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Cucumber Overabundance

We have been blessed to overflowing with cucumbers this year.  I don’t know if the wet/mild summer is the reason, or if the Good Lord just saw fit to teach me how to make pickles.  😀

I’ve made pickles 4 times so far – two batches of bread & butter, 2 batches of dill.  I can’t say which is my favorite yet.  I’ve eaten a jar of both almost by myself!

The dill pickles I’ve been making are fabulous.  I found the recipe on RecipeZaar:  Blue Ribbon Dill Pickles .

Changes I made to the recipe:  I put a healthy dash of pickling spice in each wide mouth jar along with minced garlic (from a jar), dried dill weed and dried dill seed.

I also kept the brine boiling and filled jars, then put them in the canner as I went.  I followed directions listed on the website the first time and the jars didn’t seal as well (I suspect because the brine had cooled off too much).  Keeping the brine boiling worked much better for me.

Now…where’s my jar of pickles?  🙂

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Nation of Consumers

We looked at furniture recently – just to get an idea of what was available and price.  While looking at one store, we were told that there are only TWO furniture manufacturers left in the US.  Everything else is made overseas and shipped in.

We were disappointed in the selection available – everything was leather or microsuede.  The salesman said that they have manufactured furniture that is “universal” so that it can be shipped to Russia, the US, or wherever.

My concern is this – what do we make anymore?

(Bad decisions on the part of our elected officials doesn’t count here.)

We have become a nation of consumers, not manufacturers.

I have started paying attention, and it’s hard to find things MADE IN THE USA.  Items made in China may be cheaper, but they have put Americans out of work, not to mention the quality of items is horrible.  I blame myself just as much as everyone else.  Too often I have purchased based on price alone instead of thinking about what our money is supporting.

The question is – what do we do about it?

For myself, I am trying to make a concerted effort to buy items made here in the US.  With all of us pinching pennies, it’s not always easy.  I worry about what we will do when we no longer grow our own food (we are dangerously close to this already).

Will we become a Third World Country and other nations have to ship relief aid to us?

This has not happened overnight – it has taken decades of this slowly creeping into our way of life.  Pay attention to what you spend your hard earned money on.

Otherwise we may all be buying CDs to learn how to speak Chinese.

7 Layer Mexican Dip

Hubby’s birthday is tomorrow, so I thought I’d make him something extra special.  We all love this 7 Layer Mexican Dip – it’s easy to make and has a beautiful presentation.  I hope you enjoy it as well!

  • 1 large can bean dip (or 1 can refried beans)
  • 3 avocados, mashed & seasoned w/lemon juice, garlic salt, & Cavender’s Seasoning (or use a container of guacamole dip)
  • Mix together:
    8oz sour cream
    1 cup mayonnaise (I use Miracle Whip)
    1 package taco seasoning
  • 1 large bunch green onions, chopped fine
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped & seeded (or use cherry tomatoes – halved)
  • 1 can chopped ripe olives, drained
  • 6 oz cheddar or colby cheese, grated

On a large platter or shallow dish, spread in layers, in order given, starting with bean dip/refried beans.

Allow to sit for several hours or overnight before serving to allow flavors to blend. Serve with tortilla chips.

Our ROME UNDERGROUND VBS is this next week (July 13 – 17).  Prayers would be much appreciated.  This is this first time for our church to use this format, and I think the kids will love it.  We had a work day today and got almost all of the decorating done – had a wonderful turnout of helpers!

I know I’ve been AWOL a lot the past few weeks, but hopefully things will slow down soon.  🙂

Arkansas blueberries

We found a u-pick blueberry farm not far from us, and decided to get up early this morning to start pickin’!

We have 12 pounds of blueberries ready to go in the freezer.  For $1.00 a pound, you can’t beat it (and they are SO much better than the store bought or frozen ones!).

BTW, I think I may have sweat more than 12 pounds in the picking process, but it was so worth it!  YUM!

Blueberries, anyone?  😀

If you are looking for VBS snack ideas in general, please be sure to read my other post with lots of food suggestions.   🙂

Our church is doing Rome Underground this year, and I’ve done quite a bit of searching on the internet for food to fit in with the theme.  We feed our workers beforehand, and we also offer the kids a more “substantial snack” since many of them have not had supper before coming to church.

This year I decided to incorporate some traditional VBS fare along with some Roman-inspired food.  I told all of our workers that we’ll be expanding our taste buds!  😀

First, I’ll give you a run-down of what our menu will basically look like, then provide recipes for any particular dish.

1)  Quesadillas with hummus and veggies. Quesadillas made with fajita size flour tortillas, shredded cheese and taco meat – if you have large griddles, you can do 6 or so at a time – spray griddle with non-stick spray first to make the outside crispy.  After cooking, cut each one into 6 wedges using a pizza cutter.  These can be made ahead of time and frozen, then reheated to serve.  We also do some with just cheese.  Serve with a sauce on the side made from Ranch dressing and salsa.  Yum!

2)  Little sandwiches and tabouli.   The secret is to make the sandwiches several hours ahead of time – it really does make a huge difference.  For VBS (a crowd of 100 give or take a few), I use 8 packages of hamburger buns, 4 packages each of Oscar Meyer smoked turkey breast and honey ham, a package of sliced American cheese, and some toothpicks.  For each sandwich, use one slice each of ham, turkey, and cheese.  Put four toothpicks into the top of the sandwich and slice between them cutting the sandwich into fourths (each piece like a slice of pie sort of).  Put the sandwiches on a tray, wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for several hours.

