Thursday, May 30, 2013

DIY: Frozen Spinach

Large bunch of Spinach harvested from our Garden.
As the days started to get warmer here in East Texas I knew that the days of being able to satisfy my spinach cravings were numbered. It made me a bit sad, because my spinach has been doing so well and we have all been loving it. As it started to bolt I decided to preserve a bunch of it by freezing.

Freezing is actually a really great way to preserve vegetables from your garden. Freezing allows you to preserve most of the nutrients and also helps to maintain the color and flavor.
Three bowl set up for freezing homegrown spinach.

For most vegetables blanching and cooling is a necessary step to properly preserve them. Blanching stops the enzyme action that helps vegetables to grow and mature. 

I used a three bowl set up to blanch and cool my spinach very quickly. It only took me about 20 minutes to do the whole batch.
Blanching Homegrown Spinach.

Cooling Spinach after blanching.

Draining water off of blanched and cooled spinach.

Of course the first step is to thoroughly wash the spinach, cut off thick stems and take out any bad leaves. Then you can start the blanching process.

The first bowl is for blanching. I have a large stock pot with a colander that fits inside, perfect for blanching. But you could also scoop it out with a slotted spoon.  Bring the water in your stock pot to a boil. Then add your spinach. I did several small batches because you want your spinach completely covered with water. Cover the pot and blanch for 3 minutes.

Remove your spinach promptly after 3 minutes and put it in a bowl full of ice water. I placed a colander inside a larger bowl of ice water for quick and easy transfer. Allow the spinach to cool for the same amount of time. If you are doing several batches be sure to change your water or add more ice to keep the water cold.

After cooling I transferred my spinach into another colander placed over a bowl to allow it to drain. After it drained for a bit I used my hands to squeeze out the remainder of the water.
Blanched, cooled, and drained spinach all ready for freezing.

After my spinach was blanched, cooled, and drained I placed it into Ziploc bags. Here they are all ready for the freezer. I got three quart sized bags of spinach from my garden that day. I was very excited. It was much easier than I thought and didn't take much time at all.

Remember that each type of vegetable has a different blanching time to prepare it for freezing. If you want to freeze other types of vegetables there are various places you can find time charts. Here is one from the Colorado State University Extension. Freezing is another way we can preserve some of that great garden harvest. Happy Freezing!

Also remember this great water conservation tip and use all that great spinach water to water you household plants and pots.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Goin' Green

Kale - Nutritional Powerhouse
Unfortunately for us, our green season has pretty much come to a close. By "Green" I mean our garden greens. We have been loving them. For many of you though you still have some green days ahead. If you haven't been planting greens in your garden you should give them a try. We have found them amazing easy to grow and extremely delicious. Most importantly they are packed with nutrition. Let me tell you about a few that we grow.
Kale in a planter.
Giant Winter Spinach

Kale is a nutritional powerhouse. It is said to be one of the healthiest vegetables on the planet. In addition it grows easily and it is very pretty. I even planted kale in my decorative flower pots.  Kale is of course extremely low in calories but is loaded with fiber, and is highly concentrated with the antioxidant vitamins A, C, and K. We love kale both raw and cooked and we have been eating a lot of it.

Spinach had long been know for being an iron rich vegetable. It also is a good source of fiber, folate, and vitamins A, C, and K. I have actually been craving spinach for most of the spring.

Bright Lights Swiss Chard

Leaf Lettuce

We have struggled to grow Swiss Chard in the past. But it grew beautifully this year. I am so glad, because it is delicious! I love it! We have really been enjoying it. It is also full of vitamins A, C, and K and is rich in dietary fiber and protein.The stems on this Bright Lights Swiss Chard remind me a lot of rhubarb, not only appearance but taste as well.

Although, not as high in nutrients as many of the other greens, lettuce is still a tasty choice. The greener and more colorful the lettuce the more nutrient rich it is. Iceberg lettuce has the lowest nutritional value of all lettuces. We grow a bit of leaf lettuce in our garden but to be honest most things we would use lettuce for (hamburgers, sandwiches, and salads) we choose to use spinach or one of the other greens instead. Most often we will mix it with other greens for a tasty salad.

Giant harvest of beet greens.

Another really great green that we often have an abundance of is beet greens. I have to admit these are not my personal favorite, but they have grown on me. I didn't care for them at all in the past, but now I will occasionally eat them sauteed and we like to throw them into our "Green" Smoothies. This is the beet green from last years harvest of beets. We planted a lot and canned and pickled beets. This year we only planted a few for greens.
The wonderful thing about greens is you can continually harvest them. I usually cut the outer leaves first and leave the younger inside leaves to grow and mature. The more you harvest them the more they will grow.

Swiss Chard being Sauteed with garlic and onion.

