Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thank You to All My Readers

Don't forget the cranberries.
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Saturday, November 19, 2011

"I Shot Every Deer I Saw", said Amber

Amber's first morning out hunting was a total success.  She sat with Warren and shot this spike buck all by herself at 8:30am.  They stopped up at the house just to hang the deer and then they were off again.  I loved hearing her tell the story; the huge smile, the excited voice and the way she looked at her dad when she explained how she didn't even hear the bang or feel the gun kick.  According to her story they weren't seeing anything so they prayed for St. Hubert (patron saint of hunters) to intercede on their behalf and send a deer and it wasn't five minutes and this buck showed up.

St. Hubert, pray for us!
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Thursday, November 17, 2011

Recipes To Use With Ground Venison

A reader writes:

What's your favorite recipe for ground venison? My kids don't care, they think it's beef - but my husband (yes, the hunter) can't find a way he likes it. But he continues to get one each year... suggestions??

My family prefers venison to beef, hands down.  So any recipe that calls for ground beef I substitute with ground venison.  I don't change anything about the recipe.  But if you or your family members find venison to be too strongly flavored or the texture too dry, here are my suggestions for using it and loving it.  First off start with recipes that contain a lot of flavor and spices.  Chili is an excellent dish for using ground venison.  Taco meat and nacho meat are good choices as well.  I've also found that crock-pot meals such as stroganoff and spaghetti sauce is a good choice as well.  Cooking the ground venison on low for a number of hours allows the flavor to mellow and the meat to tenderize nicely.  For those who like recipes here are a few of mine.
*We pack our venison in 1 1/2 pound portions.  All recipes use 1 portion.

ground venison
1 qt. tomato juice (I use home-canned)
1 can tomato soup
1 can kidney beans (with or without liquid, your preference)
water to rinse cans (about 1/2 full)
2 beef bouillon cubes
a few shakes worstershire sauce
2 T. chili powder
1 t. cumin
1/3 c. ketchup
1 c. macaroni, cooked

Brown meat.  Mix together all ingredients.  Bring to a quick boil, reduce heat and simmer until ready to eat.  It's always best the 2nd day so I tend to mix, bring to a boil, turn off heat and then place in fridge until the next day.  Reheat and eat.

Taco Meat
ground venison
1 medium onion, chopped or 1/4 t. onion powder
1/2 t. cumin
2 T. chili powder
1 t. salt
1 clove garlic, crushed
3/4 c. water

Cook and stir hamburger in skillet until light brown.  Stir in remaining ingredients.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer uncovered,k stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 10 minutes.  Serve in taco shells with all the fixings. 

Nacho Meat
ground venison
1 small onion, chopped
1 16oz. can refried beans
1 16oz. jar salsa
1 6oz. can chopped black olives or chop a handful of black olives and throw those in
1/2 c. shredded cheddar cheese
1 green onion, chopped (optional)
2 T. chili powder
1 t. salt

Brown meat and onion.  Stir in remaining ingredients and serve with tortilla chips and typical nacho fixings.  We eat this for a meal, not just a snack during football games.  I always make white rice with this.  Some of us mix the rice in with the meat and others don't.

Stroganoff click here

If anyone wants more recipes for things like Salisbury steak or meatloaf or my giant batch of spaghetti sauce recipe, please leave a comment and I will post more.  Now go cook something! 

Friday, November 11, 2011

Quilting Again

I finished up two quilts this week.  It's been a long time coming because neither one is very large.  This brick layer quilt was started last winter just because I'd seen these brick type quilts all over the internet and wanted to make one.  I made up my own pattern and I love how it turned out that the bricks are staggered in groups of two.  That happened by accident on the blue version I made first, but since I liked the look of it I made another in pinks.  All the brick pieces came from my stash.  Some of the fabrics dating back to the 70's, fabrics I received from Warren's aunt's stash after her death.
The backing and binding are new purchases.  It's hard to tell in the picture but the floral fabric has a light yellow background which I absolutely love.  The yellow and pink go so well together.
This quilt measures 35"x39".

