Apr 26, 2020

Sunday Reflections

This morning I did something a little different and decided to do my rosary outside. As a member of the MMP I also read from what we affectionately call the Blue Book. As I began praying the breeze was blowing and birds were chirping. It was possibly one of the most relaxing moments of my life. How blessed I am! See, my little garden is made possible because of my mother and a dear generous anonymous friend that gifted me enough to get growing. None of what I’ve been able to do would have been possible without their loving gifts and wisdom. Each year I’ve been able to add a little more, learn a little more. I’ve suffered losses when the landlord sprayed and I lost all my tomatoes and other produce. I was heartbroken and almost gave up. This year thankfully we were able to spot him and move all my potted plants first. Again a lot would have been lost had it not been for David, my second son, seeing him and letting me know so we could move everything before it was sprayed. Today was a day of reflecting on that and adding a few more goodies, Swiss chard, more cauliflower, basil, and pansies....well, you get the idea. 

You know our relationship with God is like a garden. Some of us start with a very clear plan. Me, well, I’m more the ‘hope it works’ variety. This has some major drawbacks and some clear advantages. Sometimes things don’t work, and I’m out time, and money, but I gain knowledge. Sometimes they work so well I get overwhelmed and can’t possibly use all that I’ve been given so I share. (My squash last year.) No matter what type of gardener you are though it’s impossible to know everything that will happen. In my past I did not have a good track record with plants. I actually joked and said my thumb was not only not green it was positively black! Things got in the way and I’d forget they were there. One day I’d go to water them and they would be dead, much like faith if we don’t water it with prayer and works of mercy. We know faith without works is dead. Just like my plants in the past. We can’t expect growth just by finding Jesus and then leaving him alone and forgetting about Him. We have to plant our faith with the word of God, weed our faith with rooting out sin, water our faith with prayer and praise, and lastly we are called to share what God has planted within us. When we share we are often given new seeds to plant so our garden becomes more useful. The more we all do this the more seeds we will have to plant for the next season, the more wisdom we will have to navigate the storms and droughts, the more watchful we become over new growth (both ours and the growth of others). As we grow the more He can use us until, in His time, His garden reaches the entire world! He doesn’t need us, but what a joy it is to be part of the Kingdom and entrusted to share the bounty of heaven! We the ones who ate the forbidden fruit, we the ones who left Jesus alone in the garden of Gethsemane, we who crucified Him and left Him to die, we are forgiven and we have been given the great joy of being a part of His plan here on earth. All we have to do is work in the garden and keep our eye on heaven. 

Mar 29, 2020

Dehydrated Apples - Preserving

Covid 19 is here and with it a lot of programs are set up in the area to make sure kids are being fed while they are out of school. It’s a huge blessing in these days of cut hours or flat out job loss that it doesn’t matter if the kids are public school, homeschool, or private school kids. These programs are for every kid. My kids, like many, aren’t huge fresh fruit eaters so when they get apples and oranges in their meal bags they tend to pile up. I hate waste, so instead of having them go bad I’m turning them into one of their favorite snacks, dehydrated apples. Now that my blood pressure isn’t too high and my sugars are a bit more stable I’ve got the energy today to tackle the job. I still have a few to get done and that is a blessing I don’t take for granted. All you really need is apples, water, and something acidic like vinegar or lemon/lime juice and something to put the apples on and a way to slice them. I used a mandolin I got a few years ago as a gift from my MIL to slice them evenly and used the huge baking trays I got from my mother not long ago to use in the oven. *warm fuzzies*

In the above photo I’m using a NESCO dehydrator I purchased second hand. It’s not in perfect condition but the price was right and I trust the NESCO brand. Beat up and this bad boy was it’s served me well for about 2 years now. For fruits you set it to 135° F or 85°C. Depending on how thickly you slice the fruit will determine how long it’s in for. Mine is never the same twice and with today being somewhat humid I’m looking at a little longer time. I’ve had as low as 8 hours and as many as 18. It also depends on if you like them leathery or more of a crispy, chip like texture.