We use greens in a variety of ways, but our favorite way is to throw them in a smoothie. At least this is the way the kids enjoy them most because, they can't really taste them. :)  Jacob and I love them sauteed with garlic and onion. We like to add sauteed greens to things like scrambled eggs and pasta dishes. I will also add pureed greens to my pasta sauces. Of course, we also enjoy them raw in salads. It is most beneficial to grow greens yourself and harvest them as you use them, because once you have harvested them the nutrients begin to deteriorate. It has been show that frozen spinach (I am sure this is true for other greens too) actually contain more nutrients than the store bought fresh spinach, because by freezing the spinach you lock in the nutrients. Check back in a few days for a post on how to freeze your own spinach or other greens.

Variety of greens from the garden harvested for a smoothie (kale, chard, spinach, and flat leaf parsley).

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Family Home Evening

Jacob and I do a lot of posts about the temporal aspects of Provident Living, especially having to do with home production and storage and physical health.  These are important aspects of Provident Living and areas where we are currently learning and doing a lot. Sometimes I forget about sharing some of the other ways we strive to live our lives more providently on a daily basis. Some of the things that we do really seem so commonplace to us because we do them all the time and we have been doing them for a long time that I forget they really are important parts of living a provident life too. One of these important areas of provident living is taking care of our spiritual and emotional needs. Every week (in addition to our Sunday church services) our family participates in something we call Family Home Evening. We take one night a week together as a family to spend special time with one another to focus on spiritual things. During this time we sing songs, have a lesson that is spiritual in nature, and do family activities. These nights allow Jacob and I to give our children and ourselves more in depth spiritual instruction and they give us that spiritual uplift that helps us to get through the upcoming week. Because our children are still very young, we keep our lessons short and sometimes make our activities a bit longer. We also sing spiritual and uplifting songs, which is something we all enjoy very much and we try to learn new songs as well. We encourage our children to ask questions and participate a lot in the lessons we have planned. In fact, each week we assign different family members to plan various aspects for the next weeks Family Home Evening.  This helps each one of us to develop different skills and allows to share our talents with each other. We love Family Home Evening. I especially love the feeling of peace and unity that it brings into our home as we talk about the Savior Jesus Christ and His Gospel and our great love for Him.

We have decided recently to to begin preparing our Family Home Evening Lessons from the most recent General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints. We prepare and plan our lessons and activities from the talks that were given at this conference. We also include appropriate hymns and scriptures that go along with the topics as well as an activity that usually involves treats ( our kids favorite part).

Yesterday, I prepared the lesson from a talk entitled, "For Peace at Home", given by Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Elder Scott, spoke about the things that we can do to bring more peace into our homes. Some of the principles he mentioned were family and personal prayer, scripture study, and weekly Family Home Evenings. He also talked about the importance of making Jesus Christ the center of our home, and promised that when we do this there will be peace and serenity. He also suggested that as we work to achieve this goal in our homes we reach out to others in friendship, love, and service, so that might feel that peace in their lives as well.

After our lesson, and some songs, together as a family we made a family treat with the intention of sharing some of our treats with a family in our neighborhood that is moving away.

We made "Scripture Cookies" which reinforced the importance of reading the scriptures in our home and also gave us a way to serve those around us. It was a fun activity. The kids loved listening to each scripture for the clues they needed to make their cookies.

Family Home Evening is just one way that we use in our home to strengthen ourselves and our children spiritually and emotionally. We know that as we hold weekly Family Home Evenings our lives our enriched and blessed and we experience more of the peace and serenity that is promised us as we strive to center our home around the Savior Jesus Christ.

Below is the recipe for Scripture Cookies. We hope you enjoy them at your next or first Family Home Evening.

Beat Together:                                                            Key:
3/4 Cup (Psalms 55:21)                                            1. Butter
1/3 Cup (2 Nephi 26:25)                                           2. Milk
1&1/2 Cup (Jeremiah 6:20)                                      3. Sugar
2 (Isaiah 10:14)                                                          4. Eggs

2 Cups (1 Kings 4:22)                                                5. Flour
1 tsp. (Solomon's Song 4:14)                                    6. Cinnamon
1 tsp. (Doctrine & Covenants 101:39)                     7. Salt
1/2 tsp. (1 Corinthians 4:6)                                        8. Baking Soda
3 Cups (Doctrine & Covenants 89:17)                      9. Oatmeal
1 Cup (Samuel 30:12)                                                10. Raisins

Drop by spoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. While baking read (History of Joseph Smith 1:37 and Doctrine and Covenants 133:11) to remind you to watch them carefully so they don't burn.

For access to the 2013 edition of the scriptures for the Church of Jesus Christ of latter-day Saints click here.