Saturday, January 21, 2012

Southern Comfort: Banana Pudding (experimental style)

Oh 'Nanner Puddin', how do I love thee!

The problem is most of the time a banana pudding recipe is for a big 9x13 pan.  Who eats that much banana pudding on the regular?  It won't keep that long in the fridge, because the bananas start to turn black really quick.  I'm sorry, that's just nasty looking, and it doesn't taste right, either.

So what do you do?

Backtrack a few.  You know when you buy bananas, there's often that one lonely nanner that just doesn't get eaten?  It sits on the counter, getting darker, mushier, and more forlorn looking every day until eventually you just toss the thing, because it's not fit to eat anymore?  Maybe you don't, but I do.  Every time I buy bananas.  I think that what happens is B leaves it for me, and I leave it for him, so in the end it doesn't get eaten by anyone.   I'm something of a saver (in case you haven't noticed), and I hate to see anything wasted, so I started putting those lonely bananas in the freezer figuring I'd decide on something to do with them later.

I went to Wal-mart the other day, and I was significantly under my allotted food budget, and they had one of those trap displays.  You know the ones where they have all the name brand expensive ingredients for a dish on one display?  Well, this one was banana pudding.  They had the pricey evaporated milks, vanilla wafers, bananas and stuff all in one spot in the produce section.

Light bulb!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


This is my kitty.  You all have seen her before.  She's been scratching a lot lately, and everywhere she lays for any length of time there is a black dandruff when she gets up.  I thought it looked ominously like flea dirt, but just knew that couldn't be right.  She's an indoor cat 24/7, 365.  She's been outside a few times.  In a cat carrier on her way to the car.  B and I walked her on a leash when we were making the trek to Texas so she could stretch her legs and have the opportunity to go potty, if the mood struck her.  She's never had fleas before.  N-E-V-E-R!  So I just knew my baby didn't have fleas.

Well, she does.

Apparently they have come in from outside just to find her.  The strangest part of it is, B and I haven't been bit or seen them.  I am irrefutable proof that vampires do not exist, because anything and everything that sucks blood loves me.  I can be sitting in the midst of a group of people, none of whom are getting bitten by anything, and I'll have a swarm of blood sucking creatures flocking around me like a Thanksgiving Day buffet.  I've had what I thought were a few bug bites, but just a few.  B hasn't had any.  This is most unusual since he has the same problem of being tasty to blood-suckers as I do.  But because of the scratching and the appearance of what I was certain just could not be flea dirt no matter how much it looked like flea dirt, I decided that L'il Bit must have a bath.

She is *such* a good girl.  I've said that on here before, and I will say it over and over.  She doesn't like baths very much, but she tolerates them, and no matter how much she probably wants to scratch, she barely lays the tips of those wickedly sharp talons against my skin.  She doesn't even leave marks.  She just cries and tries halfheartedly to get out of the water.  She props her forefeet up on the edge of the tub or my arm and just tugs a little.  I've bathed many animals over the years and quite a few cats. She is far and away the best behaved cat in a bath I've ever had.

When I got her out of the tub and cuddled her in a towel to dry, I rolled her onto her back to check her white belly.  She isn't crawling with a massive infestation, but there they were.  Great big ole nasty fleas chewing on my baby.  I didn't wash her with anything special today, because I didn't know for sure she had fleas, but today begins the regimen.  I'm going to try to get her to eat a little garlic every day.  I'll probably sprinkle some in her food bowl since I don't currently have any tablets.  It changes the make up of the oils in their skin, and supposedly makes them less tasty.  I honestly have no documented proof that it works, but I've used garlic in combination with other home remedies for deterring fleas, and until now she's never had any, so I believe that speaks for something.

Citrus oil is supposed to be good for getting rid of all kinds of adult insects, because it's a gentle acid that won't harm pets, furniture, floors, or children, but it's persistent.  It destroys the shell on insects, causing them to die.  So, I peeled the last three oranges, cut the peels into small bits and simmered it for about 30 minutes to get as much of the oil out as I could. The resulting citrus oil solution got sprayed over every exposed inch of hard flooring in the house.  This is unfortunate, because I *just* mopped yesterday, and now my floors are all sticky-ish.  It's not a bad sticky, but it's sticky.  *sigh*  I am also out of oranges, and pack rat that I usually am, I didn't save the peels from all the oranges I've cooked with lately.  Grrrr... this is why I generally never throw potentially useful stuff away!

