Archive for July, 2011





Oklahoma Rain Gauge

Saturday, July 30th, 2011





Not Even A Thimbleful




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A friend of mine posted this photograph and I got a giggle out of it. It’s a photo of a Texas and Oklahoma rain gauge. We all have one! Of course, we have to laugh out here in the midwest. Otherwise, we’d just cry. Crying doesn’t even work because as one Texas friend pointed out, our tears just evaporate before they roll down our cheek. It is so hot and dry. I know I sound like a broken record, but my goodness. We’ve never seen anything like this. I wasn’t around during the Dust Bowl so this is a whole new experience!! If you will notice, there’s no water in the rain gauge either!!


Happy Rain Dancing!



MB
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Making a Solar Oven

Thursday, July 28th, 2011





By Golly, It Works!!




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Yesterday it was somewhere around 110 degrees in Okieland. Shoot, at 7 pm it was still 107! It’s that kind of stifling heat that just puts you in a bad mood. A lot of people are in a bad mood around here. The sad part is that the weatherman says that it will be this way for the next 20 or so days unless a miraculous tropical storm comes ashore and moves north. I never thought that I would hope for a tropical storm!


On days like these, one has a tendency to get a little odd. Heat has a way of doing that to people. It’s getting so bad that we in the country are seeing Dairy Queen mirages, in the distance, way down the gravel road and in a film of dust. You take off at a jog, salivating for a frozen, cold, chocolatey Dilly Bar, only to wind up in a cloud of lime dust as the mirage disappears, without so much as a popsicle stick. It is truly sad.


Yesterday, to keep myself from going crazy, I decided to do something different. I mean, REALLY different. I had received an email from a reader, and questions from a friend, regarding solar ovens. As I said in the last post, my experience has been with reflector ovens, but a solar oven seemed of utmost interest considering we Okies are not allowed to even say the word fire, let alone strike a match in our parched environs right now. And the thought of not heating up the kitchen gave real incentive. So, I did some research and chose this hottest day of the week to harness the rays of the brutal sun to make dinner for Mr. Fix-It.


I settled on a meal of chicken breasts, carrots, new potatoes and onions and thought I would surprise him with this delicious meal. Somehow, I knew his reaction would be, “Chicken cooked in the sun? Nope. Not taking my chances. Sounds like ptomaine poisoning in a box.” However, he always loses and eats whatever I put in front of him. He hasn’t died yet. So the following is a step-by-step process for making a very simple solar oven. I kid you not – it works!!


You’ll Need:


  • One small box, large enough to hold your pan or pans
  • One larger box that, when the small box is placed inside, leaves 2″ of space around the small box
  • Aluminum foil
  • Plastic wrap
  • Tape and stapler
  • A piece of cardboard larger than the large box
  • black construction paper
  • Lots of newspaper or newsprint


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    Fold the flaps of the small box inside the box or cut them off. Line the inside of the box with aluminum foil and press against the sides as smooth as possible. Tape the foil to the outside of the box or just fold it over in place.


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    Cut a sheet of construction paper to fit the bottom of the small box. I had to piece this one together and taped it together on the underside of the paper. As I was cutting the construction paper, I felt like Captain Kangaroo with safety scissors showing a craft project on television. I think it was that sound of cutting construction paper. OK. So the heat is getting to me. Just ignore me.


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    Wad up sheets of newspaper or newsprint and make a cushion on the bottom of the large box.


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    Center the small box inside the large box and pack wadded paper around the small box as insulation.


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    Measure the opening of the large box and cut the extra cardboard to measure 4″ longer and wider.


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    Cover the cardboard with aluminum foil and tape or glue onto the back. Note: I can see using mirrors instead of aluminum foil in this project and getting some hot heat!


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    Staple the cardboard to the back flap of the large box with the aluminum foiled surface facing toward the box opening. Tape the flap to the cardboard piece for extra strength.


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    I sprinkled garlic powder, paprika, thyme and pepper on boneless, skinless chicken breasts


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    I added new potatoes, carrots and onions into the bottom of a dark enamel pot. The pots or pans need to be dark and so cast iron or enamel work well.


