For a change, I decided to use the 10x macro lens this morning. I also used an “auto enhance” feature in my photo editing software. I told myself I’d just hit the “auto enhance” button and whatever the software decided, that’s what I would post. So here we go.
I was going to tell you what everything is…but I changed my mind. Any guesses?
I know. It’s a rather…sparsely populated image, isn’t it? Usually my two Kitchen Aid stand mixers hang out at that end of the counter, but during all the flood drama the other morning I’d moved off of that end of the counter so we could try to fix the fridge (that black thing in the left of the above picture).
I kind of like all this cleared-off space now, so I’m wondering if I should put at least one of the mixers in the pantry or somewhere. I usually only need both of them around cookie-baking-extravaganza time in November/December. Hmmm…
Bill and I just took our morning perambulation around the gardens, and I brought my camera. Maybe it’s because of this morning’s earlier brief post, but I felt like taking pictures of any flowers currently in bloom, both on vegetable plants and on plain ol’ flowering plants.
I also took a few shots of other things…dew drops…assorted bug life (and death)…bird poop. But mostly flowers.
My sister gave us several sunflower seedlings a while back, and I think both my kids had brought home little sunflowers in plastic pots toward the end of the school year.
Bill planted them all in various spots around the yard – mainly in places where they wouldn’t shade out the important stuff – the vegetables – and we’ve been watching the sunflowers get taller and taller and taller.
I noticed this one yesterday while we were dealing with the wood pile. Must have just bloomed because you can see that some of the petals still haven’t finished unfurling. I really like this rust-colored one a lot. I’m hoping there are more around that just haven’t bloomed yet.
While Mommy slacked off inside pretending to make beef stock and other nourishing foods, plus do laundry and dishes – OR SO SHE SAID – Julia and Alex were pressed into service as Firewood Transportation Specialists.
Friday night was a long-anticipated date night with my husband.
I can’t remember the last time we went out – just the two of us. Really can’t. The thing is, our kids are pretty well-behaved in restaurants, so it’s not like we want to get away from them or anything.
I guess over the years we’ve just gotten used to bringing them along. And like, I suspect, many parents out there, we let the smaller “us” – the couple part of this family – fall by the wayside to an extent.
We have a large, shallow, rectangular basket on a shelf underneath where the toaster and coffee pot are in our kitchen, and we use it to hold newspapers and broken down cereal boxes until one of us (usually me) brings them out to the recycle bin.
For the last several springs now we’ve had the fun of discovering tomato seedlings popping up in the darndest places. Sprung from seeds dropped last year, either by tomatoes that rotted off the vine or from seeds that ended up in compost, we’ve been finding yellow pear, cherry and – best of all – brandywine tomatoes.
We also get cilantro/coriander and dill showing up in unexpected spots – another bonus.
THIS year, however, we’ve got the biggest rogue ever.
As you know, if you’ve read my blog a while, I love tendrils. They fascinate me. Little curling, grasping bits of green reaching out, looking for something solid to hang onto so the plant (in this case, pickling cucumber) can climb higher.
I’ve been making cheese for a few years now, but not as frequently as I’d like, and certainly not as many varieties as I’d like. I’m hoping to kick myself into a higher gear as this summer flies by, and maintain that gear through the rest of the year.
At least I hope that’s what’s happening in the pot.
There’s always a bit of fingers-crossed, “Will the curds curd? Will the whey whey?” anticipatory nervous fluttery-stomach feeling while I wait.
And not peek under the lid.
So I figured I’d sit and type until the timer goes off.
It’ll give my flappy hands something to do.
I’ve already done all the dishes.
My kids and the-boys-who-live-across-the-street have been playing most of the day together. And, amazingly enough (here I go, jinxing myself now), they’ve been getting along pretty well, the four of them.
They played Operation earlier…and they played “spy” – which necessitated Julia carrying her pink pretend laptop around so she could input information into their spy files or something – and they just had lunch across the street, and now they’re going in the pool over there. They did other stuff, too, but I was doing my best to ignore them. If there’s no screaming, I’m not needed.
