Beans, Beans, the Magical…..

They’re not a fruit. Can we all agree that whoever started that song was completely left-field?

But they certainly are magical. Just a half cup cooked beans provides 8 grams of fiber and 8 grams of protein according to the United States Department of Agriculture. And just like the color black, they go with nearly everything. In a later post, I will show you how to make delicious black bean brownies (my favorite!!), just to prove how versatile and delightful they are.

More often than not, the easiest way to get them into dinner is by opening a store-bought can and dumping it all into the pan. Of course, I’m not throwing shade on you non-frugal folks out there….okay, maybe a little. But its very well-meant, I promise!

Excepting a very brief raw-diet phase, I’ve never been hugely into dehydrating. But when I started running out of storage options for my millions of pints of beans, I had to get creative. Thus we have the dehydrated bean!

In short, here is the equation for dry to wet to dehydrated.

WP_20160713_13_27_06_Pro
6 cups dry = 7 pints wet-canned = 4 cups dehydrated

Still not convinced? Okay, here’s how I figure it works in the long run. You take 6 cups of dry beans which yields either 7 pints of canned beans or 4 cups dehydrated beans. I don’t know about you, but 4 cups dry-weight is a heck of a lot easier to store than 7 pints of water weight!

But, whether you like wet or dehydrated, I’ll show you how I do it both ways.

Canning Beans

You’ll need:

  • Slow Cooker
  • Pressure cooker
  • Pint or quart jars with lids and rings
  • 6 cups dry beans, sorted and rinsed
  • water to cover beans by 2-3″
  • salt (1/2 tsp per pint or 1 tsp per quart)
  1. Toss those rinsed beans in the pot and cover with water. Cook on high 3 hours, then low overnight (about 8 hours) stirring once or twice to check how they’re plumping up.
  2. The next day, get your canning pot full of boiling water and sterilize those jars! Get a few quarts hot in your pressure cooker too, it’ll save ya time.
  3. I like to spoon my beans into the jars leaving 1 1/2″ headspace (with 1/2 tsp salt) and then come back around with ladles of the “bean juice” to take it up to 1″ headspace (I’ve used plain water before instead of bean juice and it greatly changes the flavor for the worst–don’t do it!). No matter how cooked you think your beans are at this point, they’re still going to absorb more water while being pressure cooked.
  4. Wipe the rims, then lid ’em up and load your cooker. With the lid on, let steam escape for a full 15 minutes before adding the weight (according to your altitude of course). For me, I cooked my pints for 75 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure.WP_20160711_13_27_59_Pro
  5. Be sure to let everything cool before taking the weight off, before opening the pot and always let your jars come to room temperature before removing the bands and testing the seals. With any luck, they will have all sealed and you can safely store these in a cool, dark area for a year (if they last that long).

Now, if you want to be really cool like me, you can dehydrate your beans instead…

Dehydrating Beans

You’ll need:

  • Slow cooker
  • Dehydrator
  • Parchment sheets or jelly sheets provided by your dehydrator manufacturer
  • 6 cups dry beans, sorted and rinsed
  • Pint or quart jars with lids and rings
  • Blender or food processor (a bean masher works well, too)
  1. Toss those rinsed beans in the pot and cover with water. Cook on high 3 hours, then low overnight (about 8 hours) stirring once or twice to check how they’re plumping up.
  2. The next day, using a few ladle scoops at a time, puree the beans adding bean juice very slowly to make a thick pancake-batter consistency.
  3. With your dehydrator trays lined with parchment or fancy special liners, spoon out about 3/4-1 cup of bean paste and spread evenly.
  4. I have a Nesco dehydrator which told me to set the temp for 145*, and I let it go about 24 hours, rotating the trays and flipping some of the thicker chunks every few hours.
  5. Once everything feels really brittle and you’re confident the bean paste is dry, take it all out into a big bowl and let it cool. I crunched it up a bit before tossing the lot into the blender again. This final step will help to ensure even water absorption so your beans aren’t lumpy when you re-hydrate them.
  6. Place your bean crumbles into a clean quart (or pint) jar and refrigerate.

From here you could use a food-saver jar attachment with those neat oxygen absorbers, but it wouldn’t make sense for me because we go through beans so fast I’d never be able to dehydrate them quick enough to keep them on the shelf! But if you do want to preserve them like that, you’d be best off using jelly jars or pint jars (jelly jars make the perfect portion for a meal for two).

