Saturday, December 31, 2016

How to make blueberry muffin bread

I start all my quick breads with a homemade mix, which I’ll share in another post. To make any bread with fruit, nuts, or even shredded veggies, you just add 2 cups total of add-ins. This time I used a pint of blueberries I’d canned last summer, including the liquid, and it turned out moist and tasty. These were given out as part of the goodies I gave at Christmas.

So, here’s what I did.

Blueberry Muffin Bread
  • 5 cups of muffin mix
  • 1 pint including liquid of canned blueberries. (You could use frozen and add additional liquid to the batter.)
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/3 cup neutral flavored oil
  • 3 eggs

Mix the water, oil, and eggs together and add to the muffin mix. Fold in blueberries. Mix well but don’t beat. You don’t want to tear up the berries or make the batter tough.

Divide batter into 3 one-pound loaf pans that have been well greased. Bake at 350f in a conventional oven about 55 minutes, although I used my pressure cooker as an oven as I have for other recipes. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes in the pan, then turn out on rack or counter to finish cooling. Also makes about 24 muffins.

Delicious served warm with butter.

Technorati Tags: ,,

Friday, December 30, 2016

Just a little financial update

I'm on a fixed income so just before the beginning of every month, I write out my budget for the upcoming month ahead. Not much really changes from month to month normally. However, my next SS was dropped by $134 for Medicare. (Trying to get out of that since I'm already low enough income to be on my state's expanded medicaid anyway.) Anyhow, I did account for that decrease when I wrote out my budget, which includes regular payments, a small go-phone monthly coverage, Exede internet, gas for our generator/truck, propane for cooking, groceries and incidentals. You know. Regular stuff. (Off grid so I allow extra for the genny gas.) Oh, and I owe my older daughter some money for helping us out last week with gas and propane money. Hope not to have to do that again.
This month I also needed to get the connections and gas line for a propane heater. So, we picked up some things at Lowe’s. That cost more than I expected! Well, we get it all home after our other shopping and some parts don’t fit correctly. So, Saturday (tomorrow as I write this), I’ll send my son back to town to get everything we actually need. Weather predictions for later next week are for some frozen precipitation so we want to get that heater installed before then. Well, by the time he gets things traded around for what we need, we should be getting refunded some money back to my bank account, so that’s always a plus.
We filled up the empty propane tank and got the partially filled one topped up. Got 10 gallons of gas for the genny, filled the truck with gas, and got motor oil and fuel treatment. Had to pick up a couple of things at our local discount store to set us up for the month in that regard. Paper items, mostly, plus dish washing liquid.
As for shopping, I kept it very low. I finished using a Tractor Supply gift card on, what else, deer corn (2 bags) for chicken, goat, and pig feed, and a bag of dog food. I also got a bag of orange slice candy. Didn’t need it but, dangit, sometimes I just want orang slice candy! LOL
We went to Harbor Freight with another gift card to get a couple of items we need on the homestead plus to use a 20% off coupon and also get a couple of free-with-purchase items.
Then we headed back to our home town for groceries, where we found 16 ounce bags of frozen vegetables for just .68 each. Got 10 of those and will be canning them since our freezer is really just used for refrigeration. (Only running it a few hours a week to keep things cool but not frozen.) Also picked up the makings for our New Year’s Day meal (blackeyed peas, canned spinach, hog jowl) and a few other items. Total there was only about $30. With what I have on hand already as far as home canned meats and stuff, it’s all we needed.
I paid what bills I could online, then I’ll write a check for the land payment. That old fellow doesn’t do internet stuff. lol I’ll hold enough in the bank for my internet payment on the 8th, of course. Monday we’ll need to head into town to get feed bread. That place was closed before we could get over there today. The feed bread helps tremendously with reducing our overall feed costs.
The chickens are pretty consistently laying 2 eggs a day. Not a lot, I know, but we let them build up in a basket on the table then have a breakfast-for-supper day or I use them in other recipes.
I’m thinking things will always be tight budget-wise, but I’ve always made it before and I’ll make it again.

Technorati Tags: ,

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Winter woes off grid

We are expecting very bad weather, including frozen precipitation, over the weekend. It’s past time to really “batten down the hatches” and get better prepared. But, you know how it is. Every month I’ve planned to include a better heat source and some insulation, but every month other expenses take the money. December is no exception and I’m pretty well broke till the first of January. Hoping to sell the older three baby pigs to have some money to get gas for the generator and propane for the stove.

I’m on my last propane tank now, which is a 30 pound one. Not sure how long that will last since I’ve resorted to using the RV stove for some heat. I do have the kitchen window raised about 2 or 3 inches, but I’m pretty sure there are probably enough air leaks in the cabin to actually not need that!

