Category Archives: food preservation

Thriving In My thrifty Week–September 15, 2019

Rob was super blessed to hold not only 1 tiny baby, but 2 tiny babies today! I never stop marveling at tiny babies. So precious, and such a gift from God. This precious babe has been hanging around my sister’s house a lot while Mommy and Daddy crash on the couch for a little bit while everybody in the house takes turns holding her. That’s what life is all about, isn’t it? Her daddy is like a son to my sister and brother-in-law, but I just can’t wrap my brain around my sister as a….. grandma? But, I guess if I can be one, she can, too. I’m so glad she shares:). We feel blessed.

We canned chicken and broth. At 89c/lb, the price could not be beat. We canned more tuna than we needed last summer. We found that Rob likes canned chicken on his salads in addition to the tuna. We decided to just do a batch of chicken and use up the rest of the tuna, then can more tuna next summer. Tuna varies in price, but often is around $3.50/lb., so this a way to get him variety while saving money.

I bought approximately $13.50 of split chicken breasts and made broth and canned chicken. We got 17 or 18 little jars of assorted sized (most 1/2 pint) of chicken chunks, 7 quarts and 12 pints and a couple of tiny jars of broth.

Patsy decided to cook up a storm for the first time in a long time. I joined her. We made tamale pie.

She made Cashew Chicken with rice noodles. Twice. We made some blondies, and some chicken soup.

Then she went back to her regular favorites of tacos, quesadillas, and p.b.j. sandwiches with apples.

What brought this “cooking fit” on? Grandma and Auntie Jan were coming for lunch. She’s been waiting for years to be a part of the “make lunch for Grandma” team. I guess she thought Grandma and Auntie were starving:). The food came in handy. We did have a great lunch. They got to take little bits home for future meals. We had these things for our meals for a couple of days. I hauled little dishes over to my sister’s house for them to eat. Let’s hope she gets in a mood again:). She felt wonderful. All of our tummies felt wonderful! Win-Win!

Patsy is still plugging along on school, and finished week 6. We ran into some roadblocks due to information she had somehow missed over the years , but worked through a plan to correct the problem.

She joined the Christmas Choir at church and had her first practice. There is going to be a big program. This year, she felt confident enough to join in. Last year, she did not, but later confessed she had wanted to and helped with stage crew at the last minute. Grandma helped her work on her quilt block from the shop hop we took her on last winter/spring. None of these things cost money, but they all enrich all our lives and I have a great Christmas program to look forward to watching in December!

I was weeding during our sunny afternoon. Can you see what was under the weeds? I cleaned out all the old parsley and weeds, and propped the volunteer cherry tomato plant up on a wire cage–we may end up with a few more late cherry tomatoes. Not that we are out. I just hate to kill a plant with so much tenacity!

Can you see Alissa on the left? She is having the trip of a lifetime with her Daddy. They are in Israel, walking where Jesus walked, visiting Biblical places, and seeing for themselves what they have studied for years. In the meanwhile…..

Rob and I, my sister and older niece and Grandma and Auntie Jan and anyone else we can round up are all working together to keep the home fires burning for Jake and Michaela. It’s going well, but we will all welcome their return in a few days!

Thriving In My Thrifty Week–September 2, 2019

Well, I have to say I’ve done something this week that I’ve never done before. I took Patsy to join friends at a monster truck show at the Oregon State Fair.

She had a blast! I had no idea of what to expect. I had a lot of fun, too.

It was amazing what those drivers could do with their trucks. I was glad to be watching, not in the vehicles.

We were able to use a prize Patsy had received from her summer reading program to get us both into the fair for $8, total. The monster truck show was free. Her auntie gave her some snack money to spend for her and her friends, and she got cotton candy and an elephant ear. Our friends got her a corn dog. I was unable to eat any of the food, as it was filled with gluten, so I saved a lot of money that way (Trust me, I would have had a little fair food if I could have, though!)

Earlier in the week, while camping, a man came around the campground offering anyone who wanted them some extra red rock crab he had not only caught, but cooked. I took a bunch of them, and once home, cleaned them and picked the meat out and ate a crab salad one day for lunch. Red rocks don’t have much meat in them, but I do like a little crab now and then, so it was a treat for me.