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    Chicken breasts were placed on top of the veggies and 1 tbsp of Italian dressing, 1/3 cup of water and 1 tsp of chicken bouillon granules were added.


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    The pot is placed inside the small box (a thermometer is hanging from the handle of the pan) and plastic wrap is stretched tightly over the opening of the large box. The plastic wrap is taped to the sides.


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    Voila – I just covered the front flap with foil to make it look balanced. It’s the artist in me.


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    Now, I discovered a problem for Oklahomans. We have wind. REAL wind – you know, that comes sweeping down the plain ala the movie. So, I grabbed a trashcan full of 2 x 4 scraps and put it behind the cardboard reflector. I ran packing tape from the reflector around the trash can. That way, I could move the trash can and repostition the cardboard if I needed to in order to catch the sun right.


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    Within minutes it got up to 160º


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    I checked it about every 45 minutes but only looked at the food once. It cooked for 8 hours with the highest temperature reaching 190º. When planning your recipes, look at it like a crockpot slow cooker.


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    All done


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    It was delicious! Really. So tender! I think that the only thing I might have changed would be that I would add some cream of mushroom soup to the chicken! Now you can bake in the sun and not use a drop of suntan lotion!!


    Happy Sun Baking!



    MB
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    Making A Reflector Oven

    Monday, July 25th, 2011





    Back To Basics???




    I’m probably gonna step on some toes. I have a funny way of doing that occassionally. But I see something ridiculous in our culture and I just have to poke fun. I can’t resist. It’s a disease. When I see something dumb, I just can’t keep my mouth shut. Invariably, I wind up offending SOMEBODY. C’est la vie. So as a disclaimer, loving the following appliances is just fine and dandy. But you have to admit that the name is rather humorous.



    I ran across a website for a brand of appliance that has quite a catchy brand name: Back To Basics. Now I ask you, when you think of back to basics, what do you think of? I picture washboards, rolling pins, clotheslines, grain mills, the Oklahoma Pastry Cloth™, and canning apple butter. In fact, being the campers that we are, a campfire, a chicken on a spit and marshmallows on a stick are REALLY back to basics in my book. Think, “Latrine”.



    And so, when I saw that there was a brand of kitchen item called, “Back To Basics”, I thought that I’d be finding some pretty neat retro stuff. Ha! Did you know that in today’s culture, Back To Basics, basically means, “Not eating at McDonald’s” and not going to the neighborhood sno-cone stand. For under $100 you can have your own Back To Basics sno-cone stand in your home and invite all of the neighborhood children for free cones, thereby teaching them the principles of capitalism; ie; giving away freebies undercuts your competitor until he goes out of business and then you can start charging out the wazoo. It all depends on how much you are willing to shell out to the neighborhood kids!


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    But the one that just had me giggling was the Egg and Muffin Toaster. Boy, I’m sure those 1889 Oklahoma Sooners couldn’t have made it in their sod huts without their egg and muffin toasters. Sure, they didn’t have any electricity but you know that toaster was a basic! And I’m sure my mom has memories of my grandmother getting up early to pop muffins and eggs into her toaster to create those sandwiches that hadn’t been invented yet by Ray Kroc of McDonald’s. Shoot, that isn’t even the way he made those egg and muffin sandwiches!



    OK, so now that I’ve poked fun at the marketing department of an appliance company, I’ll go back to that camping discussion and really getting back to basics. Having been a Girl Scout all the way through Seniors, I learned alot about living with the basics. We camped regularly and had to learn survival skills for various badges. One of those skills was how to make and cook in a ‘reflector oven’. We baked biscuits, brownies, cookies and my favorite, gingerbread, in many a cardboard box lined with aluminum foil. We were so proud of ourselves when we successfully presented a hot treat.


