Sunday, July 31, 2011

Holy, Holy, Holy!

Worship Him today for He is Holy!

Friday, July 29, 2011

Herbed Potatoes!

We are harvesting our potatoes now and are enjoying them in a variety of ways. One of our favorite things to do is to make herbed potatoes. This is a quick and easy dish and if you are growing a variety of herbs, you never have to serve it the same way twice!

Here's how I make them...wash your potatoes and cut into small pieces (about the size of a quarter).  Place the pieces in a bowl and when done cutting drizzle a wee bit of olive oil over the potatoes.  Toss well to coat the pieces.  Now the fun begins!

Pick the herbs of your choice, finely chop and toss in your bowl of potatoes. Toss again so that all of the potatoes are coated.  Add some salt, pepper and garlic - we like LOTS of garlic.

Just recently we did an "Italian" blend with our Yukon Gold potatoes.  I used a fresh red bell pepper along with garlic, basil, oregano, and rosemary. Once your potatoes are well coated, place in a shallow pan and bake until done.  I like the potatoes to be a bit crispy outside and tender inside.  I usually bake at 350 for an hour or so.

Here's what they looked like the last time I served them!

Now...doesn't that just make you hungry?

Other great blends are garlic and fresh dill, garlic and cilantro, rosemary and thyme, basil and sweet fennel, basil and oregano....the list is endless just use your favorite flavor combinations!  Adding finely chopped onion never hurts either....


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Putting Up Peaches

I've just finished putting up peaches for the year and thought I'd share a quick picture tutorial for those of you who might want to learn.  I can peaches and I freeze peaches. Let's start with canning. I use the raw pack method.

Pick or purchase your peaches - make sure they are without blemishes, ripe and of course, flavorful and juicy!

Wash them to remove dirt, dust and the peach fuzz...seems like this year they were extra fuzzy!

As I wash each peach I put them in a colander to wait for the "dipping".

Get a very large pot of water boiling.  I use my "pasta pot".  It has an insert with holes so that you can put whatever you want to cook into hot water and pull it up again without dumping the hot water.
Here are the peaches in the insert.

Here is the bottom portion of the pot filled with hot water.  I'm waiting for it to boil.  You know that old saying that a "watched pot never boils".  I think it's true - it took forever to boil!

While you are waiting for the water to boil.  Fill a sink with ice water.  It really needs to be ice water to help your peaches slip their skins. You will also make a syrup - the Ball Blue book has recipes for syrup from light to heavy.  It's just a combination of water and sugar - easy!  You will need this to be hot when you begin putting your peaches into jars.

You are going to "dip" your peaches in boiling water for 1 minute....just like tomatoes! The Ball Blue Book says to dip your peaches for 30 to 60 seconds.  I found that it really took 60 seconds for this to work.  I lowered the part of the pot containing the peaches into the boiling water for 60 seconds.  Use a timer!  Once that timer rings, take the peaches out of the boiling water (let the hot water drain off of them so you aren't adding hot water to your ice water) and drop the peaches in the ice water.

While they are sitting in ice water for a few minutes, get your next batch ready to go into the boiling water.

Take the peaches out of the ice water and put into a bowl.  Now they are ready to peel and slice.

Look how easy the skins slip off - most of the time all I had to do was to rub my thumb against the peach!


Slice and prepare to can according to directions.  When canning peaches, be sure to scrape out the red fibers - they can turn dark if you don't and your peaches won't be as pretty. As you slice, you also need to treat them so the air doesn't cause them to turn dark. The Ball Blue book gives you the instructions for making a dip of water and Vitamin C. I just sprinkled with lemon juice and tossed.

You can halve your peaches or slice them. I did a few jars of halves but sliced the rest.

You will place your peaches into jars, cover them with the hot syrup you made, check for air bubbles, wipe the rims of your jars, add your ring and seal - you know the drill!  Check your canning book for details!

You will process them in a water bath canner.  Quarts are processed for 30 minutes.

Aren't they pretty?  And so easy to do!

I actually prefer frozen peaches for many dishes.  So, although I do can some of them, I freeze most of them.  This is also quicker and easier to do.  

I don't like to slip skins of the peaches I am going to freeze because the process "cooks" a thin outer layer of the peaches.  This doesn't matter if you are canning them where they are essentially "cooked" in the canner!

