Friday, November 30, 2012

The T Doesn't Stand for Timely

You might remember that I put in a request to have our cable disconnected on November 6.  I was told by the phone rep at our cable company (which shall remain nameless, but whose initials are TWC) that they would "disconnect at the pole" on November 9.

I just got a knock on the door from the technician who said he's here to "disconnect cable but leave internet".  Yep.  Just what we ordered...three weeks ago.  By the way, the pole you're looking for isn't in our yard...go around to the house behind us.

We knew the cable was still on, but we haven't been using it.  In fact, when we lost power for a short time on Saturday or Sunday, we didn't even bother to re-scan for channels; we figured we'd get to that if/when we wanted to watch something.  We've been caught up in Netflix discs of Doctor Who instead.

I wonder if we'll be charged for those three weeks?  I do know we won't be paying for them.

Old-Fashioned Decorating

Here's a tableau I saw once in a flea market
and recreated here at home.

It's an old step-ladder adorned with kitchen utensils and other household items that are old or made to look old.  Keeping
ribbons and greenery to a minimum enhances this simple look.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Simple Decorative Table Covering for Any Season

Look at me!  I actually did a craft!  This project is SEW simple to make with a machine, and would even work up quickly by hand if that's your style.  All you need is a yard of woven cotton fabric in any color or design you like and at least 1/2 yard of any coordinating fabric.

Square up your cuts of fabric.  I do it by pulling a thread, but maybe you know of a different way.

Cut the larger piece of fabric in as big a square as you can.  Because of crooked bolting and uneven cutting, it will almost certainly be less than a 36-inch square.  Fold and press edges in 1/4-inch, then fold them over another 1/4-inch and press again.  Then top stitch all the way around.

Do the same thing with the smaller fabric, making a square as close to 18 inches as possible, and hem it all the way around as well.

Depending on your table, you may want to adjust these sizes.

Place larger cloth on table with points toward table ends and sides.  Place smaller cloth on top at a 45° angle (with points toward table corners).  Place centerpiece as desired.  Or, you know, you can put it on the table any way you like.

These are simple and inexpensive to make, so why not have some for every holiday or season?  I find that in our house, a full table cloth is likely to shift or get pulled on by our unruly cats, but these smaller table toppers work great.  When the table is pretty, we're much less likely to use it as catch all surface, too.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Monday Meal Plan

I haven't done a weekly dinner menu on the blog in a long time, so I thought I'd do that this morning.  All the turkey leftovers are gone, and I now have several jars of canned turkey stock in the pantry for future meals.  It's time to start eating some of the venison and pork in our freezer.

Sunday:  Copycat of Macaroni Grill's Penne Rustica. 

This was actually a leftover makeover, but not from Thanksgiving.  We went out last Wednesday night for a belated birthday dinner for Shane.  Without getting into much detail, we were all disappointed with our meals from a well-known chain steak house.  Kat ordered a Parmesan-crusted chicken dish, but brought most of it home as leftovers, which eventually found their way into this dinner. 

I made a few changes to the recipe.  I subbed in a cup of turkey stock for a cup of the cream (and used half-and-half instead of cream to begin with), I added quite a bit more garlic, and omitted the shrimp since we didn't have any in the freezer.  This turned out to be a nice baked pasta dish and quite the improvement over the original chicken dish from the restaurant.  We served it with a green salad and bacon-cheddar scones.

Monday:  Venison chili with corn chips, sour cream and shredded cheddar; peanut butter sandwiches; celery/carrot sticks. 

I call this one of my school lunch dinners, because we always had peanut butter sandwiches and celery/carrot sticks at school whenever we had chili.  I need to get a chili recipe posted on the blog.  My chili used to be ultra-simple:  ground meat, tomato soup, packaged chili seasoning, chili beans.  Lately, though, I've been using tomato sauce and pinto beans grown and canned from our garden, as well as chili seasoning I put together myself.  I need to get those changes on paper -- or on blog, as it were.

Tuesday:  Pork Chops with Onion-Mushroom Gravy

Here's another recipe that used both canned soup and dry soup mix, but that I've changed to include homemade versions instead.  I should probably get those changes recorded, too.  This dish will be served with potatoes and Brussels sprouts, but I haven't yet decided on the recipes for those.

Wednesday:  Texas Chili Cheese Bake

This is a fun dish using leftover chili layered over toast and shredded cheese, then broiled quickly to heat it through.  We'll probably have leftover Brussels sprouts and some home-canned peaches or apples to go with it.

Thursday:  Chinese Steamed Pork Dumplings, Egg Drop Soup, Garlic Green Beans, Almond Cookies

I'll be trying my hand at Chinese steamed dumplings.  If they turn out alright, I'll post the recipe.

