Friday, July 30, 2010

Cookbook for Girls

I've been really struggling to spend time training my daughter in homemaking skills. It is just easier to cook and clean without "help".
A few months ago, I asked for suggestions for cookbooks for girls. You all gave great suggestions but I never proceeded any further and made a purchase. Recently, I've been inspired by Quinn's series on Girls in the Kitchen. I'd love to try the Kid's Fun and Healthy cookbook that she is using with her daughters.

But, in the meantime, I needed to stop stalling. I checked out our library's children cookbooks, which was rather dismal, except for one, Cookbook for Girls. Like most DK books the photography was excellent and my daughter was smitten by the pink girlyness of it. She bookmarked many recipes that she wanted to make. The cookbook had a good variety of recipes including main meals, snacks, beverages, and desserts. Of course, my daughter picked all recipes in the latter category!

My daughter can't read well enough to follow a recipe on her own but, with help, I was surprised at how well she did. I honestly didn't know she was capable of icing cupcakes.

Or threading marinated chicken  and peppers onto skewers.

Mixing salmon cakes.

Or stirring a boiling pot.

I still had to push down the urge to just "do it myself" when she asked to make something from "her" cookbook. But spending some one-on-one time in the kitchen was enjoyable for both of us. Now the boys want to cook too and there is another daughter eagerly waiting for her turn!
I'd love to hear your ideas on teaching your daughter (and sons) homemaking skills.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Peach Day

It must be summer! Corn on Saturday, salsa yesterday, and today - peaches!

If there is anything more beautiful than a ripe peach, I'm not sure what it would be.

I can a cling type peach called "All Gold". It is similar to "Baby Gold" but ripens earlier. The disadvantage of cling peaches is the difficulty in removing the pit but we love the quality when canning.

The drought may have affected the size a little, but the flavor, if anything, is better then usual.

If you live local and are looking for cling type peaches, these are the best price and quality I've found. They are just a small orchard with great service - and they are my relatives - so I recommend them heartily!

Since having children, I started dicing all my peaches before canning. It makes it easier to serve since I would be cutting them up for the children anyway.

Sisters are such a blessing - especially when they are sixteen, have their driver's license, and only live 30 minutes away! AND are skilled at homemaking skills!

And younger sisters who play with the children are wonderful, too!

The dishes are washed up and the counter is full of peaches!

One of the jars broke in the canner, three jars didn't seal, and one jar I forgot to fill with water but... still a good day!

Do you know what this is?

We found this huge green worm on the tomatoes. The worm's back was covered with some sort of white eggs.

I've heard that a parasite wasp will attack tomato horn worms, but I had never seen it in action. If you see white sacks on the back of a tomato horn worm, don't kill it. The life of the worm is doomed anyway and you want to encourage parasite wasps in your garden.

I've never known much about the insects found in the garden. Usually, if I can't identify a bug or worm, I let it live, unless it is obvious it is damaging a plant. I don't want to risk killing one of the "good guys". This year I found a book (at a used book sale, of course) about garden insects. What I like best about this book is that it shows photos of each stage of development, from egg to adult. Insects can look so different at the various stages of life. Even with photos, I've had trouble positively identifying some of the grubs we've dug up.
One of the (small) things I think we've done right, is give our children a love for bugs. There is definitely times I have to choke back a shudder and fake delight, when I find a creepy crawler. It doesn't take long for children to pick up on my attitude. I'm glad that they still are excited to unearth a wiggler. They are far better then I at squishing potato bugs.

What is crawling in your garden?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Freezing Corn

Erin left a comment on the corn day post and asked how we freeze corn and how long it lasts.

There are many ways to do corn. Some cook the corn in the husks, others that cut the corn off raw, then cook it. But I'll just share the method we've used through the years. Too bad I didn't take many pictures. Guess we were all too busy working!

The obvious first step is to get corn - whether it is from your garden or purchased.

Next we husk and silk the corn. Usually we remove the silk with our fingers or a vegetable brush. This year, for the first, we borrowed a silking machine from a friend. I have no idea how it worked but as fast as you could feed an ear in one end, it would spit the silked ear out the other side. It sure saved a great deal of time and would be a great purchase for several families to go together on since it would usually only be used one day a year.

