I recently realized I haven’t written anything on my website since November. Other than going to the gym five days a week doing the Silver Sneakers classes for about an hour or so each day, I have been baking and cooking and doing errands. I still have days when my pain is intense and my activities are limited, or I veg out on the sofa. I try not to give in to it very often, but some days I have to. I still have my tumor causing complications.
I am still cooking and baking almost everything I eat, including bread and pasta. Not only does the food taste better than processed food, but, I know what I am eating, the quality of the food, and I can pronounce everything in each item.
It does take a bit longer to prepare meals sometimes, however, it’s well worth the effort. I usually cook enough for several meals and often freeze a lot of it in Food Saver bags so it stays fresh and it’s easy to reheat and it doesn’t get freezer burnt. I was putting food in freezer bags and it wasn’t staying very well. I realized I have an older Food Saver machine and decided to start using it again. Not only does it save space in my freezer and keep my food from getting freezer burnt, but I can put it in either boiling water or my sous vide bath to cook or reheat and it tastes much better.
Two of my neighbors don’t cook much so I make extra and give them meals. They enjoy having a home cooked meal and it gives me something to do. Since I am cooking and baking anyway, I just make larger portions. Instead of making the same things all the time I look for new recipes. It’s a fun challenge to find recipes, there are so many websites to look at and I keep finding ones I haven’t seen or heard of before. Some days my search is to find a recipe to use up some food I have handy. Other times I make up recipes using things I have on hand. I am also learning to save cooking liquids to use later on. For example, if I cook potatoes I save the potato water. It’s great to use in bread dough, soups, stews, etc. I also save the liquid from cooking fruit or canned fruit and use it instead of water in recipes. This makes other dishes I make more flavorful.
My 5 quart KitchenAid bowl lift stand mixer is an old Hobart brand KitchenAid from the early 1980s, so is my food grinder attachment. It still works great. A few weeks ago I bought a chuck roast and ground the meat to make hamburgers. It was great. I knew the ground meat was from one piece of meat and I knew how much fat was in it, not very much, just enough to give flavor and hold patty together.
In November, I saw a really good price on a 6 quart KitchenAid bowl lift stand mixer with a few beaters, so I bought it so I can make more than one batch of food items at a time since it’s a larger and more powerful mixer. I am really enjoying using my new mixer, I still use the older one for smaller batches. I want to grind more foods and chicken, meat, cheeses, etc. I also want to make sausages and I found out the sausage attachments now won’t work on my old grinder attachment. So I bought a new KitchenAid metal food grinder kit with sausage stuffing nozzles. I also bought several other attachments so that I could do much more with the KitchenAid mixers. I bought the sheet cutter attachments so that I could cut sheets of fruits and vegetables, the slicer and shredder attachments, and the 5 piece pasta roller and cutter set.
The first time I used the grinder attachment to grind my meat I used the old Hobart grinder since it was before I bought the new grinder attachment which has sausage maker nozzles. The pusher for the food was not something I had anymore, not sure what happened to it. I gave this attachment to my mom and when she passed away two years ago I took it back and the pusher was missing. Anyway, I thought I would use the back of one of my silicone spoons to push the meat into the grinder and I thought I was not putting it down very far to touch the grinder. I guess I misjudged one time that I was pushing the meat because when I took the spoon out to put in more meat, I noticed the end of the spoon was missing. So I stopped the mixer and took the grinder apart and found a half inch piece of my spoon intact. So I reassembled my grinder and put a piece of blue tape on the handle of my spoon so I would not push it into the grinder any more. Thankfully, no part of the spoon was in the meat and I was able to make a delicious meat loaf. I also made another batch of ground meat a while ago and I used a chuck roast and mixed it with boneless country pork ribs. It gave just enough fat to bind the meat together and the flavor was really delicious. I made nachos with some of the meat, and the rest went into meatballs and a meatloaf. I gave my neighbors some and they loved it. There was almost no fat in the pans after the meat was cooked.
