Thursday, September 27, 2012

Chocolate Pudding Cake

Oh yum!  That's about all you can say about this out-of-this-world dessert.  Not all cake, yet not all pudding, this treat is divine served with freshly whipped cream (although ice cream will do in a pinch), warm from the oven.  This cake is quick, simple and elegant enough to serve to company.

Chocolate Pudding Cake

Preheat oven to 350°

Combine in 2 quart baking dish:
1 C flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 T cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 C sugar
Stir well

Add to dry ingredients:
1/2 C milk
2 T butter, melted
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Mix well by hand

Combine and sprinkle over cake batter:
3 T cocoa powder
1/2 C sugar
1/2 C brown sugar

Pour over all:
2 C hot water

Bake for 30 to 40 minutes.

Combining dry ingredients
Adding the liquid
Dry and wet ingredients combined
Sprinkled with the sugar/cocoa mixture
Hot water poured over the whole lot
And out comes a cake-like wonder
Beneath the cake is luscious chocolate pudding!
With freshly whipped cream
Pour yourself a lovely cup of tea and indulge in this chocolaty goodness!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Email by Lamplight

The other morning, I awakened to the sound of incessant beeping.  Groggy from a good nights sleep, it took me a bit to focus on the sound and determine its origin.  Finally, it came to me.  The beeping was coming from our bathroom, or more specifically, our inverter mounted on the bathroom wall.  It was an alarm warning us our battery voltage was low and complete power shutdown was imminent.

I stumbled into the bathroom in time to shut the inverter down and was immediately plunged into quiet darkness.  As I made my way to the kitchen I mentally took note of which oil lamps were full and accessible.  I fumbled around in the dark locating my lighter and finally managed to light an oil lamp and place it on the wood cookstove so that I could go about heating water for a pot of tea.  While the water was heating, I cozied up in the love seat in the kitchen, grabbed my phone and checked my email.

As I sat in my kitchen, listening to the gentle hiss of a propane flame, illuminated only by a single oil lamp, I marveled at the marriage of modern technology and primitive living.  Here I was, in the 21st Century, checking email on my smart phone while bathed in the muted light of a kerosene lamp.

We have lived off-grid for 12 years.  The first two years where primitive to say the least, but the last 10 years have been a hybrid of alternative energy.  Having lived with grid power, been completely non-electric and currently in an alternative energy powered home, I have come to a number of conclusions.

1.  Grid power is easy.  When we lived in a "normal" house, I never thought twice about flushing the toilet, tossing a load of laundry into the washing machine or drawing a bath. I would grumble when the power bill showed up in the mail, mumble something about  someday having the freedom of living "off the grid" under my breath and go grab an ice cold drink out of the fridge.  On the few occasions the power would go out, I would light an oil lamp, build a fire in the wood stove and wax poetic about how wonderful it would be to live "the simple life" - and then the power would come back on and I would go make sure the electric stock tank heater was plugged in so that I wouldn't have to chop ice for the critters.

2.  Being completely non-electric is a lot of work.  Hauling water may sound romantic but I gotta tell you - it isn't.  The reality of how much water we require for our everyday activities is phenomenal!  And oil lamps are romantic, beautiful and provide a warm, soft glow, but did you know they stink?  Oil smells less than kerosene, but when you have a house full of lamps just so you can have a modicum of illumination, you will have a definite odor.  They require constant filling (which can be a messy job) and the light they give is never as good as a simple 60 watt electric light bulb.  Because water is carefully guarded, flushing the toilet becomes optional rather than compulsory.  When you begin calling your bathroom "the indoor outhouse", you know you are truly non-electric.

