Saturday, October 30, 2010

Taco Soup

Another great soup recipe from my sister-in-law Sonja (not to be confused with Sonya!) This is a belly warmer soup perfect for days like this when we woke to 29 degrees with a heavy frost on the ground.

Taco Soup

1 lb ground beef
1 large onion, chopped
Brown together.

1 pack Hidden Valley Ranch mix
1 pack taco seasoning mix
1 can pinto beans- not drained
1 can chili hot beans
1 can corn
2 cans tomatoes

Add all together.
Simmer 1 hour

Friday, October 29, 2010

Tattler Reusable Canning Lids

Purchasing something just to throw it away irks me. Our culture is filled with single use disposable items and I've been trying to eliminate as many as possible from our home.

I think that is one reason I love canning. All those shelves of wonderful jars that can be used year after year.

Except for the lids.

I will admit that I sometimes reuse jar lids (or flats) if they appear in perfect condition but reusing traditional Ball lids isn't reccomended.

That is why I was excited to find out about the Tattler reusable canning lids. These lids were designed to be reused. The lids are made of a hard plastic with a lifetime guaranteed. But, according to the company, in over 30 years, no customer has asked for a replacement.

The lid is fitted with a rubber ring. These, too are reusable though with time may need to be replaced. The lids and rings are fit onto an ordinary glass canning jar with an ordinary metal bands.

I tried using the Tattler lids when making applesauce this fall. It did take a little more time to adjust the two piece lids and rings. When tightening the metal bands, Tattler recommends turning the band back 1/4 inch to allow venting. After removal from the canner, immediately tighten the metal band firmly.

The lids to not have the familiar "ping" sound when cooling to indicate that they have sealed. After cooling completely, remove the metal bands and check by feel if the lids have sealed.

Out of twelve Tattler lids I used the first day, two did not seal. I was disappointed, though occasionally I have a regular Ball lid not seal. I guessed that I did not tighten securely. The next applesauce making day, I reused the two lids, tightened a bit more securely and this time they sealed perfectly.

In all, I was very impressed with the Tattler lids and look forward to gaining more experience with them in the future.

An added benefit (and maybe most important to some canners) is that the lids are BPA free. Apparently Ball lids contain BPA. I always figured that with home canning I was avoiding the BPA in metal cans. Since food didn't actually touch the lids, I didn't lose sleep over it. But for tomatoes and acid foods like pickles which are more prone to BPA problems, I'll probably lean toward using a BPA free product now that I know one is available. To me the reusable quality was more important than BPA free.

Maybe a more significant issue is cost. Tattler lids are not cheap. A pack of three dozen cost 20.95. That is about $7.00 a dozen. I figured that this summer I used 375 lids, over 30 dozen. Buying that many reusable lids is rather daunting and would add to the cost of home canning.

On the other hand, I'm young enough that I may can for 30+ years. By then the cost would be pennies. Then I could hand them down to my daughters, along with my canning jars and stainless steel pots.

I could probably use some lids more than once a season. For example, when I get out a jar of applesauce, I'm using the Tattler lids first. Hopefully by the time I can deer meat in December, I'll be able to reuse my dozen Tattler lids. Is it obvious I'm trying to talk myself into purchasing more?

Do any of you use Tattler lids?

You can find Tattler lids at their website or call 877-747-2793.
Tattler gave me one dozen issuable lids to review but all opinions in this review are my own.
Thanks to Homestead Revival who first introduced me to Tattler lids.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Fall Nature Walk

It has been a long time since we were on a nature walk, or did any kind of nature study. Of course, this summer had many opportunities for observing nature in daily life in the garden. Our bug identification book was well used.

But the lovely fall days this month have made me eager again to be out just spending time enjoying God's wonderful world.

These photos are from a walk on Sunday at our favorite park. The children loved filling their baskets with "treasures", looking for bird's nests and just burning energy.

I'm so glad God gave us Sundays to set aside our normal work for time to rest and worship. But days like this one make me wonder why I'm so busy. What am I doing that is so important that I can't take time on a regular basis just to enjoy the outdoors with the children?