Recently at a thrift store, I saw a hand cranked Marcato Atlas 150 pasta maker set for sale. I went home and did some research on hand cranked pasta machines and found out this one is the number one machine so I went back and bought it. I called the company for an instruction manual since there wasn’t one in the box. After talking with Lisa I learned that this machine was made in 1987 and it has stainless steel rollers. I watched some videos online and read several articles and then made some pasta dough in my Kitchenaid and rolled it out on my Marcato. I felt so proud, it came out looking nice and tasting great. Lasagna was high on my list to make… It was wonderful. A few weeks later they had another Marcato Atlas 150 for sale, made in January 1983 so I bought it as a spare and it came in handy when a friend came over and we made gluten free pasta for her. Lisa at Marcato has been really helpful to me and has given me great tips for maintaining and using the machine, and sending me recipes and a crank handle that was missing for the second one I bought. When I started making crackers and crust for my pot pies I use the pasta maker.
I realized I really like making pasta and crackers and using the pasta maker. It relaxes me and I like the feeling of handling the dough and transforming it into something I can eat that is delicious and nutritious. It’s quiet and tranquil rolling out and cutting the dough. After making a few batches of crackers I found ways to make it easier, I also read helpful tips in online articles. I bought a few types of wheels to help cut the dough so crackers look nice and uniform. My first attempt at crackers had odd shaped crackers, now they come out round or square. My potato cheese pierogies look professional too, and also taste good.
Now that I have made numerous batches of crackers, I have found a way to make them look like real crackers and also a way to make them in less time. It involves using parchment paper, the pasta roller attachment, and a hand cutting device that scores the dough so that after I bake it in long sheets, the crackers break on the scored lines. Crackers can go from not quite baked to the correct color to burnt within a minute, so I have to watch them closely. In the pictures below I’m sure you can see the progression of my cracker baking. I also made some herb flat bread which came out really great on the first try, I made nachos with it using my fresh ground beef and they were the best nachos!!!!
I saw a good sale on the KitchenAid pasta roller and cutter set and after giving it much thought and doing research, I decided to spend the money and purchase the 5 part attachment set of a roller and four cutters to make pasta using the KitchenAid mixer. I still use my Marcato hand crank pasta maker because it works better for some things like cracker or flatbread dough because I can control the dough and stop quickly if I need to. I can also go in reverse, which I cannot do with the automatic KitchenAid roller. I am finding that it works great having the two KitchenAid mixers when I make pasta. I can attach the roller attachment to one machine, and put the cutter for spaghetti or a different shape on the other machine.
I made carrot pasta dough, spinach pasta dough, and egg pasta dough, and I saw on a website how to make striped pasta dough, and also how to roll fresh herbs into the dough by sandwiching it between two layers of dough and rolling it out. So, of course I tried and accomplished both of these tasks and of course the pasta tasted delicious!!! I decided to start selling some of my pasta so that other people can enjoy fresh pasta. It tastes so much better than the store bought pasta and it cooks faster as well.
The KitchenAid pasta attachments work great, it’s not quiet like the manual machine, however, there are some benefits to using it. And it saves some time. I still use my Marcato too. Using the KitchenAid attachment let’s me have two hands to feed and catch the dough since I don’t have to use one hand to crank the machine. Hand cranking does have some benefits because I can control the speed I feed the dough and can back it up if I need to, or I can stop it if I need to adjust dough. The KitchenAid is higher so the dough hangs down and gives me more space to catch the dough. The Marcato is counter height. I love both machines and use them both often. They serve different purposes and for the crackers and several other things I make the hand crank machine works better than the electric roller since I can stop it immediately if needed.
A few months ago I bought a 5.8 quart Kili air fryer and I love using it. This brand has a large basket which allows me to cook a good size portion of food. It’s also very quiet and I don’t hear it running. I use this almost every day to cook or reheat food. I am experimenting and making up new recipes not only for the air fryer but for regular stove and oven cooking and baking. I have some favorite recipes that I make often. And I keep finding new recipes and ways to use the air fryer. Even though I hesitated buying it for quite a long time, I am so glad that I finally bought one. I found a recipe for avocado fries and they are a delicious treat to eat and very easy to make. I found lots of websites for air fryer recipes including one that has 150 recipes, that’s where I found the avocado fry recipe.
