Monday, September 30, 2013

Adirondack Chair from Old Pallets

Adirondack Style Chair from old Pallets
Totally cheap, Totally comfortable, Totally worth it.
About 1 1/2 hrs of labor.

So this project is easily completed in about an hour and a half from start to finish. I'm guessing an hour each from here on out (since I had to adjust the seat angle a few times on the first one.) Now I can use the completed one as a template. The nice thing is,....there really isn't any waiting time in between steps.  The only waiting comes at the end (after you seal it,  if you choose to.)  This project requires only 2 pallets, some screws, and some sealer. SUPER CHEAP!!!!! I say 2 pallets because you need to have 2 runners for each chair section, and I haven't seen very many oak pallets with more than 3 runners (the thicker boards which all of the slats nail to). I would not recommend using pine pallets. They are cheaply made, and easily break. This would just be asking for an accident. You can usually go to any lumber company, or even some trucking companies and ask them for a few pallets. I have yet to be charged for them. FREE is good. 

You need a saw.  I used a chainsaw, but obviously you can use anything really. Jigsaw, circular, handsaw, whatever.

Choose one side of a pallet which has few, if no cosmetic or mechanical imperfections. Carefully cut the slats to the edge of the runner like the picture shows. Do this with both pallets.

After you cut one side of the pallets away,  then it's time to remove some slats. 
On the backrest piece, I removed the bottom 3 slats from the front side, and all but 3 on the back side (the one's on the ends, and the one closest to the opening on the front.) The slat left on the bottom will be in contact with the ground and will prevent the chair legs from digging into the ground.
On the seat piece, I removed all but three of the slats for the actual seat platform. I left the slats underneath them too, for rigidity.  Any nails that were left in the wood, you can either pull, or pound in. I chose to pound them in

Slide the long legs of the seat piece through the backrest portion and screw once on each side. Note here, that the chair pieces do not line up. One will be INSIDE of the backrest section, while the other will be OUTSIDE of the backrest section. Since pallets have the same measurements between the runners, there really isn't a way to "magically" change this dimension, without investing a lot more time. The offset you will see in the seat, really doesn't change the comfort. Place the chair upright and judge (with your eyes) whether the angle of the dangle will work for you. You don't want your back laying too far back, and you don't want the seat to be sticking up at a 45 degree angle to the sky. Make any adjustments you think you need, then drive a few more screws into the joints to make it more secure.

Then, with the extra runners from the left over pieces of the pallets, cut 2 supports (one runner, cut at about a 30 degree angle will work). 

Place the angled edge against the back legs of the chair and slide them up to the backrest section. Screw them in place. This is the main support which will prevent the chair from collapsing. 

Done. Well, almost.  Technically, this is as far as you need to go, but it won't last as long. 

I rough sanded the edges with 50 grit sandpaper to get rid of the splinters. Then I also ran the palm sander across the face or each board just to make it easier to seal it. I didn't want to take off the rings and scars that were left behind by the product which was once loaded onto the pallets. This is part of the look I wanted to keep.

I sealed the chair with some Thompson water seal to help protect it from the elements. 
I'm planning on making quite a few more of these chairs to dress up the backyard. 
Easy!, Fun! and Cheap!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Homemade Pizza

Our kids LOVE pizza! We do too.
Here's a fun way to make dough from scratch then on a busy night, you just need to thaw it in the fridge before you leave for work and make a pizza (10 mins), cook it (15 mins) and ENJOY.  Less than 30 mins, and feeling like you rocked dinner - kids and you both love it.

Pizza Dough Recipe
Makes one thick crust or 2 thin crust pizzas

1 Tbsp active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 Tbsp Olive Oil (can use substitute)
2 1/2 cups Flour (we like whole wheat)
1/4 cup flaxseed (optional)

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water (temperature matters here).
Add the rest of the ingredients in and mix. Knead into a smooth dough (5 minutes or so).

The great part about this recipe is it takes the same amount of time to make one batch or four.  So I made four and froze the extra three.  Why make more work for myself later?

So with your ball of dough, roll it out on a floured surface to the thickness you like. If thick - poke with a fork a few times to prevent bubbles when baking.  My kids like to help with this part- I think mostly they played in the flour on the counter - but whatever. 

Take the extra dough and put it straight into bags and freeze.  

If you have homemade pizza sauce, definitely use it! If not, any spaghetti/marinara sauce will do. 

Add your cheese and other toppings.  You can see how adventurous my family is.  We are having cheese and pepperoni tonight.  I really like when we make individual pizzas then I can add my Pesto and fresh mozzarella with some tomato slices, peppers, and onions on top. I can't even wait until the goats have milk and we make goat cheese!  

Bake at 425 for about 15 minutes.

Let cool and eat.  Repeat with the dough in the freezer as needed.  
This is easy, really, and fun.  Great to try on a rainy weekend and get the family excited about dinner again. 

