Saturday, August 27, 2011

Peach Salsa

A friend gave me a jar of peach salsa last week. Ed and I opened it one night after the children were in bed. Maybe I shouldn't admit that we consumed most of the jar! I finally said that we had to stop since I wanted a little left to photo!

This stuff is awesome! It is a sweet mild salsa, though the heat could be adjusted to your taste.

Peach Salsa

10 lb tomatoes - cubed
5 lb peaches - peeled and chopped
5 cup onion - chopped
2 jalapeno peppers - chopped
10 green sweet peppers - chopped
3/4 bunch cilantro
1 cup vinegar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup salt
2 tsp oregano
3 tsp cumin
3 tsp chili powder
1 tsp garlic, minced
1 pack Mrs Wages salsa mix
3 heaping T clear gel
1 can tomato paste

Bring everything to boil. Simmer 5 minutes. Can 20 minutes.

Disclaimer: I've discussed the safety of canning recipes with some of you. To me this recipe seems safe since it contains tomatoes and peaches, both high acid ingredients, and vinegar to acidify the onion and peppers. But it does have clear gel, an ingredient not recommended in salsa by the experts. So make your own decision at your own risk.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Pickled Hot Peppers

Another recipe that I'd like to try. This one from my mom.

Pickled Hot Peppers

1 1/2 pounds banana peppers,sliced thinly
1 pound jalapeno peppers, sliced thinly
1/4 pound serrano peppers, sliced thinly
6 cups vinegar
2 cups water
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 onion, chopped 

Place the banana peppers, jalapeno peppers, and serrano peppers into a large pot. Add the vinegar, water, garlic, and onion. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 5 minutes. 

Ladle peppers into jars, and fill to the top with the liquid, leaving 1/4 inch headspace. 

Can in boiling water canner for 10 to 15 minutes. Refrigerate jars after opening.

Note: Though peppers are low acid, the vinegar makes them safe for boiling water canning. But I'm no scientist so use any recipe on this site at your own risk!:)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Corn and Bean Salsa

Typically I usually share tried and true recipes that we love. But everything I'd like to blog about - I haven't done. Yet.

August seems like the perfect time to share recipes to preserve the garden bounty. But my tomatoes are so slow at ripening, I finally gave up watching them and started school this week. Whenever they decide to turn red, we'll take off a day and do tomatoes.

For the rest of the week, I'm going to share preserving recipes that I would like to make.

If and when I make these recipes, I'll be back to share pictures. In the mean time, maybe you want to give these recipes a try. All these recipes come from great cooks and come highly recommended.

Corn and Bean Salsa

The first recipe is from my sister-in-law Sonya. She often introduces me to something I'd never attempted on my own. I have a little late corn that is almost ready, then I'm making this!

1 gal.(or more)  peeled and chunked tomatoes ( I discard most of the seeds & juicy centers)
5 large chopped onions
1 large green pepper

I just throw these next three ingredients in a food processor and finely chop.
4 jalapenos and 2 serrano peppers (just because the neighbor gave them to me, you can just use 1 extra jalapeno instead of of serranos)
1/3 bunch of cilantro
7 large cloves of garlic

4 cups of cut-off fresh corn
2/3 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of salt
1/4 cup of vinegar

Simmer 1/2-1 hr. until mixture is reduced and desired consistency. If desired, add a thickener such as cornstarch.
1 large can of black beans (drained & rinsed)
Stir, ladle into jars, and can for 15 min.

All of these amounts are approximate, and can be tweaked to your preferences. My salsa was really mild, so if you would like to pep it up a bit, leave the jalapeno seeds in.

Edit to add: Jami reminded me that a low acid salsa needs to be pressure canned. The corn and beans in this recipe make it low acid. I'd recommend pressure canning it to be safe. Also, thickening salsa is not recommended by the experts. Use the recipe at your own risk.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Dutch Oven Recipes

Several of you asked for some recipes from the Dutch Oven Gathering last month. I'm sharing the winning recipes.

I actually did not eat any of these. One of the downfalls of being hosts is going through the line at the very last, when some pots are already licked clean. Don't waste any pity on me. There was so much food that I had plenty of other options.

