Sunday, January 22, 2012

Easy as Pie

If you have ever heard the expression Easy as Pie and have ever tried actually making a pie then you know it isn't easy
It isn't easy if you want it to look good. 
It isn't easy if you want it to taste good. 
Certainly isn't easy if you want it to be healthy. 
And it ain't easy if you want to do it on a budget (read free).

So in honor of National Pie Day on Monday, here is the saga of my free pie ... 

Farm fresh eggs from Genesee County was a barter trade, powdered buttermilk (swagbucks reward).

Organic canned pumpkin, an Amazon find which worked out to $1.50 per can @ the time (posted on my fb page). I really could smack myself for not ordering two cases because now it's not a buck & half per can. Another Swagbucks reward (read free).

After I opened the can of pumpkin puree I realized I was out of both canned & powdered milk so I went with using a container of the Almond and Cashew cream I had bought to use in my coffee. Very smooth texture with a faint nutty undertone. I also split the difference with what the recipe called for in sugar instead using locally harvested Maple Syrup.

Poor UPS guy deserves a pie.

Still hanging on to my New Year's Resolution #2 - It pays to get lost in the warehouse on Amazon.
I got the last bag marked down to $21.70 I added in an under $5 order on some survival prepps which 

made the entire order free shipping all 25 pounds of grain. 

Subscribe & save has almost as good a deal for $26.35 + free shipping. 

Great River Organic Milling, Organic Whole Grains Soft White Winter Wheat, 25-Pound Package
Grown in America, certified organic, milled in the great state of Wisconsin.

Soft White Winter Wheat is for cakes, pastries, & pie crusts. 

Gotta justify these pies.

Soft Winter Wheat ready for grinding. 

Here's the my basic pie crust recipe a tried & true favorite that can be made ahead of time and frozen. The added ingredients of baking powder, egg, and vinegar make the dough very pliable and forgiving.
Always make sure all equipment has been chilled as well as the flour and shortening.  

  • 5 cups flour 
  • 2 1/2 cups shortening (I use 2 cups of lard
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons white vinegar
  • 1 egg
  • ice water 
Sift flour, salt, & baking powder together in to a large bowl. Add shortening/lard working in until the mixture resembles an even meal. Shortening should be in small pea sized nuggets through out the flour.
In a cold glass measuring cup whisk egg well add vinegar. Fill cup with ice water to measure 1 cup.
Add liquid to dry ingredients mix thoroughly.

Divide into equally sized balls about the size of a small grapefruit.
Place in individual freezer bags to freeze.

Makes 3 double crust pies or 6 single crusts.

Variations -
Add cinnamon or nutmeg to taste in flour mixture along with 1/4 cup sugar for Apple or Pumpkin pie.
Almond extract whisked in with the liquid along with 1/4 cup sugar for Peach pie.
Substituent one cup of butter instead of shortening or use butter flavored shortening.
Savory herbs such as Sage and Rosemary (sparingly) finely ground mixed into the flour mixture - quiche or meat pies.

~~ pelenaka ~~

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Girl U Can't Do That Here

Cloudy & gloomy as usual but warm start to December and most of January been in the mid-40's 
That was a comment I heard over the small portion of back fence behind the greenhouse from a guy I only know by our brief exchanges that happen whenever he's on the tail end of the shoe leather express. He has a tag to differentiate between the other people who walk or bike my neighborhood but after today I'm renaming him Giveup. 
Today there's a fence between us. On occasion it's my street as he gives a holla, a comment or question as he stands lighting a cigarette across from my city lot. Seems every time I see or smell someone lite up I wonder how they can afford food & smokes. Then as I find myself inhaling just a bit too deeply I remember how much I loved that first cigarette of the day with coffee. Usually for me it was dawn, on a fire escape the last break before 0600 meds and quitting time. 

Most of the time Giveup, asks me what I'm planting. Other times he tells me he needs a gardener flashing a broad smile bright even @ a distance. 
Once I quipped back that I can't I'm on parole. Say anything with a straight face a calm stare. The myth become fact. 
He gave a hearty laugh. 
Then said, "yeah, it's the ones who don't look like they would ". 
True that I nod.

This day though he was in a more talkative mood counting down the reasons why I can't gardening here like this meaning here as in New York. 
Here as in this city. 
Here as in my city lot.

I heard the words cold, snow, freezing, but I wasn't listening. 
His cigarette smoke just seemed to hang in the air between us as he leaned up against the fence less than 40 feet away. I tasted coffee thick with creamer. 
He spoke a bit more something about see u in the Spring. Then the words Florida, got people, I'll be thinking of you, smile flashing bright. 
Then he trudged up to the city sidewalk from where he had been standing in the vacant lot behind my house. 

I am fully aware I can't do that here.  
He shook his head, apparently I had spoke my mind out loud.

Inside the cold frame I transplanted found celery no doubt from kitchen scraps. It's a commercial brand since I didn't plant any seeds.
Hopefully since it sprouted up in late October/November it will be hardy enough to last through the Winter.  Center is fancy salad greens that I planted a week ago. I don't expect much turn out maybe come March. Far right is old stand by Swiss Chard.

Maybe a second layer of 4 ml plastic?  As if it couldn't look any more trashy.

~~ pelenaka ~~

Friday, January 6, 2012

Resolutions my Ghetto Amish A**

Resolution # 1- grow vegetables like a drug dealer.
I'm really serious about this, been thinking about it for a few months. Seems like there isn't a week that goes by that there isn't a news story about a grow house raided by a local police task force or in combination with DEA MIB. Doesn't really seem to matter if it's rural or urban.
These ganga growers have a green thumb I'd love to emulate ... legally ... let me clarify legally & in an off grid method. I can only imagine the overhead (electric bill). Could you imagine having premo peaches in Winter ?

