Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Dill Relish

This is just a quick little recipe for you. I don't have a picture tutorial since I didn't know if I was going to even like this recipe, but after trying it, and putting it in my potato salad Sunday, I wanted to share it with you.

Dill Relish
14 c cucumbers (approximately 5lbs.)
1-1/2 c chopped red bell pepper
1/2 c chopped onion
1-1/2 t celery salt
1 t celery seed
1 t turmeric
5-1/2 c apple cider vinegar
3 t dill seed
6 large cloves garlic, minced
5 T kosher salt

Wash, sterilize, and keep jars hot. Chop vegetables in a processor. In a large pot, stir together celery salt, celery seeds, turmeric, vinegar, dill seeds, garlic and salt. Add the chopped vegetables and bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer ten minutes. Fill hot jars with hot relish leaving 1/2" headspace. Remove air bubbles. Make sure liquid covers the top of the vegetables. Clean the rims, and seal with lids and rings. Process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes. Makes approximately 7 pints.

Until we meet again, may you be blessed!

Fig Jam

Hi y'all! I was so excited when I was able to get figs the other day. My whole goal was to make fig preserves. I did a little search, copied down a recipe, made it, and was thrilled when it set beautifully. All was well until I had to really search (unsuccessfully) for a fig butter recipe. In that search, I discovered what I had actually made was fig jam. Sigh... heehee! All is well, though. :) It still tastes delicious and looks beautiful, so I thought I would share.

Fig Jam:  yields approximately 7 1/2 half pints
4 c ripe halved figs
7 c sugar
1/2 scant c fresh squeezed lemon juice
zest from 2 lemons
1/2 t butter, optional
1 3oz pouch liquid pectin

Wash and dry figs. Remove stems and cut in half to equal four cups. Measure out sugar. Wash lemons, zest, and juice. Place figs, sugar, juice, zest, and butter in a large pot. Gently mash, leaving some larger pieces. Stir and bring to a rolling boil. Add pectin, and return to a boil. Boil exactly one minute, stirring constantly. Ladle into sterilized jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. 

Picture tutorial

Wash and dry your figs.

Remove stems and cut in half.

Measure out four cups. I measure as I go to not cut too many.

Wash lemons and zest two.

I didn't think I had lemons at all. I was relieved to find these four small
lemons in the forgotten bag at the bottom of the frig. The recipe calls for two,
but I used four since the lemons were so tiny.
Since my lemons were not organic, I didn't like the idea of using the zest.
I compromised and used the zest of two.
Squeeze the lemons to get a scant 1/2 cup.

Well...it said a scant half cup, right?? :)
You can use bottled lemon juice if you can't squeeze out enough.
Pour this in with the figs.

Measure out and add the sugar.

Place this mixture on low on the stove and mix until it comes together.

Once the mixture comes together, use a potato masher to gently mash some of the figs, but leave some larger chunks. Bring this mixture to a rolling boil. Please be advised! Use a large pan for this recipe! When it boils, it really rises. I've never had a recipe boil up like this one. I was worried my pot wasn't big enough. This recipe really popped up, too. Be careful of your arm over the pot not to get burned by popping jam. I couldn't even stop to get a picture of the full boil. I used the butter, but it didn't help.

Have your pectin ready and waiting to add as soon as the mixture reaches a rolling boil.

When a rolling boil is reached, immediately add the pectin and return to a rolling boil. Boil exactly one minute and remove from heat. This jam produced a lot of foam-the most I have ever had. Be sure to skim it off for a pretty jar presentation. 

Before skimming
After skimming and almost filling one jar before I remembered the photo! :)
Ladle into hot, sterilized jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. 

Process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Remove jars and admire the beauty! 

That last little jar just missed the 1/4" mark, but I canned it anyway. :)

Until we meet again, may you be blessed!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Cinnamon Fig Butter

I was so blessed a couple days ago when my friend Mari from PatchWork Acres said I could pick figs from her beautiful, huge fig trees. Fighting June bugs, wasps, ants, and spiders was well worth my little bundle of organic fig beauties. The only bad thing was that I didn't get enough! No worries, though; she said I could come back.