The second quilt I finished this week is this tiny carriage quilt.  I found this pattern in McCall's Quick Quilts, May 2001.  I loved the quilt when I first got the magazine, but it took until this summer for me to actually make it happen.  Then I set the 16-patch blocks aside because I couldn't find the right setting square fabric until this fall when I was searching for fabric to make Amber's bean bag chair.  I just happened to run across this brown on cream print which I knew instantly was going to be perfect.  The pieced blocks and border fabric were all from my stash.  The setting squares and backing were new purchases.  I chose an ultra soft flannel for the backing so it would be super soft for a newborn.
This quilt measures 29"x33 1/2".
One girl quilt, one boy quilt!  Which one will it be?  We'll find out in December.
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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Gluing 101 for Toddlers

So Amber was asking me a while back why I wasn't teaching Joseph.  The other kids and I all looked at her wondering just what she meant.  So we asked, "What do you mean?"  She replied with a long list of things I should be doing with Joseph.  Things such as:  teaching him his colors, numbers, letters, and how to read and do math.  All this, she claimed, should be done with flashcards.  I tried to explain to her that when I dress him in the morning I say things like:  Let's put on your blue jeans or Would you like to wear your green sweatshirt or red turtleneck?  That's how toddlers learn their colors.  As for numbers I say thing like:  Would you like one or two crackers? or You have three books, should we read them all?  She did not think this was fair at all.  She claimed he was getting off easy.  Granted he's only 3, but to appease her I bought an I Can Paste workbook for toddlers to show her that I was not a slacker mom.  For his birthday we bought him a Mother Goose Fairy Tales sticker book.  The thought was to read a fairy tale each day and then let him place the stickers on the page.  He hated the stickers.  They stuck to his fingers and he tried shaking them off all while hollering "au, au" (translation off, off). 

Michael's had a number of toddler workbooks, all meant to develop fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.  Gluing seemed the best option for Joseph at this time, but I wondered if it would be similar to the sticker incident.  I bought the book anyway and today was the day to start in on it since we had the glue and scissors out for Spanish.  The first page instructs the parent to cut out the pieces and have the child place glue on the page and place the pictures on the glue spots.  Joseph is no where ready to squeeze the glue bottle, suck on it yes, but squeeze it no way.  I cut out the clouds and then showed him the rainbow in the sky.  I even pointed to the colors of the rainbow, saying each color.  I made sure Amber was watching.  I squeezed three dots of glue on the page and then showed Joseph how to press the cloud onto the glue.  He dove right in, first smearing the glue a bit with his finger and then smacking the cloud onto the glue spot.  He'd remove it and place it on the other glue spot; this continued until most of the glue was used up.  Then he left the clouds to dry.  We'll do another page tomorrow where he'll glue fish (I'll count them with him) onto an underwater scene.  Joseph just had his first official day of preschool.
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Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Science Curriculum Reviews

Emily poses next to her jello cell.  See the golgi bodies and ribosomes?