In the above photo I’m using my Emeril Power AirFryer 360. This is the first time I’ve used it as a dehydrator so we will see how well it does. I used the crisper tray on shelf position 2, turned the knob to dehydrate on 120°F or 49°C. It says on the onion recipe to set for 10 hours. I set it for 8 and will be watching it. (For the record this thing fries up some bombing onion rings and is great to bake small batches of cookies.) 

Here I’m using my oven and the awesome baking sheets my mom gave me to dehydrate them in the oven. Preheat the oven to 200°F or 93°C. Again it will take a bit hours to get done depending on how thick they are and how you like them. Start checking about 1 1/2 hours. I turn mine when I use the flat sheets like this too.

Now there is a way to dehydrate them using good old fashioned sunshine but I’ve not done this yet and yes, I really want to give this a go. 
Dehydrated Apples
Lemon juice, lime juice, or vinegar

Slice apples. Put apple slices is water mixed with a few tbsps of lemon juice. When ready spread them out on sheets. Follow the directions on your dehydrator. If using an oven 200°F or 93°C for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Turning once. 

(2 hours later) I forgot to check the apples in the oven. Use parchment paper or don’t forget to keep checking and turning them or you’ll end up with this.  🤦‍♀️

BTW warm fuzzies in reference to a book my mom used to read to me as a kid, The Original Warm Fuzzy Tale by Claude Steiner. I highly recommend it for young kiddos. 

Mar 25, 2020

Chorizo Mushroom Cap Pizza - Low Carb

Sorry, this post is so late. I got sucked into trying to keep up with all the latest numbers from all the various sources and made myself miserable. I'm so over the blame game and politics going on. I'm putting it in God's care and just doing what I can where I can. Ya'll stay safe out there and remember God's got this, especially when we aren't feeling it. This recipe was done before the social distancing thing but if you are blessed enough to get some real Mexican chorizo, enjoy.

These little babies turned out amazing! I hit up my local Mexican market not long ago and scored some fresh chorizo for the first time. (If you have one near you I suggest visiting one. They are great for finding new ingredients and products to play with.)

Chorizo Mushroom Cap Pizza
(serves 4)

4 Portabello mushroom caps, cleaned and gills removed
Olive oil
Vegetable oil
1 link or about 4 oz. of fresh chorizo
Beef chorizo (1 Cacique brand)
1 28 oz. can crushed tomato (any brand)
1 block mozzarella cheese, grated

Preheat the oven to 400°. After you've cleaned and removed the gills from the mushrooms brush the insides with olive oil and set them aside. In a hot cast-iron skillet take the casing off of the fresh chorizo if there is any and fry it until it's crumbly and looks similar in texture to ground beef. (It will have more red in it due to the amount of chili.) When that's done split open the Cacique beef chorizo package and squeeze it out into the skillet. This will melt much more than the fresh chorizo and have more of a sauce-like consistency. Add the can of crushed tomatoes and cook until heated through.
Spoon this mixture (it should be pretty thick, resembling sloppy joes) onto the mushroom caps and top with cheese. Bake them in the oven for just until cheese has melted and gotten a pretty bubbly golden brown. 

Feb 29, 2020

Mexian Inspired Pizza

Might not be all the pretty but it sure tasted good!

You know how you get up a craving sometimes but everything you mention with it sounds boring? That happened to me this morning. I wanted chorizo. Chorizo and eggs? No, sick of eggs. Chorizo and potatoes? No, can't have potatoes, and, yeah NOT dealing with baby girl. (Her favorite food so I'd have to cook a ton of them.)  Nachos? Oh, that sounds good! Crud, no corn chips. Then what did I spy with my little eye? Crust, premade. The thin pizza crust was just sitting there begging to be used up, and hey it wasn't horrible on carbs. (The refried beans made up for it though. Why not? ya can't win them all.) Pizza it is. There was a jar of smooshed maters (crushed tomatoes if you want to be technical) and plenty of cheese waiting to be grated. Canned beans out the wazoo that need to be used up and presto! A meal! Yup, Mexican-ish (but not really), pizza it is.