Of course, we need to eat, and clean clothes and house are nice, but so often recently I find myself wishing the children would just "go and play" so that I could finish my task in peace. It isn't like I don't spend a lot of time with my children. Rarely are they out of my sight unless they are sleeping.

During the summer we practically lived outside, but now that shoes and socks are needed, it takes a little more persuasion for the children to go outdoors. But if I set aside whatever busyness I'm into, and go out with the children, they love it.

In the summer there is many outdoor tasks to keep me busy while the children play in the sandbox, ride bike or run in the pasture. But now, most of the work outdoors has ended and I find myself just sitting on the swing watching the children play - and feeling that I'm wasting time.

Why is it that I can't enjoy being still? Why do I see my success hinged on what I accomplish?

I don't have answers. Just what I'm thinking today.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

White Chicken Chili

My sister-in-law, Sonya served this to us several years ago. It was so good that I've never forgotten about it.

White Chicken Chili

6 cups chicken stock
1 pound great northern beans
(soaked in water overnight)
2 medium Spanish onions,
6 cups diced cooked chicken
2 jalapeno peppers,
seeded and diced
2 diced chili peppers
1 1/2 teaspoon oregano
2 teaspoons cumin
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 cloves garlic,
1 cup salsa
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
Salt to taste
Sour cream
(optional garnish)
Monterey Jack cheese
(optional garnish)

Simmer beans, half the onions, and half the garlic for 2 hours in the chicken stock or until the beans soften, stirring frequently. Add chicken and salsa.

Saute pepper, spices, and the remaining onions and garlic in the oil and add to the chili. Simmer for one more hour.

Garnish with sour cream or Monterey Jack cheese.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Stuffed Pepper Soup

Several  weeks ago, Ed's family were all together and shared a wonderful soup and bread lunch. I married into a family of great cooks and I'll be sharing a couple of my sister-in-laws soup recipes. This one is from Ed's sister Jean.

This recipe was in the paper from a local chef at a sandwich shop as one of his most popular soups. He said he makes his own sauce "but it takes to long to write down....Ragu works fine." So I usually use my own sauce, (which doesn't follow  any recipe to the letter.)

Stuffed Green Pepper Soup
2 lbs. lean hamburger
2 large sweet onions, coarsely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 c. uncooked brown rice
2-4 large green peppers cut in 1-inch pieces
2 quarts spagetti sauce (or Ragu Homestyle)
salt and pepper to taste
Brown hamburger in large soup pot, drain fat. Add remaining ingredients and simmer about 2 hours on stove or longer if using crockpot. I like the peppers to stay green, so I don't add them till the rice is tender.  Makes 15 servings (approx.)

Monday, October 25, 2010

Planting Garlic

Have you planted garlic?
Columbus Day is the traditional day to plant garlic here in the northeast but any time from September to November are great times for planting garlic.

You can wait until spring to plant garlic, but since it will have a shorter time to grow, the bulbs will be smaller.

I know a few of you are rolling your eyes at even the thought of planting garlic. Isn't garlic cheap to buy? Maybe. But garlic has to be one of the easiest thing to grow. Push it into the ground in the fall and basically forget about it until next July when you pull out a plump garlic bulb. If you mulch, you won't even have to weed.

I have found that the local garden centers only sell garlic bulbs to plant in the spring. Guess they think that no one is thinking about planting garlic in the fall.

I've had success at planting grocery store garlic but you run two risks. First, it may have been treated with some sort of anti-sprouting chemical. (A reason to grow your own.) Second, it may be a variety of garlic that grows well in China, but not in your area.

If you can find some untreated bulbs at a farmer's market that were grown somewhere close to you, you'll have some great growing stock.

Otherwise, plan to order from a reputable company. (I know, I should have written about this weeks ago so you would have time to order.) I have found that the most popular varieties sell out early so it pays to order early and most companies will ship at the proper planting time.

The number of garlic varieties is limitless. I ordered two varieties that were reputed to grow well in my area. I chose a hard neck and a soft neck variety. The "neck" refers to the inner stem.  I like using hard neck garlic because the cloves are larger and easier to peel. But soft neck garlic is easier to braid and some say it stores better.

