Infinity Jars Review-LOVE!

I was contacted by a company called Infinity Jars earlier this year, to see if I would try some of their products and review them. It’s taken me a while to get the review done, between surgery earlier this year and going back to school, my life is a little crazier than I’ve ever experienced.

 

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Here’s a little description of Infinity Jars from their website: Infinity Jars can actually slow down the decaying process of organic matter while maintaining the freshness of whatever you put inside. What sets Infinity Jars apart from all other jars is that it blocks out all harmful visible light rays while selectively ALLOWING infrared and UV-A rays.

In addition, these jars are gorgeous. I chose the 1 Liter Square Glass Bottle with Oil Spout, the 15 mL Glass Push Pump Bottle, and the 100 mL Tall Glass Screw Cap Jar. I’ll tell you a little about my experience with each of them.

They arrived quickly and were well packed to prevent damage during shipment. They came with labels and a cleaning cloth.

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I chose the 1 Liter Square Glass Bottle with Oil Spout to put olive oil in, for cooking in the kitchen. I think this is the largest of this type of bottle that they sell. We cook a lot and I didn’t want to be filling the bottle every few days, but in all honesty, if you don’t have very large hands, like me, you’ll probably want to go for the 500 mL glass jar. This is a large bottle, and it looks beautiful on my counter next to my stove. I’ve been pleased with the performance and the appearance of this bottle. I really love that the glass doesn’t let in light, so the oil’s exposure to light is minimized, because I DO keep it on the counter next to the stove, for convenience sake.

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My next choice was the 15 mL Glass Push Pump Bottle. This is probably my very favorite of the three bottles I received. I use this to mix a DIY makeup remover that I use on my face each evening. This bottle is amazing and comes with a locking cap that keeps it from dispensing accidentally in my makeup bag when I travel. I’d probably go for the 50 mL bottle next time…the 15 mL Glass Push Pump Bottle is a petite thing, but it is really fabulous and dispenses the perfect amount of makeup remover.

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My last bottle was the 100 mL Tall Glass Screw Cap Jar. I put this one to use right away by emptying the remnants of my bottle of gel into it. The gel bottle pump never gets the last couple of ounces of gel out, and I am always scrambling to figure out what to do with that last bit. So, I dumped it into the Tall Glass Screw Cap Jar. This wasn’t ideal, as I soon found, BECAUSE, the Tall Glass Screw Cap Jar is…well, TALL. My long fingers can’t reach the bottom, so I had to use a spatula to get that last bit out of the jar. But for liquids with a more viscous consistency, or dry goods, like herbs or seasonings, it would be perfect!

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All in all, I have to give these jars two big thumbs up and a huge grin. I really love them. I would buy the entire line today if I could, but slow and steady wins the race. I’ll get there. I am looking forward to getting some of the Cosmetic Screw Top Jars for my ointments and salves that I make. They are gorgeous and I think will be the perfect size and depth for these products.

I want to give a shout out to Infinity Jars, and Tania, for letting me try these. I was unaware of them before and have fallen totally in love with them and what they do.

Tricks for Banishing the WITCHING HOUR

TEH-witchinghourMy eyes glance at the clock. My breathing starts to speed up and my heart starts to race. It gets harder to breathe…..My muscles tighten and then I hear the garage door open. Hyperventilation. Panic.

Don’t get me wrong….I LOVE my kids. LOVE them. I honestly believe…..

“Children are an heritage of the Lord and . . . happy is the man [and woman] that hath [their] quiver full of them” (see Psalm 127: 3-5 ).

And boy do I have a quiver full,….thankfully. And I absolutely agree with Ezra T. Benson, who said,

“Yes, blessed is the husband and wife who have a family of children. The deepest joys and blessings in life are associated with family, parenthood, and sacrifice. To have those sweet spirits come into the home is worth practically any sacrifice.”

