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Sunday, October 16, 2022

Cooking From My Pantry

 Hello dear friends!  Often when I tell older folks that I can, they will say, " I used to can, but we don't eat those types of foods anymore."  And I'm always thinking, "What? you don't eat carrots, green beans, beets, potatoes or corn?  You don't eat beef, pork, chicken or turkey?"  Because I can everything, I can get my hands on.  And that is why my grocery bills are so low.  While canning is a very labor-intensive task, once it is done, it takes nothing to assemble a soup or stew, simply by opening a few jars and heating them through.  Recipes like this borscht, which is one of our favorite cold-weather meals.

Teaching someone how to make soup is sort of like trying to teach someone how to be thrifty, I can tell you how, I can give you a recipe and ideas, but at the end of the day, you just have to go with your imagination and instincts.  Anyhow, I   will tell you how I make it, but of course, it won't be a straightforward recipe, because you probably won't have the exact same ingredients.

Firstly, I begin by sautéing up some onions and garlic.  I use beef tallow that I render when I can my beef, but of course you can use any oil or fat, you desire to sauté yours.

Next, I use a jar of my home-canned beef.  You can use any leftover beef roast or stew meat, or if time are really hard just use a can of beef broth, or if times are really, really hard use some of those beef granules and some water, or if you are a vegetarian, just leave the beef out altogether.

Then I stir in a jar of tomatoes, and jar of carrots drained. Save the drained liquids for a base for another soup. And an undrained jar of beets. Of course, you can use any combination of fresh, canned or frozen vegetables that you desire, if you don't have home-canned.

Then I add cubed potatoes and maybe some turnips, rutabagas or parsnips, depending on what I have available. And some shredded cabbage.  You can use and combination you want.  If you are making this for a crowd, you might add lots of potatoes or cabbage, which can often be purchased quite cheaply, to make it stretch. At this point, if I need to add more liquids, I will add some of the reserved drained liquids from the vegetables.  Again, if you are stretching it for a crowd or for lots of meals, add more water to the soup.  That was my pastor's advice when I was young and wondering how we would feed our growing family.  Add more water to the soup!

To flavor the borscht I add dill, either fresh or dried.  BTW, even if you don't have a vegetable garden you can grow some dill in your flower beds, it's just as pretty as any other filler plant. A pinch of thyme and paprika (we grow paprika peppers, dry and grind our own) a splash of balsamic vinegar, or some homemade apple vinegar. Sometime if I have jar of pickles in the fridge, I'll add some of the brine to the mixture. Salt and pepper to your taste.  If it is too acidic for you add a bit of sugar.  Serve with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt if you have some. So, that is my thought process when make soup.  You really don't need a recipe, just follow your instincts.

Borscht is so healthy, with all those beets, carrots, tomatoes and cabbage, if I could only make one meal for my family, it would be this.  Plus, it's very filling. If we only had a small garden, the only things I would grow, would be the vegetables that go into it: beets, carrots, cabbage, potatoes, tomatoes, dill and rutabagas.  Is it any wonder that it was such a popular peasant food in Eastern Europe?

Notes on Canning

When I can my beets, I add 1 tablespoon of sugar and vinegar to each pint jar, then can as usual. Gives you a sort of pickled beet flavor without the spices.

When canning beef, I cut all the fat of and render the tallow, which I use in sauteing, greasing pans and even for baking. And of course, any bones go into a pot for making broth.  Cube and brown the meat in batches, deglaze the frying pan, and boil in in a pot of water, while prepping the jars.  This makes its own broth, which gives the cheap cuts of beef added flavor. Sometimes, if it doesn't look beefy enough, I'll stir in some of the beef granules, but just a bit because it tends to be very salty. I use the cheapest cut of beef roast, around here they are called English roasts.  They are usually tough as old shoe leather, but when you can them this way, it tastes like the finest roast.  As a matter of fact, our store is having a sale on them this week for $3.99/ lb.  Cheaper than hamburger!  Guess what I'll be doing this week?

Well, I hope that this post gives those that are timid in the kitchen some encouragement to experiment a little.  Your kitchen is your kingdom, and you make the rules!



Sunday, October 9, 2022


 Hello dear friends!  I pray that you all are well and safe and sound.  Jen, a frequent reader of this blog, lives in Nova Scotia, that was hit pretty hard by hurricane Fiona.  I pray that you are safe, Jen.  And likewise, all my dear readers that took a hit from Ian. 

