I made apple sauce!

I made apple sauce!

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I have this goal to start using foods more completely and even start eating foods that I would normally view as not bad, but not good. We live in prime agriculture area, and fresh produce is really easy to come by at low cost to free.

Recently I was given a large amount of of freshly harvested apples. My family goes through a lot of store bought applesauce, and my son loves the applesauce pouchesfor lunches.  I decided to turn the extra apples into homemade applesauce.

Problem #1: I’ve never made applesauce before.

Problem #2: I’ve never canned before.

Canning was always done by my grandma, and she’s not here to do it for me. I looked around for an adultier adult and came up empty handed, so it was up to me. I found an old family “recipe” if that’s what you can call, a list of mix a bit of this and that together and can.

I used my son as my taste tester. I don’t eat applesauce, it’s a texture thing. Not something I expect to get over anytime soon. It actually turned out great. According to my son “it tastes just like the stores”. I figure that’s a 10 coming from a kid that can taste the difference between brands of peanut butter.

So, for all those looking for an easy – I’ve never done this before recipe, here it is. I’ve lso included fruit mixes that I made for lunches.

Plain Applesauce:

Peel and quarter apples. I did enough to fill a medium sized sauce pan about 2 inches from the top. Fill about half way up the fruit with water, and boil. My son like a little more texture to his aplesauce, so I cooked the apples until they were soft enough I could push a wood spoon through them. Then I poured the apple mixture (including liquid) into my blender, and blended until the consistency desired. This is where my taste tester came in handy. I took samples from the mix and cooled it in the freezer for testing. Can using water bath method. Directions below for those like me.

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Mixed berry applesauce:

Peel and quarter apples, then top strawberries and add berries (about ½ as much as you have apples) to the pot, and fill about half way with water. Cook until apples are soft enough to push wood spoon through, softer if you like it with less texture. Poor mixture into blender and blend to desired consistency. Water bath can when done. You can also freeze or refriderage right away if preferred.

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Water bath canning:

  1. Fill jars about 1 inch from the top
  2. Wipe rim jar clean with papertowel, same with lid.
  3. Close jar and place in waterbath canner. Make sure jar is deep enough so lid is covered by 1-2 inches of water.
  4. Boil approximately 15 minutes

Remove and let cool. Jars will seal as they cool. You may hear a pop, you might not.

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Make your own baby food?

So even as a beta mom (you can check out that blog here), I make my own baby food. Now I can see you thinking “ain’t nobody got time for that”. HAHA. But really, I do it because for me it’s convenient. We eat fairly balanced in my home, so the majority of time I just puree up leftovers for baby. However, there are some days I put a few extra minutes into it and make a stash. That’s what I did last night / tonight.

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Last shopping trip I picked up a bag of frozen peas and some frozen blue berries, and I had some sweet potatoes in the pantry already. So after work I tossed peas in a pot, peeled the sweet potatoes first and then cut them into chunks, putting them in a pot to cook too. While this was happening I had the blue berries thawing on the counter.

Once the peas were cooked I tossed them into my ninja blender and pureed them.  Personally I love the Ninja, it blends everything, we even grind coffee in it. I tried milling flour to see if it would work, and it seems like if you wanted to listen to it, it could, but I really don’t have time or patience for that.

I bought these ice cube trays off Amazon (someday I may tell you about my love affair with Amazon and their two day shipping), they work great for baby food! I love that the are so easy to manipulate and get the cubes out. And if you choose, they make pretty ice cubes too, haha.

I also love to use these reusable pouches. I can use them for both baby food, and apple sauces for my older son too.

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Sorry I get side tracked easily, back to my point. I add baby formula to my puree to make it smoother, plus my kids drop weight fast once they start eating solids, so I love the idea of adding the extra calories and nutrients. You can use breast milk or water too. Once the puree is the thickness I like, I spoon it into the tray to freeze overnight. Then puree the blueberries, same basic process.

At this point, I shove the sweet potatoes in the fridge to deal with the following day, as I have enough to do as is. Plus, the next day I can put the peas and blue berry cubes into freezer bags and freeze the pureed sweet potatoes.