Although many would try to convince me to be somewhere else, to get a job and avoid this trying block of time, as a mother and homemaker, I know the importance of this: “First, take time to always be at the crossroads when your children are either coming or going–when they leave and return from school–when they leave and return from dates–when they bring friends home.” (Ezra T. Benson, To the Mothers In Zion, Feb. 1987)

I KNOW this is where I’m supposed to be. But I still inevitably suffer from being at the crossroads, also known as

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Every day about 3:15 p.m., I suffer from extreme anxiety and overwhelm and stress. It lasts until about 8 p.m. EVERY WEEK NIGHT.

The kids come in and they don’t say hi, they say “what can I eat?” And bless their hearts, they all want to talk to me at the same time and tell me about their days, and lists of things they need me to spend $$$$ on, and things they WANT me to spend $$$$ on. And homework, and reading, and dinner, and choir concerts and church youth group meetings, and visiting and home teaching, and on, and on, and on……

Is it a rough time of day for you, too? Rough might be downplaying it, yeah? And while Xanax is lovely when needed, taking it every single night…..not a good thing.

Here’s a few ideas that have been helpful for me, and hopefully will be helpful for you, to get through the Witching Hour….who knows, maybe you’ll avoid it all-together.

TEH-menuPlanMenu Planning: I shop once a month, which is hard sometimes, but that’s what works for us. So it is essential…ESSENTIAL that I have a meal plan. So I sit down once a month and plan out what we will eat. In addition, I have 15 meals (times 6) that I have stuff on hand for all the time (more about that in another post coming soon).

PM Planning: I find it really helps if I look at what is going on the next day, before I go to bed. It helps me carve out my time to prep, so that I can avoid that witching hour.

TEH-AMPrepAM Prep: I like to do as much meal prep as I can in the morning, when things are quiet, and my little XY is doing his online preschool work. Whether it’s getting all the ingredients chopped and measured, and assembled, or putting a meal in the crock pot to be done when dinner rolls around, I find the more I can do in the morning when things are slow, the easier it is on me later in the day.

 

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Bulk Cooking/Bulk Prepping: When I go to the store and come home with a ten pound bag of carrots, but best thing for me to do is chop, slice, (etc) that whole bag, then and there. Not only does that make my day-to-day easier, but I (and the minions) end up eathing alot more veggies if they are prepped and ready to go. In all honesty, this doesn’t always happen, BUT when it does….things go much better.

Prep ahead Veggies, Prepping and freezing in portion sizes, Home Canned Beans, Frozen Cookie Dough Balls, Home Canned Chicken Stock

Homestore: Having a home store means I have the ingredients for at least 15 meals on hand at any given time. I am working on having three months worth of foods we regularly eat on hand so I can provide in times of economic hardship, or some other disaster, or simply just have what I need for a quick meal so I don’t have to run to the store. Some of the meals on my list are: Spaghetti, Hawaiian Haystacks, Homemade Pizza, Burritos, Fried Rice, Southwestern Chicken & Rice Soup, Macaroni & Cheese, and more.

 

IMG_4237Mixes: Having my own “convenience foods” ready to go makes meal time so much easier. Not only can I control the food we eat, but I can do most things cheaper than their grocery store counterparts.

Pancake Mix , Instant Oatmeal Mix, Muffin Mix, (if you’re doing “Breakfast for Dinner”), Pizza Sauce and Seasoning Mix, Cream of Anything Soup Mix, Tortillas, Bouillon

TEH_BCN1Freezer Meals: By bulk cooking and freezing the extra in portion sizes, I can have meals ready to go in the freezer that just require a few minutes in the microwave, or can go from freezer to oven in a snap.

Bean & Cheese Burritos, Homemade Chicken Nuggets, make and freeze Homemade Pizza Dough,

TEH-tomatobasilsoup1Meals with 5 Ingredients or Less:  Something quick and easy, with few ingredients like Tomato Basil Soup which is awesome with grilled cheese sandwiches, helps make dinner quick and easy, and lets us get on with the rest of the evening crazy.