I've sprinkled Borax over all the rugs.  I don't know precisely why this is supposed to be helpful, but it was recommended on multiple sites.  It was recommended as a deterrent, and to kill adult fleas.
Now my biggest worry is the quilts.  I can wash my store bought comforter in the washer with hot water.  If it messes it up or makes the colors bleed, c'est la vie.  But I don't want to ruin my quilts.  I think that maybe one of the reasons we haven't been getting bitten more is because of the quilts, actually.  I've stored them in cedar for years.  The bedroom smells faintly of cedar whenever I change the bedding out.  Or it did... until recently.  See we have a linen closet here, so I didn't see any need to store the bedding downstairs in the cedar chest (which I currently use as an entry bench).  But now I am thinking that I may have to supersede convenience with practicality.  Cedar is supposed to be really repellent to bugs.  I haven't got a clue why, but I am certain it works, because I've lived places where moths ate highways through the stuff in my closets, but nothing ever bothered the stuff in the cedar chest.  So... I reckon I'm going to have to rethink my storage.

B saved the cedar sawdust from building our desks, too.  It's damp, because someone left it out when they got something out of the storage shed and it rained, but I think I can spread it out in the sun to dry.  Once it's dry, I'm going to spread cedar shavings between the mattresses and under the foam topper.  Maybe that'll help keep them from nesting in our bed and bedding.  Katie is mailing me some flea drops, too.  She said they worked well for her cats, and she had a couple doses left over.  L'il Bit is sensitive to that sort of stuff.  I put some flea medicine on my cats once after a move as a preventative measure, because the people who lived in the house before us had an indoor/outdoor dog.  L'il Bit and her mom both got violently ill.  It scared me pretty bad.  My other cats didn't seem bothered by it, other than not liking the damp spot between their shoulder blades, but I haven't ever used chemical flea treatments since.  But I'm going to try this stuff and see if it works without making her ill.  If it does, I may convert back to chemical treatments periodically since the house isn't sealed well enough to keep the fleas from coming after her.

I just absolutely DESPISE fleas....

Friday, January 13, 2012



I mentioned it before in a comment on my post about refurbishing my Gramma's cast iron cookware that I was able to save from my Granddad's new wife.  So many of my Gramma's things went to Goodwill, Salvation Army, and the dump before any of us got to even look at it.  I was so angry and so hurt.

The skillets you see here, though, I've had ever since I can remember.  My Gramma taught me how to fry eggs in them when I was so little I had to stand in a chair to see the top of the stove.  I baked my Granddad birthday cakes in them when I was 4 or so.  They're kitty wompus, off balance, lumpy, and the handles stick off at odd angles.  You can't set them down without something in them, because they won't sit up.  The weight of the handles pulls them over.  I love them to pieces, and I hope that they never wear out.  They're copper clad steel, and cookware like that costs a VERY pretty penny these days.  I'd never be able to replace them financially, but it's the sentimental value of them that makes them priceless.  I propped them up on my knife rack so you could see just how small they are.  They'll only hold a single serving.  I made individual apple pandowdies in them the other day.  It makes me happy every time I get a chance to use them.  Every time I use them, I remember standing on the chair trying so hard to flip a frying egg.  I remember proudly presenting the little cakes I'd baked to my Granddad.  I remember working in the garden, helping with the canning, and evening tea with  a bit of cream.

I guess in some ways that doesn't make sense.  Usually if you treasure something you put it up, keep it safe, only bring it out to admire it occasionally, then put it back away.  Gramma's gifts were like that for a while.  I didn't want to use them, because I didn't want to mess them up, damage them in some way, wear them out.  But, my attitude changed over time.  Why in the world would Gramma want me to hide her gifts away, never use them, never get any enjoyment out of them other than a fleeting glimpse now and then when I remember her?  I began to think she'd laugh at me if she saw how I was treating the things she'd given me.  She'd probably say "baby, I gave you those things to *use*."

I used to keep these quilts in my cedar chest.  I couldn't imagine putting them on the bed.  The one on the far right she made special for me when I was a little girl.  It's covered with flower girls and done in primarily lavender because lavender was my favorite color.  I used it for years and years.  The one on the far left was started by my great, possibly great-great grandma.  Grandma had to replace some of the pieces, because the fabric began to disintegrate.  It's starting to come apart again, and now it's my turn to repiece it.  I was scared to use it just because of that.  I didn't want it to come apart.  But it would rot away eventually anyway.  Either it could rot away where I can see it, use it, enjoy it, and mend it, or it could rot away in a chest where I wouldn't realize it until it was too late to mend.

