Sunday, July 31, 2011

Got Fruit Flies?


I don't know about you, ladies, but around my house right now it's fruit fly season. I hate those little buggers (pardon my language if you're a reader from the UK) and am so glad I discovered a successful way to rid my kitchen of them.



If you don't know this trick, ladies, discover it. Works like a Charm!


Simply take a small glass and fill it half way with apple cider vinegar. Add a few drops of dish soap to the vinegar.
Set out on the counter and the fruit flies line up to take the plunge.


See how many I caught in only about 30 minutes time? I had double that amount after a few hours and my kitchen has been fruit fly-free ever since.

Hope you’re keeping cool, ladies!  Blessings!

reposted from August 2009

Friday, July 29, 2011

Theology in the Kitchen

thkit

Of all the things I have learned in the 15 months since our daughter was born, one that I cherish the most is getting a deeper understanding of our Father’s love for us.  There have been so many times when the veil has been lifted for just a moment and I can see more clearly, through my love for my daughter, how the Lord cares so deeply for us, His children.  And more specifically, since holding my child in my arms and feeling every tear, every hurt, and likewise every smile or giggle of joy, I have a more abiding faith in the scriptural promise that God hurts when we hurt, and rejoices when we rejoice.

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Yesterday I was working away at a recipe in the kitchen, and Bird crawled over to see her Mamma.  As long as Im not at a dangerous stage, I let her play at my feet, usually with my big bowl of folded aprons (which of course end up not-so-folded :) ).  This was one such day, and she pulled up to the drawer I have filled with plastic measuring cups and spoons for her to dig around in.

I turned my back for just a minute to grab something, and I heard a shuffle, a bonk, and then a cry.  Poor Bird had stumbled and hit her face on the corner of the stove drawer.  Ouch!  She was so upset and I scooped her up in my arms, told her in a loving, calming voice how Mamma knows that must have hurt, and assured her it was going to be OK.

We sat on the couch; I held her close, and I sang to her.  Itsy Bitsy Spider... Jesus Loves Me…  I’d Like to Visit the Moon...  Jesus Loves the Little Children.  I sang and swayed gently back and forth until the tears subsided, and she looked up and gave me that pout-trying-to-be-a-smile look.  I sang some more.  I noticed the camera was in arms’ reach, so I snagged a photo of our cuddle.

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I thought of this passage:

The LORD your God is with you, He is mighty to save.He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with his love, He will rejoice over you with singing. -Zephaniah 3:17

What a humbling picture.. the Lord holding us in his arms, rocking and singing to us when we hurt, feeling compassion and empathy for the things that bring us to tears.

I went back into the kitchen and noticed this:

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I realized I had that brown paper bag in my hand when Bird fell.  I dropped it without even thinking, in order to reach out to my child.  I heard the Spirit whispering that the Father has the same focus on us- we are His focus and His primary concern.

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If you look closely in these photos, you can see the red spot on Bird’s face.  It turned into a bit of a bruise.  But you can also see that, with the comfort of a loving parent, there are now smiles and joy; the pain is forgotten.  The Lord wants to give us the same peace, despite our trials and pains.

Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. –Mathew 11:28

May you find rest and comfort today in the arms of The Father, and may He give us all the strength to reflect that love to the children in our lives, whether they be ours or others entrusted to us.

participating in Biblical Womanhood Friday here:  LikeABubblingBrook_125

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Raspberry-Blueberry Jam



Hello ladies! I have so much fun with these Rednesday posts because I love red and I love looking at everyone else’s red highlights of their week!

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Today I wanted to share with you the batch of Raspberry-Blueberry Jam (or “Razzbluey” as my hubs calls it!) that I made this week. I bought a flat of raspberries at the farmers market last week but didnt take the time to look at it properly before I took it home, and I realized later that day that more than half the berries were bad. The ones on top looked fine, but underneath many were rotten. I was pretty bummed, but figured I could salvage the good stuff and make a batch of jam.
But then I realized there wasnt even enough (4 cups) for a batch of jam, so I thought, “wouldnt those blueberries in the fridge make a fantastic jam with these raspberries?” And I was right, they did!

