Homemade Grape Jelly

Who doesn’t love grape jelly? Me! Uh… Well… Ok. I can’t say I LOOOOVE grape jelly, but I like it, and when you have a bathtub full of grapes that will go bad before you can eat them, then you learn to LOOOOVE grape jelly. This recipe is fairly standard, tastes great, uses less sugar than other recipes, and is pretty freaking simple. I did write this under the assumption that you have a large pot for canning, the basic tools, and have read at least a basic guide to canning that can be followed. Basically, what I’m saying is, I’ll tell you what to put in the jar, and you have to know how to make the jar seal. mmmmkay.

INGREDIENTS:
5 cups grape juice (approx 5lbs grapes)
1 1/2 cups water
1 box Sure-Jell no sugar needed pectin (Pink box)
3 1/2 cups sugar

DIRECTIONS:
1. Be a Martha F’n Stewart and grow yourself about 5 pounds of grapes.
2. Beg others to remove grapes from stems; I recommend children and in-laws, but anyone with hands will do. Please note, those are not my hands (Thanks Bronda!).

3. Rinse off all signs of squirrels, birds, rats, and other grape thieving beings. No joking. If I recently gave you grape jelly, I watched rats feasting on them last week. Do you trust me?
4. Blend in food processor and add to pot with 1 1/2 cups water. Boil 10 minutes.

5. Strain and squeeze out the grape vomit until you have 5 cups juice.
6. Return juice to pot and add 1 box pectin. Mix.
7. Bring back to a boil, add sugar, boil for one minute, and remove from heat.
8. Add to 8 oz jars, seal, process in a water bath for 5 minutes.

BAM!

Texting with the Big Kid

So, Nivek wants a new videogame…This conversation took place over the entire course of my workday today. I don’t know if this is more of a “you had to be there” funny, but it had me crying by the end.

And with that… He’s playing Overwatch as I type. Pew pew.

Middle School Graduation

It’s crazy to think that my son has graduated middle school and off to high school next year. Parents always say how everything goes by so fast, and it’s a bit weird for me to consider that my parents once experienced these emotions in regards to me, but damn… Nivek is going to be gone before I know it. There are many big milestones for him up right around there corner; it’s hard not to try to hold on tightly to the little person that lives inside that big frame. I look up to him now with his size 10 shoes, and just hope that if nothing else, he has learned to put the cheese away. Seriously Nivek, after you make a sandwich, put the cheese away.

Cucumber Watermelon Fruit Salad

There is a such thing as bad fruit salad, even when all of the fruit is in-season and ripe. This is our go-to for fruit salad, and without fail, if I bring this to a potluck someone will always ask for the recipe; it’s that good.

INGREDIENTS:
1 small-medium sized watermelon (small soccerball)
1-2 basket strawberries
1 cucumber (large hump toy)
12-15 leaves Thai Basil (shredded)
1 lemon (zest only)
1 Tbsp Olive Oil

DIRECTIONS: I almost feel ridiculous writing the directions for this, but I’ll go ahead and waste your time. Cube the watermelon. Quarter the strawberries. Hack up the cucumber (skin on). Shred the basil. Zest the lemon. Throw it all into a bowl. Add Olive oil. Wiggle. Shake. Stir. Wiggle. Wiggle. Wiggle. (Your butt looks great by the way).

Eat.

Vegan Italian Sausages

Speaking of poop, this sausage recipe looks like shit… but it is super! The first time I made it I screwed it up by adding 2 cans of beans instead of 1/2 cup. No bueno. The second time I had Kennedy helping me and I was sure I measured everything right, except the dough was really wet and I must have screwed up measuring the liquid (That’s what happens when you have to measure with smaller measuring cups because the 1- cup measuring cup was being used as a drum and is lost in the deep unknown of the toy box).  But the third time, without Kennedy’s fine cooking skills and her being distracted by The PowerPuff Girls, it turned out amazing. I really love this sausage recipe.

INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup cooked great northern white beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup vegetable broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 1/4 cups vital wheat gluten
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 cloves fresh garlic, finely grated
1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seed, crushed
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
Several dashes fresh black pepper

DIRECTIONS
Before starting, set aside five sheets of tin foil, each about 4-5 inches wide. Additionally, you’ll want to place the steamer in a large pot with water filled just up to the bottom of the apparatus, and bring the water to a boil. In one bowl, mash beans into a pile of mush. Add vegetable broth, tomato paste, soy sauce and garlic. Combine and set aside. In a second bowl, combine all dry ingredients. Merge the wet and dry ingredients and divide into 5 poo-logs. Wrap each individual turd with foil, place in steamer, and put the lid on. Steam for 40 minutes. Usually after 20 minutes I am paranoid that the water has burned off and boil some additional too add, just in case. For the record, I’ve always had plenty. After 40 minutes, I usually will just turn off the heat and walk away for awhile to let them cool, unless I plan on eating them at that moment. Before serving, throw a little oil in a pan and saute them. That’s it. When I don’t feel like cooking, I’ll throw this and a little BBQ sauce on a sad piece of bread, and its the best thing ever.

Adventures in Parenting and Poop

Yesterday, while I was at work, I received the following message from Matt:
poo

 

 

WHAT!?

Kennedy.
shit.
in.
the.
fucking.
dog.
run?

How does this happen?! Part of me is confused, and the other half of me thinks: Man! She is so smart. Way to go! You could have shit anywhere kid, but you chose to go outside and drop one in the dog run. Good for you!

Here’s what happened (says the man who swears he didn’t teach her to drop her pants wherever she is standing and pee in the backyard):
So I got out of the shower yesterday afternoon, and I noticed my house was unusually quiet. Mija was at work, Nivek was at school, and I had the house with Kennedy. She was content with an afternoon snack and an episode of Care Bears, so I decided to shower before picking N up from school. Like I said, unusually quiet. It’s a scary thought when you can’t find your 2 year old. I rushed room to room. Nothing. Maybe the chicken coop or garden. Nothing. Now I’m really freaked. I didn’t even see the dogs. Worst case was her taking them for an afternoon stroll. The dog run was my last option. I saw her pants just outside of the door, and as soon as I called for her, Huck rounded the corner licking his lips like he was in trouble. Here comes Kennedy meandering behind the dogs with just her t shirt on, smelling her hand. “Eeeeewwwww stinky daddy!” Great. She was playing with poop! I went to wash her hands, and they were clean….. “Daddy, wipe myyyyyy butt!” Yup. She took a page from the dogs, and left some soft serve on the walkway of the dog run.

Need proof? I’ll just leave this here…

Sweet Potato Tacos (Vegan)

I cannot possibly tell you how much I love these tacos without it sounding like i’m either completely overstating the truth, or completely understating just how great these really are. But, let me tell you, I LOVE these. They are easy, and quick, and really really stinking good… Do it!

INGREDIENTS (serves 3):
2 medium sweet potatoes (about 1 lb peeled and shredded)
3 cloves garlic (minced)
2 Tbsp Hot sauce
1/3 tsp cumin
1/3 cup Texture Vegetable Protein (TVP)
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 yellow onion
1/2 red bell pepper
1/3 cup corn
Salt & Pepper
8 corn tortillas
2 limes
3 Tbsp Cilantro
Pico de gallo (optional)
Sour cream (optional)

Cheater warning: Instead of the fresh onion and bell peppers, I usually add 1/2 of the frozen fire roasted bell pepper/onion mix from Trader Joe’s (don’t judge).

DIRECTIONS:
Peel sweet potatoes and shred (either with box grater or in Cuisinart). Combine sweet potato, TVP, garlic, cumin, hot sauce, and salt and pepper (be generous). Stir and set aside.