Midway through week 10 of our school year and I am ready to review the science curriculum I purchased for our 8th and 7th graders.  First let me say that I've never purchased a science curriculum before.  Having a science background has afforded me the ability to make up my own plans for the most part.  When the kids are in the early grades we mainly read lots of books, watch videos and observe nature.  As they become fluent readers I've had them read from animal encyclopedias, science encyclopedias and other non-fiction science themed books.  We've also done a number of unit studies on different topics such as botany, chemistry, and snow.  Making up my own plans can get quite time intensive and since we're adding another baby to the family this December I decided it would be for the best to have a pre-packaged curriculum for Emily and Nick. 
For Emily I chose Life Science:  All Creatures Great and Small.  I purchased it through Catholic Heritage Curricula where it was recommended for 8th graders.  This is not a flashy text.  The only color is on the cover, otherwise the entire book is in black and white.  I don't find that to be a bad thing and Emily hasn't commented on it either.  The book contains 25 chapters, all typical to any life science text:  measurement, cells, fungi, the digestive system, animal behavior, etc. Each chapter contains a crossword puzzle, written information, drawings, black and white photos, tables and an intensive chapter review.  The review often includes having the student write out all the chapter definitions, draw and label diagrams, answer tons of questions, do measurement conversion problems and more.  The book does come with a teacher guide which I've found helpful.  It gives basic objectives for each chapter, an idea for a hands-on project for each chapter and the answers to all review questions.  One thing I like about this book is that it's contained to just a book and answer key and I haven't had to purchase many extra materials.  So far I think I bought a piece of tag board.  Everything else for the collections chapter we had on hand:  plastic cups, pins, styrofoam.  I also like that it's introducing Emily to a large number of science vocabulary words.  I stress pronunciation and point out word similarities when I can.  For example cyclosis is the swirling motion of cytoplasm within the cell.  Doesn't cyclosis sound similar to cyclone which is rotating winds.  I think this has been an excellent addition to her vocabulary development.  What I don't like about the book is that sometimes the questions are asked using different terminology than the text uses.  Often she finds this confusing and needs my assistance to interpret.  I'm able to do this without any trouble, but I can honestly say if I did not have a science background I would find this irritating and probably pretty difficult.  With all that said, Emily will continue using this text for her entire 8th grade year and I will use it again next year for Nick. 

Nick demonstrates potential and kinetic energy with a super ball.

For Nick I chose Science 7 for Young Catholics which I purchased through Seton Homeschool.  It includes a text/workbook and answer key.  The book is consumable.  Nick likes that he does all his work right in the book, no extra notebooks or binders to deal with.  The book is full of color photos, line drawings, diagrams, tables and graphs.  The book has only 5 chapters:  Aeronautical Engineering, Geology, Rocketry and Space Travel, Physics, and Chemistry.  It's very boy friendly.  The activities have used things like a balsa model airplane, clay, and super balls.  Boys like this kind of stuff and I haven't heard any complaining from him about doing science.  What I like about this book is that it's all together, the chapter readings, directions for activities as well as the lab report forms and chapter review questions are all in this one book.  As with Emily's book if I didn't have a science background and a husband with a degree in water resources and geology some of the directions would seem quite vague.  For example the section on topographical maps was not clear to me or Nick, but once we got dad involved he explained how to draw contour lines.  I also haven't found the answer key overly helpful.  The easy answers are provided, but the more difficult thought questions say:  answers may vary.  Will I use this again?  I'm not sure yet.  It'll depend on the physics and chemistry unit. 
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Monday, November 7, 2011

My Daily Dove Chocolate

Yesterday I bought a bag of Dove Mint Bark at Walgreens.  Don't you just love their deals?  Last week I purchased holiday m&ms and a $5.00 coupon printed for more candy.  Love it!  I had to use the coupon this week before it expired and wouldn't you know Walgreens had Dove Christmas candies on sale for 2/$6.00 with a $2.00 register reward printing at checkout.  I used my $5.00 coupon and essentially made a $1.00 with that transaction.  Ok, so I tried the Dove Mint Bark and OH. MY. GOSH. It is divine.  I tore open the bag in the solitude of my bedroom to help get me through hiding Christmas presents in my closet and this is what I found:  a perfect little square of dark chocolate topped with a layer of crushed peppermints in white bark. I ate 2, then put away a couple things, ate another and twisted the bag closed.  Who was I kidding?  Put away a couple more things.  Opened the bag and had another 2.  I wasn't piggy about it though, I did pause between bites to read the cute little sayings on the wrappers.  My favorite was this:

Togetherness for the holidays is a gift in itself.
We all know this is true.  Being together with family and friends during the holidays really is a gift.  But my wanting to have a plan for everything brain read this as togetherness = having a plan, being organized, being ready, having supplies handy.  Moms know that with all that is expected from now until the New Year a plan is essential.  I believe it goes a step further.  A WRITTEN plan is essential.  My brain has so much swimming around it that if I don't write it down it's not going to happen or get done.  I've tried using all kinds of free printables in the past and find that really all I need is a simple notebook dedicated to Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years planning.  I do make a paper pocket that I tape inside the front cover.  That's where I keep my online shopping confirmations and store receipts.  For those of you who like printables for everything under the sun, here's a great website with tons of free printables for planning your way to a "Together" holiday. 