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I have been trying to make most of my jams sugar-free, because I prefer to preserve my summer harvest in a way that is more nutritionally sound for my family and friends to enjoy (I say friends because guess what people are getting for Christmas this year??!!). With this batch, however, I did not have an appropriate fruit juice to use and I was also out of the sugar-free pectin, so I decided to make this batch “conventional.” I figured it would be a treat for the hubs who prefers sugary jam and a nice gift for people at Christmastime.

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It is very important if you decide to do any canning, as I have done here, to read up on proper canning procedures, for sanitation and safety. With that in mind, here is the recipe:

Razzbluey Jam
2 cups crushed raspberries
2 cups crushed blueberries
2 Tblspns. lemon juice
5 cups sugar (yikes! see why I dont usually make regular jam!?)
1 box Certo pectin (this isnt an advertisement, just the kind I used if you’re curious)

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1. Crush the raspberries, one layer at a time, with a potato masher until nice and smashed. Make sure you have 2 cups raspberries smashed, not two cups of whole raspberries. It takes probably close to 3 cups of whole raspberries to get 2 smashed, if you know what i mean.

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2. If your blueberries are nice and fresh like mine were, you’ll want to put them in your food processor and pulse them justa few times until they are smashed up, but DO NOT turn the processor on full speed even for a few seconds or your berries will be puree and thats not what you want. You want them mashed but not liquidy (see photo above).

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3. In a very large either stainless steel or enamel pot (don’t use aluminum), put your mashed berries, along with your lemon juice and the fruit pectin. Stir well to make sure they all come together nicely. Bring this mixture to a boil on high heat. You need to babysit jam and can’t walk away or be distracted, so make sure you do this when you have a few minutes’ full attention available. Stir the jam constantly.

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4. Once brought to a boil, add your sugar and stir in completely. Stirring constantly, bring the mixture back up to a boil, and boil hard for one minute.

5. Remove kettle from the stove top and continue to stir and skim for five minutes (this helps prevent floating fruit, apparently).

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6. Ladle your jam into hot, sterilized jars. Make sure the rims of the jars are clean, using a damp paper towel or lint-free cloth to wipe them off before adding your sterilized lid. Once the lid is on, screw on your rim.

7. Hot-packed jam like this needs to be boiled in a water bath canner for 10 minutes to prevent any sort of bacteria from growing inside your jars while they sit prettily in your cupboards until cold weather. Do not skip this step, ladies… I know a lot of the old school don’t boil jams and pickles but it’s important; you dont want to take a chance at making your family sick.

8. Once processed, remove from water bath and allow the jars to cool, completely undisturbed, for 48 hours on a flat surface. At this point be sure to label your jars (easy to get them confused if you’re making lots of batches!) and store in a cool, dry, dark place (a basement or root cellar is ideal, but as we dont have that I keep them in a dark cupboard in our dining room).


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

How to Use Bruised Fruit and Peach Pits

dntwst

I recently got a fabulous deal on two bags of peach “seconds” at the farmer’s market for only five bucks.  Sure some of them were a little dented or bruised, but i knew there was still plenty of good fruit there to make a great batch or two of jam with.  As I detailed in previous posts, I am trying to make my jams sugar-free for the most part, using only fruit juice and sometimes a little honey or maple syrup to sweeten my preserves.  To that affect, my plan was to do the same process that I used for making sugar free strawberry jam, and make a batch of peach puree first, in order to get the required peach juice to make the peach jam.

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But after I cut away the bruised portions of my pieces and proceeded to remove and dice up the healthier peach flesh, I was left with this:

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And as you know, I dont like just throwing stuff out.  So i thought, “is there anything I can do with this?”

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And eureka, it came to me!  Sure the bruised flesh is not nice for eating or for making jam, but unless its black or moldy, why couldn’t I steep it in a little water and make a juice?  Also, when you add up all the peach flesh still clinging to those pits, you could have enough to make a nice little puree, and at least a cup of juice. 

Rather proud of myself, I picked through the heap and removed anything that looked truly scuzzy (you definitely do NOT want anything mold, fungus, other living creatures, etc, in it.  And if its so rotten its black, then forget it!  Also, if your pit comes apart in your hand that is a good indication it is not healthy enough to use for this method- throw it out.), put the good stuff in a pot, covered it with a little water and a dash of apple cider vinegar (I always use vinegar when making broth as it helps draw the flavor out so I figured it couldnt hurt here), and put ‘er on the stove to boil.