Tomatoes are still prolific in the garden. I got some canned before I went camping and have some more in a bucket to work on soon.

I got another baggie of strawberries to freeze. There were more, but the slugs are totally ruining many of them.

I spent Saturday making applesauce. I got 14 quarts and 11 pints. Rob bought 2 boxes from a favorite farmer before we went camping. One box got ripe quickly, but the other one will not be ready for a few more days. I won’t get quite so many jars next time, since we are eating from the second box as it ripens.

And then there was the lonely jar of dill pickles. The cucumbers are not having a good year, but you win some and you lose some.

This week, we will be getting back into the school routine with Jake, which means my working hours will shift into the afternoon and evenings when he gets home. Rob will do early mornings Tuesday and Thursdays, and take Michaela all over on those days while I do school with Patsy. It will take a couple of weeks, but we will be back into the routine before we know it.

Garden Update and Plans–July 18, 2019

The garden is getting very full of plants and blooms. I’ve been busy picking veggies and flowers, preserving, and making plans to renew it for my fall crops.

I canned my first green beans of the season. It took me two days even though there weren’t that many because Jake was at our house…..need I say more? Rob and I just swapped off duties and we got the job done. Now there are 20 pints and 6 quarts to add to my canning cupboard.

Almost every day now, I pick another 2 or 3 Glacier Ultra Early tomatoes. They are small sized and more of an orange-red than some other varieties, but they sure have good flavor. I am also getting a handful of Sungold Cherry tomatoes every couple of days. They disappear off the counter almost as soon as I put them down there!

I’m still getting raspberries from the June-bearing variety. I’ve been delighted with the yield from my fairly-short row. I’ve frozen lots of them. I’ve also been freezing blueberries. My mom has sent some my direction from her bushes, and we had a few from ours. Most of ours are disappearing right down the hatches of the family!

I got some beets from my mixed beet packet I planted. Alissa chose it from the Pinetree seed catalog, but later informed me she didn’t care for beets, they were all for us:). I roasted these with olive oil and salt. They shrunk when I roasted them, but they tasted good and are hands-down the prettiest beets I’ve ever grown.

I’ve been picking broccoli every couple of days. I froze 6 more quart-sized baggies, we ate a head fresh and there are several more still growing. This is the Hybrid Broccoli Blend from Territorial Seed Company. It gives a staggered harvest. I’ve grown it for years and love all the kinds that grow. I will have lots of side shoots after I pick the main heads.

Two and a half weeks ago, I bought 3 zucchini. Then mine started to get ripe! Since then, we have eaten it several times, and I have given it away to my sisters and a friend. My fridge has several in it, and there are more ready to pick. All in ONE and ONE HALF weeks! It’s going to be a good zucchini year, for sure:)

We have plans to get some fall crops going. The green beans will be pulled shortly, after one more good picking. There is lettuce that will be pulled. So, some areas will be opening up soon.

Rob picked up some bags of steer manure at the farm store. I will dump a bag on an open area once I pull the spent plants, till with the tiny little tiller we have, and replant for fall. I will plant more lettuce, possible a new zucchini for when these succumb to mildew, maybe some additional pickling cucumbers since I’m not sure I have enough, maybe spinach, boc choi, snow peas, Swiss chard, more green beans for fall eating, and what ever else I can squeeze in. It’s getting to the point where some things may not mature before frost, but if I get going on it right now, I will be able to get veggies far into the month of October. Some crops will take a light frost, like cabbage, broccoli, chard, and snow peas. It’s a fun project!

Freezing Broccoli–July, 2019

One of the ways I keep my freezer stocked is to freeze any garden produce we don’t eat fresh. I try to slip some preserving into most days at this time of year, whenever I have excess. We did eat the first head that ripened, but I knew we would enjoy some next winter. This year, the broccoli is growing much better than it did last year, so I am delighted. I grow Hybrid Broccoli Blend from Territorial Seeds. The heads of broccoli get ripe at different times, because it is a mixture of varieties.

Last evening, I cut the ones that were ready, washed them very well and put them in the fridge to wait until this morning. It would have been better to process them immediately for the ultimate freshness, but it was getting late, I was tired……..

