all the things I do in my hideaway

Archive for the ‘Food’ Category

Fruit of my labors…

A unique month, not found on the calendar, has begun in the Pacific Northwest.  This is the month known as Blackberry Season.  Drive around, and you’ll see men, women, children, of all ages, picking berries into buckets, cups, grocery bags, bowls…and some just eating!

The Himalayan Blackberry was brought to North America in the late 1800s, valued for its large, juicy berries.  Loved by birds and many other animals, the plant spread widely.  This beautiful corner of God’s creation is prime real estate for these berries.   Leave land unattended, and chances are, blackberries will be comfortably taking over within a few short years.

As a science teacher, I love to mention this plant.  This is a perfect example, growing on the perimeter of our school grounds, of seed dispersal by animals.  Animal eats berry, animal digests berry – expect the seed, animal performs what is known, in a life science classroom, as “excretion.”  You know about that.  The “offerings” from the birds, found on cars, sidewalks, trees, patios, and occasionally, oops!  On you…or me.  Teachers call this a “real world connection.”  What a tasty connection!

Just a side note:  Those animals are often birds, but I know for certain that porcupines participate in the great seed dispersal.  A few Blackberry Seasons ago, my daughter, Suzanne and I were hiking on Cougar Mountain.  We stopped at the top of the hill to just look around and spotted a porcupine, up on his (or her – we didn’t ask or try to look) hind quarters, picking and eating blackberries as fast as it could.  Other animals like this month, too.

For eleven months, residents despair of eliminating these plants from their yards.  Herbicides claiming to eliminate the canes – nice sales pitch!  Dig, cut, burn,…what?  There’s another one growing in a new spot in the yard.  A few enterprising souls even have a unique business – “Rent a Goat.”  Those four-legged creatures,  immortalized for eating Bill Grogan’s three red shirts off the clothesline, will eat blackberry canes, thorns and all.

But this is Blackberry Season.  So, this morning…


Almost a gallon today…

What should I do with this wealth?

I have so many choices; pie, cobbler, ice cream topping, ice cream, jam, jelly, pancake syrup, …think I’ll just freeze these.  Then I have choices all winter.  And Blackberry Season has just begun.


Zuppa toscana…

When I visit the family in Utah, Rachel and I have a new tradition of going to Olive Garden for dinner.  Our favorite dinner is soup and salad, usually zuppa toscana.  Rachel has tried several recipes for this delicious cream potato soup, and hasn’t been completely satisfied.  Tonight, I tried a recipe I found.  Here is the recipe:

1 lb. bulk Italian sausage, browned and drained

2 cans chicken broth

1 cup water

1 garlic clove, minced

3 large russet potatoes

1/4 c. onion, finely diced

bacon bits, to taste

1 c. heavy cream

1 bunch fresh kale, coarsely chopped

Grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish

Cook sausage, chicken broth, water, garlic, potatoes, and onion until potatoes are tender.  Add bacon bits, cream, and kale right before serving.  Garnish with cheese.

What I did:

I didn’t use bacon bits, because I didn’t feel they were needed.  I browned my sausage and used the same pan for the soup, so my soup is not as white as the Olive Garden’s soup – I used that delicious brown material on the bottom of the pan. Yummy!

I substituted evaporated milk for the heavy cream.

I forgot to buy kale on the way home from school today, so I used the spinach I had in the fridge.

I added about 1/4 tsp or a little more of red pepper flakes the last few minutes of the simmering time.

My cheese was moldy – garbage can time.  No cheese garnish.

Verdict:  yummy.  I want to buy kale, next time, use a little more red pepper, and have cheese.  I will try this one again!

Easy cookies…

I have a baptism to attend today, and I want to take some cookies for afterward.  Well, busy Saturday ahead.  I got up just after 5 am to finish a science investigation for my students.  (That’s another story for another post.)  Decided to make the cookies before leaving, using the fastest cookie recipe I know.  I will replace the “emergency cookie supplies” when I shop today.  Then I am always prepared.   Here goes:

Pumpkin Cookies


All necessary materials (other than the oven, can opener, cooling rack, and hot pads)  assembled.  That is right – a spice cake mix and a small can of pumpkin.  Other optional ingredients:  chocolate chips, white chocolate chips, nuts, raisins, your choice.

Mix cookie mix and pumpkin together.  This is a fairly stiff, cake-like dough.  Add desired “other” ingredients.  I chose chocolate chips for two reasons.  The girl being baptized likes chocolate, and I will not eat the cookies (keeps down the calorie intake for the day).


Ready for the oven.  An added bonus to this recipe.  For those of you who tempt the “Salmonella bug” by eating raw cookie dough in spite of the raw eggs, there are no eggs added to this recipe.

Bake on a greased cookie sheet, 375 degrees, 9 minutes (in my oven).  These don’t brown much, test with a toothpick on your biggest cookie until you know the timing for your oven.


