Sunday, January 29, 2012

Killing Time with a Crochet Hook

When we are all hunkered down watching a movie or travelogue on TV I often pick up something to keep my hands busy. I don't do relaxation very well so I thought I'd try my hand at another afghan but this time it will hopefully be rectangular rather than trapezoidial! I guess I added or lost a few stitches on my last one. No matter, it's warm which is what counts.

I found out how to do a different stitch rather than a single crochet so this one is easier to do and much faster. I am making the background black and playing around with stripes. How many, what colors and how thick to make the bands. After placing various yarns together I decided to go with more brilliant hues of the three main colors you see here: pink, green and yellow. I had red and blue in reserve but they really take on a different feel than the candy colors of my three. I'll give it a wider band of black after the three sets of color but not too wide.

This time the whole afghan is wider too. My last one is a one-person cuddled-up-in-chair type afghan. This one could go across a bed or nicely cover our couch which folds out. It's a futon but made to look like a regular mission style couch but more firm. Both my husband and I have bad backs and can't handle sinking down into a comfy couch. This one has three positions too: straight up and down for regular days, all the way down for company or if someone is not feeling well and then half way for movie viewing. I have my 30 year old coffee table in front of it, one you can prop your feet up on.

I still for the life of me cannot make a Granny Square. I have watched video after video and mine are round- always. What am I doing wrong? Who knows. I think I'll have to bite the bullet and sign up for a lesson at the yarn shop in the next town!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

It's Bacon- First Tastes from our Curing

It's BACON everyone! We have to let the bacon we processed sit unwrapped in the fridge for a couple of days but decided to have a sneak preview tasting and guess what- it's good! This time is was just cured and not smoked which I believe I prefer.

My husband did a quick skillet fry. Look how meaty!

This was thick cut since he used a knife but when the rest of it is ready we can put it through the slicer to make it whatever thickness we want.

He's going to smoke the jowls and hocks today. More to come!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Pork and Venison Soft Ravioli

My husband loves to cook which works out very well for me. He cooks, I clean. Today my dinner was one of our all time favorites but with a special spin- soft raviolis made with our own processed pork and venison. This photo is without the sauce. He has a wonderful marinara sauce recipe but we are hooked on Louisa's- a nice meat sauce made locally in St. Louis.

Our recipe is based on Charlie Gitto's, a restaurant on The Hill. Here are a couple with Louisa's sauce on top. These can also be fried- made into toasted ravioli which is a St. Louis staple, but we have not tried that at home yet. Louisa's makes some fine frozen toasted ravs (or T-ravs) so we generally pick up the very large bag for deep frying. Most are oven ready now and really, not the same at all.

My husband roasted the meat and vegetable mixture.

Then added the chopped, cooked spinach.

He put it through the meat grinder three times. . .

reducing it to a paste.

He made the dough and let it rest.

Next he rolled out the dough into strips, preparing the filling.

Then they were cut with the ravioli cutter which both cuts and seals the packets. There is a little cutting blade in the middle of the two outer edges. He recommends purchasing special tools for Italian cooking at an Italian store. Our press is from Italy (Viviano's, see link below) and the cutter as well. He says, "don't buy bocce balls at a Spanish joint!" He has a set he has been drooling over. He has some Italian in him, his great aunts and grandma were the Figone sisters from Stanton, MO! He says the Italian influence in his cooking balances out the Fish Pudding from my Danish cookbook! (No, we have not tried that yet . . . yet)

Into the freezer until nice and firm. When I got home he boiled about eight of these, they were probably a bit too big but very filling. We didn't even have a side dish with them but the veges were included in the middle!

He says that this is what you call Fast Food out in our neck of the woods, if you don't count the eight hours of prep time! It is a pretty involved process but if you have two people working together it goes much faster. We make a lot of these and freeze for future dinners. It is common for Italian families to get together and work all day making the raviolis.

Here is the recipe if you'd like to give it a try. I also have links below to some of the places on The Hill- they do have on-line ordering and recipes!

