"The greatest fine art of the future will be the making of a comfortable living from a small piece of land."
-Abraham Lincoln

Just for Laughs

I came across this video of Chondra Pierce the other day and it's hilarious.   If you've never seen Chondra Pierce she's a Christian comedian and seriously one of the funniest ladies in the comedy business and this is one of her best. 

Banana Bread

Hopefully everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  Our turkey day was pretty standard.  We had food and football, both in very large quantities.  I was in a food comma for most of yesterday and didn't manage to get much done except a little cleaning from Thursday's festivities and I turned some of our over-ripe bananas into banana bread with vanilla frosting. 

I used a different recipe than normal, a much less complicated recipe than normal, and it turned out really good.  I found the recipe for the banana bread on cooks.com.  The only change I made to the recipe was that I added a little bit of cinnamon.  Next time I may add some chocolate chips for the kids or you could add nuts if you prefer it that way. 

The vanilla frosting is just a basic vanilla frosting recipe.  Nothing fancy.  Very simple.  The recipe that I used for the frosting came from my one and only brain but you can find a very similar recipe on food.com.

The frosting recipe is basic enough that you can substitute the vanilla for almost any flavoring that interests you. Make sure to sift the powdered sugar first.  If you find that the frosting is a little too thick  just add a bit more milk and stir awhile longer and it should be fine.

This is a really good way to use up those bananas that are too ripe to eat anymore and kids love it.  Well, at least my kids love it but my kids are such ridiculously picky eaters that if they will eat it then that's a pretty good bet that almost any kid will eat it.

Cake Flour vs. Bread Flour

Ever wonder if what type of flour you use really matters? 

The above loaf of bread  was accidentally made with cake flour.  See, I buy my flour in bulk and keep it in the bags in a metal trash can (clean, of course) with a tight fitting lid.  When it was time to make bread this week I figured that I had plenty of flour in the can and I was right.  I still had at least half of a 50lb bag.  Without looking at the label I reached in and filled my flour canister and went about making the bread.  It wasn't until the first rising stage that I got a notion something may be wrong but I figured it was just not quite warm enough in the house since it is fall and it had risen some so I figured we'd just make do with a slightly more dense than normal loaf. 

Turns out it wasn't the loaf that was dense.  It was me.  When I pulled it out of the oven, instead of a nice, normal, slightly browned, light and fluffy loaf of bread I got that white rock in the picture. I had completely forgotten that I had cake flour at all and had just assumed that the flour I had grabbed was either the all purpose flour or the bread flour either or which would have been fine.  These loaves didn't just look terrible, they tasted terrible.  The only ones who would eat them were the dogs and I don't think they were really thrilled with it.

Now, after spending nearly 3 hours making bread the last thing I wanted to do was have to start all over but that's what I get for not being diligent in the first place. With the second set of loaves I made sure I had bread flour not cake flour. 
Now, this is what bread should look like (ignoring the poor quality of the image, of course).  Brown, not white.  Fluffy, not rock hard.  Nice loaf shape, not whatever that other thing was.  So now we all know that the flour you use makes a definite difference.


My Father-in-law grew an acre or so of popcorn this year and had brought over about 40 ears for us to sell at our little stand.  Fortunately for us, they didn't sell!  For the life of me I can't imagine why it didn't sell other than perhaps most people didn't know what it was and didn't realize that after they decorated with it they could eat it.  I mean, this is useful stuff, it's not like normal purely ornamental indian corn. Oh well, it meant more for us.

Most people don't believe me when I tell them that there really is a difference in taste between homegrown, home dried, pan popped popcorn and the popcorn that you get in a little paper bag and stuff in the microwave, at least until they try it.  Microwave popcorn needs the butter it's slathered in and the mounds of salt covering it.  Without it, it tastes pretty terrible.  Pan popped popcorn tastes great with just a little shake of salt and nothing else.

We dried our popcorn in a cool dry spot in our garage for about two weeks before I even bothered to pop a few test kernels.

Despite the fact that a small mouse  or other critter had managed to sneak a few bites during that time the drying was successful and the test kernels popped just as they were supposed to.  So we took half of the cobs inside to hull them.