The great news- once you purchase some garlic sets, you'll never need to buy garlic again. After pulling your garlic in July, allow it to dry. I hung mine in the wood shed where it was nice and airy but out of the rain. In the fall, separate the bulbs into individual cloves. Keep the papery skin intact if possible. Plant each clove several inches deep in good fertile soil and it will grow into a new bulb by next summer.

See how simple it is!
Every year I increase the amount of garlic I plant and save the rest for eating. But so far, I haven't had enough to last the year. But if I keep increasing the amount I plant, eventually I should have  plenty for planting and eating.

Give garlic a try and enjoy the flavor of home grown garlic.

You may also enjoy reading Time to Plant Garlic at Simple Green and Frugal.

Linked to Tuesday Garden Party

Guest Post - Tortilla Soup

 Elisa from Bird in the Hand shared this yummy sounding soup! Several of you shared your favorite soup recipes. Look for more of them this week.
This recipe is from my mother-in-law: we recently had a soup recipe exchange at a monthly Titus II Bible study she leads for women at our church. She shared this one ... and I promptly put in on my weekly meal list for the following week! It is really delicious and easy to adapt.

Tortilla Soup

8-10 Corn Tortillas - roughly chopped
4 T. Oil
1 Onion -
6 cloves Garlic -
2 14.5 oz cans of diced tomatoes
8 c. Chicken Stock
2 tsp. Cumin
1 T. Chili Powder
3-4 Boneless Chicken Breast Halves
1 can black beans -
rinsed and drained
1  4 oz. can diced Green Chilies

Heat oil in large soup pot. Add onion and cook 2 minutes. Add garlic and cook another minute. Add torn tortillas. Cook 2-3 minutes. Add cans of tomatoes, chicken stock, cumin, chili powder and bring to a boil. Add the chicken and simmer 15-20 min until chicken is cooked through. Remove chicken, cook, and shred or cut up into small pieces. Return chicken to pot and add beans and green chilies. Return soup to a simmer. Ready to serve! Top with a dollop of sour cream, shredded cheese, hot sauce, crumbled chips, chopped avocado, etc.!

My mother-in-law also always fries strips of corn tortillas and serves those on top. Cooking the chopped tortillas in the soup thickens the soup to a wonderful consistency because they break down quite a bit.

My Variations: I cooked the chicken in a crock pot during the day (w/ garlic salt, chili powder, and onion powder) to slash on the actual cooking time of the soup. Just shredded it and added it after the liquid had been brought to a boil. I also added some corn into the mix.

Thanks, Elisa. for sharing!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Steak Soup

I still have more soup recipes I want to share and October is quickly passing! 

And it isn't that I'm just writing about soups this month. We are eating them too! 

I thought with canning and the wedding over, life would slow down. But now I've thrown myself into housecleaning. Cleaning was neglected for the last few months and needed to be put on top priority. I can't think of anything more simple or satisfying while waging war with the dust bunnies than a hearty pot of soup simmering on the back of the stove.

Steak Soup
Adapted from Taste of Home

1 1/2 pound of round or sirloin steak, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
1/4 cup chopped onion
3 T flour
1 T paprika
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
2 T parsley
1/2 tsp oregano
4 cup beef broth
2 cup tomato juice
1 1/2 cup cubed potatoes
1 1/2 cup chopped carrots
1 1/2 cup chopped celery

Brown beef and onion. Sprinkle flour and seasonings over beef and mix well. Add broth and juice and bring to boil. Simmer for 1 hour or until tender. Add vegetables and simmer for 30 minutes or until tender.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Homemade Applesauce

I was planning to write a post about making applesauce since someone had asked how we make it.

But then I discovered I already wrote about making applesauce last year.

So I'll save myself the bother and let you check out last year's post.

The only thing I did differently this year is place the food mill outside on the deck attached to the picnic table. I don't know why I never did this before. My kitchen isn't large and felt crowded when the food mill was hooked up.

Keeping all the sticky mess outside was great for cleanup! After I was done canning, I carried the hot water in the canner out to the deck and slopped the water all over the picnic table and deck. A quick scrub with a brush had everything clean again!