The next two days will be spend trying to at least add plastic moisture/vapor barrier to the inside of the cabin walls. And it looks like we’ll be stapling nothing more than cardboard over that. It’s really getting cold inside and there’s a lot of condensation forming on the inside of the metal walls.

Also, my oldest son has given me a gas heater. One of those infrared kind. Anyway, turns out it’s for natural gas only and I have propane, so I’ve contacted a person who is very knowledgeable about such things to see what he thinks about converting it. We might not be able to do so, and if no, then I’ll just give the heater back to my son. Maybe he can sell it to someone.

I do have a large kerosene heater, but I’m now out of kerosene. Around here, the cheapest I can find is $4.80 a gallon from the bulk plant about 25 miles away. Next is $7 a gallon at a much closer place, so we need to figure if the gas used in driving actually makes the bulk plant price economical, or if just buying it by the jug at $7 per will actually be cheaper on us.

Last night our solar power also ran down really fast. Probably due to being so heavily overcast all day. It’s somewhat brighter today so I hope it builds up some power. Same for the well pump solar. It stopped pumping not long after sundown but in all honesty, I had used the water a lot yesterday which I’m sure ran it’s battery down pretty low. We will probably charge the battery off the truck battery with jumper cables to bring it up high enough to absorb some power as the day goes by and be useful later.

Yeah, I like being off grid but there are also downfalls to it. You learn new skills all the time for how to repair things, how to make do, how to protect livestock, inexpensive feed solutions, and more!

So, here’s the video I made in the dark last night while cooking supper!

How to make large batch hot chocolate mix!

I’m getting ready to make some more of this delicious hot chocolate mix, but I thought I’d sit and share how I do it with you. It’s really easy and it tastes so good. I put small bags or containers of this mix in my Christmas gift baskets and it’s always well received. Also, more economical than buying all those tiny packets!

Feel free to use and share!

Hot Chocolate Mix
  • 8 cups nonfat dry milk
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup vanilla powder (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 cups cook-type clear jel (optional)

Mix all ingredients well in a large bowl. If you wish, you can run it through a blender to make a finer powder. Store in an airtight container. To use, put 3 heaping tablespoons of the mix into a mug and add boiling water. Toss in some *marshmallows or a piece of peppermint candy, or top it with whipped cream.

*If you mix mini marshmallows into the dry mix and store them in there, they will eventually dry out a bit and store very well in there, then get plumped back up when you add the boiling water!

Here’s a short slide show I made for YouTube showing what I did.

Technorati Tags: ,

Pigs update! New Arrivals!

Yesterday morning, December 13, 2016, I went out to feed all the animals and found that our mama pig had her babies! Pretty exciting!

Five little wiggly babies in a nest she had made from cedar branches and limbs that we had provided her about a week ago. We could see the time was drawing near by how low her belly was hanging and how large her teats were getting. This is her first litter, and I hope she has many more in time to come.

These pigs are half American Guinea Hog and half Potbelly. They are slow growers. It took about 9-10 months to raise them to sexual maturity for breeding, and it will take about that long to raise any for meat. The boar probably weighs about 200 pounds now, while the sow probably weighs about 125 to 150 pounds. Not large at all, which is very good for a small homestead hog where only a couple of people will be handling the butchering instead of taking them to the processor. This size also give me a manageable amount of meat to can.

Anyway, today, December 14, 2015, I go to feed and check on them and sadly find one little piggie dead. Another is in distress. We wound up putting her down. No hope. So, two girls out of the litter didn't make it and my son says he thinks the other 3 are boys. Bummer. I’m pretty sure she laid on them.

The other 3 are up on their feet and fairly active, though, so they should be ok. I still need to take a close look at them to see if there are any girls. If there are any boys, we need to castrate them in a few days to make them ready for butchering later or to sell. We will probably keep one girl. I admit, though, I’ve never castrated a pig so I’m going to be really studying this to keep it as quick as possible. I know I’ll need an extremely sharp blade for it.

Pig gestation is 3 months, 3 weeks, and 3 days. But we didn’t notice her being bred so it was just a guess whether she was or not. Once the babies can be weaned, she’ll go back into heat about 3 days after the weaning is completed. But, they’ll stay with her about 12 weeks, so it won’t be anytime soon.

Here’s a picture of the 5 just hours after they were born.

Here’s a video I uploaded to YouTube to give you a better idea.

Technorati Tags: ,

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Thanksgiving 2016

This day is over, but I thought I’d post about it anyway.

Right now I’m staying out of town with my Mom and Sister, in my Mom’s house, which is nearby. My son is home, tending to the homestead for now. Mom isn’t strong these days so I’m here to help her and help Sis.