3.  Hybrids are always high maintenance.  If you choose to graduate from "non-electric" to "alternative energy" prepare for a whole new way of life.  Now, rather than worrying about filling your oil lamps once a week, you will become obsessed with "ghost loads" and what appliances are actually viable on your system.  You will judge the weather not by how nice it is, but whether or not you made any power.  The longer you run your system, you will learn that the price of running a hybrid system is constant maintenance. When you were non-electric, you got by with little.  Now that you have alternative energy, you can't settle for less.  You must keep it running.  And alternative energy is a hard taskmaster.  When you make your own power you essentially run your own, miniature power substation.  You make the power (generator, solar panels, wind turbine), control where it goes (charge controllers), convert it (inverters) from DC (direct current) to AC (alternating current) making it compatible for standard household use and store it (battery bank).  Keep in mind that power companies employ full-time electricians to keep their plants up and running.  Although your plant is smaller in scale, it is still a full-fledged power plant.  YOU will become the full-time electrician.

So, where does that leave us?  If it were up to me, I would choose either grid power (it is easy) or a completely non-electric system (supplemented only by 12 volt DC electric (solar) lights).  Here's the deal - an alternative energy system is challenging.  It is not a matter of IF something goes wrong, it's a matter of WHEN.  If any portion of your system fails (generator, charge controller, inverter, battery) then your whole system fails.  Alternative energy systems get old and wear out.  The batteries need maintenance and the electronics are fallible.  Essentially, I love having an alternative energy system, but only as a non-essential supplement to a completely non-electric system.  Only non-electric systems are truly sustainable.  An outhouse never fails.  It doesn't freeze in the winter, require 5 gallons of water to flush or become a bastion of bacteria when the power goes out.  A flushing toilet is nice but an outhouse is practical.  I love my refrigerator, but it is a power hog.  A root cellar is by far a better option.  It is huge, can hold an entire harvest and isn't subject to power outages.

If you are in search of honest-to-goodness, long-term, off-grid sustainability, consider becoming completely non-electric.  All it takes is a little pre-planning and a lot of ingenuity, but the benefits will be incalculable.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Founders - BOOK BOMB DAY!

From the pioneer of the modern survival movement, James Wesley, Rawles, comes Founders, the latest in the "Patriots" series of novels.

For those of you who have read his previous work, you know that Mr. Rawles books are survival manuals cleverly disguised as fast-paced fiction.  Fans of Patriots and Survivors will recognize some of the characters, although you needn't have read either novel to thoroughly enjoy this newest installment.

Whether you are new to the patriot/survival movement or have been in the trenches for years, you will find Founders to be a goldmine of information.  Be ready with your pen and paper to track all of the "take-away" lessons to be found within the pages of Founders.

Today is the "Book Bomb" day for Founders at   Follow the link and pick up a copy.   Start your preparedness journey today!

Side Note:  If you are planning to be at the Sustainable Preparedness Expo in Spokane on September 30th, I will have a (very) limited number of autographed copies of Founders available at the Paratus Familia booth!  Stop by, say "hi" and pick up your copy!

Monday, September 24, 2012

The New Renaissance

Maid Elizabeth with her bees
As parents, one of the most important things we can do for our children is prepare them to succeed.  From the time they are born we are training them to integrate into society.  When they are little we teach them to play well with others and to be good sports.  We train them to be respectful to their elders and to obey those in authority.  We make sure they know how to read, write and reason so they can effectively communicate their ideas and opinions.  We teach them how to interact with difficult people and how to control themselves in tense situations.  In effect, we equip them with the tools they need to succeed in life.  Or at least we should.

Our world is changing.  It used to be that we needed to prepare our children for university, allowing them to take their place among the academics, philosophers and leaders of our society.  We brought up our children to program computers, argue law and practice medicine.  They could be managers, bureaucrats or party planners.  As long as they had a good social life and were moderately financially independent, we felt that we had done our job.  Those things may have defined success in the past but our future won't be so kind.
Miss Serenity and Master Hand Grenade cutting up a deer,
getting ready to put it into the canner
The future that we are raising our children to govern is unstable.  The dollar is losing its value, our embassies are going up in flames and unemployment is at record levels.  Nearly half of the American population absorbs government assistance in one form or another.   A college education has ceased to guarantee employment, yet positions requiring skilled tradesmen remained unfilled due to a lack of qualified applicants.   The measure of success has gone from "Are you a Doctor" to "Do you have a job?".