The middle quilt Gramma made when I was very little.  I can't remember for sure, but I think it might be one of the ones she taught me to quilt on.  I've got her quilting frame in the basement, and now that I have my spare bedroom back, I think I am going to set the frame up and try to mend these old quilts.  It will change them, and that is also part of what I was afraid of.  I thought if I mended them, it somehow detracted from them, but it really doesn't.  It connects us all.  A long line of women sitting on stools, at tables, at frames, with needle and thread, and eventually with machines, mending, piecing, patching, saving bits and bobs of fabric from dresses or shirts, pants and uniforms.  Each one of those pieces is a word, or a phrase, or maybe a paragraph of our history.  I can't read it, per se, but I can feel it, and I can pass it on one day maybe if I am not irrevocably sterile.

Whenever I tuck myself in to bed, pulling up one of the quilts she made or helped make, she's there with me humming off key, or yodeling, showing me how to embroider, teaching me how to piece, helping me sew a seam, or cuddling in the dark after I've had a bad dream.   My Gramma is with me a lot more now that I use the gifts she gave me.  Not just fleeting through my thoughts now and again.  It sometimes means I miss her a lot more now than I used to, but it also means that I don't miss her the same way, because she's here in many ways, too.

This is the last quilt she made for me.  My grown-up quilt.  It took her years to save up the scraps of velvet to make it.  This is the first time I've used it on my bed.  Ironically, I didn't want to get lint and cat hair all over it, because I didn't know how I would clean it because of the velvet.  Li'l Bit loves the thing, and curled up on it immediately.  The brat.  But it sure is warm, and even warmer, because Gramma sewed love into it.


The things we create, the memories we give to our loved ones, that is our immortality.  And how our loved ones care for our gifts, mend them, use them, and make memories of their own with them is how we live forever.  I used to think that having to mend the things Gramma made and gave me would somehow diminish her presence, but it really doesn't.  It just puts a little bit of me in there with her.

I miss you Gramma.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Thoughts and Musings: Duplicity and the tenuous thing called Trust

I've said it before, and I'll say it again.  Humans are deceitful creatures.  It is amazing the skill with which they will hide their duplicity, and the brashness with which they will carry it out in utter conviction that it won't come back to bite them in the ass one day.

Well, that dog you thought you had by the tail done got a loose, and guess what?  The other end?  It's got teeth, son.

No, this isn't about B, nor is it about me.  Names are intentionally being omitted here, as are details of the circumstances, but I just thought I would take a minute to order my thoughts.  There are a lot of things that I would like to say to faces right now, but B has asked me to please refrain, as it won't do anyone any good but me.

I dislike being misled.
I dislike being lied to.
I dislike having my trust abused.
I dislike having my hospitality violated.
I dislike having my character impugned.
I dislike feeling like my house, my haven, has been dirtied.
I dislike feeling like person or persons unnamed have been using and abusing my trust.
I dislike feeling like I was an unknowing accomplice in something that I feel is morally base, cruel, and in all honesty disgusting.
I dislike having to bite my tongue.

But most of all, I dislike being gullible and naive.

I thought I had moved past a lot of naivete through life experiences, but I guess the truth is that I really wanted to believe better of people.  I wanted to believe better of this community in particular, even though I know that is foolish.  I still wanted it.

You know what I like?  And in some cases what I love?

Knowing that I can trust B uncompromisingly.
Knowing that he can trust me with the same unswerving faith.
Knowing that there are other people out there who I can rely on without worry of having my foundations built on sand.
Knowing that my ignorance has not been held against me.
Knowing.  Yep, just knowing.  Having doubts and suspicions is worse than knowing a thing for a fact.  I don't have to bite my tongue to keep from asking accusatory questions that would have only been met with denials and possibly hostility.

We'll see what happens now.  I know I, for one, will be more mindful of the company I keep and don't keep, as the case may be.

Orange you glad I like Oranges? Experimental cooking: Orange pork chops and orange pound cake

That orange right there, as you can see is a monster of an orange.  Pup brought back a whole bunch from Arizona when he went home for Christmas.  Apparently they're ripe this time of year, because his Iowa girlfriend was talking about how she "picked them right off a tree".  That one orange was all I needed for everything in today's blog.  I used the whole thing, well except the pith and peels obviously.

