Friday, July 30, 2010

Day Trips

The nice thing about living in a rural setting is all the interaction with the small communities that adjoin each other. All the small communities here are around one of the largest lakes in the State of Texas. There is always something going on.Last week end a friend from the city came out and we attended a luncheon and tea that has become an annual money making event for one of the churches in a neighboring community. A friend had invited me to attend with her last year, and it was fun, and beautifully presented so I was very excited to bring my friend with me this year.The theme was Celebrations. Each of the tables were decorated in a different celebration theme. There was a Christmas, Valentines, Easter, Brides, 4th of July, August Honey Bee, Fall, and a Coke-Cola Collection. The tables were so interesting, each of the hostesses for the tables had seen to every detail in the table setting as well as the decorations.
My friend sat at the Brides Table, it was decorated in beautiful white and silver. I sat at the Valentine Table. Our hostess was a beautiful lady, dressed in her red party dress all ready for a romantic valentine evening. The table was beautifully set with her Mothers hand painted china plates. Each plate had been lovingly hand painted in a different flower pattern just for her daughter.
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The food was wonderful, of course we had chicken salad, mixed fresh fruit, a gelatin salad that was heavenly, and a great assortment of breads. I am trying to get the recipe for the gelatin salad, if I am fortunate enough to get it, I will sure pass it along to all of you. The dessert was to die for it had a very thin meringue crust...Yummy!

It was great to get acquainted with all the lovely ladies at my table. Several of the Ladies had been friends for a number of years. It is always interesting that God always puts us exactly where we are supposed to be and always puts the right people to walk beside us on our journey in this life. I will look forward to seeing some of the ladies in my journey around the lake.

This week-end we are off to the City. We will be attending a Birthday Party for a friend. It is a covered-dish affair, and I can't wait to have all the great food that will be there. I have decided that I will make a fresh black berry and peach cobbler and maybe I will take a dish of fresh tomatoes with basil. I always look forward to getting together with friends and sharing good food.
Have a great week-end!

Peace and Joy
Miz Helen

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Tutorial-Canning Season

Tutorial Canning Season at Miz Helen's Country Cottage
I am so glad you come by today, I can use some help with this canning project. Canning is always more fun if you have a friend. I remember my Grandmother, my Mother and her sisters and sometimes her friends would get together and can their fresh products. I have my Grandmother's canning book, and I was looking at it the other day. It is a Kerr Canning Book, on the front cover it tells all about a Victory Garden and how to preserve the fruits and vegetables from the Victory Garden. It also talks about how every little bit that we conserve will help the outcome of the war effort. Then I thought how far we haven't come...We are engaged in two wars, and our economy is as bad in some areas as it was during that World War II time frame. More and More people are looking to home gardens to help conserve their resources. I have found in talking to people that some of those home skills like canning is almost a lost art. So come in and we will get started.

Today we are gong to can Green Beans and Black Eyed Peas. The first thing that we will do is prepare the product. The Green Beans need to be snapped and washed. The Black Eyed Peas need to be shelled and washed. We will be canning 7 pints at a time in our large Canning Pressure Cooker.

To prepare the jars we need to sterilize them. Boil clean jars in boiling water for five minutes until they are sterile. The jars need to be kept hot until they are packed with the product. The lids and the bands also need to be sterile and kept hot until they are put on the jar.
Tutorial Canning Season at Miz Helen's Country Cottage

We will need to have our tea kettle full of hot water to fill the jars once the product has been put into the jar.
We also need to have all of our seasons that will go in the jar. We always use canning salt rather than table or sea salt.

Next we need plenty of space for the process and all of our tools laid out and ready to go because once we begin the process it moves really fast.

1. Using your tongs take the jars out of the boiling water

2. Pack the hot sterilized jars with the product leaving a good 1/2 inch at the top.
Tutorial Canning Season at Miz Helen's Country Cottage

3.Season on top of the product. For these Beans and Peas we will use 1/2 teaspoon canning salt per jar.

4. Pour hot water into the jar covering the product and leaving a 1/2 inch space at the top of the jar.

5. With your tongs take the sterile lid from the hot water and place it on top fo the jar, then quickly take the band from the hot water and screw it on the jar as tight as you can.

6. Place the jar into the Canning Pressure Cooker. When all the jars have filled your cooker fill the cooker with the amount of water required by the directions for your cooker and secure the lid.

7. Follow the directions for pressure and cooking time required for your cooker, as different brands may veri in pressure and time requirements. When the cooking time is complete. Turn your heat off and allow the cooker to completely cool before you open the cooker.
Tutorial Canning Season at Miz Helen's Country Cottage
8. Take the jars out very carefully not to disturb the product. Set them in a safe place to cool. As they begin to cool you will hear the little ping of the jar lid as it seals. That is very important. If that lid does not seal your product will not be preserved and all your hard work will be gone.
Tutorial Canning Season at Miz Helen's Country Cottage
9. If all went well your product will be good for up to a year and for some products even longer.

I can tell you that there is nothing better on a cold winter's day than to open a jar of homemade soup made from fresh garden vegetables from the summer. We usually can enough in the summer that it last us until the garden is producing the next year. There are many advantages to preserving your own food, it is much more economical, you are in control of the quality of the product, and it is so good.
Tutorial Canning Season at Miz Helen's Country Cottage
I am so glad you came by to help me today, I know I'm tired to, and it is hard work, but it is a good tired and it will be so good! The next time we talk about canning we will explore the cold pack method of canning. You hurry back to see me...
Coming up:
The Garden Journal
Peace and Joy
Miz Helen

Monday, July 26, 2010

The Garden Gate: Fall Garden Plans

Fall Garden Plans at Miz Helen's Country Cottage

How are you today? I see you found the note I left to meet me at The Garden Gate. I brought us some ice cold lemonade to keep us cool. It is so hot these days it is hard to think about getting ready for the fall, but that is just what we are doing. It is time to start the preparation of our soil, and planting for our fall crops.

