Monday, September 30, 2013

"We're Ready....."

The truckload of regular firewood and the one of slab wood have "finally" been stacked under the lean-to behind the garage.  We also bought and assembled a log rack to have on the covered front porch, so we now have "easy access" for bringing in wood to burn in our Lopi wood stove.  Here it is, filled and ready.  ;)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

"Cheesy Potato Soup......"

My cousin, Barb, wrote and asked me for my Cheesy Potato Soup recipe.  It sounded good to me, too, so I decided to make some as well.

I peeled and shredded several potatoes (approximately 4 cups), placing them in a pot and covering them with chicken broth.  I tweaked the original recipe by using shredded potatoes, eliminating the need for blending the soup after all the ingredients were in the pot and cooked.  I'm OK with the soup not being a pureed soup.  I think it makes the soup "heartier".   ;)

A large onion was sliced, diced......

And added to the pot.  More chicken broth was added to bring the level of liquid above the potatoes and onion.

Normally, I would add 16 oz. of Valveeta, but all I had on hand was an 8 oz. box.  The 8 oz. of valveeta was cubed and ready to add once the shredded potatoes and onion were cooked tender.  I guess you could say I was making a "lite" cheesy potato soup this time.  :)  I know that processed cheese is not really a desirable thing to put into ones body, but I do love the taste of this soup, and we don't have it very often.  I can "justify" anything, eh?  ;)

Valveeta added and the soup is stirred until the cubes are blended.......

The finished Cheesy Potato Soup.  We enjoyed it for 2 meals so far, with perhaps one more bowl left to eat.  I wonder who will get that?  Perhaps the cook?  ;)

Monday, September 23, 2013

"Autumn Clematis......"

We had no idea as to what the vine on our arbor was until it started blooming.  I then took some photos of it and was about to post them on Facebook to ask if anyone could tell me its name, I read one of my Facebook group posts, "The Humble Gardener", and there it was.....Autumn Clematis!

Here is what the poor arbor looked like when we closed on the house in April.  It was partially falling down......

After moving here full time in May, and after getting the inside of the house somewhat settled, I tackled the job of trying to re-assemble it.  I also trimmed out some of the dead vine.

This is what the "mystery vine" looked like a few weeks ago.  Absolutely beautiful!

Thanks to Facebook's group, "The Humble Gardener", we now know the name of this delicate little beauty...."Autumn Clematis".

Saturday, September 21, 2013

"Apple Cinnamon Leather......"

In my 1st attempt at making apple cinnamon leather, I added sugar to my homemade applesauce.  I think it was a mistake because the apple leather was too "sticky" and didn't seem to want to completely dry.

I rolled up the sticky leather and put it in the freezer, although I think I could have set it in the refrigerator as well for it to "firm up".  Why did I want it to firm up you ask?  I was hoping I would be able to handle it easier if it was cold and less sticky.

Cooling it seemed to help a bit.  I took each rolled up tube and cut it into several pieces for individual servings.

Then I set those pieces onto a baking sheet and put them into the freezer so they would freeze individually and not stick together when bagged up.

In making my 2nd batch of apple leather, I cut my apples for the applesauce, boiled the apples down, and added only cinnamon this time, omitting the sugar.

I was much happier with this batch and am sure omitting the sugar was the right thing to do.  I've also read a couple of recipes (yes, I know....after the fact) and they suggest not adding sugar, too.  ;)

There was no need to cool the tubes down this time because they were not sticky like my 1st attempt.  Also, instead of using a knife to cut them into individual servings, I used kitchen scissors, too......MUCH easier.  ;)

I'm not comfortable with just bagging my dehydrated fruit and storing it in a cabinet, but instead bag the dried pieces and put them into the freezer.

Friday, September 20, 2013

"The Taste of Traverse City....."

Last Saturday was the first "Taste of Traverse City" (  We went, being the inquisitive guys we are, plus we thought we should get to know the local restaurants.........and wineries....and breweries.....and distilleries.  ;)

We parked east of the downtown in the parking ramp and walked to the bay front, passing the marina on our way to the event.  I am still and utterly amazed at how clear the water is here!  Here is a photo of  that fact.......keep in mind, this is as far away from the open bay as you can get in the marina, up against the park, and yet, the water is crystal clear!

Having gone to the "Taste of Madison" many times, we thought we knew what to expect.  In a way, we did, but comparing the 2 events is not possible because this is the first one and Madison has had many, many years of hosting the event.  It was much smaller, which is to be expected, but we were somewhat disappointed that there were not more local restaurants participating. There were perhaps 10-12 food booths, and as many or more wineries represented, with a few distilleries and breweries thrown into the mix.  Truthfully, we enjoyed the event but do hope it grows with more local businesses participating.

This is our 1 photo of the event.......the Bloody Mary, made using McClure's Pickles Bloody Mary Mix (, and Grand Traverse Distillery's Vodka (, was delicious!  I did have to go back for another after tasting my 1st one.  ;)

"Taste of Traverse City" was held in the "Open Space", which is the local name for part of the park which runs along the south shore of West Bay.  Another part of that shoreline behind the marina, but still connected to the "Open Space", is Clinch Park.  Clinch Park used to hold a zoo, which is now gone.  There has been quite a bit of construction there for the past few years, redeveloping, yet keeping it a children's park.

