Saturday, April 14, 2012

What to Do with Leftover Pork? Boy Do I Have the Answer!

I made a pork roast yesterday. Simmered it, covered, on the stove in a cup of milk after browing all sides in a tablespoon of butter. A little salt and pepper--that's it. It was very good. I served it with garlic bread and corn that I flavored with melted butter and a surprising amount of dill weed. I highly recommend buttered corn with dill weed. I know it sounds weird, but it's very, very tasty.

Anyway, I had a bunch of pork roast left over and didn't want to let it go to waste, so here's what I did for "linner" today:

I sliced the pork and threw it in my crockpot with some Sweet Baby Ray's Barbeque Sauce, a smidge of chipotle chili in adobo sauce, and about 1/4 cup of water. I turned it to low for about 3 hours and then took two forks and pulled apart the meat. Stirred it very so often. That was it.
Barbequed Pork, ready to eat

In the meantime, I made a small batch of kind-of coleslaw: I thinly sliced some cabbage, about 1 1/2 cups. I put in 2-ish tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, a small of amount of sugar (around a teaspoon), some salt and pepper (more pepper than salt), and a few pinches of celery seed. I spritzed it with a bit of olive oil and mixed well.

Sorta coleslaw. Very plain. But tasty.

I had some ciabatta rolls and I cut them in half, slathered both sides with mayonnaise, and baked them in the oven at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes. The mayonnaise was melted and the edges of the ciabattas were slightly browned and a bit crisp when I removed them from the oven. They had great bite to them.

I piled on the barbequed pork and topped the meat with a goodly amount of the coleslaw. Popped on the top piece of ciabatta, smashed things a bit so I could get it into my mouth, and then took a tentative bite. Oh, was so delicious! The crisp sweet tanginess of the cabbage was a perfect complement to the smokey/spicey/sweet barbequed pork. The ciabatta was chewy goodness holding it all together.

I love poking around in my fridge and pantry and coming up with something good to eat. No need to go to the store for special ingredients or follow a recipe. This is cooking at its finest--making do with what I have and enjoying the end product.

And when it turns out this good, well! It's worth writing about. Even better? I'm not as liable to forget what I did if it's written down (my very worst problem in the kitchen), so I can make this again sometime if the mood moves.


May the Lord richly bless you and those you love!

Friday, April 6, 2012

An Easy and Inexpensive Baby Blanket to Make

I love to make receiving blankets for baby shower gifts as I'm a firm believer that newborns need lots of blankets. I love to use flannel fabric because it's soft and warm and washable...and I can usually pick up cute, baby-worthy yardage on sale for relatively cheap.

Currently, one of my knitting friends is expecting, and since I already knit her a baby cardigan, I thought I'd make one of my trademark flannel blankies to go along with it.

Further, I thought others might like to know how I do it so they (you!) could have a wonderful, homemade, useful baby shower gift that is sure to be loved and used. So here goes:

I buy 1 1/4 yards of cotton flannel fabric...but you can do just as well with only a yard. Wash it and dry it and then square up all four sides and making them neat, with no ravels hanging.

Next, make a rolled hem edge and pin in place so you can do the next step, which is making buttonhole stitches around the entire edge. Use number 5 or 10 crochet cotton and either a tiny crochet hook that can poke through the fabric or else a large-eyed tapestry needle to actually sew the stitching in place.
Buttonhole stitch in progress
Next I took some pink #5 crochet cotton (because that's what I had that would work for a baby girl, but I often use variegated and that comes out really nice) and single crocheted all around the edgle of the buttonhole-stitched hem. Like this:
Single crochet foundation row
Next I crocheted a scalloped border all the way around. I crocheted 3 double crochets in one stitch, skipped the next stitch, and then single crocheted in the next stitch. Keepgoing like that: Three double crochets in one stitch, skip one stitch, one single crochet in next stitch, skip one stitch, and so on. It looks like this:

Finished with scalloping on the edge!
I'm just finishing this blanket...and it's a good thing because my friend is in labor. Today is a good day!

How Do We Manage When the Electricity Goes Out?

Several weeks ago, the Pacific Northwest experienced an unexpected and record-breaking snow storm. It dumped 9 inches of heavy, wet snow on us, and things pretty much came to a standstill for two days. Trees couldn't stand up to the weight of all that snow and many came down. Especially hard hit were the ornamental plum trees that were in blossom. But everywhere tree limbs--and whole trees--crashed down. I lost a large lower limb from a Doug Fir in my front yard near the house. And around the corner from me, half of a neighbor's mighty oak broke away.Thankfully, it crashed into the street. Another neighbor lost a birch tree that fell on his house. That same scenario was repeated all around our area. As a result, thousands of us lost power in our area.

