Waxing Commercial Cheese

October 10th, 2013

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Mission Main Street Grants

Waxing Poetic

You know I can’t resist a sale,
And so begins this shopping tale.
I found a bargain sure to please,
A dollar for a block of cheese!

I purchased 12 and paid my dough.
I hurried home to a problem, though.
What would I do with 12 blocks of cheese?
‘Cause they’re not great if them you freeze.

I’ve showed you how your cheese may can,
But something new seemed like a plan.
And so I researched what to do
And saw, myself, if it was true.

I followed directions to a ‘T’
Which t’ain’t a normal thing for me.
Voila! Now a new way to stow ‘em!
And I waxed that cheese as I wrote this poem.

And so you see (you’ve got to get it!)
It’s obvious I waxed, poetic!!

No groans from the peanut gallery out there!! I can’t resist a little verse…a very little verse! I thought that I would show you, step-by-step how to preserve cheese that you find on sale. Mine has been sitting at room temperature for four months now and we are using it regularly. Mr. Fix-It likes this cheese on crackers and sandwiches because as it sits, it ages. Now it tastes like expensive, aged, sharp cheese. But first, I’d like to remind you about the giveaway going on.

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Just be sure to leave a comment below in the comment section and you’ll be entered to win our fry bread mix and a package of our blueberry scones (complete with a can of real, Maine wild blueberries). The drawing will be October 18th.

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OK. Back to cheese. Any brand of cheese will work, but I happened to find the REALLY cheap kind. I grabbed mild cheddar, provolone and longhorn. All are relatively mind flavored cheeses so that when they age, they don’t become too sharp.

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I cut the blocks in half to make 4 oz blocks for easier waxing.

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Carefully wipe each block with white vinegar to clean. If you do not have vinegar, you can use a brine mixture of 1 tsp salt to 1 cup of water.

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Place the cheese blocks onto cookie sheets, wax paper or paper towels and allow to dry for 48 hours. You can turn the cheese if it is not on racks. I am using metal cookie racks here, but I think that plastic racks would be better. The metal can rust or oxidize and leave lines on the cheese. I am purchasing some plastic racks for future use.

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After the cheese has dried, using paper towels or cheese cloth, wipe excess oil off of each block.

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I melted the wax in a double boiler. You can purchase cheese wax online at the New England Cheese Making Supply. The wax is supposed to get as hot as possible to kill any spores and the only way to get it really hot is to put the pan directly on the stove eye on high, but that is very dangerous as the wax can catch fire or even explode. Plus, you can really get burned. So I did some research and many people are using a double boiler and getting it hot with boiling water beneath it. It is the safest way and seems to work fine. You can make a double boiler, if you don’t have one, by placing an empty tuna can in the bottom of a sauce pan, filling the pan with water and then placing a smaller pan onto the tuna can to keep it from dropping down into the first pan.

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Or, you can use an old cake pan, fill it with water and set your pot into the water. By the way, I went to our local Big Lots and bought this sauce pan for $3. I just keep the wax in it and let it harden after melting to use the next time, adding more as I need. To store, I keep the lid on it so that no dirt gets inside.

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When the cheese is hot to almost boiling or boiling, dip one end of each of your cheese blocks into the wax to halfway up.

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Turn the blocks to the undipped sides and let them rest to harden

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It only takes about a minute for the wax to harden where you can touch it. Pick the cheese up by the wax end and dip the unwaxed end. Place the block onto the end with the hardened wax so that the new wax can harden. Continue this process until you have waxed each end four to five times.

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Place the waxed cheese in a container and into a room that is dark and cool or into a pantry where it can be easily accessed. Every few days, turn the cheese to a different side. Sometimes, the cheese will weep oil or water. It is still ok to use. I found that storing it on paper towels or cheese cloth helped absorb any weeping. Also, in some cases, the wax will thin and so you will need to wipe it clean and dip the block a couple of more times. If you see a dark patch under the wax, it is probably mold which is the result of a pin sized hole or other disturbance of the wax surface. You can use that cheese immediately, washing it and cutting off the molded part.

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When you decide to use a block, use a knife to pry one end of wax off of the cheese. The rest just lifts off. Wash the wax in hot, soapy water and be sure that any pieces of cheese and oil are removed. Put the wax into your wax pan to reuse on your next batch.

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The cheese can be grated

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It can also be sliced or cut into cubes. Because it is sharper, it is also drier. So there you go!! Now you can wax poetic too….and if you want to send me your poems, I put them up at the blog! :-)
Don’t forget to leave a comment to enter the giveaway!

Happy Waxing!

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How to Offend A Coffee Aficionado And A Giveaway!

October 2nd, 2013

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Two For Tea?

When I was young, it didn’t take me long to figure out that Europeans were first introduced to coffee by the tribes in South America in order to stunt their growth and make them less of a threat to said tribes. I mean, really, if you coffee drinkers were honest, you would admit that you would have been at least six inches taller with better muscle tone, if you had not daily ingested multiple cups of that horrible stuff.

Yes, I hate coffee. For something that smells so good in the morning as it perks, how in the world can it taste so close to burnt and bitter dirt? I can’t really say that I’ve ever tasted burnt and bitter dirt, but I can imagine what it tastes like and that is exactly how coffee strikes my taste buds.

I’ve had quite a number of people tell me, “Well, it is an acquired taste.” Why? Why would I want to try over and over to choke down a hot liquid in order to acquire a taste for burnt and bitter dirt? I mean, I won’t eat raw oysters, either, and the only difference there is that they don’t taste burnt or bitter – just dirty.