Just a warning - my pound cake did not turn out that well.  It was way too dry.  Even though every recipe I've read says that the cake is done when a toothpick comes out clean, by the time mine came out clean the cake had been baking an hour and a half.  Crazy!  And it was only moist in the very middle.  I was not impressed.  The recipe I used was from the Joy of Cooking and only slightly modified.  I'll note my modifications, and maybe some of you more accomplished bakers can help me figure out what went wrong.  Or, maybe it's just a dry pound cake recipe.  I've got some others to try out at a later date.

Orange Pound Cake

2c Butter
2c Sugar
9 eggs (separated or not, bakers preference)
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp mace (I used cloves)
2 Tbsp rose water (I used orange juice from one orange segment which was 2 Tbsp exactly)
4c cake flour (or substitute by putting 2 Tbsp corn starch in a measuring cup and filling the rest of the way with all purpose flour, which is what I did)  Sifted, measured, and resifted
1/2 tsp salt
(optional, 1/2 c dried fruit or nuts.  I added 2 Tbsp orange zest)

All ingredients were at room temperature.

Cream the butter, then slowly add the sugar and cream.  Add eggs one by one, beating well in between additions.
Add vanilla, mace (cloves), and rose water (orange juice).
Slowly add in flour until just blended with mixer on lowest speed.
Pour into two greased and floured 9x5 loaf pans and bake at 325 for about one hour.

Alternately, the recipe said you could add only the egg yolks one by one, beat the egg whites to stiff peaks, and fold them into the dough after the flour has been mixed in.  The book said that the traditional dense pound cake is achieved by adding the eggs whole, though.  So, that's what I did.

An hour later, they looked beautiful, but were still runny.  An hour and a half later, they were finally not runny (checked on them every 10 minutes to try to avoid over cooking), but the cakes were dry (even though they tasted great per Pup and B).

I used two orange segments for the glaze:

Orange Glaze

1 1/4 c powdered sugar (I just put regular sugar in the blender with a spice blade in it, so I don't have to keep powdered sugar around since I rarely buy the stuff, but randomly require it.)
1/4 c fruit juice
1 tsp vanilla

Blend everything together until smooth.  It dries into a semi-hard glaze.

(Next time I might make a syrup or sauce instead)

B said the taste is wonderful, but I disagree.  I think he is easily impressed.  Either that, or maybe it does taste great, and I am just spoiled rotten with really fabulous pound cakes from my former Grandmother-in-law.

The second experiment, involving the rest of the orange (which yielded total about a cup and a half of juice or more) involved pork chops.  I have some boneless breakfast chops in the freezer, because they are my favorite for making schnitzel.  They're small, no bigger than my hand, so I was able to put three of them in my medium-ish skillet.  I think it's 8 in?  I seasoned the pork with salt, pepper, ginger, and cloves, then browned it in sesame oil.  I sauteed a small onion in the same skillet until golden and tender.  Then I poured the orange juice into the skillet on medium heat (it was deep enough to come up a little past the bottoms of the pork chops), and simmered it covered until almost all the liquid was gone.

I steamed some broccoli, made mashed potatoes, and made a homemade cheese sauce with a roux of:
2 Tbsp flour
2 Tbsp butter
browned and thickened.
add 1 c milk, and put it in the oven on 350 for about 30 minutes (so I could pay attention to everything else on the stove and not have to worry about my gravy burning).  In that 30 minute time frame, I also added a cup of shredded cheese and a slice of cheddar and stirred it up.  I popped it back in the oven until all the cheese was melted and viola.  Cheese sauce.  I think next time I'll use a bit less flour, because I could taste it.  Either that or I'll brown the flour more before I add the milk.
The pork chops and the cheese sauce were both a HUGE hit.  No, the nail polish wasn't a garnish.  It just happened to be on the table when I took the picture.  But I am sure you could decorate the potatoes up with it very interestingly.  ;-)

Thoughts and Musings: Rationalizing my daily life

  What do I do all day?  Let's start with what I did this morning so far.  I've cleaned the kitchen, started bread (it's currently rising), started chicken stock (it's currently simmering), made myself a bite to eat (munching on it while I'm typing), decided on a dinner plan, amended my grocery list, and made a start on organizing the refrigerator's freezer.  After I finish my brunch, and this little note, I'm going to check on my stock, strain it, bag it, label it, and freeze it.  By that time my bread should have finished rising, so I'll start a loaf proofing and put the rest in the fridge for another baking tomorrow or the next day.  After that, I'll sweep the floors, and maybe putter around straightening up before it's time to start dinner so I can have it ready by the time B gets home from work this evening.  

