Apr 12, 2014

Make Your Own Hummingbird Food

Spring is my favorite time of year for SO many reasons, but one is that it's time for my hummingbirds to return!

Easy Hummingbird Food
In mid-March, I start checking out the Hummingbird migration map.  When I see they are just a day or two away according to the map, I know it's time to put my feeders out. I try and get the feeders out early so the hummingbirds don't fly right past and find somewhere else to hang out for the summer.

I make my own hummingbird food, rather than buy the packets which, by the way, contain red food dyes for no reason. My hummingbird food mixture is simple and quick. Boil 2 cups of water and add 1/2 cup sugar, stir until the sugar is thoroughly dissolved. Let the mix cool completely before putting it in your feeders.

I go through quite a lot of this food (I have three feeders ), so I mix it up in a
2 quart mason jar and store any leftover in the refrigerator. Whenever you make a larger batch, just make sure to keep the sugar/water ratio at 1:4 - one part sugar to four parts water.

Last year I had a very very friendly ruby-throated hummingbird in the yard all summer. When I sat out on the deck, he got comfortable enough to come within a foot or two of me. I'm hoping we'll become even better friends this year!

Life is good! Enjoy it more by bringing hummingbirds to your yard!

Apr 6, 2014

Making breads and more...

Whole Wheat Onion Rolls

I wish you could smell my house right now. The smell of baking bread is always a favorite of mine, but add to that the smell of toasted onions and mmmmm... it smells so good!

I have a large container of bread dough in my refrigerator that I can use for all kinds of wonderful "from scratch" goodies -- artisan bread, English muffins, pizza dough, sandwich bread and more. I make up a batch of the dough once a week - it literally takes no more than 10 minutes - and then use it all week long for whatever we need.

 The New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day is one book that is worth it's weight in gold. In very easy steps AND WITHOUT KNEADING, it teaches you to make a wonderful, almost fool-proof dough and the only ingredients you need are flour, yeast, salt and water. From those four simple ingredients, you can make SO many wonderful breads.

Where I live, a pack of 6 English Muffins costs $2.49 - $3.49. Read the ingredients. To keep those "fresh" on the store shelf, there have to be preservatives and chemical flavorings. No thank you. I buy my flour in 25 lb bags and my yeast in 2 lb packages, so the cost for me to make 8 English muffins (or a loaf of artisan bread, or dough for a large pizza) is about 39 cents. No preservatives, no chemicals and 1/10th of the cost? Yes please!

I also use eight English Muffin Rings to make both sandwich rolls and English muffins. I have since learned that you can simply take both top and bottom off tunafish cans and use those. Be sure and butter the ring well. The other item I use that for me is a "must have" is a Non-Stick Silicon Baking Mats. You'll thank yourself for picking up a set of these! NOTHING sticks to them. So useful for breads like these as well as cookies. They work like a dream and you don't have to use any spray or grease on your baking sheets anymore.

If you think you're not a homemade bread baker, think again.  You are one book and four ingredients away from making perfect breads and doughs for your family!!

Life is good - especially when your house is scented with fresh baked bread.

Apr 4, 2014

This week's menus - no processed foods!

I've been making a serious effort for the past few months to cook with and eat as few processed foods as possible. Much of the ingredients for the menus below comes from items I have already canned or "Make Your Own" mixes that I have made in large quantities and store in jars. Unless noted, everything is made from scratch.

(found these on sale as a Manager's Special. Four beautiful beef shanks for $3.00!)

Tuna Noodle Casserole
Green Salad

Scrambled Eggs
Toast from homemade sourdough bread
(Link for making your own sourdough bread starter)
Fruit salad

Meatloaf (pre-made in freezer)
Leftover mac & cheese
Mixed Greens salad

Soup from pantry (home canned)
Grilled cheese (homemade sourdough bread)

Ham Steaks
Scalloped potatoes
Steamed green beans

Fish tacos
Assorted pickled/fermented vegetables
Apple Blueberry Crisp*
Homemade yogurt with homemade strawberry sauce
Homemade oatmeal cookies

Apple Blueberry Crisp: There is no exact recipe for this. I dump a pint jar of home canned apples into a 9 x 9 cake pan, and mix in some frozen blueberries, a tablespoon of flour and a tablespoon of brown sugar. In a bowl, I mix up about 1 1/2 cups oatmeal, a tablespoon of brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of flour, a pinch of salt, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, sprinkle of nutmeg, a bunch of walnuts chopped and sometimes some flaked coconut. To this mix I add 2 tbsp of butter and mush it all up real good with my fingers til the butter is evenly dispersed throughout. I spoon this oatmeal mixture over the apples and blueberries and bake in a 375 oven for about 30 minutes.

All measurements are approximate!

You can use 3 or 4 fresh apples, peeled and sliced, but you will want to cook for about 15 minutes longer.

Apr 3, 2014

What I don't want us to do...

Jeff and I are both real home-bodies. We like to be home better than anywhere else. We like to putter around the house. We both have hobbies we enjoy. And Lord help us, we like to watch TV.

I'm concerned that it will be very easy for us to fall into a routine of rarely leaving the house except to do necessary errands, so we have agreed on this solution.

These are our "Get Out of the House" jars. Obviously, there's one for "Good Weather" and one for "Bad Weather". Which means, of course, no excuses for not getting out.

Any time we think of something that would be fun to do, either of us can add in a suggestion strip. The only requirement is that it not be a high cost activity. (Those we will plan in advance according to this new retirement budget we're working with.)

We have several activities we both really enjoy and that are minimal cost with the exception of gas. They include:

  • Geocaching
  • Fishing
  • Metal Detecting
  • Yard Sales
  • Odd Museums
  • Art Museums
  • Military Museums (OK, I'm just along for the ride on that one.)
  • Quilt Shows (which is why I agree to item above.)
  • Walks in local parks
  • Festivals 
  • Taking grandchildren to playgrounds
There is a great website, 365Cincinnati, that always has wonderful ideas on things to do, parks to visit, museums, etc. Some of our jar ideas have come from there. I'll also keep my eye on the local newspaper for new ideas.

Once a week, probably Sunday evening, we'll take a look at the weather forecast and our schedules, and choose an activity from the jar for that week. There will be no saying "no" to any activity -- after all, they are our own suggestions so we must want to do them! No excuses!

Life is good -- and we plan on taking full advantage of that fact!