I can’t even stand coffee IN anything. Put it in a cake and call it Tiramisu? Are you kidding? Why ruin perfectly good pound cake? And coffee toffee? Bleh. If I’m going to pull my teeth out on candy, give me a caramel any day!!

I suppose that you have figured out that I don’t order any Caramel Toffee Pumpkin Spice Mocha Macchiato Vanilla Frappucino Vinte Lattes at any of those hoity toity Dobie Gillis Coffee House wannabes. (For those of you not older than the dirt that coffee tastes like, that would be the Dobie Gillis 1950’s television show.) No. I am a tea drinker and I am a persnickety tea drinker. I don’t like just any ol’ tea. My favorite two teas are our Irish Breakfast Tea and our ultimate Oklahoma Prairie Wedding Tea. The first one is a rich, dark, full-bodied organic tea with just a hint of natural sweetness and the latter is a light black tea infused with Kiwi, Raspberry, Strawberry and Mango flavors. Yum. They so totally beat dirt three times over.

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So, the other evening I got a little crazy. I’ve seen what you coffee drinkers do to your coffees with the whipped cream and gently sprinkled spices or cinnamon sticks. I’ve always assumed that it is to keep from having to taste how really awful the stuff is. But as I was reaching for some cream to put into my cup of tea the other night, my eye fell onto a can of Real Whip hanging out on a tray in the door of the refrigerator. I grabbed that can and contemplated my next move. A pretty swirl of whipped cream wrapped around the surface of my tea and I lightly sprinkled cinnamon and nutmeg over the swirls. Oh my gosh. That was the most incredible tea I’ve ever had. Yummy. It could have been dessert!

So there you go. If you want to try something tasty, just relax one night with a lovely cup of tea and gild the lily. Who knows? Start drinking tea instead of coffee and you might catch up to the height you should have been in the first place!!

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And while you’re at it, leave a comment below to enter our October Giveaway. On October 18th we’ll draw a name out of the hat and the lucky winner will receive our luscious New England Cupboard blueberry scones mix (with a can of real, wild Maine blueberries!) and a package of our new frybread mix. Two treats from two cultures! And you can enjoy them with a cup of spiffed up tea – or – if you really, really feel you have to do it, with a cup of coffee. Good luck!!

Happy Sipping!

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Smoked Gouda Chicken Pasta

September 15th, 2013

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Mission Main Street Grants

Summer’s End

I think that all of us have to admit that this has been a strange summer, weatherwise. Thankfully, our normally three digit temps did not appear, however, three monstrous tornadoes – one right after the other – destroyed much of our local landscape. Fires and floods in other parts of the nation have wreaked all kinds of havoc and our prayers go out for those in Colorado who are struggling through some of those floods, right now, after having to endure fires. Abnormally cool temperatures up north have kept places like Alaska in igloo conditions. But now, the days are growing shorter and there is a different feeling in the air. County fairs are popping up and the sound of college football, with its background of cheering fans, dominates the television on Saturdays.

Fall used to always be hard for me. No joke. It seems that everything bad that happened, occurred in the FAll. For the longest time, when that crispness in the air appeared and the tell-tale muted sunlight of autumn days rose, I would get this feeling of dread in the pit of my stomach – a heaviness of spirit if you will. But that has since passed and now the Fall is my favorite time of year with Spring my second choice. I can’t wait for Thanksgiving and I so enjoy the baking, canning and preparation that I do like a squirrel storing up nuts for the winter! I’ve included a recipe for one of those meals below.

I’ve decided to give you a peek into one of those “bad” Autumns so that you might get a little picture into my ready-for-psychiatric-research psyche. Perhaps you won’t find me so strange after all. And then again, this story may make me that much more strange!! Read on.

It was the end of August of 1992. I was 38 years old, skinny, full of energy and the mother of two young children. My sister and her family had invited us to Dallas, from Mt. Pleasant, TX, to join them at Six Flags Over Texas. The kids were excited. I was ready for a fun day. And it was fun…that is…until we hit the kiddie ferris wheel (emphasis here on “kiddie”). My daughter, all of 11 years old, begged me to ride with her and so I hopped beside her in a swinging chair and watched as the safety bar was lowered over our midsections. Shortly thereafter, the gears ground, the music started and we were lifted probably a whopping one and a half stories into the air. As we came to the highest point, open swing rocking and pitching, I discovered, for the first time in my life, that I am afraid of heights. And I don’t just mean “close your eyes and don’t look” afraid of heights. I mean “scream in abject terror and beg for mercy” afraid of heights. I began to hyperventilate. I started to cry. My heart raced and I gulped for air between screams emitted through clenched teeth. My daughter grabbed my arm and tried to soothe me. She looked genuinely stunned and dismayed – not embarrassed that her mother needed a straight jacket and an ambulance waiting at the foot of the ride. My family members in the crowd below, however, looked like they wanted to change their names and claim no acquaintance with the crazy woman who was unraveling on the kiddie ride.

When the ride finally stopped, I fell out of the chair, onto my knees, and struggled to stand. My makeup was a mess but that was no comparison to my mental well-being. My daughter led me to find our family which had scattered in embarrassment and someone brought me a Coca-Cola to fill me with caffeine and make me crazier. I finally gathered my wits and returned to a state of calm, trying to laugh off my apparent phobia. We moved on to food and more fun. We knew not to put me on anymore rides that went more than a foot off of the ground.