Master Hand Grenade and Sir Knight working on the generator
Change is in the air.  Many of us have seen the signs of the times and have prepared our pantry - but have we prepared our children?  I want my children to be able to thrive in any environment in which they find themselves.  If they are in polite company, I want them to know what piece of music they are listening to and what master painted which painting.  I want them to be able to write poetry and sing sonnets.  I want them to know the Constitution and be able to reason with the wise men of the land.  But, I also want them to be able to hunt a deer - gut it, skin it and process the meat.  I want them to be able to use a compass and read a map.  I want them to bake bread, make soap, dig camas and make wine.  I want them to be able to set bones, start I.V.'s and reload ammunition.  I want them to graft trees, grow gardens and spin wool.  I want them to thrive in whatever world they inherit.
Maid Elizabeth skinning a deer
What future are you preparing your children for?  Will they know what they need to know in order to survive?  To flourish?  Will they be able to take care of themselves and others if you aren't there?  Do they have the skills to stand their ground or will they be among the masses reliant on outside forces to care for and feed them?

We are called not just to fortify our larders, but to prepare our children.  This is the New Renaissance.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Identifying Hazards

When my folks moved permanently into their bug-out location, they spent a significant amount of time trying to determine what posed the greatest threat to their survival.  After considering their location, their climate and their terrain, they determined that fire was their greatest threat.  They live in an area that is not prone to high winds, earthquakes or monsoons, however, they are surrounded by timber and thousands of acres of uninhabited mountainous terrain.  When the forest dries out in late summer and early fall, they have a tremendous fire load.

Knowing that fire was the greatest natural hazard they faced, they decided to prepare to the best of their ability.  Dad located an old Forest Service fire trailer that had been most recently owned by a logger, made a deal for it and hauled it home.  The fire rig consists of a 250 gallon water tank mounted on a heavy duty trailer frame.  It has a tool box, fire hose, pump and nozzle with hose and reel assembly.  It also has a pump hooked up specifically to "draught" (suck water directly out of a pond or creek).

Mom and dad bought their fire rig a number of years ago and had updated and repaired a number of systems on it, however, they had not gotten around to really using until this year.  Their idea was to use the rig to water their garden.  Really, it was an ingenious solution.  Not only was their garden watered regularly, they had the opportunity to put their fire gear into service and become well acquainted with its operation.

One of the first orders of business was to figure out how to use the trash pump to draught from their creek.  Sir Knight, the kids and I had headed up to their place to spend the weekend and Dad decided that was the perfect time to press the fire trailer into service.  He and Sir Knight hooked the trailer up to Dad's pick-up and headed off to the creek.  One of the first things that became apparent was that the suction line needed a float in order to keep it from resting on the bottom of the creek and sucking up sand, dirt and other debris.  Once they had the suction line in a good position and got the pump started, they discovered that the pump was not self-priming.  Grabbing a bucket out of the tool box (they happened to have an old canvas bucket tucked in a corner of the tool box), they unscrewed the top off the trash pump and primed the pump.  Less than 5 minutes later, water came shooting out of the top of the tank, indicating that over 250 gallons of water had been successfully transferred from the creek into the tank.  The fire rig was now ready to dump a tank of water on the nearest fire (or in this case, potatoes, carrots and onions).

Throughout the summer, mom and dad made regular trips to the creek to fill up the tank. Their logic was irrefutable - by using their fire rig regularly they would instinctively know how to operate it in an emergency and, because the rig was in constant service, it would be operational and at the ready if needed.