Julia’s other front tooth is VERRRRRRY wiggly. So wiggly she can push on it so it hangs from her gum on an angle. SO tempting to just yank it out, but she doesn’t want to. Yet.
My kids had their yearly physicals recently, and the Dr. thought, after looking at Julia’s throat, that she might have strep. He asked her if her throat had been hurting and she said “Yes, a little bit” – but of course, she’d said NOTHING to me about it. She’s funny like that. Had a double ear infection once when she was very little – never complained a bit about the pain – I only found out because she was feverish.
Anyway, so the Dr. took out a package of that double giant Q-tip thing so he could swab the back of her throat.
Everyone’s favorite test, at least in my family (she said sarcastically).
If this had been Alex, he would have talked for hours, attempting to distract the Dr from doing the test.
Not little Miss Julia, though. She sat there – without mommy’s comforting, immobilizing arms around her – opened wide, hollered AAAHHHHHHH when requested, and didn’t even flinch when the Dr did the swab.
I’ve written before that as a child I was not a fan of beets. I didn’t like how their pink juice bled into my mashed potatoes. As an adult, though, I love them. And if I don’t want pink food, I can just put my beets in a dish by themselves. My favorite way to eat them – oven roasted and then tossed in a warm pasta salad with goat cheese and arugula, olive oil and a drizzle of balsamic, and salt and pepper. Yum.
My grandfather loved pickled beets. AND he liked to eat them in sandwich form, alongside thick slices of cheddar cheese. Pickled beets were okay…but I didn’t want them in my sandwich.
But. Again. Now that I’m an adult…the thought of actually making my own pickled beets is definitely appealing.
So the other day Bill and I brought a bowl outside and started harvesting.
From above ground, it looked like we had larger beets than we really did.
Oh well. That’s what math is for – to adjust recipes!
First, though, I had to prep the beets so that I’d know how to adjust the recipe.
I left about two inches of stalk on the beet, and left the roots alone.
The book (Ball’s Complete Book of Home Canning) recommends doing that to keep the color from bleeding out of the beets.
Next, I cleaned the beets, making sure to get all the bits of dirt out of the roots.
Hooray – clean beets.
I put them in a pot and added enough water to cover the beets completely.
Then I set the pot on the stove to boil.
While that was going on, I cleaned the leaves and sorted them, putting the worst ones in the compost bin and setting the nicest ones aside to use for something else.
The book says the beets will take between 20 and 40 minutes to cook, depending on the size, so you have to check each beet with a sharp knife in order to see if they’re tender.
When the beets are cooked through, rinse them under cold water (or drop them in an ice bath), and then peel off the outer skin and roots. Trim off the stem and the tap root, and then slice or quarter. The book said to leave the small ones whole, but I sliced those, too.
Pretty, aren’t they?
Oh, and the other thing I did (well, I probably did lots of things, but I’m just sharing the relevant stuff) was to chop up a few onions. One of the recipes included onions, and that sounded like a lovely idea to me. Especially since we didn’t have enough beets to make a full (10 cups of sliced beets) recipe.
These all came from our garden. Top to bottom, there’s a red onion that never really…onionized. A Cippolini, and a regular white onion.
I ended up getting another white onion as well.
So. After all the slicing, I ended up with about 2 cups of beets.
And after a bit of pencil chewing and counting on my fingers (which did no good, as this problem involved division) I calculated how much I’d need of all the other ingredients.
Time to pickle.
I chopped up onions…
I tied some pickling spices in a bit of cheesecloth…
And I washed my canning jars and lids and set them in pots of water to simmer. I also put a large pot of water on the stove for the filled jars.
And, in a fourth pot, I combined water, vinegar, sugar, the spices, and the onions.
Brought them to a boil, let them simmer a while, and then removed the spice bag.