I know. You are thinking, “So?” I understand. But that isn’t the end of it. We continued our Six Flags experience and as darkness descended, my niece indicated that, as a last ride, she wanted to do the Splash Water Falls, a ride that sends a boat down a steep slide to hit, bow first into a deep pool of water, sending a wall of water over a walk bridge that acts as the exit for the ride. Those standing on the bridge, at just the right location, get drenched by water cascading over them. I was actually able to handle that ride and even enjoyed it as we plummeted into the water. I’m thinking that it had to do with the idea that falling into the water is safer and less painful than spatting onto concrete from the height of a ferris wheel. My children and I exited our boat and climbed to the bridge to watch my sister and niece take their turn. I pressed way against the back, concrete wall to avoid the water that would inevitably come from their trip. My daughter ran forward to the railing to get a better look. In a series of actions that could only have taken seconds, I first realized that my daughter would be soaked (and would soak the car as well, since we were leaving immediately). I then ran forward to attempt to pull her back as I called out for her to move. She moved. But I was caught in the very center of the width of the bridge. That wall of water came over the top of the structure, full force, hitting me squarely in the chest, picking me up off my feet and tossing me like a rag doll against that back concrete wall and then onto my back on the concrete walkway. All of the air was knocked out of my lungs and I gasped, looking, I am sure, like a goldfish poured out of its bowl, flopping in a huge puddle of water. There was not one inch of me that was dry. Did I mention that I had on white cotton shorts and a white cotton t-shirt? I’ll leave you to imagine the result of soaking white cotton. The guy running the ride and a number of visitors ran to help me up. I could see, “Lawsuit” written all over the poor Six Flag employee’s face. Down below, my entire family was rolling on the ground laughing so hard that they couldn’t even get up the stairs to help me. They didn’t stop laughing until they realized that they hadn’t gotten a video of the whole incident to win $10,000 on America’s Funniest Home Videos.

I headed back to Mt. Pleasant, beaten, bruised and assured that my children were going to be advertising for a new, less embarrassing mother. And again, you say, “So? What’s so bad that you would hate Fall?” I’m not finished.

The following week, still literally blue and smarting from my tumble and embarrassed by my fits of hysteria, I went about my normal work which included taking care of our pet raccoon. Rascal the Raccoon had shown up at our home as an unweaned baby whose mommy had been hit by a car while he was clinging to her back. We took him in and nursed him, bottle feeding him to weaning. Rascal readily accepted house training like a cat and soon had run of our home.

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Rascal loved to hide under the couch and grab feet – human or dog – as they strolled by

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Rascal and our Australian Shephard/Border Collie cross, Jenny, played like the best of friends

A couple of days after the trip to Texas, I let Rascal out for a stroll. He was still pretty tiny and so I watched him carefully because I did not want him climbing into one of the huge trees of Northeast Texas. Of course, the first thing that he did was head for the biggest of those trees. I called out to Rascal and walked quickly to retrieve him from the tree trunk, not seeing the large tree root in front of me. The tip of my toe clipped under that tree root and I pitched forward. I tried to catch myself on my left leg, but my leg twisted so that my foot was inward as I continued to fall forward. The sound of a large tree branch snapping echoed through the Fall air as I hit the ground and I noticed that the lower half of my left leg, about 8 inches below my knee was laying in the totally opposite direction of the rest of my leg. It wasn’t a tree branch that had snapped. It was the bones in my leg. I did what any normal person would do. I screamed and screamed for help. And I reached down and picked up the wayward portion of my leg and tried to put it in the right position. Bad idea. My poor, stoic 11 year old daughter was the only person home and she came running out to see what had happened. She quickly assessed the situation, called a neighbor and brought me two ibuprofen and a glass of water without me asking. I was too in shock to know what I needed!! My neighbors arrived and slid a cutting board under my leg, securing it by wrapping and wrapping with a horse lead rope and then slid a blanket under me. They took corners of the blanket and lifted me to a car seat where I passed out. Two surgeries and a $20,000 hospital bill later, a year and a half of physical therapy and the leftover scars and arthritis of 3 plates with 13 screws, I walked out of the physical therapist’s office one Spring, relieved that I would not be a cripple the rest of my life.

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Rascal’s favorite perch

Rascal finally grew up and wandered off to find a woman Raccoon, but he left us with an unlimited list of funny stories and precious memories. He was a wild raccoon and needed to go back to his habitat. We eased him from his home life to the great outdoors and he finally did not need us anymore.

So there is an example of ONE of my bad Autumns. As I have said, those memories are a distant past and now I can’t wait until I see our first scorpion – emphasis on the word SEE – because we know that Fall is just weeks away. I start getting the urge to cook heartier meals and fill the house with the smells of baking. Here is a recipe that I came up with to use our Shawnee Mills Country Gravy Mix for a hearty, lower calorie pasta meal (I’m on a diet you know) and Mr. Fix-It, my critic, gave it a two thumbs up.

Smoked Gouda Chicken Pasta


3 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbs butter
1 lb chicken breasts cut into strips
1/2 lb ground Italian sausage or 1/2 lb ground pork mixed with salt, pepper and fennel seed
8 large shrimp, shelled
6 large mushrooms, sliced
1 – 2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
1 pkg Shawnee Mills Country Gravy Mix or Peppered Gravy Mix prepared according to directions
1/2 to 1 cup chopped tomatoes, fresh or canned (depending on your taste)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp oregano
1 tbsp. chopped red sweet pepper
1 cup smoked gouda cheese, grated
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
4 cups cooked bowtie pasta

Printable Recipe


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Prepare Shawnee Mills Gravy mix according to directions. As 1 1/2 cups water is heating, add tsp garlic powder and oregano to the 1/2 cup water and powdered mix.

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When gravy has thickened add tomatoes

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And add chopped peppers

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Add gouda and parmesan cheeses. Stir until cheeses are incorporated, cover with lid and set aside onto warm eye.