Resolution #1a - Cold weather gardening - who knows maybe one cold Winter day I just maybe able to steam up some Broccoli fresh from the backyard.

Resolution #1b - Vertical gardening. There has just got to be more gardening space that I haven't found.

Resolution #2 - Eat healthy as if $ was no object.
K, I had to put down my coffee before I electrocute myself with my lap top. Like that can really happen. Yeah I think it can with careful shopping (Swagbucks & Amazon) & more effort put into bartering, foraging, gardening, & gleaning.
What I want is to increase the amount of our pantry style cooking (eat what you store-store what you eat), but make healthy food choices as it pertains to us (diabetics).
I also want in increase the amount of whole grains we eat not just whole grain pasta or whole wheat bread as we've been doing. I want to have whole grain pie crusts & cakes.
I've been eyeing this book No More Bricks! Successful Whole Grain Bread Made Quick & Easy Great reviews posted on amazon, would love to chat with anyone who owns a copy.

Resolution #3 - Walk the talk when it come to DIY solar projects (solar room heaters). I have been saying we are installing one for what two years now. Someone needs to be slapped ...

Resolution #4 - Camp, specially bike camp or more specific bicycle touring/camping. It's the next stage up from my usual everyday urban bike commuting that I do. There's some challenges we have to over come but I can so see Woodsrunner & I on a tandem recumbent bike heading out of the city to do a weekend of survival camping. I should say that it's not a shared vision @ this time.

Resolution #5 - Go old school more. Learn or in some cases prefect our homesteading skills. Sewing is one (I actually was gifted a treadle). I have two black trash bags full of clothes that I want to upcycle into shopping bags, camping gear, clothing, biking & gardening stuffs. I also want to learn to make whole wheat pasta.

Resolution #6 - Finish our old house. There are just way too many DIY projects that we have either talked about or started that need to be finished. Everything from restoring the remaining woodwork to the a new metal roof on the main portion of the house. There is also a wall & door that needs to be re-installed (early 1980's remodel why would you take away a bedroom, why?).
Our time table to stay here in the city has been extended due to the Great Recession. Not so much Woods recent unemployment but more due to the housing market.
Seems we are surrounded by foreclosed homes.

Resolution #7 - Enjoy my life ... enjoy my husband ... enjoy my children ... enjoy.

Resolution #7a - Be a better Presbyterian = be a better person. Gonna need prayers on that one.

~~ pelenaka ~~

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Give a man a fish, you feed him for a day.
Teach a man to fish, and you've fed him for a lifetime.

Sending him fishing, he comes home a happy man.

Here's a link to the New York State Environmental Conservation website - halfway down the page is an email link for you to submit your name & address for a free I FISH NY Guide to Freshwater Fishing in New York State map.
Free map, dig some bait outta the garden, pack a lunch, then head on out to commune with nature and hopefully fill the freezer. Or just get off the old urban homestead for the day.

~~ pelenaka ~~

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

RTRP by Proxy

Dehydrating old school

* reaches for phone in apron pocket,"hey what up".
"I'm @ Aldis thought I give you a ring confirm that were on for Friday", barter buddy gf in a relaxed tone. She must be shopping with out children.
"Yeah I'm good with Friday I've been gathering up stuffs to bring".
"Hey there's cranberries on sale ... discounted to 25¢ a bag ... I'm thinking chutney".
"What brand ... look alright ... I'm thinking orange cranberry sauce and dehydrating" My mind wanders to a biscotti recipe that was in Sunday's paper a few weeks back. Called for dehydrated cranberries of which I was all out. Make a few substitution whole wheat for white flour add extra vanilla. My coffee wouldn't be lonely.
"Ocean Spray ... no they look good but there gonna expires in a few days ... how many you want" ?
"How many's there ... wait I can't give you cash right away but I have TP coming in a few days ... wanna barter" ?
"Sounds good I won't pick up any then what brand ... how many ply ... " ?
"It's the good stuff quilted soft real soft 2 ply baby ... ".

LSS this was a great example of right time (after holiday sales) right place by proxy (trusted friend who shops like I think) along with biting off more than I chew with regards to dehydrating.
There's no firing up the solar dehydrator it's been in the low teens to single digit temps.
I'm down to just one base on my old brown Roncho.  Anymore than four trays filled and I risk mold.
Can't borrow bbgf's dehydrator she'll using it.
Really regretting not making or @ least buying a non-electric air dehydrator. I've added this to my wish list -Food Pantrie Hanging Food Dehydrator

I came up with this alternative which requires frequent fiddling with the berries.
Cast Iron Skillet is the easier of the two as all that is required is a clean hand to reach in and mix. Woodsrunner's heirloom cookie sheet is more labor intensive. I use chop sticks to flip each cranberry half.  The second shelf of the stand is working well with a dish towel redirecting the heat, as soon as the leeks are dry I can replace cranberries.
Hopefully it won't be more than a day of this. Stove's running @ full throttle it's so cold.

Planned preserving method - vacuum sealing with O2 absorbers in pint mason jars. Looking for 1 to 2 years of shelf life. I expect there will be allot of Cranberry Walnut Bread in our future so I'm happy with one year.

14 bags later cranberries have been either sliced (10 bags) for dehydrating or will be made in sauce (4 bags) and canned. An appropriate tune playing while I wield a paring knife.

All my life
Is changing every day
In every possible way

In all my dreams
It's never quite as it seems
Never quite as it seems 

 ~~ pelenaka ~~