Thursday, September 24, 2009

Homemade Grape Juice

Concord grapes; one of Earth's wonderful treasures.
Up close, dangling from the vine, they look like jewels!

My good friend, Monica, showed me how to easily make grape juice.
You need grapes, quart jars, canning lids and rings, sugar, a pot of boiling water and a water bath canner.

First, place your jars in a large pot of water, bringing to a boil to sterilize. You'll get them out one at a time as you use them.
Also at this time; place your canning lids and rings in smaller pots of water and simmer until you need them.

Carefully wash your grapes, discarding any over-ripe or rotten ones. You can leave them on the stem.

Once they're clean, put clusters of grapes in a hot jar, packing them in firmly but not too tight.

Pour in 1/2 a cup of sugar on top of the grapes. Using a funnel keeps the rim of the jar clean.

Then, ladle in boiling water to fill the jar, leaving 1/4 inch head space.
Use a butter knife to slide down into the sides of the jar, releasing any air bubbles.

Clean the rim of the jar to be sure the surface is free of sugar or liquids. Then, place a hot jar lid on top, followed by a ring. Close firmly.
The sugar settles to the bottom.

I like to tip the jar back and forth a few times in order to help the sugar dissolve.

Place jars into boiling water canner with hot water. (water must be at least two inches over the top of the jars) Let them sit until you have enough to can.
Then bring to a full rolling boil and cover. Let the grapes boil for 10-15 minutes processing time.
Important- look up times for canning grape juice for your area. High altitudes are different.
After they've cooked for the allotted time, turn off the burner and let jars sit another 5 minutes before removing from canner.

Carefully remove jars one by one and set on a towel on the counter. Let sit undisturbed for 8-12 hours. They will seal. To test the seals once they've cooled, push on the top of jar lids. If it's sealed, it will be flat with no give. Unsealed jars will be flexible.

It's best to let juice sit for several weeks/months in order to concentrate the flavor.
When you're ready to drink some; simply strain the juice (squeeze grapes gently to extract more juice) into a pitcher. You can drink it straight or add water to dilute.

Beautiful nectar!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

fall days

kite flying in september.....

part of our day's school work!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Charlie the Hound

This is how Charlie spends most of his day...

(He's actually sleeping in that position!)

Gotta love that extra skin....

His life is ruff, REALLY RUFF!
When he's conscious, he does actually play, too. He even chews on things he shouldn't.
He can be naughty.
But when he chews on us we get to say things like, "Ouch, Chahlie! You bit me...and that really huht!" Just like the adorable boy on youtube.
(If you haven't seen that yet, visit youtube and search for 'Charlie bit me.' )

Or, because my children LOVE to listen to 'Hank the Cowdog' stories on CD, we can make up Hank-esque songs about Charlie.
Such as:
"Charlie Brown, don't you frown....stop sniffing the ground and you'll be a good hound. Charlie Brown, do you hear that sound? I know you're low to the ground and you can't swim or you'll drown..... You get the idea.
The girls love it.

His official name is Charles Huckleberry. And we call him Charles, (when in trouble) Charlie (when he's good) and Chuck (when we want him to hurry....which is most of the time).

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Jessica Cooks! Shrimp Fettuccine Alfredo

Shrimp Fettuccine Alfredo......a favorite around here.

With caloric numbers to knock your socks off, we only have it once or twice a year.
(Because other times of the year we're eating things like Chicken Parmesan or Chocolate Marshmallow Bars)
But it's soooo good!
In my humble opinion, there is nothing worse than bland, tasteless, indistinctive Alfredo sauce.
If you like that type of sauce, you might want to find another recipe. 'Cause we like lots of garlic and flavor!
We also love to make chicken or clam variations.
But today, it's shrimp.
I should note that sometimes I purchase blocks of parmesan, dry white cooking wine and fresh parsley for this dish.
But today I'm using my 'cheat' method. And it tastes just as good!
So good, in fact, that I pretty much make it this way all the time now.
And The Man of the House, who thought for years that it could only be made one way to be perfect, loves it.

