Monday, October 24, 2011

Mrs. Wages Salsa Mix

A friend gave me this package of Mrs. Wages Salsa mix and it has just been sitting in my cupboard. I saw it the other day and thought since I have an overabundance of tomatoes right now it might be a good time to try it out.

I followed the directions exactly on the package - it was super easy to do. I weighed out my tomatoes, skinned them and then cut them up. Then you just have to add the mix, vinegar (I used cider) and cook. If you don't have fresh tomatoes, you can even use canned tomatoes.

There is nothing artificial in the ingredients that I could see - just seems to be dehydrated vegetables and seasonings.

It tastes as good as my own salsa and I didn't have to mess with the seasonings a zillion times and I only had to cut up tomatoes and not onions, peppers and garlic.

This is what the finished salsa looks like.

I will probably continue to make my salsa totally from scratch but if you want to make a batch of "homemade salsa" without using everything from scratch -this will definitely do.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Apple Jam, not Jelly!

I decided that I wanted to make Apple Jam this year instead of Apple Jelly. First of all, for those of you who don't know the difference between the two, jam has bits of fruit in it and jelly is made from strained juice. Some fruits are more popular made into jelly (apple, grape, peach) and others you only think of as jam (strawberry).

So, why jam instead of jelly? Several reasons actually - first of all, the time. It takes a long time for the juice to drip down through the cheese cloth - I usually have to start it the day before I actually want to can it. Second is the waste - it just seems so wasteful to throw all of that apple pulp on the compost heap. I also kind of feel like a jam with bits of fruit in it is probably healthier than jelly and probably (although I haven't researched it) a source of fiber.

Having made the decision to make apple jam instead of jelly, I set out in search of a recipe and couldn't find one I liked. I didn't want one with caramel (kind of negates the health benefit) or one that tastes like apple pie. I also wanted one that uses commercial pectin. I know that apples contain a lot of natural pectin and it really isn't necessary to use pectin but I like to use the smallest amount of sugar I can and still get a good gel and pectin allows me to do that. I also didn't want big chunks of fruit in my jam - I want a smoother consistency that is easy to spread on my toast.

According to my almost 12 year old (how did he get to be this old?) taste tester, I got it right on the first try!

This is how I made it -

First I started out just like I was going to make applesauce. I washed my apples and just cut them into chunks - cores and skins and all. I only cut off the obvious bad spots.

I threw them all in a large stock pot with just enough water on the bottom so they wouldn't burn and cooked them until soft. Then I put them through my food strainer attachment on my kitchen aid.

Using 6 cups of the unsweetened applesauce I had just made and 4 cups of sugar and 1 packet of Sure Jell for Less or No Sugar Pectin, I made jam using the directions in the package.

The pictures above aren't the best, but it turned out just perfect.

Let me know if you have a recipe you like better for Apple Jam or if you try my recipe how it comes out for you.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

The best Apple Muffins you will ever try!

I made apple muffins today and they are the absolutely the best gluten free muffins I have ever tasted! If you are not gluten free, make these muffins using normal flour and just eliminate the xanthan gum. You can also use regular milk and use brown sugar in the topping instead of regular sugar and molasses.

If you like this recipe as much as I do and you have an apple tree in your back yard or just got back from the orchard you might want to chop some up and freeze them in just the right amount for this recipe. You don't have to blanch them, just chop them up and put them in freezer containers and you are good to go.

Kathi’s Out of this World GFCF Apple Muffins

1 ½ cups gluten free flour mix (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
¼ teaspoon xanthan gum
½ cup organic raw sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
2 eggs
½ cup vanilla almond milk
¼ cup coconut oil
1 ½ cups finely chopped apples (about 1 large or 2 small)

¼ cup organic raw sugar
1 teaspoon molasses
1 tablespoon gluten free flour
2 tablespoons gfcf margaine (I used Earth Balance sticks)
½ cup gluten free oats (or substitute quinoa or finely chopped nuts)

In a medium bowl, combine the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly.

In a small bowl, beat eggs and then add the almond milk and coconut oil and mix well.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones and stir until just combined (do not over mix).

Gently fold in apples.

Divide mixture up between 12 muffin tins that have been either greased or lined with paper.

Combine topping ingredients until crumbly and sprinkle over muffins.

Bake at 400 degrees for 18 to 22 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Apple Crisp Time!