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    I continued to use these contraptions through parenthood as we hauled children, tents, cooking equipment and fishing poles to our favorite spots. The kids thought that using the reflector oven was the best part of a camping trip. My favorite story about one of those trips happened not too awfully many years ago. We had all four kids, at that time teenagers, with us and had set up two tents at a beautiful park in Arkansas. Our camping spot was next to the biggest, shiniest, most expensive motor home any of us had ever seen. We looked like slum dwellers living next to the Taj Mahal. The next morning, I got up early and started a fire in the fire pit, got some bacon frying in a cast iron skillet, scrambled eggs, shredded hashbrowns and mixed up some biscuits. I had made my reflector oven the night before and it was ready and waiting for hot coals to bake my biscuits. I loaded the oven with the coals and the biscuits, closed it and covered it with a towel to bake for 20 minutes. The family chowed down on the meal that would ready them for a day of fishing and swimming.



    After breakfast, I had heated up water in my two waterbath canners to wash dishes and was doing so when the man from the big, fancy motor home timidly approached the table on which I was working. He introduced himself and then said, “Um. We couldn’t help but notice that you had a mighty fine breakfast there this morning.” I said, “It was pretty good.” He continued, “Well, we saw that you was eatin’ some biscuits. We was just wonderin’ where you made those biscuits.” I showed him my reflector oven and he turned to yell at his wife whose face was pressed against the screen of their motor home. “She baked ‘em in a box, hon!!! She baked ‘em in a box!!” Yes siree. I shore did. And so, here are the directions for a reflector oven that may come in handy for you one day. They are just dandy for when the electricity goes out.


    Note: This is an outdoor project!! Do not attempt to use this oven inside because the coals give off dangerous carbon monoxide.


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    Line the inside of a medium sized cardboard box (I’m using an 18 x 18 here) with heavy duty aluminum foil. This includes the top flaps. If you can find a box that has had the entire top cut like a lid, rather than flaps, it’s even easier.


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    Start coals as for grilling or you can use coals from a wood stove or campfire. Today, I will be using pretend coals because in Oklahoma we are under a burn ban and can’t even grill a steak!!


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    While the coals are heating up, place an old pan or foil pan in the bottom of the box and stand a brick upright on each side of the pan. This pan will be used to hold the coals. You can also make a metal rack to use instead of the bricks


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    Pour the hot coals into the pan that has been placed at the bottom of the box.


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    Place your pan of biscuits, brownies, cookies or cake mix on top of the bricks or rack


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    Fold the lid or the flaps of the box down to close and cover with a heavy bath towel. Bake for recommended time.


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    You will have baked goods in a jif! I promise. Now THAT’S back to basics!


    Happy Baking!



    MB
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    Canning Blueberries

    Thursday, July 21st, 2011





    Canning Blueberries



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    Seems like blueberries have come in everywhere and it appears to me that there was a really good crop. That is one bit of produce that flourished here at the Oklahoma Pastry Cloth™ digs. Neither frost nor drought seemed to have an impact and so I have happily frozen boatloads of blueberries. I always freeze my blueberries when they first start coming in because I never have enough to can right off the bat. I can them after I have enough, even after having been frozen. Also, this gives me some flexibility on when I can my blueberries, putting them on the back burner behind the veggies that have to be processed immediately.


    So today I decided it was time to do the blueberries. I usually leave a couple of gallons in the freezer for pancakes, waffles, scones and yogurt, but I can the rest for blueberry muffins. Yummy blueberry muffins. I know this sounds crazy, but I would rather use canned blueberries for my muffins than fresh or frozen. For some reason, the canned makes muffins light on the inside and crunchy on the outside, and they just color those muffins the prettiest blue!


    I can my blueberries in two sizes of jars – half pint and pint – since there are just two of us. I use the raw pack method with a very light, thin syrup that hasn’t much sugar and drain it from the berries when making muffins. This leftover syrup gets turned into a light blueberry syrup for pancakes by adding pancake syrup and boiling hard for one minute. You can also can blueberries by putting them into a piece of cheese cloth and dipping them into boiling water until you see blue juice, packing them into jars immediately. However, that method is messy, messy, messy. Yes. It makes prettier jars, but, heh, I’m not eatin’ ‘pretty’.


    You’ll Need:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 cups water
  • Approx 3 quarts blueberries
  • Waterbath canner
  • Before starting run your jars through the dishwasher to sanitize or boil them and allow to dry upside down.


