Monthly Archives: August 2013

Canning: Fruit Purees

Here is another old post, that I am dusting off. Originally it was titled, “Giving My Baby Cakes a Little Variety.” I felt, “Canning: Fruit Purees” was a little more to the point. It is also worth noting this is the follow-up post to Canning: Baby Food.

Canning: Fruit Purees

The big bath canner I use.

The other day I took to canning more fruit. This time I was a little more adventurous than just applesauce. Chloe now has two new kinds of fruit purees. The first batch I made was apricots, bananas, and pears. To use up the few apricots that I had left after that I made apricot, mango, and apple purée. Now to be fair we have not sampled these purees yet so I have no idea how she will take to my recipes at this time. I do know though she has eaten all these fruits at various times before.

Despite the fact I can not speak to the appeal of the product at this time, I can tell you how the process went and how the finished product appears. This was a time-consuming endeavor, a little over two hours start to finish with two people making and processing the product. For the two hours of work though I was able to get 22 servings of fruit for a baby. ( Now if you wanted to make a larger quantity of these two flavors some time would be added to the total spent in cooking and processing but I can provided a batch recipe that should aid in making it not turn into an all day project.) I can also say proudly that none of my jars failed to seal this time around. 🙂

Before canning more food this time I bought some additional supplies and a book that I would highly recommend to anyone looking to can anything whether it be food for your baby or a stew for the family. It is the Ball (R) Blue Book guide to preserving. This book provides tested methods and advice in home canning. If you combine that with USDA link I provided in my last note then even the most inexperienced person can go forth with confidence.

As far as my two recipes are concerned I spent approximately $3.50 on all the fruit. To put that in perspective for the same amount of money I could have maybe 2 packages of the Gerber brand, or 3-4 jars of Nature’s Best. Yes there are brands that will come in for less than those two, but those have been the primary brands we have fed Chloe. Granted she also likes the Plum brand; one four oz package of that is around a $1.79.

When I bought additional canning supplies, I also purchased Fruit-Fresh Produce Protector. I feel this is worth noting because it is optional in the recipes. This product helps the fruit from getting a brown color during the canning process. It is by no means a must have, the fruit will still be just as good with out it. The other thing it does for your fruit is it adds vitamin C. In fact this product adds 230% vitamin D for just 1/4 tsp.

Apricot, Banana, Pear Puree

12 apricots peeled and pitted
1.5 bananas (rather ripe)
1 pear cored
Ziplock steam bag
sauce pot
blender or food processor

1. peel & pit apricots
2. peel bananas
3. core pear and peel if desired
4. cut up fruit
5. pour items in Ziplock steam bag and microwave for 3 minutes*
6. Puree fruit in blender
7. boil fruit in sauce pot
8. stir fruit continually as it boils to prevent sticking, let boil for 5 minutes
9. ladle hot purée into hot jars
10. leave a quarter-inch space in jars
11. wipe the rim of the jars
12. process jars using a water bath canner

Processing time for the jars is 15 minutes for either pints or quarts when you are 1000 ft or less above sea level. (To adjust for higher elevations please refer to the link in my previous note or the guide in the book I provided.) After processing time let canner cool five minutes before removing jars. Let the jars cool with at least two inches between them for the next 12- 24 hrs. After that time period you can check to see if your seals took.

Homeschooling Through Transitions

In last week’s post I promised that this week we would discuss homeschooling through transitions. So here is that promised post, and another look into our homeschool.

One of the things I like best about homeschooling my girls is the flexibility it allows me. Currently we are in the middle of a big move and our homeschooling experience looks different from what it did a in the spring, or even over the summer. I really need the flexibility right now that I said I like.

When you are packing, traveling, visiting relatives, and unpacking it is hard enough to keep anything that looks like routine, let alone homeschool. I have found though, when we completely give up a habit (especially those that are healthy) it is that much more difficult for us to return to. The problem with that though, is I can not keep up with our normal activities and stay on top of the move.

Homeschooling Through Transitions

A little self-directed play time, all while working on skills.

4 Things I am doing in our Homeschool, while we are in transition:

1. Reducing the number of days a week we are doing school. If we know that we only have to get in school three days of the week we can work around the curve balls that moving likes to throw.

2. Focusing on the basics. This means arts and crafts, and science are taking a back seat right now. The girls are two and three, the more important things right now are play time, and learning: numbers, colors, shapes, patterns, and expanding vocabulary.

3. To reach our objectives, I am looking at methods and programs that can do more than one thing at a time. For example building with blocks we can play, discuss colors, count the blocks in our structures, and I can build things and see if the girls can repeat what I just made.