For frozen peaches,  I wash them and then peel them with a knife - if the peaches are ripe this process goes pretty quickly. Then I slice them and toss the slices into a large bowl. As I add a "layer" of peaches to the bowl, I sprinkle fresh lemon juice over the peaches and a light sprinkling of sugar. This helps them to create their own "syrup" and helps prevent them from getting brown from the air exposure.  I then place them into quart baggies and freeze.

Yummy!  I see peach pies, cobblers, crisps, fruit salads, peaches over vanilla ice cream and more this winter!

Please be sure to check your favorite canning book and follow the directions for canning your peaches!

Peaches were selling in our area for 98 cents a pound.  However you could purchase a 30 lb. basket for $16.00!  Your home canned peaches will be much cheaper than purchasing the same amount of canned peaches at the grocery store.  They will taste better too! And if you have a couple of peach trees, like we do, your savings will go even further!  We don't get a lot of peaches from our trees, and some years we don't get any, but every little bit helps!  If you have the room, and live in the right area, I encourage you to plant a couple of peach trees and look forward to reaping the rewards in the future.

Happy Canning!

Monday, July 25, 2011

His Endless Gifts

This is the busiest time of year for me - I'm rarely out of the kitchen. It is so important that in these busy times we pause to notice the many gifts our Father gives us each day.

#915 - #931

the bounty that is keeping my canner busy

baby birds with wide open mouths

stars that fill the summer sky - diamonds on black velvet

Saturday afternoons spent reading

raindrops on windows

spider webs covered with dew - diamonds in early morning light

our horse - running through the pastures

fresh farm eggs

family visits

home made sausage - yummy!

a bounty of peaches

His promises to us - amazing!

studying the Word with my boys

old recipes

food on our table every day

planning new adventures -oh the joy of dreaming big dreams!

When we slow down and take the time to notice, we find He is leaving us love notes all day long! He is so gracious, so kind, so loving. 

He is faithful...

He never fails or forsakes... 

He never lets go!

He leaves me breathless!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Saturday, July 23, 2011

God's Gift of Jewelweed....Part 2

*EDITOR'S NOTE* This is a repost from the archives - unfortunately the pictures have disappeared.  I'm reposting this due to the calls and emails I've had recently about poison ivy - it must be rampant this year!  You can order both Jewelweed Soap and Jewelweed Salve from my website.  Read on and learn how to make a very effective TOPICAL oil or salve for poison ivy relief!  Remember...Jewelweed is TOXIC if you ingest it!

In our last post we made a tincture of Jewelweed to be used on the skin only in treating poison ivy. Now we are going to make an oil which you can turn into a salve, use in a soap etc. The process is very similar.

You will need to let your Jewelweed dry a bit more than you did for your tincture. If you have moisture in your plants, your end product can mold. So, let it sit for several more days. Then you will cut or tear the Jewelweed up and fill a canning jar with the plant material - about 3/4 full.

These jars are ready for oil. I like to use olive oil because it has a longer shelf life but you can use any oil you like. Put the oil in a want to use enough oil to cover the plant material. You will be heating this oil in a stainless steel, ceramic or glass pot - never aluminum or copper!

The oil needs to be very hot to the touch but not hot enough to burn you. Pour the oil over the plant material, cover and let sit. I let mine sit until I need to use it - usually well over a month but you don't need to wait that long.

I have even put my jars onto a sunny windowsill for extra warmth in the hopes of extracting a bit more goody! When you are done your jars should look like this....

When you are ready to use your oil, you will place a stainless steel strainer (not plastic or aluminum!) into a glass, stainless or ceramic bowl and pour the contents of your jars through sterilized cheese cloth. Be sure to wring all of the wonderful oil out of the plant material. It may appear a little cloudy...this is just don't want plant material in your oil.

Now that you have the oil...what are you going to do with it? You can leave it as an oil to apply to poison ivy, you can add beeswax to the oil to turn it into a salve, and/or you can add essential oils to it for additional healing properties!

Be sure to research any essential oils you are thinking of using to make sure that they can be used on rashes or on broken skin....and check to make sure there are no adverse warnings listed for your purposes!