TEH-MIJvarietyMeals In Jars: Taking an hour or so on a slow day to put ingredients together in a jar, makes dinner come together in 20 minutes.

Prepping Meals in JarsSouthwestern Chicken & Rice Soup, Summer Porridge,

TEH_scHamPot_8Crockpot/Pressure Cooker: Slow Cooker Ham & Potatoes, Rosemary Chicken, Turkey Breast, Roasts, Dry beans…..all things that can be cooked in a fraction of the time in a pressure cooker, or cooked on low heat all day in a slow cooker, for spectacular mealtime results.

By using these tricks, I can focus on what’s really important FOR ME as a mother and a homemaker. Being at the crossroads. Because I am a mother who knows how important it is for me to overcome my anxiety and be there for my children. Finding ways to eliminate and avoid stress during the Witching Hour is one way that I try to make peace and preparedness a part of my every day life.

What things do YOU do to avoid the crazy stress of the Witching Hour?

 

Preserving: Drying Herbs

TEH-featherbsA few years ago I realized I needed to do something with my huge Oregano bush, so I started drying it and saving it. The coolest thing was realizing a year later that I hadn’t purchased any oregano from the store and had been using my OWN! This got me thinking this year….I want to preserve all the herbs I use regularly so I have them, know where they came from, and don’t have to purchase any, so in addition to the Oregano, Chives, Thyme, Lavender and Lemon Balm I have and use, I planted Marjoram, Tarragon, Mint, Cilantro, Basil, Parsley and Rosemary. I’ve already started harvesting and drying these for the coming year.

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Then I though a little more….beyond culinary herbs. I could grow many of the medicinal herbs that I wanted to store and use. Last year I planted several medicinal herbs and not a single one germinated….I think the spot I planted them in is unlucky….I’ve never had anything grow successfully there. So this year I ripped out the forsythia bushes in the front yard and planted Ginger Mint, Hierba Buena (Spearmint), Echinacea, St. John’s Wort, Bee Balm, Feverfew, Stevia, and Catnep. The ones I planted in containers didn’t do well, but the others are doing great. I’ve also been harvesting Raspberry leaves and drying them for their medicinal properties. I hope to get some Yarrow, Ashwaghanda, and Comfrey going as well….maybe next year.

TEH-herb2It’s so easy to do! You can use a food dehydrator or an oven, or even the sun. Wash them, lay them out, and dry them until they’re crisp.

TEH-herb1Then you can either store them whole, or crush them. I like to store mine semi-whole, and then crush them into whatever I’m making, when I make it. They seem to have more potency, more aroma, more flavor that way.

I use all kinds of jars to store them….recycled glass spice jars (Watkins and Kroger are some), plastic spice jars-especially from spices/herbs I’ve bought in bulk, and even mason jars make great storage containers.

One more way I can be a little self-sufficient, provide good things for my family and save a little money.

Have YOU ever grown and dried your own herbs? Which are your favorites? If you haven’t, give it a try! You can even look for good deals on herbs at your local grocery or farmers market.

Drying herbs is one more way to make peace and PREPAREDNESS a part of every day life. Have a great day!

Preparedness: Plant A Seed

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Can you imagine a day when you couldn’t go to the grocery store and pick up some canned fruits and veggies, or swing by the produce section and get whatever you fancy? Seems a little far-fetched, right? But not really. I can see it happening.

I’ve been reading this fun book Forgotten Skills of Self Sufficiency Used by the Mormon Pioneers and it’s follow up, MORE Forgotten Skills of Self Sufficiency Used by the Mormon Pioneers. These books both have so many great ideas and reminders of the importance of maintaining skills of self-sufficiency, for ourselves, but especially for our children!

