Saturday, June 23, 2012

Honey and Mayonnaise Sandwiches

When I was a kid, I made up a sandwich, I remember asking my mom to make this for me all the time.  It was a simple sandwich of Honey and Mayonnaise.  Now I can't say I've eaten that sandwich anytime in the last 25+ years but I remember it being really tasty.

Local raw honey (notice its dark amber color)
Just recently I realized that our family had consumed a quart of local honey in about 5 weeks.  I brought it to Shaun-ta's attention and she lovingly informed me that it was in fact me who consumed the lion's share.  I guess it's true, I probably did partake in at least 1/2 of it.  I love honey, I normally have to keep my urges in check.  A few months back we bought a gallon of honey from some folks at church who manage a lot of local hives.  We were able to buy a gallon for a great price, this honey was all local not pasteurized and or filtered (sometimes called raw or pure honey).  It was really good honey, darker than normal clover honey had bit's of pollen in it and has a little stronger flavor.

Honey is pretty amazing stuff, if properly stored it can have shelf life beyond our life.  There was honey found in the Egyptian tombs and was still edible. Honey has a great big list of benefits. One the reported benefits comes with consuming local honey to build ones resistance to pollen allergies. Some of the other  benefits and properties are:
  • Anti-oxidant
  • Anti-bacterial
  • Anti-fungal
  • Anti-biotic factors
  • Anti-microbial
  • Vitamins - C, D, E K, B6, thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid and certain amino acids. 
  • Minerals - calcium, chlorine, copper, iodine, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, sodium and zinc 
  • Protein
  • Raw honey contains beneficial live enzymes that aid in digestion
  • Raw honey also contains pollen which is high in protein and can aid with allergies.

To keep up with honey consumption we plan buy a few gallons the next time it comes available.  Ultimately we hope to start a couple honey-bee hives next year.  I already manage various species of solitary bees for pollinating, so It will be fun to work with honey bees too.  So I have 6 months or so to decide what type of hives to build and get them ready for the season.  I hope to be able to catch a feral swarm next year along with starting one from a nucleolus colony.

What is the verdict on the Honey and Mayo Sandwich?

Four of our mouths agree it is actually pretty good.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Strawberry Freezer Jam

20 lb. of Strawberries for $20 - Wahoo!
Last Saturday night I went to the store at 9:00 pm, which is sometimes necessary when you have 3 small children. I was so excited to find a great deal on strawberries. $1.00 for 1 lb. so I bought 20 lb. I went home immediately to make strawberry freezer jam, which I absolutely love. I usually try to make both freezer and cooked jam, because even though I like cooked jam, I really think that freezer jam tastes tons better.It seems to maintain that fresh strawberry taste a lot better and of course it keeps that beautiful bright red color.
Mixing together the Pectin and Sugar.

Freezer jam is really easy to make and I was able to utilize the deal that Jacob got on freezer pectin several months ago. There is really nothing to it, but I was glad that Jacob was willing to jump in and help me. He mixed together the appropriate amounts of sugar and pectin (just follow the instructions on the bottle of instant pectin) while I cleaned and crushed the berries.
Crushing the Strawberries.

I like chunks of berries in mine and so you can just simply crush them using a potato masher. Then you combine the sugar pectin mixture with the fruit and stir for a specified amount of time. It is only 2 or 3 minutes. Put your jam into containers for freezing. As you can see in the picture below we used some containers that we bought specifically for freezing and then when we ran out of those we used a few jars and some other random plastic containers. 
13 Pints of Strawberry Freezer Jam.

The jam has to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes and then you put it in the freezer for storage. That is all there is to it. So easy, anyone can do it. We made 13 pints of freezer jam and we still had about 6 lbs. of strawberries left, but I had no more containers to put jam in so we decided to freeze some of the berries.
6 lbs. of Frozen Strawberries.

We use frozen berries a lot for homemade yogurt and smoothies. We usually buy frozen strawberries at Sam's Club, 5 lb. for $9.00. So we got a great deal here, 6 lb. for $6.00. I just lay the berries out on a tray in a single layer and freeze them overnight. Then I pull them out and put them into a freezer bag. They come easily off the tray and break apart this way so they are not frozen together in a huge clump.Perfect for fruit smoothies.
I was so happy about this deal and I am so glad to have strawberry freezer jam again!