Friday:  Kansas City Steak Soup with Venison, Cornbread, Home-canned Fruit

This is a family favorite but I'm trying something new this time:  I'm going to make a HUGE batch and pressure can it.  I've done a lot of pressure canning this year (pinto beans, green beans, chicken stock, even fish), but it will be my first time canning something like this with so many ingredients.  I can't wait to try it!

Saturday:  C.O.R.N. (Clean Out Refrigerator Night)

In other words, I'm taking a night off!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Nowadays, Even Sandwiches Are Controversial

I hope all of you had a very nice Thanksgiving.  Ours was wonderful, if very un-traditional.  I made most of the dishes ahead of time, so yesterday all that needed to be made was turkey and stuffing.

Kat went to a midday feast with her mom and step-dad, which left Shane and I with several hours of free time.  I spent mine in the RV, sewing.  Shane spent his in, out, and under the RV, getting it winterized for the off-season.  Around 4:00, we came in and started working on our Thanksgiving supper.  Shane deep-fried the turkey while I heated the side dishes.  By the time everything was ready, Kat was home to eat with us.  We enjoyed our meal while watching a movie.  Eating in front of the TV made it as much a holiday as anything else did; that's not something we do often.

We really enjoyed our casual, quiet holiday.  I think making side dishes ahead of time is the way I'll "do" holidays from now on.  Although we ate late in the day, we weren't tired from cooking all day, so cleaning up was a breeze.

So now, what to do with the leftovers?  Enter the controversy.  I plan on making Kentucky Hot Brown sandwiches.  I have never had one, have never been to the Brown Hotel, and in fact, have never been to Louisville at all.  I just thought the sandwich I saw in a magazine looked tasty.

Apparently, though, some folks get a little "tetchy" if the sandwich isn't made exactly according to The Brown Hotel's original recipe.  And, OMG, if you accidentally (or intentionally) call it a Hot Browns instead of Hot Brown, watch out!  Bobby Flay uses white cheddar and gives the bread a French toast treatment, both of which are apparently no-nos.  My Recipes' version calls for Parmesan (Mornay sauce), but is otherwise similar to the original.

Photo: Becky Luigart-Stayner; Styling: Buffy Hargett, via My Recipes

My version will probably include white cheddar (which I have on hand) and Parmesan (which I have on hand), and will probably not include the egg-dipped bread.  It will probably have double the bacon.  And for that reason alone, it will probably be the best recipe of the bunch.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Grinding Away

I know I haven't been around much.  Here's why:

- Between Thursday of last week and yesterday, we processed and froze 84 pounds of venison.

- We killed our meat grinder.

- I made Shane a cake for his birthday, which was yesterday.  I used this recipe, but made some changes to include cocoa and little molasses.

- I set up some Spicy Cranberry Relish to lacto-ferment.  It should be done by Thursday.

- I made Make-Ahead Gravy for Thursday's feast.

- After using what I needed for the gravy, I canned 4 pints of perpetual chicken bone broth.

- I zested and juiced some lemons and limes for future recipes.

- I'm making these French fries to go with tonight's supper.  I'm trying the twice-fried or double-fried method this time.  These are between fryings.  If you are interested, do a Google search.  There are WAY too many results to link just one.

- I managed to work in a little bit of laundry and housework between other jobs.

- Somehow, I managed to find time to plan meals until the end of the year.  Mostly just the main dishes, but it's a good starting point for more busy days ahead.

- And just for fun, we had dinner with some friends on Saturday evening.

I'm on a roll!  If you don't hear from me by Black Friday, send a search party.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Busy Days

Just "popping' in to say hello and let you know I haven't abandoned the blog.  Shane's birthday is Sunday...Thanksgiving is right around the corner...and it's deer season here right now (we process our own meat when we get it).  As you can imagine,  I'm feeling a little overwhelmed by my kitchen to-do lists right now.

I do manage comment once in a while on Facebook, so if you haven't already, you might want to "Like" me there to keep up with what's going on at the Haphazard Homestead FB page.

Have a great weekend, and I'll be back as soon!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Herbed Pork Loin with Roasted Potatoes

This dish takes a few hours to make in the oven, but it's worth the time.

Herbed Pork Loin with Roasted Potatoes

Pork Loin:

1 (2-1/2 to 3 pound) boneless pork loin roast
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 Tablespoon dry parsley (or 1/2 cup packed chopped fresh parsley)
1-1/2 teaspoons rubbed sage (or 1-1/2 Tablespoons fresh sage leaves)
1-1/2 teaspoons dried rosemary leaves (or 1-1/2 Tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves)
1-1/2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves (or 1-1/2 Tablespoons fresh thyme leaves)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

Heat oven to 350°F.  Pat the pork loin roast dry with a paper towel, then score the fat with a sharp knife at 1/4-inch intervals.  Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  (If you have an oven-safe skillet, this can become a one-pan meal.)  Add the roast and brown on all sides, about 3 minutes per side.

