All in a Day’s Harvest

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We have been overwhelmed by the produce of our garden so far this summer. Not that we’ve gotten more than we can eat–yet; But in God’s ability to give life to something in such a tremendous and awesome way.  We DID sweat, and work, and get sore, and dig, and shovel, and rake, and plant, and water, and get eaten by mosquitoes… but honestly, I put some seeds in the ground and then stood back and watched God do the rest.  Let me tell you, He has done some amazing things.  I have plenty of pictures in this blurb, but I haven’t gotten any of the actual garden since it started producing… my bad.  But let me tell you all about it!

Little Boy SOO excited for life.

Little Boy SOO excited for life.

Starting back in April we prepped the ground, Back to Eden style: No tilling, layers of newspaper to kill the grass, a layer of dirt, and a layer of mulch to keep the ground from drying out.

Little Boy was ecstatic to be able to help our friend Lance load the mulch into the back of the truck.

Tractor

I won’t go into much detail with the prep, let’s just say that it was work–but not un-enjoyable. Ben and I are a great team… and Jayden-bug, he does his best to get in the way. The weather was nice; we were able to get free newspaper, dirt, and mulch! I was in the early weeks of my first trimester with this baby, so I was taking it easy–because I was starving! And had to keep taking snack breaks! And then I was SICK and had to take I-Think-I’m-Going-To-Throw-Up breaks.  😉  Ben did his fair share of the work.

The Garden Plot   Water break

We planted snap peas, carrots, red bell peppers, cherry tomatoes, roman tomatoes, marigolds around my tomatoes (I heard that was supposed to be good for some kind of pest…), lots of onions, some garlic, beans, corn, cucumbers, zucchini, Thai hot peppers, jalapeño peppers, basil, cilantro, watermelon, and raspberries!  (The herbs, watermelon, and raspberries I have around the house in different places…)  We PLANTED, and now we do a whole lot of nothing.  We water maybe once a week.  The GRASS came back, turns out Bermuda grass is a beast. So the grass is growing very nice and high up and around most of our vegetables.

I’ll get to the good part, this zucchini sautéing in butter and spices:

zucchini

And this batch of 100% garden salsa:

Garden Salsa

And this basketful of a day’s harvest:

All in a day.

I think what I am trying to say to you is this: God grew this garden, and hasn’t He done a fantastic job of feeding me this summer?

What has God produced in your garden this year?

See ya’ round,

Tasha

p.s.  My son LOVED planting onions, almost as much as he loves picking and eating the greens.

 

Sour Cherry Vanilla Jam… or Syrup!

I was all being whiny at church and was like, “There are no local berry picking places where I can go pick berries!”  Ten minutes later an elder came up to me and said, “Do you like to pick cherries?”    um… YES!

I have never picked cherries before.

He said to come out to his place anytime, the cherries were in season.  I grabbed a friend and we drove out Monday mid-morning. I didn’t take a picture of the tree, because I forgot. But these are SOUR cherries, or PIE cherries, I have a heard them called. Bright red little guys.  Picking was slow going as the little buggers are reluctant to come off the branch. Some I picked the whole stem along with it, sometimes just the berry, and SOMETIMES, I even snagged the berry and the pit stayed on the stem attached to the tree–which maybe is a bonus.

Here’s my little helper:

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I told him, “ONLY eat the RED ones.”   Later that evening I went back with my husband to get some more when little Jayden comes walking around the tree coughing, gagging, spitting…  I’m thinking maybe he’d forgotten the “only eat the red ones,” advice. Sour indeed!

I scoured the internet until I found a recipe that sounded good… and then of course I didn’t follow it. Go figure, right?

Typical.

Item 1: Pit the Cherries. Some people use a little pitting tool. I’ve even heard there is some kind of crank strainer bowl where you can just put them all in, and mash the berries through and the pit stays behind.  Ben and I just man-ed up and did it ourselves. We started by cutting in half, and then taking the pit out.  Then we got smarter and Ben discovered if you hold the cherry over the bowl (so as not to lose the juice), pull the stem with one hand and squeeze the pit out with the other.

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Item 2: Heat all the cherries in a big pot. Use a much bigger pot than the amount of fruit you have. This is a dangerous frothy business.

After the berries were heated, juicey and wilty, I blended them all up with my hand blender because I don’t like chunky jelly.

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Item 3: Start your canning stuff. Heat the lids and jars as directed according to proper canning instructions. I had never canned anything before. EVER. So this was an exciting time in our kitchen. Thankfully the boy was asleep already. (Isn’t my oven beautiful!? Maybe it’s time to run that self cleaning feature again…)

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Item 4: Add Sugar and Vanilla!! The ratio I used was 4 – 3. If you have 4 cups of cherries add in 3 cups of sugar.  (So after the berries are blended and bubbly you have to pour them into a measuring device to see how much there is.) I added one teaspoon of vanilla for every cup of berries. Okay, who am I kidding, I just poured in a good amount of vanilla.