Mexican(ish) Pizza
(makes 3 12" pizzas)

Premade thin pizza crust (I used Golden Home Ultra Thin)
oil (or fat of any kind)
1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
Mexican style chorizo (I used Cicque Beef Chorizo, 9 oz.) - use 2 for more flavor
1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained
1 (15 oz.) can chickpeas, drained (don't judge it's what I grabbed first)
onion powder
garlic powder
1/4 c. drippings (I used the beef drippings I had on hand, but any will work as will lard or even oil)
1 (16 oz.) block, Colby Jack cheese, shredded
1/4 (16 oz.) block, mild cheddar cheese, shredded

Heat up two cast iron skillets and preheat oven to 400°. When the skillets are hot add the oil or melt fat in both. Dump in the chorizo into the smaller one and fry it up. Once it's hot add the crushed tomatoes.

chorizo and tomatoes
 In the larger skillet dump in both cans of beans, season with onion and garlic powder. Mash them with a potato masher. Add drippings and stir. Add enough water to make it spreadable. (Sorry no picture of the beans.) Put the pizza crusts on pizza pans and layer first with the beans.

 Next add the tomato and chorizo mixture.

Top with cheese.
This is the last pizza, when I realized I needed more cheese, enter the cheddar addition.
Pop them into the oven until the cheese is melted. Pro tip, let it cool a minute or you'll blister your mouth. Not speaking from personal experience at all...cough...cough.

Oh if you can use the wired pizza pans and just line the bottom of the oven. It crisps up the bottoms nicely!

Feb 27, 2020

Lye Soap Lenten Reflections 2020

New York Public Library Digital Collections

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday and like most parishes, the homily probably mentioned ashes a time or three. At St. Joe's (otherwise known as St. Joseph's), our priest talked about how worthless they are. In fact, if you wanted them just about anyone with a fireplace would probably let you take them and good riddance. Me, being the domestic history geek that I am, that got me to thinking about lye. To make lye you literally leach it from ashes using water. Lye, even today (though not as often) is a key ingredient in soap making. Many a Mamaw and Gran'ma used those worthless ol' ashes from the fireplace just for that purpose. Lye is powerful stuff. What we leave behind on this earth in the hearts and minds of those that knew us is even more powerful. Lye will burn your skin, cause respiratory problems and damage eyes if used carelessly, yet when you add oils and fats it becomes safe. Soap has allowed humans to combat dirt, disease, and made life safer for mankind. Now, what is left from the ashes of our lives? Well, that depends entirely on the life we lived. We have either helped or we have hurt mankind. If we followed God and ran the good race then those we leave behind will benefit. They will have learned to leach the hard times, the suffering times, with life-giving water. They will have all they need to mix the healthy fats and oils from their own lives (God's blessings) with the lessons of lye. They will make soap. In choosing not to follow God we've not given them the tools they need. They won't know, from us, how to use living water, sacramental oil, and beneficial fats to make the worthless things in life the strongest and most beneficial things. They won't know how to make soap...at least not from us.

Dec 2, 2019

Cream of Turkey Soup with Brown Rice

Leftovers are awesome! Who doesn't like Thanksgiving dinner transformed into sandwiches, curry, salad, and yup, soup. Here soup is hands down the favorite especially when it's homemade. (My mother's soups have spoiled us horribly..............hell her cooking, in general, has spoiled us.) Now that the ham is pretty much gone we have pulled out the turkey leftovers. Of course, the pie was gone the next day. Today though there were absolutely no leftover leftovers. (Ha! I made a funny!) This is NOT a low-fat soup by any stretch of the imagination. I needed to use up the leftover heavy cream and we still had a decent amount of butter. It made for a hearty thick and comforting bowl of yummy goodness that made us forget that today was almost cold........................I miss snow, but that's another post. Anyway, I hope you enjoy this soup as much as we did.