I read some tips on how to use the air fryer and found several that have been very helpful and I found a few of my own. Here are some of the ways I found to make using the air fryer easier: Put a piece of parchment or baking paper between the fryer basket and the drawer the basket fits into and also instead of using a non-stick spray in the basket (this will leave a residue) wipe the basket on both sides of the bottom of the basket and also the inside sides with some oil on a paper towel. This way there will be less chance of food sticking, and having the parchment paper in the bottom will catch the drippings, crumbs, etc. and make it easier to clean the tray. After burning my arm a few times trying to get food out of the air fryer basket, I started using long tongs with silicone ends. Lift the food out of the basket, don’t pour it out of the basket. If you pour it out you will also pour out any crumbs or grease that is in the basket. I use my air fryer often, including using it to reheat foods. I sometimes use a small dish in it to hold my food or I will sometimes put my food on a piece of foil, these tips save me sometimes from washing out the basket.
I have made large trays of lasagna several times during the past few months. Using homemade lasagna pasta and fresh ground meat that I grind, makes the lasagna taste so much better than boxed pasta and store bought ground beef. I even started making my own crackers that taste like Wheat Thins and Ritz crackers, they aren’t salty like store bought crackers. Double batches don’t last long. I share my baked goods with other people to share and the feedback they give me is always favorable. I also made cookies that are similar to the store bought Milano cookies, and they came out really good and looked like the store bought ones, and I filled them with chocolate peppermint filling.
I have made so many batches of wheat thin crackers that I have found short cuts and easy ways to make the crackers and they look like store bought ones and taste better, and they are not salty. The surprise ingredients that I didn’t think would go together are what makes the wheat thin crackers taste like the store bought ones. It’s a combination of a small amount of vanilla extract and paprika powder. I also use smoked paprika which is my new favorite spice to use in many dishes I cook. I made one of my favorite desserts… chocolate, chocolate chip, cheesecake cupcakes. I make them in a mini muffin pan and freeze them so I can snack on them for a while. The recipe is on Handle the Heat. The crescent cookies below are almond paste cookies which I dipped in chocolate after they were baked. These are are also very good. And I love using my Curtis Stone dura bake baking sheets because like all of his other cookware and bakeware, nothing sticks.
I’m really having fun experimenting with new recipes, and just making up recipes using different ingredients. I received permission to plant some herbs and vegetables in the flower bed where I live, so I planted lots of different herbs and some vegetables like lettuce and celery, and tomatoes. I started seeds for spinach, swiss chard, tomatoes, and dill, and I also planted some more tumeric. I planted some tumeric last summer and harvested a batch in January. I bought a tomato plant that had lots of flowers, however, the plant only grew about 6 or 7 tomatoes which are about 2 inches in diameter. I harvested the tomatoes this past week and they tasted really good. This is the herb and vegetable garden when it was first planted. It has really grown since then and I am using the herbs frequently. The seedlings of the zucchini and swiss chard have grown enough that I planted them in the garden and the San Marzano tomato plants are about ready to be planted too.
On You Tube I saw videos on how to grow citrus trees from seed, and also how to grow potatoes in flower pots or containers so these are going to be my new attempts at growing food. When I lived in Texas I had a house and I planted about 40 different herbs in my garden. So, even though this space is smaller, I am utilizing the space as best as I can and I am enjoying going down to get fresh herbs when I cook and now the zucchini plants have flowers and hopefully will produce squash. I told my neighbors they can use the herbs and eat the lettuce. It’s really cool to see the celery grow, I never grew celery before. Every morning I drink a glass of celery juice which I make in my Vitamix and it’s helped me feel better and have energy. So when my celery grows enough to use it I will do that rather than buying it in the grocery store.
Here are pictures of my garden, these are taken about a month or so after it was planted. The plants inside the store circle are tumeric and the plant with the flowers is zucchini. The zucchini, swiss chard, and tomato plants in the photos below are seeds that I grew that show as dirt in the pots in the above pictures. Several of the herbs like the peppermint, oregano, and thyme are now becoming a great ground cover in the flower bed. And when I water the garden it smells so nice. The rosemary, basil, lemon verbena, lemon grass, and lemon balm all have really nice fragrances.