Personally, when I do baby food I leave the texture in it, you could strain out the skin from the peas, or puree the sweet potatoes super smooth, but I learned with my first son that if its always perfect, its hard to get him to eat the not perfect. Tip: buy store bought food every now and then. I took my first son back with me to South Dakota for my Grandfather’s funeral when he was still eating only purees, and he refused to eat store bought. I’d never tried it before and he refused. He wound up eating apple sauce the whole time. As if it wasn’t stressful enough I had a baby refusing to eat. I suggest Beech-nut brad, it seems the most similar to home made.

Thinking about it now though, there is a good savings when you take the extra couple minutes to make your own food. I figure the bag of peas cost me $0.99 at Winco, and I made about 15 cubes and a baby food jar, so I would say that would equal out to about 6 baby food jars and a savings of about $2 ( $0.60 x 5 jars – cost of peas). Not too bad.

Plus, living in a farming community we get a lot of opportunities to get free  fresh produce.

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Weekend herbal garden build

Weekend herbal garden build:

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In the past several years I’ve become more and more interested in herbs. I didn’t have much exposure as a kid so my cooking with herbs has been a hit and miss trial process. My dad used to make stew and just dump a little of all the spices in…. it was awful! But over the years (despite dad’s teachings) I’ve gotten to be okay in the cooking department. I’ve kept this mainly under wraps. I’ve never minded being the wife that can’t cook. When working funky shifts it really came in handy, so I just played it up. I must have done a good job too, because when I finally made a true home cooked meal for my in-laws they were shocked and kept telling me “no, really, it’s actually good”. It was quite funny, ha-ha. Now my schedule has calmed down a lot, so I don’t mind playing the good wife role.

Anyway, back on topic. This is the first time I’ve ever had an herb garden, so I’m really not sure how this will turn out. I like using natural remedies whenever possible. Which may sound contradictive to some given I work for “the evil” Monsanto, ha-ha. No worries, I won’t go into pro GMO or anything. Anyway, I wanted to have herbs for food, basic remedies, and tea (because, I like tea).  After searching on-line I was having a hard time choosing which herbs, and finding one source for all. And honestly some were a bit extreme and reminded me of the time my dad took me to a gun show and we realized after we got in that it was not like the ones at our local fairgrounds, but more like a pro-Hitler gun club. Anyone remember the movie Rat Race and the Barbie museum? Yea, kinda like that, but I digress. So I found a set on Amazon that looked good, plus I’m a Prime member so I got free 2 day shipping. Can’t go wrong with that.

Here’s a pic:

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This can also be found at http://www.mypatriotsupply.com

Hubby built me a raised bed and we hit up some yard sales and freebees for planting pots. Some herbs help with fly control so I needed some that can move around as I need, and some herbs are an invasive species and will run wild if you let it. And honestly I’m not sure which they are for sure, so I may have to replant some if I guessed wrong.

On the raised bed I filled the bottom with these huge rocks that someone actually trucked in for “beauty”. Honestly this amazes me because this rock is so prevalent around most of Grant County you actually see rock walls made of it on people’s property.  So given my built in hatred for this rock style, I used some to take up space at the bottom of my raised bed.

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I also used a couple small old stumps I didn’t know what to do with. Once the bottom was filled about 8 inches deep I (and by I, I mean, Hubby) filled it with dirt until it was about 6 inches from the top. Next we put in garden potting soil.

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I added a few scrap pieces of wood to divide up the bed so that I could keep track of things a bit better. Then I laid out my seed packets to decide how to set it up. For now I wrote on popsicle sticks what is planted in each spot (I found a couple cute ideas on pinterest I may switch them out for later). I tried to have the tallest on the North side so that it won’t give too much shade.

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Here is what I planted:

Food –

Sage

Oregano

Thyme

Parsley

Cilantro

Basil

 

Tea- (some double for medicinal)

Wild Bergamot

Anise Hyssop

Chamomile

Lemon Balm

Lemon Mint

Peppermint

 

Medicinal-

Catnip

Hyssop

Culver’s Root

Nettle

 

 

 

Planting is fun for all! Love my little helper.

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Compromise

I seem to be in project mode. But my project mode is quite different from my husbands. His looks like this:

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Mine looks like this:

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And we compromise and do this:

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I say compromise because pickled asparagus is disgusting. Actually, pickled anything including pickles completely gross me out. But I did the good wife thing and said “yes honey I’ll help”. Quickly followed by “if this makes my house stink like pickles were done”.

