Wednesday, August 21, 2013

"Old Sauce"

Our garden is brimming with beautiful tomatoes, sadly something my current food plan does not include.  I have been finding other yummies to add to sandwiches and salads but decided I was going to take the lazy quick route and just do my canning all in chunk tomatoes which I reasoned could be opened and made into quick pizza sauce as needed thus avoiding all the bulk cooking, actually canning the stuff AND would help ease the reminder that tomatoes are on my no-no list.  Well my plan backfired big time when I made up some of that quick sauce the other night for  family pizza night.  My 6 year old suspiciously eyed the stuff and asked "Isn't this your old sauce?" and from that point managed to spoil the rest of the meal with constant remarks about how yuck it was and how he wanted the "old sauce".  Finally in exasperation I turned to my husband who was cheerfully but not very speedily eating his piece of pizza and asked him if it was as awful as son made it out to be (remember I can't even taste it).  He paused (wise man ;) and then kindly said, "well it IS kind of bland". Big lesson for mama--apparently to have the edible "old sauce" one must simmer it--DUH!
So today was dubbed tomato day.  My entire deck table was full of large tomatoes.  I dutifully gathered my ingredients and set out to cook up some love for my son who has apparently become quite the foodie with very precise tastes!

Sink full!

lots of yummy including the last of my frozen peppers as we are eating the fresh to fast to save up for this!

lots of hubby's famous Candy onions

basil & oregano

and of course, my trusty Vitamix!

I simply cut the tops and bad spots off and whir away--less waste and less time!

I let it set for a bit then skim the foam off the top--easy peasey!

Somehow I missed this old wives fable tip--simply running cold water in your sink while peeling/chopping onions makes so you don't cry while working with even the stoutest onions!  Who knew?  It really worked tho I felt kind of silly wasting all that water.

trusty buddy again..chopping onions this time!  I do that with my peppers too.  God is so creative with color!

My helper whose reward will be "old sauce"

My big girl getting the cans ready for recycle


and more sauce!  Spagetti anyone?

I have to keep a tally sheet to remember how many pitchers of juice I put in the pot!

And now for the recipe:

  • 2 qts tomatoes blended in Vitamix
  • 3 onions
  • 4 peppers
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 3 T olive oil
  • 3 T butter
  • 2 c tomato paste
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/4 t pepper
  • 1 t oregano
  • 1 t basil
I simply blend the tomatoes, then puree the onions, peppers and garlic in the Vitamix and add to the tomatoes.  Add spices, oils (can use all butter or all olive oil) and paste.  Simmer until desired thickness-about 2 hours.  ENJOY!

After 40 + quarts we had to sample it at supper time and it got the official passing grade from my dear son who emphatically said "Mom this is soooo good!  It IS your old sauce."
Yup that makes it all worth it ~ It's the little things

Monday, August 12, 2013

Aunt Dini

When I married into the Miller family, I was blessed to gain a precious gem of an aunt, Odena.  Single, spunky and very independent, "Dini" as she was dubbed by the older grandchildren is the only sibling of Lowell's dad and always lavishly spoiled Lowell and his 2 brothers, Merlin & Keith and seemingly decided to carry on that tradition with their wives and great nieces and nephews.  Her spoiling usually includes food whether it's her famous Christmas caramels, smarties in her purse, making freezer pickles for Lowell & mustard pickles for Keith or keeping the milk house supplied with a large pan of cookies or bars.  (And did I mention she still helps with the milking?)   She is also big on birthdays and always gives cards that are more then just birthday cards from a box.  I have often been touched at how mine usually always says "to my niece".  
Before I really got to know her, I thought her to be gruff and a bit rough around the edges but my how my opinion of her has changed.  She is kind, has a huge heart and would give the shirt off her back to help someone!  Over the last years as my children have gotten older and mostly potty trained,  she began coming over to babysit when I needed someone.  She gets downright huffy with me if I don't ask her to come each week and keeps track of exactly how long it has been since she was here.  Plus the children love her to pieces and can't wait to see her again.  She pretty much lets them get away with murder but hey, she is the most reliable, available 83 year old I have ever met and she takes good care of my precious ones.
Today she showed up with cabbage from her garden, 2 big stout heads ( sauer kraut coming up~yum!).  The children were bringing in abundant harvest from the garden and something was mentioned about the fact that we were doing apples today.  Right away spoke up and informed me she would be staying to help me.  I stammered around, secretly relieved but feeling overwhelmed at her leaving her work to come do mine.  She insisted.  So she stayed.  Not only are my 2 bushels of apples done, I have 17 pints of her old recipe (garlic sweet dill) pickles all finished and waiting to come out of the canner. 

