A Saucy Treat!

God has blessed us once again, this time with an unexpected bonus of delicious apples from our backyard apple trees. We missed the ideal window of opportunity to treat the blossoms for insects this spring, but Michigan’s cold, wet spring seems to have played in our favor. The trees are loaded with fruit, and most of it is free of insects! What a surprise!

I try to limit my sugar intake in an attempt to ward off the potential of developing Type II Diabetes and have lost the taste for the heavily sugared products from the grocery store. Even the “sugar free” applesauce sold in stores tastes overly-sweet to me now.

I like to make and can my own applesauce but over the past several years our own apples have been too buggy for use and orchard apples have been very expensive. I haven’t made applesauce for a very long time and have rationed the few remaining jars in my pantry. What a wonderful surprise to discover bug-free apples on my own trees!

Although many recipes call for added sugar, you do not need to include it to make applesauce. I prefer to can it without additional spices and add them to taste when serving. I was introduced to this method years ago when living in Indiana by an elderly lady with numerous apple trees adorning her own back yard. A full, heaping bushel off apples will yield @ 22 quart jars of sauce. My little half bushel basket, filled as pictured, will yield one canner full, or 7 quart jars.

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Preparation is simple. Wash the fruit, cut into chunks and cook till soft. I trim out bruised spots and anything that looks suspiciously like a worm as well!

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Put a few inches of water in your pans with the apples and cook till the fruit is soft. Stir frequently so they don’t burn! Warning! The fragrance will be wonderful!

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The apples go into the pot with skin, core, stem, and seeds, so preparation is a breeze. My secret weapon in making great applesauce is a Victorio Strainer. They cost @ $60 but are worth every penny; it is a simple task to make applesauce using this great tool!

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This little machine assembles easily and clamps onto the counter or table. The hot, cooked apple mush is ladled into the bowl at the top, and you crank the handle on the side. The strained sauce comes down the chute and all of the other debris is deposited out of the side.

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Ladle the hot applesauce into sanitized hot canning jars, wipe the rim and top with a simmered lid. Process in a PRESSURE CANNER for 15 minutes at 5 pounds of pressure. When the pressure drops, move the jars to a folded towel to seal away from drafts; allow the jars sit undisturbed overnight.

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As the jars cool, you will hear a “ping” when they seal. The music of self reliance!

In the morning wash the jars in warm, soapy water, remove the rings, label and store in your cupboard. As long as the lids remain sealed, the product is shelf stable and will keep for years. Light exposure will cause the sauce to darken, so keep in a dark place; even store bought sauce will turn dark when exposed to light.

Home food preservation is becoming a lost art. I encourage you to make the investment in a pressure canner and begin the adventure of preserving your own harvest.

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DIY Granola

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We eat a lot of whole grain at our house.  Research has shown that our bodies process whole grains much more efficiently and they provide a slower insulin hit to the pancreas. With Type II Diabetes rampant on both sides of our family, we try to maintain a healthy life style in hopes of avoiding this disease. 

Sugary foods are rampant in our food choices.  From sugar saturated French fries, to sugar being added to milk, we are inundated with sweetness.  Our bodies develop the taste for it and subsequently crave it.  No wonder this nation’s over-all health is in such distress. 

When we began the journey into eating more natural foods we discovered that we really like granola and yogurt for breakfast.  I find the flavored yogurts cloyingly sweet and store purchased granola too sweet and expensive. 

I discovered a musilex type breakfast mix on a cruise vacation and come pretty close to duplicating it for my daily breakfast.   I use plain, low-fat yogurt, flavored with about half a teaspoon of freezer jam and topped with half cup of my home-made granola.  Not all granola recipes are the same, but this particular blend mimics what I found on the cruise ship breakfast bar.  It isn’t fancy, but I think it is delicious.

Start with 6 cups of old fashioned oatmeal.  Don’t use the quick or instant variety.  Add 1 1/2 cup of walnut pieces and 1 1/2 cup of sunflower seeds.  Mix well in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl mix 1/2 cup of canola oil and 1/2 cup of honey till well blended.  Pour this blend over the oat mix and stir well to coat evenly.  Spread onto a large, greased cookie sheet with a lip and bake in a preheated 300 degree oven for a total of 30 minutes.  Stir every 5 minutes after the first 15 and watch carefully so it doesn’t burn.

Cool out of pan.  I cover my counter with parchment paper and spread the mix evenly.  When cool, mix with @3 ounces of dried fruit (I use dried cranberries), and store in air-tight container.  I use a large glass pickle jar.  This makes @30 half cup servings. 