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Toss chicken and shrimp with Cajun seasoning. Separate chicken from shrimp. Add 2 tbsps. olive oil and 2 tbsps. butter to skillet and heat skillet to smoking. I am using a cast iron skillet here because I think it is best for a blackened meat. Put chicken into skillet and sauté until browned with black areas. Add shrimp and toss until no longer opaque.

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Add sausage and chop and stir until crumbles are cooked all the way through.

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Place meats into a bowl and put into the oven that has been preheated to warm or put into a warming oven if you have one.

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Return the skillet to the heat and add mushrooms to the skillet. Stir fry, constantly stirring.

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Cook mushrooms until browned and add to bowl of meats. Toss to mix.

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Prepare pasta in salted boiling water with a tablespoon of olive oil added. Drain well. Stir gravy sauce and slowly add to the pasta, stirring to coat until pasta is covered according to your tastes.

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Spoon pasta and sauce onto 4 plates and divide meat and mushrooms to top each plate of pasta. Drizzle leftover sauce over the meats and then garnish with grated gouda and parmesan cheese with chopped tomatoes. Serve with garlic bread and a salad.

So there’s a Fall meal for you! Hope you are ready to dive into this year’s season like I am!!!

Happy Cooking!

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Chocolate Scones

August 27th, 2013

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The English Tea

Never Had It So


First order of business….I forgot to announce that we had a winner on the 17th of the month. We drew a name out of the hat for the Red Gold Tomato apron and Jalapeno Ketchup and reader, Jonni from Kentucky is our winner. She has been notified and responded with surprise and her address. Congratulations, Jonni!!

Now, I have an admission to make. I’m on a diet. Yep, I am. I’ve been on one since March but when one has thyroid disease, a diet feels pretty much pointless. Your metabolism ceases to exist and a stalk of celery adds 10 pounds to the waistline!! Actually, LOOKING at a stalk of celery adds 10 pounds to the waistline. It’s just a little depressing. Having been one who has always loved to cook and to eat what I cook, it’s been a difficult journey over this past year and a half, but there IS a tunnel and I’m seeing a light at the end of it!! I’ve lost 17 pounds! I still have a ways to go, but that’s a real achievement for me!!

And in that tunnel, there has actually been food – really good food! I have discovered that no matter what fad diet is out there – eating blue or red foods, Atkins, South Beach, HCG, low carb, high carb, low protein, high protein, juicing, you name it – the reality is that the secret to losing weight is this formula: Calories In minus Calories Out. That’s it. So the way that I track that is by a free website called SparkPeople.com. It is wonderful. It even gives me a pie chart to try to match my perfect amounts of fat, carbs and proteins per day. And I get to eat whatever I want. It is the Dave Ramsey course in calorie budgeting! I have my 1200-1300 calories to spend and it is my choice how I spend them. If I make up a recipe, I can enter the exact recipe and how many servings I get out of it. The site then figures up all of the nutritional info plus calories per serving. Then, I can put a serving into my daily budget easy as pie. Well, sorry, didn’t mean to be thinking about pie.

So today, was my baking day. I always keep something sweet in the freezer for me and Mr. Fix-It to enjoy in the evening with a cup of one of our tasty teas. I usually bake some type of scone or cookie to be heated in the toaster oven. I leave 200 calories open for that possibility. This afternoon, I made my usual round of cranberry scones and still had 1/2 cup of heavy cream left. I thought, “Hmmm. I wonder what would happen if I added cocoa and chocolate chips to the basic scones recipe?” I guess you know that I had to try.

I did. Yummy!! Chocolate scones. I have a feeling that High Tea in England does not include chocolate scones, but here in America, we believe in chocolate in everything!! So here is the recipe that I concocted. They are a true English scone – heavy and flaky – but have a little bit of the flavor of an American brownie. And they are 186 calories each! I stayed under my 200 calories and so I am one happy camper. So here you go. If you want detailed instructions on making scones, you can hop over to that post at English Scones.

Double Chocolate Scones

2 cups unbleached flour or all purpose
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa
7 Tbsp cold butter cut into cubes
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg white (reserve the yolk)
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tbsp. half and half

1/2 Tbsp butter melted
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Just enough milk to mix into a medium-thin glaze

Printable Recipe

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Preheat oven to 400º. In a mixing bowl, add flour, cocoa and butter that has been cut into cubes. Either by hand with a pastry cutter, or with a mixer, cut butter into the flour mixture, until the mixture is like tiny crumbs. Add sugars, salt and baking powder. Mix. Add the chocolate chips and mix.

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Add the cream, vanilla and egg white and mix until a very stiff dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Divide dough in half and put onto a floured surface – you need an Oklahoma Pastry Cloth™ here!! Pat out first half to about a 4″ circle. Cut into 8 triangles. Repeat with the second half. Place scones onto a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper. Mix leftover egg yolk with 2 tbsps. half and half and brush the tops of the scones with the mixture. Bake at 400º for 13 minutes or until done. While scones are baking, mix melted butter, powdered sugar and milk to make a glaze. Dip tops of scones into the glaze and place onto a cookie rack.

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Serve the scones warm. I bet raspberry jam would be great with these!! This picture is of the two different scones that I made this afternoon. Oh! And the china is my grandmother’s Thomas Ivory Bavarian china, made by the Rosenthal company, that my grandfather bought in Germany during WWII – paid for with cigarettes!!

Happy Baking!

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Bull Shoals – A Little Place Of Heaven

August 23rd, 2013

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God’s Creation

Mr. Fix-It and I just got back from our favorite place in the whole world. It’s simple. It’s lovely. It’s laid back. And it’s cheap!! (That’s the best part) We love to visit the Bull Shoals, Arkansas area which includes Cotter, Flippin, Mountain Home, Fairview and Lakeview. We stay in various places whenever we go but our favorite place to stay is in a tent at the Bull Shoals State Park campground. What a gorgeous place to be!! The deer are so numerous that you can nearly walk up to pet them and the White River is cool, quiet and serene as fly fishermen silently cast their lines to snag hungry trout. It’s just God’s Creation at its best.

