Kindness is essential in our daily lives.
I will share weekly a new post with a message of how powerful kindness really can be.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Pickled Beets Recipe

The beet belongs to the same family as chard and spinach. However, unlike these greens, both the root and the leaves of beets are eaten. Beet leaves have a lively, bitter taste similar to that of chard. Attached to the beet's green leaves is a round or oblong root. Although typically a reddish purple hue, beets also come in varieties that feature white or golden roots. Because of their high sugar content, beets are delicious when eaten raw, but are more typically cooked or pickled. Beets are the main ingredient in borscht, a traditional eastern European soup.

Most any time of the year you'll find pint jars of pickled beets stored on my pantry shelf and frozen cooked beets in my freezer ready to compliment any meal. Pickled beets are delicious with hot dogs, hamburgs, grilled cheese sandwiches or, for that matter, any other choice of sandwich; frozen beets can be enjoyed as a side dish to any meal served. Pickled beets also make for a great item to take on either a picnic or as a dish-to-pass.

I began growing my own beets and pickling them some 20 years ago using an heirloom recipe which was shared with me by a much older friend and neighbor who also enjoyed for many years preparing this very same recipe for his family - the only difference being he purchased his beets locally from a farm stand whereas I grew my beets in my backyard garden. This year my newly-built raised bed is providing an ample amount of beet harvest to meet my needs as well as the needs of other interested recipients. (I'm pleased to say that this year I was able to barter some beets for some extra string beans.)

My choice of beets, as shown in some of my pictures, is the oblong beet. They take less time to cook and are simply simple to slice.  It is a requirement that the recipes I collect and prepare are fairly simple because if it's too complicated it's no fun and if it's no fun "get me out of here."

Picked Beets Recipe - Heirloom Style

Prepare beets (3-4 lbs dependng on size):

Wash and cook your beets:

Before cooking your beets cut off beet greens leaving 2" attached to root vegetable (to help them bleed less while cooking.) Wash the beets and place them in a large pot filled with water and boil them until they are fork tender. A pressure cooker can also be used to cook the beets - I find it to be faster and not as messy.

Cool beets to touch:

After the beets are fork tender, transfer them to a cookie tray or large bowl to cool to touch.

Peel and slice beets:

Peel and slice desired amount of beets. *

This recipe makes approximately 4 pints of pickled beets. I always triple this recipe which makes approximately 12 pints but if I add lots of onions I can get at least15-17 pints. Unfortunately when I made this batch I was out of onions. : (

Prepare utensils:

Wash the jars, lids and rings with hot soapy water.
Place the clean lids to be used in a pan of water and bring to a boil.

Marry the beets with the ingredients:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • onions (optional)

Combine all the ingredients into a large stock pot and bring to a boil stirring until the sugar has dissolved.

Add the cooked sliced beets to the pot and continue to boil slowly for 15 - 20 minutes.

Pack the beets with enough liquid to cover them into clean hot jars to within 1/4 inch of the top. Release any air bubbles using a non-metallic utensil.

Wipe the rims of the jars with a moist paper towel to remove any food residue to ensure a good seal. Place a hot lid onto each jar rim and hand-tighten the screw band. They are now ready to process in the boiling water bath:

  • Place a rack in the bottom of a large kettle and fill it halfway with water. Heat extra water in a saucepan as a reserve. Bring to a boil over high heat and carefully lower the jars into the pot using a jar lifter or a wire rack made for this purpose. Add more boiling water from your reserve until the water level is 2 inches above the tops of the jars. Cover the kettle and bring the water to a full boil. Reduce the heat and maintain a gentle boil for the entire processing period of 30 minutes.
At the end of the processing time remove the jars from the kettle with a jar lifter or wire rack and place them on a clean towel until completely cool.

Test the seals on the cooled jars by pushing on the center of the lid. If the lid feels solid and doesn't indent, you have a successful vacuum seal

Remove the screw bands from the sealed jars, wash them in hot, soapy water and put them away for another canning adventure.

Now this is what I'm talking about and....

don't forget to wash and steam the beet greens!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Results of Raised Garden Beds

This year the two old people who live in our house decided that she was too old and rickety and he was too old, too rickety, too crotchety and just too grumpy to plant and maintain the full-scale vegetable garden as they did in previous years.