This morning, I cut them into pieces, looking carefully for any critters that had escaped the bath of the night before (I didn’t find much, thank goodness), and blanched them for 3 minutes in a pot of boiling water. I scooped the blanched pieces out of the boiling pot with a hand-held strainer and put them into cold water.

By the time I had eaten my breakfast, they were cool and I put them into the collandar to drain, then into cartons and a baggie.

I got 2 pints, a quart and the last bit in a baggie. I will use these for broccoli soup, broccoli on a plate with parmesan cheese, and an occasional stir-fry. I will be getting more from the bushes that have not headed yet, and then from the side-shoots that will grow after I cut the main head. It’s going to be nice to have some variety in my vegetable department next winter!

Food Preservation–Week Of June 12, 2109

I had a chance to get 3 free, but very ugly and somewhat wilted, stalks of celery last evening. When we were feeding the college-age group, I noticed a tote sitting there in the place where they occasionally leave these kinds of things for people to take. I did not have high hopes, as that bin had clearly been there for a while and it’s been hot. But, I put that celery in water when I got home and it perked up a little bit. I trimmed it mercilessly and ended up with several little baggies full. I froze those for soups.

I picked 16 pounds of strawberries on Monday, at a farm. I made strawberry jam, strawberry-rhubarb jam, and froze a few. We ate up the rest. I watched the Waltons on my Kindle while I made all 22 assorted-sized jars of jam, figuring it was a fitting show for jam-making:)

I picked all my rhubarb. I used some for jam, froze some, and have some cooked down with sugar in the fridge. I used a little of the sauce in some zucchini bread I made.

Strawberry Season

Yesterday, my sister and I and some friends went to the strawberry patch. In the end, there were 4 adults, 7 kids and Michaela. We picked and picked and I came home with enough to make a double batch of jam, and plenty for eating fresh. Since my berries are limping along, to put it nicely, I was glad to get a big bunch of them to get to work on.

I had never been to this strawberry patch before. It was a beautifully kept farm with many kinds of fruit, berries and veggies that are just starting to ripen, each in it’s own season. We had to walk a long ways just to get to the berries, but there were wagons to pull to make it easy to get the fruit back to the stand.

I just had to chuckle at the tiniest picker. She filled this bucket all by herself and insisted on carrying it all by herself. Finally, after she realized they were coming out of the bucket with each bouncy step she took, she allowed me to carry it back to the stand where we paid for the fruit. It was super cute! Not bad for a little one who just turned 4 a couple of weeks ago:)

Thriving in My Thrifty Week–October 28, 2018

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I was given a very nice assortment of gluten-free items, and some baking supplies.  (Some has been put away already–there was more!). It was a very nice gift and I’m very thankful and am already planning some good things to make from it!  In fact, my oldest daughter was mentioning a wonderful recipe using coconut flour and I told her to send it to me–I had a bunch now:)

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I’m officially done with canning season!  I got the last 2 things done this week–more pasta/pizza sauce and the green tomato Salsa verde.  If you’ve read my blog for any length of time, you know I have a passion for canning and other food preservation.  But, let me tell you, even I am absolutely DONE for a little while, at least.  I am ready to move on to other projects, but am thrilled with what I got.  It really is amazing to me how much produce came from that little garden in the back yard.

We have been thawing items and opening jars right and left, starting to put all this goodness from the summer to good use.  I used the extra Salsa Verde that I did not can to make a green enchilada casserole for lunch today.  I paired that with canned green beans and a salad.

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There are a few more soup bones in the freezer I’d like to make broth from, but that can wait until I’ve had a little break from canning.

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Free entertainment!  Jake was licking the last of the whipped cream off his plate (I am the auntie, you know, so let him had some when he asked).  He sure enjoyed it.  It was the  end of a can from a LONG time ago, I didn’t even know I owned it, but it must keep, because he found it way in the back of the fridge, and loved having it.  (I tasted it, and it was fine!) He declares he is the best plate-licker in the nation:)

Rob was given some cedar boards to use when he helps Patsy make a bird house.  He spent quite a bit of time yesterday, cleaning in the shop.  It’s an on-going project, stemming from when we moved here with way more things than we could fit into our much-smaller house.  Every time he spends time out there, I can see a big difference.  We are at the place where it won’t be long until he can actually use the shop for his tools!  Hurray! !