We only spent a few days in the area and actually stayed at an historic and popular resort called Gastons White River Resort since our stay was so short. We plan on going back in the Fall to camp for a longer time. But I thought that I would post some photos of the area just for you to enjoy.

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First of all, I bet it’s been a long time since you’ve seen one of these at a motel! Gastons is still using keys for the doors to their cabins. Kinda quaint – and Psycho-like. :-)

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We woke up to this scene out of our window. It just did my heart good.

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We skipped over to Cotter for a few hours. The spring there and the park are just so pleasant. This is the Cotter Bridge which was built in the 1930′s.

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The dam at Bull Shoals was built in the 1940′s and harnesses the White River for electricity, as well as for Bull Shoals lake, a huge recreational lake that spans Arkansas and Missouri.

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On one side of the dam is Bull Shoals Lake

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And on the other side of the dam is the White River. I’ll give you three guesses why they call it the White River!

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On our exploration, we had to stop the car in the road to allow this aimless wanderer time to mosey across without a care in the world.

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In the town of Bull Shoals, I caught this advertisement and thought it was a hoot. Pretty creative!!

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There has been so much rain in Arkansas that the flowers are gorgeous. The drought seems to be over in that part of the state, anyway. This hibiscus was spectacular.

If you get a chance to head down Bull Shoals’ way, you should! And bring a tent for camping at the state park! (who needs a big, expensive camper!?) You might even get a raccoon or two to join you for dinner!

Happy Changes!

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A Winner, A New Give Away and A New Recipe for Your Canned Meats!

August 8th, 2013

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Quick and Tasty

Enchiladas From Your


On August 1st, we drew a name out of the hat and Frankie, from Silver Spring, Maryland, won the gift certificate to the Grangeville Rose Tea Room and Emporium. The gift certificate has been mailed to her sister, who lives right here in Oklahoma City, as an early birthday present. Lucky her!! And so, another Okie will get to experience the lovely atmosphere of our newest tea room. Congratulations Frankie and sister, Liz. And thank you to all who entered the drawing.

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Now, we have a new giveaway. Red Gold Tomatoes, the best canned tomatoes in the world (if you can’t do your own!!) has sent me a couple of items that I thought I would give away to a lucky reader. On August 21st, we will be giving away this Red Gold Apron and a bottle of their Mama Selita’s Jalopeno Ketchup. Just comment at the blog and you will be entered. Plus, Red Gold Tomatoes is having their own celebration. I will post here exactly what my letter from them says:

“Come join our Red Gold Summer Grillin’ Party that will run from July 24th through August 30th on Facebook — #RGParty. During this period, we will share our new RG Tomato Grillers Recipes. They are tomato-licious!…As part of this promotion, we will be giving away 1,000 Red Gold “Summertime Tomatoes All Year Long” Aprons every week via a random drawing – that’s 5,000 total winners! There will also be one grand prize winner who will win a large Big Green Egg Grill – that’s a $1,000 value. Anyone who registers for our promotion is automatically entered into both the weekly drawing and grand prize drawing. Here’sthe twist – anyone can earn additional entries into ourgrand prize drawing! For each person they refer, who opts to participate in our promotion they will earn additional entries int the grand prize drawing. Our goal is to have 150K Red Gold Facebook Fans by the end of the summer. Each week we will be releasing new recipe videos, as well as sharing summer grilling tips.”

You can also find them on Pinterest at www.pinterest.com/RedGoldTomatoes
And by the way, Red Gold is an Indiana based, 3rd generation Family-Owned company that has been making premium quality tomato products since 1942!! We need to support small businesses!! :-)

Now, on to cooking….in the past, I have shown how to can meats like chicken breasts, ground beef, sausage and etc. I even can my own chili, a recipe that I am not at liberty to share because it is not my own. However, my point is that meat is an easy staple to put up for long-term storage much longer than freezer times. Many of these meats can be bought as well, canned, off of the grocery shelf, but sometimes we are at a loss what to do with them. Here, I am going to show you a quick way to make enchiladas with your canned chicken breasts, canned chili or canned roast beef. You can even use your canned cheeses and dehydrated onions, rehydrated with water.

Easy Restaurant Style Enchiladas

You will need for 4 people:
8 – 10 White corn tortillas (yellow corn are fine but I like the lighter texture of the white corn tortillas)
Olive Oil
1 pint canned, boneless chicken breasts
1 pint canned chili or canned roast beef
1 package taco seasoning mix (I prefer Taco Bell)
1 8 oz sour cream (light is fine)
1 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese
1 cup shredded Cheddar Cheese (you can use your canned cheddar)
2 slices American Cheese (You can use your canned Velveeta)
1 small onion chopped
2 tbsp. chopped green pepper
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 jar salsa verde
1 can red enchilada sauce (not picante sauce)

Printable Recipe

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Place canned chicken breast with broth into a small sauce pan and add 1/2 pkg of taco seasoning. Stir until chicken is shredded and mixed with seasoning. Add a little water or broth if the meat is too dry. Simmer until liquid is reduced to a thick sauce. Set aside. Put 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil into a skillet and heat. Place one tortilla at a time into the hot oil and sear lightly. Turn and lift out to a paper towel to drain. Do each tortilla, placing a paper towel between each one.

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Place a line of hot, seasoned chicken mix down the center of each tortilla. Roll tightly and place on a microwaveable platter, seam side down. Repeat until desired number of chicken enchiladas is achieved.