Next, I spooned the beets into the jars (I’d prepped 5 jars but only needed 3), layering them with some of the onions. Then I poured the rest of the liquid from the pot into the jars, leaving 1/2” of head space.
I wiped off the jar rims, put the lids and bands on, and placed the jars in the large pot of water.
I brought the water to a rolling boil, covered the pot, and boiled the pickles – as directed – for 30 minutes. Then I shut off the heat, removed the pot lid, and let the jars rest for five minutes before taking them out of the liquid.
Now, normally I hover over jars like a new mother, waiting for the lids to make that lovely little popping sound as the pressure inside the jars pulls the metal lids tight. But I think Alex and Bill were both talking, and I missed the pops. So I pressed on the lids, in the center, to see if there was any give, which would indicate improper sealing.
No give. Good seal. Success.
Once the jars had cooled completely, I stuck one in the fridge to chill the beets before we tried them.
The onions have absorbed the pink beet color, as you can see.
The taste? Very good, though I think I’ll increase the amount of spice for the next batch. Maybe a little more vinegar, too.
But overall, pretty tasty. Sweet and tangy, with an earthy but not overpowering hint of beet.
I don’t even mind the pink juice.
Now I need to make some cheddar, so I can revisit that sandwich, now that I’m all grown up with mature taste buds….
For my tiny-batch recipe, see below.
Tiny Batch Pickled Beets and Onions
(makes about 3 8-ounce jars)
2 cups prepared, sliced beets
3/4 cup sliced onion
1 tablespoon pickling spice
1 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
What to do:
1. To prepare the beets, cut the stalks so about 2” remain on the beet, and leave the roots intact. Scrub beets clean in cool water. Place beets in a pot, largest on the bottom, smaller beets above, and fill with cold water until the beets are just covered. Bring to a boil and cook anywhere from 20 to 40 minutes. Smaller beets will cook faster than the bigger ones, so at the twenty minute mark, start checking beets by inserting a thin knife into the beet. If the knife goes in easily, the beet is done. Remove beets as they become tender. Rinse in cold water and slip off the outer skin. Trim off root and stalks, and slice about 1/4” thick. Alternately, you could leave the small ones whole and quarter the larger beets. The choice is yours.
2. Prepare jars, lids and bands. (If you’re new to canning, read here to see what you need to do. It’s a jam recipe, but preparation of jars is the same. Or buy a good canning book (Ball puts out a few of them) and follow their directions.)
3. Make a spice bag for the pickling spices with a small, doubled square of cheesecloth and some string.
4. Place the onions, vinegar, water, sugar, and spice bag in a small pot and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 15 minutes, to infuse liquid with the spices. Discard the bag when done.
5. Spoon sliced beets into jars, layering with some of the onions, leaving a bit more than a 1/2” of head space. Then pour the pickling liquid in to cover the beets and onions, leaving 1/2” of head space per jar. Make sure there are no air pockets by tilting jars or gently inserting a knife into the jar along the side and pressing the vegetables back a bit to allow the liquid to redistribute. Wipe the rims of the jars with damp paper towel, place lids on jars, then bands. Tighten bands to “fingertip tight” (just tight, not so tight that your muscles bulge and your face goes red with effort.
6. Place jars in canning pot, put the lid on the pot and bring to a rolling boil. Starting when the water reaches the rolling boil, process the jars for 30 minutes. Yes, 30. When that’s done, shut off the heat, remove the lid, and leave jars in water for another 5 minutes. Then remove jars, let them cool, and store. You’ll want to listen for the little “pop” sound as the lids complete their seal, but if you don’t hear it, you can check by pressing on the center of the lid with your finger. It should be slightly concave, and there shouldn’t be any give when you press. If the jar hasn’t sealed properly, store in the fridge and consume within a couple weeks. If the jar has sealed properly, label the jars and add them to your pantry.
We were wondering when this tooth would finally depart Julia’s mouth. The main hope was that it wouldn’t happen while she was wearing her flower girl dress. Red wasn’t part of the color scheme that day.