I feel like I do work a bit.  The time spent in the kitchen honestly feels more like play time than work time, and I think that's part of where I feel the most guilt in this housewife gig.  Work shouldn't be fun, my brain says.  You should do more work, the little nag on my right shoulder says.  Making stuff for the house, like rugs, curtains, pillows, etc. doesn't seem much like work.  Those are hobbies, not jobs.  Cleaning feels like work, but honestly I am just no the best shakes at that.  

My Gramma used to have a plate that hung on the kitchen wall.  It said something to the effect of:
May my kitchen be clean enough to be healthy, but dirty enough to be happy.  

Her entire house was like that.  Not that Gramma was a slob, but she was a clutterbug.  She kept things.  Anything could be a souvenir.  I am just as bad.  Sometimes I look around my house at the things that could look nicer, or I see how a neighbor's house looks and figure I could do better, or I see pictures like this:

I feel a little guilty wondering why my living room never seems to look so nice.  Then I wonder who in the world could live there and have no accumulation.  No detritus of human existence floating around.  No project in the works, no book laying out half read, no shoes kicked off laying like floundered fish on the carpet.  Nothing.  My living room is kind of junky.  It's not stylish.  It's not neat and orderly.  There are pillows that don't match on the couches.  As Katie would say "they go", but they don't match by a long stretch.  I made one, my Gramma made one, and my Great Aunt Annie made the other all at various times through the history of my life.  One of those pillows is almost 30 years old.  So, they don't match, it's not polished, but it's definitely mine.  No one else has those particular pillows on their couches.  There's stuff stacked at odd angles, some of it precariously on the tops of the bookshelves, on the cedar chest cum entry bench, on the desks and entertainment center.  People live in here.  

I actually have been slowly paring down the stuff.  It's taking time, because I am remarkably attached to some of my stuff, and B can't give me straight answers half the time to what he wants to do with his stuff.  But it is happening, slowly.  

I still feel vaguely like I just don't do enough.  I feel like maybe if I did enough, I'd look around and think "it sure looks nice in here" instead of "gee look at all that stuff.  What should I do with it?"  I feel like, since this is what I do -- this is my job -- I ought to keep it nicer.  Then I think about what I do with my time, the stuff I make, the meals I prepare, the longcuts I take that save money in the long run, and the quality of life right now versus how it might prospectively be if I were to wear myself out constantly trying to keep the house just so.  The nagging that would ensue as I tried to get B and the Pup to keep it just so.  The irritability that would likely be a constant cloud around me like Pig Pen's cloud of funk.  

No thanks.  I think I'll keep my clean but cluttered spaces.  Besides, I don't always look around and think my house is junky.  Sometimes I look around and laugh at myself, because it reminds me a lot of my Gramma's style of clean.  My idea of what is acceptable and what is not might change if I ever have to worry about a kid running around.  But right now, I think I'll take it like it is.  On that note, I better go check on that chicken stock, and it won't be long before my dough is ready.  

I have a recipe to share later today, but it'll have to wait until I get another free moment.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Make-do Monday - T-shirt Tote Bags

For a change, a project I didn't knit or crochet.

I love my chest freezer.  It's awesomesauce.  I can go to Sam's and the commissary once a month (with varying side trips to the grocery in between for the stuff that is just bound and determined to run out at off times), stick everything in my freezer and pantry, then crawl back under my rock for another month.  I actually like living under a rock.  Too much interaction with too many people makes me very cranky.  I get cranky enough all on my own without having the additional help.

Maybe some of you out there are more disciplined than I am, but when I get home from a shopping trip and am divvying up goodies for the freezer, fridge, and pantry, the goal is to get it done and get on with something else. I usually try to at least keep plant matter on one side of the freezer and protein on the other, but it doesn't always work out that way.  Then, when I am rummaging through looking for something in particular for a meal, or hunting for that leftover baggie of spaghetti sauce that I just *know* is in there, stuff gets all shuffled around, jumbled up, and becomes a right mess of frozen edibles all piled haphazardly with no semblance of order.   No, there are no pictures.  I didn't want a record of my slovenly freezer floating around.

