In the Kitchen with Grandma Jo

I have been baking and cooking for the upcoming Holidays. Nope, definitely not good for the waist line as I do test them all.   This ritual reminds me of my Grandma Jo’s kitchen, always full of fantastic smells and always cookies in her cookie jar. There are times when I feel her in my kitchen shaking her finger at me for taste testing.

My latest culinary creation was “Cranberry-Ginger Chutney”

The ginger gives the cranberries a little kick. Here is a single batch of the yummy goodness. I double the recipe and bottle then freeze (leave room at the top for expansion) so I can have some all year around.

1 bag cranberries

2 cups spiced apple cider

1 cup brown sugar

3/4 tsp grated FRESH ginger (please remember to peel first)

1/2 tsp lemon, lime or orange zest (optional, I use lime)

1/2 tsp salt

In a medium sized pan, boil the cranberries with the apple cider 6 to 7 minutes until you hear the berries popping. Simmer on medium low for about 10 minutes. Then add the brown sugar, ginger, citrus zest and the salt. Let all this goodness simmer for another 20 minutes. Transfer to containers and refrigerate.

If making a large batch, pour the hot liquid (careful not to burn yourself) into canning jars. Invert (set jar on lid) so it will seal correctly. Store again in the refrigerator and give as gifts.

Have a great Thanksgiving!

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Handmade Gifts – Crock Pot Apple Butter

Again this year I am making my Home Made Apple Butter.  Great gift idea!

Crock Pot Apple Butter

6 1/2 pounds apples – peeled, cored and sliced
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract (add when finished cooking)

  1. Core and slice apples. I do not peel mine.
  2. Put the apples in a 4 quart or larger crock pot, then add the sugar and spices. Stir the mixture the best you can then cover and cook on high for one hour.
  3. Cook on low (stirring occasionally, I stir every hour), until the apple butter reaches a spreadable consistency and is dark brown in color. This takes 12 or more hours depending on your crock pot.
  4. Transfer to hot, sterilized jars (aproximately 8 half pints), I boil my jars and lids and imediately fill as I take them out of the boiling water. Take care not to fill past the headspace line. Refrigerate any jars that fail to seal properly.

 

To Freeze: Allow the jars to cool. Then, place in the freezer. Use within a year, for the best quality.

 

Slow Cooker Apple Butter

Yield: 4 pints

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 12 hours

Ingredients:

Directions:

Notes:

– I used a combination of Granny Smith, Red Delicious and Honey Crisp apples for this recipe. I also increased my recipe to 9 pounds of apples and adjusted the rest of the recipe accordingly. This yielded 12 half pints.
– The sweetness of your apples will depend on how much sugar you use. I used mostly brown sugar as I try to stay away from white sugar. Adjust according to your apples and preferences.

– You can speed up cooking time by keeping it on high but you MUST stir every hour.
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Life is GOOD!

Some mornings are frustrating from the very beginning. My first clue, as I am stumbling down the hall with my eyes half closed, I step into cold cat barf. I suppress the urge to scream as I hop down the hall on one foot so I don’t spread the joy.   I grab paper towels and spray cleaner and clean the gross crap off my foot first. When that is cleaned up I run for the coffee which is so very necessary to get me through my mornings. COFFEE!   But wait…..the fancy automated coffee maker did not start. So I push the manual button as I stare longingly at the empty carafe. Must have my coffee.

To kill time, I start my computer only to find there are three bazillion updates waiting to load! I watch the counter 3 of 468, well this is going to take awhile. I really didn’t need to get any work done, at least not in the near future, as my computer continues to count down the numerous updates. COFFEE!

I stumble back down the hall to get my glasses so I can see…..yes that is the kind of morning I am having, I forgot my glasses when I got up and I really need to see.   On my way back out to check on my coffee, I peek into my daughters bedroom to see her peacefully sleeping.   A beautiful calm look on her face and suddenly everything is fine. Life is good.