To re-hydrate your beans, use a two-to-one portion of water to beans. I find that using boiling water works best, letting the mixture sit for 5 minutes then microwaving for two minutes.WP_20160713_13_27_21_Pro

So far, this is the best method for my family. This quart jar in the picture didn’t even last two weeks!! Yes, it is an extra step and that extra step does use more electricity, but these beans sure do taste better than store-bought and you can bet they’re cheaper too.

Have you dehydrated beans? How did they turn out?

Love,

Betty XOXOXOXOXOXOXO

Out Sick

Well, not really “out sick”, but I’ve definitely been very overwhelmed in the last few months. Little E, although amazing in every way, has proven to be a lot more than I thought I could handle. Not to begin a lesson in parenting, but seriously–NEVER underestimate the ability of a 0-8 month old to absorb your energy in every aspect of life. She still isn’t sleeping through the night, so you can imagine my reserves have been quite low for a long while now. And now with another little one on the way — SIGH — time to move on!

Since my previous posts in February and March, a great deal has happened here on the homestead. The chicks all hatched healthy and happy and are with their new family. Our own were unfortunately eaten by a combination of raccoons and a fox so all we have left is the Muscovy duck. The newest piggy made her debut as the main course for our traditional Fourth of July party (and was very tasty). The garden, though alive, is quite choked with weeds that I can never manage to stay on top of (I blame pregnancy). Hubby and I cut down our one apple and three pear trees with the sad lot only giving us 23 itty bitty pears.

Its been a weird few months, and I dearly miss my Rex (Barred Rock rooster). But life goes on! I’ve been trying to work more and more on food preservation and frugality with our limited grocery budget so you should expect to see some posts of that nature coming soon. I promise not to publish any of my horrible cooking recipes that I swear Hubby only eats out of sympathy for me. Any requests for posts are gladly welcome!

 

Love,

Betty XOXOXOXOXOXOXO

WP_20160717_19_14_11_Pro
Little E loves to help with dinner prep ❤

DIY Seed Growing Mat: Part 2

Continued from the previous post, here are a few more things you will need to finish your seed growing mat (very sorry about the delay in posting!!):

DSCN0155
I love my new box cutter from Hubby!

 

  • beginning of pad from Part 1
  • duct tape
  • box cutter or knife
  • cardboard boxes
  • waterproof cover
  • seeds
  • seed growing pods
  • potting soil

With your lights settled into the channels, lay down and tape together your deconstructed cardboard boxes. They should reach edge to edge on your mat surface so you don’t get plastic melting onto a light bulb. Then, cover the whole set up with your water proof covering–I had a medical tarp and it works perfectly. Then all that’s left to do is fill your pods with soil and seeds and give it all a gentle spritz with a water bottle. This is where I really have to practice a lot of self-control, but a very helpful post from The Country Basket taught me that the soil just needs to be moist or damp–NOT WET–for the seeds to sprout and take root. Later comes the actual watering, but for now just spritz the soil to keep it damp.

The materials I have used for this project were all free minus the pack of foam. Sure, you could make a really awesome version with all brand-new and longer lasting materials or buy manufactured heating pads, but if you already knew what you were doing, you wouldn’t be here reading my blog would you? Cardboard combusts at around 475 degrees Fahrenheit, Styrofoam is around 375, and standard indoor Christmas lights only reach 240 degrees if you have a ton of them strung together. I only have four strands and since the surface only gets about as warm as the top of my dryer in the middle of a cycle, I’m not too worried about leaving it on overnight. To be safe, I keep all other combustibles away from the unit and I swear on all things beautifully handmade that I will remove this post and warn all posterity in the event that anything catches fire. That being said–happy sowing everyone!!

Love,

Betty

XOXOXOXOXO

 

P.S. Since drafting this post, I had a question on the safety of chemicals being leeched into the air from the Styrofoam heating up. I dug around a bit and although I could not find any substantial evidence on temperatures and toxicity, I do recommend that you keep your growing mat out of living areas. Mine is in front of the basement patio door and the door leading upstairs is always closed during the cold weather.

P.P.S. While using this unit, my seedlings grew in a very reasonable amount of time, all healthy and normal so this is definitely a Tried-and-True project!

Five Ways to Help New Moms

For all those mommas out there, this is for you. And more specifically for your friends who aren’t mommas (yet). In my life, I’ve never felt such difficulty expressing myself and my needs. And never before have I so badly needed to!

My first child, Little E, is now nearly three months old and its been a doozy of a trip getting here! I personally hated pregnancy–getting up every 20 minutes to pee, oozing from every orface, awkwardness in EVERY aspect of daily life–the list goes on. But advice in helping mommas through pregnancy is a totally different rant.