Herbal medicine is a lost art in our society today but we can reclaim this wonderful tool! If you are interested in learning more about making your own medicine, you might be interested in taking my Medicinal Herb Course. The course covers all the basic forms of herbal remedies from tinctures to poultices and it also covers 10 basic and easy to find herbs. You will find lots of recipes and also receive a private email address so that you may ask me as many questions as you like for 30 days! I have tried to make the course very simple and straight forward...the feedback from my students has been very positive as you can see below:
M.S. writes: My favorite herb resource is your course, of course! (I know you mentioned it in your list, but I thought I'd add my appreciation for it here.)

My mother has 8 or 10 books on medicinal herbs, at least one of which you mentioned in your post, I think (same author, anyway). She's hardly looked at them, even though she wants to learn from them. I think she probably has the same problems with them that I have. I've looked through some of them numerous times, only to put them away, feeling at a loss for where to begin. I didn't even know what herbs to buy or collect, where to buy or collect, etc. And I am immediately turned off by the mysticism influence so prevalent in some of them.

Starting from the vantage point of zero knowledge, I needed more direction. Your course offered that, focusing on herbs that address normal family needs in the course of any given season or year and that can even be grown or collected here. The 10 herbs you cover hit many of our needs: colds, coughs, headaches, exczema (Is that spelled correctly? Too lazy to check!), bug bites, etc.

And as I've said in recent posts, I'm making good use of some of those herbs now!

Personally, I'm hoping you continue to put out more courses along the same line, or add supplements to this one, with more herbs, so I can continue to learn in such a practical, easy-to-use, and very applicable way.

Thanks for all your work on the course, Cheri!

I am happy to say that I hope to follow this wonderful suggestion and create a supplement to my course ....Lord willing!


Thursday, July 21, 2011

Living with Boys

Heard in my home this evening..."If I could stay up a little bit later Mom, I'll get up even earlier than you want me to so that I have time to ungrogulate".



Congratulations've invented another word.

Definition? To become less groggy from lack of sleep because we stayed up to late.

I promised not to refuse to name names.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

God's gift of Jewelweed....poison ivy relief!

*EDITOR'S NOTE* This is a repost from the archives - unfortunately most of the pictures have disappeared.  I'm reposting this due to the calls and emails I've had recently about poison ivy - it must be rampant this year!  You can order both Jewelweed Soap and Jewelweed Salve from my website.  Read on and learn how to make a very effective TOPICAL tincture for poison ivy relief!  Remember...Jewelweed is TOXIC if you ingest it!

Recently I talked about gathering Jewelweed....hopefully some of you were able to find this wonderful plant. Now...what do we do with it? Come with me as I work up the Jewelweed that we gathered! In this post I will cover making a tincture and the next post we will talk about oils and salves.

The first thing I did was to spread all of the Jewelweed out as thinly as possible. It took up 2 tables in our home. Our goal is to let it wilt a little so that we don't have a lot of excess moisture in our plant when we work with it. This is imperative if you are going to be making an oil or salve with the plant. Jewelweed wilts very quickly so this won't take long.

The first thing we are going to make is a tincture. We will need the plant material, jars, lids and 100 proof vodka. We can work up a tincture quicker than the oil - it will need to be a bit drier before we work with oil. Next step is to chop the plant material and put it into the canning jars. I use 1/2 gallon jars. Most people will not need that much but then you don't have to deal with my son who gets poison ivy every time he goes outside....all year long! I usually try to tincture a gallon each summer. I also make enough so that I am able to give some of this away...invariably I will be at church or a meeting and there will be someone suffering terribly with poison ivy. I pour out a small bottle for them and send them on their way - they are always amazed at how quickly this works!

You want to fill your jars almost to the top but don't pack the plant material down...just fill them loosely. These jars are almost full enough.....I will add Jewelweed until the plant material is just below the neck of the jar. Notice that the entire plant is in there....leaves, stems and flowers.

The next step is to cover the herbs with the vodka. I fill them until the vodka is just a hair below the rim of the jar. Then cap them with a lid and want an air tight top!