4. Last but not least, the one thing I am making a point of not sacrificing  is story time. Story time doesn’t need to be a long drawn out affair to be effective, just as long as we spend quality time reading together.

Curious George is a big favorite with my girls.

 

 

 

***During times of transition, such as the birth of a new child, a move, major illness, etc…, how does your family handle school? Do you take a break for a season and then pick back up? Do you find another solution that has not crossed my mind? Or perhaps you send your kids to school, so then how does your family handle the increased pressures of such times?***

My Husband, My Love

I want to take a few moments and write about something that is near and dear to my heart, my husband. This man is my longest held close friendship, he has been my best friend since we were 15 years old. Rusty is the smartest man I know. His IQ is higher than anyone else’s that I know of, and he thinks of things in ways I never would have imagined. He can make me laugh, and help me to feel secure when it feels like the world is falling in around me. Also, as far as I am concerned, he is the most handsome man I know.

My Husband, My Love

Showing off the shirt he received for Father’s Day.

As wonderful as each of those things are, they are not the reason he is on my mind and my heart so much today. Instead it is because everywhere I went people reminded how it is not the norm to be without your spouse for days, weeks, or months at a time. Everything from a simple introduction and someone wondering if I was married, to someone commenting on how they could never be away from their spouse for extended periods of weeks and longer.

Facing extended absences like this from my best friend has never been easy, even when I have had a support network in place who gets it. I have had girlfriends who I could call the last minute to help with the kids, when I needed a break. Or girlfriends I could call when I wake up at 2 a.m. in a cold sweat from a nightmare and just need to talk it out. As wonderful and understanding as they are, none of them can replace Daddy in my girls’ eyes, or stop me from wanting to wake Rusty, so he can hold me, even though he is not there.

I may not be the woman who gets weepy the day he leaves, but my heart still sinks as I see him walk out that door, whether it be for a day or two, or months. So remember when you comment on how strong I am, that it is just an illusion. I am fragile. I am separated for a time from half of my heart. I continue on with the strength that my Lord grants me. It is in my weakness that I find my strength. (2 Corinthians 12:10)

When someone comments to me that they could never do what I do, most often I just smile and nod these days. Every now and then I want to tell them:

Loving this man is the easiest thing I have ever done. It is my trust and faith in the Lord that gives me the strength to carry on when my husband is absent. Saying good-bye is never easy, though. It is never something I look forward too. I miss him everyday he is gone. I do what I do though because I love him and he is worth every lonely day and long night apart.

So when I say the biggest perk of his new job is we will get to spend everyday together, it is not a novel idea. It is not something cheesy and oh so cute. It is the biggest desire of my heart. It is a dream come true for me, and no,` I am not over stating it.

***Can you relate to long separations or have you been blessed with a marriage where you get to be together each day? Is this a transition you have made in your marriage? If so, do you have any thoughts or advice for those of us who are new to this aspect of marriage?***

 

 

Caprese Salad With Purple Basil

This summer you might have seen me tending my garden if you happened to come by the house. My most successful harvest was the herbs I had planted. I experimented with several different kinds of basil this year. I had my go to basil, sweet basil. Then the next variety I was eager to work with was the Boxwood basil. I also planted a purple basil but mostly because I thought it looked pretty. So imagine my surprise when purple basil quickly became my new favorite.

I made caprese salad pasta with it. I used it in marinara sauces. I even threw it in a few odd dishes. It has this wonderful aroma and flavor that I find hard to describe, but love to savor. I took one final trimming with me yesterday after I turned over the keys.

This evening I used those trimmings to make a dish, that to me, just screams summer, caprese salad. I made it for lunch tomorrow but I just had to have a bite tonight and it was so fresh and delicious.

Caprese Salad With Purple Basil

Your main stars to a caprese salad.

Caprese Salad with Purple Basil

4 medium tomatoes, diced

8 oz fresh mozzarella pearls

6-8 purple basil leaves cut into strips

4 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Extra light will do if that is all you have, like me.)

salt to taste

1. Dice up your tomatoes. (You will want to be sure your tomatoes are as ripe as possible.) Place in medium size bowl.

2. Drain your mozzarella pearls. Then gently stir mozzarella and tomatoes together.

3. Measure 4 tablespoons olive oil into your bowl.

4. Cut basil strips and sprinkle in your bowl.

5. Lightly season with salt, and then stir all your ingredients once more.

 

Enjoy!