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    Add 2 cups of sugar to 5 cups of water. Stir to dissolve


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    Bring water and sugar mixture to a rolling boil and boil for 5 minutes. Set aside.


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    Use either fresh or frozen blueberries. I know that it doesn’t look these are frozen, but they are!


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    Place blueberries into the jars, leaving a 1/2″ headspace. Ladle the syrup over the blueberries, again leaving a 1/2″ headspace. Use a canning spatula or butter knife to run around the inside perimeter of the jars to remove any air bubbles.


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    Wipe the rims of the jars with a warm, soapy dish cloth to remove any syrup that may have splattered onto the jars.


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    Add lids that have been warming in water to the jars and attach rings, tightening and then backing off just a smidge.


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    Place the jars into the canner and lower into water that should submerge the jars with at least 1″ of covering the top of the jars. Bring to a rolling boil and begin timing to process for 10 minutes.


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    When the time is up, lift rack of jars to rest on the side of the canner and remove jars with canning tongs. Allow to cool. The lids will pop as they seal. The light makes these look red, but they are really blue!


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    OK..now for the blueberry muffins. I use the recipe that I posted for Strawberry Muffins only I use drained, canned blueberries. They are even better than the strawberries! Go check out the recipe!




    Happy Canning and Baking!



    MB
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    Breadbasket Country

    Monday, July 18th, 2011





    Alva, Oklahoma:

    1930′s Deja Vu




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    Mr. Fix-It and I and our little dog, Ellie (the Tin Man and Cowardly Lion weren’t available) followed the Yellow-Lined Road called I-35 to the breadbasket part of our state, Alva, Oklahoma, to see the son’s new digs. It was a sobering trip as acre after acre after acre of dry, parched farmland spread out as far as the eye could see. Brown and yellow with touches of green are the colors that painted the entire expanse. Lines of green trees spotted with yellowing leaves acted as windbreakers. Ponds had been reduced to half depths of green, brackish water and creeks and streams were simply dry beds.


    This is where much of Oklahoma’s wheat, corn, milo and canola are produced and this year has been rough. The wheat harvest in Oklahoma was 38% below 2010 numbers while the Texas harvest, just across the state line, was 63% below normal. Corn has not been much better. Oklahoma is over 11″ of rain behind normal, while Texas is as much as 25″ below normal. People are starting to talk of the Dust Bowl days and yesterday Oklahomans across the state prayed for relief at the request of our governor. Yesterday, it was 106º in Alva with 28% humidity.



    YouTube Video by AJ67901 on Jun 12, 2011

    This is a really interesting video of a fairly good harvest in Texas County, OK in June. It is pretty cool to see how the combines work together and how the grain is loaded into the trucks. My son helped with the harvest at an Alva wheat farm and sent me a 50 lb bucket of freshly combined wheat berries!



    The amazing thing for me, on this trip, was finding that while I thought our area around Oklahoma City was so drought stricken, it is actually quite green compared to western Oklahoma. It is disheartening to know how much higher food prices are going to go because of the shortage of grains. Not good for Americans who are already struggling with food budgets and even worse for countries that depend totally on imported grains for survival. A shortage of grain impacts just about every foodstuff, including meat, but a shortage of water makes it even worse. Ranchers all over Texas and Oklahoma are selling off hundreds of thousands of cattle and sheep because there is just not enough water or grass to feed them. This will have a long term impact on the price of meat in the supermarket.


    But back to our trip – in spite of the water and heat problems, northwestern Oklahoma has a beauty all its own. I spent my time taking pictures so that I could share that part of my state with you. Traveling to the western part of Oklahoma makes one feel like one should be riding in a 1940′s Chevy truck. It is a step back in time with all the trimmings of today’s technology. Alva is no different. It is a lovely town with lovely people and the slow-moving pace of yesteryear. It is made up of the kind of people who suffered throught the drought, heat and dust of the Depression. Homes from the early 1900′s are scattered among homes of the 1940′s and 1950′s while huge, newer homes dot the outskirts. It is a small town but has those essentials of Walmart, Pizza Hut, Sonic and McDonalds! It has to because Alva is also home to Northwestern Oklahoma State University, a wonderful state secret. This university is near and dear to our hearts as two of our progeny graduated this school. A daughter even represeted NWOSU at Miss Oklahoma! The beautiful campus, caring professors and administration, mixed with the atmosphere of the kind of university my parents and grandparents remember, amazing scholarships and reasonable tuition makes this our favorite state institution of learning.