Kathi’s Apple Crisp

6 cups apples
2/3 cup raw sugar
½ cup flour
½ cup old fashioned oats
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/3 cup margarine, melted

Heat oven to 375 degrees

Grease an 8” square pan

Place apple slices in pan

Mix remaining ingredients and sprinkle over apples

Bake 30 minutes or until apples are tender and topping is a light golden brown.

Canning Green Beans in October!

I made one last picking of green beans yesterday - at least I think it will be the last - the high today for October 3rd is supposed to be close to 80, so who knows.........

I canned 6 more pints of green beans and........

6 pints of dilly beans for my little dilly bean lover, Andy. We went to the Cranberry Festival in my hometown last weekend and we sampled some dilly beans and Andy looked at me and said - no where near as good as yours Mom and how come you haven't made any yet this year? So I had to make some for my Dilly Bean lover!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Apples and Tomatoes!

Everything these days seems to revolve around Apples or Tomatoes. I do have more grapes to pick but I never seem to get around to it. My apple tree is still loaded - I haven't even begun to make a dent in the apples!

This week I have been running the dehydrator 24/7 and have many jars of dried apple slices to show for it. I never make enough of these - we all like to snack on them.

Today I am cooking down tomato sauce. It is satisfying to open a jar of tomato sauce in the winter and know where it came from.

Your turn, what is keeping you busy in your garden this fall?

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

There are always fresh raw veggies on my dinner table

We love fresh veggies at our house. I always serve one cooked veggie (tonight is green beans just picked an hour ago) and a plate of fresh raw veggies. I just love this time of year when everything is fresh. The cucumbers and broccoli on the plate were just picked this afternoon. The mini bell peppers and radish are from my CSA and the carrots are organic but from the grocery store.

In the winter my veggie plates are made up of root veggies - carrots, beauty heart radishes, celeriac and whatever else is available without coming from the other side of the globe.

A bonus for my family since we are gluten free is that all veggies are naturally gluten free!

Monday, September 12, 2011

A very fruitful weekend!

Look how loaded my apple tree is!

A bucket of apples freshly picked - does anyone know what variety they are? They are definitely a pie apple. These apples have not been sprayed - even with anything natural - if you maintain a healthy tree and environment around your tree, your apples will be fine. There is no need to put nasty chemical on your fruit.

A bowl full of apple slices ready to be made into apple pie filling

What I canned this weekend - 6 quarts and 1 pint of diced tomatoes, 7 quarts of apple pie filling and 1 quart of dehydrated apple slices.

My apple tree!

My son is already bugging me to let him open one of the jars of apple pie filling - he likes to just eat it right out of the jar and not wait for pie! My husband is already hoping for spaghetti from the canned tomatoes. I told both of them that for the amount of work that went into canning them, I just want them to sit on the shelf awhile so I can admire them - not see them gone in 30 seconds!

Friday, September 09, 2011

This weekend's goals

I love this time of the year but at the same time there never seems to be enough time to get everything done. I find I do better if I set goals for myself.

This weekend - canning apples and tomatoes.

The apple tree is LOADED! And I mean LOADED! Did I mention that my tree has a ton of apples this year? My son's favorite is my apple pie filling so I will do some of that - I still have applesauce from last year so maybe not so much of that. I will probably throw some on the dehydrator as well. I've made a couple of pies, but this time of year you really can't make too many apple pies. If I had a press I would make juice.

I also have more tomatoes ready to can. Last week I did sauce so this week I am going to can diced tomatoes.

It will be another busy weekend - I'll be sure to post the results.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

The results of my weekend of canning

It was a busy weekend, but when you can look at your harvest and see what you did, it makes it all worth it.

The end results of my weekend's canning efforts are:
4 quarts of tomato sauce
7 quarts of dill pickle spears canned plus 1 quart of refrigerator dills (they are so much crunchier in the fridge and not canned, but I don't have the room for more than a quart or two here and there).
7 pints of relish
10 pints of french green beans (plus 1 pint that didn't seal that we already ate for dinner).
10 jars of grape jam

I didn't get to the apples yet and I have grape pulp that I need to freeze, but I think I did pretty good.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Pictures from my harvest kitchen!

It is going to be a busy weekend in my harvest kitchen. The day has just begun and I already have many things in progress. It is appropriate to call this weekend Labor Day because it will all be about labor for me!