My holiday planner is gradually filling up with lists of gifts to buy, cookies to make, new recipes, homemade ornament ideas, Advent books to read and a big reminder on every page that there'll be a newborn in the house.  Anything that gets checked off the list will be a good thing.  So since the holiday planning in underway, so must the holiday candy eating.  I'm heading off to have another piece of candy.  It'll only be my third for the day, but the bag is slowly emptying.  Hats off to a well-planned, enjoyable holiday season starting with Thanksgiving and ending with the New Year.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Filling the Freezer

Remember the buck Warren shot on Saturday?  We spent a small part of our Monday morning grinding and packaging the meat for the freezer.  Venison, America's original organic meat is the staple of our meat laden diet.  I could live on many meals in a row devoid of meat, however my family does not share that desire.  So I cook with meat, lots of it.  We typically eat around 6 deer a year.  Most of which we process ourselves.  This entire deer, except for the choice tenderloin was ground into hamburger.  Many people have trouble using straight venison burger.  Ground venison often breaks up during cooking or grilling when using it for hamburgers.  Our grinder must grind it a tad finer therefore making it the perfect texture for making hamburgers, cheeseburgers and pizza burgers out of straight venison burger.  Our kids really get into this.  Everyone has a part.  Warren always holds the drill, too much torque for the rest of us.  Nick and Amber feed the hopper with hunks of venison.  Sam and I fill and weigh the freezer bags, 1.5 pounds.  Emily and Amber take turns flattening and zipping the bags.  This bow-killed deer yielded 47.5 pounds of burger plus the tenderloin.  Harvesting and processing our own wild meat is satisfying, especially knowing that I'm giving my family the best quality red meat around.  Venison is much lower in saturated fats and higher in B vitamins than beef.
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Saturday, October 22, 2011

It's Official

Harvest is Over
There goes the last full truck.
Life is good!

Joseph loves Sam.  And I think it's mutual.

Winter is on its way.  The frost froze our pumpkins.

We have meat in the freezer again.  Warren just crawled into his bow stand and within minutes connected with this nice 6 point.  Yum!

Joseph is a cutie patootie.  And that's official.
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Thursday, October 20, 2011

Internet Recipe Reviews

I've made a number of new recipes lately.  A few from the latest Taste of Home magazine.  Those sadly were not our favorites.  However, the internet recipes have all been winners.  I'll share the link and a few notes about each recipe.

Betty Crocker:  Classic Beef Stroganoff
I made mine with ground round from locally raised beef.  I did not add mushrooms.  Since I used hamburger I skipped the 15 minute simmer and thickened the cooking liquid right away and then dumped it all in my crockpot, except the sour cream.  I kept it at low all afternoon and then added the sour cream just before we ate it.  The sour cream helped to cool it down a bit too.  My harvest working family members come in hungry and don't want to wait around for their food to cool.  They want to eat now!  This recipe was very simple, very basic, very good.  I've tried a number of stroganoff recipes over the years and this is finally THE ONE.