3)  Chicken on a stick, Greek salad, kielbasa/cheese/crackers. The chicken on a stick is really just popcorn chicken threaded onto skewers (check Ebay or restaurant supply – we’re using the 4″ sticks, I think).  I plan on serving it with honey mustard on the side.  And lest you think I’ve lost my mind on this one, I will be buying the popcorn chicken from Wally World so I’m not standing on my feet for hours frying the little darlings up.  🙂  5 or 6 pounds of popcorn chicken goes a long way when you put 4 or 5 to a stick.   I’m not entirely sure about quantity on this yet – I plan on doing a trial run ahead of time with one pound to see how many we can make.

The kielbasa, cheese and crackers is simply Hillshire Farms kielbasa (sausage) thinly sliced with 1/4 slice of American cheese on top of a Ritz cracker.  You can make trays of this stuff very easily, and most everyone loves it.  It’s a good filler that tastes great!  Don’t make it up too far ahead of time or your crackers will go soggy.  You can chop everything and have it ready to set up assembly-line style when it’s closer to serving time.

4)  Macho Nachos with olives and pickles on the side. My version of Macho Nachos is chips with taco meat, cheese dip (made from 1 – #10 can cheese sauce and 1 can of rotel (undrained) ).  You can serve sour cream on the side if you like along with jalapeno peppers .  I cook the hamburger meat several weeks ahead of time, season with taco seasoning, and freeze until ready to use.  Crockpots work great to keep the meat and cheese dip hot.   Green and black olives along with sweet and dill pickles can be served on the side.

5)  Hot dogs plus any leftovers from the earlier part of the week.  Pan fry the hot dogs unless you want to grill them ahead of time.  Keep them warm in a crockpot as you’re serving.  Have ketchup, mustard, mayo (yes, some people like it on their dogs!) and relish handy.  Sometimes I make up another batch of sandwiches on closing night just in case we have parents who come and would like to eat too.  Sometimes we have a lot of leftovers from earlier in the week, sometimes there’s none.  Plan to have too much rather than not enough!

Desserts this year will be varied.  We’re having fig newtons, fruit salad, melon balls, pudding cups (#10 cans of pudding from Sam’s in individual serving cups and topped with whipped topping), popcorn, raisins, and possibly ice cream sundaes.

I’ve also asked any of our bread makers at church to donate homemade rolls if they’d like.  This will be part of the kids’ snacks each night.

We always have kool-aid slushies made from gallons of frozen kool-aid.  Let it sit out for a few hours ahead of time and chop up any remaining chunks of ice for an icy treat.  The kids LOVE these in the hot summer!

Iced tea is served nightly as well as water.

For the recipes:

Hummus – This is like a middle Eastern bean dip.  I use canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans), some of the liquid from the can, about 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 3 cloves minced garlic, parsley,  a good drizzle of olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and a healthy dash of cumin and black pepper.  Blend all of this together and serve with chips, crackers or vegetables (carrots, celery, cauliflower, broccoli, etc.).  Double or triple the recipe if needed.  Adjust seasoning to your taste.

Tabouli – Love this stuff!  It is a traditional middle Eastern salad which can be eaten alone or with crackers.  Below is the recipe as I received it, and I’ll tell you the modifications I made:

For a 1# bag of tabouli wheat (cracked bulgar wheat),  put it in a large bowl and run warm water over it to rinse it. Stir it around, let it sit a few minutes, stir it around again and then drain it.

Add:
1 1/2 cup olive oil
1 1/4 cup lemon juice
3/4 cup white vinegar  (I use less – just a good glug from the bottle)
2 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
2 tsp sea salt

Add chopped vegetables:

1 large cucumber
3 large plus 1 med. tomato
1 bunch small red onions
1 small white onion
2 bunches parsley

Now, I will confess I cheat a little here and use dehydrated onion and parsley both.  It just makes my life easier. 🙂  I like a lot of tomato and cucumber in mine.  If you see it’s getting too dry as it soaks up the dressing, you can add some water to it.  It shouldn’t be soupy, but it shouldn’t be bone dry either – just lightly moistened.  Best if you let it sit overnight before serving.

Greek Salad

3 tomatoes, chopped
1 or 2 cucumbers, chopped
8 oz feta cheese, crumbled
½ med. red onion, finely chopped
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp lemon juice
black pepper
dash dried oregano
dried basil
green olives

Combine tomatoes, cucumber, cheese and onion in a bowl.  Add olive oil and lemon juice, pepper, oregano, and basil.  Toss in a few olives.  Adjust seasonings to taste.   Easy to double or triple.

Fruit Salad – Just a simple mixture of sliced strawberries, grapes (red and green) cut in half length-wise, pinepple chunks, chopped apples, and mandarin oranges.  You can add a some sugar if needed (a couple of tablespoons or so).  For adults, I like to sprinkle a few chopped pecans in the mix.

Hope this helps to inspire your food ideas for VBS!  🙂

Er…in my case, rice, rice everywhere and none to cook with!

I learned a valuable food storage lesson recently.  I normally keep a quart jar of long grain white rice in my pantry so there’s not a huge bag open at one time.  I had already put most of the 50 pound bags we’d purchased into mylar and buckets.

Hence, the problem.

When I ran out of rice in the pantry, I quickly realized I had two options:  open a brand new 5o pound bag of rice or break into my long term food storage buckets.

Needless to say, I opened a 50 pound bag and spent the next half hour breaking it down into bags to vacuum seal.  This time, I did smaller bags of 4 to 5 pounds per bag.  Major “duh” moment on my part for not thinking of this sooner.  Since we are using/rotating most of our food storage, it just makes sense to have smaller amounts more accessible.

Lesson learned!

Don’t put all of your food storage into mylar and buckets!  There is such a thing as “long term” food storage, and then food that will be rotated more quickly.   I knew this already, but putting it into practice is another thing entirely.  🙂