In a large pan, add oil and saute onion, bell peppers, and corn until soft (about two minutes, or five if you are a cheater and use frozen like me). Add in the sweet potato mixture and cook for 6-8 minutes, or until cooked. Salt/Pepper. Squeeze 1/2 of a small lime over it all and stir.

In a separate pan, warm up each of the corn tortillas with a little oil. Fill the shells with the sweet potato mixture, and top with lime and cilantro. Add Pico de Gallo and Sour Cream, if desired.

Original Recipe here

DIY Backyard Kids Teepee

My backyard is currently under attack, and has probably been under attack for the last 50 years. What was once probably a cute little one foot wide wall of bamboo, is now a mini forest trying to overtake my backyard (and my soul). Seriously, it would not surprise me if I woke up impaled by a bamboo stalk that has come up though the floor, through my mattress, through my pillow, and right out of my eye socket; these little bastards are no joke.
On the up side of things, while trying to slowly reclaim my backyard and remove all of the dead bamboo, I decided to make Kennedy a little teepee from the stalks and a few randoms I had lying around the house. I will say that it took a little longer than I expected because I had to pull, trim, and cut each of the shoots down individually, but since I was already planning pulling them, it wasn’t too awful.

The process was fairly simple:

First you will need to prep the bamboo by pruning off all of the little branches and cutting all the bamboo to approximately the same height. I started by taking a thick piece of twine (anything rope-like is fine) and connecting three shoots together in a triangle. You can see the basic triangle in the photo above. From here, you will want to eyeball it to be sure that the triangle isn’t lopsided and is roughly the height that you were hoping for before moving on.

Then I started working my way in a circle, leaning the poles on the connected three. After I added quite a few shoots, I took another piece of twine and wove it between every few branches. From there, I kept adding more stalks until I had a one every 4-5 inches apart when looking at the floor (and yes, that is my daughter being a terror and dumping pine shavings all over the ground. Bless her heart).

From here, I wanted to make sure that it was sturdy enough to deal with a toddler. Once I realized that was an impossible dream, I found an old curtain and cut it into one long continuous strip that was roughly 6 inches wide. In order to do this, it’s easiest if you cut it in a similar fashion as the diagram below, but you can do it however makes you happiest.

Picture1

I then took the long strip, cut it in half, and started weaving from top to bottom. I found it easiest if you folded the strip in half around the front poll, and then crossed them every few shoots. I did not weave every shoot, but I did try to weave different bunches with each pass so that they wouldn’t stay grouped together. Once finished, I found two old table clothes that I could use for the bottom half of the teepee wall. I used the bottom wrung of the woven fabric to hang the tablecloths from. I simply made a small 1/4 inch slot every foot or so and attached the tablecloth with the twine. I am sure this could be done much more gracefully with sewing buttonholes in the fabric and using something less stained, but I’m not trying to sell this to The Land of Nod, now am I. No.

Lastly, dig out those Holiday lights and something cozy to sit on and abracadabra, you too have a cozy little summer reading nook for the little. If you do decide to make one, send me pictures, or curse me out for my vague instructions. Either way, i’d love to see what you come up with.

Table Mountain – Oroville, CA

Growing up on Yankee Hill, I remember this pervasive myth that Table Mountain was actually the bottom half of the Sutter Buttes, and that by looking at a topographical map you could see that the outlines of both match up perfectly, if set on top of one another. Even though I know that it is logically improbable and most likely completely false; I prefer the willing suspension of disbelief, even if I cannot help but want to try to line up those maps myself. I even remember hearing that there are species of plant that can only be found in both areas, validating this theory. I do know one thing for certain:

Table Mountain is a place of fairytales, and cows.