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    Herod Hall, NWOSU Campus



    And so, put on your overalls and follow me to Western Oklahoma in pictures.


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    Along highway 11, grain bins dot the horizon and even crowd the street corners of tiny towns.


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    Cars of yesteryear parked on Hwy 11 near Numa


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    All across the prairie/farm landscape are dunes of sand covered in grass. These dunes were created by millions of tons of sand and dirt removed and relocated during the horrible years of the Dust Bowl. If you are interested, there is an amazing book written by Timothy Egan called, The Worst Hard Time. True stories and stunning photographs take you to the realities of those midwestern people of the Depression who suffered through drought, extreme heat and cold with dust storms that infiltrated every nook and cranny of their lives.


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    The snowy white of The Great Salt Plains in the distance



    The Great Salt Plains just outside of Alva is an international attraction. It gets its name from the salt crystals that cover the ground, leaving an almost ‘snowy’ landscape. The site of much history, Native American tribes fought each other for control of this landscape as it was a huge attraction for wild buffalo and deer seeking the salt.



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    The area of salted sand is exactly 11,000 acres and the salt is continually replenished by saline groundwater that flows just a few feet underground. When the water evaporates, a layer of salt covers the surface. This also forms the unusual Selenite crystals that are hunted by visitors. We have a boxful from previous trips


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    A Selenite Crystal



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    Ellie’s “do” was showing that “windblown” look in the stout Oklahoma breeze at the Great Salt Plains. Note: Ellie was a “dump” dog. We figure a puppy mill dumped her at 12 weeks old because she has a terrible overbite and shouldn’t be bred. Their loss!! She’s a hoot.


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    On down the highway and getting closer to Alva, the traveler will find a fenced off area on the south side of the road with an artesian well pumping thousands of gallons of mineral water a minute. Health concious people from all over bring water jugs to fill with the crystal clear water. And for those who like Watercress sandwiches, there is a hearty crop floating in the pond made by the running water. This place is a green oasis due to the underground springs.


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    Many of the farmers in Western Oklahoma are using practices that reduce the chances of a dust bowl happening again. Using ‘No Till” farming, they plant rows of a new crop in the stubble of the previous crop without turning and exposing the dirt. This new crop of soybeans is pretty and green, but if you notice the grasses in the foreground, I am wondering how long they will stay that way. We saw no irrigation going on.


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    An antique Chevy? I suppose you could say it literally got “driven into the dirt”?


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    Coming into the town of Alva, many of the buildings and homes have a Swedish and German look to them due to the influence of the large number of immigrant families who settled the area. Also, Alva was home to a WWII prison camp for German war prisoners. Many of them loved the area so much that they stayed and made Alva their home after the war.


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    Drilling new oil wells in and around the town and in the entire area, is nothing unusual. Western Oklahoma is rich in the black stuff and is also a huge producer of natural gas.


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    We buzzed by the university


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    Alva has a beautiful little airport with concrete runways – no grass strips there! – a terminal and rows of hangars for housing small airplanes. It is also home to Vantage Plane Plastics, a world leader in the production and installation of aircraft interiors. That is where our son is employed and so aviation has become an important part of our lives! Vantage has small planes fly in from all over the world to this little town for service.


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    Of course, the son had to show us the plane that he is flying as he finishes up the requirements for a pilot’s license.


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    I got a chuckle out of the various decals I noticed decorating several of the planes. At least there weren’t any naked women!! Good boy.


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    Windmills and oil well pumps – part of the energy of Oklahoma



    It was a pleasant trip on a hot, dry weekend, and it was wonderful. Northwestern Oklahoma has an appeal and a beauty that is unique. Jump in your car and make a visit!