One of those skills is planting a garden. Another is learning how to harvest seeds, which is nearly impossible with any plants you buy in the garden department. They’re designed to commit suicide. Buying and planting heirloom, non-hybrid, non-GMO seeds is so important, and learning to harvest the seeds for the next years crop, a renewable food source, at some point will be critical to our well-being.

Think you can only do this if you’ve got your homestead already?….I’m dreaming of my minimum 5 acres, but who knows if/when that will happen. A former leader of my church once said, “We encourage you to grow all the food that you feasibly can on your own property. Berry bushes, grapevines, fruit trees-plant them if your climate is right for their growth. Grow vegetables and eat them from your own yard. Even those residing in apartments … can generally grow a little food in pots and planters. Study the best methods of providing your own foods. Make your garden … neat and attractive as well as productive. If there are children in your home, involve them in the process with assigned responsibilities.” Spencer W. Kimball

So my goal has been to figure out a way to grow as much as I can on my little .14 acre plot, most of which is in the front yard and dominated by a driveway. I can grow a lot and offset the costs of feeding a family, AND feel downright giddy at the high quality nutrition I’m providing. The advantages far outweigh any negatives. I grow healthier, yummier, fresher food than I can get at the store, my children learn to work and appreciate the food cycle, and take pride in the work they do to grow their own food. Once they stop grumbling, they actually have a lot of fun. I’m able to preserve the surplus for the winter months (last year I turned our extra zucchini into jars of Pineapple Zucchini!My husband still doesn’t know that it’s not crushed pineapple.) This is a WIN/WIN.

RESOURCES: Here are a few of my favorite seed resources:

THRIVE LIFE
SEED RENAISSANCE
BAKER CREEK SEED CO
MYPATRIOTSUPPLY.COM

And a few of my favorite gardening books:
Backyard Winter Gardening by Caleb Warnock
Incredible Edibles by Joy Bossi & Karen Bastow
Successful Home Gardening by Gordon Wells
Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Catalog (2015)

So start today and plant a seed, or 80. Grow some food and be amazed. Have YOU planted a garden before? What is your favorite tip or trick?

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Well, gotta run….I just got my seed shipment from Seed Renaissance (I got 5 tomato varieties, 7 flower varieties, a handful of culinary and medicinal herbs, and he even threw in some bonus carrot and leek seeds!) I must go….I have seeds to plant!

Food Preservation: Free online class

TEH_jarfunnelJust a quick post today, as I’m in the middle of canning pinto beans and mulberry jelly and syrup.

Did you know that you can take a class online that will teach you all you need to know about canning?
It’s the gospel truth! I took it last year and loved it…I think you will too.

Here’s the link:

https://www.fcs.uga.edu/ext/food/nchfp_elc/

It’s through the University of Georgia and National Center for Home Food Preservation. I bet you’ll love it! It’s self paced, easy to understand, and teaches you the whys and hows of canning at home.

Do you can your own foods? Where did YOU learn?

Coming up: Bread made with Germade and all things Mulberry….stay tuned….

Food Preservation: Canning Pinto & Black Beans

I know….you’re surprised to see me. It’s been a while. I thought I would never see the light after the last few weeks of school…class parties and programs and sewing for La Fiesta…and then I got sick. Like in bed for three days sick. Most people probably never get overwhelmed….but I have to clear my plate when I am, otherwise I am a rabbit frozen in the headlights and I get NOTHING done…like nothing.

But I’m back and ready to share some things I’ve done and learned since I last posted.

Let’s start with beans….I have had “Canning dry beans” on my to-do list for a good long while. But it was intimidating. It appeared to take a lot of time. And it was intimidating.

I finally got around to trying it last week, and let me tell you….I am so excited about it. Throwing everything in the crockpot in the morning is great, and freezing the extra is great, but having bottles of already cooked beans downstairs in my pantry….that whip up into the loveliest re-fried beans in minutes….well, that’s just awesome.