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I spent an evening and a morning helping my friend move to a different apartment.  Her daughter was greatly amused by Patsy during the evening, which was a big help to us,  and she loved “swimming” while Rob hooked the tv back up to the VCR the next morning.  At one point, I heard her asking, “Uncle Rob, can I sit on you?”  It was so cute.  She just meant she wanted to climb up onto his lap.  At that point, he was perched on a sturdy coffee table, working closely with the cords and wires, and wasn’t able to oblige her, but enjoyed all her chitter chatter while she “helped.”  Thankfully, lots of other friends were coming by there after I left, as we did not get it all done, but we made progress.  I could not help at all beforehand, so was glad I could help afterwards.  I grabbed some taco ingredients to take, and we ate that while we unpacked, thereby cancelling the need to get pizza or anything else during the move.  I had come cookies in the freezer (out of sight, out of mind for us), and took them, and some soda, which she gave to the 2 young men who were driving the truck.

I’ve been choosing small areas to deep clean! Now that it has started to rain, I feel like working inside.  Boy, do I have a lot of messy areas!!  But, each place I clean makes me feel better, and I will get it done little by little.  I’ve even got a little of the garage cleaned up!  At Thanksgiving, I will seat several family members out there at the big, old table we kept, and I would like it to look a little tidy. (It won’t be perfect, I’m realistic)

I shopped mainly for protein and cheese this week, along with some items we finally ran out of.  I haven’t been at the regular grocery store much lately, but it was time, and I’m sure they were happy to see me:). Cheese was so inexpensive–$4.99/2-lb loaf of Bandon cheese, which is the same as Tillamook–so good.  I get several, and some shredded Lucerne cheeses as well.  I stuck to one store, and got what I needed.  I did redeem a couple of dollars from Ibotta.  I got 1 dozen eggs for free, but that’s all the freebies for this week.  I had a choice of a free item, and I chose eggs because we eat a lot of those and can always use them.

How did your week go?

 

 

 

 

Thriving in My Thrifty Week–October 7, 2018

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I was able to find more produce in the garden this week.  It’s looking really scraggly, many things are covered in powdery mildew or look crispy and dead–in short, it’s getting really ugly.  So, I’m delighted that there are still veggies out there.  I also bought a bunch of salad things to augment what I found out there.  Over about a week, I was able to gather enough tomatoes and got 7 quarts canned on Friday.  Now I feel like I have enough.  If I get a few more, it’s a bonus.

I had very few immediate grocery needs this week, and intended to not shop.  Until….sugar was $1.25 for 4 lbs.  That is a good price here, and I got 20 pounds.  I also got 20 lbs of brown sugar for 50c/lb. I got milk and bagels for the niece and nephew, since Michaela was spending Friday night, and Jake was spending both Friday and Saturday nights.  I went ahead and used money from my Bottle Drive account to get the extra 20%, and paid the rest from my grocery budget, leaving me in great shape for the rest of the month.  I had been setting that Bottle Drive money aside for stocking up, so I did.  Rob picked up cheap lunchmeat from Grocery Outlet (87c/package) and we got some other things we could use. (bottle drop doesn’t work there, so of course, paid cash for that.)

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I have picked most squash that are out there, but still need to gather the Delicata that are next to the shop.  The dahlias are still lovely.  My sister brought 4 beautiful Butternut squashes for the family to divide, and the others either had some already, or didn’t want them, so I ended up with them all.  2 of them, I cubed and froze, we ate one already, and the other will store for a while.  Last year was the first time I ever froze raw squash cubes, but it worked well for the 2 little packages I froze, so now I have a few more for this year.

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I also love how the zinnias are still giving me such a cheerful spot of color out there.  Many were planted from Dollar Store seeds that only cost 25c/package.  The rest were volunteers, and they are mostly purple/raspberry color.  I am letting seeds drop into the garden from several items.   Some of the items I harvested from volunteers this summer included zinnias, lettuce, tomatoes, lemon cucumbers and green onions.  There was also dill, cilantro and parsley that self-seeded.  It will be fun to see what comes up next spring.

