Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Makin' Bacon

Yesterday was day 10 of the curing process for bacon.  You may recall one shelf in my refrigerator was packed with curing pork belly and the tedious task of waiting.  To be honest, there was one step involved here - after five days, I had to flip the slabs of meat.  Oh how exciting.
Curing Pork Belly
At last, day 10 arrived.  The pork bellies were rinsed and soaked for 2 hours, changing the water midway.  The meat was patted and allowed to dry further for another hour.  During the final drying period, the smoker was fired up to 200 F.  Just before placing the meat on the racks, we added pecan wood chunks and let the pit fill with smoke.

The meat was placed fat side down on the smoking racks.  Charcoal or pecan wood chunks were frequently added to keep the smoke rising out of the stack and maintain a temperature around 175 F.  We rotated the slabs every hour, to distribute the heat and cooking time evenly.  Six hours later, we transferred the bacon to the kitchen.  Not all of the meat made it to the fridge for cooling.  Some was sacrificed for dinner last night.  Yummy BLATs (BLT with Avocado).

Here is a photo of my mom's meat slicer.  This was one of her wedding gifts in '56.  It works great!  The only drawback is the bacon slabs need to be halved.  They are too long to fit on the slicer.

Mama's Meat Slicer
 Here are the short slices of bacon.  The meat is very lean.  So much for collecting bacon grease for future cooking projects.


Saturday, October 13, 2012

Bacon and Lemons

It has been a long time, a very long time, since I've posted anything here.  Life seems to get in the way of the blog life.  A new granddaughter, changes at work, moving 300 miles (closer to my granddaughter), ailing family took up time.  Couple that with not having a camera handy when it's most needed.  Excuses, excuses!    My Grandmother told me that excuses are the sign of a weak person.

So back to busy-ness.  A few weeks ago, I discovered pay dirt in the form of a tiny, nearly hidden butcher shop in my new town.  Keep in mind I frequently read and am inspired by Cowgirl and Ohio Farmgirl.   These ladies can do ANYTHING and they DO everything.  Blend them with Maxine and you have the perfect woman.  Well, that would be the woman I want to be.

So, this week has been productive and fun.  We came back from a cousin's wedding, snagged back my dehydrator from Mom's.  (I had no room for it in the apartment, but now in a house - woo hoo, I can stretch my kitchen wings again).

Last week, I purchased a big bag of lemons. Today I sliced them in 1/8" slices and cranked up the heat (155 F) on my little Excalibur.  Six hours later, dried lemon slices.
Lemon Slices Drying
Then I purchased 20 lb of pork belly from the butcher yesterday.  It was frozen solid.  Really solid.  So solid, the butcher had to saw the slabs (frozen together) to make a sale.  Seven hours ticked by, then I could pull the still frozen slabs apart.
Slab set 1 of 2
OK, I'll get back on track.  The pork is beautifully streaked and very meaty.
Slab set 2 of 2
My mouth is watering for a bacon sandwich now.  But there are steps, and waiting, lots of waiting before that happens.

I grabbed my bacon cure (from the Pork Heaven near Mom's place) out of the pantry.

Bacon Cure
Trimmed the skin off the pork belly (see what to do with this little treasure (click here for chicharrones)
Trimming the skin off the pork belly
Massaged in the cure, anywhere and everywhere, wrapped in plastic bags and stuffed the meat into the refrigerator.
Cold curing
Now we wait for 5 days.  Tick... tick... tick... tick... tic

Y'all come back, now, ya hear?

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Mimicking Hamburger Helper

Magic Man was a well established bachelor when we met.  He was and is independent, a handyman, a very talented illusion manufacturer, housekeeper, and cooks to survive - not because he likes that task.  To be fair, he does a few really good recipes "up his sleeve", so to speak.  I love his potato salad, beans, ribs, fajitas, and sausage.  HIS personal favorites added Hamburger Helper, canned asparagus, and green beans overloaded with bacon, onions, and salt.

The other night, like every night this week, required a quick meal at home.  At work I wondered what we could toss together and be palatable.  I don't stock Hamburger Helper in my pantry, but decided with our stock we could mimic Magic Man's favorite "blend."

Arriving home from work, I headed straight for the kitchen snatching a large baking potato and onion en route.  My trusty Dutch oven started heating on the burner and after a quick potato prep, we sliced it into thicker-than-potato-chip pieces.  We browned the potato slices in hot oil in the Dutch oven, then chopped the onion while the potato slices cook.  The spuds were done, so they started the draining excess oil process and were set aside.  Back in the Dutch oven, the onions saut├ęd to which we added some ground beef.  A quick defatting of the meat mixture and addition of some flour - I guess it was a couple of tablespoons, we stirred this together and let the mixture bubble and brew for a while.  It was time to toss in some salt, pepper, and minced garlic followed by a cup-ish of chicken broth.  This mixture was thickening nicely and starting to smell really good.  During that simmering time, I discovered a package of frozen peas and dumped those in.  Back in went the potatoes, followed by a couple of big dollops of sour cream.  A final good stir and it was time to eat.