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In a bowl, add sour cream, chopped onions, chopped green peppers, garlic powder, 1/2 cup Monterey jack cheese and salt to taste. Stir and add just enough buttermilk to make a nice, thick sauce. Spread the sour cream sauce over the chicken enchiladas, evenly.

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Spoon salsa verde down the center of the enchiladas.

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Now, with remaining tortillas, (here I am just making two for the two of us but you can make more) we will make beef enchiladas. If using canned beef, do the same as with the chicken breasts and place into a pan with the broth and 1/2 pkg of taco seasoning, simmering until hot and liquid is reduced. If using your canned chili, heat it first, cooking it down to very thick and then spoon onto the tortillas. Roll the tortillas tightly and place onto the platter with seam side down.

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Slice the American cheese into strips and lay the strips down the tops of the enchiladas. Sprinkle with a mixture of the cheddar and Monterey jack cheeses and then spoon red enchilada sauce over the top of the cheese.

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Microwave the enchiladas a length of time according to your microwave’s power level (you can carefully cover these with foil, making the foil stand up away from the enchiladas and heat in the oven) I usually microwave about 2 minutes or until the cheese is melted and sour cream sauce is hot. Remove from the microwave and sprinkle a mixture of cheddar and Monterey jack cheeses over the chicken enchiladas.

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Serve with Mexican rice and refried beans and you’ll think you are at a restaurant!

Happy Cooking!

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A Local Pampering and Giveaway

July 16th, 2013

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Shawnee’s Best Kept


For those of you who live in the area of Oklahoma City, Tulsa, Guthrie…well…all over the state of Oklahoma, or who live in Kansas or Arkansas or Texas and come to the Oklahoma City area every so often, I have discovered a diamond in the rough in our little town of Shawnee, Oklahoma that is worth your attention. Oh my goodness. It’s the Grangeville Rose Tea Room and Emporium and if you can get a day to pamper yourself, this is the place to do it.

I met the owner of this wonderful and elegant tea room, Cynthia, at the Central Oklahoma Lavender and Herb Festival as a fellow exhibitor. We chatted and shared products and she invited me and a friend of mine to come try out the tea room. Finally, on Monday, we had the opportunity to take advantage of the invitation.

The Grangeville Rose is located at 322 West MacArthur Blvd in Shawnee, Oklahoma. It is just east on MacArthur from Kickapoo and is on the north side of the road. It is kind of easy to miss because it sits back off of the road in a little strip mall and is the very first building of the mall. The large, plate glass front window is black with white lettering and you have to be looking for it. In fact, when you first see the outside, you might wonder exactly what is behind that window! But when you open the door, you are carried into a world away from your mundane life!

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A step through the front door, brings you into a little alcove that has been created to reflect the outside of an old home, complete with lovely sea green siding and wooden sashed window. Looking through the window, into the home, one sees a gorgeous, cut glass lamp framed by unusually, tailored curtains. To the left is the “front door” to the home where you enter into the tastefully decorated and luxurious dining room of an old, home – a Jane Austen home. Lights are low, soft music dances in the background and beautifully draped and decorated round tables, surrounded by high-backed chairs, are centered with floral lamps offering a gentle light for the guests. The menu reflects all things Jane Austen, including the Bingley’s Jane Austen Tea Series.

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What a surprise we got when we were served on Royal Albert Old Rose china. Absolutely beautiful. And the flatware was Wallace silver plate. What a gorgeous table was set!!

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I chose the Summer Trio for my lunch and was treated to three awesome salads – an unusual chicken salad made with grilled chicken. fruit and what tasted like maybe, sour cream, a pasta salad with the most amazing basil dressing with paper thin slices of fresh parmesan cheese, and a green salad with chef Brian’s personally created raspberry vinaigrette dressing. Brian is Cynthia’s nephew and smartly dressed in his French chef’s coat, he creates concoctions that are just to die for. Dessert was a treat of two lavender scones – yep, lavender – with apricot jam and I am here to tell you, I’ve never had a scone lighter or more delicate than these amazing morsels!! Everything was accompanied by a light, hot tea kept warm over a flaming trivet. Peach iced tea and hand-squeezed strawberry lemonaide are also available.

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A china cabinet full of delicate pieces, elegantly framed pictures, a fireplace and buffet topped with silver coffee service only adds to the Victorian ambiance of this “Longbourn” place. (you’ll have to read Pride and Prejudice)

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Gifts of Spode china, Moss Rose and other vintage items grace the shelves of the Emporium, along with hats straight out of Sense and Sensibility. And as of today, an antique wash stand, with bowl and pitcher, presents our own Prairie Blessings Soaps for sale!

Unbelievably reasonable prices, extraordinary food, a ‘high tea’ party once a month and the perfect place for a bridesmaids’ luncheon, birthday party or business lunch makes the Grangeville Rose Tea Room and Emporium a place that is worth whatever travel is required to get there! Beginning July 23rd through July 27th, the tea room will be celebrating Christmas in July, complete with decorations, gifts and special foods. “A winter Holiday respite during the hot days of summer.” For tea room hours and reservations, call 405-273-6464.

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And to make somebody’s day really, really special, I have purchased a gift certificate for an enjoyable lunch in quiet splendor. Just leave a comment below and you will be entered into a drawing for this gift certificate. Please do not enter if there is no chance that you can make it to Shawnee for this treat. We want someone to be able to truly enjoy this gift. The drawing will be held on August 1st.

Happy Dining!