I was over reading Dee's blog post about organizing her freezer, and it looked like a no-brainer.  Duh... I'm supposed to be pretty intelligent, so why didn't I think to do this before?  But, all of my baskets are wicker.  I have too many baskets according to some, but I just keep finding things to use them for.  I have a few smaller cardboard boxes floating around from packages and moving, but I could see that becoming a problem eventually, because none of them are that waxed cardboard.

Reading through the comments, I saw that one person uses those cloth shopping totes.  I have fabric.  I can do that!

But, I'm also not feeling motivated to make half a dozen tote bags.

But I have t-shirts and tank tops!

No... I really don't throw out nearly as much as I should.  And this is a perfect example of WHY!

I have a pile of plain white and black t-shirts from my time at the sheriff's office.  I still wear them, occasionally.  I mean, who doesn't ever have a really scrungy job to do and they don't want to mess up any of their good t-shirts by accident, or when I dye my hair, or sometimes as a cleaning rag.  But in all honesty I have too many.  I don't need a dozen white t-shirts.  And the tank tops... well, they haven't fit in quite some time.  I keep saying one day I am going to drop enough weight to finally get into them, but the truth is, I was the smallest I've ever been (high school size) the month I moved to TX.  If they didn't fit then, they're just never going to fit.  And, what's a tank top but a tote bag with an unfinished bottom?

All I did for the tanks was sew the bottom hem together, and the straps became instant handles.  Fabulous!  Took all of a minute, and that included threading the sewing machine.

The t-shirts took a little more time.  I cut the sleeves off, and then enlarged the neck to make a wider mouth for the bag.

Yes, I used black thread on the white t-shirts.  It's ok, my frozen foods won't care.

All the bags wad up nice and small, so I can cram them inside each other when (LOL as if) they're not in use in the freezer.  They can become shopping bags at Sam's, or wherever, and I can chuck them in the washing machine if something happens to leak, bust, or otherwise get messy.  It's not quite as orderly as nice stackable baskets, but this was no additional cost to me.  I had everything I needed right here at the house, and the only thing that I actually paid for at one time or another was the t-shirt itself.  Since said t-shirt is five years old, and had holes worn in it, I'd say that I've already gotten more than my money's worth of wear out of it.  :-)

While it may not *look* all neat and pretty, I can reach in and grab my chicken, veggies, leftovers, pork, fruit, boiling meat, etc. in one grab.  The smaller odds and ends are still just in the baskets that came with the freezer, but they don't ever get any more plentiful than that.  There's also a handy shelf in there that holds my beef, since I try not to cook with too much red meat for B.  My freezer is so much easier to navigate now, and I didn't have to go shopping to get it that way :-)  Happy day!

Now.... how long will this last?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Gramma's Fried Apple Pies, and an Apple Pie, too

Is there anything in the whole world quite so yummy as a good apple pie?  Yes!  A good FRIED apple pie!

My Gramma made the best, and I mean THE BEST, fried apple pies known to mankind.  They were so amazing!!  Mine aren't quite like hers.  Unfortunately no one got her exact recipe, and I don't even know that she had one.  I think it was a dash of this, a taste of that, and this might be good so I'll just put a pinch.  She had this monster of a pressure cooker, and a three foot long rubber spoon that she stirred the astounding batch of apple awesomesauce with.  You could smell them all the way outside, and even though we were thoroughly sick of peeling apples, I don't remember complaining about it.  *note:  I could be wrong LOL Dad would know better.  But peeling apples mean apple pies, and apple pies were worth peeling apples.

WARNING:  This is going to be one of ~those~ recipes, you know where nothing is quite what it seems.  Fiddle with it.  Everyone's tastes are different.


1/3 - 1/2 c (give or take) each white sugar and brown sugar.  With Granny Smith apples, 1/2 c wasn't enough, so I added in a little extra for the next batch.
3-4 Tbsp flour or corn starch - I like corn starch better.  It doesn't taste, and it seems to thicken more evenly.
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp allspice
2 tsp vanilla flavoring or extract
1/2 c butter
7c apples peeling and sliced or chopped. - for fried apple pies, chop them small.  For a regular apple pie, it's up to you.  Some people like them sliced, others chopped.  Me?  I don't care as long as it's good :-P

Melt the butter, add both sugars and melt together.  Stir it frequently to keep it from scorching.  Add everything but the starch or flour, and mix in well.  Turn the heat down low and let them stew slowly.  Keep an eye on them, stirring them now and then to make sure they're not sticking.  When they've gotten as soft as you want them (if I can cut them with a spoon without having to press too hard, that's about right) add in the starch or flour, and let it thicken up as thick as you want it.  Remove from heat and get your crust(s) ready.