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I dried some parsley and chives.

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It’s amazing how much they shrink when they dry!

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Patsy suddenly decided that she might want to do some food preservation.  There’s not too much left to preserve, so I put her to work canning some apples.  I think we can use them in a cobbler/crisp or she can just eat them out of a bowl.

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Of course, Jake wasn’t going to be left out of that super-cool really fun apple project!

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Since apple slices aren’t something I usually can, I followed the directions in the Ball Blue Book, and we packed them in hot syrup after they cooked for 5 minutes in that syrup.  I actually had her make a lighter syrup than called for, 4:1, and I still think it’s probably too much sugar.  I like to try to follow the recipe the first time, anyway:). Thanks to Auntie for the apples!  I was glad to have something for her to can when she got the urge at this late date!  She got 6 quarts and 1 pint.

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She would like to try to do more 4H projects this year, as last year we were not able to accomplish the tasks needed for her to fully participate.  There are requirements for helping at a county level for each member to enter things in the fair, and we did not do them.  We also did not get very much project work done, and the county event that we signed up to help with was cancelled.  It was somewhat of a bust all around.  So, I told her we would try again this year, and if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, but it’s worth a try if she has an interest.  I know we can teach her practical skills without it, but the 4H program gives me more incentive to carve out the time to work with her.  She made a good start, I think.  In my mind, it’s about learning skills more than gaining ribbons, so I’m glad she canned something I hope she will like and use, which will bring her satisfaction from the process.  I feel if a kid wants to do a 4H project, they need to practice skills from that project over a period of time, not just the week before the fair–there are always lots of last minute projects to do then, regardless.

We had our first fires in the wood stove this week, as the weather turned rainy and cool, and it was in the 40’s and 50’s.  It felt good.

Rob and I got horrible colds (thank you cousins!) so laid low all weekend (to the best of our ability with so much commotion going on).  Besides the cousins, Patsy had this computerized baby from one of her classes at school which squeaked and howled like a real one at all hours of the night and day, and she had to “feed” it, “change” it, and so forth and keep a diary of what she did.  They can track her actions on the computer chip in the doll, and her grade will depend on how well she took care of it.  It goes back in the morning, thank goodness.  It had to be done, and I felt she did a good job of it, and now other kids will get their turn.

Jake never got to play so many electronics, hear so many stories, and watch so much tv.  He had a ball.  I  expect I will have some work ahead of me the next time he stays over, convincing him that it was a one-time occurrence!  He was so cute.  One morning, he said, “Now, why don’t I read all of you a story,” and proceeded to do just that.  I took him to the library and we stocked up on movies and books, and I think he enjoyed the ones we got.  I know I enjoyed mine!

 

Home-Canned Taco/Enchilada Sauce

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The 11 little jars on the right are the enchilada/taco sauce.  I was asked how I made it, and if it was a secret recipe.  The truth is, I am writing it down for my self as much as anyone else, because if time passes, it will be a secret–I won’t be able to remember what I did!

This is my second attempt at enchilada sauce this summer.  The first one was good, but we wanted a little more spice and a smoother texture.    My pamphlet from the county extension office states that you can change the spices without affecting the safety of the finished tomato product, but nothing else, so that’s what I did.

I took a large bowl of tomatoes and washed and cut them up.  Then, I put a layer of them in a pot on high and crushed them with a potato masher while they cooked.  When that layer was softened, I added more cut-up pieces and kept crushing and cooking until the pot was about 3/4 full.  You have to keep stirring, because this will stick and burn if you are not careful.  Then, I put these cooked tomatoes through my Foley Food Mill to get the seeds and skins out.  I put that puree back into the pot.  At this point, it was nice and smooth, mostly seed-free, but pretty runny.  I thickened it up with a combination of cooking it down and added some tomato paste until it was the consistency of taco sauce such as I would buy at the store.  Our favorite is La Victoria, and we usually get the mild, but sometimes the medium.