We’ve worked all this week getting Thanksgiving foods ready. Mom also did what she could – chopping celery and onions, mixing up her famous bread cube dressing, and making deviled eggs. Sis and I took care of everything else.

The gathering this year wasn’t as big as in years past. One of Sis’s sons and his wife joined us, as did my older daughter. Her male friend stopped in and we got to meet him before he headed to his own extended family’s festivities, then he stopped back by to pick up Daughter so they could head home.

We had way too much food, of course. LOL We ate till we were more stuffed than any Thanksgiving Turkey, put away all the leftovers, cleaned up, and visited for quite awhile. It was really nice. Guests took home a lot of the leftovers, but there’s still enough to feed a small army that we’ll be using up as we can over the next few days.

Sis, Mom, and I had pie for supper because we’re adults and isn’t that what adults do? Well, we did have coffee with it at least.

I truly hope you all were able to celebrate this day with loved ones, as well.

Be thankful not just today, but every day.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Tuesday, November 8, 2016–Election Day

It’s been a crazy race so far, and I don’t have a clue who’ll win the Presidential election. I also will not share with you who my “favorite candidate” is because the truth is, I don’t have one.


I honestly believe true patriotism, statesmanship, and a love for the Constitution have gone right out the window this time. I also believe that the truth is a commodity in very short supply these days by either of the front-running candidates.


Now, I know candidates will stretch the truth. I know they will make promises they can’t possibly keep. I also know that neither one of the front-runners (and you know exactly who I’m talking about) are actually qualified to run this country. One, being a Washington insider who has her fingers in too many pies and will wind up beholden to the uber-wealthy supporters who fund her campaign. The other being a bully of a businessman who has screamed, shouted, mocked, and insulted his way to the top of his party.


One has been caught in lies and deception. People who have worked closely with her have suddenly wound up dead through “accident” or “suicide”. I believe she’s part of a bigger game plan with associates we aren’t seeing in public. What worries me about this one is that this person will eventually be impeached and found guilty, and the country will then be run by her vice president, who is likely just a puppet.


The other is out to simply divide the people of this nation and cause unrest. What worries me about him is how intense and radical his followers are, and how like the followers of many cruel and murderous leaders they are. Those historic leaders didn’t murder before they were elected. They got the support of the populace first, then proceeded.


I really hope everyone is prepared for the fallout of this election, because either way, we’re screwed. It’s way past time to stockpile.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

How to make salmon hash

The name of the recipe almost explains what you’ll make. But, just in case, here’s how we made a delicious Salmon Hash one night with inexpensive ingredients we had on hand.

Salmon Hash
  • 1 tall can pink salmon, large bones removed and liquid reserved
  • 3 baked potatoes with the skin on, cubed
  • 1 medium onion, sliced thin
  • Schmaltz, butter, or your favorite oil
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • Salt & pepper to taste
  • 4 to 6 whole eggs (depends on how many you’re feeding)

Using a fork, break up the salmon.

Melt fat in an iron skillet, or other skillet you may have.

Sauté onions just till translucent.

Add cubed potatoes, salmon, seasonings, and lemon juice.

Stir all together well.

When everything is heated through nicely, break your eggs onto the top of the hash.

Put a lid on the skillet and allow to cook about 5 minutes or until eggs are done to your liking.

Make a gravy from the reserved liquid plus enough water to make 2 cups.

  • 2 tablespoons schmaltz or your favorite fat
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 2 cups liquid, which includes the broth from the canned fish
Melt the fat and stir in the flour. Allow to cook without browning for about 2 minutes. Stir in the liquid. Keep stirring until it’s thick and bubbly. Serve over the salmon hash.

Serve with sides of your choice. We chose pork & beans and homemade bread. Also put homemade chili sauce on top.

And, of course, I uploaded a video to YouTube for your viewing pleasure. :)

Hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

How to cook meatloaf in a pressure cooker

For this recipe, I actually did use a pressure cooker with the gasket and weight in place. It turned out moist and delicious this way. No more dry meatloaf!

Pressure Cooker Meatloaf
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground meat (your choice; I used beef)
  • 1/2 cup oats, cracker crumbs, or binder of your choice
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 onion, finely minced
  • 1 can of any type canned tomatoes, well drained and pressed out. Keep the juice! (I used Italian seasoned.)
  • Salt & pepper and other seasonings to your taste
Here are pictures of the ingredients I used:

Mix all ingredients well, kneading it all together with your hands. Place in small loaf pan and push the meat mixture a little away from the sides of the pan. Place the loaf pan into a round cake pan to catch any drips and overflow.

Place two layers of canning rings into the bottom of your cooker, then the rack. Put the meatloaf into the canner as well centered as possible. 

Add water until it touches the rack.