I knew I wanted to make a fig butter with some of my beautiful, sweet bounty in order to make homemade fig newtons, so I set out on my search for the perfect recipe. It was just nowhere to be found. Sigh...I had to take the more difficult and nail-biting route of making my own. I did have safe fruit to sugar ratios so I just had to dive right in with the spices, tinkering, crossing fingers and toes, and praying that it would work and not be a waste of treasured ingredients and time. What ensued in the aftermath of that experiment in a pot was a pure hallelujah moment! So I present to you today,

Cinnamon Fig Butter
8 c chopped figs
1 c brown sugar
1 c granulated sugar
2 t ground cinnamon (add one more for a strong cinnamon flavor)
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t ginger
1 T vanilla
1/4 c lime juice

Place jars into your water bath canner. Rinse, drain, and chop fresh, ripe figs. Measure out eight cups and place into a large stockpot. Measure out sugar, spices, lemon juice and place into stockpot. Stir ingredients well while heating to a gentle boil. When mixture begins to boil, turn down to low-medium low, depending on your stove. Turn on jars to sterilize. If desired, use an immersion blender to process ingredients to desired consistency. Continue to cook on low, stirring often so that ingredients don't burn until the mixture is thick and will mound on a spoon. Ladle mixture into hot, sterilized jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Process in water bath for 10 minutes.

Step by step in photos:

Rinse and drain figs.

Measure out eight mounded cups to ensure you will have enough chopped figs in the end.

Chop and measure out eight cups of chopped figs.

Be sure to remove stems.
I measured as I chopped to make sure I didn't chop too many and waste them.
Once all chopped figs are in the pot, measure out remaining ingredients and add to the figs.

Move the pot to the stove, and stir the ingredients well while it slowly heats.

This photo is actually from my jam making, but it gives an idea of how thick
the mixture is starting out.
Bring the mixture to a slight boil over medium low heat.

Reduce the heat to low and cook the fruit for a few minutes. If you wish, use an immersion blender or food processor to break down the figs. It is not necessary, if you don't desire to do this step.

Continue to cook until the mixture is thick and mounds on a spoon.

One at a time, remove the hot jars from the canner. Fill the jars, leaving 1/4 inch headspace.

This picture is just to show how thick the butter was. It didn't run down the
sides of the funnel the whole time I filled the jars. It hung out in that one
spot, so I ate it when I was done! :)

Process the jars in a hot water bath for 10 minutes. Make sure jars are covered by at least an inch of water, and don't start timing until the water has come to a rolling boil.

I hope you have a chance to try the recipe! Don't be afraid to change the measurements on the spices, except for cinnamon. I wouldn't go over 3 teaspoons. :) Let me know what you come up with!

Until we meet again, may you be blessed!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Spinach and Radish Soup

colander of spinach and radishes posing with my lettuce and giant lima sprouts
For several days, I have been trying to find creative ways to use the beautiful, huge, plentiful spinach in my garden. I grew it, so I don't want it to go to waste. I had tossed around the idea of this soup for a while before I actually found the courage to try it with my children this evening. They tend to be funny about the way food tastes.

As the cool sprinkles fell from the sky I made my way out to the garden. I am so amazed at what peace I have come to find there...even when I have to pull some weeds. :)

With my trusty colander and scissors in hand, I cut some spinach leaves and pulled a couple of radishes I found that were ready. I had hoped to find more radishes, but it seems I will have to wait a little longer. I guess it's a good thing I had a bag of them from the store that I bought the other day.

Inside I came to wash my ingredients, and the chopping and tossing of things that sounded good into the pot began! The result was a very yummy soup that had even my children sayings, "Mmmm!" With results like that, it had to go on the blog!

So without further Adieu, I present for your palate's pleasure...