The kids usually get the job of hulling the popcorn and it's one of the chores that they actually enjoy.  They made pretty quick work of the first 20 ears that they worked up.  We'll save the next 20 for tomorrow or the next day. Ordinarily, after you've hulled the popcorn you can simply stick what you don't want pop right away into freezer bags and freeze them for up to 30 months.  However, since hulling is done by the children in my house, I find that I have to wash the kernels after they are done hulling because we usually end up with excessive amounts of cob pieces, hairs, and general debris.  When it's in small amounts it's no problem but when the debris covers the kernels in their bowls it becomes more of an issue.

The nice thing is that dry corn kernels sink while dirt and debris tends to float.  So, I simply immerse the corn kernels in a large bowl full of warm water and then fish the debris out with a mesh ladle strainer.  If you find you need to do this then try to make quick work of it.  Soaking the kernels for a few minutes won't hurt anything but you don't want them to soak for hours.  After I'm done washing them I stick them on cooking sheets in single layers and put them in the oven at 170 degrees (the lowest my oven will go) for about an hour or hour and a half to dry. 

I popped up a batch for my brother-in-law and his girlfriend since they had come for a visit.  His girlfriend had never seen anyone pop popcorn in a pan on the stove before, which really surprised me.  It got me thinking that maybe popping popcorn on the stove is becoming a lost art, perhaps there are many people out there who don't know how to do this.  So I'll run down the process on here. 

Popping Popcorn on the stove:

1. Get a sauce pan with a well fitting lid.  I use one with a glass lid so my kids can watch the kernels pop, it's like nature's best magic trick.  It seriously entertains them almost as well as Saturday morning cartoons.

2. Pour in enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan.  It doesn't have to be a lot of oil, a small amount will do as long as it completely covers the bottom of the pan.

3. Turn the heat on medium-high.

4. When the oil has had a little time to heat up throw in a couple of test kernels.  If they pop (usually takes just a few seconds) then you know that the oil is hot enough to add the rest of the kernels.  If they turn brown immediately or scorch then you know the oil is obviously way to hot.  If it takes them forever to pop then you either don't have the oil hot enough or your popcorn is a dud.

5. Pour in just enough popcorn to cover the bottom of the pan in a single layer.  If you pour in more than a single layer on the bottom, the kernels underneath are more likely to burn and the kernels on top are more likely to not pop. 

6. Move the pan from side to side regularly to coat the kernels that haven't popped with the oil and to help keep the ones that have popped from burning.

7. The kernels will start popping at a furious pace and then, after several seconds the popping will start to slow down. At this point, take the pan off of the heat, wait another couple of seconds for the holdouts to pop, then CAREFULLY remove the lid because there will probably be a lot of steam.

8. Pour your popcorn into a bowl and dress it up however you want.  Obviously you can use salt or melted butter or both.  My husband actually likes to eat his with Zatarain's Creole Seasoning or seasoned salt.  I've also heard of people using powdered cheese, cinnamon sugar, regular sugar, caramel, a little powdered cocoa mixed with sugar, even a little Tabasco sauce (that last one is a little too adventurous for my blood).  The possibilities for toppings are endless really.  Once your done dressing up your popcorn, dig in and enjoy it. 

P.S. No, the popcorn in this picture is not burnt.  The darker hull on the popcorn is simply due to the multiple different colors of the original kernels.

Crocheted Dishcloths

I spent a lazy last night crocheting and watching reruns of Amen on GMC instead of cleaning or doing dishes like I should have been doing.  I was also eating my weight in homemade 3 musketeers bars.  I found the recipe at The Open Pantry.   If the good Lord had decided to take me at that moment last night I would've died happy :)  Not productive, mind you, but happy. 

I ended up crocheting two dishcloths, a smaller one and a larger one.  The smaller one measures about 5in. square and the larger about 8in. square.  I normally don't make them smaller than 8in. but I figured if I made more small ones I wouldn't have to fold them come laundry day.  Yes, my laziness went to the very core of my being last night.