Now...MAKE A LABEL!! Do not not pass not sneeze....stop and make a label RIGHT NOW!!! If you don't you will not know what you have and this tincture is poisonous if you ingest it....make a label! The label should contain the following of herb, date, where gathered and your medium (100 proof vodka) and in the case of Jewelweed please remember to add that this is toxic and for external use only! So my label will read: "Jewelweed, 100 proof vodka, 9/20/07, Gap Creek, DO NOT TAKE INTERNALLY!! POISONOUS!!". The date is also vitally important because you don't want to use this for 30 days.

The liquid in this tincture is going to turn a lovely red....I have taken a picture in the sunlight to show you, however, do not store your herbs, or herbal products, in the sunlight!

Now, you are going to put your tincture away in a dark cupboard or pantry for 30 days. If you are in the pantry for something else, give the jar a good shake. I tip mine over and back up a couple of times. If you forget to do this the world will not end...I promise!

You can begin using this in 30 days. I usually wait until I need it....then I pour out enough to fill a small brown bottle, which I also keep in my pantry. Label the small bottle just as you labeled the large jar! Once you have poured off enough from the large jar that it leaves part of the plant material showing, it is time to strain. You don't want it to mold on you and ruin your product.

Take a stainless steel or ceramic strainer (no aluminum or plastic please!), line it with sterilized cheesecloth and place it in a stainless steel or ceramic bowl. Pour the entire contents into the strainer. Let the liquid flow through until all that is left in the cheesecloth is the plant material. Now, gather up that cloth and squeeze every drop of liquid you can from the plant...I often have one of my older boys come do this after I have had a go at it. Their hands are much larger and stronger than mine and I am amazed at how much more liquid they can squeeze out of something that I thought was dry!

Then you will place this wonderful liquid into a dark brown bottle.  You can find these at Mountain Rose Herbs...there is a link in my sidebar.  If you are making huge amounts, keep the extra liquid in large canning jars and place them where they aren't exposed to light. However, you should still have a brown (or blue) bottle in which to keep the portion of tincture that you are currently using.  REMEMBER TO LABEL ALL THE BOTTLES!!! just made the stongest form of herbal medicine there is...a tincture! may be do I use this? Remember....we do NOT ingest this tincture....we wash with it. If you have been out and even think you might have been in poison ivy....come home and wash all exposed skin with helps break the bond of the urisol oil from your skin. If you break out with poison ivy, wash with this frequently during the day. For really stubborn patches, or large patches, I have soaked a cotton cloth with this and then placed it on Elijah's arm and bandaged it into place. When it dries out I re-apply as necessary.

It has greatly shortened the length of an outbreak and the severity. What used to take weeks to takes a week or less...sometimes just a few days.

Let me know if ya'll have any post we'll talk about making a salve for poison ivy!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Driving with Bees

I hate driving with bees.  Have you ever found there was a bee in the car as you were driving along?

Now imagine getting in the car knowing that there were 6,000 bees in there with you!

This post could also be called "Things A Mother Will Do For A Child"....or "How Motherhood Makes You Do Stupid Things!"

Josiah had the opportunity this year to serve as a counselor at a Christian camp owned by some friends of ours. This is a good thing.

Josiah had a bee hive that was SO strong and SO full of bees that he was concerned it would divide itself and swarm.  This is a good thing.

The protocol for this is to split the hive yourself before the bees decide to do this thus preventing a swarm and any loss of bees. You divide the hive, making sure you don't take the queen, and the new group of bees will make their own queen. This is also a good thing - it is like getting a free package of bees. Bees are expensive.  We are saving money.  Keep telling yourself "free bees..."

It gets ugly when you discover that you have to MOVE the new bee hive several miles away for a month so that they "re-orient" themselves.  If you keep them at home, they will just go back to their former hive.  So...essentially you have to provide a vacation spot for your new hive for a month. Which means you have to TRANSPORT them somewhere...IN YOUR CAR!

The owner of said camp is also a beekeeping friend of Josiah.  Said camp is 30 minutes away from home.  Well over the miles needed to keep the bees happy. Josiah and said owner decided that he would BRING HIS BEES TO CAMP for their vacation re-orientation and so that Josiah could keep an eye on the new hive and feed them. This is a good thing?

Of course you realize by now that all of this means that I have to chauffeur the bees to camp!  My children don't like me to drive wearing beekeeper's gloves, hat and veil. They say it is embarrasses them. This is a bad thing.