Spinach and Radish Soup

2 T butter
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 package Polska Kielbasa, sliced
1 lb radishes
32 oz chicken stock
1/4 t turmeric
1 t salt
4 c spinach, chopped
1 T sugar, optional

In a large stock pot, melt butter. Add onions and saute until tender. Add garlic and saute for about a minute. Add in sliced kielbasa, and lightly brown. Add in radishes, allowing them to cook a few minutes while stirring occasionally. Add in chicken stock, turmeric and salt. Cook until radishes are soft. With a potato masher, mash the radishes lightly to break them up. Add in spinach and allow them to wilt. Add sugar to cut any bitterness if desired. Serve immediately. 

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Feeling Blessed

When I was young, I learned my grandparents lost a daughter when the girl was just a baby. She was my mother's sister. Some time later, my grandparents' home burned down, and they lost all the precious reminders of the dear little one they lost. The story always troubled me so because it was so sad to me.

It was also as a young child that my grandparents built a home atop a tall hill at the base of Fort Mountain in north Georgia. Oh, the precious memories and peace those mountains hold for me still to this day! In their home hung what seemed to me as the most sad picture. I couldn't understand why anyone could want a picture of a burial of a child on their wall. I just figured it must bring sweet memories of the daughter they lost. The picture was always dim and not clear, but it was okay with me. I didn't want to inspect it, and I spent a lot of time avoiding looking at it.

Today, as I walked around my garden and yard looking at my plants, I remembered that picture.

Jean-Francois Millet’s painting The Angelus
I remember the day someone finally pointed out that picture was in fact not a burial, but a couple praying over their harvest. Oh, goodness! As silly as I felt when someone pointed out what that picture really was, I was incredibly relieved. Even still, I didn't grasp the full beauty of that picture that is not until the last few months.

For so long I have wanted a garden, a real garden. A garden productive enough to feed my family food I knew was healthy and chemical free. The trouble was that I had no clue about gardening. I kill house plants in a matter of days, my flower beds are full of weeds and ants, and my sod is dead. Can you understand my hopelessness? The only thing I am truly gifted at is growing huge, rampant weeds! Though I come from long lines of those with beautiful green thumbs, mine is as brown as brown can be. How in the world would I ever grow a nice garden?

I did what I always do when I don't know what to do. I just prayed. I asked God to show me something about gardening that I could understand, because I truly don't understand traditional garden rules, do's and don't's. It is like trying to understand Greek to me. I asked Him to teach me and guide me, and show me what to do. It was hard to not be envious when many friends talked of garden plans and what they were getting from their gardens. Yet, I chose to be patient and listen and pick up any morsels of knowledge I might gain from their conversations, like Naomi and Ruth gathering wheat that had fallen to the wayside from the harvested fields. It wasn't long before a video about the Back To Eden Gardening Method came across my path from a dear friend. The video was so beautiful to me. I felt God sent it to me, because, finally, I understood something. I got it! Also beautiful to me was the whole idea of covering streaming throughout the whole video and how vital it is to the healthy growth of the garden. Since the teaching of prayer covering was new and precious to me, the amazing way God works was just absolutely beautiful and astounding to me! How beautiful he works and teaches if we are willing to be vulnerable and open our hearts and minds to listen. His words and ways are sweet as honey! I remember crying in thanksgiving and awe while watching parts of the video. God is so incredibly good.

Still, it was another year before I could put my garden in. When I knew for certain I was ready, and it was time, I still had obstacles to overcome: Convincing and teaching my husband who became quite frustrated with me, blocking out naysayers, and finding materials. Still God has been so incredibly faithful. I never did convince my husband. I had to give that over to God. I didn't want to argue with my husband or make him feel he was wrong. I just shared a couple videos and prayed. God eventually opened his heart and mind, and he became just as excited, if not more than, me! To those who doubted or said it wouldn't work, I just had to let their comments go in one ear and out the other. Most who gave me reasons it wouldn't work were dear to me. They were very experienced gardeners with beautiful harvests each year. I had every reason in the world to listen to them, yet God whispered to keep going. I loved them dearly and respected them, so I just sat and listened with respect. You know, there were still grains of knowledge in their words from which to learn. I'm so glad I sat and listened without argument! The supplies were also tricky. I had a bit of a challenge locating all I needed and some things fell through, yet God provided as always! I was amazed that each time we were ready to put out a layer, my husband would say, "We don't have enough. It's not going to cover everything." I distinctly remember not saying a word other than we would do the best we could. I would just start praying as I started work on putting out the material. I prayed that God would bless the material and stretch it. Then I would pray that God would bless the garden that it would be in the end. I would thank God for leading me to the method I could finally understand, and I would tell Him I trusted Him to provide. With each layer of material, we would have just enough or even a little left over! That is my God!! I later told my husband of my continuous prayers through the process, and he heartily agreed that it was God who stretched our materials.