The Recipe Ingredients

To make the dough:

3 1/2 cups flour
3 eggs
3 tablespoons salad oil
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt

To make the filling

1/2 pound venison
1/2 pound pork
1/2 cup chopped onions
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup chopped carrots
Salt and pepper
1 1/2 cups cooked, chopped spinach
4 eggs
1 cup grated Parmesan
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups milk
4 cups seasoned bread crumbs
Parmesan cheese to sprinkle
Ravioli tomato based sauce, for serving
(We use Louisa's)

For the dough: In a large mixing bowl, add all of the ingredients, and mix until the ingredients come together to form a dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 to 15 minutes. Wrap in plastic wrap and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

For the meat filling: combine the venison, pork, onion, celery, carrots, salt, and pepper in a roasting pan and roast until cooked through, about 1 hour. Let cool.

Add the spinach, then grind ingredients in a meat grinder with a fine grind. Add the eggs and cheese, and mix well, to create a paste-like texture.

Roll out the dough on a floured surface using a rolling pin. Make a large, very thin layer of dough. Spread out a thin layer of filling on half of one side of the dough, using a spatula. Fold the dough end over the filling side of the dough.
Cut ravioli out using a ravioli cutter.

Place on a cookie sheet and freeze until hard if you don't want to eat them right away.

Remove from freezer and drop into boiling water until the raviolis begin to float.
Cover with sauce and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

We based our recipe off a St Louis favorite from The Hill which is a well established Italian neighborhood filled with bakeries, groceries and restaurants. You can find the beef/veal based recipe here.

Some favorite places on The Hill (some links have recipes and you can order products on line!)

There are so many more fabulous places here, too many to mention all of them, and some don't have websites. We live pretty far away from The Hill so we don't get there often, but when we do we're sure to pick up freshly made crusty bread, their olive salad, the wonderful cheese and garlic blend that bakes onto the thinly sliced bread to make a bubbly coating, tuna, pastas, etc. The groceries have beautiful gifts as well.

Di Gregorio Foods
Volpi Foods
Vitale's Bakery
Rigazzis (the home of the fishbowl beer and the most amazing toasted ravioli, very different than what you buy in stores)

I have to mention my all time favorite restaurant for toasted ravioli, although they are not on The Hill. Rich N Charlie's is right up there. My husband and I have eaten there ever since we started dating back in the 70's when I was 14! All these years later they are still producing some fantastic toasted ravioli and one of the best salads you will ever eat- full of artichokes, red onions, Parmesean and homemade dressing.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Back to My Block of the Month Quilt

Well, I took a break from my original block of the month quilt, in fact my very first quilting attempt of any kind. It was funny (but not at the time) because I thought they would teach me how to quilt! No, that's a separate class, one I had not signed up for. Oh, and I didn't sew, at all. I could barely hem jeans. After lots of stress and tears my husband, the carpenter-cabinet maker, finally got angles and squaring up through my head and it's been hunky dory ever since. You Tube is also a great friend, so full of demos!

The block of the month covered making only the 9 blocks you see in my photo. These are the squares that surround the very scary center block. The block you see as the center is part A and that is as far as the class went. Now this block will be surrounded by flowery crown looking pieces and then a border for the last section. There's a photo later on. It is complicated with templates and paper piecing plus Y seams which I have never done. I put it off, and put it off and put it off. I got very good at delaying this block. Oh no, I didn't have the center block turned properly in my photo but no matter, you'll see in the package photo below. There must be hundreds of flying geese for the sashing!

These blocks have much greater detail and require some real thought to put together. This block alone has 70+ pieces. Patience is required. I measure and then measure again with a seam ruler just to make certain I cut correctly. I will apologize for how wrinkled everything is. I have each block folded and labeled in a zip lock bag but didn't want to iron it all for the photos.

This is what it will hopefully look like in the future. I sure hope the finishing packet has enough fabric. There are no cut sheets to tell me how to lay out the fabric so I'm just keeping it as tight as possible using the least amount of yardage. I often cut out paper blocks and lay them out to get a good visual. I will start to do a little of this at a time, treating it as if the BOM was still in sessions. In between I'll try my hand at quilting my last kid sized project. I also have my winter disappearing nine patch to farm out to the long arm quilter. That's just too big for my machine!