My power went out in the early morning, shortly after I had gotten up. Normally I wouldn't have even been out of bed that early, but the snow was calling to me and I wanted to sit with a morning cup of coffee and enjoy the quiet and peace of the falling snow before I showered and tried getting to work in one piece on the snowy, slippery roads. So I turned on my coffee pot and watched the snow fall as I waited for it to finish brewing. As I was pouring my first cup I was suddenly plunged into absolute darkness. I couldn't even see my hand in front of my face.

Ah well, I thought, surely it won't be long till it's back on. I fumbled in the dark and lit two of my lanterns so I'd have some light while I waited for the electricity to power back up. Then I sat and drank my coffee and waited. And waited.

Turns out the power didn't come back on for about 15 hours. It was so interesting to talk to people about their experiences because many of them were absolutely helpless in the face of this. They had no idea how to take care of basic needs and they were unprepared. They didn't have a clue how to spend that much time unplugged.

I thought of the Amish: When the electricity goes out in their area, it doesn't even register because they don't use high-line electricity. For the Amish, a day without electricity is like any other day. But of course, not for "the Englisch," which is what they call the rest of us.

Because I strive to live a relatively simple life, I wasn't too hampered by the turn of events. In fact, I rather relished the thought of living unplugged and low-tech for the day. I had my lanterns for light and my handpowered grain grinder for flour and cereal, a pantry full of home-canned food, and my books and spinning wheel and knitting and treadle sewing machine to keep me happily engaged. I had water and a propane stove out back under my patio roof for cooking and heating water. I figured I could take care of myself for quite a long time. Except...

I had no heat. In the Lilliputian cottage I have no wood stove. When I raised my boys in the country, we only heated with wood, and that big old farmhouse never seemed cold. The wood stove pumped out heat all winter long. We'd go through about three cords every winter, and I could stoke that old stove full, turn down the damper, and keep the house warm all night long. In the morning when I got up, I'd first thing go open the damper and get the coals glowing red hot before adding more wood for the day. Many's the day I'd set my cast iron pot on the stove and cook lunch or dinner for us, using the "free" heat from the fire. In the damp and soggy Pacific Northwest, wood heat, in my opinion, can't be beat. It's the best thing for keeping a body warm.

But even with no heat (I bundled up in my woolen hand knits from top to bottom and felt a bit smug), I was fine. And because of the choices I've made to live life simply, I was prepared and knew how to take care of myself.

As I see it, when an emergency hits, there are some things that are nice to have in place. We have need of food, water, shelter, heat if it's cold out (and it seems the electricity always goes out in a winter storm around these parts), an alternative light source, and any special needs, such as medicine or medical equipment. Each of us should think through these needs and decide how we can make them happen even in an outage. A little thought and preparation will go a long way.

I'm reminded of when my boys were little and we'd regularly have days (and occasionally weeks) when we "lived like pioneers." Even though it was fun, it was also educational. Depending on the season, we could forage and fish, cook out back or on the wood stove, play games by kerosene lantern light at the kitchen table, and wash our clothes by hand (even jeans!) and hang them outside or by the fire to dry. Good times.

I remember one time I gathered "fur and skins" (fabric from our local fabric store), leather thongs, and some big wooden needles that I'd found somewhere--the memory of which escapes me now--and when the boys woke up that morning I informed them that they would have to make their own clothes in order to dress for the day. They loved it! In fact, they got so excited about the project that they made a "skins" tent to play in also and we ate our meals there for several days.

These "play days" helped make my sons the creative tinkerers they are today, I think. In fact, besides the heat issue, I found I had one more problem on that snowy day and that was my fancy new iPhone. I'm fairly new to that technology, and people called or messaged me all day long (snow storm and power out = really big news!). Needless to say, my power bar was going down and I'd soon enugh run out of juice. And that was when I realized that once the power was gone, so was my ability to communicate with the outside world--granted, not a necessity, but nice to have available. I mentioned it to one of my boys and without skipping a beat he said to plug the phone into the car chager...which he'd given me for Christmas...and turn the key to accessories and let 'er rip. I did and my communications disaster was averted.

You and your family could try a "live like the pioneers" day (or two or three!) and find where you have gaps in your ability to take care of yourselves. And then you can make plans for how to close those gaps so when an uncertain future hits, you'll be prepared.

As for me, I'm saving up for a wood stove for the Lilliputian cottage. I know me well enough to know that I won't rest easy until I have it installed. And when I do, even if it's the dead of summer, I'll fire it up and put on a pot of stew.