I'm just thinking of survival.  Better to look silly than be covered with a thousand stings. 

However, Josiah pointed out to me that the bees would be in shock (I think that means they will be angry) and probably quiet (I think he is lying to me to make me feel better) on the trip.  He also promised to duct tape any and all openings, put them in a plastic trash bag for the trip and cover the whole thing with a sheet so that any escapees would still be under cover.  This is a good thing.

I wonder how they will feel at the end of their vacation on the drive home.  

Hopefully not as tired and grumpy as we usually are.

I comfort myself with the idea that when Josiah gets home we will be extracting honey from our hives.  This is a good thing.

Friday, July 15, 2011


I read recently that regular canning lids contain BPA in the coating of the lid - that's right..the part that comes into contact with all of my canned food!  So...I'm raising organic food, canning with distilled or spring water (to avoid the nasty chemicals in the public water supply) and then I'm topping it with a lid filled with nasty chemicals which contaminates my food. Isn't that just great?! I began looking for an alternative for this year.

I found Tattler Reusable Canning Lids!

I decided to give them a try and see if I liked them. I LOVE them! They are just as easy to use as regular canning lids and you can use them over, and over, and over! They are BPA free. I've used them for water bath canning, pressure canning and I even tried them with my vacuum sealer. The lids work with the traditional metal rings you've used for years.

They come in both regular mouth and wide mouth sizes and fit all standard canning jars.

Here they are on some of the relish I've canned this year. These are the regular mouth lids.

These are the wide mouth lids on my recently canned green beans.

They are dishwasher safe, you don't have to worry about acid corrosion contaminating your food, you can reuse them indefinitely and they are made in the USA!  They've been around since 1976. AND...the lids are guaranteed to last a lifetime or they will replace them for free! The rubber rings are reusable and have been reported to last through 10 to 20 years of canning.  You can re-purchase the rubber rings separately if yours are ever damaged.

During use, there are two things to remember: once you tighten the metal band on the lid, turn the metal band back 1/4 inch to allow it to vent.  And, once your jar comes out of the canner, remember to tighten the metal band completely. You will also flip your seal the next time you use it - apparently you will be able to tell by the mark left on the seal from the edge of your canning jar.

One small caution....make sure you only have ONE seal per lid.  During my first use of the Tattler lids, I came up short one seal! I checked the trash, the garbage disposal, everywhere I could think of....Doodle took a look at my jars and sure enough one jar had two seals on it! It was my fault for not being more careful and once I realized it was possible, I just checked more carefully during use.  It never happened again and I've gone through 6 boxes now.

I like the fact that I'm not throwing a ton of metal lids in the trash each year.  The Tattler lid helps us reduce our waste.

Evidently there was a huge shortage of canning lids in the mid 1970s and the Tattler Lid came out of that crises. I like knowing that even if there IS a shortage of canning lids again one year, I will still be able to can my food each summer because my lids are reusable. It gives me an added sense of security that I will be able to provide food for my family no matter what the manufacturing industry or the economy does!

Then there is the cost savings!  These reusable lids cost more initially....but you only have to buy them once! Using the prices of conventional canning lids locally, I discovered that with the regular canning lids I will recoup my cost with the 4th use of the regular lids and the third use of the wide mouth lids.  From that point on, it's all free! I use many more wide mouth lids than I do the regular lids as do most of the friends I have that can food. So...the savings comes a bit quicker!  

I figured those costs on the purchase of 3 boxes (a dozen lids in each box) of Tattler lids - the smallest purchase possible through Tattler. My savings will go up if I buy the Tattler lids in bulk.  For me, it's a win-win situation.

I'm so impressed with these lids, I've become an affiliate!  If you decide to purchase the Tattler lids, please click on the link above or on the picture on the right under the heading of "Where I Shop".  I am so grateful to all of you who purchase through my blog! It does not cost you a thing, but I receive a small commission that contributes to my ability to stay home with my boys! I pray that our Father blesses each of you!

Happy Canning!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Salsa - A Picture Tutorial!

Today we are going to make salsa together! I've never found a "canned" salsa I like. If you have a recipe you love for canned salsa - please send it my way. I thought I'd share how I make salsa and have it fresh year round. First the recipe...then the secret!

