Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Basics of Canning - Other Supplies Needed

(from left to right)
Jar lifter, Canning Funnel and a Magnetic Lid Remover

There are a few more basic supplies that you will need for canning. 

1.  Jar Lifter  - this handy utensil easily grips any scalding hot jar without any worries of burning yourself.  It is covered in rubber so you also don't have to worry about the jar slipping. 
2.  Canning Funnel - this funnel fits perfectly onto any regular or wide-mouth canning jar and allows you to pour whatever you are canning without wasting or spilling over the edge of the jar.  I prefer stainless steel but they are also available in plastic or aluminum.
3.  Magnetic Lid Remover - you can use a normal pair of cooking tongs but many times the lids will stick together and that never happens with this magnetic Lid Remover (it is also very inexpensive- only a couple of dollars).

You will also need a large "Canner" or large stock pot used for sealing the jars after they have been filled with garden produce.  Above you will see two pictures of my old rusty "Water Bath Canner."  There is also a "Pressure Canner" but we will be discussing that in another post.  Most of the canning that I do is sealed in my "water bath Canner."
There have been a few times when I used a large stock pot as my Water Bath Canner because I either didn't have my Water Bath Canner with me or I just needed some extra space.  If you use a large stock pot in place of a Canner you MUST have something on the bottom to prevent the glass jars from coming in direct contact with the pot as that will cause the jars to crack or shatter.  In the past I have used a round baking cooling rack that fit perfectly into one of my large stock pots and that worked just fine.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Chicken Pineapple Kabobs

Chicken Pineapple Kabobs

1/3 cup soy sauce
juice from 1 lemon (a lime may be substituted)
1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste (available in the international section of most chain grocery stores)(if you can't find this product then simply mince 1/2 tablespoon garlic & grate 1/2 tablespoon fresh ginger)
1 tablespoon honey
1/4 teaspoon ground hot chile pepper or cayenne pepper (if you enjoy spicy food then add 1/2 teaspoon or more - to taste)

Stir all ingredients together in a large stainless steel or glass bowl.


2 cups - (raw) chicken breast cut into large chunks (see above picture in the bowl on the right)
1 large vidalia onion (cut into large chunks)
1 green bell pepper (cut into large chunks)
1 red bell pepper (cut into large chunks)
1 package small mushrooms (washed)
1 pineapple (fresh & cut into large triangle chunks) Do NOT marinate the pineapple
6 metal or bamboo skewers (if using bamboo - soak the skewers in water for 20 minutes before assembling to prevent scorching)

Place the first 5 ingredients in the marinade and soak for at least a half an hour (I always soak any meat in a different bowl than the vegetables for optimum food safety). 

Then assemble making sure there is a little bit of everything on each skewer (don't forget the pineapple!).  Place each assembled Kabob in a baking dish.
Assembled kabobs - I throw any extra vegetables in the bottom of the pyrex baking dish

Bake in preheated 425 degree (F) oven for 25 - 30 minutes or until chicken is done (time difference depends on the size of the chicken chunks). 

NOTE:  These Kabobs can also be cooked on the grill, although I think they are just as good baked in the oven.

Featured on:
by Angie Ouellette-Tower for photo WeeklyTitle_zps5l1xvjx6.jpg

Recipe makes 6 Kabobs

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Chives - Growing and Harvesting

Chive plant starting to go to seed.

Chives are very versatile and can be used in almost any recipe.  The mild onion flavor makes it enjoyable even for the most persnickety eater. 

Chives are one of the easiest herbs to grow.  I recommend buying a chive plant as opposed to starting it from seed - that way you will be able to harvest the first year.  Simply cut off the tender grass-like shoots (cutting as close to the ground as possible), wash and consume.  Harvesting the tender green chive shoots will slowly come to an end if you allow the plant to go to seed.  In the picture above you will notice that some chive stalks have a pink feathery flower.  To extend your chive harvest simply cut the flowering stalks down to the ground - continue doing this and you should be able to harvest the tender chive foliage for the enitre summer.

The pink flowering chive stalks have been cut down.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Importance of Thinning

Every year I struggle with "thinning" my seedlings and plants.  I always feel as if I'm throwing away perfectly good food - but I'm wrong.  Thinning is essential to the future growth of each  plant and thinning is necessary for a bountiful harvest.

The Thinning Test:

Below, in the first picture you will see an evenly spaced and thinned row of carrots.  In the second picture is a bunched up clump of carrots.  I will allow both rows to grow untouched for the remainder of the season and come harvest time I will show you how crucial it is to thin our plants.

To be continued..........(result in the autumn at harvest time)

Nicely thinned carrots

Crowded unthinned carrot plants

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Kernel of Wheat

"I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed.  But if it dies, it produces many seeds."  John 12:24

Death is essential for further life.  This verse symbolizes 3 things:
  1. The "kernel of wheat dies and produces many seeds" symbolizing Jesus dying for our sins and giving us everlasting life.  We are the "many seeds." 
  2. We must die to our old self so we can have new and eternal life through Christ Jesus.
  3. Wheat produces it's own kind - we are made in God's image and we are growing daily striving to become more like Jesus.
We are all part of God's growing garden.