I saw several articles and TV shows where people were talking about the benefit of drinking celery juice first thing in the morning and not having any other food or liquids for at least 15 minutes afterward. I started this on February 1st and within 3 days I realized I have more energy and feel better. I also started adding some smoothies into my routine. I recently bought a new Vitamix and also the AER container, and the dry grain container so I can make my own flour or chop nuts, etc. I make my own nut butters in the Vitamix and it tastes so much better than store bought and I can control the oil in it. The AER container makes frothy drinks and other things. I made strawberry lemonade which came out really delicious with lots of pulp, and it left the rind whole, it only took the pulp of the fruit into the liquid. I also made orange lemonade with fresh oranges and Meyer’s lemons. Lots of pulp in the juice.
I also added fresh or powdered tumeric into my food, and I found out that adding fresh cracked black pepper to the tumeric enhances the benefits of the tumeric about 2000 percent. It has something in it that allows our bodies to absorb the tumeric more fully. And I also started using Matcha green tea powder, including making butter cookies with it. So, after drinking my celery juice, I wait a while and then eat some homemade yogurt with tumeric, black pepper, Matcha powder, and fruit. I am finding that most of the time in addition to more energy, my pain is decreasing most of the time which is a big blessing for me. I am not saying it’s totally gone, but a lot of days it’s lessened. Here is some tumeric I harvested recently from tubers I planted last summer. I have some more growing now that should be ready to harvest in the fall. Tumeric can be grown in flower pots, that’s how I planted my first batch which is what you see here. I am hoping to get another great harvest from the tumeric plants that are in the stone circle in the pictures further up in this post.
Like I wrote above, I am experimenting with different foods and recipes. Last time I made pasta I took some fresh parsley from my flower bed and sandwiched it between two layers of pasta. I also saw on a website about using different flavored and colored pasta dough to make striped pasta. My neighbor Nikki came over and we made pasta and other things together and she took some pictures of me making the pasta. The pictures are higher up in this story.
I now only do one craft show a year, it’s in mid-February. The lady in the next booth did face painting and I had her paint my face both days. I left it up to her what to paint. I think I look terrible in photos, but I am posting these anyway. I have only had my face painted one other time that I remember. It was quite a few years ago at a pow wow and it was a small feather. She is very talented and I loved seeing the faces of the children she painted. These face painting designs are quite different. Also, one of the ladies at the craft show made lamp shades and she gave me permission to post the photos. She gets her ideas online. A man came by the booth and I loved the saying on his shirt and asked if I could take a picture of it. I am still crocheting baby blankets for the NICU at a local hospital, in the past two years I have donated almost 900 blankets. I started to sell them at this craft show asking people if they wanted to buy one to take, or buy one and write a note donating it in honor or memory of someone and several people did that. I use the money to buy more yarn to make more baby blankets to donate.
I am going to leave this part of my post in this story because it sort of relates to the info above, but I am also creating a March post using this part of my story and add more details, and I will add pictures and links to the March post I am going to be writing. So please go to the March Happenings story to see the pictures and updates to the rest of this post.
My newest venture seemed to have just happened automatically and I guess it’s the new direction my life seems to be taking. I wrote above about making food for my neighbors that don’t cook, and about all the new things I bought to make it more convenient for me to cook my own foods from scratch. Not only does everything I eat taste better, but it’s more natural and I know exactly what is in my food. There are no hidden chemicals or ingredients or ones not necessary, like preservatives so that the shelf life can be months or years. I was at Aldi in February and they had food dehydrators on sale and I was wanting one for a while. When I am in Texas at my friends they have a garden and fruit trees and I prepare their fruit and vegetables and put them in their dehydrator. I decided to buy this small dehydrator, and as always when I do something, I get carried away.
I bought lots of different fruits and also some Roma tomatoes and I dried them. It’s been a lot of work, but the rewards are great. I can now eat fruit. Because of my Illeostomy I am limited to what I can eat. I can’t eat a lot of fiber. So, if I want to eat fruit I can only have a little, then if I put it in the fridge I sometimes forget about it, or don’t eat it fast enough and it goes bad and I have to throw it away. Now, by drying the fruit I can eat a piece or two or even more of dried fruit. I have to be careful to chew it well and drink lots of water, but it’s still a treat to eat a slice of mango, or a pear, etc.