So this morning as I walked around looking at the beautiful plants growing in my garden and the tiny plants sprouting up from where I just simply scattered seeds around in different places in the field, I felt so incredibly blessed and loved. It was as if God gave me a hug. Even my cabbages that I was sure were completely lost to a frost a couple days ago were still alive! I still don't know if they will continue to grow and thrive, but even if they don't, I know God is right there teaching me something He wants me to know! When I came inside to the plants I started inside with 100% germination, the feelings of incredible love and thanksgiving continued! Those plants are huge, and there is simply no reason they should be that big and still be alive-I've already told you my history with house plants! As I marveled and questioned how in the world it was possible they were still living and thriving, my answer came. They were alive because I didn't grow them. My faith in God and His promise grew them! Wow, wow, wow!!

As I ready myself to plant the bulk of my garden in the next couple days, I have no confidence in my ability to make the garden work, to keep the weeds out, to keep the pests out, to water it well enough, etc, etc. BUT I do have full faith in God to teach me what He would have me know. My garden could completely flop, but I know my God is right there teaching and guiding! For now, I am holding to the faith that He will continue to grow my garden just as He has already started to do.

Also for now, if anyone has a copy of the picture above they are going to throw out, I would love to have it. It is now near and dear to my heart, for I get it. :)

Until we meet again, may you be blessed!

Friday, February 6, 2015

Cranberry Orange Scones with Spiced Cream Topping

Oh, yall! Don't you just love it when you experiment in the kitchen and the recipe works the first time?! Today was one of those such days!

I have been toying around with the idea of this recipe for a while now. I found this recipe online a while back, but I can never leave well enough alone. I seem to always have to adjust it somehow, and make it mine. :) I figured if I was going to use the cranberries left in my refrigerator from Christmas before they went bad, I had better get busy! So...I present to you today my modified creation. Please pardon the poor photo quality! I was in too big of a hurry to eat to get the pictures just right! 

Before I started, I turned on the oven to preheat to 350 degrees and placed my silicone mat in my baking sheet. For the recipe, I first mixed coconut and almond flours, sweetener, baking soda, baking powder, and salt together. I used softened butter in this step so that the coconut oil in the next step wouldn't immediately get hard before I could mix it in.

I stirred in the melted coconut oil. While I prepared the next ingredients, I placed this mixture in the refrigerator.

Next, I squeezed the orange, sorted one cup of cranberries, cut up cream cheese into chunks, and cracked and beat four fresh farm eggs!  Ah...I love this life! :)

Look how rich and yellow those eggs are!!

I took the mixture from the refrigerator, and cut in the cream cheese. I suppose that the cream cheese could have been done at the same time as the butter if it was softened, but that was just how it happened this morning. I forgot I wanted to add it until the mixture was already in the refrigerator. :D Lastly, I added in the greek yogurt, eggs, orange juice, vanilla, cinnamon, and cranberries, and mixed thoroughly. The mixture was dropped by large, heaping tablespoons onto a baking sheet prepared with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Now, I am a southern cook. By a large heaping tablespoon, I mean I went to the kitchen drawer and found the largest tablespoon I have, not a measuring spoon nor a mixing spoon, heehee! I mounded the mixture on the spoon and dropped it onto the pan. :) :)

Into the oven it went! Out of the oven and into my tummy it went!