Early this spring raised garden beds were taken into consideration and became part of our daily dialogue. After shopping at the likes of Home Depot and Lowe's it became apparent that they did not carry the type of wood we were looking for - a thick and heavy type that would last longer than what they had to offer. A trip to one of our local sawmills resulted in a consultation which resulted in the purchase of the exact amount of 2" thick hemlock boards that were needed to build three sturdy 3' x 10' raised vegetable beds. No doubt this was going to be a backbreaking job to unload these boards from the trailer that was used to haul them home but fortunately for us (or I should say me) a healthy neighbor came by just in time to give a hand.

I might add that a couple of the young chicks in the family immediately gave their approval of us using the hemlock wood.........or were they just looking for a free ride?

After getting the three frames built we realized we had room for one more raised bed so off to the saw mill once more we went to purchase more hemlock boards.

I'll be the first to admit that the whole process of excavating the land and building the frames was a large endeavor but not as large as filling the empty frames with the soil mixture that was delivered from a local landscaper and dumped onto the driveway. It's a good thing that these empty frames need only be filled once upon creation of the raised beds as dumping wheel barrel full after wheel barrel full of the soil into the frames was a back-breaking process which just about killed these two old folks. Tension? What tension?


Comparing the before picture with the after picture makes it all worth while:
Before Raised Gardens

After Raised Gardens
Believe it or not there actually was a grape vine growing in the area where the barn roof is soiled which was taken out of existence along with a small water pond.

The windows on the side of the building look good but they are fake. They were picked up on the side of the road and brought home to be given a new life.

I know what you're thinking: it's amazing that two old folks can accomplish this greatness!!

Four raised vegetable gardens along with a beautiful flower garden in a not-so-large area of space should inspire anyone contemplating the idea of home gardening.

With a little effort and at least 6 hours of sunlight anyone can accomplish this treasure.


Not living in an area that provides public water we must depend on a well for our water usage. Fearing the well might run dry during the hot summer months we installed a rain barrel for keeping the plants watered. The rainwater washes off the roof into the gutter directly into the top of the rain barrel as pictured. There is a spigot attached to the front of the rain barrel to turn the water on and off that I use to fill my watering can. A garden hose is very close by to the garden that I'm able to use if I want to get the job done quickly.

Because the chickens became too curious with the raised beds and we couldn't shoo them away fast enough their scratching antics became a nuisance. Hence, the 3 foot tall green fence had to be put up to keep them at bay. It worked for the chickens but of course not for the rabbits.

Comfortable seating is required in order to properly watch the garden grow along with a table to hold beverages for sufficient human hydration and possibly food.

Limited weeding tools are required. If planted properly the plants will grow large enough to cover and kill a great deal of the weeds.

More before, between and after pictures to get you thinking why and how you can make this happen at your home:

This is a birds eye view of the new growth in the garden: 2 sweet zucchini plants, 1 bed of bush beans, 1 small bed containing a cucumber plant, 1 bed of carrots shared with red, green and yellow bell peppers, 1 bed of elongated beets and 1 bed of swiss chard. The beans, carrots, beets and swiss chard were all grown from seed. The cucumbers, peppers and zucchini were started and bought from a greenhouse.

A couple bales of hay spread around the entire area of the vegetable garden worked to my advantage. First it kept the weeds at bay and second it provided a dry ground for walking, keeping my footwear neat and clean.

A close-up view of the cucumber plant:

Pretty, ain't she?

And productive, too.

She trained her tiny tendrils to grab onto the fencing and hold on for dear life!

The only con I found was her thirst. Being in such a small raised bed caused the soil to dry out too frequently and she had to be watered daily.

l might have to rethink how I plant cucumbers next year.

A close-up view of the two zucchini plants:

The two ugly duckling plants on the left are shown newly planted


they grew into the beautiful swan plants on the right.

Let's not overlook the fragrant herb bowl:

A wave of the hand over it's growth provides renewed energy and it's pickings are shared in the kitchen.

One more impressive zucchini pic.


Fresh string beans at meal time get steamed; extras go into quart jars for canning. The seeds I planted this year were saved from the crop of last year for replant.  

Some of the carrots will also be steamed for a meal time dish but the majority of them will be processed in quart jars for eating at a later date.

The swiss chard gets steamed in a large pot and when cool it gets weighed out in 1 pound increments that go into freezer bags and put in the freezer.

Our favorite, beets, after they have been cooked to tenderness are turned into pints of pickled beets and bagged for freezing - to be savored during the colder months. The greens (tops of the beets) are steamed and used fresh as a side dish to a meal.