Tasty Kitchen:  Cheesy Potatoes
These were on last night's supper table and oh were they good!  I made a half batch, which filled my small blue and white speckled roasting pan.  Since I cut the recipe in half I didn't want two open cans of cream soup so I used only cream of chicken (the whole can).  My bag of shredded hashbrowns was 26 oz. Don't shy away from the jalapeno.  It didn't add too much kick at all.  No one even said anything about the flecks of green.  I didn't have the french-fried onions but if I did I would use way more than 1/2 cup.  We love those darn things.  I also decreased the salt and pepper to 1 tsp. each.  I could've added more of each without it being to salty or peppery.  Next time I'll probably add about 1/2 tsp. more.  I baked mine for about 1 hr. and 20 min., added more cheese and then broiled for about 5 minutes.  I already had a favorite cheesy potato recipe from my church cookbook.  It has a lot more sour cream, is topped with buttered corn flakes and has a drier consistency.  But a couple of weeks ago we were at a Packer party and Warren had someone's cheesy potatoes that were very creamy, almost a tad drippy; he liked them so well that I thought I'd try to find a recipe more similar to that.  These are close; definitely creamy and more wet than my favorite recipe, but not drippy.  I'll make these again that's for sure, but I won't throw away my beloved thick, dense cheesy potato recipe.

The Pioneer Woman:  Caramel Apple Sticky Buns
Make these today!  You'll be glad you did.  According to my notes I didn't change much when I made them.  I couldn't find Apple Brandy so I used Apple Pie Liquor in the gooey caramel.  They way I rolled the dough made it so I had 15 rolls in each 9x13 pan.  This used up all the dough and all the goo.  To one pan I added the diced apples and also added chopped fresh cranberries.  The other pan was intended for the kiddos who like things plain.  Since these are so sweet the cranberries really added a nice little bite of tartness.  I also cooked these for only 26 minutes and the rolls in the dark pan were VERY dark.  They must've been good because they all got eaten anyway.  The rolls in the light colored pan could've gone for just a few minutes longer, but I was smelling burnt sugar and so I feverishly removed both pans from the oven to be safe.  I covered 2 large baking pans with foil and covered in vegetable spray.  I inverted the pans, leaving them in place for a good 10 minutes before removing them.  This really helped the caramel stay where it's meant to be, on the sticky buns.  In the past I've inverted and lifted the pan right away.  The caramel is so hot and runny that it all runs off the rolls and ends up being wasted because it sticks to the platter instead of to the rolls.

Next up will be these two yummy looking recipes:
Cranberry Preserves
Squash Casserole with Crunchy Pecan Topping

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sunny Harvest Monday

Monday was a gorgeous sunny harvest day, especially if you were watching from the inside.  On the outside, sure it was sunny, but also windy again and cold.

Of course Joseph enjoyed his stroller ride.  There's so much to look at and he's really into pointing at something and telling me a story all about it.  It's babble with inflection and lots of eye contact and pointing and various other hand gestures.  I just love it and respond with lots of: Really?  You see a bird in that big oak tree.  What kind of bird do you think it is?  Then he continues with his babble story.  And we keep walking.  He found a pinecone early on during our walk when he was actually walking and not riding.  He examined it quite closely for a while.

Sometimes you have to get right in there to make things work right.

The whole crew winding down the day's work.  They were raking up cranberries and tossing them into the cranberry corral.

I love these pictures that capture the sunlight rays.

Amber looking all pretty in the sunshine.
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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Sunday Afternoon Outside

Sunday was cold and blustery, but so sunny that we couldn't stay inside one minute longer.  After preparing for Monday's meals Joseph and I headed outside for an afternoon of cutting back dead flowers and playing on the sand pile.  The kids were outside in their "little woods" which was a total blessing because Joseph played with them and generally stayed nearby.  He usually goes in the opposite direction of me making it difficult to get anything done outside. 

After cleaning up the yard we hopped on the 4-wheeler to check out what Dad was doing.  The wind was so strong it actually made waves in the cranberry beds.  You can't tell much from the picture but the waves made the cranberries ripple up and down.  It was so cool.
Warren was raking the bottom Stevens bed.  Only two more to go, then the raking tractor can be put away.

I've always loved the way cranberries look when they are still on the vine, but underwater. 
Joseph enjoyed running back and forth along the dike while I snapped a ton of pictures.

He's a boy, can you tell?  He loves climbing on the 4-wheeler.

We had a glorious Sunday afternoon.
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Saturday, October 15, 2011

RAP - Rustic Apple Pie

Hello YouTube Friends!!!