I’ll talk you through the process (I used the Ball Blue Book of Food Preservation…the canning bible).

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First you want to take your beans and rinse and sort them. Put them in the bottom of a large pot and cover by two inches with cold water. Bring them to a boil and cover and remove from the heat for 1 hour.

 

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After the hour, rinse and drain the beans and cover again by two inches with cold water. Bring back to a boil and boil gently for 30 minutes.

 

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While your beans are boiling, you’ll wanna get all your stuff ready. You’ll need:
Clean mason jars
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Lids (new) and rings (can be reused, just avoid bent and rusted rings)- wash with dishsoap, rinse and add to a pan of almost simmering water for at least 10 minutes prior to use, to soften the sealing compound.
a lid lifter (optional)
a tool to measure headspace (optional)
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canning salt (optional)
a pressure canner (NOT optional)

 

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I like to fill my clean jars with water and put them in my pressure canner (after adding the 5 cups of water recommended by the manufacturer to the bottom) and heat them along with the water so they’re nice and hot when I’m ready to fill them. This is an easy way to start with hot clean jars.

 

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When the beans have finished their 30 minute boil, fill the jars one at a time (dumping hot water first) with the cooked beans, and then cover with the cooking liquid leaving 1 inch headspace. Use the lid lifter to slide down all the sides and press the beans against the sides of the jar to release any air bubbles. Add salt if desired. 1/2 teaspoon for pints, 1 teaspoon for quarts.

Whip the rim with a clean damp rag or damp paper towel and center the lid on the top and screw on the ring, finger tight. Place in the pressure canner and repeat with remaining jars. I found that I got 10 pints of black beans from 3 pounds of dry beans, and almost 7 quarts of pinto beans from 4 pounds of dry beans (just to give you an idea.)

It’s definitely worth filling your canner since the process time is so long.

 

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Once you have all your jars filled, place the lid on the canner and lock it in place. Turn the heat to high. Maintain a steady stream of steam (say that five times!) for 10 minutes, and then add the pressure regulator. Watch fairly closely and begin timing when you reach the pressure recommended for your altitude. I live in Utah, so I start timing once I reach 13 lbs of pressure. You’ll need to maintain a constant vigil near the stove to adjust the heat to keep it right close to (13) but not ever falling under, or you start your time over again. Trust me….that is no fun. If you go too high, you run the risk of experiencing one of the horror stories we’ve all heard….you know…exploding lids and all that.

You’ll process (maintain 13 lbs pressure) for 75 minutes for pints and 90 minutes for quarts.

Once processing time is done, remove the canner (carefully, especially if you’ve double stacked your pints) from the heat and let sit until it comes to zero pressure on it’s own. Don’t remove the pressure gauge until the pressure dial shows a nice big “zero” pressure. Then remove the pressure regulator and let sit for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and let sit another 10 minutes. Remove jars and place in draft free place on a cloth or cutting board for 24 hours. Check to make sure all jars have sealed.

 

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Then stand in your kitchen and do the happy dance. Take pictures of your beautiful jars of beans. Write a Domestic Goddess of the Year Award acceptance speech.

Or, you can…you know…just whip up a batch of re-fried beans and make burritos…cause those natives are getting restless.

Have YOU canned beans before? Did you like it? Would you do it again?
Leave a comment and let me know! I’d love to hear from you.

Up next? Big fat GREEN baking FAIL! Stay tuned……

Food Preservation: Frozen Veggies

I learn something new every day….

I’m trying to cut down on shopping trips….the less time I spend at the store, the less money I spend, right? So I was trying to find a way to make the produce for my month long list of menus last, so I didn’t have to run to the store every week.

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For example, I have a Weight Watchers Garden Veggie Soup that I love love love, but I want to serve it in a couple of weeks….so how do I manage to buy what I need at the beginning of the month and have it still usable when I’m ready to use it?