Now I must tell you not only do I not like pickles I absolutely hate the smell to the point that hubby only recently got pickle privileges back. Now get your mind out of the gutter, and I’ll explain.

Back in the day before we got married we were living in the cute little cottage I called the doll house. It was so tiny our living room furniture consisted of a papasan chair and a hope chest with cushions on it. So anyway, the fridge had one shelf on the door that the tray had broken on so it was just a shelf with no rail. Obviously we didn’t use this shelf. Apparently hubby was moving stuff around in the fridge and set the pickles on the shelf then not thinking about it closes the door. Is he the next one to open the fridge, oh no, it was me. As you can imagine pickle jar falls out breaks splashing pickle juice everywhere. The house stunk! It was awful. So needless to say, I banned pickles. Happy wife happy life right? He accepted my crazy and we moved on. So for reasons that may fall into crazy, I’m hesitant to bring pickled anything into my space. But, homestead-ish wife, blah blah blah.

So “we’ve” been gardening:

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pickling:

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and modifying:

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My house smells like a Strawberry Shortcake Doll

My house smells like a Strawberry Shortcake Doll

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Spring is here! One of my favorite parts about spring besides the lack of freezing temperatures is foods. All the best snacks start coming back out. Our strawberries aren’t out yet, but someone’s are so we stopped by a fruit stand and bought a flat of strawberries. They taste amazing. Plus strawberries make a great snack option since our house is working to be more diabetes friendly.

Now I will admit I am horrible. I’m trying, but I’m basically the diabetes equivalent to a chain smoking wife with a husband with lung cancer. Luckily, or somewhat anyway, hubby doesn’t like the same junk food I do. I’m a candy eater; he goes for chips and baked goods. I don’t like chips, and the only baked goods I really go for are chocolate chip cookies or cake batter. There is a good chance my son will also have this struggle, so I really see the value in ditching my sugar (though I usually just take it to work). It’s really hard. But I digress, I’m trying.

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Anyway, we bought the flat of strawberries and I’ve been cutting them up and dehydrating them. We use an Excalibur food dehydrator, but there are many options. I like ours because its square and you can remove trays for taller foods. Dried strawberries make a great snack option for hubby to take to work, and I can also add them to oatmeal or yogurt, or mix up a trail mix for the “snack shelf” for our son to grab.

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When dehydrating strawberries or any other heavily water based food I make sure to cut them a bit think, usually about ½ inch slices.

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I take the end pieces or berries that seem a bit small for drying and I place them in a bowl (cleaned and trimmed as needed). After I’m done putting the berries I want on the drying trays the other slices get put into food saver bags and thrown in the freezer for later. Frozen berries work great in the summer as a replacement to ice cream or popsicles; they’re our son’s favorite warm weather snack. We also make homemade ice cream for home BBQ gatherings, and they work great as a topper once thawed.

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I’ve had a helper with the food prep, though I think it was mainly so he could steel fresh berries.

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After we cleaned up our mess, my son  volunteered to give scraps to the chickens. He likes all the squawking from the chickens when you bring treats.

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Diabetic note:

Some fruits contain a very high amount of carbohydrates that can cause high blood sugar levels in diabetics. The 30 grams of carbohydrates found in a banana, the 50 grams found in a mango and the 52 grams found in a 16-ounce serving of orange juice can be too much for some people with diabetes. Checking your blood sugar levels after eating is the best way to determine whether the foods and fruits you eat allow you to keep your blood sugar levels under control. Strawberries and most other berries tend to contain less carbohydrates per serving and constitute excellent fruit options for all diabetics. – more information at: http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/can-diabetics-eat-strawberries-1678.html

 

Snack Packs

Snack Packs

This last year has brought many changes for our family.  One major adjustment our family is still working on is diet. This is more of a struggle for me than the rest of my family. Having always struggled with my weight in the opposite direction of most, I’ve always been able to eat anything I wanted, plus regularly drinking breakfast shakes to add calories. Now I know this sounds ridiculous to many, I’ve heard it all. My mother actually always told me growing up to “just wait, when your metabolism slows down you’ll be as big as a house”. Thanks mom. But really this is something I struggled with to an extreme growing up. In fact, as a sophomore in high school I was 5’8” and 86 lbs. So, yeah, that’s awkward. I remember my gym teacher actually calling my dad to say I had an eating disorder and to watch me for at least 30 minutes before and after meals.  I was goofy looking. Now, after aging a bit, having a kid, and slowing down, I’m a bit more average.  I’ll be 30 next year, and though I’m still thin, I notice that if I eat junky I feel junky. Plus, this last year hubby was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, and this means that our son may have a higher risk of diabetes as well.