    Happy Traveling!



    MB
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    Fresh Coconut Pie – How to Crack A Coconut

    Thursday, July 14th, 2011





    Fresh Coconut Pie




    Coconuts have always held a fascination for me. They’re like big, round, oversized Brazil nuts with hair and if you look at them square on, they look like little spider monkey faces! My father used to bring home coconuts for us to open, letting each of us 4 girls crunch on a chunk of the white meat as we watched him crack the next ones. Mom would deal with the rest, grating it and freezing it for use in baked products. It had to be baked because my father was dangerously allergic to fresh coconut and fresh coconut milk. But he liked coconut as long as it was cooked.


    Fresh coconut has a totally different taste from commercially shredded and bagged. It is crunchier, lighter tasting and not very sweet, hence sugar on the bagged stuff. I found some coconuts on sale at our local grocery for 50¢ each and so I grabbed three. Fresh coconut pie was calling my name. Mr. Fix-It loves coconut pie, so what better way to impress him than to make it straight from the tree?!


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    Mr. Fix-It assumed the responsibility of cracking open my grocery prizes and poked the “eyes” with a washed nail setter to open holes for the juice to escape. It’s a “He-Man” job after all.


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    Pouring the coconut milk into a container



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    As I counseled him to wrap each coconut in a towel before tapping with a hammer, (well, that’s the way WE did it when I was growing up) he gave me that “I dun’ need no stinkin’ towel” look. He proceeded to break the heavy hulls of the nuts in several places and proudly pointed out that he had not sent pieces flying. OK, so he’s good, but if you want to save a mess, wrap your whole coconut in a towel before breaking.


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    By sliding a table knife between the shell and the meat, the meat easily pops out with some of the shell membrane still attached.


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    Using a paring knife, peel off remaining shell – only don’t do it like Mr. Fix-It, who is cutting toward himself!!


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    Using a hand grater or the grating wheel on your food processor, grate coconut.


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    Strain coconut in a colander to catch any extra "milk". You can store the grated coconut in ziploc bags for a couple of days, or you can freeze it until you are ready to use it. I sprinkle a little sugar over the coconut before I store it. Now you're ready to make a pie! Here is the recipe:


    Fresh Coconut Cream Pie

  • Baked 9 inch pie shell (for my recipe see Pie Crust Mix)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup corn starch
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups milk (a combination of the coconut milk and cows milk)
  • 4 egg yolks lightly beaten
  • 3 tbsp butter softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cup fresh, grated coconut
  • whipped cream or Cool Whip
  • 1/3 cup fresh coconut – toasted
  • (optional) grated chocolate


  • Printable Recipe



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    Bake a pie shell and set aside to cool


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    Put the sugar, cornstarch and salt into a saucepan that is not heating.


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    Pour coconut milk into a large measuring cup and finish to level 3 cups with cows milk.


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    Pour the milk mixture into the saucepan and stir until sugar and cornstarch are dissolved.


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    Beat egg yolks and add to the saucepan, stirring mixture to fully incorporate


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    Bring mixture to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly to keep from sticking and from getting lumpy. As mixture thickens, let boil one minute.


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    Remove from heat and stir in butter…


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    and flavorings


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    Add coconut


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    Stir coconut into filling mixture


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    Pour filling into pie shell


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    Cover with plastic wrap and tap with your hand so that wrap touches the filling. Place in the frig to cool for at least 2 hours.


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    Remove from frig and cover with whipped cream or cool whip and sprinkled with toasted coconut.


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    For an extra zing, add grated chocolate. It’s a Mounds Bar flavor!


    Happy Baking!



    MB
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    Canning Beef Stew

    Tuesday, July 12th, 2011





    Don’t Just Stew

    About It!!



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    How hot is it? It is so hot in Oklahoma the snakes are looking for air conditioning and they’re cold blooded!! It so hot here that the nectarines are going straight from the tree into jars as jam. It’s so hot that the Gila Monsters have moved to Oklahoma from the Mohave Desert because it’s warmer here! Yeah, we’re setting records.