Monday, June 18, 2012

Harvesting Coriander

Cilantro plant that has gone to seed.

 You may or may not know that Coriander is the dried seed obtained from a Cilantro plant. I was successful at growing cilantro in my garden this past fall and I was so excited. We love using cilantro in our cooking. It is especially good in fresh and canned salsa and other Mexican style dishes. Coriander can also be using in cooking in either the whole or ground form. Jacob loves Coriander and so we let our cilantro go to seed in hopes of harvesting a bunch for him. It actually had a bunch of beautiful little white flowers on it when it seeded that the bees loved.

The green seeds are the Coriander.

The little green seeds are the Coriander.  I left my cilantro plant in the ground until nearly all of the green coriander had turned a nice brown color and then I harvested it just like I did my dill seed.
Upside down in a paper bag for easier harvesting.

I simply cut it off and placed it upside down in a paper bag and then I let it dry for about a week longer in the bag. 
Brown seeds are dried coriander.

You can shake the bag and crunch it around a bit and remove a lot of seed, but some of it is still a little stubborn so we took most of it off by hand.
Removing the Coriander by hand.

I enlisted the help of my 4 year old. He is such a good sport to help his mom, especially when it comes to harvesting seed.

 After we pulled all of the seed off I used a couple of different sizes of colanders to remove as much of the leaves and stems as I could.

We were really able to get a lot of seed off of our plant, which makes us so happy. It was well worth the effort. This much coriander seed at the store would run you anywhere from $6 to $10.  Jacob is very excited and can't wait to make some Biltong with it. I am sure there will be a future post with photos of him hanging meat all over my house to dry.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Eat Your Veggies!

    Tonight we had a great dinner that my lovely wife made me for Fathers day.  It was great and I am stuffed.  We had a little realization with the kids when our oldest started complaining that she didn't like the cucumbers.  They had this really tasty sour cream sauce with fresh herbs in it.  Rather than making her eat it it was easy to just say "okay no problem".  We of course want our kids to eat their vegetables. Tonight however, we had many vegetables to choose from, instead of just the usual one or two.  Lately we have been eating a lot from our garden, all through the day.  It has been nice, we have been finding lately that rather than planning a meal around a meat dish, the meat dish is an afterthought or just a side dish.

We have sat at the table for many meals lately and would have been just fine if there was no meat at the table.  We love meat but we are finding as we are trying to eat more grains, legumes and seasonal veggies and fruits that there is less room on our plate for meat.  Looking back over the last few years we are are consuming far less meat, and we are appreciating the meat we do eat more.  For tonight's meal Shaun-ta' cooked 4 small pork ribs, which is half what we normally would have and we were still pressed to eat it all, between the 5 of us.

We look forward to the day when we can raise much or even all of our own meat.  We also are finding that we would love to have the land area to be able to plant larger numbers and varieties of the foods we love.  We are eating everything we are producing, we are also preserving what we are able to, by canning,  but 5 mouths and multiple meals each day can consume a lot of fresh tomatoes.

Tonight's Menu:

Aunt Barbara's Cucumbers in Sour Cream
1      Cup  sour cream
1      tsp.  finely minced onions
1/2   tsp.  salt
2 & 1/2 Tbs.  vinegar
1      tsp.  finely minced chives or parsley
1/2   tsp.  black pepper
2      peeled sliced cucumbers

Combine vinegar, sour cream; add onions, chive, salt and pepper.  Blend. Place cucumbers in ice water, chill and dry on paper towel.  Pour dressing over cucumbers and marinate.

This is a pretty flexible recipe, don't limit your self to cucumbers.  Any fresh herb would be great here, Mmmmm dill dip.  Shaun-ta' used both chives and parsley tonight.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Real "Cool" Idea

 I don't know about you, but in the summer my kids think they need to live off popsicles. I can't count the number of times they run in the door and say, "Mom, we are hot, can we have a popsicle." I really don't blame them, it is hot, very hot, especially here in East Texas. But I sometimes cringe at the idea of them eating all of  those popsicles that are nothing but sugar. If they are going to live on popsicles there has to be a way to make them nutritious, doesn't there. Well, we came up with some great homemade popsicles that are not only nutritious, but really yummy too, much better than a plain old freezer pop. So if you are looking for a way to beat the summer heat here is a "Real Cool" Idea: 

We made three types of popsicles (and by we I mean me and my three kids, they loved helping with this!) First we made up some chocolate pudding, next we took some homemade nonfat plain yogurt and added some berries (click here for the recipe and to find out more about how we sweeten it), and finally we thought we would try out some white grape juice (100% juice).