Item 5: What, are you crazy? Don’t put the lid on the pot! Someone I know who looks and thinks a lot like me once did that. Until the pot boiled over like a chemistry lesson gone bad. (See all that steam? Yea… Most of that is smoke. Mmm, nothing like the smell of burning cherries and sugar all over your stove.) Also, this person’s husband lovingly said something to the affect of, “What, are you crazy?! Don’t put the lid on! The whole idea is for the water to boil off.”    OKAY. That person was actually me. And I’m like… Good thinking, Ben.  But in truth, neither one of us was overly dismayed at the boil over. I boil over something on a weekly basis. It’s apparently one of my special talents. Homemade chocolate syrup was the WORST!

Fire in the hole! Boil with lid off...

Item 6: Boil for a real freaking long time. Supposedly there’s this thing called the “wrinkle test.” Where you put a plate in the freezer, then take it out… Spoon a few drops of jam on the plate, wait a couple secs and then smoosh one side with you finger. If it WRINKLES, the jam is done!! If it wipes right up like syrup… Then it’s not done.  Well, I boiled for 20+ minutes. I did the wrinkle test. Didn’t pass the test. And said to myself… Hmm.  It’s midnight. And I like syrup.  So I called in the muscles (husband) for item seven.

Item 7: Pour into prepped jars. So we did that, and put on the lids that had been boiling forever.  A few minutes later I heard these magical little PoPs! When the lids sealed.

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And that about wraps up my first canning experience! I settled for thick syrup because I was impatient, and I am okay with this.  Advice to you: Yes, put the toddler to bed first. No, do not start a cooking project after 11 pm.  And OF COURSE I didn’t take any final project pictures because I went to sleep instead.

Have YOU ever canned before? I have memories of Mom’s blackberry jam ALL over the stove. But it was lip smacking good!

What’s your favorite recipe? Pectin or no pectin?  Let me know!

See ya ’round.

-Tasha

My Kids Ate Popsicles for Lunch

We are in the dog days of summer here in Nebraska, folks, and let me tell you that some days it is BLISTERINGLY HOT. Now, I love to be outside as much as the next person during the summer, but a gal has got to stay cool. So after a long morning of outdoor play, when we go in for lunch, more often than not, I vote for popsicles.

WHOAH, slow down there, Chief, did you say you eat popsicles for lunch?

Yes, yes I did and I don’t feel guilty either. I even let them have seconds if they want. I should probably clarify that what my children know as “popsicles” are really frozen smoothies packed full of super healthy vitamins & nutrients. But guess what, they don’t care! They are so happy to be eating popsicles for lunch it could even be a “liver pot piesicle”   …okay, well, let’s not get crazy…

Not a recent picture, Obviously! What kind of crazy mom would put her kid in a long-sleeved shirt in June…

I really love to experiment with smoothies and while some creations are less desirable, they all tend to disappear pretty quickly.

Here are a few of our family favorite ingredients:

Berries of any kind, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, etc — Beware of seeds and blueberry skin stuck in your teeth for hours that you notice when you go to bed at night and think, “GOOD GRIEF, has that been there SINCE 10 A.M!

Frozen Bananas (Buy them CHEAP when they’re brown, go ahead and peel and place in a container or bag in the freezer to always have on hand!)

Avocado  — Adds a delicious creamy texture, healthy fat and stock full of vitamins

Spinach/Kale — You can add a surprising amount of spinach before it changes the flavor.

Wheat Germ (unless you’re Danae and gluten makes you SICK — chock full of Vitamin E and some other great stuff I don’t remember…)

Ground Flaxseed (JUST A SMIDGEN!)

Apples — Peel or not peel, if you don’t peel, just blend it on high for a really long time and it will be nice and smooth. Unless you LIKE a chewy smoothie/popsicle.

For liquid you can add water, milk, Almond/Soy milk, heavy cream, juice, juice concentrate…

We avoid adding sugar, unless I put in too much flaxseed and it came out bitter–then by all means I add on the sugar in lieu of gagging.

A splash of vanilla extract takes the boat.

 

I am SURE there are some specific smoothie recipes out there… but for us? Ain’t nobody got time for that.

So go ahead eat popsicles for lunch.  They are fast, filling, and Oh So Refreshing! The perfect summer treat (your kids will thank you for not making THEM eat raw spinach any other way.)

 

Keep it Real,

Danae & Tasha

 

P.S. What are some of YOUR favorite smoothie/popsicle combinations?

Christmas in July Candles

Well folks, due to a death in the family, Christmas in July is now Christmas in August and it  is in full swing with candies and candles and soap. Oh my!!!