I did wonder if any of you make applesauce without a food mill. I have a Squeezo mill that my mom found at a yard sale. I don't think they make that brand anymore but it is similar to the Roma food mill.

(Edit to add: I'm not sure where I was looking but Bekki shared that the Squeezo strainer  is still available. They aren't cheap but I like that they are all metal. We sure have given ours a lot of use.) 

(Another Edit: My friend Deana sent the following suggestions: "There are 2 models similar to yours available from GOOD's store which I think are reasonably priced. These models do include plastic parts but they seem to hold up well. My mom has used hers for over 20 years. I can recommend the Sauce Master Norpro which costs around $35.00 and the Victorio Strainer (this brand has been around for years) costs around $45.00. We tried a Universal brand (also from GOOD's) and it  had some major design flaws. Good's also carries some replacement parts and accessories screens for processing salsa,berries, juice and pumpkin." So if any of you are close to GOOD's, you can check out their selection, and I also added the links to Amazon.)

I also have a smaller food mill, also from a yard sale, that is great for small amounts. If you don't have a food mill (or one that you can borrow)  you could peel and core the apples and cook down to a chunky sauce that could be mashed with a spoon or potato masher. Any other ideas?

For larger items like food mills, dehydrators, and pressure canners, that are only used several times a year, I was brainstorming how several like-minded families could get together and share. Each family could purchase one item and share with the others. It would not only save money but storage space as well.

What do you think? Would it work?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Two Years of Blogging

The Home Joys blog is two years old today. The afternoon that I sat down to decide if a computer illiterate could start a blog, I had no idea that would actual love blogging. Or that I could write almost 500 posts, and still have more to write. Or that I would "meet" so many great people.

In the craziness of the last two weeks, I didn't plan any celebration. But I did want to say "thanks" for reading Home Joys. I don't often find time to visit your blogs and am sometimes slow to respond to your emails. Sometimes I wonder if I even have time for blogging at all. But you all have benefited my life in so many ways. You have answered my questions, given me new ideas, encouraged me on down days, and become valued friends. More than once I've wanted to have you over for a warm bowl of soup and slice of fresh bread so that we could gab  in person.

Since it is doubtful that computer time will increase this next year, I'd love to hear from you on what you like to read at Home Joys. Do you come here for recipes, garden hints, book reviews, or pictures of cute children?  I've considered focusing this blog on only one topic. But I like to write about canning, chickens, bread baking, and whatever.  I always have a list of topics just waiting to find time to write on and it would be helpful to know what you would most appreciate.

And if there is any question you've been dying to ask. I'd love to hear that, too!

Thanks again for being the BEST readers!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Homemade Ketchup

Since several of you is the ketchup recipe that I used this year. It is actually adapted from two different recipes.

I don't often make ketchup, only if I have more tomatoes than I know what to do with. That I had extra tomatoes this year in spite of the drought, is amazing.

For the last two months, my tomatoes had almost quit bearing. Two or three times a week, I'd check the plants and pick five or so tomatoes. That few were not enough to do much with so I would wash and core the tomatoes and put them in the freezer in bags.

Last week, Ed pulled out the tomato plants while cleaning up the garden for winter. Every time I got anything out of the freezer I had to move bags of tomatoes, so I decided it was time to get those tomatoes out and make juice. When I started pulling out bags, I was shocked to find that I had well over a bushel of tomatoes in the freezer! No wonder the freezer seemed so full!

I've already shared how freezing and thawing tomatoes separates the water from the tomatoes which is easily poured off. The resulting juice is extra thick.

Without cooking the tomatoes, I ran them through the food mill. The skins did want to jam up the holes and I had to take the mill apart several times to scrape out the skin. I had planned to just can the juice but I had far more than I needed and decided to make ketchup.

I placed a gallon of this thick tomato juice or pulp in a large pot. (If starting with fresh tomatoes, you would need about 1/2 bushel to make a gallon of thick juice.) I reserved about 2 cups of the cold tomato juice to use in thickening.

In another pan I cooked 2 chopped onions in a small amount of water until softened. I then blended the onions in the blender until pureed.