We filled up some Dixie cups (3 oz.) with all of these yummy things and then stuck in some plastic baby spoons and forks. I use them instead of sticks, because I can use them over and over again. They really work great.

Then I loaded them up into a 9x13 for easy transport to the freezer and less wobbling once they got there.  
We waited until the next day to try our frozen treats and let me tell you they were yummy! I made everyone give me a sample of theirs.

I have to say a few things about using the paper cups. They work really great, as you can see from the pictures the paper just comes right off, and that is why I use them.  I bought one of those plastic popsicle maker things and I detest it. I can never get the stinkin' popsicle out of it without dipping it in hot water until the popsicle is almost all the way melted.  Too much trouble for me, so I converted to the paper cups.
 I must say that I feel much better about giving my kids a nonfat frozen yogurt pop, that has minimal amounts of sugar in it, than something that is almost 100% sugar. Even with the pudding pops you know that your child is at least getting a bit more calcium in their diet. And I know if you were to do a price comparison with these and the products like them at the store you would be saving big. 

Enjoy! We hope these will help you beat the summer heat!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Canning 101: Green Beans

 We eat a lot of green beans at our house and we have been eating loads of fresh ones for several weeks now, I have been picking them every other day. I thought I had better can a few pickings. In addition to our large pressure canner,  I have a small pressure cooker that only fits three pints. I actually really like it, because that is about what I can harvest in one picking from our garden.
Canning green beans is actually very simple and it only took me a few minutes to prepare these 3 pints for processing. Here is the method I use:

1. Clean and Sterilize your jars.
2. Wash and trim your beans, removing strings. I snap larger ones in half.
3. Fill your jars with cleaned beans. Add salt if you like ( 1 tsp. per quart, 1/2 tsp. per pint). Cover beans with boiling water, leaving 1 inch of head space.
4. Wipe jar rims and put on your lids.
5. Process in pressure canner.
Processing time is 20 minutes for pints and 25 minutes for quarts. If you are using a weighted gauge pressure canner use 10 lbs. pressure for altitudes 0-1,000 ft. and 15 lbs. pressure for altitudes over 1,000 ft.  If you are using a dial gauge canner please refer to this table for pressure weights. Be sure to follow the instructions for your pressure canner. 

It is that simple and you now have your own home canned garden beans.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Preserving the Harvest

Tomatoes and Cucumbers from our Garden.

For the past few weeks we have really been enjoying the harvest.  My kids love the fact that they can eat a whole cucumber by themselves for a snack. We have had tomato sandwiches almost everyday for lunch, tomato slices every night for dinner, and last night we had spaghetti with sauce made from all the yummy things from our garden. It has been amazing to eat all of these fresh things from our garden. I just love it!

Newly preserved Pickles and Beets.

My daughter and I were reading the story of Joseph of Egypt last night. I paid particular attention to a few verses from the 41st chapter of Genesis:

"Pharaoh, the ruler of Egypt, dreamed dreams which greatly troubled him. The wise men of his court could not give an interpretation. Joseph was then brought before him: “Pharaoh said unto Joseph, In my dream, behold, I stood upon the bank of the river:
“And, behold, there came up out of the river seven kine, fatfleshed and well favoured; and they fed in a meadow:
“And, behold, seven other kine came up after them, poor and very ill favoured and leanfleshed. …
“And the lean and the ill favoured kine did eat up the first seven fat kine: …
“And I saw in my dream … seven ears came up in one stalk, full and good:
“And, behold, seven ears, withered, thin, and blasted with the east wind, sprung up after them:
“And the thin ears devoured the seven good ears: …
“And Joseph said unto Pharaoh, … God hath shewed Pharaoh what he is about to do.
“The seven good kine are seven years; and the seven good ears are seven years: the dream is one. …
“… What God is about to do he sheweth unto Pharaoh.
“Behold, there come seven years of great plenty throughout all the land of Egypt:
“And there shall arise after them seven years of famine;
“… And God will shortly bring it to pass” (Gen. 41:17–20, 22–26, 28–30, 32).