Red, yellow and green peppers are used fresh in salads and other recipes. Any remaining towards the end of the summer are washed, chopped and frozen for use at a later date.

I can't forget to mention the rhubarb that grows along the other side of the fence next to the garden and is one of the first spring plants to produce. Under normal growing conditions the rhubarb is very hearty. The dry weather this year caused the rhubarb to be smaller, more spindly and less succulent. I was only able to harvest enough rhubarb this year that produced 8 pints of strawberry rhubarb jam. I am so looking forward to a better harvest next year.

How it all began on the left and ready for harvest on the right.

There will be additional pages added to this blog that will walk through the different methods of processing each crop.

Seeing is believing.

Anyone is capable of turning tender plants and hearty seeds into a sustainable raised vegetable garden.

The rewards are outstanding and

the health benefits are tremendous!  : )

I hope you enjoyed this tour and accept it as encouragement for successful gardening!

Monday, August 20, 2012

How to Make Your Own Pita Chips

On the cheap and simple.....make your own Pita Chip snacks....for dips....(especially Hummus)....or just pop them in your mouth as is.

What you'll need to make this happen:

1 pack of pita bread (buy day old and really save $$$)
olive oil
2 small bowls
pastry brush
sea salt (not pictured)

favorite seasonings (optional): garlic powder, chili powder, Parmesan cheese, cinnamon & sugar, etc.
large cookie sheet
pre-heated 400 degree oven


Start with a multi-pack of pita bread (my preference is whole wheat.) Place 1-3 of the pita bread circles onto a cutting board and using a large sharp knife (non-serrated) cut them into 4 strips/sections. Cut each strip into several triangle shapes about 2" in size. Because the pita bread is a two-sided pocket, separate each cut triangle into 2 pieces and lay them onto a cutting board.

Pour a small amount of olive oil and sea salt into two separate small bowls. While the cut pita triangles are laying on the cutting board use the pastry brush to slightly brush the top side of each cut piece. Add a small sprinkling of sea salt to the top 'oiled' side of the pita triangle (or more if you like.) If you are planning to flavor your pita, now is a good time to do so.

Place as many of the 'oiled' pita triangles as close as possible onto your cookie sheet without layering them. Place the cookie sheet into the pre-heated 400 degree oven and bake for 5 minutes until they are crisp and lightly browned. My oven heats hotter to the back so after 3 minutes I rotate the front to the back for the last 2 minutes for even baking. Most cooks know how their oven heats and will make these types of necessary adjustments. Transfer the baked pita triangles onto a heat-proof serving plate when finished baking. It only takes a few minutes for them to cool. If you make a large amount of these you can store them in some type of a plastic bag (with either a tie or zipper) - even an empty bread bag will work.

As I'm always preaching,  make it from scratch. It's so much cheaper, tastier and maybe even healthier because you made it the way you wanted to! It's also such a simple recipe you might want to include the little ones in helping prepare them - teach them the art of scratch cooking while they're young - develop fond memories they can take with them into adulthood!


Wednesday, July 4, 2012


 Granddogs actually are an extended part of our family of grandchildren - they automatically come with the territory. As an animal lover myself I'm very accepting of visits from the granddogs as long as they do their business outdoors, come without fleas, and can tolerate cats. It would be really, really great if they loved chickens!

Of course these newly adopted granddogs, adopted by families with children, are children friendly and very social whereas my own two pet dogs, raised by us two older adults, have had less training in socializing making it harder for them to adjust to the newbie granddogs.

Libby Lu is a sweet, timid, friendly and adorable 20 + pound Puggle who I was positive would get along with either dog. Ginger, on the other hand (our Alpha dog) is an adorable, sweet, friendly, not at all timid 15 pound Jug who struggles with developing friendships with other dogs so I knew we had to come up with a socialization plan for her.

As it began, little Ginger initially had to wear a muzzle when introduced to our larger granddog, Bailey, who was 6 months at the time of her adoption and, being a hound dog, quite tall. (Bailey has bounds of energy so it was very difficult to get her to sit still long enough to get good photos of her.) Ginger continued to growl and attack Bailey through her muzzle during their first few visits together.

Finally I decided to just turn them loose in the fenced area of our yard and let them establish the pecking order....and it pretty much worked. Bailey is a gentle soul and she very much wanted to be playmates but Ginger is domineering and she let Bailey know she was in charge. Eventually Ginger was able to tolerate Bailey through this process. They took turns sniffing on each other and then both went about their own business. I'll continue to keep an eye on Ginger during her future visits with Bailey but I'm pretty sure she'll be accepting of her soon.