This was a great experience but looking back I must have been out of my mind to tackle a BOM for my very first project. I suppose my reasoning was "it's just a 12 inch square, I can do that!" Well, I can and if I can, so can anyone else that is thinking about beginning to quilt. So for any of you out there who are hesitating, just sign up for a class and get quilting!

image credit

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Ready for the Quilting

I hid out in the girl cave this morning sewing the last two pieces of the border onto my kid sized quilt. I have the backing picked out so it will be pieced on the top but take on a completely different look on the back, sort of reversible. It was an easy pattern (until I made my bad cut!!!)


**What color thread to use for the quilting - I had a suggestion from one of my favorite quilt bloggers. She said black, and I was hesitant at first but then again, it will really break up the big, lighter solids. I really need a nice pattern in them. I think black might be my choice; however, the border wasn't on at that time.

**Do I change the thread for the border, using white or pink? How do I change it there? Won't I have to back stitch with the machine so it won't pull out?

**Do I try it myself? I've only quilted table runners and then it was straight lines. If I make a pattern how do I "draw" it on so I can follow it? If I use black, it will be very obvious if I'm not good at the quilting. Maybe someone else should quilt it while I practice on a mug rug or place mat?

This is a photo of the backing along side the edge of my pieced top.

Poor Taylor, she was all dressed down to go outside and try walking on the frozen "pond" in our driveway culvert-a few inches of water collected there and has frozen over. I made her stop and lay down so you all would have an idea of the size. She's a short 7 year old. I made her the big quilt for her birthday so I didn't pick kid fabric for this one.

I know the striped fabric is not straight, and I didn't intend to try to make it so. I normally avoid stripes for just that reason but it was within the collection of fat quarters so I just went with it. I like my corners pretty straight but not so concerned about the fabric direction.

Let me know what you all think about the thread color! In the meantime I'll check around You Tube for quilting techniques!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Heartsaver/AED Classes (CPR and Defibrillators)

My husband and I are now certified through the Heartsavers/AED program thanks to the Eureka MO Fire Department. This means that we have the basic knowledge to start CPR and use the AEDs (automated external defibrillators). Using training dummies, we practiced AED operation (using trainer devices) which is used in conjunction with CPR.

Even if you have been CPR certified in the past, it is worth a refresher because there are updated 2011 instructions. You can see a demo in the video above; however, our trainers said that checking for a pulse is no longer necessary. Studies indicate that people were taking too long to find the pulse at the expense of chest compression.

The new instructions begin with compression followed by breaths, in our case using special reusable masks with one-way breathing tubes. We were warned that during a heart attack, while receiving CPR, most victims vomit. You will want the mask. A one-time use only mask that folds up is also available. Since we are CERT trained, we will get the full mask and keep in our bags. They also advised that it will help to protect us, as first responders, from disease. Even small children are carriers of hepatitis or other communicable diseases.

It is hard work performing the chest compressions. You have to get a 2 inch compression for thirty compressions very quickly followed by a couple of breaths, enough to raise the victim's chest. They recommend keeping the beat to the song, Stayin' Alive, in your mind for the proper rate. You need to maintain this compression/breath technique until the AED can be hooked up to analyze the heart. It will provide verbal instruction the entire time, warning when to stay clear and when to administer the shock. Any bystander can operate it. It may then instruct you to resume compression/breaths until official help arrives.

I hope we won't ever have to use this, but just in case we want to be prepared.

American Heart Association CPR

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Whole Cutie Bran Muffin Recipe

Mom makes these muffins using WHOLE clementines (Cuties)- peel and all. Everyone seems to love them so I'm sharing with you all .

