Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Because I don't have a relevant picture....

...you get to see my little African Violet. It started out as just the two big leaves on either side. Now, as you can see, the left leaf is sprouting baby leaves. The amount of joy I get out of those itty-bitty leaves is almost embarrassing. (But they're so darn cute!)

On a completely different note, I'm a bit of a snob when it comes to jelly. Store-bought jelly will not do for my refined palate. Nor will just any homemade jelly. No, I want nothing to do with "normal" jellies such as grape or strawberry. Once, in a pinch, Mom bought some grape jelly from the store. My brother and I both turned up our noses at it. She's even made strawberry jelly; she gave it all away. We wouldn't touch it. Nay, there is but one jelly that will ever pass through these lips: homemade chokecherry.

Of course, this is not a jelly that one comes by easily. One must tromp up and down the road ditches in search of this fruit (which, by the way, is terrible straight off the tree; as the name would suggest, it's pretty bitter). They ripen in the heat of August, so harvesting these berries is not for the weak. I have many, um, fond memories of Mom, my brother, and I, getting gnawed to death by mosquitoes and who knows what else as we picked chokecherries. (These memories include a lot of yelling, as well. Me, at my brother, to quit bothering me; my brother, at me, to quit bossing him around; and Mom, at both of us, to shut up already and pick the damn berries so we could go home.) OH.....but the jelly that results.....MORE than worth the agony and annoyance of picking the berries.

So why do I soliloquize on the delight that is chokecherry jelly? Because I realized the other day that I don't have any. I'm going home this weekend, so I asked Mom if she'd set some out for me. She said she would, but also said she needed to make more. Fortunately, she's going to wait until I come home to make it. I helped her make jelly once, but I was probably 14 at the time, so I don't remember much. (Oh, and luckily we do not need to venture into the ditches of northeastern Nebraska: she has plenty of juice canned from the last berry-picking-extravaganza.) I'll try to capture some photo-documentation of the jelly-making process. And if you find yourself in the area, I'd be happy to share the "fruits" of our labor. (Ha! "Fruits"! I love puns.)

(I just googled chokecherry jelly and found this:

I don't know if you can read that (click the picture for the link). $8.99 for 11 oz. (AND it's listed under "gourmet foods". Who knew?) Clearly, chokecherry jelly is something that I can and should be marketing. Should you feel compelled to buy some, I'll sell you a pint for $5. (And I'm sure the orders are going to pour in, ha.)


Tonight's supper was "Lazy Golumbki", aka Crockpot Cabbage Casserole. The recipe follows; my comments are in italics.

2 pounds meatloaf mix (I had to google to find out what this is; apparently it's a mix of beef, lamb, and pork; I used hamburger.)
1 large onion, chopped (I used dried, minced onion, because it was all I had.)
3 garlic cloves, minced (I used jarred minced garlic. This is seriously the greatest convenience food I have ever bought. Well worth the expense.)
2 cans (15 ounces each) tomato sauce, divided
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dill weed
1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I didn't have this, so I subbed chili powder.)
2 cups cooked rice (I was short on time and didn't have time to cook it. I just dumped in one cup of uncooked rice. I reasoned that 5 hours in a crockpot should be plenty of time to cook it, and it was.)
4 bacon strips, cooked and crumbled (Didn't have time to fry bacon, so I didn't use this.)
1 medium head cabbage (2 pounds), shredded
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

In a large skillet, cook the beef, onion and garlic over medium heat until meat is no longer pink; drain. Stir in one can of tomato sauce and seasonings. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat: cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in rice and bacon; heat through. Remove from the heat. Layer a third of the cabbage in a greased crockpot. Top with half of the meat mixture. Repeat layers; top with remaining cabbage. Pour remaining tomato sauce over top. Top with cheese. Cook in crockpot on low for 4-5 hours.

This was actually pretty tasty. I think I'll make it again. It was certainly easy. As I mentioned up above, I did not cook the rice, and after making it this way, I definitely won't bother next time. The only thing I would change is the cooking duration: I started it about 12:30 and came home at 5:30 and it was pretty charred around the edges. Don't get me wrong, there was more than enough to eat; it was just the top layer, around the edges. But I think that if I were going to be home, I'd check this at 3 hours.