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Freedom, Safety and The Royal Berkey

July 9th, 2013

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True Freedom

I have so much to say and don’t know where to begin. So much has happened over the last couple of months in our state and in our family that it gets just a little bit overwhelming. I’ll do my best to make sense and make my 1971 High School English teacher, Mrs. Carter, proud. But I have some pretty deep thoughts to share. This is going to be a little different from my other posts.

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You know that my community and others around me were devastated by three tornadoes that were so huge and powerful that very little stood up against them. Families have experienced the loss of homes, cars, personal belongings, pets and even loved ones. The immediate aftermath was a call for better safety measures….mandatory shelters in schools and homes, better warning systems and stronger homes. All across the land, “safety” has become the new “in” word. And I have to admit that sitting in our storm shelter on the night of May 19th, I felt snug, safe and strangely calm in the midst of the wind storm above me.

Then, yesterday, a video was sent to me. It had gone viral on the internet and was of a young student from my alma mater in Murfreesboro, TN who had been stopped at a DUI checkpoint, not because he was drunk, but because he was young. I think that he must have been a law student because he knew the legal terminology and the Constitution backwards and forwards. With his cell phone camera turned on and laying in the front seat, the young man recorded a most horrible and astounding episode of police intimidation, corruption and just plain meanness. At one point, one patrolman announced to the kid that the Constitution can be suspended in the name of safety. The very ones who have been charged with the duty to “keep us safe” had become people FROM whom one would want to be kept safe!

Last week was our country’s celebration of July 4th – Independence Day – the day that we set aside to remind ourselves of our escape from tyranny, of the blessed freedoms that we enjoy in this land and to think on those of the past who stood up for those freedoms. Many people, including myself, feel that a lot of those freedoms are being eroded away, but still, all-in-all, we are a people in a nation that enjoys the most freedoms of any other country in the world. Unfortunately, however, we keep giving up freedoms in the name of ‘safety’.

Ironically, in the same week as our Independence celebration, just two days prior to that day, my family experienced something that made us all feel that our freedom AND safety had been snatched right out from under us and it is taking some time to overcome that feeling. On Tuesday afternoon, shortly after 1:00 pm, in the middle of the day, my daughter, Mrs. Dance-A-Lot, drove into the driveway of her new home. She and her hubby (Mr. Guitar Guy) had moved into this house just weeks before and, though it is new and wonderful, the house isn’t quite home yet. Mrs. Dance-A-Lot had been on a special lunch date with Mr. Guitar Guy, taking a moment together while their little Miss Snicklefritz, was visiting the other grandmother and recovering from the very contagious Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease. Mrs. Dance-A-Lot had only been gone from her house for 45 minutes. As she pulled into the driveway, she noticed that her garage door was open and that a car was sitting in the drive. The door from the garage to the house was open as well and in just a matter of milliseconds she was asking herself why everything was open, whose car was in the drive and if the new pest control man was back without calling her. But then, how could he get into the house without her there? She pulled up next to the strange car to exit hers as a very large man came toward her car, carrying her laptop, with two more men attempting to carry her big screen television behind him. Of course, she and the men all jumped out of their skins at the same time and as Mrs. Dance-A-Lot slammed her car door to back out of the driveway as fast as she could, the men carrying the television dropped it behind the man with the laptop and ran to their car . My daughter was on the phone with 911 as she vamoosed out of there, heart pounding and feeling like she was in some kind of alternate universe. All she could think was, “I have to get away.”

A home full of police, fingerprint dusting and providing their own fingerprints later, my loved ones had to face a ransacked house covered in clingy, fine, black fingerprint dust, a front door that had not only been kicked in but had taken the door frame with it, some missing personal items including jewelry and electronics and a feeling that everything in their “space” had been violated. Of course, the anger set in and pretty soon, the paranoia and fear – and that affected ALL of us. All kinds of things run through your mind like, “What if they come back?” “They know what I/she looks like.” “They know what they left.” “They know that I/she can identify them and their car.” An unsettling lack of peace followed. It wasn’t helped by the fact that on July the 4th Mrs. Dance-A-Lot’s Netflix account showed that someone was watching pornography on her computer!! Just one more violation.

For a week now, many in our family and even close friends have been running through plans of what can be done to avoid this type of situation again. Alarm system companies are loving us as they are getting new orders, doors have been made more secure using the EZ ARMOR door security systems from Lowe’s (they cost $68), video cameras are being considered and discussions on what can be learned from the incident are underway. The issue of “safety” has come up again and a feeling of freedoms lost permeates conversations. And as usual, I’m looking on the bright side in the hopes that these sorry individuals are in agony with high fevers and blisters because they were exposed, in my daughter’s house, to the numerous. stuck on everything and highly contagious germs of Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease!! Would that not be sweet justice?!

Laying aside that vengeful part of my personality, it has occurred to me that all of us need to recognize something about freedom and safety that often gets overlooked. In the Declaration of Independence, those great men who wrote that great document stated that our freedoms are ordained by God. We forget that our safety is in His hands as well. Yes, bad things happen but that does not negate the fact that ultimately, our great God who is the authority over all things is our protection and our safety when push comes to shove. We can plan until doom’s day, but all the plans in the world are just man’s efforts to stop something that is totally out of his control. We can monitor every phone call from overseas and still have some nuts blow up the innocence of a marathon race. We can install burglar alarms and fire alarms only to have them irritatingly announce that our home is burning down or that burglars were quick enough to grab and run before the police could get there. We can store up food for a crisis only to have it tossed over the countryside by a tornado or burned up in a fire or spoiled by varmints of some type. We can live in the country with farm animals, gardens and fruit trees to provide our sustenance, only to have drought, bugs, accident or disease wipe out every ounce of that provision. We can use wind power, solar power and generators to offset the loss of electricity only to have God’s electricity – lightning – destroy it all. “The best-laid plans of mice and men go oft awry.” (Robert Burns) The fact is, using man’s schemes, we are never truly “safe”. If any person promises to keep you “safe” from anything, he is a liar. And if he promises you safety in exchange for your freedom, he is a tyrant.