Magic Man complained.  We should have doubled the recipe.

No pictures to go with this story.  Maybe next time.  No one expected this meal to be a hit.  The best part is, this recipe becomes one of our "Some" collection.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Asparagus Pasta

I love recipes.  I especially love recipes whose measurements are accurately noted as "some."

Tonight we had a quick, one dish meal, portioned just for Magic Man and me.  This recipe was adapted from an article in Southern Living magazine so many years ago I can't recall the issue.  We replaced their pecans with our leftover chicken to present this dish as perfect for our family.

Start "some" (about 1 cup) mini penne pasta boiling in the Dutch oven.  I prefer the penne.  It has the same proportions as the vegetables.

While that's cooking, cut 1 red bell pepper into matchsticks,
cut "some" asparagus into 1" pieces,
chop "some" leftover chicken,
and mince 3-6 cloves of garlic.  Have ready some seasonings to taste:  pepper, basil, parsley, (fresh if you have the luxury of herbs handy) and a chicken bouillon cube.  I cheated this time, since I also have no fresh garlic tonight.  Must be time to head back to the local market.
Also, consider scooping "some" of the pasta water, and have a handful of Parmesan cheese close at hand.

Drain the pasta when it's al dente, breathe a sigh of relief that you were wise to reserve the pasta water ahead of time.  Meanwhile, back in the Dutch oven, begin to saute the red bell pepper.  After some minutes, usually 3, toss in the asparagus.  Stir that around for another three minutes or so.  Add the chicken, garlic, seasonings, and chicken bouillon cube.  Stir in a couple tablespoons of reserved pasta water.  Add more water as needed. Just before serving add the Parmesan, toss to coat.

If you're lucky, pour the mixture into a serving dish just in time for dinner.  Magic Man prefers to scoop it out of the pan.  He dares not wait a moment longer to eat.

This recipe easily exchanges or changes ingredients... shrimp, spinach, broccoli, mushrooms, jalapeno, pasta shape.


Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Town Crier

This has been a great week.  My stolen vehicle was recovered earlier this month and my trusted mechanic returned it to me Wednesday.  She may be old, but she's certainly reliable and proven resistant after rudely taken from her home.

I drove to Mom's Thursday morning, picked her up and headed to Big City North.  My daughter was schedule for induction Friday morning.  Friday night, we welcomed our newest family member.   I was so happy to be here and hold her in my arms.

Meanwhile, Daughter and Baby are receiving doctors and nurses this morning.  Mom and I are going shopping (she forgot to bring pants) then race back to visit the Zoe this afternoon.

We're finishing this week with Mom's meatloaf.  If I get my two cents and to the kitchen first, meatload accompanied by mashed potatoes and green beans.  Maybe while we're out, we can add a loaf of warm French bread to the menu.

What a great week.  Yes, I had to declare it again.

Birth Day

Late last night my granddaughter entered into our world, leaving behind the warm, cozy, nearly anti-gravity home within her Mama.

She's beautiful and is worth the wait.  Weighing in at 8 lb 2 oz, stretching to 19", topped with loads of black hair, Zoe is healthy baby girl.  Mama and Papa are doing well, but tired.  Grandma and Great Grandma are ecstatic. 

I didn't think anything would be as wonderful and fulfilling as my daughter until I held my granddaughter in my arms.  I have an ally!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Miscommunication Turned Good

This weekend, Big City North friends dropped in unexpectedly to deliver their sack o' shirts.  Actually, it was a huge miscommunication that worked out well.  Let's set up the scenario before the story begins.

We lost a very dear friend the afternoon before Thanksgiving.  We knew him and his family for over 25 years.  He voluntold as referees for FIRST Robotics.  He was a great leader for us and mentor for the teams.  In his memory, we are making a quilt for his family. 
We considered working on the quilt this weekend.  Where was never discussed.  I planned to drive to Big City North to be with my daughter as she enters into labor.  They thought while they were delivering an ROV (for an underwater robotic competition demonstration) to the Big City.  Understand, we thought Magic Man was bringing the ROV back here when he returned home.

The situation worked out well for us.  We made lots of progress on the quilt.  Imagine, if you will, engineers cutting and stablizing quilt blocks.  "This reminds me of making composites." "This reminds me of sheet metal layout."  So ladies, know that what you do in the quilting world is indeed very techinical.

Our friends brought a gift.  Here it is.  Oh, it matches the granddaughter's bedroom.  How convenient and fortunate for ME!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Look What Followed Me to Work!