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After the pot came to a rolling boil, I put it down to a simmer and let it simmer away for a good hour.  It made the house smell fantastic.  Once the hour was up and I could tell the liquid was looking pretty peachy, I drained the pot, through a fine-mesh seive, into a bowl.

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Now is the important part, where you work just a little but more to get the good stuff.  You want to carefully remove the pits from the sieve (the flesh should have totally fallen off them by now), and you should be left with just peach flesh.  At this point, use the back of a small metal spoon to push the fruit against the strainer and extract more of the juice into the bowl.  Also, be sure to tilt the sieve a little and you’ll notice lots of yummy thick pulp along the underside- be sure to scrape that into the bowl as well.  You don’t want to waste a drop!

Doing this gave me exactly two cups of peach “juice”, which in turn allowed me to make two batch of peach jam (recipes to come soon) out of my 5 dollar bag of seconds.  Not too bad!  You could easily do this with other bruised fruit flesh, especially from heartier fruits like peaches, pears, plums, and apples.  Berries probably wouldn’t work as well as their water content is so high that when they bruise they basically mush, but use this technique whenever you can in the spirit of Using the Whole Buffalo!

Blessings, ladies!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Cleaning Out My Pantry

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Hello ladies!  First of all I’d like to say thank you to those of you who left thoughtful, heart-felt comments on my post about Amy Winehouse’s death.  I was glad to see that I was not the only one to be so touched by her passing, and thanks for letting me share that in this little corner of cyberspace.  And thank you to those of you who have joined me on facebook, too!  If you haven’t yet, I hope you’ll join me, and if your blog has a page, be sure to let me know!

smhs

Hubs and I were blessed beyond merit to be able to buy our first home two years ago.  We needed a place that was in our price range and would allow Hubs to have office space as he owns his own small business and works from home.  We found this lovely three storey townhouse condo and it was the first place we saw and the one we ended up buying as it just fit all of our needs.  I am so thankful for our home everyday, and after years of living in small one and two bedroom apartments, this feels like a palace!

Now all that being said, there is one draw-back to this place, and that is very little in the way of closet or pantry space.  My kitchen is great in that it is big and there’s plenty of counter space, but it also doubles as our laundry room, and thus the part of the room that could be taken up with fantastic pantry space is instead the home of our washer and dryer (which of course I am thankful for every day… not only do I have my own machines but because they are in my kitchen i dont have to try to run up and down the stairs to do laundry and look after a baby at the same time!  awesome!).

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My solution as been to wedge a narrow Ikea bookshelf/pantry in the space between the washer and the wall in the kitchen, to use as pantry space.  As this isnt really sufficient space, especially now that I am learning to can and preserve, I have also begun using the bottom portions of the bookshelves in our dining room for extra storage.  It may not be “ideal” but it works for me and gives me just enough space to have a good functioning kitchen.

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upper and lower pantry, “before”… egaads!

Something that can get me super frustrated quickly is the fact that its actually a bit awkward to get into my pantry because the doors open right where my washer and laundry hamper are.  And before you ask, “well couldnt you just move them?” I can assure you I have wracked my brain to figure out a way to move things around but, alas, this is it.  And if I go without a hamper I end up with laundry piled up on top of my washing machine, which is unsightly and also stressful.  So I wanted to reorganize in a way that would allow me to put the things that I needed access to most frequently ont he right, which is more accessable, and the things that I use a bit less frequently, or which are plain and easy to see and dont need a lot of digging around to find, on the left.  This is what i came up with.

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Bottom pantry, “after”…. ahhh much better

I have the added incentive to keep my pantry organized because a whole half of it is exposed and open to be seen.  Here’s my before and after.

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before and after

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Is there anything cuter or more homey than glass jars full of pretty things?

As for the extra pantry space in the dining room, I reorganized the shelves I was already using and cleared out some junk that wasnt going to get eaten.  I also took all the stuff out of the cupboard I was repurposing for canned goods, and as it was filled with scented candles, I needed to get rid of the smell.  What did I use but my trusty white vinegar, of course!  Worked like a charm!  I gave those candles away to a friend and have since filled those cupboards up with lots of jars of goodies!

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Hopefully this will encourage you ladies out there that need to have a good cleaning and reorganizing of your pantry to get on the apron and get ‘er done.  Its one of those things its easy to put off, but then you finally just want to lose your mind because things are falling out of cupboards and you can’t find anything. 