Gather your ingredients: tomatoes, tomatillas, onions, garlic, cilantro, salt and jalapenos (missing from this picture but you'll see them soon!).  You'll need a cutting board, a large wide knife, commonly called a chef's knife (I use a Henckel 8 inch Chef's knife - a gift from my mama). This is one knife you don't want to skimp on - buy a good one!  You'll never regret it. You will also need a tomato knife or other thin sharp knife. I have had a tomato knife for about 10 years and am amazed at how well they core and slice tomatoes! I'd never want to go without one again! I also use a mini food processor to make my salsa.  I can control the texture better with this than with my large food processor.  Mine is by Black & Decker. You will also need a garlic press, measuring spoons, a bowl for mixing and some chips for tasting!

We'll start with the onions...I used one large Vidalia onion...cut the ends off and peel...

then cut into sections about this size.

Place them in the bowl of the food processor.

Pulse a few times until they are "minced".

Dump them into the bowl. They should look like this.

Next, take your tomato knife and core your tomatillas. I used four tomatillas for this batch - adjust according to your own tastes.

Then cut them into sections like this.

Place them in the food processor.

Top them with fresh cilantro from your garden.  Be sure to wash it!  I often find spittle bugs in my cilantro! I used a very large bunch of cilantro.

See the tomatillas hiding underneath?

You are going to run the food processor continually until the cilantro is finely chopped.

Add it to the bowl!
Wash, core and slice your tomatoes. The sections should be about this big. I used 6 or 7  tomatoes.

Place some in the food processor.

If you are making a very large batch, you will need to do this several times. Don't overload your food processor.  We want a "chopped" texture - not pureed!

Place them in the bowl.  Add a bit of salt.  I used 1/4 of a teaspoon here but go by taste.  We don't use a lot of salt in our house.  This was fine for a fairly large batch of salsa.

Pour the tomatoes in the bowl - notice they are "chunky"!

Now for the garlic...y'all know how to open garlic cloves easily?

Lay a garlic clove on your cutting board - lay a wide flat knife (called a chef's knife) on the clove...

Bring your fist down hard and smash the knife! Make sure your knife is flat so you don't cut yourself!

Your garlic clove pops right open!

Put the clove (or more!) in a garlic press.  We like a lot of garlic so I used about 6 large cloves.

Add it to the bowl!

Now for the jalapenos - I don't have fresh ones yet so this is a jar I canned last year.

I take the whole jar and dump it into the food processor.  

I process them until they are minced! We use a LOT of minced jalapenos.

Then I pour the whole thing back into the jar for storage in the refrigerator.  Now I'll be ready next time I make salsa, or Mexican cheese dip or homemade re-fried beans!

Take a tablespoon (or more!) and add it to the bowl.  

This amount is completely dependent on how hot you like your salsa. I used quite a few tablespoons!

Mix well and get out the chips - it's time to have a taste testing!

If you find the tomatoes were terribly acidic, you may want to add a pinch of sugar to offset that.  Usually less than 1/4 teaspoon will do the trick!

Now for the secret! All summer long, I take tomatoes from the garden, wash them and put them on a cookie sheet in the freezer.  I do the same with my tomatillas. I also put cilantro in zip locks in the freezer.  When the tomatoes and tomatillas are frozen solid, I "pour" them into a 5 gallon bucket in my chest freezer.  They will sound like billiard balls rolling around. I have found that 5 gallons is enough to get us from summer to summer.  When I want salsa in January, I take out the amount of tomatoes and tomatilas that I want and let them thaw in a 9 x 13 pan.  This helps contain the "water" that comes out of them.

When they are thawed, I slip the skins right off, use my tomato knife to cut out the core and place the rest in the food processor and proceed as usual. I purchase a couple of tomatoes from the grocery..not for taste but for texture. Your frozen tomatoes will provide all the taste! The store tomatoes will make the texture just like your summer salsa straight from the garden. I also use my cilantro from the freezer. This is a wonderful treat to take to potlucks or dinners through the winter. No one will know how you managed to pull off such a delicious, flavorful salsa with the tomatoes available in the store at that time of year!

Another advantage?  One less thing to can during the summer months!


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