Clementine Oat Bran Muffins

1 Cup all purpose flour
1 Cup whole wheat flour
1 3/4 Cups oat bran
1/2 Cup nonfat dry milk
1/4 Cup flaxseed
4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

2 Cups shredded carrot
2 Cups chopped granny smith apple
1 Cup rasins

1 Cup fat free milk
1/4 Cup canola oil
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large egg whites
1 thin skinned orange unpeeled and quarted
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 teaspoon baking soda

cooking spray

Preheat oven to 375.
Combine first 8 ingredients in a large bowl stirring with a whisk.
Stir in carrot apple and rasins.
Combine milk, oil, vanilla, eggwhites and orange in a blender or food processor until smooth. Make a well in the flour mixture and add the milk mixture
Stir just until moist.
Fill muffin tins near the top
Bake for 20 minutes until spring back in the center when touched.
calories 114

Cutie Info

Cuties Photo Link

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Processing the Pork - 220 lbs

We have spent the last two days processing the 220 lbs of pork we picked up from the butcher on Friday, a hog raised by friends from church. We choose to process this ourselves, it saves money plus it teaches the techniques that most of our grandparents took for granted but we have all but lost over the last 50 years or so. You can't let that type of knowledge die, it may come in handy when you least expect it.

For background, we do not live on a farm although we have five acres and some chickens for eggs. We are about an hour from the city proper and perhaps 20-40 minutes from suburbia, depending on how suburban you get, but we were raised in town. Money is tight in this economy and carpentry is not the best occupation to have right now, thankfully I also work outside the home and we can scrape by, but we are careful. We estimate this pork will cost us, include hog and butchering, $1.45 per pound give or take. I just saw bacon in Schnucks grocery for over $6, and I believe it was less than a pound. Pork steaks on sale are about $1.89, sometimes over $2. Pork Steak, for those of you not familiar with it, is a well known St. Louis cut using the shoulder or butt meat. You BBQ it slowly, the slower the better, maybe six hours with indirect, extremely low heat. They actually fall off the bone.

Now that you have some background, here we go. The photo above is one of the two long cut hams. It includes the back legs down to the hock which is just above the feet. It is attached because it will be used to hang the hams, making a Country Ham, like the kind you see unrefrigerated and wrapped in burlap. It will mold but that is cut off before eating. Keeping the hock attached helps to prevent something called bone sour which is when the meat begins to rot before the cure can work. It must be kept at a particular temperature during curing. This is an experiment for us so we will have to test for bone sour before we can eat the ham.

The same ham is used to make the normal city ham, quick cured and not aged.

Morton Salt Site

Combination Cure for Hams: Wet and Dry to lessen the chance of bone sour
Morton Smoke Flavored Sugar Cure for Long Cut Hams
Morton Sugar Cure for the picnic hams, bacon and jowls
Shoulder: No cure, smoked.


Cure on the long cut hams.

Inject the picnic hams. We are making our city hams out of the picnic hams, although you typically used the long cut piece with the hock removed.

Cure on the picnic hams

Set them on a metal try and wrap all in plastic. Store in fridge for 5 days, take out and put on more cure and then put back in fridge for 35 more days. Remove and soak in water, dry and replace for another 20 days for salt equalization so the salt is distributed evenly through the meat.


Shoulders were smoked for 12 hrs and then completed in the oven overnight at 225 degrees F.

Removed and pulled.

Very tender.

All that is left of it is a small bone. Here is a bone compared to the other shoulder.

Here is the large bowl after pulling one shoulder.


Bacon- look how meaty.

Side view

The bacon is double stacked next to each other with jowels in front. We smoked the bacon last year but we will just cure it this time. The jowels will be salted and smoked along with the hocks. The meat on it is incredible. I can't find packaged bacon anywhere with as much meat as this has.

The bacon was cut into about 1 to 1 1/4 lb packages, cured and packaged "skin" side down. It will be refrigerated for 14 days- about 7 days for every inch thickness. It will be stored in the refrigerator with the hams. This is the dedicated curing fridge we brought back from my grandmother's house after she passed away. We can monitor the temperature and make sure it's optimal since it's not opened and closed or additional items placed in it.


The jowls weighed in at 3 lbs each, cut into smaller sections.

The hocks are between the feet and the long part of the long cut ham. There's a link to a diagram below. The hocks were left on the long cut rear leg hams but removed from the front legs.


We'll grind the sausage, trimming the various pieces of large amounts of fat but making sure there is enough to add the flavor. If properly cooked, most of the fat melts out.

We have about 15 lbs of sausage meat. We will package this up in pound packages and make links if we want to later.