Transfer roast to a wire rack in a rimmed baking sheet that has been sprayed with non-stick spray.  Or, if using an oven-safe pan, just lift the roast and put a wire rack beneath it in the skillet.  Set aside.

Meanwhile, combine the remaining 3 Tablespoons of olive oil with the herbs, garlic, salt and pepper.  If using fresh herbs, combine this mixture in food processor.  Spread the herb paste over the top and sides of the pork roast.

Bake for 60 to 75 minutes or until internal temperature reaches 145°F.  Remove to serving platter.  Let roast rest at least 10 minutes to allow temperature to rise to 150°F before slicing.  Cover and keep warm until potatoes are ready.

Increase oven temperature to 450°F.  While roast is resting, prepare potatoes.

Roasted Potatoes:

1/4 cup olive oil
8 small potatoes, quartered (peeled or not, your choice)
1 medium onion, cut into several wedges or large chunks
4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into large chunks (optional)

In same pan or skillet you used to cook the pork roast, stir 1/4 cup olive oil into pan drippings.  Add cut up vegetables and toss to coat evenly.

Return pan to oven, uncovered, and roast for 60-65 minutes or until tender and golden, stirring halfway through cooking time.  Serve with sliced pork roast.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Bye-Bye Cable

The cable guy (neither Larry nor Jim Carrey) is supposed to disconnect our cable service today, leaving us with just Internet service, which will cut our bill from $103 a month down to $40. 

We're getting rid of cable primarily because we don't spend enough time watching television to justify the expense.  Kat watches an hour or so a day of cable cartoons or shows such as How It's Made or Mythbusters;  Shane and I don't even bother to turn the TV on most nights. 

Case in point:  I saw a banner hanging up in town recently, congratulating a local man on his success in a show called X Factor.  I had to do a Google search to find out what X Factor is, and find out why our town is fussing over a man named Tate Stevens.  Apparently, this alumnus of our local high school and employee on our city's road crew is doing quite well on X Factor.  But I was surprised to learn it was a talent show.  I thought it was about eating bugs or sleeping in scorpion infested coffins or something like that.  Oh, that's Fear Factor?  Fear Factor...X Factor...what's the difference?  It's all the same to me.

That's just one show.  I've never watched an episode of American Idol or Desperate Housewives.  I know those aren't new shows, but I can't even tell you what the new shows are called.  Anything we do know about and want to watch, we can find either online or via Netflix.

See what I mean?  It just isn't worth $63 a month we've been paying to NOT watch TV.  Seriously, we should've ditched it months or years ago, but of course, we were under contract until this week.

What about you?  Do you have an expense for a service you really don't need anymore?  It could be anything, not just cable.  Maybe it's something small, like a subscription to a magazine you don't read, or something bigger, like a gym membership you never use.  Could you cancel it to save some money each month?  Or redirect the money toward something you need or would enjoy more?  It's might be worth your while to consider it.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Apple Cider with Ginger Lemonade - Hot or Cold

Hot Cider with Ginger Lemonade
Here is a delicious drink that can be served as a refreshing cold drink or a cozy hot drink.  If you can't find ginger syrup, try your hand at making your own.  If you're in a hurry, use lemonade reconstituted from frozen concentrate or a drink mix powder.

Apple Cider with Ginger Lemonade

1 quart lemonade, sweetened to taste (see recipe below)
1 quart apple cider (can use apple juice if you prefer)
1/4 cup ginger syrup or to taste
cinnamon sticks for garnish

Combine all ingredients.  Serve chilled or over ice for a cold drink.  For a hot drink,warm gently in a slow cooker or in a pot on the stove; serve in mugs with cinnamon sticks for garnish. 

Homemade Lemonade

1-1/2 to 2 cups granulated sugar  (to taste)
2 cups water
1 cup fresh lemon juice
additional water

Make a simple syrup by combining sugar with 2 cups of water in a medium saucepan.  Stir over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves and mixture comes to a boil.  Remove from heat.

In a 2 quart pitcher, combine syrup with lemon juice.  Stir until well-blended.  Add cold water to make 2 quarts.  Chill before serving or serve over ice.

(Flavor improves after sitting a few hours.)

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes

For Saturday brunch I came up with these relatively healthy pancakes with the flavors of pumpkin pie.  I learned at the last minute we were out of maple syrup, so I drizzled just a little heated caramel ice cream topping on Kat's.  For my own, I spooned on some homemade ginger-peppercorn syrup.  It doesn't sound like a sweet treat, but it really brought out the pumpkin flavor in this breakfast.