At the craft show there was a lady across from my booth that was selling jams. She told me that I could sell my dried fruit legally under the Cottage Industry Law which is legal in Florida and other states. I have a lot of different types of fruit already dry that I have done in the past 3 weeks. After looking at the website for Florida Cottage Industry requirements, I asked my friend Deb to help me create labels for my fruit and we did it together yesterday. Deb is so creative and we had fun creating these lovely labels which fit perfectly on the snack size baggies I put my fruit in. It’s amazing how much liquid is in fruit and the amount of weight that is lost by evaporation. The reason I decided to dry my own fruit and some vegetables is when I went to buy some at the stores, the ingredients list the fruit, but also sugar, oil, preservatives, salt, and other things. I just want fruit. My dried fruit is only fruit, nothing else.
So, I decided since I have so much more fruit dried than I can eat, I will sell some if anyone wants to buy it. The flavor of the fruit is so intense because it’s concentrated. My next project will be to try drying vegetables other than tomatoes which I think are considered a fruit. Also, as different fruits are in season I will add them to my list of fruits to dry. Right now, other than Roma tomatoes, I have bananas, red pears, mangoes, strawberries, blueberries, oranges, blood oranges, Meyer’s lemons, pineapple, apples, lemons, and I may start making some pasta to sell. Fresh pasta, or even my dried pasta tastes so much better than hard store bought pasta.
Since I am cooking more, and freezing portions of food for myself to eat later on, instead of putting the portions of food in freezer bags where it drys out if I don’t eat it quickly, I am using my Food Saver machine to freeze the portions of food. I just stocked up on more Food Saver bags so I don’t run out. It’s nice to take something out of the freezer at the last minute, put it in boiling water, since I don’t have a microwave, and in about 15 or 20 minutes I have hot food that tastes like I just made it. And now I am not throwing away food because it’s freezer burnt.
I have written several times over the past few years about the medical alert bracelet that I wear from a company called ID ON ME. It’s the best medical alert, or ID bracelet or tag, that I have found. It’s not engraved, it has a compartment that holds a piece of strong, non-tear type paper that has room to write lots of information. I bought some to give as gifts to friends who have medical conditions and should wear one. In fact, even if I didn’t have a medical condition, I would wear the ID one. I have a habit of walking and not taking any ID with me. Or if I am at the gym or somewhere and something unexpected happened no one would know who I was maybe, or who to contact. This way I have important info on me whenever I am away from home. I am not getting any perks or paid for posting this information, I feel strongly that we need to be prepared for the unexpected. After spending many hours looking for a bracelet that would hold the information I wanted on me, I came upon this site.
Also, any products I mention above that I am using, is only my opinion, I did not receive any products from any company, nor was I asked to review anything. I like to cook and those of you reading my posts are mostly my friends and you like to know what I am doing and what I’ve been up to.
It looks like I won’t be going to Albuquerque this year, it’s the same situation as last year. The new volunteer coordinator told me the only way I could get RV hookups and electricity is if I spend 6 weeks working in the RV area. I don’t want to do that for several reasons. Besides some personality issues with the RV people, I wouldn’t have the flexibility or freedom to crew on a balloon, volunteer at the Balloon Discovery Tent, or other events or parties. I would mostly be stuck in a booth registering RVers. Or if I go to do the things I like such as crewing and volunteering, I would have to dry camp for about 2 weeks. I have done that my first 3 years volunteering at Balloon Fiesta and I don’t want to do that again. It’s too hard on me physically. I would have to run my generator to keep my batteries charged so I could have lights, or heat or air conditioning. There is much more to it, but it’s not something I want to drive almost 6,000 miles round trip to do. So, I am considering going to work at Hurricane Creek Farms in Havana, Florida, about 15 miles north of Tallahassee, like I did last year for two and a half months. Lorri and her parents told me I am always welcome to come back there, and I feel good being there and helping them. I have a few stories I wrote last July through September when I was there at the farm.
Well, I guess that’s about it for now. My goal for today was to add to this story which I started several weeks ago, and to download the pictures on my phone to my computer so they can be added to this story so you can see some pictures of the food I have been making. I accomplished some of my goal. Photos are on my computer, so they can be deleted off of my phone, thus freeing up some space on my phone’s memory, and I did add a lot, more than I planned to, in my post.