The first thing we do is prepare our soil. If you don't know what kind of soil you have the very best way to find out is take a sample to your County Extension Office. Just give them a call they can tell you exactly how to prepare your soil sample and when they can test it for you. They will be able to tell you the right mix of compost to use for your soil. The right balance of nutrient's in your soil is very important.

Fall Garden Plans at Miz Helen's Country Cottage
Here at the Country Cottage we use our own compost. We compost all year round. We compost every thing except, meat, poultry, and dairy products, everything else including paper goes into the compost. We recently emptied the bin in a new flower bed, so it is a good time to share with you how we start our compost.

  • We purchased our compost bin at the local hardware store. 
  • We had a pile of grass clippings that we let dry out, which did not take long in this hot sun. 
  • Then we put a thick layer of the dry grass, then a layer of the green grass clippings and other green clippings from the yard. 
  • Then we put all of our vegetables scrapes on top of that. We recently pulled out our black eyed peas and green beans as they have stopped producing for the season. 
  • They are all lined up and Leonard (AKA Tractor Man) runs the lawn mower over the old vines to mulch them and then in the compost bin they go.
Fall Garden Plans at Miz Helen's Country Cottage
  • We stir the compost at least once a week with a long garden rake. There is no odor.
  • If our bin fills up before we use it, we just bag it up and it is ready to go when we need it.
Fall Garden Plans at Miz Helen's Country Cottage
Composting is a great way to give back to the earth what God has so graciously given us. Just keep stirring and keep adding to the bin.
  • The compost is great on the garden and very organic and the cost is only your can't beat that!

We will be planting some vegetables and some herbs for the fall. We will be planting Dill, Garlic, Parsley, Rainbow Chard, Kale, Carrots, Beets, Leeks and Turnip Greens. I will be ordering and picking up my seed this week for that list. My fall heirloom tomatoes are already planted and are doing well.

So get busy, get your soil ready, and your compost going. Get those seeds ready and I will let you know when I am planting. Be sure and let me know how you are doing with your fall garden plans. This will be fun sharing about our garden. I am so happy that you came by to see me today. Come back soon!

Peace and Joy
Miz Helen

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Squash Squash and More Squash

Hi I'm so happy to see you today. Get a cold glass of iced tea don't forget to put a sprig of that mint in your tea. Come go with me to the Garden Gate. We will just sit here on the Garden Gate patio for a bit and take a look at all these wonderful Squash that we have just gathered.

Squash Squash and More Squash at Miz Helen's Country Cottage

The Climbing Trombetta, is a very interesting squash. It looks like a stripped Zucchini with a bulb on the end and has a slight taste of an Artichoke. The leaves are really very large and it takes a lot of space in the garden.

Squash Squash and More Squash at Miz Helen's Country Cottage

Squash Squash and More Squash at Miz Helen's Country Cottage

I love to cook squash, mostly I just love it steamed with a little butter and some salt, pepper and a few fresh herbs. There are so many ways to cook squash, most all the squash family can be put into a casserole. I have a great green chilies squash recipe in my new cookbook, "Miz Helen's Kitchen Table". Some of the squash are very good dipped in batter and fried, some are even used as an ingredient in bread. I love the fall Butternut squash baked and the butternut squash soups are heavenly. I love a stuffed acorn squash as an entree and don't forget the spaghetti squash with a wonderful Italian Sauce.

Italian Trombetta Tomato Saute

Miz Helen's Kitchen
6 to 8 cups Trombetta Squash,peeled and chopped
1 onion,medium dice
4 medium fresh tomatoes, peeled and diced with juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped fine
1 clove garlic, minced
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 tablespoon Balsamic Vinegar
Add olive oil to a hot skillet, after oil is hot, saute squash and onion until onion is clear, add garlic and fresh tomatoes with juice ,cook covered for 5 minutes on low heat. Uncover and add oregano salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle the balsamic vinegar over the dish before serving.
Option: If Trombetta Squash is not available, try Yellow Summer Squash or Zucchini

God has been so good to me and has blessed me in so many area's of my life. On my birthday today I am reflecting back on all the wonderful people that God has placed on my path. I am so grateful for my life, so lets celebrate life today and all that an awesome God has given us! Let's have some birthday cake...
Come back to see me.

Peace and Joy
Miz Helen

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Journey Begins

Welcome to my Country Cottage open the door and come in I am so happy to have you visit. Would you like a cup of coffee or maybe a cup of tea? I have just taken some hot fresh blackberry scones out of the oven, would you like one? Have a seat, lets visit.

Some of my friends have been encouraging me for a while to start a blog. I had told them that as soon as I finished my cookbook "Miz Helen's Kitchen Table" and it was published I would start the blog. The cookbook is finished and published, so today I am beginning a new journey with all of you.

It is my hope to share with you on Monday and Thursday with a surprise post from time to time. We will explore together some of my favorite things such as gardening and bringing the garden product to the kitchen table, creative projects, home-keeping and a spiritual path in life. Stop by and leave your comments and questions and we will enjoy our journey together.

I am looking forward to seeing you this Thursday July 22, that's my birthday!

Thanks for stopping by, come back soon!
Peace and Joy
Miz Helen