 

***Have you ever tried purple basil? If so what are some of your favorite ways to enjoy it?***

My Transition In a Nutshell

This post is late in coming today due to a comedy of errors and being extra busy trying to move out of the old house. I had wanted to talk to you about homeschooling through transition, but I think I will save that post for next week. Instead today I just want to explain a little bit about the transition my life is going through.

transition

As you all know by now I have been planning a big move. I have spent the last week packing my family up. The kids and I saw my husband and many of our belongings off last week Thursday. It was a very emotional day for all of us. The kids didn’t understand why they couldn’t go with Daddy, and we found it difficult saying good-bye not knowing how soon we would be together again. After he left I continued my journey on packing the house.

Monday, yesterday, the movers arrived. They came and they packed the house. I was busy with the movers and loading of my own until almost six at night. My two oldest girls left with their grandparents ahead of me. I eventually settled in to a hotel, since I needed to go back to the empty house in the morning. I figured at the hotel I would finally get to write my post. Alas writing was not in the cards for me.

I was on the phone with tech support trying to get the computer to connect to the hotel’s internet till 10 something at night. At that point I told them I thought it was just not meant to be and I planned on going to bed. Little ole me thought things would still be ok and I would get to write my post early in the afternoon today.

My morning went well enough. This took a little longer with the house than I had planned but I was happy when I left. It looks like the landlord might actually sign a tenant for the house and I can get the security deposit back. I was on the road by 12:30. At 13:30 I got a phone call. “Sara, the hotel just called me. You forgot something. You need to turn around and go get it. If I am getting a call saying you forgot something it must be important.”

So I turn around and drive an hour back to the area I had just left. It is a good thing I did. As it turns out I forgot ALL my important documents: social security cards, car titles, marriage license, birth certificates, and so on. I thank God that there are honest people in this world. I am ever so appreciative that I got it all back. I didn’t even know it had fallen out of my bag.

When I finally arrived at my parent’s house it was just in time for dinner. By the time I was done taking care of pets, kids, and tummies it was later than I wanted.

Wish me luck and maybe I can get my act together and have my recipe up in a timely fashion tomorrow.  I hope you enjoyed my transition, thus far, in a nutshell.

 

Canning: Baby Food

(Note: This is an old post I am dusting off and pulling out to share, since we are back to moving ourselves again. Today has been a day full of bad news in our house, one piece of which is I have lost the help of professionals and now must start packing again. So I hope you enjoy this old piece and find the information helpful, while I get busy packing.

I would also like to note that while I really did enjoy canning pureed fruits for Chloe and having a whole months worth made in an afternoon, it is not currently practical for me with 3 kids under 4. It may be a challenge someone else is up to, so I thought it worth sharing.)

Canning Baby Food

Last night was what promises to be the first of many adventures in making and canning my own food for Chloe. Now in talking to people I have heard some objections to this that I would like to address before I tell of last night’s work.

*Objection 1*
“This is way to much work, why not just buy baby food.”

Well I suspect that a few hours a couple of times a month is well worth the savings. For example two apples produce 16 oz of applesauce. I made my apple sauce in what was one of the more time-consuming methods and I had 48 oz in 30-45 minutes. There are methods that will save more time and energy in making the food, but they require more initial money for the output.

*Objection 2*
“I am worried about the safety of the food. I don’t want to make my baby sick.”

The USDA has tested different foods and has laid out safe practices in processing food for home canning. If you follow their advice you will significantly reduce the likelihood of botulism, and other illness you or your child could face from tainted food.

*Objection 3*
“I went to the USDA website and saw that they do not have any safe ways they recommend to can pureed vegetables. Why even bother with canning baby food if the only baby food you can safely recommend is pureed fruit.”

Well you can finely dice your veggies and follow their recommendations for the appropriate vegetables and mash them up before serving them to your child. Or if your child has teeth let them try the vegetables that are cut up to just their size. As far as vegetables go it has been my experience that many doctors recommend serving them to a child after you have started with fruits anyway. So you can get started with the fruit you made up first and worry about veggies when you cross that path.

“Objection 4*
“Honestly how long will you really be using the baby food? Do you really need it to be good for a year? If you freeze it is good for a month, isn’t that good enough?”

Pureed fruit can be added to cereal it, put atop of many foods, or enjoyed as a snack for even adults. So having plenty of fruit around even past the first year will be a nice thing to have. Finely diced veggies can easily be mashed and served to a baby without teeth, and as they grow you can give them the diced veggies as a finger food at meal time.

If you have further questions or concerns please feel free to post them here. I will answer all questions that I am able. If I do not know the answer I will look it up and provide you with the source of my information.

Recipe

This recipe for applesauce was simple and the results were very tasty. Now you can modify it if you have a food processor, a hand cranked Foley food mill, or a KitchenAid grinder that you would prefer to use.

