Friday, September 20, 2013

How to Do It ALL

It is a funny thing looking back over past posts. Some days I feel like I'm facing something new, something not encountered before. But recorded history tells a different story.
If I can believe past blog posts, then I know that every September I hit a wall called "To Much To Do." Between a busy life that has us running too much, a garden that won't quit (or tomatoes that started late), and the start of school, the tasks won't fit into 24 hours. And about every September I've written some version of "I'm so behind, I'll never catch up."

But  I'm learning something from it all - I think. So I pulled out an old post, revamped it greatly, and am sharing it with you. 

Just in case your September feels like mine.
 
How to Do It All

I can't do it all. As hard as I try, I can't be the perfect wife and mother. I can't grow all my own food, cook from scratch, bake my own bread, and preserve all the food we need for winter. I can't have beautiful flower beds and an immaculate home with meticulously organized closets, ready to host guests at any moment. I can't be the first to volunteer for any church ministry, sew lovely clothing for my family, do fun art projects with my children, and have time left for my husband. I can't scrapbook, knit, embroider, quilt, and all the other things I can try to squeeze into my days. Yes, I can do some of these things some of the time, but not all these things all the time. And never can I accomplish all that I thought was possible in the freshness of the morning. Each day when my husband comes home, he asks me about my day, and I reply, “I didn't get it all done.”

Of course, I know I can't do it all. In my head I know it. But I don't live like I believe it. Somehow I think that if I would be a little more efficient, work a little faster, or wake up earlier, I can “get it all done.” So I read another homemaking book, search for one more tip on time efficiency, and buy another organizational gizmo touted to give me more time. I keep dreaming that after canning season is over, or I finish some sewing, or the holidays pass, then life will slow down and I'll have time for everything.

It is a lie. I already have far too many interests, projects, and plain old work for several lifetimes. I'm not condoning laziness—just realizing I need to face reality. And today, my reality is a houseful of little ones that need fed, clothed, trained, and taught—by me.

Why do I end every day in frustration over how many things are still undone? Everything I did today—cooking, laundry, cleaning—will need done again tomorrow. And there was much more I wanted to do that I was forced to omit. 
 
So I finally admit it: I can't do it all. Why did it take so long? Am I attempting too much? Or trying to be someone I am not? Probing deeper in my heart I find that I have placed homemaking on a pedestal where it did not belong. I want to appear to be a perfect woman. But instead of appearing good in the sight of others, the purpose of everything I do should be glorifying God. God in His sovereignty has given me all the time, energy, and resources I need to do His will. His will—not my wishes. 
 
None of my circumstances come as a surprise to God but are allowed by Him for my good. God cares about my frustrations but He is more concerned about my spiritual growth in the midst of these trials, than that I “get it all done.” When I am discontent with my circumstances, I am complaining that the One who plans my life has made a mistake. If I can't get it all done, either I am attempting to do more than God wants me to, or God has other plans for my time. 

Today, did I love God with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength? Did I love my neighbor as myself? If I can say “yes” to those questions, does it really matter if my kitchen floor didn't get mopped?

How do I break a mindset where success is found in accomplishment and where a good day is measured by the checks on the to-do list? I believe God is waiting for me to repent of putting my own glory above His. He wants me to ask for His out-pouring of grace to help me serve others instead of feeding my own desire to feel successful. “According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue:” (2 Peter 1:3)

Maybe the next time my husband asks “How was your day?” I shouldn't interpret it to mean “Did you get it all done?” Maybe instead I need to ask myself “How did today's challenges bring maturity in my life and glorify the Lord?” Maybe then my heart can be filled with praise to my Heavenly Father who considers my growth in holiness more important than clean floors.

Maybe then I can worship instead of stress. Even on the busiest of days.

And with worship, my day can be successful, even when I can't do it all. Because when I have my priorities right, when worship is first, I can do it all. Not all I want to do, but all that God has called me to do. 

And therein lies the difference.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Making Jam with Stevia



Several of you asked if I have a low or no sugar option for jam making. Or if I tried making jam sweetened with stevia.

I had not, though Regina, who wrote the series here on natural sugars, had shared her recipe with me. It did always bother me to dump cup after cup of sugar into a batch of jam. My alternative was to just stop eating jam. In the past few years we have eaten very little jam, saving it for only a rare occasion when I didn't really care if we consumed some sugar.





But this year we had a bumper blackberry and red raspberry crop. I thought that maybe I should try making some jam with stevia. So I called my friend Regina and asked her to tell me again how she made her stevia jam. With some trial and error (and a batch that was more like a raspberry syrup) I have some completely sugar-free jam that we love!