Friday, September 27, 2013

White Peaches

Canning White Peaches
White Peaches?  Let me be honest here for a moment. Until my friend gave me this big box full of them, I had no clue there was even a such thing as white peaches. But oh how yummy they are. I canned them just like all of the other peaches I have done throughout the years. Peaches have got to be one of the easiest fruits to can. They require only a water bath (as opposed to the pressure cooker) and a little bit of sugar. The sugar is technically optional, but not in my house. MUST HAVE SUGAR!!!!
There were a few dozen that were ripening way too fast and were fed to the goats. Talk about entertaining. Picture a large dog chewing a tennis ball in the back of it's mouth. You can't see it, but you know its there. This is what the goats looked like. Chewing, chewing, chewing. Pretty soon, you start hearing the clicking of the peach pit against their teeth. Then all of a sudden,  they spit the pit out to the side like a big wad of tobacco. The kids were hysterical!!!!

So here are the white peaches. They were quite a bit smaller than any other peaches we've canned (about the size of a small plum), but this may have been due to the age of the tree. Not sure, don't care, still yummy. 

First thing we did was scald them. Usually, peaches take about  minute to scald, but as these peaches were so small, and the skins were so thin, some of the batches took less than 30 seconds. Be careful not to leave the peaches in the scalding pot too long, or else the fruit begins to get mushy and hard to work with. It is easier to peel them when the fruit is still firm. This allows you to basically rub the peel off.

After the scalding, the peaches are quickly moved to an ice water bath and left in to cool off for about a minute or two, after which they are removed and the peel is rubbed off. The peels should come off very easily (like a little jacket). If it seems to be sticking to the fruit, it is either not scalded long enough, or the fruit was not fully ripe. Practice makes perfect at this point. 

I peel about a dozen at a time and then slice and pit them. I premix produce protector into a few table spoons of water and drizzle it over the peaches (and toss them by hand) to prevent the oxidation of the fruit. Most people don't like the rusty color tint. Doing it in small, quick batches, prevents most of it. Tossing the new slices into the bowl and mixing by hand, helps even more to coat them all evenly. 

Once there is enough slices to fill a few jars, pack them into hot jars.

slowly pour a syrup into the jars, leaving 1/2 to 3/4 inch of head space. By syrup, I don't mean take your bottle of maple syrup and drown your peaches in it. Blaaaaa.  All the syrup is, is sugar water. We mix our sugar/water at 1:4 to make a light/med syrup, since the peaches are already so sweet. 

then take a small spatula, (or the back of a spoon), and remove the air bubbles in the jar. Then top off the syrup again to the proper head space.

Place the lids and rings on the jars and snug them up. 

Place the jars into the water bath canner for processing. We process pints for 25 minutes, and quarts for 30 minutes. After processing time, lift out the jars and put them on a rack to cool for 24 hrs.  


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Homemade Cayenne pepper and Chili powder

Cayenne Pepper
So this was my first time making cayenne pepper and chili powder, and might I say, the experience was all but fun. I basically maced myself during the process. (More on that down below).  As a family, we love Love LOVE making tacos and fajitas. Personally, i'm a sucker for hot wings and want to try making my own wing sauce. We grew Cayenne peppers this year so I could do just that. But then of course, we threw in some Anaheim Chili's so that we could make our own taco/fajita seasonings too. Not all of the ingredients will be home grown, but we are trying really hard to at least say that we grew "the majority of them".  The peppers were pretty hot this year. In fact, I had a friend accuse me of trying to "kill him" because I neglected to tell him that he should wear gloves while cutting the jalapeno's I gave him. (ooops). Oh, and my nephew decided that it would be a brilliant idea to take a bite straight from one of the cayenne's and show everyone how tough he was. He didn't actually get past the chewing stage before he spit it all out and began wiping his tongue with his shirt like Tom Hanks in Big. After the ordeal was over, he took a few more and pocketed them so that he could dare his friends to do the same. (poor kids....I saw the video)
Needless to say, I had thought that the pepper stories were done for the year.........

I started by drying the peppers. Actually, they spent some time air drying for about 2 weeks prior to the dehydrator, but I grew impatient and decided to speed up the process. I left the peppers on the racks until they were brittle and crumbled in my hands.

Then I put them in a food processor 

I chopped and chopped and chopped, until all but the seeds were as fine as the processor could make them.
It was right after this stage that "the incident" occurred. I would suggest two things when opening the processor to dump out the fine pepper. 
1) Let it sit for a while before you open it
2) Don't breath in deeply when you do.
I received a nice dose of your gonna wish you were dead.  My nose was on fire, and my eyes were stinging like someone was racking nettles back and forth across them. 
My best suggestion would be to take this step V-E-R-Y slowly.