This is very important for the cooking process and to prevent your cooker from warping.
Put on the lid and put the 10 pound weight on the vent pipe. You don’t have to do a 10 minute vent for a cooker like you do for a canner. Bring it up to 10 pounds pressure and cook about 20 to 25 minutes. Once it reaches pressure you can turn the heat down to maintain it. If your cooker has another option for the weight, just use the larger weight if needed.

When done, let the pressure drop naturally while you make a gravy topping out of the reserved tomato juice and either water or broth. I used a packaged brown gravy mix but you can make your own recipe for gravy. Using the tomato juice is the key to a gravy that tops the meatloaf very nicely with a good taste.

And here's a video I posted to YouTube that might make it easier to understand!

Enjoy your meatloaf and let me know if you tried this!

Saturday, November 5, 2016

How to make potato soup

This is probably one of my all-time favorite soups to make. I’m pretty sure it ties right up there at the top with homemade chicken noodle soup. And it’s so easy to make. It takes few ingredients and a short amount of time to have a delicious, soul-warming soup to put on the table. Serve with biscuits, cheese and crackers, or oyster crackers.

Potato Soup
  • 3 medium to large potatoes, peeled and cut into about 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 pint homemade or 1 can store bought chicken broth
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 can cream of celery soup
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons schmaltz, butter, or oil for sautéing the onions
  • 1/2 cup cheese, optional but good! (I used store bought white American queso)
Sauté onions in the fat of your choice. I like schmaltz I rendered from chicken fat, but any nice tasting fat will do. Sauté just till they start to turn translucent but not brown.

Add your cubed potatoes and the broth and water. Add salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then turn down heat and let simmer until potatoes are tender.

Add in the cream of celery soup. Stir it in well till all lumps are blended in. Bring it to a simmer.

Add the cheese of your choice.

Serve piping hot with crackers or biscuits.

Here's a video I did demonstrating the potato soup I made!

How to make biscuits in a pressure cooker

No, you don’t pressure cook them. You use a pressure cooker only as a stove top oven. Just like I did for the bread, I also made biscuits in an old, rather large pressure cooker that doesn’t have a gasket, a weight, or even an over-pressure safety plug anymore. If yours has all those things, just remove the gasket and leave the weight off for baking. Then, follow what I do. It doesn’t warp the cooker bottom using the dry heat because it’s not under pressure when you do this.

You can use store bought canned biscuits if you prefer. A can of those fits very nicely in an 8 inch round cake pan. I bought some disposable aluminum ones because my only round cake pan is 9 inch, so it’s really too large to go down in the cooker very well.

Here’s my biscuit recipe, more or less. You know how it is when you do things homemade. After awhile you do them by feel more than strict measurements, but this will work.

Homemade Biscuits
  • 3 cups self rising flour (or 3 cups flour, 3 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 teaspoon salt)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (optional)
  • 1/3 cup shortening
  • Milk to make stiff dough (Even better with buttermilk! If you use buttermilk, add 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda to the dry mix.)
Mix the sugar into the flour mixture (if you use sugar), then cut in the shortening with a pastry blender, two knives, a fork, or your hands. Slowly add milk until you get a rather stiff dough.

Turn dough out on a well floured surface and pat it out to about 3/4 inch thick. You can use your clean counter top, a cutting board, or a smooth kitchen towel dedicated to baking only. (I keep mine in a gallon zip bag.)

Do not knead the dough!
Cut out biscuits with a biscuit cutter. I actually use an old tomato sauce can that I’ve popped holes in the bottom. I’ve had it for many years and it’s exactly 1 cup for measuring flour plus it cuts out nice sized biscuits. The holes in the bottom let air escape so the biscuits don’t get stuck in the can due to a vacuum.

Gently place the cut biscuits into your baking pan. You may be able to push the remaining dough together and cut more biscuits until you’ve got it all used up.(Waste not, want not!)  Lower the pan into your pressure cooker that has a couple of layers of canning rings or something else to raise the pan off the direct heat of the bottom.

Turn on the heat to medium high, put the lid on the pan, and let it bake about 20 to 25 minutes. Check on things around the 20 minute mark to see if they’re getting done.

When the bottoms are golden brown, take the baking pan out of the cooker, flip the biscuits over on a plate, then slide them back into the baking pan to finish browning. That will take about another 5 or 10 minutes. (I did try flipping them with tongs but I found that I wrecked the biscuits too much doing that. Now I just flip the whole thing out as described above.)

When done, turn them out onto a plate and enjoy warm with butter and jelly, or with your meal.

Here’s a little video to help you see what I was doing with the pan.

Of course, these biscuits can also be baked in a conventional oven. Preheat to 400*F and bake them off till the tops are light golden brown.

Comment and let me know if you made these and how they turned out for you!