This post originated the first time I made Rustic Apple Pie.  I've since changed it up a bit depending on how time I have or just how rustic I want it.  You can follow the recipe as written below and end up with a delicious rustic pie.  However, if you want something a bit more sophisticated follow the video directions, but use the measurements down below.  It's all a guideline because these turn out great no matter how rustic or chic you make them.  Enjoy!!

In case you didn't come here from YouTube here is the video I'm referring to.

RAP - not music but Rustic Apple Pie

In dire need of a dessert and having no eggs and noticing a large box of apples still sitting in my porch, I decided to make apple pie.  I didn't have a lot of time and so the thought of making two-crust, peeled and thinly sliced apples apple pie wasn't going to work.  I tried something new and really liked how it turned out. 

First I made one two-crust recipe of pie crust.  I rolled them out right on my pans to avoid the messy counter.  I brushed off the extra flour before baking.

I washed a pile of apples.  Mine were pretty small.  I think I used 8-10.  Using my handy apple wedger, I cut them up in a matter of minutes.

I divided up the apples and placed them on the middle of the pie crust.  I sprinkled with about 1/4 c. flour.

I sprinkled on about 2 Tbsp. brown sugar and 1 Tbsp. white sugar.

I sprinkled over a serious amount of cinnamon, probably 1 1/2 tsp. per pie.

Carefully, I lifted up the edges of the pie crust and simply folded it over the apples.  I dotted the top with about 2 Tbsp. butter and popped them into the oven for 25 minutes at 375.  When the timer went off I switched around the pans and baked for another 25 minutes. 

We let them cool while we were eating lunch and sliced with a pizza cutter into 8 small wedges.  Some enjoyed it as is while others dolloped on Cool Whip.  The other RAP was saved until it cooled and eaten for breakfast the next morning.  I especially liked it cool because you could just grab a slice and eat it.  No plate, no fork, no mess.  Yummy, applely, cinnamony goodness.

Just a note:  by not mixing up all the dry ingredients it definitely looked rustic.  If you want a prettier looking RAP, mix the dry ingredients in a small bowl and then sprinkle half over each pie.

Friday, October 14, 2011

My 14th Annual Cranberry Harvest

October sure came quickly this year.  Seems we were just basking in the July heat and humidity one moment and then the next it was October with all the beautiful colors and gorgeous blue skies.  It's still October now, but the fall foliage has mostly dropped and the skies have turned a little darker.  It's very dark in the morning when we get up.  I open my shade expecting to see something, anything, but I don't.  I just squint trying to make out the shape of the chicken coop before coming to terms with the fact that we are indeed heading into another winter.  You'd think I wouldn't be surprised by this seeing that I've lived in this house for 14 years and have experienced 14 Octobers and 14 cranberry harvests here. 

Looking out over the swimming hole beds.  When Emily, Nick and Amber were little we have a large swimming hole in this exact spot, hence the name, swimming hole beds.

Joseph enjoying his mittens.  He couldn't stop looking at them.  This week didn't start out cold; Monday we had temps in the upper 70s.  Today we barely made it over 50.

The Dirty Jobs guy really needs to experience our type of cranberry harvesting because there's nuttin' clean about it.  Here Chad is blowing the ditch edge trying to get every last berry that's gotten tangled in the ditch grass.  The wind is out of the Northwest and he's on the south side of the bed.  He's getting wet!!!  That's why he's wearing raingear when it's not raining.

Years ago I read somewhere about the importance of boys having meaningful work.  Meaningful mans work.  Real work that needs to get done.  Not made up work to keep their hands busy, but hard laborous work.  The author said it helped them develop into hard-working, determined, needed men.  I think this counts big time.

With a mouthful of sunflower seeds to "keep him company", Nick picks up pipe from the cranberry beds so dad can rake the bed tomorrow.

The whole set-up.

Tooth decay fighting, urinary tract infection preventing, antioxidant loaded cranberries.  Eat some today!
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