After I recovered from the near fatal incident, I slowly sifted the fine pepper onto a paper plate

This was what I was going for, a nice little bag of cayenne pepper, made straight from the garden. The larger bits and the seeds can be used in rubs and course seasonings

Chili Powder
This was essentially made the same way as the cayenne pepper, with only a few differences. 
1) I didn't mace myself again
2) I sifted the fine particles through a smaller, finer sifter, to make it more like powder. What was left in the second sifter, I used a mortar and pestle to grind further and re-sifted. 

I broke the large Anaheim's in half so they fit in the processor better


course sifting

mortar and pestle set with the finer sifter.

Will I do this again next year?  Probably.
Will I mace myself again?  Probably.

Thanks for checkin' in. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Drying Potato Slices

Dehydrating Potato Slices

We plant a lot of potatoes. The problem is, figuring out what to do with the small ones that are too small for baking. Some of them get thrown into the crockpot either whole or halved, but the majority of them are being dried and stored for making scalloped potatoes throughout the year. There is rumors that these dried slices can sit on a shelf for well over 10 to 15 years, however, in our house they will probably not last even one. Drying fruits and vegetables (as well as meats) has been practiced for centuries, long before Ball or Mason began making jars for canning. In fact, in many parts of the world, drying food is still the only way to preserve and store it. There is a few different methods that our family uses to dry foods. The sun, the stove, and an electric dehydrator. Cris likes to lay herbs out in the sun to dry, while I prefer to use the Nesco or the stove to make jerky, or dehydrate fruits and veggies. When using the sun method, it is typically good to have a slight breeze (especially if you are drying meat to help keep the flies away). This year, we had an abundance of extra red potatoes and a few golds to slice up. So this is how we did it. 

Here is the box of extras.

First we peel and wash the potatoes prior to slicing. Some people prefer to leave the peels on because they are a good source of nutrition, however our children will not eat them if we do, so we just try to make dinner time a tad less whinny. 

All peeled and ready for the mandolin 

We are extra careful when using the mandolin. Taking a little extra time to be safe can help prevent having finger slices to put on the rack (they take longer to dehydrate) We like to make the slices about 1/8 inch thick, but the thickness can vary. The only difference will be in the drying time. The most important part is the uniformity. Making the slices the same thickness will ensure that they will all finish drying at about the same time. Having said that, don't throw away the ones that are not slicing evenly, you will just have to keep a closer eye on the drying process and check them more often.

After slicing the potatoes, it was time to blanch them. Typical blanching times vary from 5 to 9 minutes (I did 7 minutes). Now here is the tricky part. This stage of the whole process is when "you" determine how fragile the slices will be to work with. We actually left the potatoes in about a minute too long, which resulted in very fragile slices that were breaking constantly (even while stirring). Sample the slices often after the first few minutes to try to make sure they are soft, but not easily broken. They should snap softly, not crumble.  

When were done (or in our case overdone), we drained them and then plunged them in an ice bath to stop the blanching process. Leave the slices in this water for about 10 minutes. 

After cooling in the ice water, we drained them off with a strainer and placed them gently on a clean cheesecloth dish towel and patted them dry.

Then the slices were carefully placed on the racks for dehydrating. It took about 5 hours to dry, while rotating the trays and flipping the slices numerous times throughout. I'm pretty sure that we turn and rotate more often than we need to, but that's just the way we roll.

Now all that is left is to make some sauce to bake them in. Thinking we might try a good Cheesy Bacon Scalloped Potato recipe this fall. Let us know what recipes are your favorite.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Freezing Greens

Posted by Cris

I love salads! 
And when we started our garden lettuce and spinach were must haves.  I had never tried kale or swiss chard so I planted it too, thinking it must be delicious too.  Only its not. It's an acquired taste.  It's MUCH more bitter and I prefer it raw, but again it's the end of the season and there is still so much.  So we need to freeze it. Only I do NOT like cooked greens.  Sorry, I'm clearly not southern.  (I don't like fried foods or cooked greens.)  

However, I can tolerate cooked greens in soups. So that is my plan to use them up.
First you need to cut the stem out of the swiss chard and the kale.  Our kale was super small this year, last year it was huge.  No idea why (this year we had lots more rain).

Blanching comes next.  Blanching is just boiling the greens for 2 minutes.

 Then straining them and dunking them into an ice bath.

Next, I threw them in the salad spinner to dry them off and then set them on a cheese cloth towel to remove all the excess water. 

I folded the towel up a few times and pressed to dry them as best I could. 

Onto the food saver, Jon doesn't kid when he says it's one of our most used appliances. Sorry, It kind of looks like we are packaging drugs, since I wanted small, soup portions of greens. 

If you don't grow your own, these greens are cheap and readily available at farmer's markets or grocery stores and can be easily processed the same way.  However, after cooking, they shrink WAY down. Buy a lot if you like them that much.  After all was said and done a 4 qt. bowl full of raw greens gave us about 5 cups of cooked greens. 

If you have any good soup recipes that incorporate a little greens, please share!  I'd love to have em.