First I tried using blackberries. Since they were so seedy, I decided to strain out the seeds. I cooked the berries in a cup of water, then put them through a small food mill. If you didn't have a food mill, you could use a sieve.















I tried to get as much as the pulpy juice out as possible.



Then I cooked the pectin, stevia, and water for several minutes (detailed recipe below) and stirred it into the fruit juice. After cooling, I had a great blackberry jelly! And a berry stained bowl for the children to fight over who gets to lick clean!



For red raspberries, I wanted to use the whole fruit, without straining out the seeds. Using my food processor, I crushed the berries into a pulp.


















Then I measured out my berries and added the right amount of the pectic/stevia water.



















 It helps to have a willing helper for all the stirring!














Now they are in freezer containers and waiting for us to enjoy yummy berry goodness all winter!

Caution: Since this jam contains NO sugar, it may not keep as well as regular jam. Sugar does have a preserving affect, in other words, that huge amount of sugar in jam inhibits bacteria from growing. Without the massive amounts of sugar, this jam is more like fresh fruit, which obviously does have a shelf-life - even in the fridge.

From the research I've done, the recommendation is to not store in the refrigerator for longer than two weeks. Longer than that should be stored in the freezer. For my family, eating a container of jam in two weeks is no problem! I did push a container to the back of the fridge to see what it looked like in two weeks and there was no sign of mold or bacteria. So I think this can be safely used for a couple weeks.

Freezer Jam with Stevia

3 cups crushed fruit (or fruit juice/pulp if you have strained out seeds)
1 tsp pure powdered stevia
4 T low or no sugar pectin (Sure Gel or other brand, I like to buy it in bulk instead of the small boxes.)

1 cup water

Mix stevia, pectin, and water in a pan and bring to boil. Boil for 2 minutes stirring constantly. Pour into fruit and stir for four minutes. Pour into freezer containers and place in fridge. Cool for three hours. Freeze.

Option: Regina likes to add about 1/3 cup of sugar for added sweetness. I did not add any extra sugar. You may want to taste your fruit and adjust to your taste depending on the sweetness of your fruit.

Regina also added some water to her fruit, especially for strawberries and blueberries. Her children thought that it was too "fruity" and watering it down (maybe 2 cups of fruit and 1 cup of water to make 3 cups of crushed fruit) was more to their liking. Plus it helped stretch her fruit.

I'd love to hear your experience with making stevia jam!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Raspberry Tapioca - With Blackberries?

 

One of the fun things about getting married to a man whose mom and sisters are awesome cooks is being introduced to a whole new set of great recipes!

Ed's family had completely different food traditions than my family which makes holiday meals even more special. One of their favorite foods is raspberry tapioca. I had never eaten anything quite like it - and it was love at first bite.

Maybe part of what makes raspberry tapioca so special is the knowledge that it is a labor of love. Ed's sister and her children stalk the fence rows in the summer, harvesting buckets of black raspberries that she cans in jars to be enjoyed the rest of the year as raspberry tapioca. I've done a little bit of raspberry picking in fence rows. Between the thorns, biting bugs, and poison ivy - it is a job for only the strong and the brave!

I'd love to have a patch of black raspberries on our property, and there is a few in our back pasture, but only enough to find a handful or two.

But this year, our thornless blackberries produced well. Could I can blackberries and make blackberry tapioca? It was worth a try.



I filled quart jars with blackberries, added 1/4 tsp of pure powdered stevia, and filled the jar with water. I canned the berries for 12 minutes. (My sister-in-law uses 1/4 cup of sugar per jar instead of stevia.) I tried not to fill the jars too full, but some juice still managed to squeeze out.

Now to try for tapioca...



I opened a jar and poured the contents into a sieve. The berries have lost a lot of their color.



Using a spoon, I mashed the berries, trying to squeeze out as much juice as possible. The result was almost three cups of blackberry juice and I added a little water to make a  complete three cups. I then followed my sister-in-law's recipe, replacing the sugar with honey, and finding that I needed to decrease the water.

 

After a try or two, Ed deemed it a total success! The flavor is a little different than raspberry but still rich and delicious.

Want to try it? Here is the recipe...



Black Raspberry (or Blackberry) Tapioca

1 cup water
3 cups raspberry/blackberry juice
3 T. lemon juice
8 T. tapioca
3/4 cup honey 
dash of salt
sweetened whipped cream

Mix water, berry juice, lemon juice, tapioca, honey, and salt. Let stand 5 minutes to soften tapioca. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and allow to cool 20 minutes. Stir well. Place in refrigerator and cool for several hours. Top with sweetened whipped cream.