Cool on a rack.  Note:  Cooling not required, yummy when hot!

Yield:  depends on the size of your cookies.  I made 4 dozen nice sized cookies, not the “itty bitty” kind.  Yummmmm!

Note:  the wonderful new mixing bowl is the smaller of a set of two I got at the annual YW garage sale two weeks ago.  I have wanted some heavy mixing bowls, but the price was more than I am willing to spend.  These were priced just right!  First time I’ve used it, and oh, so nice to work with.

A beautiful Saturday…

Today, rain falls from the sky, and the temperature will never make 60 degrees.  But yesterday…that was another story.

What more could I ask for than…


(Looking southwest from my driveway…)



The bedroom had a heavenly fragrance last night.

I decided to make homemade yogurt.  A friend taught us how to do this at Relief Society earlier this month.  I tried last week, made a huge mess, but the result was okay.  Today, was much better.  Takes time, but really easy, and so much better than anything I have ever bought.



1/2 gallon milk (whole, 2%, 1%, non-fat, your choice.  I used 1% both times)

Sweetener (if desired – I don’t use any, just add fruit and a dash of cinnamon when I eat it.)

6 oz plain yogurt, at room temperature when you use it (any kind, use as a starter.  You can use your own yogurt as the start for the next batch.)

Clean glass jars with lids (I used 4 pint jars and 1 – 1 cup jar)

Small cooler (see picture)

Candy thermometer


Muslin (see picture)


1.  Heat milk to 180 to 185 degrees

2. Cool milk to 105 – 115 degrees (I pour mine into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and check temperature as it cools.  Mine took 1 hour in the refrigerator to reach proper temperature.)

3.  Gently whisk in starter, add sweeteners, if desired

4.  Pour into clean jars.

5. Place in cooler and fill cooler with hot tap water (hottest from the tap, I put the water to the bottom of the rings on the jars.  I put something under the shorter jar so it is the same height as the pint jars.)  Put on lid and leave it for at least 4 hours.


6.  Let sit until yogurt is set, 4 – 6 hours.  Mine was set at 6 hours.

7.  Line colander with clean (no fabric softener) muslin, place in bowl, allow whey to drain off until yogurt is the thickness you want.  I let mine drain for about 90 minutes.  The longer it drains, the thicker the yogurt.  Strain longer to make a cream-cheese like spread.  I haven’t tried this yet.  Picture:  colander ready for the yogurt from the jars.


8.  Spoon into container, whisk gently until smooth.  This will stay smooth and will not separate.  Flavor as desired.


Already had two servings…I like it on cereal with fruit and cinnamon.

Saturday…a wonderful day.  The memories will keep me going through the rainy week ahead.

Creating special things…

The past few weeks, I have had the opportunity to “create” in several ways.

The first “creation” was a tote bag with a smaller “tape measure snap closure” bag, a kleenex holder, and a fold-up shopping bag from fun zebra print and black/white polka dots.  This will be packaged up this afternoon and mailed to Marsha, my daughter-in-law’s mother and a friend since the wedding.  I am excited – it turned out the way I hoped it would!  We saw one similar to this while on our cruise together in December.  Marsha loved the bag and I am so happy I was able to make one like it for her.


Next, I was able to create memories and fun with two of my grandsons during the Presidents’ Day school holiday.  Here are some of our memories and other special things:


Cinnamon roll waffles – the left-overs (that “disappeared” in the next couple of hours)

Directions:  Purchase ready-to-bake cinnamon rolls in the refrigerator section of the grocery store.  Separate package of 8 rolls into groups of two rolls each.  Unroll one roll and wrap around the other one, making a “giant” roll.  Smash (RDG’s description) between two pieces of wax paper.  Place in waffle iron.  Frost and eat!  Yummy!  (

Waffles in the picture were smashed individually, rather than making the “preferred for breakfast” waffles.  This was the way they wanted to make the “leftovers.”

IThey did have fruit and milk to go with this…a little bit of healthy with the waffles.)


Our “igneous rock” – melted crayons


ACG and the puzzle we put together – this is 500 pieces, and took us two visits to complete.  We also did three 100 piece Planet Earth puzzles.  We have other puzzles just waiting for our attention.  We love the challenge.


We played “science.”  This visit was dedicated to rocks and minerals.  The boys chose quartz crystals for their observations.  RDG especially liked using a flashlight to observe the transparency of his amethyst quartz crystal, while ADG loved using the copper scratch strip to test hardness.

We also made popcorn, using a stove-top popper with a handle that you turn to keep the popcorn from burning.  My children would remember this, and the grandsons loved it! 

My next creations will be using a technique I found on Pinterest that makes EASY mitered corners for baby blankets and other things…more to be posted in the next week or two about that, with pictures.  The boys want to make quilts for their beds, similar to the one they made for their parents for Christmas, so we have to schedule a trip to get supplies for them one of these days….