That emergency came.  One afternoon a neighbor (they live about 2 miles away) called, frantic.  A fire had broken out in their "back yard" - could mom and dad help?  The Forest Service and the local fire department had been called, but both were at least 45 minutes out (did I mention that my folks live "way out", even by Redoubt standards?).  Dad hooked his trailer up to his pick-up, made a quick stop at the creek to top off his tank and quickly made his way towards the neighbor's.

The fire was quickly contained.  When the fire department eventually showed up, they had to ask dad to borrow a screw driver from his fire rig in order to hook their hoses together.  Dad left his full fire trailer at the neighbor's house, just in case the fire reignited during the night.  What could have been an emergency of immense proportions became nothing more than an inconvenient scare.

It is impossible to plan for every potential hazard.  It is, however, very possible to plan for the ones most likely to confront you.  Do you live in an area prone to drought?  Water storage is for you.  Have earthquakes?  Plan accordingly.  Do you regularly have hurricanes?  You might want to think of putting working shutters up to cover your windows and your doors.  Ice storms?  Have an alternative way to heat your house (no grills, please) and make sure you have enough food to last at least a week.

One of the most important aspects of survival is the ability to accurately identify potential hazards and prepare accordingly.  Now is the time to identify your hazards, while you still have the time and the resources to do something about it.   Remember, they don't call us "preppers" for nothing!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Update - The Prepared Family Cookbook

I know I have been promising a cookbook for over a year but, wow, what an undertaking!  I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  My original plan was to have the cookbook ready for release in early autumn - just in time for the Sustainable Preparedness Expo, however, the book is not quite ready.  But, not to worry - I have made wonderful progress and the book will be ready for review by the end of October.  I'll keep you posted, but we should be having a book release (bomb) day around the middle of November!

Here is another recipe to wet your whistle.  This is a specialty of Maid Elizabeth's.  She has always loved Pound cake but when she added poppy seeds and almond extract, she knew she had a keeper.

Poppy Seed Pound Cake
Cream together:
2 C butter (1 pound)
2 1/4 C sugar (1 pound)
The longer you beat the butter and eggs, the lighter the cake

Mix in:
9 large egg yolks (1 pound)
1 C milk
3 T brandy or sherry (optional - we never use this)
2 tsp. vanilla or almond (our favorite) flavoring

Add  and stir to combine:
4 C flour (1 pound)
1 T baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1/4 to 1/2 C poppy seeds (depends on how many seeds you like)

Fold in:
9 stiff egg whites

Preheat your oven to 350°

Pour into a lightly greased and floured tube pan or two 5 x 9 inch bread pans and bake for about 1 hour or until the top surface of the cake springs back when you press on it gently with your fingers.

Let the cake cool thoroughly after it is done, cover and store for a couple of days to allow the flavor to mature.

Note:  You do not have to separate the eggs and whip the whites.  You can just add 9 eggs and call it good.  We like to separate the eggs so that the cake is a little lighter.

Did you know that a pound cake was so named because the original recipe called for a pound of each ingredient?  The first pound cake consisted of 1 pound of butter, 1 pound of sugar, 1 pound of eggs and 1 pound of flour.  This created a dense, but immensely flavorful cake.  Our version has added leavening agents to lighten the cake, but it is still heavy on the flavor.

Pour a stiff cup of coffee and enjoy!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Influenza - An After Action Report

The flu is distinctive.  Fever, body aches, chills.  I have only had the flu one other time (about 18 years ago) and was not relishing giving it another go.

I woke up Wednesday morning with a sore throat.  I didn't feel terrible, but I went ahead and drank apple cider vinegar (mixed in water), just in case it was Strep.  By the afternoon, my sore throat still hadn't gone away, so I took more vinegar and hoped for the best.  I managed to do school with the kids and get my afternoon work done, but by the time dinner was in the oven, I was feeling pretty rough.