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Pancakes

1-1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup sucanat, brown sugar, or sugar of choice
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
2 eggs
1-1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup pumpkin puree (canned or fresh)
2 tablespoons coconut oil, or oil of choice
Pan spray

In a large bowl, combine dry ingredients and mix well.

In a separate medium bowl, whisk milk with eggs and pumpkin.

Pour egg mixture into flour mixture and stir well.  Add additional milk if batter is too thick.  Stir in oil; if using coconut oil, melt it first if it is solid.

Heat large skillet or griddle over medium heat.  Spray pan with pan spray before each pancake.  Using 1/4-cup measure, measure batter onto hot griddle.  Cook until bubbles form and break on surface.  Flip to other side and cook and additional 1-2 minutes. or until cooked through.

Serve with butter and maple syrup, caramel topping or ginger syrup.

Makes about 14-15 4-inch pancakes.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

I Vote For The Taco Party!

Who doesn't love a fiesta?  I think that's a party we can call agree on.

If you have a deep fryer and one or two of these taco forms, it's absolutely worth your time to fry your own tortillas for these baked tacos.  

If you're feeling really ambitious, you could make your own tortillas from scratch, but it works just fine to do like I did and use the store-bought soft (not fried) corn tortillas like you'd use for enchiladas.  Or you could just follow the recipe (linked below) and use regular crunchy taco shells from a box.  I'm sure I'll try it that way, too.

You can eat these straight out of the oven just like this:

Or you can load 'em up like we did with lettuce, sour cream, black olives, salsa and guacamole.  Soooo goood!

Special thanks to my friend Melinda for sharing the link to the recipe for Oven Tacos at Lynn's Kitchen Adventures.  These tacos will get our vote every time!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Ginger-Peppercorn Drink Syrup

I bought some ginger syrup one time at World Market.  I loved it, but not it's price, so I decided to make it at home.  This is a versatile simple syrup that's great in mixed drinks, as an ingredient in a warm fall drink, and even drizzled over pumpkin pancakes or waffles.

You may leave the peppercorns out, if desired, but I think they really make the ginger flavor pop.  As a bonus, remove the slices of ginger from the syrup and let cool on some parchment paper, then eat plain, use to flavor homemade fermented drinks (kombucha or kefir), or use as candied ginger in recipes.

Ginger-Peppercorn Drink Syrup (Simple Syrup)

2 ounces fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup white sugar
1-1/2 cups water
1 to 2 teaspoons whole black peppercorns.

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Simmer, stirring constantly until the sugar dissolves. Continue simmering for 30 to 40 minutes or until the syrup has a strong gingery aroma. Remove from heat; cool completely. Transfer to a glass bottle and store in the refrigerate.

Makes 2 to 2-1/2 cups.

Friday, November 2, 2012


TGIFG! Thank Goodness It's Free Glasses! 

If you (or anyone in your family) wear glasses, my friend Jill at Blessings of a Stay At Home Mom has a deal for you and a great review.  I'm not going to pass this one up, and I don't think you'll want to, either.  So click on over now

Pee Ess:  Have a Wonderful Weekend!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Bi-Monthly Book Look - September/October

I'm finally finding a little more time for reading, and I'm right on track with my goal of reading 26 books in 2012.  I can't become complacent, though, or I won't make it through the last six books by the end of the year.

I was able to finish four books, all novels, in September and October:

Hunger Games - Suzanne Collins
My Rating: 3 out of 5. 

Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins
My Rating: 5 out of 5.

Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins
My Rating: 4 out of 5.

I wasn't sure if I wanted to read this series or not, but Shane would like to see the Hunger Games movie, so I decided to read the books first.  Overall, it is a great story, and I'd give it 4 or 4.5.  I'm not usually impressed by Young Adult fiction, but this story didn't seem YA to me at all.  As stand alone books, the first is a little weak, in my opinion, with an unsatisfactory ending, but because I was able to go directly to the second book, it felt more like the end of a chapter than the end of a book.  I think most readers already know what these books are about, but for those who don't, teenagers in a post-apocalyptic country (formerly known as USA) are selected by government lottery and forced to enter a kill-or-be-killed game of survival.

Home Across The Road - Nancy Peacock
My Rating:  5 out of 5. 

This is the story of Roseberry, the plantation home of the white Redds and the the black Redds, whom they own as slaves.  The drama and tragedies of both families is told in a story that spans more than 100 years.  The author repeats parts of the story over and over throughout the book, yet never never becomes dull or tiresome in doing so.  Overall, it's a beautifully written book.
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