A little while ago, Jamie said to me, "Mama, you haven't listened to your Little Women soundtrack yet!" You see, listening to that soundtrack is one of the first things that ushers in Autumn for us. Traditions are so important to family life.  Every Autumn, as soon as the first nip in the air is felt, we bring out our orange coffee mugs, tidy up the back room where the woodstove stands, lay in a supply of coffee and tea and get ready to nest.  Especially now days, when so much of the world is in turmoil, keeping traditions and making our homes a refuge is so important.  Wouldn't you agree?  I'd love to read what some of your Autumn traditions are, if you wouldn't mind leaving them in the comments.  Ever since the pandemic, the outside world has become so unwelcoming, places we used to love to visit just haven't the same "feel", there seems almost a depressing atmosphere in the outside world. Have you felt it? Maybe because so many people are anxious now days.  That is why creating a nurturing atmosphere in our home has become so important to us.


Well, I finally finished that cardigan that I had been knitting on forever.  I love to watch those "flosstubes" that are on YouTube.  The ones were ladies show their handiwork they've been working on for the past week or month. They are always working on so many projects!  And the money they spend on their hobbies is staggering.  Well, someone has to support designers and craft shops, so cheers to them! Not to mention, donate their expensive yarn stashes to thrift shops.  Thank you very much! But I do not have that kind of income and love the challenge of using up what I already have. That is why little projects, such as scrap quilts, give me so much enjoyment.  Anyway, I'm a strictly one-project-at-a-time crafter. As much as I get bored with one project, I won't move on until it's completed, because I know I will never go back to it, if I don't stick with it.  So, after I finished that dreaded cardigan (never again will I knit a top-down sweater), it was finally time to do something fun. So, I made this table runner:

I used some instructions that I had cut from a magazine way back in 1996!  I used the same pattern, way back here. Now here's the funny thing about it, the author of the article was Jo Morton, and I didn't discover until I had finished it, but the fabric was also from Jo Morton, so it all had come full circle.  BTW, the fabric collection is called Lancaster, which I had purchased a charm pack of on impulse several years ago. I'm fond of anything with the name Lancaster because my Grandpa A's family settled that area in the early 1700s. Anyway, no sooner than I had lain it on the table, Blackie, our cat, decided it was a splendid place to sunbathe, so off it came from the table and has now come to be displayed on the back of the loveseat.
Blackie is such a spoiled cat.  He has pretty good life for a little stray we found living in a groundhog's abandoned dugout underneath the neighbor's shed and eating out of the compost bin. It took us weeks before he would let us approach him and even more before he would trust us enough to touch him.  He's still a bit wild, but look at him now, the lord of the manor! I do not approve of cats on tables, BTW, but he rules the roost.

Other Business

There was an entire slew of things that I keep forgetting to post.  I promised to show Angela the lentils I was writing about for sprouting, but unfortunately, I haven't had any available. But if you'll just Google black lentils, Angela, you'll see what I'm talking about.  They are so much cheaper than those sprouting mixtures.

On a comment left by Julie T, I had mentioned using applesauce in baking.  Did you know that you can substitute half the fat, whether it be butter, shortening or oil, for applesauce when baking?  This was an old trick we learned back in the day when everyone was counting their fat grams consumed. So, say, a cake calls for 1 cup of butter, you can use 1/2 C. butter and 1/2 C. applesauce. With the costs of fats going up (I recently bought some cooking oil and it had doubled since the last time I purchased some) it might be time to bring this old trick back out.  Especially since we have plenty of apples!

Right before I quit blogging the last time, ha!, someone had requested a home tour.  And while I'd like to oblige them, I too am curious how others, especially those I have become to admire, live, I have decided that it wouldn't be a good idea.  You see, our home is a very personal space to us, almost everything inside it either Ran or I have made or has a special meaning to us.  So, any criticism, would be very hurtful, almost akin to criticizing our child, and I still get the hateful comments, so I'm sorry, I hope the glimpses that you catch from time to time will suffice.  

Let's see, I've read that they are predicting a cold winter this year.  You learn many things by studying art, and one of those things is how people dressed before central heating.  One of the things I discovered over the last few years, is wearing a scarf (particularly a woolen one) wrapped around your neck and upper chest area really helps you keep warm. So maybe it's time to bring all those infinity scarves that have fallen out of fashion back into your wardrobe?

I'm sure there's more that I have forgotten, but maybe I'll remember next time.  But I wouldn't count on it! And perhaps next time I will be true to my blog's name and share more thrift tips.  Is there anything in particular that you would like to know?  So, keep safe, and keep your spirits up!