So today we bring you Baking Beauties, NE Candles. We went green by recycling some of our old candles and some pretty old glassware we found. Some of the candles were getting low or were at their wicks end. But when combined they made a beautiful mocha scent!  This is what we did:

First we boiled up some water to melt the old candles down in their jars. While they were melting we glued twine wicks to the bottom of the glasses and let them set. After they had melted we blended the two scents together and poured them into pretty glasses to set. After letting them set for a bit we added cinnamon sticks for a decorative touch and let them dry completely. There was a dip in the middle once it all sets, so we save some melted wax to pour in after they had dried. We cut the wicks and voila: a beautiful candle set was ready for display.

Now, though our first candle recycling adventure went well… we will now treat you to a not so perfect tale. 

“A very short time ago in a kitchen that may be far away, a beautiful girl went about the task of making beautiful Christmas candles. The candles she was to recycle were peach colored and had no scent. This just would not do for Christmas. They need to be a dark red, she thought, and with prehaps a nice peppermint scent.

This foolish girl, not thinking to clearly and without doing research into the best way to change a candle’s color, began with the task of melting the candle down in a jar in boiling water–just as she had on previous occasions. Once melted, she then however pulled out her rouge #40  gel food coloring and put in a splash. It immediately sank to the bottom and did not spread. After stirring it a bit, only to end with the same results, she added more food coloring. ( DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME)

To her surprise, strange things began to happen and eerie white smoke began to billow out of the pot.  She immediately turned off the heat source. Right then, BANG!!!! the first (of many) explosions happened. She raced from the house, child in hand, to the safety outside. Knowing the child was safe in his stroller, she returned, determined to  stop the chaos inside, to no avail the exploding pot was still guysering off spouts of hot wax and water. The eerie white fog had developed into a luming white cloud that covered every room in the house. She set about opening windows to get that awful smell out of her house. Once that was finished she was able to move the pot off the burner and analyze the mess… and oh what a mess it was.”

I would finish the story with the hours of cleaning that came next, but instead I will just say this: when deciding to recycle candles and change the color to fit your needs please use eitherand my little helper special made candle dye (which can be purchased at Michael’s or your local crafting store) or keep it green by recycling coloring crayons, melting it into the wax (you can also have fun experimenting with the melted crayons to make swirls in the candle) but we will try that another time.

So remember folks 

  • Always be careful when heating wax. It can leave very nasty burns.
  •  Don’t overheat the wax or it will catch on fire.

Join us next time for Christmas Candies and special treats. Maybe. If we feel like.

Stay excellent,

Danae

The Moment You’ve All Been Waiting for…Bug Spray!!

Last week we left our heroes battling the MOSQUITOS in the bogs of South Central Nebraska. The vicious critters had staked their claim on the defenseless town of York. This week, our heroes have discovered the ancient art of Essential Oils.

So never fear: The Baking Beauties, NE are here with their new toxin-free, Sweet Summer Bug Spray.

Here’s the deal, folks. I like things that I’ve made because then I KNOW what’s in them. Some of those chemical processes… we, at least I, don’t know how that all happens. Like most coconut oils for example, they use a chemical to get the oil out of coconuts, but what is that chemical doing hanging around later? Being gluten-free (Danae) I feel much safer knowing what’s in my product, then perhaps misreading a label and having an adverse reaction; this is not only annoying but can be hazardous to my health. I also feel much safer putting these products on Baby A. because I know they’re not going to do him any harm–short-term or long-term. “p-Mentane-3,8-diol is the chemically synthesized version of oil of lemon eucalyptus” (http://www.epa.gov/opp00001/health/mosquitoes/ai_insectrp.htm), why reinvent the wheel? Why not just use oil of lemon eucalyptus?

Here’s what we did:
We went shopping!

We did research!

We consulted a safety expert! And we put it all in a big mixing bowl *Insert Trumpet Fanfare* and out came our magical bug spray elixir!

… not really, well kinda.
Okay, I can’t speak for the ticks, but the mosquito’s sure don’t like it. It’s been tested tried and true…

My sister (Michelle) and I went out late one night into a thickly mosquito infested swamp… otherwise known as her backyard, though still mainly inhabited by blood sucking skeeters. I wore the elixir, freshly spritzed on my radiant skin. She foolishly did not. The moral of THAT story is that she was savagely eaten alive by the vicious brutes, while I remained completely unharmed. I felt remorse at the doomed fate of my sister. I ran to her aid and spritzed her (with the magical elixir, of course). She then reveled in her safety.

What is this magical elixir, you ask? Well listen up, folks, and I’ll tell ya.

This bottle:

Filled with: Witch hazel, and these essential oils: Grapefruit, Citronella Java, Tea Tree, Lemongrass, and Eucalyptus. We also added a bit of castor oil and glycerin to better diffuse the oils with the witch hazel.

We have so named them “Sweet Summer Bug Spray” and are selling them for a meager $5.00 at the York Farmer’s market, Thursday’s 5-7. Comment, or email bakingbeautiesne@gmail.com to inquire about purchasing one of these little beauties.

And now I adjourn to gallivant through the mosquito loving Nebraska countryside in perfect peace.

See ya ’round,

Tasha

P.S.

Tune in next time for the start of our Christmas in July festivities.