Don thoroughly enjoyed our walk back to the car, stopping along the way to "try out" the new playground equipment.  It "HAS TO BE TESTED" to see if it is "safe" for our Granddaughter, Abigail, don'cha know!  ;)

Lucky for Traverse City, all the pieces of equipment that he tested (a few he wasn't able to test due to "kids" being on them), passed his thorough and rigorous inspection.  ;)

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

"Inside the Little Studio....."

We've been having some work done on the house, garage, and "little studio" (formerly known as the yoga studio).  This involves having new entry and storm/screen doors installed in the house, replacing the side door of the garage with the old front door, and installing a new entry and screen door in the little studio.

As you know, Don has been cleaning up the little studio, inside and out, with plans for it to become a place of solitude for reading or naps.  ;)  In preparation for that, he has installed his hammock, which is in terrific shape having been bought in the late 70's.

Eventually, the mirrors, from the buildings days as a yoga studio, will come off the wall and new wall coverings of some sort will hide the particle board, and a new floor covering will be laid down, too.

But until then, we're quite happy with the way it is.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

"Finishing Up the Paula Reds......"

I had some apples leftover from the applesauce and apple slice drying so I decided to make an apple pie.

I must admit, I am pretty proud of my rolled out pie crust........

Don had sent me a link from one of the Bed and Breakfasts in the area, which is known for their pies.  The link included a video on making and rolling out pie crusts.  The pie makers suggestion was to push the entire lower crust against the pie plate, using a fork, to make sure it was firmly attached and would not pull away from the pie plates surface.  I'd never had any problem like that happen before, but figured, what the heck....I'll try it her way and follow her instructions.  Although, I don't believe I will cut off the crust from the edge next time until I have filled and attached the top crust.

My filling for the apple pie......

Covered with the top crust and ready to seal.  This is where I could have used a bit more lower crust to fold together with the upper crust.

Having left over dough and apple slices, I decided to make some apple turnovers, too.

Out of the oven and cooling.

I still had extra apple slices left over, so an apple crisp was next on the agenda.

That turned out pretty good, too.  In fact, we still having it for dessert.......with ice cream, of course!   ;)

Just a little disclaimer here.  Don and I didn't eat everything that I baked.  I sent home the apple turnovers with the 2 guys, Dave and Doug, who were installing our new entry and storm/screen doors. We share nicely in this household.  ;)

Monday, September 16, 2013


I used my new pressure canner to can pints of applesauce last week.  I have the water bath canner that I could use, too, but the pressure canner holds more pint jars, plus the process is much faster.

Pint jars washed and waiting to be filled......

Pressure canner heating up the 3" of water needed for the canning process.......

I had prepped enough Paula Red apples to fill 2 large pots, boiled them down into applesauce, filled 11 pints, put on the pressure canners lid, locked it down, set the stoves flame, exhausted the pressure canner for 7 minutes, added the 5# weight on the exhaust vent, and processed for 8 minutes. about a run-on sentence!

Turning off the burner and after I allowed the pressure canner to exhaust completely (bringing the pressure back to zero), I opened the canner.

Using my "jar lifter", I set them on the cloth covered countertop to cool overnight before labeling and putting them downstairs on the storage shelf.  I use unsweetened applesauce in my bread dough, instead of oil.  I figure that with these 11 pints, I have enough for baking bread 22 times, getting approximately 66 loaves of bread, depending on how I divide the bread dough.

I have since made another 16 pints of applesauce to add to my stock, plus bought another bushel of apples, this time Macintosh.  Using the Macintoshes, I dried another 10 trays of apple slices, plus experimented with 6 trays of "apple leather".  Apple leather is nothing more than dried applesauce, so I figured why not give it a try, eh?  That comes out of the dehydrator this morning.  I will update you on how that turned out later.

Friday, September 13, 2013

"Dried Apple Slices....."

I don't "think" I had mentioned this before (if I did, I apologize for telling you again), but I bought an apple peeler/corer/slicer made by "Progressive" International.  I LOVE this new gadget/tool!  It makes preparing the apples for drying so quick.  Everything is done all at one time, and the only steps I have to do after removing the peeled, cored, and sliced apple from it, is trim any bruises out and cut one slice vertically through the apple, which cuts the apple "coil" and gives me slices.

Either end of the apple is slid onto the 3 prongs, which hold it in place........

Once the apple is seated, the process begins......

Turn the crank and once it hits the floating peeler on the side (it accommodates different sized apples), it begins peeling.  When the apple comes in contact with the metal "O" and flat side blade (shown closer to the viewer in this photo), the core is cut and the apple sliced as the apple is peeled.  The process is complete when the 3 prong area is through the "O".

The entire apple is slid from the machine, leaving its core impaled on the 3 prongs.

Bruises are then trimmed and 1 slice vertically through the apple cuts the continuous coil of apple into slices.

It is then placed into a bowl of water which has citric acid added.  The citric acid helps keep the apples from "browning" until I have enough slices to fill my 10 dehydrator trays.

Apple slices drained, laid onto the plastic drying sheets in the dehydrator, and sprinkled with a cinnamon/sugar mixture.

The results of these 10 trays.......

I have since dried a 2nd batch of apple slices which I left plain.  They came out quite tasty, too, but I have one more experiment to try.  I think I will add some cinnamon to the citric acid bath and see how much will stick to the slices as they are removed from the water.  The apple slices definitely do not need sugar added as I did the first time.  The sugar in the apples becomes concentrated as they dry and shrink.