Table Mountain is just outside of Oroville, about 1.5 hours from Sacramento. On Sunday morning, we packed some lunches, kidnapped Nivek for some forced family time (you really do have to force that sort of thing nowadays), and headed there for a picnic and to fly our new kite. Unfortunately, imps stole a necessary piece to the kite while we ate, so we weren’t able to fly it; however, Kennedy did sing “goooooot tooo fiiiind the missing pieeeece” over and over again for much of the remainder of our trip, in what was most certainly an allusion to The Lord of the Rings, only further confirming my theory.

Naturally Dyed Eggs


A few weeks back I saw a post about dying Easter eggs naturally, and I knew we had to try it. Friday morning we woke up early and headed on a walk through the park to gather various leaves and flowers that we could use to imprint on the eggs. Since this was our first time doing this, we really didn’t have any idea what would work best, so we just gathered a bit of everything.

Once we got back to the house, I pressed the various leaves and flowers throughout a few pages of a book, thinking it would be easier to put the leave on the egg if they were flat and not bulky (theoretically, it did seem to help).

For our dyes we used yellow onion skins, red cabbage leaves, turmeric, beets, and dried hibiscus flowers.

DYE PREPARATION:

To prepare the dyes we put each food into it’s own pot with a decent amount of water (about six cups), two tablespoons of white vinegar, and a teaspoon of Alum powder (except we did not put Alum in with the pot of onion skins because I read somewhere that it smells like ass if you do). Each of the pots were brought up to a boil and then the heat was lowered to let it simmer for about a half hour. We did not measure out any specific amounts, but we did use a bag of yellow onion skins, a few beets and a whole small red cabbage. In retrospect we only used 2 tablespoons of Turmeric and should have used more; the results weren’t as pretty as some others I have seen. Obviously, the more you use, it is likely the more vibrant the colors will be. Once each of the pots simmered awhile, we removed them from heat until they were cool-ish, and transferred the liquid into gallon ziplock containers. In truth, using large mouth pickle jars or something of the like would be much prettier, but I wasn’t about to go buy more jars for some smelly onion water (and thus, no pictures… So, so, sorry).

EGG PREPARATION

While the dyes were cooling, I went ahead and hardboiled my eggs. I opted to buy both some brown and some white eggs to see if this would make a difference in the final result and I was really glad I did (I was not really glad that i had to buy them though, but alas, by chickens are still on strike). Jerks! With the eggs cooking and the dye cooling, I cut up the legs on a pair of nude nylons into 3-4 inch sections, and knotted one end.

Once the hardboiled eggs were cooled from their ice bath, I pulled out my book of flattened leaves and flowers and placed a few on each egg, wrapping the pantyhose around the leaf, and sealing it closed with the rubberband. Helpful tip: Having the eggs still a little damp seemed to help make the leaves stick to the egg, and thus, easier to wrap the nylon around it without making the leaves move. Of course, I didn’t figure this out until I had dried them all off and was on my second to last one. DAH!

For the last part, I placed each of the eggs into the Ziploc bags over night, trying to have a few white and a few brown eggs in each bag. I’m sure you wouldn’t have to wait so long if you didn’t want to, but I was happy I did.

OUTCOME

Red Beets

Yellow Onion Skins

Hibiscus

Turmeric

Red Cabbage

CONCLUSION
I really loved the depth of the red cabbage. If you rubbed the egg a bit, you ended up with that speckled, marbled effect. I broke the white one in the process, so it is not pictured here, but it turned out a much more vibrant blue, and not as deep as these brown eggs were. I also really loved the way the hibiscus looked on the brown eggs. The hibiscus left a thick coating on the eggs that, when rubbed off, left a pale periwinkle blue color. The beets I thought looked awesome and are such a great burnt red color. I was super irritated that the white egg had to be sent into my stomach after being hardboiled, but I had to make sure the eggs were done, right? I liked the way the yellow onion skins turned out as well, but wasn’t impressed by the Turmeric. I think I would give it another try again though, but I’d increase the amount in the water and see if that makes a difference. Overall, i was really happy with how it all came together and would gladly do it again next year. In comparison to the Paas egg kits, it’s a no-brainer.