If you don't have a dutch oven, these recipes can be made in a regular oven.

Pepperoni Pizza Pull Apart Bread - find recipe at Voracious Appetite

Golden Chicken Rolls

6 chicken breast, skinned, boned, and split               

12 thin slices of ham                                  
12 slices of swiss cheese                             
1/2 cup butter melted
crushed croutons
Parmesan cheese

1 cup sour cream
1 can cream of chicken soup

Flatten chicken. Place ham and cheese on each. Roll like a jelly roll.  Dip each roll in butter then in crushed croutons and parmesan cheese.

Spread layer of sauce in pan and place chicken on top. Use rest of  sauce between chicken pieces.
Bake 350 for 40 min. or until brown

For the dutch oven, we used chicken tenders in place of breast and we added bacon crumbles with the meat and cheese.

Stuffed Mushrooms

2 pk. small mushrooms
1/2 cup butter
1/2 c. Italian bread crumbs
1/2 - 1 cup sharp cheddar cheese

Lightly rinse mushrooms, pop out stems.  Melt butter, add bread crumbs and cheese.  Mix until melted.  Bake 350 for 20 min.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Canning Potatoes

I never canned potatoes.

Until today.

I always thought that canning potatoes was rather pointless. Don't potatoes keep well in the cellar without any kind of preserving?

But when we dug our potatoes this week and got many small potatoes, I decided to give canning a try. I knew that the little potatoes would not keep well. Unless I used them in a few weeks, they would start to shrivel up, and I was NOT going to peel those little things.

A few directions from my mom, got me started. She recommended cleaning the potatoes in the washing machine. It only took a few minutes in the rinse cycle to make them clean. A few more minutes on spin and they were finished.

Don't let the machine run any longer then necessary. The skin is so thin on new potatoes that it can start peeling off. And expect to have a very dirty washer afterwards. I put in a little bit of detergent and ran the rinse cycle to clean out the washing machine.

Next I cut out any blemishes. Besides small potatoes, I was also canning the potatoes that had bad spots or had gotten cut while digging - anything that would not keep well. I cut the potatoes into 1-2 inch chunks, unless they were tiny enough to go in whole. I added one tsp of salt to each quart jar and filled with water. The directions for my pressure canner said to can potatoes for 40 minutes at 11 lb pressure.Potatoes must be pressure canned.

Result: Canned potatoes that should be an instant meal, or addition to casserole this winter. And it really wasn't as much work as I thought it would be.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

He Giveth More Grace

He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials he multiplies peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.
                               Annie Flint

Anyone else feeling like they are suffocating under the load of endless work? I know that August always has far more to do than hours of the day. I keep reminding myself that this season will also pass.

The words to the He Giveth More Grace were shared with me by several different people this summer. The words have been the constant refrain through my head recently.  Can I thank the Lord that my weakness is an opportunity to rely on His strength? Praise the Lord for His limitless love and grace. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

2012 Time Keeper

The new 2012 Time Keeper is available! 

I've mentioned before how much I love having a beautiful home organizer to manage my days. The Time Keeper lays open on my kitchen counter at all times - unless it is traveling with me.

You can visit The Time Keeper website and take a look inside the planner. You can place your order there. 

Or if you live locally and know me in real life, I am placing an order. We can share shipping by ordering together. Just let me know soon.

I'm in no way affiliated with The Time Keeper. I just love Starla's organizer and want to share it with you!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mud Room

Our home addition project is now to the point of finishing little details.

Two weeks ago, Ed grouted the tile and put in the baseboards in the mud room. He also installed a board with some hooks.

I poured over the ideas and photos that you all sent when I asked for mud room ideas. Since this room is small, I wanted to keep it as uncluttered and organized as possible, yet utilize the space efficiently.

I prefer wooden shelving for the "country" look but we decided to use wire shelves. It was super fast  to install, easy to clean, and keeps the space more "open" than heavier shelving.

The goal is to keep the shoes, and "stuff" off the floor to keep the area easy to sweep. I know this will take some training as the usual habit was to dump and drop. So far (three days) placing shoes on the shelf is fun!

One of my favorite things about the mud room is the motion light. Since I'm constantly going through this room on my way to the basement, I never have to fumble for a light switch with my hands full of laundry. Or yell at the children to shut the light off.