You're gonna need some fettuccine. 32 oz worth.

Also, one whole onion, chopped.

Dried parsley flakes- to taste (because I forgot to measure)
Half & half- half a gallon
Minced garlic- 3 Tablespoons
Parmesan cheese- 1 cup, plus extra for topping
Salt- 3 teaspoons
Freshly ground pepper- 1/4 teaspoon

Cornstarch- 2-3 heaping tablespoons

EVOO - 2-3 Tablespoons.
(I always get the first cold press olive oil- better for you!)
Also, 1 Tablespoon of butter, not shown.

2 lbs. large,cooked, tail-off shrimp.

First, get your pasta water on the stove to boil, adding a dollop of olive oil.
Then, rinse your shrimp in a colander and let sit to defrost.

When your water is boiling, add your fettuccine.
You want your fettuccine al dente, so don't over-cook.

In a large saucepan, pour 2-3 T olive oil and add butter.
Heat til hot.

Add your chopped onion and garlic.

Saute until the onions are translucent.

Add parsley- enough to make nice green flecks throughout sauce.
Is that a good measurement for ya?

Pour in the half & half.
(I have even used 2% milk before and it tastes great, too)

Add freshly ground pepper and salt.

Next, add your cup of Parmesan cheese.
I had to use two 1/2 cup measurements. Because my children are forever running off with my measuring tools.

Stir well and let simmer.

Mix your cornstarch in about 1/3 cup of cold water.
You can always make more if the sauce isn't as thick as you like.

Over medium-high heat, add cornstarch mixture to the sauce, stirring briskly.
Bring just to a boil, to thicken.
Turn to low immediately to avoid curdling.
At this point, you can add a little more garlic, salt, pepper or Parmesan to taste, if you like.

Your shrimp should be defrosted enough by now.

Add shrimp to the sauce, stirring it in.
Keep heat on medium-low.... you don't want to over cook the shrimp.

The sauce should be thick enough to cling to the shrimp nicely. (And to your fettuccine!)

Drain your pasta

Add the Alfredo/shrimp sauce and top with extra Parmesan cheese.
I usually add beautiful steamed broccoli to this dish.

Bon Appetit!

Simple, wasn't it?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Before and After

This daughter of mine has always had quite a head of hair.
When she was born, she really stood out in a nursery full of blondes and baldies.
Okay, it wasn't full, there were only 4 other babies in there. Still, she really stood out.

Not only that, but her eyes and complexion were quite dark. When I sent first photos to my mom, several states away, she said she looked like a baby straight out of the Andes Mtns.
And asked if there could possibly have been a mix up at the hospital.

Nope, I was positive she had come from me. I was there, you see.

Over the next few weeks and months, she started to really look like herself.
All of my previous children had also been born with dark hair.
And then it would fall out and come in blonde.
I completely expected her to do the same.
She had other ideas.

And she had masses of dark hair. The Man of the House affectionately referred to her as 'Mophead'.
She was one of those children who didn't mind hair in her face.
No matter how I tried to keep it in pigtails or barrettes, she would take them out and return to her 'Mophead' state.

This is at about 3 1/2 years old, on a day that I decided to curl it a bit.
And she ended up with big 80's hair.

And this is just last month.
At an age when she doesn't want to care for her long, thick hair and begs on a daily basis to cut it.

However, her father loves his girls with long hair.
He never had any sisters- maybe that's why.
But he really loves it. And tells us so. And makes us feel pretty that way.

But I was caving.

I'm a big believer in carefully choosing your battles with children.
I've learned that the hard way.
And I have to hear the begging all day long.
And it's only hair, for heaven's sake. It grows back.

So- I cut it.

And she's oh-so-happy!
I think it's adorable.
And her father hates loves it, too. :0)

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