Happy cleaning, housewives! 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Join Me on Facebook!

ican2 Join me on Facebook!

I was on my personal facebook page today and writing a status update about all the food preserving I was working on this weekend and it dawned on me that I really should be sharing that with my homemaking bloggy friends, so I’ve decided to make a page just for The Armchair Housewife!  If you are on facebook I would love it if you would “like” the page and this way i’ll have another fun way to communicate with you all.  those of you who have facebook pages for your blogs, I love getting your updates on my wall stream- its nice to hear from you in between blog posts.  And that’s what i hope this page will be, a way to say brief hellos and share little tidbits of my days in between posts, or to share links to other good things.

So join me, won’t you? :)  Blessings, ladies!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Amy Winehouse, Dead at 27

amy for photo source and to read the LA Times article on Winehouse, click on photo above

Hi ladies.  I know this post is pretty well out of the “norm” for this blog as I almost never comment on current events, and I dont think I have ever commented on anything even bordering celebrity news.

And  yet, as I sit down to write my post about cleaning out my pantry, which I will do very shortly, my heart is just aching over the death of the troubled soul singer Amy Winehouse.  In case some of you dont know who she is, Winehouse rocketed to pop stardom a few years ago with her unique musical style that harkened back to the girl groups of the 60s.  She was praised by music critics and fans alike for her fantastic voice and care for musical detail.  And yet all the while this young woman has been in the news repeatedly for her addictions to crack cocaine and alcohol.  She has been in and out of rehab for years, and her music career has been pretty well on hold the past few years as she battled the demons of addiction.  She tried to relaunch a tour earlier this summer but was booed off stage at her first performance, clearly too high and/or drunk to sing her songs.

I dont keep my finger on the pulse of much of modern music, as I dont care for most of it, and yet somehow this woman touched my heart, and I developed a soft spot for her, not so much as an artist (though I do like her music), but as a fellow human being.  I tended to read any story I would see about her, wondering how she was doing, and i would pray for her as the Lord led, praying she would get the help she needed from Jesus to turn her life around and put the clearly God-given talent to serving Him and bringing joy to others. 

But alas, it was not to be.  Miss Winehouse has joined the ranks of so many other talented young people who have gone before her down the road of sex, drugs, and rock and roll, and, like many of them, her years did not number more than 27 (Hendrix, Joplin, Morrison and Cobain all also died at age 27). My heart breaks for her and her family and friends and the waste of the precious life God gave this woman, so short and so full of misery and pain.  It’s times like this when I shout out with the Psalmist and ask “Why, Lord?”  And it’s also times like this when I humbly confess that, there but for the grace of God, go I.  As Paul said, I am the greatest of sinners, and before I met Jesus I was on that same wide path to destruction.  If you would have told me as a very lost 16 year old girl that I would someday be writing a blog about Christian stay at home mom and wifery, I would have laughed in your face.  But for the intervention of Christ in my life, while I may not have had the fame Winehouse did, I may have had a similarly rocky and short life.  Amy’s death brings me humility; my life is filled with so many good things, all owed to the Lord, none that I deserve or merit.  God’s grace is a mystery indeed.

I pray that Amy’s life and death will serve, if nothing else, as a wake up call to others who struggle with addiction and purposelessness in their life to see that they can find wholeness, healing, and identity in Jesus, and get off the path that leads to destruction and on the narrow road that leads to life.  May the Lord have mercy and give grace to us all.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Quick Note About My Blog

Hi ladies!  If in some of your blog readers it looks like Ive been posting new things like crazy or things look strange, its just because Ive been updating some old posts.  I rearranged my online photo albums that I use for my vintage pictures on this blog and as such a number of links have been broken (you may have noticed if you were looking at any of my older posts).  They’re all fixed now (I think!  If you find a page with a broken link let me know!) but it might have made it look like I did ten new posts today.  If so, sorry about the confusion.  :)

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Three New Recipes

Howdy ladies! Hope you’re all keeping cool in this monstrous heat. Here are three new recipes using some great local, seasonal ingredients that I cooked up for Loft Organics. Just click on the photo to be directed to the recipe page!

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                     Summer Shepherd’s Pie

gsp5

                                           Garlic Scape Pesto

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                 Tomato Basil Cream Sauce