This young fella was guarding the door.  Mr. B and his breakfast burger coaxed him into the building.  Ms. Julia is coming to pick him up and take him home.  I would take him if we had a place for him to run.

This is My Lucky Day

Luck #1.

Mr. B works with me.  Mr. B is very talented, is not credited enough for his skills.  On top of that, he's one heck of a nice guy.  I adore Mr. B.  He should be my son.

Mr. B had a bag of lemons on his desk, at least that was the info from his office partner in Mr. B's absence.  I picked up and smelled those bright yellow orbs.  Then he walks in.  I was caught sniffing the goods.  He explained they came from his tree at home, then graciously offered the bag of, the bag of LIMES.  Yellow limes?  These must be ripe.

Luck #2

Sam's Club is not my favorite place to shop.  To be honest, outside of fabric shops or old-time hardware stores, I don't like to shop.  OK, maybe the trip to the farmers' market.  But since I HAD to be here, I wandered over to the cheese chest.  Preparing to be disappointed again, my eyes carefully scanned the dairy assortment.  And then, I heard the angels, "Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhh...".  There was my cheese, MY cheese.  It was back.  Containing a happy dance, I picked up a block and hurried it to check out.  No waiting, no pausing for  any other item.  This was my sole purchase, my soul purchase.  I hugged the cheese all the way home.

Back at the hacienda, I carefully hid the block of gold in the refrigerator, away from Magic Man's hands that sleight.  He will not make my cheese disappear, I will.

Look at all the lovely colors of heat in this cheese, the swirl of jack and cheddar.  It is time for a midnight snack.

'Night y'all.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Favorite Photos

Once in a while I get lucky with the camera.  Sometimes I borrow a photo from a family member, just because I like it and it warms the cockles of my heart.

There's not much to say, this picture just makes me smile.
I dare you to call her the Old Bag.
Backyard Visitor - He walked up and wanted his ears scratched. - the smaller one.  The big one is known to bite, butt, and kick.  He visited several days, then moseyed on to other territories.
Tell me I'm wrong.  Was this guy the model and inspiration for Buc-ee?
Let me in on the joke!  It must have been good.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Doggie Make-Over

Most people are lucky to have siblings.  Some have only brothers or only sisters, some have a combination of both.  I have two siblings.  One is my brother, the other is the bother.  Obnoxious and fun loving, he does not qualify for the first "R" in our blood relationship.

Oh, he can't be that bad, you say.  Ask Mom's dog.  Notice, he now has eye brows.

Mooooore Monkeys!

I loved our little sock monkey when I was young.  A tad freaky, but he had his own charm.  My daughter found Sock Monkey at my Mom's and rescued him from the closet and moth balls.  At home, he spent some time in the whirling hot tub and hung out with the birds to dry.  With a bit of TLC, Sock Monkey was in loving arms again.

In May, my daughter and her hubby announced the arrival of our newest family member (you probably guess I'm overly excited now).  At that moment I knew there was going to be a sock monkey theme for the nursery.  I scoured the internet and found some wonderful fabric and embroidery designs.  It was time to sew and crochet.  Magic Man may be thinking I over committed with so many projects.

Dust ruffle fabric scraps, a package of cloth diapers, and some bright red thread were the basic components of these adorable burp towels.

Crafty Staci offered a quick method to add the trim to these towels.  The instructions were meant for an adorable trick or treat bag.  (I have a couple examples of the bag here and here.)

Any day now, I'll head to the Big City North to welcome my granddaughter.   Even Moooooore Monkeys will appear in future postings.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Tote-ally Transforming Bag/Pad

Several weeks ago, I saw an episode of "Sewing with Nancy" on PBS.  I can't recall the guest, but she made this very cool picnic tote.  With a few modifications, this is now a baby totepad for my granddaughter.

The ingredients:
* Cut two 36" squares of fabric (these pieces are heavy cotton from Ikea)
* Four 18" zippers
* thread
* 1 1/2 yards woven strap or belt material
* Two 1 1/4" D-loops
* 1 parachute buckle
* 1 large button
* 10" of elastic cord.

I found this 1 1/2" button at Jo-Ann's
Take the fabric for the outer bag, fold on the diagonal, as accurately as possible.  Steam and press.  Open and fold on the other diagonal.  Steam and press.

Along the fold, place a 3" mark on each side of the crease.  Measure and mark 19" up along this crease.  Mark 1.5" on each side of this last mark.  Draw a line connecting the two points, one on each side of the crease. ("Crease" is used too many times - sorry about that).  Flip the fabric over and repeat on the other side.  

Place the outside edge of one zipper on the straight line.  Pin and sew close to the teeth.