If you'll remember, Sir Knight, Maid Elizabeth and I made Elderberry Wine last fall specifically because of its purported benefits for treating influenza.  Fearing that I might indeed have the flu, I drank a glass of Elderberry Wine before retiring for the night.  I felt really puny the next morning, but still had tea with Sir Knight before seeing him off to work and then went about my day.

Throughout the day I drank a few glasses of vinegar (mixed with water) and managed to get everything done (including a 3 mile hike) that I had on my agenda.  However, by 3 O'clock in the afternoon, I was a shivering, sweating mass under a pile of blankets.  I could barely make it from the bathroom back to my blankets without stumbling, I was shaking so hard.  I had another glass of Elderberry Wine and put myself to bed by 8 pm.

Friday morning, I was feeling positively perky.  Another swig of vinegar (ugh!) and we were off to town for a trip that just couldn't be postponed.  Although somewhat weak and lightheaded, I had plenty of energy to make it through the day.  But, by 3 pm, I was shaking in my chair under piles of blankets (again), although other than running a fever I didn't really feel too bad.  I shivered my way through the evening, drank another glass of wine and tucked myself in bed by 8 pm.  Once in bed, the shivering gave way to heat and I couldn't get the blankets off myself quickly enough.  After a miserably hot night, I woke up refreshed and ready for my day on Saturday.

I cleaned and baked and did laundry on Saturday (preparing for company after church on Sunday) with no problems.  Three o'clock came and went and I kept going.  I did drink another glass of wine on Saturday evening, just for good measure, slept well and got up on Sunday morning in time to prepare dinner and tidy the house before church.

Other than a bit of a stuffy nose, I feel great.  Obviously, I have no empirical evidence that Elderberry Wine aided in my quick recovery, but it sure did seem to do the trick to me.

Truth be told, I don't like the taste of wine much.  I never have.  However, you can be quite sure that when the frost is heavy on the ground and the Elderberries are ripe, the kids and I will be harvesting those little purple berries and we will be filling another demi john with a new batch of Elderberry Wine.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Our Life in Pictures

We have been extraordinarily busy, with the beginning of (home)school and the change of seasons. Our entire schedule has been turned upside down and we are racing to catch up.

One of the things I do every fall is begin our deep cleaning.  I know, I know, most people do their deep cleaning in the springtime, however, I always get the cleaning bug in the fall when I know that we will be cooped up in a tight space for the long days of winter.  I want everything to be as organized and spic n span as possible.

I started our deep cleaning with my kitchen shelves.  Open shelves have their place, but I must admit, they gather dust and grime like nobodies business!  With canning season getting into high gear, I needed to go through our shelves, organize and rearrange them to make room for a new season of food.  To say that my shelves were dirty was...well, rather an understatement.
You can see - the shelves need a little cleaning!
Organized and labeled

Ready for winter
I also have to find time to keep this crew in good food, otherwise the complaining is overwhelming.  This week Blueberry Buckle was on the menu.

Blueberry (Huckleberry) Buckle
Cream together:
1/2 C butter, softened
3/4 C sugar

Beat in:
1 egg
1/2 C milk

Add and stir:
2 C flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

Fold in:
1 C Blueberries or Huckleberries

Spread into a greased and floured 9" square baking pan.

In another bowl combine:
1/2 C sugar
1/3 C flour
1/4 C butter (cold)
1 C pecans (optional)

Cut in the butter until crumbly.  Sprinkle over the batter.

Bake Buckle at 375° for 35 to 40 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted near the center comes out clean.

From our house to yours.  Have a good week!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Book Review - Brushfire Plague

Recently, the nice folks over at Prepper Press sent a copy of the newest addition to their fiction lineup for me to review.  The book, Brushfire Plague, follows its hero as he comes face to face with what could be the end of mankind - a plague of apocalyptic proportions.

The premise of this book is right up my ally, although I have always assumed that TEOTWAWKI would bring about disease, rather than disease bringing about TEOTWAWKI.  Brushfire Plague gets right down to business.  Rather than dawdling around, the author (R.P. Ruggiero) immediately sets the stage for impending disaster.

