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“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”  –  J.R.R Tolkien

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“We patronize the animals for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they are more finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other Nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time.”   –  Henry Beston, The Outermost House: A Year of Life On The Great Beach of Cape Cod

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Chocolate as Medicine

“Chocolate is a divine, celestial drink, the sweat of the stars, the vital seed, divine nectar, the drink of the gods, panacea and universal medicine.” – Geronimo Piperni, quoted by Antonio Lavedán, Spanish army surgeon,1796

I Like Chocolate.  A lot.

In fact, it was seeing chocolate chips vacuum packed in mason jars to extend their shelf life by years that convinced me that buying a jar attachment for my Food Saver was absolutely a wise use of my food storage budget.  After all, what’s the point of having a food storage that doesn’t include a boatload of chocolate?

Obviously, as much as I’d like to base my menu planning on the premise, “There are four basic food groups: milk chocolate, dark chocolate, white chocolate, and chocolate truffles,” (Anonymous) I am now old enough to know that I have to eat vegetables at least once a week.

Imagine my delight, then, to find out that Chocolate is actually Good For You!

Did you know that Chocolate can be great for:

  • 1. Fighting oxidative stress
  • 2. Combating inflammation
  • 3. Lowering cholesterol
  • 4. Reducing blood pressure
  • 5. Warding off cognitive decline
  • 6. Improving cardiovascular health
  • 7. Reducing the risk of stroke

(Read more Here, Here, and Here)

Since I am at risk for each one of these medical issues, I obviously am in need of a daily dose of Chocolate.  Kind of like vitamins pills.  Or, an herbal elixir.  Only tastier.  Don’t you agree?  Just nod your head and say “Yes.”

Why, all this research into the health benefits of Chocolate?  Well, I found a recipe for Dark Chocolate Sorbet and tried it this week.  I liked it so much that I wanted to qualify it for regular consumption.

Changes I made to the original recipe are that I did not include the espresso or the alcohol. Neither coffee nor (drinking) alcohol are commodities in my family’s pantry.  The espresso might make a difference in the flavor but I am satisfied with the flavor without it. The alcohol was included in the original recipe simply to keep the sorbet from getting too hard. My sorbet was easily scooped straight out of the freezer so I don’t see a need for the alcohol.

Chocolate Sorbet

Chocolate Sorbet

This sorbet is Very rich and one small scoop is actually completely satisfying.  This (“one small scoop”) is Not a statement I have ever before used in relation to Chocolate.


Combine the following in a medium-sized saucepan:

1 cup sugar
2/3 cup baking cocoa (I used Hershey’s)
pinch of salt
1/2 cup semisweet (I used Nestle)
2 1/4 cups water

Stir mixture over medium heat until the chips and sugar are dissolved and it comes to a boil.  Remove pan from the heat and stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla.

Transfer the mixture to a heatproof bowl and refrigerate overnight or until thoroughly cold.

Pour the chocolate mixture into the freezer bowl of the ice cream maker and run for 25 minutes. The sorbet will be very soft.

Transfer to a storage container, and freeze for several hours to firm up.


One final statement:

“Other things are just food. But chocolate’s chocolate.” – Patrick Skene Catling

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The Things That Count

Not what we have, but what we use;
Not what we see, but what we choose-
These are the things that mar or bless
The sum of human happiness.

The things near by, not things afar;
Not what we seem, but what we are-
These are the things that make or break,
That give the heart its joy or ache.

Not what seems fair, but what is true;
Not what we dream, but good we do-
These are the things that shine like gems,
Like stars, in fortunes diadems.

Not as we take, but as we give;
Not as we pray, but as we live-
These are the things that make for peace,
Both now and after Time shall cease.

Clarence Urmy
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It Doesn’t Get Sweeter Than This!

My first, and only, experience with dehydrated watermelon happened about 15 years ago.  I remember being shocked to learn you could dehydrate watermelon and then amazed at how good it tasted.

With that experience in mind + the fact that J had a big ol’ watermelon in her refrigerator + an empty dehydrator sitting on my kitchen counter = Let’s try this next!

I found instructions that advised to cut the watermelon in large, thin slices and others that said to cut the watermelon in chunks.  So, I tried chunks.

Watermelon chunks ready for the dehydrator

Watermelon chunks ready for the dehydrator

And slices.

Thin slices of watermelon ready dehydrating

Thin slices of watermelon ready dehydrating

J did the cutting.  Then my eight-year-old grandson and I did a thorough seed removal as we loaded the trays.  The prep work really didn’t take too long – I’m sure that’s partly because the work was shared!

After 24 hours in the dehydrator, each piece was flipped over for another 24 hours (per instructions) of drying.  However, they were actually done after only another 18 hours.

Dehydrated watermelon!

Dehydrated watermelon!

It worked out that my son-in-law (A) was at my house when I deemed them ready-to-eat so he and I got to do the taste test.

WOW.  Amazing!

The watermelon’s flavor and sugar are concentrated into one sweet morsel and each piece produces an explosion of flavor in your mouth.  Even A was impressed.

I need another watermelon.

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Preparedness Journal – July update

I am much more satisfied with July’s events than with June’s disasters.

100 Provident Things in 1001 Days:

I added to my supply of home canned foods (#51).  Considering that I am also eating from that supply, having 365 jars on the shelf at one time is challenging (I doubt I even have 100 jars at this point).  Nevertheless, I added 4 pints of pickles (1 already used), 6 pints of pickle relish (1 already used), 23 quarts of peaches, and 10 jars of peach jam.