Double Pie Crust:

2c all purpose flour
3/4 tsp salt
2/3 c shortening or butter (chilled)
6 Tbsp cold water

Combine the dry ingredients, cut in the shortening, add water one Tbsp at a time and mix until a cohesive ball forms.

Divide the dough into two almost equal balls (one slightly larger than the other) and roll out to about 1/4 inch thick.  Put the larger circle in the pie plate, add the filling, and top with the smaller circle.  Fold the edges under and crimp how you like.  Gramma used to use a fork.

Cut a few air vents in the top, and bake at 375 for 30-50 minutes, until it's a nice golden brown.  You can use an egg white wash on the top to make it shiny and pretty and get a better color.

But to make Gramma's fried apple pies, you need biscuit dough.

6c self rising flour
1 - 1 & 1/2 c shortening
1 & 1/4 cup milk

and a little extra flour for fiddling.

Just a note, this is not how I make buttermilk biscuits.  I use more shortening and more liquid.  I think they're too tough like this, but that's the secret.  You have to have tough biscuit dough for good fried apple pies.  Work the biscuit dough till it is a little drier than you want it for biscuits.  (Is this not helpful?  I'm doing my best.)  Normally biscuit dough is kind of sticky and softish.  You want your dough to be not sticky, and a little more dense, like playdough... sort of.

Roll it out and cut circles just like you would for biscuits.  Then roll out the biscuits until they are a little thicker than a pie crust, but thinner than for a sheet cookie.  (I know, I know.. I get more country by the sentence with these instructions!)  Put a couple tablespoons of your apple goodness in the center, fold over and smoosh the edges together.  Now, put a little water around the flattened edge to moisten it, and fold it back on itself so the water helps it stick.

Cook it in a preheated skillet that is only lightly greased (yes, grease.  Not oil.  I don't know why but it makes a difference.  Oil seems to soak right into the dough.)  over medium to medium high heat.  Let it get good and brown on bottom.  Don't fiddle with it!  You'll bust it.  Gently flip it over, and brown the other side.

They are so yummy!

If you don't want to make as many all at once, the biscuit dough can be reduced by 3.

2c flour
1/3 - 1/2 c shortening
3/4 c milk

The apples are perfectly good frozen and thawed later.

A backlog of Thrifty Thursdays and Make-do Mondays

Even though I've been off the internet for the past two weeks and the housework has slid while we were on our staycation, I couldn't just completely sit still.

I think I have figured out my Gramma's fried apple pie recipe.  The magic is the filling.  The crusts are just biscuit dough, but I have a few kinks to work out before I post that recipe.

I made two rugs for the bathrooms.

I got 80 lbs of this olefin yarn for around $80 after shipping and handling.  Included in the box were also a few random spools of much higher quality yarn.  I got a 10 lb spool of merino lace ($10 for 10 lbs where normally I would pay $20 or so for less than a lb), there was a baby cake of white flannel, and another spool of sea green lace weight yarn that I don't know the fiber type.  It was a helluva deal.  The problem was I couldn't knit with most of it.  Olefin is the stuff carpet is made of.  It's a double thread with tufts of stuff between and twisted.  Knitting with it caused all kinds of bunching, breaks, and other pains in the rear that made it worthless as far as I was concerned.  I was not happy since the mystery box had been billed as a knitting selection.  The spools of lace yarn more than made up for the price, but I didn't have any idea what to do with these spools of crap.  I refused to throw them away.  

One day I decided to try crocheting with them, and viola!  It worked!  

They were both done similar to granny squares.  I am not an accomplished crocheter by any stretch, so they are asymmetrical and a bit lumpy around the edges, but for tromping on, they work just fine.  

B's birthday is coming up, and he likes to fish.  The problem is he doesn't like toting his backpack when he goes fishing, because he has to take it off to get to his tackle.  A regular tackle box would still have to be set down and picked up constantly, because he likes to walk the shore instead of picking a spot and sticking to it.    He mentioned he was going to go buy a satchel.  I jokingly refer to it as a man-purse.  I offered to make him one.  

I think it turned out pretty good.  It's got two lined interior compartments.  I used remnants of skeins I already had here at the house, so I didn't have to buy yarn.  I used scraps for the lining, and the strap is an old belt that the buckle was broken on.  :-)   I carved the fish toggle out of a scrap of cedar that was left over from when B made my desk. 