Thank you Almighty Father.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Drying Herbs - Thyme

Search for food dehydrator

There are a couple different ways to dry herbs but today we will be talking about using a food dehydrator, which in my opinion is the easiest and most successful way.
The manufacturer recommends taking the herb directly from the garden, shaking or brushing any dirt off & dehydrating immediately.  However, I find that with my sandy soil there always seems to be some grit left after dehydrating.  Therefore, I always rinse the herb off (in this case Thyme) and then pat it  dry on a papertowel before using the dehydrator.  There is nothing worse than biting down on a grain of sand.
Once it is dry (follow the manufacturer's instructions on heat setting and time), you will take each stalk, pinch it and in a downward motion go all the way down the stalk to remove the little Thyme leaves. 
Warning: this is very time consuming and somewhat of a pain.  However, most recipes that call for Thyme use a very small quantity - so a little really will go a long way.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Lily of the Valley

Every year I am amazed at how this tiny delicate flower can emit such a powerful fragrance that seems to travel for acres.  When in season, the Lily of the Valley makes the entire neighborhood smell fresh, green and delightful.   In my opinion, nothing in the world smells like the Lily of the Valley. 

They are very easy to grow but if left alone for years they can take over your garden.  Therefore, Lily of the Valley plants  should be split every couple years.  Although, if you have the space, I would recommend allowing these plants to spread.  I like that wild look and it is exciting to watch the changing Lily landscape - it's almost like a Valley of Lilies.


My Lily of the Valley patch left untouched for years.
Once all of the Lily of the Valley plants have totally stopped flowering, use a shovel and dig up a thick clump of Lily of the Valley plants (see picture "A").  Then gently divide each stem base and you will notice that each stem has it's own root system.  They should separate fairly easily (see picture "B").  You will see that I was able to split my clump of Lily of the Valley into 13  plants.  Then of course, you would plant each separated stalk where you desire.

A: Clump of Lily of the Valley plants

B:  Clump separated into individual plants

Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Basics of Canning - Jar Sizes

1.  Half Pint - 1 cup capacity.  Mostly used for jams and jellies. 
2.  Pint - 2 cup capacity.  Can be used for larger quantity jams and jellies but also used for salsas and relishes.
3.  Quart - 4 cup capacity.  Used for tomatoes, peaches, sauces, soups, juices.

On the left you will see the regular opening and on the right is the "wide-mouth".
1.  Regular
2.  Wide-Mouth

 Rings - I reuse canning rings year after year - they end up lasting 5 - 10 years.  Throw away when you notice the inside of the ring getting rusty.
Lids - You MUST use a new lid everytime you are canning to ensure food safety.

This picture shows the rings and the lids.

Mason, Ball and Kerr are all good canning brand names.


Jams & Jellies
Strawberry Mango Jam
Blueberry Jam
Peach Jam
Raspberry Jelly

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Simple Strawberry Shortcake from Scratch

1/2 cup butter
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons baking POWDER
1/2 teaspoon salt (Omit if you used salted butter)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup milk
Preheat oven to 450 degrees (F).  Mix the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, baking powder & salt) together in a large bowl.   Cut the butter into the dry ingredients using either a pie cutter or a fork.  Once the dough looks chunky or crumbly  - then stir in the vanilla and milk using a wooden spoon.  Using your clean hands - combine the dough and form it into a log (as seen in picture "B").  Cut round slices about 1 inch thick and then dip the top into some granulated sugar to give it a delicate sugary slightly crisp top layer.  Bake in 450 degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes (or until light brown).  Cool on baking rack.

A: Ingredients needed

B: Form the dough into a log and cut into 1 inch round slices and then dip the top of dough circle in sugar.

Strawberry Sauce
 1 Pint of fresh strawberries
Juice from 1/2 of a lemon
1/4 cup to 1/2 cup sugar (depending on your sweet tooth)
Wash, dry and hull (take out leaves & stem base) the strawberries.  Then stir in lemon juice and  sugar (1/2 cup sugar if your taste is more on the sweet side).  Let this sit at room temperature for 15 minutes to bring out the natural strawberry juices.

To Assemble:   Take 1 Shortcake and break into quarters or smaller pieces, then scoop some strawberries on top and drizzle some of the scrumptious juice from the strawberries onto the shortcake. 
Top with whipped cream or ice cream. 


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Asparagus - From Spring to Winter

The season of Asparagus

Growing asparagus is very easy once the plants are established (after 2 years).  In early spring (late March or early April) the first thing to do is cut down the fern-like asparagus plant, cutting it as close to the ground as possible.  Also, clear away any leaves/twigs that might be crowding new growth.

Dried ferny asparagus plant after winter

After the dried fern-like foliage has been cut.

The new purple asparagus shoots begin to emerge.
 Then in a few days or weeks you will notice the tender purple shoots of each asparagus stalk starting to emerge.  Once each stalk is about 6 to 9 inches tall -  the harvesting begins.  Simply cut each stalk off, again as close to the ground as possible and then cook as desired.  You will notice a slow down of new growth after about 1 month (depending on the weather).
Be sure to leave a few stalks and allow them to grow into ferny foliage shown below. 
Asparagus foliage after harvest
This will reseed the asparagus for next year.                                     

Monday, June 20, 2011

Tools: The Weed Bandit

I am a firm believer that every job is easier and the outcome is more successful if using the correct tool.
Before Weeding

This tool's success is dependent on the soil type: it is ideal for sandy/loamy soils.  It's metal loop slices through the roots of each weed with ease. 
My advise if you have clay soil -  don't waste your time - this tool is useless for clay.

After Weeding

This tool is especially good for weeding around seedlings; you are able to get very close to the seedling without disturbing the tender roots.  As you can see in the picture above I have just started weeding using this tool.  In the second picture I have finished weeding, making the parsnip seedlings visible.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Grass and the Flowers of the Field

"All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field.  The grass withers & the flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them.  Surely the people are grass.  The grass withers & the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever."  Isaiah 40:6 - 8

God's word has no seasons.  It never withers from hot dry weather, God's word can never be flooded or washed away, the snow does not make it go into dormancy.............God's word  stands forever.

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