Tomorrow my husband will spend the day vacuum sealing.


Raised by church acquaintances who have a farm so they grow their own feed as well. It weighted out at 301 lbs before butchering, 220 was butchered weight. Some people believe the hog should not be so large, large equaling more fat; however, the farmer wife said this is exactly what you want. More fat on the hog- good fat-equals better taste. The big pork producers try to lean up the pig which affects flavor, not to mention whatever hormones might also be going into it that you don't know.

two long cut hams 25 lbs each
two picnic hams are 7 lbs each
shoulders are 11 lbs meat- after cooking: pulled pork
hocks - 2 for a total of 6 lbs
bacon about 1 1/4 packets for about 20-22 lbs total
neck bones
jowls - 3 lbs each for a total of 6 lbs
sausage meat from the misc parts- 15 lbs

We did not get (some by choice):
head- except misc meat from within the head such as jowels or sausage meat
feet (they are prohibited from law)
fatback- we will ask for this next year
Internal organs for casings, chitterlings, and other things many would find sort of gross but are commonly eaten.

The butcher shop is a family owned, very rural operation. The entire family is excited that someone is taking an interest in processing meat like in the old days, in fact they have offered any help or assistance we may need. We would like to get the food grade bags like they use rather than wrapping with a cling wrap.

link to pig parts diagram British and American

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Guess What I Found in the Bottom of the Freezer? . . . . . . . . . . . . (plus Freezer Organization)

Have you ever cleaned out the deep freeze after several years? Really, truly cleaned it by taking everything out? We did just that today, preparing for the 220 lbs of pork my husband picked up at the butcher shop. He had the butcher block the hog out (cutting it up into specific large pieces) so he could do the curing and smoking to make bacon, hams, pulled pork plus neck bones, ribs, sausages, loins and hocks. I'll post more on that later.

While we were cleaning it out we discovered about a hundred Popsicles and freezer pops that had fallen down to the very bottom over the course of time. We must have purchased them over and over thinking that we were out! Well, Taylor certainly is well stocked for summer now. This is a shop sink, large enough to easily wash a Cocker Spaniel, so it's deep. And halfway full.

While we were at it:

We had to get this deep chest freezer under control- too much, too messy. Tubbies to the Rescue!

A friend's son had the idea to purchase tubs and segregate the types of frozen food. Pork, Beef, Chicken, etc. It's worth a shot. The tubs may break from the cold but if it works, we will investigate freezer quality tubs. I hear so many people complain about their chest freezers that there is surely a market for this type of organizational system.

Tub 1: Pork products.
Tub 2: All other red meats
Tub 3: Lunch meat/odds and ends

Hanging Bins: Four- one holding turkey stock, three others with smaller items.
Lower section: flours and sugar. Full chickens. Vegetable bags. Popsicles!!!!!

Not everything can fit into the tubs, at least not what we are currently processing, although the big hams will be hung. You can make out the top of the tub just beneath the product on the right side of the freezer.

Someday I may be able to eat some of this, you see I (almost) fell in the garage while stepping over some melting, icy gunk that was dripping from my car. I caught myself but with a huge jolt which somehow knocked my jaw out of alignment. I keep replaying it over and over trying to figure out how this happened. All I can determine is that my own shoulder came up and hit my bottom jaw on the right side only. It hurt my jaw plus my ear. I keep having to pop my ear to relieve pressure. At first, I could not close my mouth all the way and talking was limited (much to my husband's delight- I talk a lot).

I'm a chicken when it comes to mouth pain, except for root canals which I find to be a breeze and typically do on my lunch hour. I'm giving it until the end of the weekend to get better before I see a doctor - or dentist. It's a little better, at least I can touch my teeth together in back now but chewing is out of the question. I do think that I can live on scrambled eggs, soups,pudding and yogurt if need be! I really don't want some evil doctor pulling my lower jaw down hard enough to realign it, at least not unless I am completely sedated, for days.

Watch for a post on the pork processing. We have a couple of refrigerators full and more on the smoker. Now I'm off for a nice batch of scrambled eggs!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Snow Relaxing Today

This is what it did today.