Next we cook the corn, also called blanching. You don't want to cook it as long as for eating the corn. We bring a large pot of water to a boil, put in as many ears as possible, shut the lid, wait until the water comes to a rolling boil again, then remove the corn.

We  cool the corn as quickly as possible. We used large tubs with a garden hose outside since we had a large amount but a kitchen sink works well for a small amount. The water needs changed frequently to keep it cold. If you have a good supply of ice, you could cool it even faster.

Cutting is next. A sharp knife is a necessity, as it is no fun to be "sawing" at the kernels. 

As quickly as possible, we like to get the cut corn in bags or freezer boxes and get it into the freezer. I usually spread it out in the freezer until it is frozen then stack it neatly together.

Frozen corn will keep in the freezer for at least a year. I usually try to have one year's corn used up before I get the fresh corn but somehow I have a bunch of 2008 corn that was lost in the bottom of the freezer. And it still tastes great!

 Hope that is clear. Any other questions?

Linked at Tuesday Garden Party

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Corn Day

Some days you wake up and have no idea what the day will bring forth!

I was trying to think of something fun to do with the children today. Ed was on an overnight canoe trip with all my brothers in honor of my brother's upcoming wedding.

The day was already heating up and staying in the air conditioning was sounding better all the time - when my dad called.
My dad plants sweet corn for the whole family but this year, because of the drought, we didn't expect to get much corn. This morning, my parents went out to the patch to pick some corn - only to find LOTS more than they expected. They picked everything that was ready and decided to call the family together for a corn day!

With all of the guys gone, Dad was left holding down the farm with the women folk. He borrowed a friend's corn silker  which made the silking go quickly.

Not only do I have the world's best parents but also a fun bunch of sisters and sister-in-laws! Many hands and lots of conversation made the day go fast! And the children had a blast with their cousins.

I think we picked the hottest day of the year. It was over 100 degrees in the shade but the result was 132 pint of corn in the freezer! We were amazed to get that much from a patch of short, drought stressed sweet corn. The ears were beautiful and there was not a worm. Maybe it is to hot for corn worms? I just love to see the freezer is filling up for winter!

Friday, July 23, 2010

Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Bars

These bars are so good, I really have to use self control not to go crazy consuming them. Maybe you've gathered by now that we are a little crazy about chocolate and peanut butter!

Limiting sweets is a constant struggle at my house. But I'm rather self conscious about bringing up the topic. Those of you who know me are rolling your eyes. For those of you who don't know us personally, lets just say that neither Ed or I have ever been told that we need to lose weight.

But fast metabolisms and skinny genes are no excuses for reckless calorie intake. And, sorry to rain on the picnic, but if I'm going to share yummy recipes (and this one is REALLY good) then maybe I need to give a balance by talking about moderation.

My head aches when I try to sort out all the conflicting nutritional information out there.  But in the last 50 years, despite all the diets, calorie counting, low-fat, skim fads, and whatnot - heart disease, obesity, and Type-2 diabetes are skyrocketing in our country. We are killing ourselves with food. And that scares me.

While I wish I could suddenly wake up and never want to eat chocolate and ice cream again, until that miracle happens, I've decided balance is my only option. My biggest concern is to help my children build wise food habits.

Some of the deliberate steps I've made are...
  • Choosing healthier dessert options. (Hence adapting some favorite recipes.)
  • Cut desserts into smaller serving portions.
  • Pass the dessert around the table once and immediately remove the plate from the table.

This last one is a biggie to me. I can always justify another helping since it is small/made with whole wheat/been a hard day/fill in the blank!

I recently enjoyed Michael Pollan's Food Rules. One of his rules is "the banquet is in the first bite". The first bite is wonderful, the next less so, but we eat another brownie, and another, because we remember how good that first bite was.

Wouldn't it be better to serve up a small portion of dessert, put the serving plate away so we are not distracted with considering "do I want another piece", and slowly savor a few delectable bites?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on how you find balance in our sugar-loaded society.

And now, for a really GOOD brownie!

Whole Wheat Peanut Butter Bars

Adapted from Go Lightly Gourmet

1 cup butter
2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup natural peanut butter
2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup quick oats
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 cup chocolate chips

Cream butter and sugar together. Blend in eggs and peanut butter. Stir in flour, oats, baking soda, and salt. Mix half of chips in dough.