    The disturbing news for the rest of you is what this is doing to part of your food supply. Grain and cotton crops have simply burned up, causing both to rise in price. As a result, grain is becoming cost prohibitive for ranchers for their livestock. Grass is gone and so many ranchers are having to resort to expensive hay as well. I just talked with a friend, in south-central Oklahoma, who owns a very large cattle ranch and she said they are preparing to sell their entire herd of cows. She said the cows are losing weight so fast that they must be sold this week or she and her family will take an even worse beating. There is no grass and there is no water. I see cheap beef in the grocery stores in the shortrun, from ranchers selling off herds, and a shortage of beef/high prices in the longrun, so plan accordingly!!


    One would think that in this furnace that is the midwest, one wouldn’t even think of hot meals. But planning ahead is the stuff that makes us prairie folk able to contend with the unexpected. Using garden staples that have managed to survive to can foods for the winter is a great way to use these days indoors. I have been finding beef on sale and so, I’ve been putting up a Fall and Winter supply of beef stew, a veritable meal in a jar! Just open a jar, heat the stew in a pot, mix up a batch of cornbread and you’ve got supper! And if the electricty goes out in one of our famous ice storms, the wood stove or the grill make perfect heat sources for a pot of stew accompanied by bread or crackers.


    So here is how I do my beef stew for Mr. Fix-It. He loves having this around because he can fix it himself!


    Canned Beef Stew


  • 10 lbs meat cut into 1″ cubes
  • 4 1/2 lbs fresh, chopped, mixed vegetables
  • (carrots, celery, potatoes, onion, etc)

  • 1 tblsp garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • 1 Lg Bay Leaf
  • 1 – 2 tablespoons beef bouillon granules
  • 1 pgk brown gravy mix
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cups corn starch
  • salt to taste
  • (optional) 1/2 cup red wine or burgandy


  • Printable Recipe

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    Pat 10 lbs of meat dry with paper towel. I use either chuck roast or rump roast, depending on what’s on sale. Today I’m using chuck roast.


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    This is a rump roast. If you will notice, the chuck roast has more fat and more loss, but it is also more flaky.


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    Cut meat into cubes


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    Remove fat and membranes by lifting as you cut underneath. As you lift, this gives more area to slice under the membrane or fat and also helps to release them from the meat.


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    Lightly salt the meat


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    Add a little of the meat at a time to a very large stock pot that is on medium heat. Brown and add more meat until most meat cubes are lightly browned on at least one side. Juices will begin releasing.


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    Add 4 1/2 pounds of mixed veggies. I am using potatoes, carrots, onions and celery. You can use whatever amounts of each that you prefer and you can add other vegetables according to taste.


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    Add water to cover


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    Add garlic powder


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    Add thyme


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    Add bay leaf


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    Add beef bouillon


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    Mix package of brown gravy with 1/2 cup water and add to the stew, stirring. At this point, if you like wine or burgandy in your beef stew, add 1/2 cup. Mr. Fix-It likes his without.


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    Cover and allow to simmer vigorously 1 hour, adding water to keep at the same level and stirring occassionally to keep from sticking.


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    Mix 1/2 cup corn starch with one cup of cold water. I start out with this much and add more if I need more thickening. I usually wind up using 3/4 cup corn starch with 1 1/2 cup water, however, I like to start out with less and adding more if needed. Do not make the broth too thick. It can always be reduced after opening a jar and bringing to a boil. If you get your broth too thick, it will thicken more in the processing and will become way too thick.


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    Stir continually as you pour into boiling stew broth to keep from lumping.


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    Find and remove bay leaf. Place stew into jars, dividing broth evenly between jars. Leave 1″ headspace.


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    Using a canning spatula or knife, remove any air bubbles by running around the inside perimeter of the jars.


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    Wipe the rims of the jars to remove any juices or oils


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    Add lids that have been warming in a pan of nearly boiling water


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    Add rings, tightening and then backing off just a hair


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    Place jars into canner, cover and process for 1 hour 30 minutes for quarts and 1 hour 15 minutes for pints at 10 lbs of pressure


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    Meanwhile, place all the trimmings into a pot and cover with water. Boil until trimmings are cooked down to very tender, continually adding water as needed. Strain broth from the trimmings and add broth to pint jars. Add 1/2 tsp salt to each pint and process with any extra jars of beef stew to make canned beef broth.