Not much snow, shouldn't be a problem, right? Oh so wrong. The little bit of snow melted and flash froze to ice as hundreds and hundreds of motorists were making their way to work today. Most of our major highways were shut down at one time or another. Exit and entrance ramps were at a standstill. The radio stations were reporting car, truck and tractor trailer accidents every few minutes including a 17 vehicle pile up.

Granted this photo was taken early, we ended up with just a little more than this but it was coupled with high winds that caused some almost white out conditions. We live on a ridge top and the hill going down is steeper than it appears. I had to go down in 4WD low range, in first gear. That was the easy part.

After 45 minutes I was able to travel all of 6 miles. Six. There is a tiny hill in Pacific, more of a slope, that cars could not get up, particularly the rear wheel vehicles. They were sliding backwards into oncoming traffic. I called my husband, who was also on the road,and said I was bailing out at the sand plant, the last opportunity to turn around before I hit the hill. Another 45 minutes later, dodging vehicles strewn about the roads, I was home, parked and changing into comfy clothes. I powered up the laptop, logged into our network and put on my Out of Office message.

Now what? My husband is a great vacation day taker. If it's nice he fishes. If it's nasty he might read a book, watch a good movie, nap or see if the neighbor is about. Not me. I have to do something.

What did I do?
*Washed the dishes
*put out the bird feeders
*put out food for the stray cats
*sewed up the three sections of my quilt
*Washed and dried the black fabrics for my quilt border and backing
*Organized my portion of the closet segregating the bad, donate and items for potential repurpose. This is no small task, our bedroom is on the second floor and the closet was built to run along the staircase so it is probably 7 x 16 with shelves along one whole wall, upper and lower racks on the other and a small full length rail. Then we have two rolly bins for socks, underwear etc. We have our clothes plus sheets, towels and racks for books, hats, scarves, etc. above the bins.
*took all my clothes off the closet shelves for refolding and stacking
*Did several additional loads of laundry and put some away

*I went through some of my scraps-I want to make those wonky squares sometime. I want to make those cute quilt houses too.
*I sorted through some charm squares but I need more maroonish colors to try out my little twister.
*I turned on tv and watched some home makeovers, not that mine is getting made over. I'd just like it finished.
*I looked out the window, down into the woods, and saw a Rottweiler running along the deer trail. That was unusual, we don't really have too many stray dogs out here.
*Sorted and organized books that were laying out

What a vacation day! I sure hope the weather is better tomorrow, this vacation is killing me!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Making Progress

Now that company has departed I had a few minutes to sew up this quick little fat quarter quilt- remember, the one I made the bad cut on (this one) . I got these fat quarters months ago when my quilt shop had a clearance sale. That means I could not replace the three that I cut improperly- three because they are stacked when cut. Cut one wrong, cut three wrong. That's the last time I do that! I had pieced them together using bits of the coordinating fabric. It won't be perfect but what the heck, it's just something fun to do. It looks better in real life than in this photo. The light green has polka dots and the yellow actually has little stripes running through it, sort of tone on tone.

I sewed the three sections together sideways and now need to sew those larger three sections together then put my black border fabric in the wash so it won't bleed all over everything the first time this is cleaned. I'll have to wash the backing too since it is dark.

It's Wednesday which means my quilt shop stays open past 4, long enough for me to stop by on the way home from work. My car tends to automatically exit the highway each and every Wednesday for a quick chat and perhaps a small purchase. Today I needed the border and backing. An added plus is my monthly coupon which covered 20% off on any fabric containing both black and white.

She had some coordinating fabric from the same line as a piece or two that I have. I had wanted to use the black, small flowered material for the outer border but the pink polka dot will do, maybe even better because it will make it seem like a lighter quilt. However, I found the sale fabric with these really big, pretty mums for the backing. If I don't like the front when it's completed I know I'll like the back. The pink polka dot might be used for the binding too.

The pattern is a small quilt, kid sized, but since Taylor got a BIG one, I just thought I'd make this just because.

As I have been collecting bits and pieces of fabric I came across these pretty selections that will become something small but fun. Anyone have any ideas?

quilt pattern image credit