Please note I also made my applesauce two apples at a time.

You will need:
2 apples (for approximately 16 oz of applesauce) *note* I used one sweet apple and one tart.
1 teaspoon cinnamon and sugar (optional)
1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
1 tablespoon water
1 Ziplock Zip and Steam(c) bag
canning jars (keep these warm while you make your applesauce)
lids (You will need new lids, as old lids will not create an airtight seal the second time around.)
jar rings
a water bath canner
a jar funnel
tongs designed to remove jars from boiling water
1. Wash your apples.

2. Slice the apples and remove the core. (You may also remove the skins at this step if you like I choose to leave them on.)

3. Fill the Ziplock bag to the fill line. Then add the cinnamon and sugar, plus additional sugar if desired.

4. Add the tablespoon of water.

5. Microwave on high for 3 minutes. (cooking times may vary depending on the wattage of your microwave.)

6. Be careful opening the steam bag so as not to burn yourself, and pour the cooked apples in your blender. I used the puree setting to get my apples to the desired consistency.

7. Pour your applesauce in your jars. Be sure to leave a half inch of head room at the top of the jar and remove any air bubbles that may have formed.

8. Fill hot jars with hot applesauce. (Keep jars of applesauce warm till you have enough to fill your water bath canner, typically seven jars.)

9. Wipe rim of jars with damped paper towel to clean an spillage. Finger tighten lid and ring onto jar.

Once you have repeated this process enough times to fill enough jars to fill your canner, or until you have as many as you would like to make, then you may begin processing the jars.

Set the jars in the basket that comes with your water bath canner. Submerge the jars in the already boiling water. Bring water to boil again if need be. Let the jars boil for 15 minutes for pint size and 20 minutes for quart size.**

Remove from boiling water and set the jars on a cooling rack. Let the jars cool overnight. The popping and hissing noises you will hear as the jars cool are perfectly normal, in fact the popping noise indicates the jars are getting the proper seal.

The next morning check on the jars. If the buttons on the lids of any of the jars are not indented then the seal did not take. At this point you can put the jar in fridge to be consumed in the next couple days or the recommended advice would be to re-can the appropriate jars. That would entail re-cleaning the rims, putting on a new lid and boiling the jar again. If the seal does not take this time the USDA does recommend, for safety’s sake, a third attempt.

**Note: If your local elevation is more than 1000 ft above sea level please refer to USDA fruit canning guide for the appropriate amount of time to add to the canning guidelines that I laid out.

canning

So that is the process I used. The applesauce turned out well and now we have plenty for days. (I would say longer than days, but more people in this home like applesauce than just Chloe.)

Good Moms Have…

I don’t know about you, but I find the saying, “Good Moms have sticky floors, dirty ovens, and happy kids,” disheartening. This is not to say I don’t understand where it is coming from I do, and to that extent I appreciate the sentiment. I appreciate the fact that who ever first said it only wanted to encourage mothers who are worried because their homes are not as clean as they might like.

Good Moms Have

I feel like this saying wants to play mind games with me though. Sometimes when I see someone share it I think great, what does that make me though? Certainly I’m not a bad mom, just because I can keep a relatively clean house with kids. What it means is I have different standards .

Then again I have a few friends who wear that saying as a badge of honor and I am pretty sure their definition of dirty is still cleaner than my house is on the best day. After listening to them talk about how dirty their place is, I feel inadequate. I am seriously embarrassed and no longer want to invite them over. That nagging voice in the back of my head will either make me go overboard to impress them, and then we will have unhappy kids here. Or if I don’t, I worry that they will be so uncomfortable and judgmental. (I am not saying they will be, but that is my fear.)

I try to do my chores with my kids. I try to do many of my chores right along side them, working with them and teaching them as we go. I want my girls to have the skills to take care of themselves when they leave this house one day. I also see little girls who are eager to spend time with Mommy no matter what she is doing, so let’s work together for a little bit and get chores done and bond. Bonding doesn’t have to be regulated to dolls, tea parties, building blocks, and trains. Bonding can occur while baking, sweeping, folding laundry, or washing dishes.

I would rather encourage a discouraged mother by telling her she is doing the best job she can for her kids and they are happy and loved. By saying good moms do ‘x, y, or z’ we are neglecting good mothers who are not doing those things, whatever those things are that are on our lists. Instead, let us love one another and celebrate the fact there is not one right way to be a good mother, there are many right ways.