WP_20151220_13_59_42_Pro
Second day with Little E

Now, onto the real deal! This is my perspective on being a new mom so take into account that every woman is different and my shading of this experience is bound to be wholly opposite the next. But of all my research, there was nothing I found that could have prepared me (or my friends) for the rapidly-altered life I now lead.

So, let’s just say your friend just had a baby–congrats to her! And you did all of your “friend duties” like attending (even organizing) endless showers, listening to her cry over every tiny aspect of pregnancy, buying her chocolate then apologizing for making her “fat”, etc, etc. Now the real moment is here. They’ve left the hospital and are home. What now?

  1. Give them space. Momma and baby have a lot of bonding to do. Yes, they’ve been cohabiting for 9 months, but momma really does need to count those toes fifty times each day. She needs to try to get baby to look at her and respond to her voice and grasp her finger when a tiny hand goes flailing in the air. They need each second of each precious day together. It was not my experience, but for the mommas who plan to return to work, the mourning period has already begun and she is dreading the day she has to leave baby with someone else.
  2. Wait for momma to call you. Back to point one, momma is absorbed with her baby. If she gets one more call asking how she is or how the baby is or has she had the baby yet, she’ll slam her head into the wall and swear off human contact forever. No, seriously. I actually stopped speaking to some people when I finally had enough of the calls. When she is ready, she will call you. And be prepared for either a very short conversation or a very long, one-sided one in which she will tell you about that time baby sneezed and it was so cute!
  3. Do not insist on coming over unless you are there to work. I bought paper plates and disposable cutlery because lots of women seemed to forget that might be an option. At most, I only needed the pasta pot cleaned, so dishes really weren’t a problem. What I wish I could have asked for was for someone to come over just to vacuum the carpets. That’s all I needed most days with two dogs running around. Or to stay in the house for twenty minutes while I napped–with the baby next to me–and find something to do. There’s plenty to pick from in a modern house hold. Bring a casserole if momma didn’t make freezer meals. Make her a cup of coffee or tea. Straighten up her living room for when her family comes over (because they didn’t read this list). But above all else, keep it short and sweet. She will be embarrassed and I know I was too ashamed to ask. I would let people hold my baby while I ran about and got chores done (lifting buckets of feed and water and laundry that I NEVER SHOULD HAVE BEEN ALLOWED TO DO). Some days I’m amazed my incision healed at all.
  4. Do not insist on holding baby. Yes, you will be excited. Yes, babies are adorable and bring out the best in everyone. But early on, you really need to hold your tongue. Unless momma hands you baby, she is probably not too keen on having her little one in someone elses’ arms. Like any mother, I was very protective of Little E. But silly me, I would say stupid things like “no, really (name), its okay!” or “yes take her, you’re doing me a favor!” Don’t believe it. You make sure momma keeps her baby and sits on her fanny while you’re folding her giant mesh undies (see number 3). And if you see momma picking up anything even close to her baby’s weight, you need to take it from her and finish whatever she was doing. Expect a hormonal rant (and a big adult tantrum) about being a perfectly capable grown woman. Just deal with it and do it for her anyways.
  5. Be inviting and understanding. Babies are all kinds of craziness packed into a tiny pudgy body. They are loud, they sometimes smell, they pull hair, and they interrupt EVERYTHING. But your friend still needs you. Even if all those aforementioned things are a total nuisance, your friend’s life has changed dramatically for the better and she desperately wants you to be a part of it. That being said, be prepared! Call her up for a cup of coffee, see if she wants to rent a movie or go to a park for a little while. It might even make her day if you offer to change a diaper! Just make sure you are ready with a ponytail and Asprin for the inevitable tantrum. Nothing can make a new mom feel worse than thinking everyone is having fun until her kid ruined it all. Don’t blame the baby–its what they do! They can’t help it! Momma is new at this, and very likely unsure and insecure about her new role. Criticism will not earn you brownie points, so keep your laughter and opinions to yourself.

I’m sure there’s tons of other things I can list, but these are the main five. Can you think of any others? Are you a new mom? What was really helpful to you in the beginning?

Love,

Betty and Little E

XOXOXOXOXOXO

Blessings

Never in my life did I imagine I would be caretaker to a farm full of animals. When I was very little I wanted to be a veterinarian–until my dad told me I would have to give animals shots. I’ve always been a little soft-hearted I guess. But that’s also why I just can’t say no to more animals!

