Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Winter Sowing

I winter sowed my seeds the end of December and have been waiting ever since then to get a picture of them with snow on them. It started snowing yesterday and finished with a half inch of ice today and here are my containers waiting for warm weather to start sprouting.

I have peach, pear, apple, redbud, hazelnut, gingko and many others planted in the bottles. The bottles are sitting in under bed storage boxes. The bottles and boxes both have holes in the bottoms for drainage. Each box holds 24 bottles. The top part of the bottle is cut most of the way through and has tape to hold it shut. The lids are off the bottles.

I would never have enough room to start all of these seeds indoors and start my tomato and other plants too. I am anxiously waiting to see what sprouts. Each bottle is numbered and I have what I planted in each written in my garden notebook.

GardenWeb has a good winter sowing forum and there is a Yahoo group as well.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Chocolate Cake Day, January 27th

My son gave me this neat brownie pan for Christmas. It is called the Create N Celebrate Perfect Brownie baking pan by Lifetime brands.

Today was chocolate cake day. For me brownies are the ultimate chocolate cake. This time I even frosted them!

Here is the recipe I used:

Chocolate Fudge Brownies

1/2 c. applesauce (my own, made by me from real apples!)
1 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 eggs (I used powdered eggs)
1/2 c. all-purpose flour
1/3 c. Hershey's cocoa
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt

Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Spray brownie pan (will also work in a conventional square pan)
In large mixing bowl blend applesauce, sugar and vanilla.
Add eggs, using spoon, beat well.
Combine flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt; gradually blend into egg mixture.

Spoon into prepared pan.
Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until brownies begin to pull away from sides of pan.
Cool, frost with Frosting. Or frost the first one warm and let the frosting melt! Gooey and good!

6 tbs. margarine, softened
6 tbs. Hershey's cocoa
3 tbs. honey
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. confectioners' sugar
1 tbs. milk (I used powdered milk)

In medium bowl cream margarine, cocoa, honey and vanilla.
Add confectioners' sugar and milk and mix well.

I set the bowl of frosting beside the brownies so each person could frost their own with as much or as little as they wished. The frosting amount is generous.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Canning Shelf

I found myself getting frustrated trying to find all my canning jars and supplies.

I used to have a canning shelf. Like this one.

I was unable to find one like it for sale in the United States so I improvised.

The shelves I used are from WalMart. I had to have them shipped with their Site to Store shipping, but that was only an extra 99 cents.

Of course then I had to pick them up at the store. In our WalMart the Site to Store pickup location is in the back behind the shoes and craft area. I had to hunt for a clerk, but it was easy from then on. I did have the foresight to take a cart back with me.

I used two shelf units to construct my shelf. One of the features of a canning shelf is that the shelves are turned upside down so there is a lip all around the shelf to help prevent the jars from sliding off. I used 8 shelves for my unit. I have two shelves left over and have ordered one more shelf unit to use with them to make a seven shelf unit.

One plus of combining two units into one is that there is extra bracing available to use. With extra shelves and extra bracing the unit is very steady. The second set of shelves will be installed right next to the first one and I will use the bolts provided to bolt the two sets of shelves together along the side that touches.

I used the top hole for the top shelf and then skipped 4 holes and put the next shelf in the 5th hole. I skipped 4 more holes and put another shelf in the 5th again. Then I skipped 6 holes and put the next shelf in the 7th hole. I skipped 6 holes again and put the shelf on the 7th hole and this time the second set of legs also attaches there. Then I again skipped 6 holes and put a shelf in the 7th hole. For the last 2 shelves I skipped 7 holes and put the shelf in the 8th hole. This puts the very bottom shelf in the second hole from the bottom.

I will use the shelves to store all empty jars as well as full ones. All the canning jar boxes are stacked in a trash bag in the attic crawl space.

I keep all my glass jars whether they are canning jars or not. Yesterday I got out my sacks of saved jars and removed the labels. My favorite labels are the ones that come right off after a short soak in the sink. The stubborn labels had to be coaxed off with Goo Gone.

Then I ran them all through the dishwasher. It was full of jars! Now they are all on my new shelves.

I use the ordinary jars to store dehydrated foods. Lately I have sliced and dried a LOT of apples. I got the neatest tool from Freecycle. It has the option of coring and slicing or coring, peeling and slicing. I have been leaving the peels on.

I have to watch myself or I devour the apples! An added bonus to drying them is that they can be powdered in the blender and the powder mixed with water to make instant applesauce. I like the applesauce made fresh this way much better than the jarred applesauce. I am saving all the cores in the freezer to make jelly with.

Here are the shelves with the third unit added. Remember, I combined three units to make two to get more shelves.

The unit on the left has eight shelves and the one on the right has seven.

How do you store your jars? I would love to hear :)