The simple answer is BY FREEZING IT! Really??? Like, really. (Channeling my inner valley girl). And honestly, freezing is probably best, since the veggies will have lost alot of their good stuff (nutrients, vitamins) by the time I get around to using them anyway.

The answer is that almost (not quite but almost) everything can be preserved one way or another. So I bought a bunch of cabbage at the grocery store, and mushrooms and peppers at Costco and set to work. And really, it was a little involved but not at all difficult.

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First, some things have to be blanched. What is blanching? (I love to look up definitions….ask my kids). Blanching veggies is a cooking technique that requires that veggies and sometimes fruit (like peaches) be briefly cooked in boiling water. This accomplishes a few of things:

1) It enhances the color of the veggie (think broccoli…that vivid beautiful green after cooking)
2) It stops certain enzymes that can cause deterioration in flavor, color and texture
3) It cleanses the veggie of certain microorganisms and dirt
4) Helps slow down the loss of vitamins from the food
5) For tomatoes and peaches (and the like) it makes it easy to remove the skins

After blanching, you immediately drain and immerse food in an ice bath to stop the cooking.
**According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, under-blanching actually speeds up the activity of the enzymes we are trying to stop, and can be worse than not blanching at all.

The timing on each fruit or veggie is different, so it’s good to consult a reliable source on your particular one. The National Center for Home Food Preservation, the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving (I use this SO MUCH!), and Putting Food By are all good resources. (FYI: yes, a couple of these links are Amazon links….no I don’t get any kickbacks. Just providing them so you can see the book and see if it looks interesting enough to you to track down the best price you can find on one.)

So first you wash your produce, then follow the recommendations….I sliced my mushrooms because they were large and I chose to slice my peppers and cabbage instead of leaving them in halves (peppers) or quarters (cabbage). Those decisions affected the timing on the blanching.

Get a large bowl of ice water in an easily accessible place on the counter. Get a huge pot of water boiling on the stove. You want one gallon of water per pound of produce. It’s really convenient if you have a blanching basket or wire basket, but I also have loaded a pile of veggies into the center of a large dishcloth and pulled all the corners into one hand and lowered the veggies into the pot. It makes them easier to remove quickly. Just make sure that the ends of the dishtowel hanging over the side of your pot aren’t anywhere near the burner on your stove…I know you know where I’m going with this, LOL.

Set your timer according to your type of produce. Once done, quickly remove from the pot and immerse in the ice water until cool. Then drain really well before packaging for the freezer.

So my peppers were easy-peasy….no blanching. Just slice and vacuum seal (some veggies might be too delicate for the vacuum sealer). Both the mushrooms and the cabbage had to be blanched, but it took me maybe 45 minutes from start to finish, so not too bad.

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Then freeze! Now, FYI, previously frozen veggies aren’t always (ever?) ideal for eating raw. I mean, let’s be real here, shall we? The texture does change. But if you’re adding them to a casserole, or a soup (cabbage and mushrooms) or an omelet (peppers) then they’re perfect, and you can’t hardly (if at all) tell they’ve been snoozing in the deep freeze. Be sure to label your bags so you can identify what it is and when it began its frozen journey.

Have you ever blanched/frozen produce before??? What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever frozen? (let’s stick to food type stuffs).

Book Review: Food Storage for the Clueless

I may as well admit it up front…..I have a thing for books.
Seriously….I don’t know why, but I LOVE THEM.

TEH-books3I have stacks of them in my bedroom……

 

TEH-books2In my kitchen…..

 

TEH-books1In my office……
Yeah, I really love books.

I recently checked out this book at our new little local library:

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(I have no affiliation with Amazon, just posting the link where I got my copy).

I loved it so much I couldn’t bear to let it go without reading it cover to cover and going back and pouring over things I found interesting, so after renewing my library rental 3 times (the maximum allowed), I decided to get a copy of my own. It wasn’t new, I bought it used, but it works and I’m thrilled to have this in my personal library.