When Hubby and I started out, we had a handful of cast-off birds from friends and family plus the chicks we bought from the feed store. We were also gifted a pair of female goats as a wedding present and allowed to borrow their boyfriend. And living on our own out in the country, who doesn’t want a puppy? Then we were offered a great deal on a baby pig–why not get a pig? And why not get more chicks? And guineas? Then we surely had to take another puppy off someone’s hands. And of course we have room to permanently chicken-sit for Hubby’s father (his way of giving things to us).

Then came another pig.

And more chickens.

And then meat chickens.

And on and on it goes! Now I have two incubators of chicks, one tub of barred rocks, one hospitalized meat bird and a shed full of other birds! But instead of feeling overwhelmed, I feel so completely blessed! I’m not going to preach or go off on a rail about religion and responsibility, but I’m just so happy. I feel strangely fulfilled by having 89 little souls to watch over–plus my favorite addition, Little E! Life is so good!!

Love,

Betty

XOXOXOXOXO

DIY Seed Growing Mat: Part 1

Gosh I love the smell of melting styrofoam in the morning!….

Okay, not really. In fact, its pretty awful. But the upside of the horrible smell is the by-product.

Months and months ago I started planning my garden down to the minutia. But my enthusiasm subsided when the research brought to mind the wilted and often brown attempts at growing anything. Most of the time I over-water. In certain circles, I’m even known as the Cactus Killer! Other times, the poor things just don’t get enough heat or light. Lots of trouble shooting things gone wrong in the past took me to the millions of folks recommending a heating pad (with and without the assistance of a grow lamp–its up in the air on that one). But they’re SO expensive! No way I’m shelling out $25 for half the size of something I can make for free.

So, how can I up-cycle items already in my possession to generate a heated plank of water-resistant something-or-other?

The design is not my idea of course, but rather inspired by the other MacGyvers of the interwebs. So take my plan and make it your own!

You will need:

  • base sheet of foam/insulation plus one more sheet for the sides and rows
  • sharp knife/box cutter
  • old Christmas lights
  • duct tape
  • hot glue (I went through 8 standard glue sticks) and glue gun
  • tape measure
  • marker
  • coffee
  • 2 assistants (one fussy, the other furry)

My base was a sheet of 1/2 inch foam from Little E’s crib box (you never know when a giant sheet of foam will come in handy). Because the hardware store’s insulation was a bit too large for such a tiny project, I bought a pack of foam sheets that measured 48″x14.5″x3/4″.

I cut my sheet to fit a standard folding table at 55″x18.5″. With my pocket knife (because I can never keep track of a box cutter for some reason) I sliced a handful of 1.5″ wide strips from my foam pack. Here’s the layout after they’ve all been glued down.

DSCN0147

But when I set the lights into the channels, it was a pain in the butt to get them to lay flat. And since I already had the sheets of foam it just made sense to make another layer. So, here we are with another layer and all the lights lay delightfully flat!

DSCN0152

To be continued…

Move over, Clorox!!

“Move over, Clorox!” That’s what I shouted in my head when I first made these bad boys 5 months ago. Going off of all those other tutorials that tell you to cut a roll of paper towels in half and then stick the darn thing inside a wipe-dispenser container (which TOTALLY DOES NOT WORK), I decided to do the silliest thing I could and do it myself the hard way.

After cutting the roll in half with a bread knife (be careful, folks!!), I unrolled the whole bit and folded it accordion-style. The mixture of ingredients I used are adapted from a few different recipes. With a messy husband, two dogs and myself being a very messy cook, I’ve had plenty of time to get it right. WP_20151204_16_16_07_Pro

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 1/2 cup rubbing alcohol
  • 3 tablespoons Dawn dish soap
  • 7-10 drops essential oil

WP_20151204_16_22_09_ProNow make sure you do what I didn’t—mix the ingredients BEFORE you pour it in the bag of towels. Just a quick whisk or stir and you will be set to shine! I make a double batch of this and keep them in the Ziploc baggie until I need them. I keep the batch I’m using in an old Swiffer pad refill container and with all the extra water in there, I’ve never had them dry out.

**A quick note on essential oils: this recipe has a very strong smell to it, and not a pleasant one. Although I feel that the counters get plenty clean, the smell is overwhelming. I have tried to mask/alter this with some essential oils, but Thieves and Purification are the only ones that I feel work well with the combination of cleaning solutions. I tried lavender, lemon and lime in the past and very sincerely DON’T recommend them in this recipe. If you know of any others that work well, please let me know!

Have you tried anything like these? Do you get yours to fit in those darn canisters? What’s the trick?!

Love,

Betty

XOXOXOXO