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Small Business Owner’s, Diversify!

Diversify

If you’re a Small Business Owner then you probably already know that diversification is the name of the game. If you don’t diversify and grow your business almost daily then you will die a very painful death.

I know several Small Business owners that do one thing and do it well, but over the long haul they are loosing their buyers. You can buy the same product once maybe twice (the second time as a replacement or a gift) and then the buyer is done, they no longer need or want your single product. At this point your buyer moves on to someone else that has grown their business by adding to their product line. They have diversified and their business is growing!

Change or diversification is constant and if you want to grow your business then you to must change and grow. Stretch those creative juices. Look around you, what is your competition doing that you aren’t? Are they on more than one site? Do they promote their business on social media sites? Do they blog, send emails? Take a close look, why are they out selling you.

Don’t allow your business to become stale, reach for that brass ring. When you diversify test the waters first by making a few of your new product and see how that item goes over. No Small Business wants to be stuck with a lot product that bombed out in the market place. Go slow, test a few new products and make sure you market and promote your new line.

If you have a product that didn’t make it, CUT the price, put it on sale, get it off your shelves and make room for what your customer really wants.

“Just as variety is the spice of life, diversification is the key to success in business.” McNulty

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OOPS! Holiday Shopping- A Year of Living Cheap

Don’t let the frantic pace of the holidays make you lose site of your budget goals.  Don’t buy that first gift you see because  you just want to get it over with and move on.  THINK! 

Ask yourself, is this really the gift you want to give?  Is this the price you want to pay.  Is there something that is more appropriate or something  they will appreciate/use more than this item?

Take a few minutes to sit down, write down the names of the people you want to give gifts to this holiday season.  Then go over the list again and eliminate the people that should not be on the list, don’t let emotions guide you, be practical.  Write at least two gift ideas that are inexpensive and would mean something to the person you are giving the gift.  No gift has to be expensive  if it comes from the heart.  A handmade item often times will mean more to the recipients than an expensive gift bought in haste.

My mom would rather receive a card that tells her how much she has meant to me than something I bought.  So buy a nice card, and write with your heart.

You still have time to plan ahead and get the right gift.  Do not let the fast talking marketers make you buy, THINK.

You will be glad you did when the holidays are history and you can look back with a smile and know they were the best.

Come and visit me at:

https://www.etsy.com/shop/DragonAlleyJournals

http://stores.ebay.com/Dragon-Alley-Journals

http://dragonalley.webs.com/

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Being a Small Business Owner

I have found that owning my own business has its ups and downs.  And much like a manic-depressive person the ups are glorious and the downs are debilitating.  Although my Dragon Alley business is not a traditional “brick and mortar”, it still brings in much needed income for my family.

So what do I do when my business is down, I evaluate.  I take a look at my online listings, and make improvements so they can be seen on mobile devices.  I make sure my descriptions are short to the point and clear.  I look at the product that is not moving and put it on sale.  If it isn’t moving, get it out of your store and move on to something that is more appealing to your buyers. Also diversify your product.  If you have one product, what do you do when everyone has bought that one product and no longer needs another?  You find another (or several if you are smart) product that is attractive to your buying audience!

I have also started doing Arts & Craft Shows.  Yes they are a lot of work but the benefits you get from meeting other crafters, that are having the same problems, is a HUGE bonus.  Ask them what they are doing to get out of their slump.  Exchange business cards and create a group that meets at least once a month to brain storm ideas.

I have also started attending seminars and free classes put on by my local Chamber of Commerce.  Yes, the city you live in wants to see Small Businesses succeed.  Small Businesses are the back bone of the economy in any area.

So read, learn and get out there and Support Small Business like yourself!

Here are some of my links.  Stop by and see me!

http://stores.ebay.com/Dragon-Alley-Journals

http://dragonalley.webs.com/

https://twitter.com/DAJournals

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