Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Furry Visitors

My hubby and I went outside yesterday evening to water our plants in the garden. We noticed a cute little bunny eating grass in the yard right outside the carport. It was about 3 feet from the house, and barely flinched as my husband walked near it to take pictures. It's a very bold bunny, but his friend was more timid since he hopped near the cane fields. They aren't eating my plants but I only have cantaloupe and watermelon growing at the moment. They do the like the shade my fig tree offers them since I frequently see one sitting underneath it. I just thought it was so cute that I wanted to share the pictures we took. The rabbits are perfectly safe from us since we don't eat rabbit.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

TMR Frugal Living Tip #67

Today's thrifty living tip is turn down your water heater to 120-125 degrees. I have mine set to 125 degrees which I find is comfortable for us year round. Most people have theirs set at 130-140 which can burn small children. You can save an average of 4% for every ten degrees you lower the temperature. Another way to save energy costs is to wrap the tank with a thermal blanket which can be bought at most hardware stores. If you have an electric tank, then setting a timer will also further your savings. Timers won't work well with gas water heaters.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Refrigerator Sweet Pickle Chips

As promised here is a great recipe that I used to make sweet pickles. The best part is you can freeze them in a container which is a great way to use up cucumbers. This recipe is much easier since you don't have to mess with canning or jars. You just divvy them up in freezer containers. This would be a wonderful gift for anyone that loves homemade sweet pickles.

I have some of the ingredients pictured above, but not all of them. Here is the actual recipe which I used. This comes from a cookbook named 25 Years of Cooking; Women of the Farm Bureau. This cookbook has lots of really great recipes. I plan to use the Zucchini bread one from this book. My mother-in-law has used it so I know it's a very tasty bread.

7 cups of unpeeled cucumbers thinly sliced into chips
1 cup of chopped green pepper
1 cup of thinly sliced onion
1 tablespoon of salt

Stand 2 hours then drain

1 teaspoon Celery seed
2 cups sugar
1 cup vinegar

Combine and bring to boil. Let cool and cover slices. Refrigerate for 2-3 days and then put into containers. Pour juice to cover slices and thaw in refrigerator for 1 day before using.

As you can see below I sliced the cucumbers as thinly as I can like a chip. It's not always easy to cut thinly since it depends on the size of the cucumber. I did use chopped onion since I already had a couple of bags frozen. They will thaw out as you let them stand. I also have a picture of the bell pepper I cut. I do have a hand chopper that I use which makes them fine. I cut them up into smaller pieces which makes it easier to chop.

Now you can see that I have measured out 7 cups of cucumbers. I highly recommend tasting each one as you slice them. I had several that were very sour. You can use them I guess, but sour cukes don't taste good to me and are very bitter. I think when the vines are finishing up, the last few are sour. I had to compost them. I then add the onion and pepper. I just mix them up by hand. Then you add the tablespoon of salt. I prefer to just sprinkle it on top so I don't get too much in one spot. Now just let them sit on the counter or stove for 2 hours.

This next step is to make the syrup that you will pour over the cucumber slices. I usually make this in the last 10 minutes before draining off the water. It doesn't take long for this to boil, and I let it cool off for about 3-4 minutes. The reason I don't let it cool off too long is I found it thickens the longer it sits. You don't want the juice to thicken too much. I put 2 cups of sugar in a heavy saucepan. I have a Magnalite which works perfectly. Then I add the teaspoon of celery seed and finally the cup of vinegar. I used plain white vinegar. In the first picture you can see the sugar, and in the second picture is the result after it boils. You can see it looks like a syrup on the spoon. The celery seed just kind of sits on top. I think on the next batch, I'm going to just add the celery seed to the slices and then pour the syrup. At least it wouldn't clump when trying to scrape it out the pot. Make sure to drain off the slices before pouring the syrup mixture.

This is the final product. You will definitely want to use a bowl with a lid. I used a Tupperware bowl which worked perfectly. I let it sit for a few more minutes to make sure it's cooled off before putting in the refrigerator. I didn't have any problems with it smelling inside my fridge. You let it sit for 2-3 days before dividing into containers. The mixture does resemble more of a juice after it sat in the fridge. Just make sure to pour enough in each container to cover the slices. We were able to divide them into 3 small containers. It was a great inexpensive recipe to make. The cost of your cucumbers should be very little if you are using ones you grew yourself. I didn't grow any green peppers this year so I spent $0.66 for two of them on sale. My onions were free since they were given to me. I used 50 cents worth of cucumber seed and picked close to 60 cukes this year. So that's about a penny each. I think I sliced at least 5-6 cucumbers per batch. Each batch has cost me $1.10 which makes 24 oz or three 8 oz containers. The same size jar of pickle chips on sale is $1.69 or a little over $5 for the same amount. I'm saving $1.32 a jar this way, and my pickles are much tastier. I broke down the amounts so it could cost someone else less or more depending on the prices of your ingredients.

Cucumbers- $0.06 for 6
Bell Pepper- $0.33
Onion- $0 (free)
Sugar- $0.36 (2 cups)
Vinegar- $0.16 (1 cup)
Celery Seed- $0.18 (tsp)
Salt- $0.01 (tbs)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Lots of Cukes

I'm sorry I haven't posted in a few weeks, but I've been so busy gardening and end of school activities. Summer is definitely here with temperatures in the low 90's and very humid. I'm watering more with the hose pipe which I'm not overly thrilled doing since I've seen my last water bill. It's gone up almost $10 more than usual. We are getting rain, but not daily and it's usually a good shower that will keep my plants watered for a couple of days. We are only getting maybe one to two good soaks per week. I do plan on installing a rain barrel which will help.

In the above pictures you can see how many tasty cucumbers I've picked. I started picking them around the middle of May, and haven't stopped yet. I have picked well over 50 cukes in the last 3 weeks so those two vines are very prolific. I tried my hand at pickling them last weekend, and that batch came out very well. I'm going to make a double batch this weekend, and will share the process on my blog with pictures plus the actual recipe. I even shared them with a couple of family members that were very eager to try them. I am also going to make several loaves of zucchini bread which I also share on my blog.

I also wanted to update on my Roma tomatoes which aren't doing as well as hoped. I had an infestation from caterpillars to stink bugs. I was trying not to use pesticides but I did spray them last weekend with Seven which has helped some. I think I didn't act quickly enough so most of the fruit is damaged with holes and rotten. I have harvested about 30, but lost that many to bugs. I'm disappointed since I really wanted to make a big batch of tomato sauce. I'm still going to experiment with a small batch soon. My cantaloupe plants are flowering and really trying to vine out along with the watermelon plants. I will hopefully post some pictures this weekend. I'm very excited about how well the garden is doing overall, and we did expand it with a cultivator my step-dad lent me. I have zucchini to plant this weekend. I hope none of my readers mind the posts about my garden. It's a great way to save lots of money by growing your own food and to share with others.