With these factors in mind I’ve been working on doing better with having healthy snacks readily available. The catch is eating like crap is cheap, eating healthy can be more expensive. So with this in mind I’ve been working on diabetic and kid friendly snacks.

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Snack grab bags:

Sunday is my prep day, so I sit down with a box of sandwich bags and make pre-packed snacks. I keep a Tupperware container in the fridge with pre-made baby carrot snack packs. We could probably save more by cutting up carrots, but convenience wins out on this.  Popcorn is another great snack that works great for the kiddo, but is also a great sugar free snack for hubby.

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Here are a few of my go-to snacks:

Carrots

Popcorn

Sliced bell peppers (not so much for kiddo)

Dried fruit – bananas, apples, pears, whatever’s on sale

For those looking to meal plan for diabetes, or to make better food choices in general, here are some great tidbits I’ve found in my searching.

fruit  seafood  vegies

These charts were found on the FDA website: http://www.fda.gov/food/ingredientspackaginglabeling/labelingnutrition/ucm063367.htm#.UvqJetD-ecA.gmail

You can download them here:

vegetable nutritious facts

sea food nutritious facts

fruit nutritious facts

I also found a site that lets you enter your recipes and it will give you nutritious facts on what you enter.

http://nutritiondata.self.com/mynd/myrecipes/welcome?returnto=/mynd/myrecipes

If you have any kid friendly diabetic meals I’d love to hear about them.

Seed starts & fly control

Seed starts & fly control

I’ve given up on winter. No snow, 40 degrees in January, raining at 28, I’m over it. So, in honor of moving on, we planted seeds. Yes, it’s a bit early, but the thing I learned last year is that we need a natural pest control system. With the location of our little mini farm, we have flies. Gross I know. As a kid my step mom had 20-25 horses on 10 acres, we had flies, but this is worse. I grew up in dry land wheat and cattle ranch country. Now I’m in the land of irrigated corn and feed lots. We don’t live so close that we smell the feed lots, but there are at least 3 within 10 minutes of our home. And we have an irrigated cornfield on each side of our property.

Back to the seed starting.

There are a few herbs that work as natural fly repellants: basil, lavender, mint, rosemary, and bay.

We plan to have a handful of plants in the house, then several planters full on the patio around the back doors and probably one out front, hence, starting early.

Here are a few tips for starting seeds:

  1. Hedge your bets: choose plants that are easy to start. Basil is a good one, lettuce, peppers, and tomatoes are also easy-ish.
  2. Timing is everything: you can find planting guides for all regions. The back of seed packets will list how deep to plant, germination rates (how long to sprout), and a general guide on how long till maturity.
  3. Have a drain tray. You can use nursery flats or punch holes in the bottom of a container that is about 2-3 inches deep, and set it on a tray or plate. By having the holes in the bottom you don’t have to worry too much about over watering, and that’s my style.
  4. If you’re just starting out, buy seed starter mix. Yes you can make your own, but I’d wait till you’ve been starting your own for at  least a season, that way you won’t be adding more unknowns to the learning process.
  5. Mini-greenhouse: cover your seed starts with plastic wrap, glass, or a tray cover and keep them around 70 degrees. Keep the soil moist.
  6. At the 1st sign of sprouts, move to the sun.
  7. Once they have germinated they don’t need to stay as warm. About 1 week before replanting outside, start to acclimate the starts to cooler temperatures. Set them outside for a little, do so more and more each day.

For us, one of the big parts of living in the country is the ability to raise our son in a way that he is able to learn lessons that have been passed down through family generations. I want him to know and understand the strength of his heritage.  He comes from a family of farmers, ranchers, and service men and women.  Above all he comes from hardworking people that take care of their own and step up to help others.

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