The only thing left to do in this room is to add some low hooks under the window for the children's coats. But the weather will have to change before coat hooks are needed. Eventually, I'd also like a little bench but for now a wooden crate is doing duty.

One step nearer final inspection!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Simple Fun

A few old sheets

Clothes pins

A clothes line

A couple hats

and active imaginations

Equals -

Hours of play at a frontier homestead

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Crustless Quiche

In the summer, meals at our house get simpler. I especially like versatile recipes that can be adapted for whatever kind of vegetable is in season, such as great green vegetable pasta, crockpot chicken, roasted vegetables, and beef and vegetable casserole.

One of our favorites is quiche. I rarely bother with a crust, just dump it into a pan. This recipe can be used with any kind of vegetable. It is a good way to use some leftover meat, like ham, beef, or chicken. But I sometimes let out the meat and just add more vegetables.

The variations with different vegetables, kinds of cheese, and seasonings.

Crustless Quiche

1 cup chopped vegetables
1 cup chopped cooked meat (or more  vegetables)
1 cup cheese
3 eggs
1 1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup flour
salt and pepper to taste

Layer vegetables, meat, and cheese in pie pan or 9x9 casserole. Combine remaining ingredients and pour over top. Bake at 375 for 45 minutes or until knife comes out clean.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

August in My Garden

I know I haven't been around here much lately. But I haven't been on vacation. Unless picking beans, canning peaches, and making salsa is your idea of vacation!

In August, the garden comes into it's peak, at least in my neck of the woods. We've had some good food dribbling in, but now the fridge groans with fresh produce.

My menu planning centers on how to use up the most vegetables possible. Can I use seven zuchinni, five peppers, and three dozen ears of corn in tonight's supper? Probably not, but there is more out there to pick tomorrow.

Time to call the neighbor. Or start freezing.

Have I told you how much I love August? Even when it is busy. Even when I gauge my day's task on what is going to rot first. I just love, love, LOVE fresh eating. I could turn into a vegetarian this month. I love heaping a pizza so full of fresh tomato, zucchini, peppers, and onions that you can't find the crust. Hearing the sound of the pressure canner sizzling. Smelling ripe peaches on a bowl on the counter.

My August goal is to keep up with it all. Try not to let too much go to waste. And eat as much as I can!

I may try to plant some fall veggies in the empty places as the summer vegetables finish. I had almost decided not to do a fall garden. I've actually found gardening rather discouraging this summer. I think some of it was the emotional stress we've been under this summer. But it also has not been an ideal growing season. Spring was much too wet. Summer was very dry. A huge ground hog and large family of rabbits have taken the first fruits.Yesterday I found the mice had gotten into the kidney beans and consumed probably about half the crop.

But still God is good.  He has given us so much. And even sent rain this past week!

I love hearing what you are growing in your garden in August.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Peaches, Stevia, and Veg-O-Matic

Today was peach day.

Yesterday I picked up two bushels of All Gold peaches. These are a "cling" type peach, similar to Baby Gold. This type of peach is more firm and perfect for canning, but the pit has to be cut out of the peach. Berlin Seed has an awesome stainless steel pitting spoon that works perfectly for cling peaches.

If anyone local is looking for excellent cling peaches, the small orchard where I got mine has some of the nicest peaches for the best prices that I know. $15.00 for a bushel of All Golds! (Email if you want a phone number.)

This year I'm canning all my fruit with stevia instead of sugar. Several of the readers here have recommended stevia for canning. I finally tried it last year and was pleased.

Stevia is expensive, but a little goes a long way. My mom and I ordered a pound of stevia from Berlin Seeds and split it. Berlin Seed has pure stevia (no fillers) for $64.00 a pound. (Sounds like I'm running a commercial for Berlin Seed. I'm in no way affiliated with Berlin Seed - just a happy customer. Since they are an Amish business, they have no website. They give prompt service over the phone. Call 1-877-464-0892 for a free catalog.)

For canning, I used two teaspoon of pure stevia powder in one gallon of water. There is no need to heat the water. Just stir in the stevia until dissolved.

Have any of you seen one of these?