I must add that Bailey was a rescue hound from Tennessee who was relocated to Syracuse with her mom and dad in hopes of finding them a good home. At this time Bailey is an only pet and she gets tons of love and attention from every family member including her three siblings Josh, Ben and Sammy. Her endless amount of energy gets challenged continuously by these busy family members. Bottom line - she got a GREAT home!

When Ginger was newly adopted by us it was necessary to use a squirt gun to convince her that she needed to be friends with our adult cat Tuxedo (and it worked great!) and if I have to I'll whip that sucker out for another behavior lesson. The future of this relation between Bailey and Ginger looks good!

Charlie, because he was only 6-8 weeks old at his time of his adoption, was much easier to friend with Ginger and Libby Lu. Neither dog was too intimidated by a wobbly, wet-behind-the ear, puppy-breath mound of playfulness. Each sniffed Charlie up and down but little Charlie was too young to know what was happening and/or to reciprocate. Charlie, a mix of Labrador and mastiff, will eventually grow into a large dog but by that time my two dogs will have already become friends with him.

Unfortunately for Charlie, he became enchanted with the hens and while running loose outside the fenced-in doggy yard he was attacked by one of them. Don't worry, there were no injuries - she was just letting him know the pecking order.

After the incident they both went off in different directions unscathed. Hopefully Charlie will remember this episode and be fearful of the chicks. Pecking order established? We'll have to wait and see. As he grows older Charlie will be kept confined with the other dogs behind the fence for their safety as well as the safety of the chicks.

Although Charlie at this time is not completely trained to do his business outdoors he's working hard at it. (Aw, come on Charlie, you pee like a girl.)

Charlie has Charm, a senior male Labrador, at home with him for friendship and mentoring as well as a crazy black cat by the name of Nanook to terrorize. He also lives with Corky, the family Cockatiel, but I can't imagine what kind of a relationship will develop between the two of them.

Charlie's loving family includes siblings Katie, Caleb, Sarah and Bella none of which can keep their hands off him - he's so irresistible. No doubt he'll be a 100 + pound lap dog!!!



Wednesday, June 27, 2012

How to Bake Hard-Boiled Eggs in the Oven

I absolutely love The Egg Genie. It is the ultimate hard- boiled egg cooker of all times. No fuss, no muss and it can cook up to seven perfectly hard-boiled eggs each and every time. Follow the prep directions that come with it, plug it in, sit back and await the buzz of the timer, transfer the cooked eggs into a bowl of cold water to cool and then peel and enjoy. Washing the plastic components is probably the least enjoyable part of the process.

Tonight, as I was reading through a few blogs and surfing for some easy and different recipes, I came across what I considered to be a very interesting recipe as well as a challenge to The Egg Genie: Oven Baked Hard-Boiled Eggs.

Thinking about the chilly and rainy weather we're experiencing this evening, I considered this a perfect opportunity to step up to the plate and take the challenge:

The Egg Genie VS The Electric Oven.

Here are the step-by-step instructions that I followed to bake one dozen hard boiled eggs:

Preheat your oven to 325. Place once dozen eggs into a standard 12-count muffin pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes.

Some of the eggshells may have a few brown spots on them after the baking process, but these will wash off easily in the water and do not leave a blemish on the edible part of the egg. (My egg shells are brown; I doubt this will happen to the white egg shells.)

The shells on two of my eggs split open during the baking; I think I overcooked them. No big deal - they'll be used in a delicious egg salad tomorrow!

Place the cooked eggs into a cold water bath to cool for handling; this also prevents the yolk from turning green. Because my eggs were very fresh (home grown), the shell peeled somewhat hard - the same as they do when cooked in The Egg Genie.

After the cooked eggs are cool enough to handle they can be peeled and eaten in your favorite recipe.


IT'S A TIE!!!!

The eggs from both methods were cooked to perfection as well as great tasting. The Egg Genie method serves a good purpose when it's only necessary to cook up to seven eggs and the Baked in the Oven method serves a good purpose when it's necessary to cook up to 12 eggs. Both methods require light washing of the cookware (neither serious) so bottom depends on how many bellies are to be fed.

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Roll the cooked egg between the palms of your hands or on a table top to loosen up the shell. Break open one end of the egg and insert the tip of a kitchen teaspoon between the white and the shell and run it around the entire inside of the shell. This will separate the shell from the egg white for a quick and clean peeling. : )

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