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    Place trimmings, a carrot and about 1/4 cup oatmeal into food processor or blender and turn into a puree. You can put this into jars too, with extra water, leaving 1 inch of head space to can. Or you can freeze it. Use it as canned dog food! Nothing has been wasted.




    Happy Canning!



    MB
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    Varmints

    Saturday, July 9th, 2011





    Gives A Whole New

    Meaning To Baby Rattle




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    Good grief. A good Okie can’t go barefooted around these parts anymore!! In all the years I’ve lived in the OKC area, I’ve never seen a poisonous snake on our acreage until last year. Now, we have this creepy pigmy rattler show up at the front door and he was trying to come in without so much as an invitation!! Last year, Mr. Fix-It almost stepped on one, if you will remember. Tonight, he was coming to the door and saw this one trying to slither in. Well, as you can see, the varmint didn’t make it very far. Let that be a lesson to anybody who tries to come in without askin’! :-)


    Happy Hunting!



    MB
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    Ham Spread From Your Canned Ham

    Friday, July 8th, 2011





    Ham Spread From Your

    Canned Ham




    In the previous cannng post, I showed you how I can leftover ham from a fully cooked shank, butt or whole ham. I thought that I would show you a couple of things that I do with that cooked ham. Today, I’ll demonstrate how I use a jar of canned ham to make ham spread – or as we in the south call it: Potted Meat. I always kid Mr. Fix-It, who loves ham spread, that it looks like it is pre-chewed. I guess that you can chop it as chunky as you like, but Mr. Fix-It likes it totally pre-chewed!


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    First, I open a pint jar of canned ham, drain it of all liquid and put the meat into my food processor. You can also do this with a hand chopper, a knife or carefully in your blender if you like.


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    I add 1/4 cup of chopped celery


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    Add 3 to 4 tablespoons of mayonnaise (Depending on how moist you want it and I use light) with 2 teaspoons of regular mustard


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    Next I add two tablespoons of sweet pickle relish


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    I process all these ingredients together until I have a spread. You do not have to chop yours up as fine. In fact, if you would prefer larger chunks of ham, process the other ingredients first and then add the ham to pulse just until chopped. BTW, sometimes, instead of canning the ham, I process it as the deviled ham spread here and can that in 8 oz jars for 1 hour and 15 minutes at 10 lbs pressure. It’s pretty nifty to have on hand to open in a pinch.


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    Mr. Fix-It likes it one of two ways: Either on Ritz crackers or spread on whole wheat bread, with lettuce and tomato. All you have to chew is the crackers or the bread and trimmings!! :-)


    Happy Hamming!



    MB
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    Making New Friends

    Thursday, July 7th, 2011





    Making New Friends




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    Today, I did something out of the ordinary and it really made life fun and interesting! I met someone with whom I had only spoken online!! On the Mary Jane Butters’ forums, women from across the world talk Farmgirl talk and share ideas, recipes, sorrows and joys. It is a wonderful community of wonderful women.


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    And so, another Oklahoma Farmgirl, through the forums, connected with me and we finally decided to meet. The Inspirations Tea Room, in Edmond, Oklahoma, seemed the perfect place to do that. It is a step back into the quieter and more genteel days of the Victorian age where one is pampered to the max. Fresh strawberry/banana scones, drizzled in a glaze icing alongside creamy, lemon curd started the meal, followed by our choices of hot tea and a meal fit for a queen.


    We learned so much about each other and found that we have tons in common. And we are both still old Girl Scouts at heart! All in all, it was a wonderful lunch and time spent together. I now have a new friend and look forward to more time spent in Farmgirl pursuits! Thanks for a neat day, Marsha! I’m humming that old Girl Scout song:

    ♪♪ Make new friends
    But keep the old -
    One is silver and the other gold ♪♪



    Happy Friday!



    MB
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