mulch. Set up a blackboard as a scoreboard.
Horseshoes, Badminton and/or Croquet - if you have them
Lawn Darts - using homemade beanbags instead of darts - for safety. You can sew beanbags OR you can do what I'm doing...making use of those unmated socks. Fill about 1/3 full with beans and tie a knot in the area of the heel. It makes a beanbag perfect for an underhand toss, holding the top of the sock and swinging the weighted foot portion.
Three-legged Race - in teams of two (preferably about the same height). Team members stand side-by-side and have their "touching" legs tied together so that they run as a single unit from the starting line to the finish line.
Potato Sack Race - In lieu of burlap bags (which should be available from a feed & seed store), use old pillow cases or plastic garbage bags. Each racer stands inside their bag, holding it up with their hands and hops to the finish line.
Wheelbarrow Race - Again, teams of two. One member (the wheelbarrow) lies on his stomach on the ground while the other team member (the pusher) lifts their legs by the ankles (like the handles of a wheelbarrow). The team member on the ground then pushes himself up with his hands (as the wheel) and begins to walk with his arms toward the finish line.

Hot Dogs:
  1. Slaw Dogs
  2. Bacon/Kraut Dogs
  3. Chili Cheese Dogs
  4. Plain Ol' American Hot Dogs
Potato Chips
Southern Potato Salad
Easy Baked Beans
Iced Tea & Lemonade in big jars tucked into washtub of ice

Sugar Cookie Stars

Homemade pies in appropriate colors - Cherry, Apple, Blueberry
Homemade Ice Cream

Independence Day - Recap in 10 Parts

This year, we were especially mindful of the meaning of Independence Day and our reason for celebrating. Yes, we played and cooked out and decorated in red, white and blue but throughout the day, we incorporated thoughtful activities and paused to reflect on the enormous sacrifices of our patriots, past and present, and our incredible blessing of liberty.


Our 4th began on the 3rd when the little children came over

to paint their patriotic T-shirts. We saved the expense of buying fabric paint knowing that house paint won't wash out of clothing and will wash off of children. The kids were given their choice of techniques: potato print, drizzles, sea sponge, and/or foam brush.

They came up with their own designs and the only adult interference was the little stars added to the twin's creations. Click HERE for more photos, details and tips.

The pennant garland, made of scrap fabric stitched to a length of twill tape helped define a game area. Flags lining the front walk were a daughter's bargain, $1 for a single, flag-patterned yard of fabric found in the off-season, cut apart and stapled to dowels. The front porch had been decorated with red, white and blue since Memorial Day.

The 4th began with a mid-day gathering around the flag pole for the Pledge of Allegiance and the little children led the singing of our National Anthem.

Homemade pickled eggs and hot, spicy pickled sausages, blue and white corn chips served in a red bowl with a side of home-canned salsa, the 4-generation standby of potato chips with sour cream/onion dip, crackers and
a daughter's shrimp dip helped stave off hunger until the day cooled enough to fire up the grill.

Pitchers of lemonade and sweet tea were refilled from giant jars and jugs kept on ice in an old, oval wash tub and star shaped sugar cookies, iced in red and blue were a hit with the little ones. Securing table cloth corners against the breeze.


Everyone was free to find an activity to their liking: baseball was less hazardous, required less skill and was more appropriate for one or two or three to play with the use of a sturdy foam bat and wiffle balls. Tic-tac-toe was set up on the grass using five scrap 12" X 12" tiles and caning jar rings and stars cut from laundry detergent bottles and glued to the caps. Unfortunately, interest in the tic-tac-toe was short lived. However, the "Sock Toss", our safe version of lawn darts, was a huge hit with the adults as well as the children. It also made great use of those pesky unmated socks we all accumulate. There were 5 white socks and 5 colored ones. The "feet" were stuffed with a zip type bag of dry beans and a knot tied at the "heel". They were perfectly weighted and slung from their tops to the hula hoop target 15 or 20 feet away. Our scoring went like this: outside the ring, not touching = no score; outside the ring but touching = 5 points; inside the ring, but touching = 10 points; inside the ring, not touching = 15 points. GAME was to 100 points.

A little pool time was a definite blessing as the late day sun erased our shade.

I think the best of the best was the races. Adults and children were laughing to the point of tears through the Sack Race, the Three-Legged Race and the Wheel Barrow Race. The finish line was established using a couple of tomato stakes from the garden, topped with small flags. The "potato" sacks were made by a daughter, from fabric left over from some long-ago project and, yes, they were purple. She asked the little children what colors combine to make purple. Of course, they answered "red and blue"
...Taa daa!


We read the poem "Paul Revere's Midnight Ride" and I was flabbergasted at how much my four, home schooled grandchildren knew about the American Revolution and the founding of our nation.
We sang "God Bless America", prayed for our country and fired up the grill as the children's bubbles drifted into the shadows. We had long hot dogs and fat ones and kosher ones with "fixin's" for 4 variations. I did make one change...rather than wrapping the Kraut-Dogs in bacon, precooked slices were just added to the buns. We had Oven-Baked Beans and my Southern Potato Salad and another daughter brought her signature Pasta Salad. Dessert was two pies instead of three: one blueberry and one apple/cherry so we still had red, white and blue.My daughter-in-law made bite-sized Apple/Cheesecake Crepes (a Betty Crocker recipe) sprinkled with fresh strawberries and blueberries from her own back yard. I completely forgot about making ice cream. No one noticed.

As darkness approached, we lit the candles on the tables and the ones hanging in the trees. The little birdcage candleholders were a last minute yard sale find with my painted wooden stars added.

he kids went through a couple boxes of sparklers and the delay on my camera prevented me from getting the wonderful photos I had imagined. The fireworks, provided by a daughter and son-in-law, lit the sky accompanied with the traditional "oohs" and "aahs".

My 4th of July surprise came late last night as I was downloading pictures.It seemed we had an unexpected angel with us. My only "sparkler" photo.