The pattern is very simple and very basic.  For the 5in. small dishcloth I used a size G hook and a worsted weight cotton yarn remnant.   For the 8in. larger dishcloth I used a size I hook and the same cotton remnant.  Gauge really doesn't matter.

Small Dishcloth:

CH. 22, turn.

Row 1: DC in 3rd ch. from hook and in each ch. to end of row. turn

Row 2: Ch. 2, DC  in first DC st.  Continue in each st. to end of row. turn

Row 3: Repeat row 2.

Repeat row 3 until dishcloth measures 5 inches from top to bottom or until desired length is reached.

Large Dishcloth

Ch. 26, turn

Row 1: DC in 3rd ch. from hook and in each ch. to end of row. turn.

Row 2: Ch. 2. DC in first DC st. Continue in each st. to end of row. turn.

Row 3: Repeat row 2 until dishcloth reaches 8 in. from top to bottom or until desired length is reached.

Row 4: At end of last DC row, ch. 1. Do not turn. Begin to work sc evenly along the side of the dishcloth until you reach the corner. 
 Ch. 1. Do not turn. Work sc. evenly along the bottom edge until you reach the corner. 
Ch. 1.  Do not turn.  Work sc evenly along the other side until you reach the corner.
Ch. 1 Do not turn. Work sc. in each dc st. along the top edge. Join with slip stitch in first ch. 1.  Fasten off.
Weave in ends.

I FINALLY Got My Camera Back!

After many, many, many loong weeks of not having a camera, I have finally gotten a new one.  Well, it's not exactly new.  I just managed to save enough money to fix up an old one.  The picture quality isn't great (as you'll see soon enough) but at least it's something.  Who knows, maybe Santa's elves have something in the works for me for Christmas.  

The last couple of months here have been pretty busy, mostly with the usual seasonal stuff like putting up corn and freezing and canning fruit from the fruit trees and vegetables from the garden.  In fact, both of our freezers are so full of corn, peaches and cherries that I'm having extreme troubles getting to the meat that is tucked back there someplace. 

Freezer number 1 has been housing all of our corn.  I think we put up somewhere around 40 bags of corn.  As you can see it's not entirely full at the moment. The partial clearing is thanks to the fact that we have been eating corn 4 days out of the week for the last 4 weeks.  We're all so sick of corn at this point that we're starting to have nightmares about it.  I think we'll have to take a couple weeks off from corn fritters, creamed corn, baked corn casserole, buttered corn, etc. etc. etc.

Freezer number 2 is completely filled mostly with peaches and cherries along with some small amounts of pumpkin, apple pie filling, strawberries, and the occasional pack of hamburger.  We currently cannot use freezer number 2 until I can clear out some of this fruit!  Now we LOVE fruit in my house but we all seem to be getting bored with the same peach muffins, cherry cobblers and various pies.  So, I've been on the hunt for new and versatile recipes that will help dwindle down some of our surplus.  One of our favorites so far is Cherry Coffee Cake which you can make with really any kind of fruit filling including peaches and apples. 

I personally found the recipe written out on an old recipe card and I have absolutely no idea anymore which cookbook it came out of but, here it is, in case you want to try it.  I completely recommend trying it, it's good.

Cherry Coffee Cake

1 egg, beaten
1/4 c. milk
1/2 c. sugar
1/8 t. salt
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1-3/4 c. biscuit mix (I make my own but you could use Jiffy or Bisquik too), divided
21-oz can of cherry pie filling (I made my own cherry pie filling using a quart size bag of frozen cherries).
1/2 c. brown sugar packed
1/2 t. cinnamon
3 T. butter, diced
1/2 c. chopped walnuts (optional)

Combine egg, milk, sugar, salt, vanilla and 1-1/2 cups baking mix.  Stir until smooth.  Pour mixture into a lightly greased 8"X8" baking pan.  Spoon pie filling over mixture in pan.  Mix together remaining baking mix, brown sugar, cinnamon, butter and nuts (if desired).  Sprinkle over pie filling.  Bake at 375 degrees for 40 minutes.  Cut into squares.  Makes 6 to 8 servings.