Cranberry Orange Scones with Spiced Cream Topping
1/2 c Coconut flour
1/2 c Almond flour
2 T Sweet Blend (or 1/3 c sweetener that measures like sugar)
2 t Baking powder
1/4 t Baking soda
1/4 t Salt
1 c Fresh cranberries
1/4 c Butter, softened
2 T Coconut oil, melted
1/4 c Greek yogurt
3 oz Cream cheese
4 large Eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 c Orange juice
1/2 t vanilla extract
1/2 - 1 t cinnamon

1/4 c Powdered Swerve
2 oz Cream cheese
1/2 c Heavy cream
1/2 t Cinnamon
1/4 t Vanilla extract
juice from 1/2 of an orange

Mix flours, sweetener, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Cut in softened butter. Stir in coconut oil. Place this mixture in the refrigerator while the next ingredients are prepared. Sort and measure out cranberries, Measure out greek yogurt, cinnamon, and vanilla, Squeeze orange juice, Crack and beat eggs. Remove mixture from the refrigerator. Cut in the cream cheese. Stir in the eggs, yogurt, cinnamon, vanilla, juice and cranberries. Mix well. drop mounded spoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes until slightly golden on top. Yields 12 light and fluffy 'Scones'. :)

To make the topping, place all the ingredients in a bowl. I used my coffee grinder to turn my granulated Swerve into a powder. It works wonderfully! (I started with a 1/4 cup heavy creaming adding more until I reached a consistency I liked.) Use an immersion blender or hand mixer to blend ingredients until blended well into a fluffy mixture. Store unused topping in refrigerator.

Ugh! That stinkin' flash and photographer! I was too close, I guess! I totally apologize I don't have a better picture for you! I need more practice with the new camera!

I hope you get to try this recipe, and let me know what you think! It sounds like a complicated and time-consuming recipe, but really, it is very quick and easy! Have fun with it! Let me know your favorite changes!

Until we meet again, be blessed! 

Friday, January 2, 2015

Just Like Garden Tea

I absolutely love to travel, but I cannot imagine living anywhere but where we live. I love our little community and our little church. (I have to say that loosely, because our house is actually twenty-five to thirty minutes away.) I have so many beautiful friendships there with those who encourage me and inspire me and challenge me in my faith, abilities, and gifts. They are a beautiful addition to the friendships I have had for nearly half my life.

One of my favorite things we do is get together for frolics. I was not born with the "I-love-to-clean" gene, so those frolics I really do not like, heehee, but the ones where we get together to do corngreen beans, peas, butcher chickens and pick strawberries, peaches or any other number of things just excite me!

Usually, on a big frolic day, there will be a meal. Many times at one of those meals Garden Tea will be served, and most times it is made with the herbs grown right outside the home of a wonderful woman with a talented green thumb. Sadly, I wasn't born with that gene either. :( I am desperately trying to learn to have one, though! :)

The first time I ever had this tea, I was very new to the community. I had never been to a work frolic before, nor had I ever had Garden Tea. It was a corn frolic at one of my dear friends' sister's home. I didn't know what was in my cup when I turned it up that day, but my heart simply skipped a beat at the first sip! It was so light and invigorating! It was the perfect drink for a warm day of hard work. I thought about that drink for a whole year until it was time for the corn frolic at the same home the next year! Imagine my total sadness when it was not served! Agh! What?! Sigh....Luckily, a short time later there was a green bean frolic, and my friend Mari at Patchwork Blessing had made some to serve. I had to have two cups! heehee!

Well, fast forward to just a short while ago when my friend, Catherine, introduced me to essential oils. With my first order, I received a bottle of Slim and Sassy. It took me a while to warm up to the idea of actually trying it, but alas, I did. Just by pure chance I decided to try it in my oolong tea. I had just been turned onto that tea by Mari at the green bean frolic....All these healthy habits these ladies get me into, I tell ya what!

Into my 12 oz. tea I added the four drops as the bottle directed. Imagine my utter surprise when I tasted the taste of my familiar, beloved, garden tea!! EEEK! I love the flood of memories that still come with each sip!

Just as a couple words of caution, if you are not already used to the taste of garden tea, I would start with just one or two drops and work your way up to four. Also, you will want to drink from a straw, and stir with that straw as you go.

I hope you get to try it, and let me know what you think!

Until we meet again, may you be blessed!