If you prefer sugar instead of honey, the original recipe called for 1 1/2 cups of sugar with an additional 1/2 of water.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Hamburger Soup to Can



Yesterday I was making tomato juice and had more than I needed. So I stirred up a batch of canned hamburger soup.

When I was in the middle of chopping up all those vegetables, I thought it was the craziest thing  I had ever attempted.

But today, looking at the jars lined up on the counter, all I can think of is the winter days when I can open up a jar of hamburger soup and have an almost instant meal.

This recipe is a canned version of our favorite hamburger soup recipe. Canning soup requires a pressure canner. Please don't attempt to can meat or vegetables without a pressure canner.



Hamburger Soup to Can

8 lb ground beef
8 onions, chopped
4 cups chopped sweet peppers
8 garlic cloves, minced
8 quarts tomato juice
5 T salt
2 tsp pepper
2 qt diced carrots
4 qt diced potatoes

Brown ground beef with onions, peppers, and garlic. (I had to do several batches.) In a large stock pot, cook carrots and potatoes in two gallons of tomato juice. Boil for about five minutes. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. (If you pot is too small, you may need to divide the mixture into two pots to mix.) Ladle into jars, screw on lids and pressure can for 50 minutes at 11 pounds pressure. Makes about 18 quart.

To serve: Heat soup in pan. Mix 1/4 cup flour with one to two cups of milk. Stir milk into soup and heat. (Do not boil.) Add seasoning as desired. Serve.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Potato Digging

 

We finished harvesting our potatoes this week.



A real treasure hunt!



And when the potatoes are this plentiful and beautiful - what fun!




One of the children took the camera and stole this picture of me. Five months pregnant and packing on more pounds than with any of my other babies! I'm hoping it is because of all the good seasonal eating I've been doing and that fall weather will slow it down! (And just so you know - Ed did most of the digging on an evening that the camera was not in the garden!)

Our final result was six bushels of potatoes. And many of them were huge.



With our potatoes rough start with the cold weather in May, I never expected this abundance.

Thank you Lord.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Eggplant Parmesan

Last year my sister-in-law gave me a couple eggplants from her garden. I didn't know what to do with them, so she also shared the recipe for Eggplant Parmesan.

And I found a new love.

So this year I planted my own eggplant. I was a little disappointed at how few eggplant we were able to harvest, but we got enough for several opportunities to indulge in our new favorite dish. And I was able to ditter with the recipe to make it (I think) even better.



At first I had breaded both sides of all the eggplant slices. But the bottom eggplant was rather soggy. A clue from Cook's Country magazine had me eliminating the breading for all but the top layer of eggplant.

 

The remaining eggplant I baked with just a little seasoning. I also used less sauce. Much better.



In a pinch I used jarred pizza or spaghetti sauce but this is definitely better with a fresh homemade sauce. And the sauce cooks while the eggplant bakes so it doesn't take much more time. Besides I love recipes that start with walking out to the garden and bringing back a bowl full of veggies like this.


Don't those colors look good enough to eat!

Eggplant Parmesan

1 cup bread crumbs
1 cup Parmesan cheese, divided

1 egg, beaten
2 lbs eggplant, sliced 1/2 inch slices
salt and pepper
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups chopped tomato
1 sweet pepper, chopped

1 T fresh basil
2 cups mozzarella cheese

Mix bread crumbs and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese. Place half of eggplant on baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper. For the remainder of the eggplant, dip one side in egg then in bread crumbs and place on another baking sheet, crumb side up. Bake eggplant in 475 oven for about 25 minutes on two oven racks, rotating sheets half way through baking time.

While eggplant bakes, saute onion in oil for five minutes. Add garlic and pepper, and saute a few minutes longer. Add tomatoes and cook for about ten minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and basil. Add salt and pepper to sauce if desired.

When eggplant is tender, remove from oven. In 9x13 pan, spread  1 1/2 cup of sauce in bottom of pan. Place unbreaded egg plant on sauce, overlapping as needed. Spread 3/4 cup of sauce over eggplant and sprinkle with 1 cup mozzarella cheese. Layer remaining eggplant, breaded side up. Spoon remaining sauce (about 3/4 cup) over eggplant and remaining 1 cup of cheese. Bake at 475 for 10-15 minutes or until cheese begins to brown.



Indulge.



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