Because I tend to shop at big box grocery stores and purchase in bulk, I always  have most of the ingredients for this readily available in my pantry.  I have not done a price comparison on how this compares to purchasing bags of granola from the grocery store, but I am pretty sure it is much less expensive.  This would be a great home-school math project or even a fun exercise for one of you number geeks out there.  If you decide to do the math, please let me know what your findings revealed.

 

The Miracle Mutt

Miracle Mutt Give thanks to the LORD for he is good; His love endures forever. Psalm 107:1

My daughter’s little dog is a Miracle Mutt. He managed to injure himself last week in a duel to the death with a bathroom rug. The evil rug was destroyed, but it nearly took him with it. There were no witnesses to this battle; he was discovered lying listlessly on the floor with the rug in shreds around him. His left hind leg was useless and he trembled in horrible pain, refusing food and water.

The vet suspected a blown disc was the cause, but nothing was revealed by x-rays. A blood scan revealed nothing abnormal. Yet, the little guy was in intense pain. Even pain meds didn’t seem to eradicate his suffering. More x-rays and additional vet visits failed to reveal the cause of his problems. Stumped, the Dr. suggested a neurosurgeon, but warned that the tests alone would cost thousands of dollars.

One thing we knew, the poor dog wouldn’t last long in his current condition. It looked very grim. He would only drink from a syringe as he lay quivering from the pain. At one point he lost bladder control and couldn’t even stand. She hand fed him special foods and wept.

My daughter was heartbroken, and we all cried together at the thought of euthanizing her beloved pet. Without the funds to cover such a catastrophic event, she would have him put out of his suffering if he failed to improve over the weekend.

We prayed. We posted on Facebook and friends and family prayed. She teaches Sunday School and the children in her class prayed.

Deciding that his final day would be as good as she could make it, they went to his favorite place and spent several hours at the ocean as she prayed and cried. And God was gracious and merciful.

On Monday, the dog stood up and limped around her living room. He began putting the injured foot down to the ground and began to void his bladder and bowels without assistance. He wants to play! He is so perky that she worries that he may reinjure himself.

The vet was not sure he would last through the weekend, but we are celebrating God’s mercy. Whatever the cause of his injury, we believe that God is in the process of miraculously healing my daughter’s little dog. We are humbled and grateful beyond words, praising our God and King for his great love.

Psalm 116: I love the LORD for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy…The LORD is gracious and righteous. our God is full of compassion.

P-NUTTY Experiment

We visited our winter home last week and did some general maintenance around the place. One of the chores was cleaning up the patio and pulling weeds. A large, shrub-like bush was growing in each of the flower boxes along the patio fence. 100_4274

When my husband pulled one out, we discovered peanuts! Being “Yankees,” we had never seen peanuts growing before and were shocked to discover them in our planters. 100_4270

I remembered the neighborhood squirrels digging in the planters last winter. Apparently they were the gardeners.

Feeling adventurous, we cleaned the legumes off and decided to learn how to cook them. Boiled peanuts are a southern delicacy, but we have never tried them.
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Recipes suggest boiling them in salted water for several hours. And, most recipes recommend you start with about 5 pounds of nuts instead of 5 nuts!
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The water was brown and yucky after a few hours on the stove.

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And the finished product was questionable looking but tasty!
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These little guys were far too young to be picked, so I’m glad we left the bush on the other side of the patio alone. More peanut fun is waiting when we return to the south!

Cat Tales

We spend our summers in a rural area, surrounded by dairy farms and fields of corn. Our ten acres is its own little wild-life sanctuary, populated by deer, pheasants, rabbits, and feral cats.

We sometimes stumble upon nests of feral kittens tucked away in the flower bed or woodshed They are wild little creatures. Perhaps their ancestors were once tame, ending up in this life by abandonment by their owners, or getting lost by their own wandering, these offspring have long forgotten how to be loved. They run when they see a human, exist by their own wits, and are frequently meals for the coyote and hawk population. Life is short and difficult in the wild. These feral cats will “visit” my tame cats through the window of my house, and hiss and spit at them, as if challenging them to fight.

Our first Maine Coon cat was rescued from this life. Riley was nearly starving when he found us, assumingly abandoned on our lonely dirt road. The vet gave him a clean bill of health and we adopted the cat into our home. He immediately bonded with me and was always at my side like a faithful dog. It was almost as if he remembered his frightening life in the wild and gratefully appreciated his redemption.

After Riley’s death we acquired another Maine Coon cat, this time from a breeder. Buster has always been pampered, loved and cared for. He has never experienced hardship and seems to take his care for granted and that his needs will always be met. He has been with us a number of years and is only just begun to show signs of bonding with me.

The state of these cats remind me of people and their relationship to Jesus Christ.