One of my favorite parts of the book was the beginning where it talks about the different preparedness “personalities” that exist. Very enlightening, and actually confirmed my conscious evolution from the siege mentality (years ago) to the provident mentality that we’ve been practicing for the last year or so. Seriously…read the book. It’s entertaining as well as enlightening.

It goes on to talk about what to store, how to store, how MUCH to store, canning, dehydrating, growing your own stuff (think sprouts and yogurt), shopping and acquisition tips, emergency preparedness, expanding your storage, rotating and more (MORE!). There are tons of resources, recipes, and other information.

Two things on my list of “things to try sooner than later” are the sourdough starter/bread and the cottage cheese.

So, if you’re a book freak, a preparedness freak, or a food storage freak (we may be twins separated at birth) check this book out. I think you’ll find it fascinating!

Happy reading!

Do YOU have a favorite preparedness book? Share the name/author info in the comments and what you like about it! I am always excited to check out new ones!

 

Preservation: Canning Chicken Stock

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This is my beautiful pressure canner. I inherited it from my Grandmother 5 years ago when she moved in with my mom, because her Alzheimer’s had progressed to a point that she needed more care. She’d been using it for a while and I have no idea how old it is, but I’m so grateful to have it because they are quite an investment.

I take it in every year to a little repair shop where they test the pressure gauge to make sure it’s working right (which is a good idea even if you have a new one, since your good health depends on it working properly!) If you call your local extension service they can usually refer you to someone who can test it for you, and sometimes they even sponsor events to test them.

Today I’m canning chicken stock. You’ll wanna prepare and gather all your supplies before you get going, cause trust me, it’s not fun to be running around looking like a chicken with it’s head cut off. No offense to all the chickens out there.

Get your pressure canner on the stove and put in the recommended water for your particular brand (read the instruction manual, people! That’s what they’re for!….I’m not targeting comment that towards any particular gender group of people, mind you. Mine calls for 5 cups of water. Heat the water so that it is just coming to a boil as you are ready to put your jars in.

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Make sure your mason jars (yes, the only kind you want to use because they’re designed to work properly with the lids and rings and “under pressure” so to speak) are squeaky clean and sanitized, and are hot. You can run them through a dishwasher cycle and leave them in the hot dishwasher, or fill them with hot, hot water in a pot or slow cooker. Also check for chips and cracks in particular around the top rim. These will prevent a good seal and could result in spoilage or breakage.

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Wash your lids and rings. Put your lids in a pan of water that is just barely at a simmer for a minimum of 10 minutes. Don’t allow the water to come to a boil as it can damage the sealing compound. Remove one at a time as needed for canning.

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Bring your chicken stock to a boil (remember in Wednesdays post you refrigerated overnight so you could remove the solidified fat). Fill jars one at a time using a funnel (you like my nifty collapsible funnel? Me too!), leaving 1 inch headspace.

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Clean the rims with a clean damp rag and dry. This removes any food particles or things that would interfere with the seal. Place a lid on top and center the sealing compound on the rim. Put your band on and screw on until finger tight….you want it firmly tightened, but not as tight as you can make it, if that makes any sense? (Have you ever used your NON-dominant hand to do something so that your dominant hand could take a picture of it? Requires serious talent, believe you me!)

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As you fill your jars, place them in the canner on the rack. Once you have all your jars in the canner, put the lid on and lock it. You want to start timing when you see a white stream of steam (say that fast five times!) and maintain it for 10 minutes. Then you’ll add your pressure regulator to your vent pipe. Watch the gauge closely as it starts to build pressure. Pressure canners can be scary, and there are lots of stories about how scary they are, but I think you’ll find that if you STAY IN FRONT OF IT AND PAY ATTENTION, the risks will be significantly mitigated. Bring it up to pressure, and then adjust your heat to maintain that pressure for the entire recommended processing time. In this case, it’s 20 minutes for pints, 13 lbs pressure (my altitude is about 4500 feet). The amount of pressure needed to ensure safe results depends on your altitude, so check and double check to make sure  you get it right!