Spread dough in greased 9x13 pan. Sprinkle remaining chips on top. Bake at 375 for 25 minutes.

You could up the peanut factor by using peanut butter chips instead of chocolate and adding a cup of chopped peanuts.

Linked at Tasty Tuesday

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Whole Wheat Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies

These brownies are deep and rich, definitely for the chocolate lover. I won't pretend they are good for you, but they sure taste good.

I have found a few tips in baking brownies with whole wheat flour.

The first is NOT to over bake.  The general method of baking until a toothpick inserted in the center of the bars comes out clean - does not work for brownies. I bake until the outside edges are slightly browned (which doesn't work for this recipe since they are so dark) or dry looking. The center of the bars will still be gooey and damp looking. As they cool, they will continue to bake. The result will be a moist and chewy brownie.

Whole wheat flour has a tendency to make baked goods taste grainy or gritty. As much as I want to dive in a eat these the first day, I find that waiting a day before cutting and serving really helps. Apparently, the bran in the whole wheat flour softens and becomes less obtrusive.

Do you have any tips for baking with whole grains?

Whole Wheat Chocolate Peanut Butter Brownies

1 cup butter
2 cup brown sugar (or a little less)
3 eggs
1/2 cup plain yogurt or sour cream
2 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup cocoa
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 cup natural peanut butter
1/2 cup milk

Cream butter and sugar together. Mix in eggs and yogurt until well blended. Stir in flour, cocoa, salt and baking powder.

Spread half of dough in greased 9x13 pan. In another bowl, mix peanut butter and milk together. Add more milk if needed to make peanut butter easily spreadable. Spread peanut butter over chocolate dough. Top with remaining dough.

Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.

If you don't care for peanut butter, you could probably just omit the peanut butter layer for a chocolate fudge brownie.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Garden Update

I've been wanting to post an update on our garden but have hesitated because of my bad attitude.

I really want to complain. I feel like hosting a big pity party about the lack of rain and the destructive varmints. I'm really not enjoying walking in my garden right now.

But I know that God is Good, He always provides for our needs, and the weather is fully in His control.

So I'm going to try to share pictures of our garden with only minimal griping.

Sometimes, blogs can be a rosy picture of life, a snap shot of only the good days. These photos should demonstrate some of the realities of gardening.

To see our garden on a good year, go to last year's garden tour.
We just had our first corn on the cob. So yummy! Knowing corn will probably be scarce this year gave it extra sweetness. There are more empty places then usual in our garden since most of our successive plantings did not germinate.

Our new strawberry patch is hanging on but not thriving.

The tomatoes have grown huge and most are taller than me.  I'm trying to keep notes on the number of different varieties of tomatoes. So far I found that Bloody Butcher was the earliest, Pink Ponderosa is the sweetest (and the one the ground hog prefers) Marguerite Paste has dry rot the worst. The green beans are the greenest spot in the garden.

But our poor potato patch is rather depressing. We planted them late, which works most years. But this year, most just rotted in the ground.
The onions and garlic are harvested and hanging in the woodshed. They are beautiful, but my problem normally is storing them without rotting. Hopefully, they will keep well this year.

The grape vines are lush and beautiful. I thought it looked like we'd have a great harvest. But for some reason, there are only two grape clusters, one on each vine! Do you know any reason why? Last year we had a good crop and I tried to prune them the same way this year.

The raspberry patch that we started this spring from plants shared from friends is doing well. I drool just thinking of the fruit that we will get from these plants next year, Lord willing.

This year, I've neglected the children's garden. Something is eating their bean tepees and they don't provide much shade. But the children spend a lot of time digging holes here.

In the back of our pasture we planted some test plots. I have to keep reminding myself that these plots are extras and it doesn't matter if we harvest nothing.

But something is harvesting here. The heart of the corn is being eaten. We guess that deer are the culprit. They have knocked down much of the corn. Guess the dry weather has them searching for food as well.

The oat patch looks nice but there isn't many seed heads. Ed's farmer brother-in-law says that oats like cool wet weather. Ummm....not really a description of our summer.