And yesterday while I was stomping around the kitchen in a horrible mood, I dropped an egg in the box of my Gramma's cast iron cookware.  I was planning to save the refinishing of the cast iron for summer, because I figured the super dry Texas heat would be almost as good as an oven for expanding the iron and allowing grease to soak in.  There wasn't enough room in my oven for all the pieces.  
But.... the egg changed my mind. 
Before scrubbing

The iron was really rusty.  I wasn't sure I was going to be able to save it or not.  It had been in storage for untold years, and Georgia is so damp everything rusts or rots eventually.  It was also super dusty.  The dust had stuck to the seasoned skillets, meaning I had to strip the top of the seasoning off at the very least.

I used straight vinegar and steel wool.  I could've used a solution of vinegar and water, then let them soak in it overnight.  But where was I going to soak them?  And that would've stripped off all the seasoning making me start from scratch on them.  That is not a prospect I was keen on.  I've tried to season fresh cast iron before, and it just sucked.

Before Scrubbing. 
After scrubbing

After Scrubbing

When they were completely dry, I rubbed them with crisco all over.  (inside, outside, bottoms, handles, everything)  Then I put them in the oven at 250 for three hours or so.  After that, I turned the oven off and let them cool slowly as the oven cooled.  

I think they made an amazing recovery.  I haven't cooked with them, yet, so I don't know how they'll taste or if the seasoning is thick enough.  I  may need to do a few more layers before they're as good as Gramma used to keep them, but I am so tickled that they are going to be usable again.  I was worried that they would be delegated to a nail on the wall and a sad tale of how Gramma used to cook in them.  

I made a teddy bear had for Fin's coming arrival.  He's got all kinds of silly cute clothes, but I wanted to give her something for the new baby, and the yarn was just sitting there staring out at me between the slats of my basket begging to be a teddy bear hat.  

And I thought that I would commemorate the amazing organization of my spice cabinet (temporary though it will assuredly be).  Top right = refills in back, bakings/sweets spices up front as well as baking needs (yeast, baking soda, baking powder).  Middle right = all my savory spices, and bottom is breakfast munchies (granola bars, poptart crisps), and the waffle iron that I was absolutely stoked to get off the counter.  Left top has some baking goodies overflow, and the rest of the left side is dedicated to warm drinks (coffee, tea, cocoa) and their fixin's.  I completely reorganized my pantry, too.  I didn't take pictures of that, but it is equally orderly and segmented.  I know this won't last past the end of January, but at least for a while I can find absolutely everything with ease and precision.  

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

Or at least that's what they tell me.  So, while I was away did you guys like me better?  :-P

By the way:

B had a couple weeks off work, the last week of December through the first week of January.  While he was off the rule was No Work.  Um... ok.  We were such sloths shambling around the house in our PJs, not waking up till afternoon, and otherwise just being absolutely worthless.  It was fabulous.
Until this past Tuesday when he went back to work, and so did I.

I've been divvying up the work into days.  The kitchen was first, because that is my baby.  I love my kitchen and it's been sadly neglected.  I did the dishes, cooked, etc., but no really good cleaning.  Next was the bathrooms.  They were in the second worst state of sorriness.  Today, I'm primarily focusing on catching up on laundry.  I really should work on straightening up the living room, but for some reason I just don't have the foggiest idea of where to actually start.  There are things that probably will never be unpacked.  I could just chuck them in the basement, but the problem with that is our basement leaks something awful when it rains.  Next time B makes a trip to Lowe's or Home Depot, I am going to get him to pick up some scrap wood.  They let you have odd ends and bits for free, which is really nice.  I'll use that like risers to keep my boxes off the floor.  If it doesn't flood too deep, maybe that will be sufficient.

Sad day!  My neighbor Fin is going back to her home state soon.  Even though sometimes I found her incessant perkiness trying to my patience (I'm just not a perky person), I enjoy her company.  She's always full of fun ideas, and she brightens up otherwise boring or gloomy days.  She's one of the sole reasons I actually go out taking me on random Wal-Mart runs where I would have fun whether I wanted to initially or not (lol), or sitting on one or the other of our front porches in the morning with coffee and just yapping.  Hanging out in the back yard watching her midget run around playing.  :-(  I'm going to miss both of them.  The old saw "the only thing that never changes is change" is smacking me upside the head.  It doesn't change the fact that is sucks, though.