Proverbs 28:26 says, “He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe.” And what is wisdom? “The reverence for the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” Proverbs 1:7 What kind of safety is scripture talking about? It can be physical safety, but more important, it is about spiritual safety. It is a safety from fear, unease, depression, discouragement, dread and all of the other negatives that cloud our joy and steal our peace. I have experienced moments when God has given me wisdom and warning that if I had just listened, I would have avoided a lot of physical heartache. But more important is that if I had just listened to His promise that He is my safety and salvation, I would have avoided a lot of spiritual turmoil as well.

God truly does have our best interests at heart. He is our calm in the midst of calamity, peace in the midst of chaos and joy in the midst of pain. Even when bad things happen to us, if we let Him, He keeps us “safe” from ourselves. He is the tornado shelter for our hearts that shields us from the winds of our fear and anger, the surveillance for our minds that keeps us safe from thinking we are in control and the burglar alarm for our souls that warns us of stolen joy or pilfered peace. It’s pretty amazing. “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to your life.” Mathew 6:33

As I said, a lot has happened in our state and family that has messed with our perception of “safe”. And now that it has been a week since a first experience with the nature of people who don’t understand the concept of “this ain’t yours”, it has been hammered into my brain that when all is said and done, God is in control, God is the actual Justice and God is our protection from our own worst reactions. But I have to admit, in the dark recesses of my heart, I still catch myself hoping that those three men contracted Hand, Foot and Mouth Disease and are scared to death that they have the Black Plague or something!

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But speaking of steps that you can take to better care for your family, I want to show you our wonderful, stainless steel Berkey water filter that I absolutey love. Isn’t it pretty?

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When ordering a Berkey water filter, you have a choice of charcoal or ceramic filters, as well as special ones for arsenic and flouride. We’ve had this Royal Berkey, which holds a total of 3.25 gallons of water, for three years, and the spigot makes it so handy to just keep on the counter for a quick drink. We pour new water from our well into the top half with the filters once a day and enjoy the clearest, sweetest water you can imagine. They are a little pricey, but the filters last for years if cared for properly. We did the math and determined that in the long run, the Berkey was the better deal for water filters.

So there’s my sales pitch. We don’t sell Berkeys or get a commission or even know anyone who sells the systems, so I can truthfully say that our endorsement is unbiased and for real!

Happy Filtering!

And Stay Safe!

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Canning Ground Meat

June 20th, 2013

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Steer In A Jar

Being without electricity during the tornadoes made me appreciate canned goods all the more. Once we got the generator going, things got easier, but so much of life was topsy-turvy with the destruction, mess and time demands that canned items were a blessed relief for cooking meals. My canned hamburger came in especially handy. Canned hamburger is amazing for whipping up tacos or nachos, Sloppy Joes, spaghetti, soups, casseroles and anything else that requires ground beef. It is already cooked, ready for spices and seasoning and cuts any recipe time in half. I also cook sausage loose (not in patties) to use on pizza and can the very same way. Either one is great.

We are very fortunate here to have a store called CHEFS that provides bulk purchase of just about anything you could want. Ground beef comes in 10 lb chubs for much, much cheaper than at a normal grocery store. And the meat is very high quality, less fat and ground fine. I buy several of these chubs and process the meat, winding up with around 10 pints of cooked, ground meat ready for a quick meal.

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To make sure that my jars are sterile, I use a waterbath canner to boil them in water that completely covers.

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Meanwhile, I cut the chubs into approximately one pound chunks and put them in a large bowl.

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In a large pot, I brown the hamburger a little at a time, adding about a pound at a time, until most of the ground beef is browned. It does not have to be cooked all the way through. That will continue in the processing.

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When all of the hamburger is lightly browned, a small amount at a time goes into a colander that is placed inside a large bowl. The grease is drained this way so that the meat is nice and dry and non-greasy. I place the drained hamburger in the jars and then put a little more meat into the colander to drain and so on.

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Using a canning funnel, the meat is placed into jars. I use pint jars because I can figure right at a pound of meat (weight before it was cooked) per jar and that makes it easy for use in recipes. The hamburger is packed down pretty tightly by using a spatula or wooden spoon to tamp it between additions. The jars are filled to 3/4″ – 1/2″ headspace.

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The rims of the jars are wiped with a warm, wet cloth to remove any oils.

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Lids that have been warming in nearly boiling water are applied.

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The rings are tightened and then loosened back a little less than 1/4 turn

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The jars are processed in a pressure canner for 90 minutes for pints and quarts.

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When the jars cool, a little fat will show up that is extracted in the processing. To use, just open a jar and pour it into a pan, brown a little bit and add seasonings or sauces for your favorite recipe. Or for pizza, just brown a little, add salt and pepper and sprinkle on pizza. You can do the same thing with your canned loose sausage.

Happy Changes!

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Video On A Unique Donation!

June 14th, 2013

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Another Way To Donate

Having lost our lovely, huge White Oak trees from the May 19th tornado, this video kinda struck a cord with me. It was produced by some friends of mine with our local news channel and some of the footage is at the church or around our area that I mentioned in my previous post. I was pretty surprised to see it and thought, “Hmmm. I never even thought about all the trees that have been lost!” You can’t imagine the piles of tree trunks and limbs that are gracing our roadways right now. Hope you enjoy.

You can donate from the video site or go here.

Happy Planting!!!

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