Last night Ed cut the oats. It was fun to watch him! We piled it in the barn (chicken coop) to dry some more before we try to winnow it. We have no idea what we are doing, but we have fun trying! We have a huge pile of straw. Guess we'll find out if there is much grain.

The Three Sisters Garden doesn't look too bad. A few stalks of corn have been pulled down by coons but most are still standing.
The Indian corn and sunflowers in our last patch are surviving but the lima beans are a loss.

Anyway, hope that isn't too depressing. I have to remember all the wonderful gardens we have had the past years. More then once I've been reminded of our pioneer grandmothers who faced far more daunting challenges. Their winter survival depended upon the crops they grew. We will eat well regardless of our garden's production - but you still can pray that we get rain!

Linked to Tuesday Garden Party

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Whole Wheat Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars

In adapting recipes, I follow the tip from the Tightwad Gazette.   Make changes slowly. Each time make a note on your recipe. When your family complains, back up one notch.

For example, try decreasing the sugar by only a quarter cup. If that works, decrease by another quarter cup the next time. Not to be deceitful, but I wouldn't mention your changes to your children. If your children are like mine, they will scarf up anything called a brownie and containing chocolate!

I find that it is a balance. Maybe the original recipe tasted better with loaded sugar, but if I can decrease the sugar, fat, etc and the family still eats them greedily, why add the extra sugar.

I've also found that if I wait a few months, and then tackle a recipe again, our tastes may have changed enough to allow more adaptions.

So these recipes are only works in progress!

I'd love to hear your thoughts on adapting recipes.

Whole Wheat Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars

Adapted from Family Fun magazine

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup peanut butter
2 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup quick oats
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 cup jam
1/2 cup chopped peanuts, optional

Beat butter and both sugars together. Blend in eggs and peanut butter. Mix in flour, oats, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.

In greased 9x13 pan, spread two thirds of dough.  Spread jam evenly over top. Scatter small mounds of remaining dough over jam. Sprinkle with peanuts if desired.

Bake at 350 for 25 minutes.

Linked at Tasty Tuesday.
and Life as Mom

Monday, July 19, 2010

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Bars

This week, I want to share some whole wheat brownie recipes. In an attempt to eat healthier foods, I've been working at adapting some favorite recipes. I wish we didn't love our sweets so much - but we do. I try to keep some sort of brownie or cookie around for lunches and picnics. My goal has been to find recipes using whole wheat flour, no hydrogenated oils, and healthier ingredients like natural peanut butter and oatmeal.

Notice I said "healthier" not "healthy". They still have sugar, but compared to many brownies, at least they are an improvement. I imagine for some of you, eating any kind of brownie would be terrible, and for others, using whole wheat flour would be an unheard idea. Hopefully, someone will find these recipes helpful.

All these recipes have won the taste test in my family and don't last long at our house.

In the hot summer, and just about any other time, I try to maximize my oven usage by baking more then one pan of brownies at the same time. This recipe makes two 9x13 pans. Perfect for baking some extra for the freezer.

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Bars

Adapted from Kitchen Keepsakes.

1 1/2 cup butter
2 1/2 cup brown sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cloves
2 tsp cinnamon
2 cup quick oats
3 cup whole wheat flour
2 cup chocolate chips

Cream together butter and sugar. Blend in eggs. Stir in remaining ingredients.

Spread in two greased 9x13 pans. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Do not over bake.

Do you have a favorite "healthier" brownie recipe? I'd love to try it!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Giveaway - Finger Puppet

Have I ever mentioned how much I love the Home Joys readers? Over and over again you send encouraging notes, share favorite recipes, and go the second mile to bless my life.

This week, Susan, a reader and mom, sent our children some of her handmade finger puppets!

The children were delighted with Tiny Tim Turtle and Old MacDonald and his animal friends. I was impressed by the quality workmanship. They were well sewn and should live through the love my children will give. And their expressions are just adorable! I wanted to play with them too!

Susan offered to send a Timmy Turtle finger puppet to a reader. She sells her puppets at her Etsy shop, 2Beautifulfeet. If you have some little people in your life, check out her Etsy shop, and let a comment on this post to enter the giveaway.

Giveaway will be open for one week until July 25.

And watch next week for some favorite brownie recipes featuring whole wheat flour.


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