I was reminded of the importance of saving some of what you are given in times of plenty for the leaner times. This has always been an important principle of  Self Reliance and Provident Living taught to us by prophets of God.

Jacob and I both grew up in canning families. We learned to can and other methods of preservation from a young age. I remember helping my mom in the kitchen as she canned bottle upon bottle of peaches, beets, beans, tomatoes, etc. In this way we were able to enjoy the harvest throughout the unfruitful days of winter.  My growing family has relied heavily on my mother's abundance of canned fruits and veggies throughout the years and I have always enjoyed the ability that I have to do this as well. This harvest has been no exception, as much as we are enjoying eating all of the fresh veggies, I have also been canning to preserve these wonderful things for a time when they are not as abundant.

Over the next couple of weeks I will be sharing my recipes and methods for canning some of the things I have been preserving.  It is important especially if you have never canned before to have some background knowledge of basic canning rules and methods.  Not all vegetables and fruits can be preserved in the same way and so to ensure the safety and health of your family it is important to follow properly researched methods for canning each item.  If you are just starting out as a  home canner here is a link to an excellent resource for good canning practices. I have used this resource from the Utah State University Extension often. Another excellent resource is the National Center for Home Food Preservation. Good luck with your canning! And if you have any questions, comments, or ideas please send them my way.

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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Green Tint Scallop Squash

 One of the new things that we tried out in our garden this year is this beautiful "Green Tint Scallop Squash." Isn't it wonderful looking? I love the shape of it, so decorative! I definitely want to grow more in the fall to put in with my other decorative gourds.

 I wasn't sure how to go about cutting up this wonderful patty pan squash, so I just went for it. The great thing about this squash is that it has tender skin, so no need to peel. I began by cutting it in half. I had no idea how big the seeds would be or what it would look like on the inside. Now, when you grow this you will have no need to wonder . . . here is what it looks like.
 I ended up just cutting it up into bit sized pieces. Then I sauteed it in a little bit of olive oil and garlic and some season salt. Well, I have to admit I was a bit disappointed.  As, I was eating it I kept thinking, "This is really bland." No one really cared for it, except my one year old and she ate almost the whole thing herself.

But, I didn't want to give up on this beautiful little squash. It is too delightful looking to not taste good, right?

I did a little bit of research and I read about someone grilling another type of scallop squash, I believe it was a yellow one. So I thought I would give it a try.

This time I cut up my squash a bit differently, not only to make it easier to grill, but to maintain is beautiful shape.

Here they are on the grill, brushed with olive oil and again seasoned with just season salt. (Jacob will tell you I am obsessed with season salt, but I can't help it, it is really good.)
The finished product. Don't they look delicious! Now, if only they taste as amazing as they look. 

We couldn't stop raving about it! It was so GOOD! We had this with hamburgers and I just kept wishing I hadn't eaten my hamburger so I could eat more squash. It was that Good.  So good in fact that several days later I browned up the leftovers in a pan and ate them up too. We will definitely be growing this again! And this my friends, is the way to cook them!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Black Bean Pizza

This is so delicious- a healthy alternative to traditional pizza.

1 Pizza Shell precooked - click here for our recipe
1 Medium chopped Onion
1 Clove Garlic Minced
1 Tb. Olive Oil
1/2 Cup Finely Chopped Zucchini or Summer Squash 
2 Cups Cooked Black Beans, drained
1 Can Diced Tomatoes
2 tsp. Basil
2 tsp. Oregano
1 Cup Shredded Mozzarella Cheese

In a skillet saute the onions and garlic in oil, when translucent add zucchini and cook for only a minute or so.  Add the tomatoes, herbs, and beans and bring to a boil. Boil uncovered for about 2 minutes, reduce heat and simmer until mixture is saucy. Lay down a layer of cheese on the baked pizza shell. Top the pizza shell with the bean mixture. Add the rest of the cheese and cook in a 375 degree oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until the cheese starts to bubble.

Don't limit yourself to only using zucchini in this dish. Look for vegetables that are in season or use veggies from your garden. Eggplant, corn, or bell pepper would be delicious additions or substitutions.

Check here for our post on how to cook dried black beans.