Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Homemade "Candy" Bars

These wonderful bars come together in less than 5 minutes.  Please store them in the refrigerator until it is time to serve them.  Enjoy!

You will need the following:

1 cup walnuts
10 dates (get UNpitted dates and pit them.  They are more moist.)
2 Tablespoons cocoa powder
1/4 cup extra-virgin coconut oil (You could use other coconut oil, but the coconut flavor of this kind really sings!)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Put the walnuts in your food processor:

 Turn it on and make them crumbly looking.

Here are the dates, all 10 of them!

 Take out the pits and remove any little stem ends.
 Grease or spray a bread pan and line it with plastic wrap.  The grease makes it much easier to get the plastic wrap in place.
 Put all of the rest of the ingredients in the food processor and process until it all starts to hold together.
Then, spread it evenly in the bottom of the bread pan and press down evenly.
 Refrigerate until firm and eat one serve!
 Delicious, AND nutritious!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Canning Corn 2012

From this:

 To this:

We generally can sweet corn from our garden only once a year.  Saturday was the day!  My DH and I picked and shucked 10 dozen ears of lovely bi-color sweet corn.  Here are some pictures to show the process.  For exact instructions, please consult a reliable canning guide. 

 My daughter recently gave me this wonderful vegetable brush, which made getting the silks off the the cobs much easier!

 Here he is helping with the shucking.  Years ago, all six of our children would have helped, but now, it's just us two.  :)

 Here are the shucks!
And here are all the cobs, waiting to be processed.
Of course, first we had to go out and pick some more and eat it!
This little film shows how I cut the kernels off of the cobs.  So easy!
All the kernels are in the jars.
Here is my huge pressure canner.
Little pan with lids heating up:

Jars in the canner ready to process.

All done!
That is finished for this year. We ended up with 38 pints. The rest of the corn out in the corn patch will be eaten by us and shared with others.  In spite of the drought, and us only watering the corn one time, it has done amazingly well.  We LOVE sweet corn and when it is in season, we make a meal of just steamed sweet corn with real butter and real salt, several times.  We look forward to it each year.  :)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Preserving Peppers

We've had a bumper crop of peppers this year!  I love to just eat them raw, but the extras need to be saved.  Here they are in my big colander.  First, I washed them:

 Then, I cut out the stem end.  If you like raw peppers as much as I do, you can nip off all of those nice "petals" before discarding the stem:
 Cut them in half and scooped out the seeds and membranes:
 Here they are, all ready to dice:
 Cut into strips:
 Then dice!
 Spread on trays or cookie sheets and place them in the freezer:
 When completely frozen, remove from freezer and using a metal spatula, scrape them off of the tray:
 And put them in labeled freezer containers and quickly return them to the freezer!
I will use these during the winter for soups, stir-fries, pizza, and omelets.  :D

Any sort of fresh peppers may be saved this way.  On Monday, I'll do the Jalepenos.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Cinderella Pumpkins

 Since my garden is not very large, ( it's not small, but pumpkins and winter squashes take up a lot of room)  I only plant 1 variety of pumpkin each year.  This year, we are growing "Cinderella's Carriage" pumpkins from Renee's Garden.  I am SO happy I chose these!  They are beautiful and getting pretty big!  The primary reason that I grow pumpkins is to give them to the children in my life for making Jack-O-Lanterns in October.  If everything works out, there should be a few very happy children later this year!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Make Your Own Peanut Butter!

Making your own peanut butter is unbelievably easy.  All you need is a food processor and some dry roasted peanuts.  There is no need to add any oil or anything else if you don't want to.  Personally, I prefer my peanut butter to be UNsalted.  I accidentally bought some unsalted freshly ground peanut butter from a nearby store not long ago. I didn't think I'd like it, but I do!  Much better.

Here is how I make the peanut butter:

First, you need dry roasted peanuts:

I measured out 1 pound of peanuts, which works out to be about 3.5 cups:

 Pour the peanuts into the bowl of the food processor with a metal blade and then put on the lid:

Turn on the processor.  These photos will show the changes that will occur:

After 2 or 3 minutes, the peanut butter will cling together like this.  Then you will know you are almost done!

Keep it going and it will become nice and smooth and creamy!