I combined the onions in the pot with the tomatoes. Salt, pepper, vinegar, and sugar were added. (Detailed recipe follows.)

In a piece of cheese cloth, 1/2 cup pickeling spice were tied and added to pot.

This was brought to boil and simmered 45 minutes with lid off.

Usually my ketchup is too thin. To thicken, I took the reserved juice and added 1/2 cup Therm Flo. You could also use Clear Gel or cornstarch. I mixed this well into a thick paste, added to the hot pot, stirred well, and simmered for 10 minutes. If a thickener is combined in a hot sauce, it will clump.

Place in jars, seal, and can for 10 minutes.

The result was the best ketchup I've ever made. I think it is better than store bought! And I know exactly what ingredients are or are not in it.
Homemade Ketchup

1 gallon of tomato pulp
2 onions (cooked til soft and blended)
2 T salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 cup vinegar
2 cup sugar
1/2 cup mixed pickling spice in cheesecloth bag
1/2 cup cornstarch or clear gel or therm flo

Mix all ingredients except cornstarch or other thickener. Bring to boil and simmer 45 minutes with lid off. Combine cornstarch with cold juice or water. Add to pot, stir well, and simmer for 10 minutes. Pour in jars, seal and can 10 minutes.

Disclaimer: This recipe has not been tested for canning safety. Experts do not recommend using a thickener in canning. Use the recipe at your own risk.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Welcome to the Family

Is there anything more fun than a wedding in the family?

Especially when my brother brings a great sister-in-law into the family!

Eric and Emily wanted to be married in an old historic church just down the road from my parent's house. With large families and a huge group of friends, they knew they could never whittle the guest list down to fit in the church. So they chose to have a small, family-only wedding.

The day was so much fun and stress free.

All the nieces and nephews (except for babies) walked down the aisle with the bride.

They were an excited bunch of energy! Looks like they have their hands full!

Back at my parent's house, we enjoyed a wonderful reception prepared by the two mothers and cheesecakes by Emily.

If you know Eric and Emily, you know the cake topper fits them perfectly!

Congratulations Eric and Em!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Cheeseburger Soup

There are good soups. And then there is GOOD soup. And this is the latter. 

This recipe comes from my friend Jeanne who has given us many favorite recipes through the years. She says the secret is some good home smoked sausage. I agree that a good sausage puts this soup over the top, but you can use ground beef, too.

This soup isn't exactly low fat. I have found that it is good - even if you omit cheese and sour cream. Of course, then it can't really be called "cheeseburger" soup!

Cheeseburger Soup

1 lb sausage or ground beef
3/4 cup chopped onion
3/4 cup shredded carrot
3/4 cup diced celery

In large pot, brown meat and saute vegetables until softened.

1 tsp basil
1 tsp parsley
4 cup shredded RAW potato
3-4 cup chicken broth

Add to pot and cook 10 minutes. 

4 T melted butter
1/4 cup flour
1 1/2 cup milk
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Mix together. Add to soup. 

1 cup Velveeta 

Add. Mix all together until melted.

1/4 cup sour cream

Stir in immediately before serving.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Canning Completed

My computer gave up on me this week. For several days, it would let me on for a few minutes before blinking off. I finally quit trying. A new monitor is on the way and should fix the problem. Tonight Ed rigged up the computer with an old monitor just so I could check email and pop in quick here.

Actually, it was good timing. The last two weeks have been crazy busy. I was almost glad that the computer distraction was eliminated from my life.  I remember this happened last year. Maybe there is a lesson here?

But, the great news is that I finished canning this week. Unless my husband gets some venison to can (and he has never left me down yet) I won't need to get the canner out until next summer.

This week I finished up the applesauce, did crockpot apple butter, and made ketchup with the last of the tomatoes that I've been collecting in the freezer.

I actually can't believe, looking in the freezer and canning shelves, that we have so much abundance in our summer drought. I do have a lot of empty jars, and last year I filled every one. But we ended up with far more than I expected.

God is good. All the time.

I know it to be true. But it is so easy to forget. And complain.

Sometime I need to write down all the lessons learned from a dry year.  And from broken computers.


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