I used about 2 cups of paste in the large pot that was 3/4 full, but then it was too thick and so I had to add some water to thin it slightly.  If you are making this, the amount of paste you will need depends on several factors, which include the dryness of your tomatoes, the variety of the tomatoes, and the amount of time you cook the tomatoes down before you add the paste. Use trial and error until you reach the perfect consistency.  Each time you make it, it is likely to take a different amount because the tomatoes are so variable.  Taco sauce should be thicker than tomato juice, but not as thick as pizza/pasta sauce.  We buy our tomato paste for these kind of projects at Cash and Carry in the gallon cans.  I open the can, use what I need and then freeze the rest in baggies to use over time.  It is a real money-saver to purchase it that way instead of little cans for 50c-$1 each.  The last time we bought a can, it was slightly dented, and cost around $3, but it is usually a bit more than that.  Still a great deal.

This is my best guess at the spices I added to the pot:  1/4 cup mild chili powder, 2 Tablespoons dried oregano, 1 Tablespoon dried cilantro, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 2 Tablespoons ground cumin, 1 Tablespoon salt, 2 teaspoons pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon – 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper.  The truth is, I was putting in spices, tasting, adding more spices, tasting, etc. until it tasted right to me.  The chili powder, oregano, etc. added an underlying layer of flavor but there was no zip at all, until I added the cayenne.  It is not very spicy, just enough to give a little kick.  When I make it again, I will start with this mixture, then add more of those same spices and/or salt if I don’t feel like there’s enough.

I put the hot mixture into the jars and added 1 Tablespoon lemon juice to each larger jar (not quite a pint) and 1/2 Tablespoon to the 1/2 pints.  Then, I canned it for 35 minutes in a hot water bath canner, as instructed in my Ball Blue Book for tomato sauce.

This yielded the 11 assorted jars in the right hand side of the picture above.  If I get enough tomatoes, I might make this again this year.  It turned out yummy and we are already opening and eating it:).  At this rate, it won’t take long to use up those 11 jars!

A Little More Canning and What Did We Eat? September 20, 2018

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This week, I was able to get enough tomatoes for both pasta/pizza sauce and taco/enchilada sauce.  I’m super happy with the flavor of both.  I was surprised with more cucumbers when I looked under the bushes that really look as if they are dying.  So, I made more spicy pickles because I also found a couple more jalapeños and Serranos on those bushes.

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One night I roasted a pan of sweet potatoes, white potatoes and acorn squash.  They all turned out great.  The Carnival acorn squash plant has been prolific and I just keep taking the biggest ones that look the most mature, and using them.  This is the 3rd one we’ve eaten so far.  There are quite a few left out there.  Some probably won’t mature, but several will.

We have had chicken with plum sauce twice.  Since I made a new batch, and there are enough prunes to do it again if I get around to it, I am glad that we are finding a way to use it in such a tasty fashion.

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We are still eating zucchini, although I’m happy to report it has slowed down to a manageable level.  It is nice to saute some zucchini with onion until just crisp-tender.  This is an old picture, so it doesn’t show the yellow crookneck squash, or the scallopini squash or the round ball squash that came up from the few seeds I planted from a summer squash mixture in early August.  The old plants are about done, and will probably die before long, so it will be nice to still have a fresh veggie when that happens for a few more weeks.

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I had Eritrean food with Harnet one day.  Danait was proud as can be of her bike-riding skills.  The bike and helmet were birthday gifts back in June, and she has improved a lot.  Since the only place she can ride is the parking lot of their apartment complex, there is a little routine they do, so I had to do it, too.  It consists of her riding off quickly, with the grown-up chasing her, all the while looking for stray cars and cats (there might be one, you never know!).  She was telling me they do it 3 times some days.  I was done at one trip around their course:)  It was a good workout.  Lunch was great. I took a salad to add to the food Harnet cooked.  Of course, she sent some home.  This time it was the red lentils she likes to make and some rice with mixed vegetables in it.  The girls here at home have been eating it as taco filling.

I got some pork cutlets on mark-down last week, so we used them this week.  Rob grilled them after marinading them for a while in one of his concoctions.  They were delicious.  We ate lots of salad, piles of tomatoes, some canned and fresh fruit, a few potatoes, and some other side dishes.  It’s going to be harder to plan dinner when the garden dies, but it’s still limping along for now.  I’m glad. It’s an awesome time of year when I have so much fresh produce.