A pot of tomato sauce is cooking down to the right consistency for canning. I picked the tomatoes from the garden yesterday and started processing them right away - the sauce wasn't thick enough when I went to bed last night so I put it in the fridge overnight and put it back on this morning. It just doesn't get much fresher than this!

Ingredients all cut up for a batch of relish. I ran out of relish and had to buy some this past year so I will probably be making two batches this year (or giving less away). The store bought just isn't as good as mine.

Fruit ice cubes. This is just pureed fruit frozen in ice cube trays. I process it and sweeten it to taste before making the cubes. I store the cubes in freezer bags in the freezer. I mostly use them to make smoothies. These are from the last of my currants. I plan on making some from raspberries and grapes this weekend. I love a mixed fruit smoothie with a little soy yogurt added in.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Today's harvest

Tomatoes and Purple (green) Beans

I also canned some beans today - notice how they are green and no longer purple - that happens when you cook them, but the purple color makes them easier to find when you are picking. I also have some green ones but they are just flowering now. I will freeze many of my beans but my son really likes canned ones that are cut french style so I always can a few for him.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

First picking of beans!

Look at those pretty purple beans! Can't wait for dinner tonight to taste them.

Purple beans will turn green when cooked - as I have mentioned before I am a Packers fan living in Vikings territory - and these beans always remind me that the beans know it is better to be green than purple!

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

It's Raspberry Time!

Don't they look yummy? The black raspberries are in full swing, the reds are fully started and the yellows have just started ripening. I just love a pie or jam made with the combination of all three - each have their own unique taste which blends together and says raspberry like no one of them alone can!

A quote from my silly child: "Mom, some of the raspberries looked too ripe - so I ate them and put them out of their misery - you're welcome!"

Monday, June 27, 2011

Damn Rabbits!

I have coexisted with rabbits while gardening for decades. They have always done minimal damage and I never thought too much about them. This year, however, one of them decided to raise her babies in my currant bushes - and use my garden to feed them! I came home from work yesterday to find all of my cauliflower plants looking like this!

Evidently they don't like cabbage, or they were saving it for later - this cabbage sits right beside the cauliflower.

They also started in on my brussels sprouts! They only got about half way through them. The thought of not having brussels sprouts for Thanksgiving motivated me into immediate action.

The garden is now sporting a shiny new fence all around it - take that bunnies!

The rest of the garden is looking good. Look at these nice looking pea pods!

How are your gardens doing?

Monday, May 23, 2011

Slowly but surely

In spite of a stormy weekend, I did squeeze some gardening in - the ground was really wet but you gotta squeeze gardening time in when you can.

The peas are growing nicely. I can't wait for fresh peas!

The potatoes are coming up already.

I planted cauliflower, cabbage and broccoli this weekend.

Golden Rave Tomatoes are hanging out on the patio getting used to the weather and waiting their turn to be planted.

I still have Roma Tomatoes, Watermelon, Bell and Hot Peppers in the basement under the lights.

It is starting to actually feel like spring.

Friday, May 20, 2011

A temporary (I hope) setback

My old bean towers fell apart at the end of last season - they were 12 years old. I decided to try a new design and ordered the above pictured bean towers from Gardener's Supply Company with my tax refund earlier this year.

I didn't open them when they came since the ground was still covered with lots of snow - I just set them aside until I needed them. Today I opened them and went to put them in the garden and lo and behold - one of them is defective! And of course, customer service is closed so I have to wait until tomorrow to call (I hope they are open on Saturday). My fear is that they will want me to return the defective one before sending out a new one and who knows how long that can take? I am hoping that they will realize that this is planting season and if they make me wait I will just ask for a refund and buy something locally that I can put right up.

I have always had good luck and great customer service with Gardener's so I'm hoping this will be just a temporary setback.

I really like the one that is up - no more strings to string up like I did with my old towers - it comes in two pieces - you just unfold them - put the bottom one in the ground and then stick the prongs from the top one into the holes on the bottom one -that was a little tricky lining up all of those prongs and holes, but the rest was easy peasy - well, except for the second one that seems to be welded incorrectly and won't open up at all. I like that they fold flat for easy storage and the height seems good.

I'll keep you posted on how this all comes out and how they work out for me throughout the growing season.