After your 20 minutes is up, turn off the heat, but leave the lid locked and the pressure regulator in place. Move off the burner and let it come to 0 (zero)  pressure on its own. Then take the pressure regulator off and let sit for 10 minutes. Then remove the lid, but leave the jars inside for 10 minutes. Is all this really necessary? Yes. Then carefully remove your jars to a towel on the counter. Don’t re-tighten the rings, just put them down and leave them for 24 hours, then check for a good seal. The canning lid should be concave and shouldn’t flex up and down at all. Wash your jars and be sure to label them with contents and month and year. Seriously…mystery meals are only fun so many times.

There you have it….canned chicken stock!

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Let me know your process for canning chicken stock, or about your experience when you try it!

 

Recipe: Slow Cooker Ham and Potatoes

You might recall that I promised you a recipe to try out the
Cream of Anything Soup mix that I posted on Monday.
Here it is….my mom has been making this for as long as I can remember, and as kids we loved it. And as a mom, when I need something that I frequently have all the ingredients on hand for, I love it. And as a woman, when I want something that screams “comfort food” ….again, I love it.

It’s not too hard, really. Grab a bunch of stuff……

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like the Cream of Anything Soup Mix, dehydrated onions (or fresh chopped onions), potatoes, ham, cheese, mushrooms, salt and pepper…yeah, it really is that easy.

Grease your slow cooker. I can hear it now…”excuse me…is this really necessary?”
Only if you don’t want to spend an hour scrubbing that baby down after dinner when all you wanna do is put your feet up and relax. After all, that’s what slow cooker meals are for, right?

 

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Layer your ingredients, starting with the ham,

 

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then potatoes……

 

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onion and mushrooms……

 

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some cheese and pepper to taste.

 

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Spread the Cream of Anything Soup that you have made over the top. Be sure to spread all the way to the edges. This seals out the air and prevents the potatoes from turning a peculiar shade of….grey.

 

Cook on low for 8 hours (or high for 4 hours).

 

Call your hungry kids, and meat and potatoes man for dinner and sit back and revel in the sounds of snarfing polite enjoyment all around the family table.
What more can a momma ask for?

 

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Slow Cooker Ham and Potatoes

Recipe by The Essential Homemaker
A quick and easy do-ahead meal, sure to have your family singing your praises.

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 8 hours
Total time: 8 hrs 10 min, mostly unattended

Yield: 9 servings

Ingredients

  • 9 slices ham
  • potatoes, peeled and sliced
  • onion, chopped OR 1/3 cup dehydrated onion, rehydrated in hot water
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cup cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1/3 cup Cream of Anything Soup mix, cooked with 1 1/4 cup water till thick and bubbly
  • 1 can mushrooms, chopped
  • pepper to taste

Cooking Directions

  1. Make several layers in slow cooker beginning with ham, then potatoes, onion, mushrooms, and cheese, seasoning each layer with pepper.
  2. Cover with soup so air doesn’t reach potatoes.
  3. Cook on low for 8 hours or high 4 hours.

Notes:
This recipe is easily adapted for different sized families. My basic rule of thumb is that you use one potato, and one slice of ham for each serving you plan on; adjust your cheese and onion according to taste.

Please enjoy, and now we interrupt this fabulous yum-fest to announce the winner of our Shelf Reliance Gift Certificate giveaway!!!

Please give us a nice round of applause for:

Karen Hanshaw Dinsmore
who entered by liking
The Essential Homemaker on Facebook.

I’ll be sending you an email with the info you need to collect your prize, and BIG HUG SMOOSHY thanks to Julie Buckner for her generous prize, and to all of you wonderful readers who took the time to enter!

Stay tuned for Friday! I’ve got a fun project to share!