Weddings Need Poise and Rationality

I love the atmosphere at weddings. The love, celebration, and the party that typically follows. This last weekend I was able to attend the wedding of a family friend and his beautiful bride. It was a simple and elegant affair. The bride looked stunning, the groom radiated pride and love for his bride. The flower girl was simply adorable. Every one involved did a wonderful job. They had a wonderful video collage that was the right mixture of heartwarming, embarrassing, funny, and so sweet.  This lovely affair got me thinking though about how much attention is put on that one day.

Weddings Need Poise and Rationality

All the extra attention that weddings come with can bring out the worst in people. Mother’s can become over bearing trying to live out their dreams through their daughters, forgetting that the daughters have dreams of their own. Mother-in-laws may even try to live vicariously through their son and soon to be daughter-in-law, or perhaps the mother-in-law sees this woman and this day as the sign she is being ‘put to pasture,’ which is more than often not the case. Maybe the bride and groom are really young  or one of them has been married multiple times, so there are friends and family making snide remarks and taking bets on how long they will last.

I have heard brides cry about such scenarios. I have even been witness to such sad happenings at weddings. Perhaps we would be wise to remember two pieces of scripture when coming together to celebrate the love of two people.

1: “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29) In other words, “If you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all.” Don’t spoil the festive mood and the hope the couple has by saying they will never last. As the friend or family member instead offer your support, wisdom, and most of all love.

2. “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” (Philippians 4:8) Ask yourself is it your wedding? No? Then ask the bride and groom how they would like to celebrate their marriage. It is their day let it be theirs. Are these comments noble, pure, or lovely? Then they have no business at a wedding.  (If you have a concern that can not wait by all means find a respectful way to bring it up, but if you can find a way to let it wait then by all means do so.) If we all would just remember to focus on the things this verse suggests we would find much of our strife and contention would ease.

I have also seen where the wedding goes off with out a hitch, and everyone was pleasant to be around but the bride and groom spent so much time planning for the what that first day would look like that they forgot about every day there after. Weddings are great. They are wonderful, but there is so much more to marriage. A wedding is not a happily ever after, but rather a once upon a time. If you can remember that it is only the beginning of your story,then it will help when you hit a bump some time down the road.

***Do you have any advice for those recently married or soon to be married? And perhaps for those who are soon to be attending a wedding?***

Roasted Chicken and Vegetables

Sometimes I think I get stuck in a rut with my cooking. I like to make oven fried chicken with chicken legs. Pulled pork, chicken, or beef can be made into hash, tacos, quesadillas, or sandwiches. Then there is pan-fried pork chops, steaks, General Mama’s, beef and broccoli, spaghetti (in its many forms,) macaroni and cheese. Then there is the weekly pizza night. After awhile of repeating the same meals I just need to do something different. Today that something different was oven roasted chicken legs and vegetables.

I searched the internet for ideas on what to do with chicken legs and potatoes and came across this recipe for Garlic Roasted Chicken and Potatoes. I will be honest I wasn’t 100% sure about the maple syrup addition but it was well worth the add to the recipe. It gave it the little something that it needed.

I did make a couple changes from both the pictured dish and the written recipe. The dish pictured shows pineapple. I omitted it for two reasons: 1 my husband is allergic and 2 since he is allergic to it I don’t keep it in the house. It is also worth noting the pictured dish shows carrots where the recipe doesn’t include them. So unlike the recipe I added carrots and I used onion powder and seasoning salt in addition to the pepper to season the dish. I probably should also mention I have no idea what kind of potatoes I used because I got them fresh from a friend’s garden, but a good baking potato should do just fine.

I will also note that I used just the chicken legs because that was what I had on hand. If you don’t have quarters use legs, thighs, wings, breasts, or boneless if you must. No matter what you have this will still be a delicious recipe that comes together easily.

Roasted Chicken and Vegetables

Roasted Chicken and Vegetables

1/4 cup butter

6 six chicken legs

6 medium to large size potatoes, diced

2 large carrots, peeled and sliced

1 head garlic peeled

onion powder, seasoning salt, and pepper to taste

1/4 cup maple syrup (Use real maple syrup, it will make all the difference.)

1. Pre-heat the oven to 400.

2. Prep vegetables.

3. Place you chicken in the bottom of your pan followed by potatoes, carrots, and garlic.

4. Season to your preference. (I went heavy onion powder and pepper and light on the seasoning salt.)

5. Slice up butter into patties and place around the meat and veggies.

6. Cover the meat and vegetables with foil wrap. Bake for 40 minutes.

7. Drizzle with maple syrup. Place pan back in oven for another 20 minutes.

8. Serve and enjoy.

 

Creative K  Kids