I acquired a dehydrator (#67) and immediately began using it.  I have two pints of dehydrated peaches vacuum packed and in the freezer.  There is watermelon currently in the dehydrator.  That will take a couple of days to dry.  I have wanted to try to dehydrate watermelon since I first tasted it more than 15 years ago.

Building my make-it-don’t-buy-it cooking skills (#24) is an on-going process. My most obvious experience this month has been with using fresh basil from my garden.  In addition to making Chicken with Peaches and Basil (J’s is much better than mine), I also dehydrated some basil using the microwave oven.  That was a fun experiment!  Now that I have the dehydrator, I could use it to dehydrate basil and other herbs; however, I was really impressed with the outcome of using the microwave.  It is best suited to processing small batches of herbs (I would never have more than a small batch to do) and it took less time (an hour or so) than the dehydrator would have needed (20-24 hours!).

It is so encouraging to be able to look back over the month and see that I have actually accomplished something worthwhile!

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Peach Week – Final Tally

It has been a tiring but fulfilling week of food preservation, Peach style.  Here’s the final tally:

68 frozen whole peaches
23 quarts of canned, sliced peaches
10 jars of peach jam
2 pints of dehydrated peaches (vacuum-packed with my Food Saver)
4 pints of frozen, sliced peaches (from a couple of jars that did not seal)
1 bright orange compost pile
and a sticky kitchen floor.

It was a lot of work to get from THIS

Peaches - lots and lots of peaches!

Peaches – lots and lots of peaches!


Lots of peachy goodness!

Lots of peachy goodness!

but certainly worth it to know I can have peaches throughout the winter.


I am a less wasteful peach peeler than I was last season.  (Yes, I peel peaches with a knife. I despise dipping them into hot, and then into cold, water to remove the skins as is popular with so many people.  It makes them slimy and hard to handle; plus, there are only so many pans of hot water that will fit on the stove!).  This year, I can peel the skin off with just the finest layer of flesh left on — you’d be amazed.  This is not as true when I have to wear a glove while I peel – made necessary when I sliced my finger with the knife on the fourth peach I peeled, on the first day of canning. {sigh}

My waste-not-want-not pride balloon was then thoroughly popped when I discovered an Amish recipe for Peach Peel Jelly.  This is made by cooking the peelings and pits, using a jelly bag to squeeze out every last drop of peachy goodness, and using the juice to make jelly.  Talk about reduce-reuse-recyle!  And here I was thinking I was hot stuff because I put my peelings in the compost pile instead of the garbage.

It is easier to peel a chilled peach than a room temperature peach.

Two batches of anything in one day is one too many for me.  There, I admit it: I am a canning wimp.

It helps to have a helper when stirring the jam:

My helper on jam making day

My helper on jam making day

Ok, so this wasn’t a new lesson, but I had to figure out a way to include this picture.

Cleaning up jam drippings is better than licking the beaters after making frosting.

Licking up the drippings was a task this three-year old was happy to take on

Licking up the drippings was a task this three-year old was happy to take on


For sliced, canned peaches, you need

17.5 pounds of peaches to make 7 quarts of canned sliced peaches (11 pounds for 9 pints);

6 peaches per quarts (3 per pint) – an average of 2.4 pounds per quart;

Visually, it takes two of these

Two big bowls of peeled and sliced peaches are needed for a full canner load of 7 quarts

Two big bowls of peeled and sliced peaches are needed for a full canner load of 7 quarts

to fill 7 quart-sized jars, which is one load in the water bath canner.

For jam, you need

3.5 pounds of peaches for one batch of jam – five 12-ounce jars.

It takes 3.5 pounds of peaches for one batch of jam

It takes 3.5 pounds of peaches for one batch of jam

For dehydrated peaches, it takes:

Two peaches to fill a tray in my dehydrator.


Two trays of dehydrated peaches will fill one pint-sized Food Saver bag.

Seal dehydrated peaches with the Food Saver and keep them in the freezer for extra-long keeping

Seal dehydrated peaches with the Food Saver and keep them in the freezer for extra-long keeping


I will post the recipes for the peach jam (low-sugar) and for the syrup used in the sliced peaches on my recipe page soon.



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life shrinks or expands

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Shameless Author Promotion – again

My daughter’s book, Keeping House,  is now available on Kindle and will soon be available in paperback.  I am very proud of her for accomplishing something she’s always wanted to do!

Keeping House, by E.T. Mills

Keeping House, by E.T. Mills

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Our New Toy, er, Tool

Peach Week continues and we are more than halfway through our pile o’ peaches.  So far, we have canned sliced peaches and frozen whole peaches.

Today, our new acquisition arrived:


Finally, we have a dehydrator!

I have to admit that I have been a  dehydrator snob my whole adult life.  I love the Excalibur dehydrator; however, now that I again live where a dehydrator is useful, I just could not justify the Excalibur price tag.  After wasting two summers pining after my “Ideal Dehydrator,” I realized I was being silly.

A preparedness group I follow on Facebook recently had a discussion about food dehydrators and there were so many positive comments about the Nesco dehydrators that I looked into their offerings.  As it turns out, the company has addressed the issues for which I had previously snubbed them.  Even better, the model I chose was on sale and J was willing to split the cost!  I’m willing to spend $35 to give it a try.  So, we ordered the FD-75PR, 600 watt, model on Saturday and it arrived in time to participate in our Peach Extravaganza.

No sense delaying …


Tonight we filled it with peaches.  It took about 4 peaches per tray and we had four trays ready to go in about an hour.

Our first batch is off and running!


I’m looking forward to my first taste test — in 6 to 16 hours.

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