The feral cats make me think of people who are lost. Perhaps their ancestors knew the Lord, but influences of culture or bad choices drove them away from God. Their children and grandchildren have lived by their wits and without the knowledge of Jesus Christ. And, like the cats who hiss through the windows of my house, they often try to pick fights with those who follow Jesus.

Riley, my rescued cat, puts me in mind of people who come out of the wild, who make a conscious decision to follow Jesus and are infinitely grateful for being rescued. They remember their life before Christ and never want to go back to living without Him. They are faithful.

Buster makes me think of people who have been raised in a Christian heritage. They have grown up surrounded by a Christian culture and influence through their parents and grandparents. Perhaps they have always attended Christian schools and been raised in a church environment. They have never known a life without Christian influence. They are at risk of assuming that because their family is Christian, they are as well, and this is a dangerous assumption. God has children, but not grandchildren. Everyone must make their own decision to follow Christ.

What kind of a cat are you? Do you need to come out of the wild and be rescued? Have you been adopted into God’s family? The cry for salvation is a prayer that God always hears and answers.

Back in the Saddle Again!

There was a time when I felt like I lived on my bicycle. I rode it everywhere I went, did stunts on it – like jumping over earthen ramps in the vacant lot across from my house and riding without holding on to the handlebars – and hauled bulky things from one house to another, all the while keeping my balance and peddling effortlessly. I spent so much time in the saddle of my bike that I felt it became an extension of myself. I never really had to think about balance or turning radius or stopping distance. I simply rode.

Getting to that point was a long, laborious process. I just couldn’t “get it.” My poor Dad spent long hours running me up and down the street in front of our house, only to have me coast, screaming at the top of my lungs, and crash into a skinned up heap when the bike lost momentum. Multiple ear infections had left me with dubious balance. Eventually I mastered riding the bike, but a couple years after most of my friends did.

We had an old beater bike in our basement and one winter afternoon I decided to try it out. All of the components suddenly came together and I could ride! I was gifted with a brand new one speed cruiser-style bicycle on my next birthday and that became my transportation until I learned how to drive a car.

It wasn’t until my children were teenagers that I even considered riding a bicycle again. I bought a simple three-speed cruiser-style bicycle with a coaster brake at the local Kmart. It isn’t fancy, but it works.

We took our bikes on numerous vacations and did family rides around neighborhoods, campgrounds, bike trails, and beach boardwalks. But life and vacations changed as our children grew up, got jobs, and their own cars.

My old bicycle sat unused for years. We took it to Mackinaw Island for a week-long condo stay and rode all over the island, but vacations end and life intrudes on recreation time. My old bike sat in the barn for over ten years, untouched and unridden.

Until this summer! We dusted off our bikes, did some minor repairs, and hit the Kiwanis Trail, a bike trail that follows a deserted railroad track. No cars to dodge and perfect summer weather made for an incredible ride.

We logged 5 miles on the trail for our first ride in over a decade! I am not a long-distance rider by any stretch of the imagination, but felt like a kid again as I sailed down the trail! It doesn’t quite feel like an extension of my body yet, and I am far more aware of falling and breaking bones than I was as a child, but I am glad that the old adage of never forgetting how to ride a bike is true. I am delighted to be back in the saddle again!

End of Summer-time blues….

My husband and I have taken a sabbatical from working for the summer. This experience has reinstated some habits from our youth, chiefly summer vacation behavior! Our summer vacation has mimicked those school days summers when we stayed up late, slept in every morning and goofed off most of the time. It has been a wonderfully busy summer for us, with days filled with visits from house guests, out-of-town trips, sight-seeing excursions, staying up late, and recharging our batteries by waking up when we feel rested.

But fall-like weather has ushered in the reality that our summer vacation is rapidly drawing to a close, and our final weeks here contain a flurry of scheduled appointments like yearly physicals and eye exams, with most being scheduled early in the morning. Sadly, the majority of our mornings this week will come with a 6:30 am alarm clock, which means being responsible and actually turning off the TV before the late news and monologues air so we don’t have to resemble coffee-guzzling zombies in the morning. The adjustment is difficult, to say the least!

These cool, grey, rainy mornings make us want to pull the covers over our heads and snuggle in for a couple more hours of sleep. Why is it easier to stay up an extra hour or two at night instead of waking up an hour or two earlier? I suspect we are “night-owls” and not “larks.”

But, we are not alone. All across this country people with education jobs or school-aged children are joining the ranks of the bleary-eyed as we struggle to reset our sleep patterns to accommodate our changing schedules. Despite singing the end of summer-time blues, I am gearing up in anticipation for fall activities.

In the meantime, pass the COFFEE!!!