This makes about 1.5 cups or a little more.  I keep mine in a glass canning jar:

Some people would say I should keep it in the refrigerator, but I always keep some at room temperature so it will be soft when I need to use it.  I find that it really does not separate readily and might require only a little stirring once in a while.  If you like "crunchy" peanut butter, just throw in a handful of the peanuts when it is done and process only long enough to chop them up some.  Easy!

Once you try this and see how delicious and economical it is, you'll never want to go back!

You may, of course, add sea salt or any number of other flavorings, such as brown sugar, vanilla, nutmeg, cinnamon, cayenne, chili powder, cocoa powder.  Use your imagination!  By the way, this also makes a very nice gift for someone who would appreciate it.

This post is linked up at "Make Your Own Monday!"

Monday, July 9, 2012

Jalepeno Peppers and Cream Cheese snack

Jalapeno peppers are delicious, nutritious and very easy to grow, but not everyone would be able to just eat them out of hand.  This little snack is quick and easy to make.  The cream cheese nicely balances the heat of the peppers.  You will love them!

Simply cut the stem end of each pepper off and under cold, running water, scoop out the seeds and membranes.  Then fill each half with cream cheese.  Serve cold.  So nice!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

WHY do we "snap" green beans?

I was thinking... when I cook fresh green beans for us, all I do is cut or snap off the stem ends, and steam the rest without breaking them into pieces.  They look much prettier on the plate and it saves considerable time... so, why do I need to snap them into pieces to can them?  I rebelled today!  I just stuffed the jars as full as I could and only removed the stem ends.  Maybe this will save you some time too!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Sugar-Free Home Canned Peaches

 I am repeating this post from last year with one or two updates. 

If you have peach trees, or can source some local peaches, in much of the country they are ripe now and it's time to preserve them!  You can, of course, freeze them, but then what happens when the power goes out?  I like to can my extras, after eating all we can manage.

I can my peaches without using any sugar or anything else for that matter, and they are delicious!  I am going to show you how it is done...

First, get some peaches and let them get ripe:

Here is how to check for ripeness. Press your thumb into the flesh of the peach near the stem. If it is getting soft, it is getting ripe. Eat one to be sure it is as ripe as you want it to be. If it is not ripe enough, the skin will be difficult to take off:

Carefully wash and rinse your jars. I used pint jars this time, but you can also use quarts, if you like:

Put the "caps" in a small pan of water on the stove and bring to just below simmer. Let them sit there, keeping hot, while you get ready to use them:

Bring a large saucepan filled 3/4 with water to a boil:

Fill the sink with cold water:

You will need a sharp little paring knife:

Get the "rings" ready:

This is what I use to lift the caps from the hot water. It has a magnet on the end. But before I had this, I always fished them out with the tine of a fork:

You will need a large slotted spoon:

Carefully put some peaches into the boiling water and leave the heat on high for about 20 seconds:

Take them out with the slotted spoon:

And put them in the cold water:

Using your paring knife to help, slip the skins off the peaches. This is not a very good picture of the process, but you will see how easy and quick it is.  If the skins don't slip off easily, either the peaches are not yet ripe enough, or you did not leave them in the boiling water long enough.

Next, cut the peach in half, twist the two halves apart and remove the pit:

Place the peeled peaches, in halves or pieces (depending on the size and fit) into the jars, cut side down:

I like to use wide-mouth jars, but if I don't have enough, I use regular mason jars and use this red thing to push them down. I think it came along with my Victorio Strainer. If you have wide-mouth jars, you can easily push the peaches down with your hand. The idea is to push them gently until the juice comes up and fills in all of the empty space in the jar. I was able to fit about 3.5 peaches in each jar.  That will, of course, depend on the size of your peaches!

Here is a full jar. When it is filled up to the bottom of the jar threads (1 inch from the rim), carefully wipe off the rim of the jar with a damp clean cloth, put on the cap and screw on the ring firmly. Not too tight!

Here is one full and closed, ready to process:

Here are 10 pint jars in my steam canner. You can use a water bath canner, of course.

When the water is boiling in the water bath canner, then start counting the time. They need 25 minutes for pints and 30 minutes for quarts. Here they are after coming out of the canner.

Incidentally, leaving the sugar syrup out has advantages. It's less expensive to do, healthier of course, and they really do taste marvelous! They kind of remind me more of canned apricots after being canned like this in their own juice. You will love them! It is also much easier and quicker to do.

I have found that when canning anything, once you get your "system" set up, it's easy. Think it through carefully, prepare everything you'll need and proceed. Enjoy!

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