Going home with her cane and her basket

I never cease to be amazed at how God sends us just what we need right when we need it.  Today He sent a dear cabbage-bearing-Dini to make my load lighter and my day just a bit brighter!   I am so blessed!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Vitamix Applesauce

Here I am about to do another shameless commercial for a most favorite kitchen appliance of all time ~ my Vitamix!
My family was not typical Mennonite in the eating applesauce department until....I discovered the smooth  delicious applesauce quickly produced in my trusty Vitamix!
 My Grandpa Wagler was the one who introduced our family to the Vitamix many years ago.  My sister Rhoda and I used to love throwing a bit of this and a little of that in and seeing what kind of delicious smoothies we could concoct (not one we produced ever tasted like before)   A few years ago my parents upgraded and I was the lucky keeper of their old one which happened to be kind of stuck in one speed but hey, beggars can't be choosers and I loved that machine.  So quick a way to have freshly ground flax seeds or yummy smoothies which are actually totally smooth!  Then for one of my recent birthdays my parents got me one of my very own in my most favorite color ~ red!  I have done so many things with it that are pure deliciousness and my kids actually love most all of the things we make.  It sure helps to have a huge cookbook that came with it that has recipes in it for anything from juice to ice coffees to alfredo sauce and of course my favorite smoothies. I have had many friends try to save money and buy the cheaper blenders but often come around and buy the real deal saying they wish they had gone there in the first place.
Anyhow back to my applesauce.  I was doing some research about the healthiest way to keep whole food the most nutritious and came across many articles stating that freezing was better then canning (I always canned my sauce)  and how boiling our food basically boils out the nutrients.  I experimented a bit and figured out that simply cutting the apples in half, leaving the skins in tact and removing the seeds and stems worked perfectly for preserving nutrition.

I then take the apples and add just enough water on the bottom of my pan to make sure they don't scorch and have something to produce a little steam but not saturate them with water and cook them till the apples are just hot making sure not to get them to boiling temperature.

Here is where my Vitamix comes in!  I simply fill the pitcher with the hot apples, follow the general directions for speed and in less then a minute have a pitcher full of warm yummyness!

I love experimenting with different kinds of apples.  This week we were blessed with 3 bushels of Yellow Transparent which are a more tart apple.  I added about 3 or 4 cups of raw evaporated cane sugar to my whole big bowl full (I think it is a 32 or 40 cup bowl) and my kidos couldn't stop eating it.  I love using Red and Yellow Delicious as I don't have to use any sugar then and we love the smooth sweetness present in the apples themselves.  It's also fun to use a combination of different apples.  The possibilities are endless!

I have served it many times when we have had guests and they almost always comment on how silky and smooth the consistency is.  We are also now keeping up with the Mennonite applesauce trends and filling our tummies with healthful goodness in the process.  

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Love and Marriage

I am happily married (most of the time).  There are those days when I wonder what in the world I was thinking marrying this thru and thru Iowan who lived in the same house, attended the same church, shopped in the same town and had the same friends his whole entire life.  My life on the other hand was lived on a much, shall we say, broader scope.  LOL!  I can't count on 2 hands how many houses I have lived in but with my personality that was just fine--I mean who wouldn't love the adventure of having a new room and more new friends every few years?
If you would have told me 20 years ago how much work went into the institution of marriage I would have looked at you with my star gazer glasses on and said "O but when you find your soul mate.." and "who ever fights?  about money of all things?"   Yeah I was young and thought I knew all about it...
 I really can't imagine life with out my soul mate who IS the man of my dreams.  I can't tell you how long I prayed he would ask me out and then FINALLY he did!  After a whirlwind courtship we set off together with a whole truckload of ideals and a teeny tiny amount of "know how".  We spent time in a third world country, faced infertility, experienced humiliating loss, endured a painful ugly period of separation and somewhere along the way gave birth to 4 precious miracles who have changed our selfish lifestyles profoundly.  We are far from perfect (I often get in trouble for somehow portraying that?) but we have a history and by the grace of God will continue weaving our own legacy for our our children.  There are still lots of things I wish I could change about him but hey it's a 2 way street and I know I am not perfect! We are total opposites and both of us are firstborns (scary really!) but hey our life is never dull that's for sure!  And while our romance may not be scripted like the movies (yeah we always end up at Walmart and/or Hyvee on our rare date nights) it's perfect for me and a special blessing and gift from the Creator of love and marriage Himself!
The reality of the work that goes into every great marriage is enough to scare the most lovely, very brave souls away from taking the plunge and sadly is being played out in the decline of marriage even in the church today. A beautiful young friend recently made the comment to me that she doesn't desire to burden herself with marriage as every marriage she sees around her is failing and miserable.  How sad and how often true? Marriage IS hard and we as the church are not making it any easier.  What would happen if instead of gossiping about every detail of something suddenly made public like a divorce or separation, we took those moments and lifted the couple in the spot light to God's throne?  What if we tried to imagine life in their shoes and it scared us enough to keep our mouths shut and our knees worn?  As I ramble away here my heart is heavy for those around me who are in the depths of distress and despair in their marriages.  Being honest about pain is hard and opens us up to other people and their reactions and judgements of our circumstances. What would happen if we put aside judgement and were more open with each other and could step along side each other saying "we struggle too"?
Because our personal history includes marriage issues that became public I feel the pain of others in sad marriages in deeper ways then I ever imagined.  God has a way of making good things, learning and wisdom come out of our deepest pain.  I do believe he is calling those of us who are married to mirror his love to each other through our marriages thus affecting the negative viewpoints of marriage in general and establishing a more caring environment in our church families and our world around us where those who are hurting can be honest with out receiving judgement! After all marriage is a gift to be nurtured, treasured and enjoyed to the fullest!

                                                          My Love & I