I have to admit, as I began reading this book, I had low expectations.  The first chapter was somewhat hard for me to wade through.  However, the more I read, the more engaging and well written the book became.  By chapter 2, I was hooked.  Brushfire Plague is definitely a page turner.

I read this book in two days flat.  I laughed out loud more than once, got frustrated with the hero for not being more prepared and empathized with the difficult decisions that were required.  I was caught by surprise by plot twists that I wasn't expecting and thoroughly enjoyed the ride.

After I finished reading (I had talked over many of the finer points with Sir Knight as I made my way through the book), I passed the book off to get a male perspective.    Sir Knight proclaimed the book a great read - pure fiction and pure fun.  He really enjoyed the characters.  He thought they were very memorable and one even reminded him of our own "Captain Crunch".  Sir Knight thought the TEOTWAWKI scenarios were very realistic and the dilemmas that the characters faced were very "real world".

I heartily recommend Brushfire Plague.  Although it made my agent orange act up (nothing like a good book to rekindle that prepper fire), it was very engaging and I enjoyed it immensely.  Don't put Brushfire Plague down after the first chapter.  Keep reading - you'll be glad you did!

And now I am eagerly awaiting the second installment!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Cheese & Onion Loaf and Chicken Cordon Bleu Turnovers

The weather is turning and I am thrilled.  A crisp tang is in the air as Maid Elizabeth and I head out for our morning walk and the foliage is beginning to array itself in fall colors.  Fall always brings out the baker in me.  The heady aroma of ginger snaps, crumpets and doughnuts fill the air.  I'm back in my element, filling the cookie jar and stocking the bread basket.

Today, Chicken Cordon Bleu turnovers and Cheese & Onion bread were on the menu.  I don't actually have a recipe for Chicken Cordon Bleu turnovers, however I do have an imagination, and this is how I imagined they'd be!  I have a recipe for Cheese & Onion bread, but I did change it a bit so it would turn out the way I had envisioned this savory loaf.

I made the bread first, as it takes a couple of hours to rise and I wanted it to come out of the oven about the same time as the turnovers.  The original bread recipe calls for making the bread, allowing it to rise, rolling it out (like cinnamon rolls) and layering sautéed onions and cheddar cheese on top and then rolling it into a loaf.  My experience with rolling loaves with ingredients in the middle is less than exemplary.  Usually, when I attempt to bake a loaf with a layer of goodies rolled up in it, the loaf comes out with a huge hole between the crust and the middle of the bread.  Not wanting to repeat this failure, I chose to add the sautéed onion and cheese directly to the dough while I was kneading, thus spreading the goodness throughout the loaf.  It worked like a charm!  The loaves came out crusty and savory, with a moist, dense crumb.  Yum!!!  This bread is perfect paired with soups, stews or any other dish were a flavorful, savory bread is desired.

Cheese & Onion Loaf

Mix together and allow to sponge for 1/2 hour
1 1/2 C hot water (about 110°)
2 tsp. sugar
1 T salt
1 T yeast

4 3/4 C flour
1 tsp. dry mustard

Mix in
1 C shredded Cheddar cheese
2/3 C Cheddar cheese, cubed
1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped & sautéed

Knead bread until elastic (about 10 minutes) and transfer into an oiled bowl.  Allow to rise in a warm place until double in size (about 2 hours).  Form into 1 large loaf (put in bread pan) and allow to rise until almost double.

Preheat the oven to 400°.  While oven is heating, brush the top of the loaf with milk and sprinkle 1/3 C Cheddar cheese on the top of the loaf.

Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until loaf sounds hollow.  Turn loaf onto wire rack (I have to loosen the crunchy cheese from the sides of pan to release loaf) and allow to cool completely.