Cream of Turkey Soup with Brown Rice
Serves 6-8 (depending on how many teenagers you have)

1-2 tbsp. cooking oil
3 medium carrots, medium diced
3 stalks celery, medium diced
1 medium onion, medium diced
1/2 stick butter
1 1/2 heaping tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 qt. reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 pt. heavy cream
2 - 3 c. chopped turkey (we had smoked turkey)
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. dill
1/2 tsp. crushed rosemary
1/2 tsp. sage
salt and pepper to taste
2 c. cooked brown rice

In the bottom of a large dutch oven or a stockpot heat the oil over medium heat. Once the oil spits a little when a sprinkle of water hits it dump in the chopped veggies. Cook the vegetables until soft. Add the butter and melt it. Next, add the flour and cook it for a few minutes. Mix it well with the butter giving enough time to make sure the raw flour taste is cooked out. When that is done add the stock/broth, heavy cream, turkey and all the spices. Make sure to stir routinely as it will thicken and potentially burn on the bottom if you don't. Add the brown rice when it's nice and thick. Serve immediately.

Jul 27, 2019

Ruth - New Testament Women

image from Little Birdie Blessings

Most of us know about Ruth. She is after all one of the few women in the Bible to have a whole book named after her. She was a Moabite woman who married an Israelite, and not only had her husband died, but his brother and father did too. She was left in a household of women, and their support was gone. Not an easy situation in any time period, much less in a time when women had few rights. She moved to a completely different country with a woman who had lost everything, a woman who had encouraged her and her sister in law to return to their fathers' houses. It wasn't like her mother in law was hiding how she felt about it all either, I mean come on, she changed her name from sweet (Naomi) to bitter (Mara). That doesn't bode well. It actually kinda hints that this might actually suck. (To be fair we aren't told how Naomi acted, outside of telling the girls to leave.) Ruth stayed. The unknown didn't deter her. It's also the only time recorded that she didn't obey Naomi.

We all know the verse 1:16

Wherever you go I will go I will go, wherever you lodge I will lodge. 
Your people shall be my people and your God, my God.

It's verse 17 that got me this time.

Where you die I will die and there be buried.
May the Lord do thus to me, and more if even death separates me from you.

Who does that? In today's world people would be screaming codependency at worst, low self-esteem at best, or possibly wondering what angle she was working. I mean the whole "your God will be my God" is strong as is, to convert is no small thing. (I've done it.) Then to go and say if I don't die and am not buried where you are let his wrath fall on me.............WHAT!?? If someone said this to me I'd probably roll my eyes and say whatever. Possibly Naomi did, probably was more polite about though. She could have just as easily been touched and appreciated it before the fruit of it manifested. We aren't told, but bitter people aren't always the most trusting. Either way, Ruth kept her promise. Her obedience and devotion to Naomi ultimately was obedience and devotion to God.

When Naomi saw the fruit of Ruth's promise she got it in her head that the best way to provide security for Ruth was to get her married off to her kinsman, Boaz. (Cue Matchmaker from Fiddler on the Roof) Naomi tells her how to ask for his hand in marriage. She did all that she was told and asked him to spread his covering over her. I have no way of knowing how she felt that night. I imagine she was scared and nervous, but she could have easily felt the inner peace that absolute trust in God brings. What I do know is that people talk and Boaz did too. He told his workers to not mention that she was there. She was brave, very brave, and more importantly, she was obedient. Her obedience paid off in ways she could have never dreamed of.

I don't know how Ruth felt during her life with Naomi. The bible doesn't tell us her mental or emotional state much at all. It does tell us what her actions were, repeatedly. Her only act of disobedience was to stay when she was told to go. She worked hard, kept her word, and did what her mother in law told her. According to the book of Matthew, she was the great grandmother of King David and a direct descendant of Jesus. All because she was obedient to a woman who had at one time tried to convince her to leave. What blessings obedience can bring!