For the curved lines, I used a cake cover.  With the zipper closed, mark a point 3" from the end of the zipper (not the fabric part) nearest the fold.  This mark will be on the outer side of the zipper.  Place the large dinner plate or cake cover on the new mark and draw a circle.  Open the zipper and pin the fabric edge of the zipper. Sew next to the teeth.  Repeat for the other three zippers.  The instructions did not advise to do so, but I sewed the outer edges of the zippers.  Trim the zipper tips, if you desire.
Zippers sewn in place
With the right sides together, sew the two 36" squares together, leaving a 6" gap for turning.  Clip the corners, and topstitch the edges.
Sew the D-rings to the corner of the blanket.  
Attach the D-rings to the corner of the blanket.  Use the corners where the straight sides of the zippers would intersect.  Secure the woven strap to each D-ring and attach the buckle to the other ends.

Thread the elastic cord thru the button hole.
 Thread the 10" elastic cord thru the button hole so that the raw ends remain on the back side of the button. 
Secure the elastic 6" from the top point of the bag.
 Secure the button to the bag.  This button is about 6" down from the point.  Not the same point with the D-rings.

It's done.  Here's the bag opened to a blanket or changing pad.
 This handy tote can be used for a changing pad or a picnic in the park.
Zip the four sides together
Secure the top, wrapping the elastic loop around both points, then over the button.

Clip the parachute buckle and it's ready to go.
This project was so quick and easy I will make another one for ME!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Cover Story

I love babies.  Most of the time they smell nice, their giggles are sincere, and they love you unconditionally.

When asleep, sometimes it's nice to cover the little bundle of joy with something light.  I like a sheet in those instances.  When shopping for nursery sets, I can never find top sheets for cribs.  So I make them.

I finished thegranddaughter's top sheet today.  It's made from the same fabric as the pillow case.  Sheets are so quick and easy, it doesn't make sense to not add it to the set.

This sheet takes 2 yards of 42-45" fabric.  Cut about 3-4" off one end for the trim.  Exact measurements are not critical.

Place the right side of the trim to the wrong side of the sheet.  Sew the top edge with a 1/2" seam.  Press the seam toward the sheet. Press 1/2" along the raw edge of the trim. 

Press 1/4" seam around the other three sides.  Fold and press another 1/4" seam, completing a double fold.  Top stitch the three sides.

Fold the trim, right side up, over the right side of the sheet and press.  Embellish the trim with bias piping, pin and top stitch in place. 

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Strange Relationship

I have a good friend, one of my best and one of my longest (oldest sounds so negative).  We met in college; but knew we were not compatible as boyfriend/girlfriend.  For years, we disapproved each others "partners."  Then the right woman came into his life, they married, had kids - two boys.  Those two are spitting images of their dad.  I question if they know who the real mother is.  Mom is sweet and gentle and very much a lady.  Me, I like to get my hands dirty, play with power tools, and enjoy the great outdoors.  I enjoy cooking, but cleaning can be left alone for a little while.

The youngest son and I were chatting one day, I believe we were grilling ribs in my backyard.  Jokingly I told him he was one of my favorite nephews.  He replied I was his favorite uncle.

Me:  "Uncle?"
Him:  "Yep, Dad always says you're one of the guys."
Me:  "Why would he say that?"
Him:  "Because you can do things Mom can't.  She can't tell the difference between a screwdriver and a hammer."

From that point I was known as "Uncle Cindy."

I am proud of both of these young men.  The eldest has finished his service with the United States Army, the youngest is now enlisted in the US Navy.  Thank you very much for your selfless decisions.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Robot Season Officially Begins

Mark and I are insatiable volunteers.  We volunteer hundreds of hours together each year at robot competitions for students K-College.

Today is the start of the spring robot season, the Kick-Off for the upcoming event of FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC). The robots these high school and some middle school students operate are big, heavy, and fast.   The events are exciting, challenging, and filled with energy.

The problem changes each year, so must the robot.  Here are some photos from events past.  Today, the new problem will be presented to the teams and countless volunteers.  I can hardly wait.

Robot on the Field with Game Pieces
High Fashion is the Norm for the Competitors.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Piece by Piece

I can hardly wait.  By doctor's predictions, Miss Zoe's arrival is less than three weeks away.  It's time for Iko (aka Grandma) to hurry, scurry and complete the projects started earlier in the gestation period.

Early this morning I made this little pillow case. Part of the Sock Monkey nursery set project was delayed, and delayed ...and delayed for back ordered fabric.  But it finally arrived and here it is, the finished product.
Tiny Pillowcase
Tonight, we make the top sheet.

Oh happy news for me...  My buddy Mr. A went home for the holidays.  He brought some wonderful treats.  I haven't had these in years.

Note to Magic Man - they're mine, all MINE!!!  muahahahahahaha!!!!!!!!!!!