Sauteed Onions
Grated & Cubed Cheese
Adding flour and dried mustard
Adding the onions
And the cheese
Ready to rise
Brushed with milk and topped with cheese
Oh My Goodness!!!

Earlier in the day, I had been planning on making individual Chicken Pot Pies for dinner, however, peeling potatoes and chopping a bunch of veggies didn't really appeal to me, so I had a change of plans.  I started thinking of ingredients we have on hand that I could use to whip something up and settled on canned chicken, bacon bits and Swiss cheese.   I used my favorite fried apple pie/pasty recipe and filled it with a mixture of chicken, onions, chives, bacon bits and Swiss cheese held together with a thick cream gravy.

The filling was ridiculously simple.  I melted about 2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan and sauteed an onion in the butter.  When the onions were golden, I added a couple of jars of drained, canned chicken meat.  I added about 2 teaspoons of chicken soup base (powdered), a handful of diced, fresh chives and about 1/2 a cup of bacon bits.  I melted another 6 tablespoons of butter into the mixture and sprinkled 1/3 cup of flour, mixing well.  To this, I poured milk into the pan until a nice gravy was formed.  That's it!

As the filling was cooling, I made a batch of pasty dough.  It is very easy to make and never fails.  I use it for berry hand pies, pasty's - anything that needs a crust that doesn't tear easily.

I made 16 balls of dough and rolled them out, spooning a bit of filling into each circle.  I placed a small slice of Swiss cheese to each bit of filling, folded the pastry over the filling and sealed them with a fork.  I baked the turnovers for about 20 minutes in a 375° oven.  If you are feeling very wicked, you would deep fry these little beauties.  Of course, I'm pretty sure you would feel your arteries hardening with every bite!

Pasty/Turnover Dough

1 C butter
1 1/4 C boiling water
1 tsp. salt (if you are using this for pies, add a little sugar also)
4 1/2 - 5 C flour

Cut up the butter into a bowl and add the boiling water, stirring till melted.  Stir in the salt and flour until it forms a ball.  Wrap in plastic and refrigerate while making the filling.

Form into 8 balls (for dinner plate sized pasty's) or 16 balls (for a more reasonably sized dinner).

Chicken, onions, chives & bacon
With milk
Filling with a slice of cheese
Chicken Cordon Bleu Turnovers

Oh, dinner was wonderful!  I'm sure fall with bring with it many more wonderful recipes to share.

Lights Out

Over the years we have forsaken the virtues that made us great.  We have come to view the principles that hallmarked our country as "old fashioned" and "out of date".  We are wrong.

The following tidbit has been attributed to Herbert Hoover in 1946.  In my opinion, it is every bit as relevant today as it was over 50 years ago.

"The principal thing we can do if we really want to make the world over is to try the use of the word 'old' again.  It was  the 'old' things that made this country the great nation it is.

There are the old virtues of integrity and truth.

There are the old virtues of incorruptible service and honor in public office.  There are the old virtues of economy in government, of self-reliance, thrift and individual responsibility and liberty.

There are the old virtues of patriotism, real love of country and willingness to sacrifice for it.

These old ideas are very inexpensive.  And they would help win hot and cold wars.  I realize such suggestions will raise that odious word 'reactionary', but some of these old values are slipping away rapidly from American life.

And if they slip too far, the lights will go out in America, even if we win the hot and cold wars."

Friday, September 7, 2012

Wolverine Update

We are pretty excited about our new mascot and we are more than thrilled to share them with you.  We are expecting shipments of both the T-shirts and patches next week but we are holding on to all of them until after the Preparedness Expo.  As of October 1st, the Wolverines will be available for sale!  I'll make sure to let you all know and give you payment information.

I hope to be able to meet many of you at the Expo!  See you there!  By the way, our family will be the ones wearing the really cool Wolverine T-shirts.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

She Shall Rejoice in Time to Come.....

The Proverbs 31 woman is my favorite preparedness role model.  She works with her hands.  She brings her food from afar.  She buys a field and plants a vineyard.  She strengthens her arms.  Her candle does not go out at night.  She stretches her hand to the poor.  She is not afraid of natures fury because she has dressed her family well.  She rejoices in the time to come.   I've always been struck by that last sentence - rejoices in the time to come - and wondered at its meaning.  And then it came to me.  The Proverbs 31 woman was a survivalist.  She saw the signs of the times and prepared in the good times for the inevitable bad times.  She knew the world was in a constant cycle - times of plenty, times of lean.  She gathered during times of plenty so that her family would be taken care of during times of want.  She could rejoice in her future because she knew her family would be well clothed and well fed.  She even made provisions for the needy and cared for her servant girls.  Her husband trusted her.

When I grow up, I want to be a Proverbs 31 woman.  Preparing for an uncertain future is my training ground.  I am learning to care for the needs of my household.  I am preparing during this time of plenty for the inevitable time of want.

Canning is the Proverbs 31 woman's best friend.  Although our economy is in the tank, most of us still have access to large quantities of fruit, vegetables and even meat to fill jars and line our shelves.  Apples fall off trees in abundance and zucchini is given away by the bagful.  Both are begging to be put into jars to feed your family throughout the long winter.   Venison and elk are equally at home in a canning jar as are chickens.  Basically, if you can eat it, you can can it (not really - but mostly).

My latest canning adventure featured tomatoes, green peppers and onions.  We love this particular mixture due to the fact that it is perfect in just about every soup, not to mention it is delectable in pasta sauce.
Peppers & Onions
Beautiful Tomatoes
Miss Serenity and I stopped at a little produce stand in town and picked up a couple of 25# boxes of canning tomatoes, 15 huge green peppers and a 10# bag of onions.  Once home, Maid Elizabeth, Miss Serenity and I got down to business.  Maid Elizabeth diced all of the green peppers and about 1/2 of the onions.  I par boiled the tomatoes and plunged them into cold water and Miss Serenity started peeling the boiled tomatoes.  After the tomatoes were peeled, I diced them and poured them into the biggest bowl I had - a huge enamel baby bathtub.  Once the tomatoes had been diced, Maid Elizabeth added the green peppers and the onions and began to stir - very carefully!  Jar by jar we ladled the tomato/green pepper/onion mixture into clean jars - 33 of them.  We added a teaspoon of salt to each jar and then filled with boiling water.  (A side note:  When we are using this mixture only for pasta sauce or salsa, we don't add the water.   There is plenty of water in the tomatoes.)  The jars were processed at 10# of pressure for 40 minutes (when mixing multiple veggies I always process according to whatever ingredient requires the longest processing time).

Boiling the tomatoes for about 1/2 minute (so the skins slide off)
Plunging in cold water
A baby bathtub full of diced tomatoes
Adding the green peppers
And the onions
All mixed together

In the jar with salt added
The jars came out beautifully, although I did have a complication that I have never experienced before.  One jar was hissing when it came out of the canner.  I noticed a small crack at the bottom of the jar and in the time it took me to say "It's leaking", the jar exploded - spewing molten tomatoes, peppers, onions and juice all over the kitchen and catapulting the broken jar into the living room (about 6 feet away).  It was something!  Glass shards exploded into a kitchen full of people (thankfully cutting no one), and more than one of us was covered with molten vegetables.

Exploded jar and the accompanying mess
I had washed each jar before filling them and had noticed no cracks or chips.  My guess is that jar had been jostled on the shelf, or tossed into a sink causing a weak spot.  So, now I caution you to be very careful when unloading your pressure canner, watching for any leaking (spewing) liquid.  If you can react quickly enough, covering the leaking jar with a heavy towel should contain most of the mess and shrapnel.

And so, I will continue to gather while in times of plenty, guarding against times of want. I will look at my shelves and rejoice.

On the shelf