I'm not sure how old this Veg-O-Matic is but they haven't been sold for years. I had never heard of it but my sister-in-law found several at yard sales and gave me one. I like to dice my peaches to can and this little contraption saved a ton of time.

Just put in a peach...

And one "bang", and the peach is diced.

I did find that this only works with firm peaches. I was making fruit slush with soft free-stone peaches yesterday. The Veg-O-Matic turned them to mush.

I love canning but this is one of those days when the feet are tired.

What are you "putting up" for winter?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


I'd rather not write this post. It would be easier to blissfully ignore the experiences of the past week, at least in this little corner of the web. I would rather write about tomatoes than the struggles of the soul.

Some of you have walked through the last week with us. Some of you have faced similar experiences. Some will read this post and say "You did what?" For you I'll try to give some insight into Mennonite practice.

Our church, like many Mennonite churches, does not have a paid career pastor. We have a leadership team consisting of bishops, ministers, and deacons that serve together in the church. As leaders grow older and there is a need for more help, new leaders are found within the congregation.

When the ministry of our church asked several months ago that the congregation ordain a new minister, there was a certain amount of anxiety. Knowing that a man from our congregation would be called, also meant it could be my husband. Much prayer was offered as our church sought the Lord's will in choosing the right man to carry a leadership role.

Last week, our church gathered to take nominations for a new minister. Each man in the congregation voted for the man the Lord had laid on his heart to be the new minister. Tension in the room was high as the ministry announced the names of the three men who received enough votes to be considered nominated for minister. My husband was one of the three.

During the next several days, each man and his wife was interviewed by the ministry to examine their qualification as a minister. It was a time of bonding, not only as a husband and wife, but also with the other two couples as we shared the stress of soul searching and surrender.

Never have days crawled by so slowly. I wanted to be willing to serve, if the Lord was calling.  I felt so young and unworthy. I feared the change and the impact on our family. I longed for God's call to go to one of the other men and not my husband.

Since all three men were willing and qualified to serve, to discern God's will, the church used a "lot" as in Acts  1. On Sunday evening,  three identical Bibles were placed in front of the church. In one Bible the lot, a slip of paper with Provers 16:33, was placed inside. The Bibles were thoroughly shuffled so that no one knew in which Bible the lot was placed. We earnestly prayed that God's will would be revealed by the man who received the lot.

I'm not sure how many times in that week I prayed that I would accept whoever the Lord called to the ministry. I thought I had fully surrendered. But I'm not sure that anything can prepare you to watch the lot be found in your husband's Bible. Or to be asked to join your husband in the front of the church to be given the charge as minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

I never desired to be a minister's wife. My first reaction is flail on the floor like a bratty two year old and  scream "Not me!"

(Being honest here. Maybe I should have stuck to writing about tomatoes?)

But I also know that this is no surprise to God. He knew before I was born that I'd come to this place of decision and commitment. Is it possible that all the experiences of my life for the past 35 years have been preparing for this day? Can I see the past expressions of His faithfulness as a preview of His faithfulness in the future?

The responsibility looks big, even overwhelming. But our God looks even bigger. The last couple months have been stressful, soul searching, but most of all faith strengthening as we realize the power and love of a God who wants us to call Him Father.

I'm not sure why I'm sharing this. Maybe because many of you have become friends through your emails. Maybe to ask you to pray for Ed and I as we enter this work. Maybe because, though your circumstances may differ, you too may be struggling to say "Yes, Lord, Your will be done." Maybe to encourage you to find the peace that only comes through surrendering to God.

 Psalm 29:11 The LORD will give strength unto his people; the LORD will bless his people with peace.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Grow, Eat, Enjoy - Tomatoes

Tomatoes - For some of us, they are the highlight of summer.

While you can find good food throughout the year. Only in summer can you experience the ripe, warm-from-the-sun tomato.


Everyone has their own hints for tomato growing. I have three hints. Take your time. Give them  space. Water well.

Take your time. Tomatoes love hot weather. Sure you can plant them early, protect them, and worry about every frost and cold night. I find it easier, and healthier for the plants, if I just wait until the soil is warm and all danger of frost is over. It isn't until then that the tomatoes will start growing anyway.

This year my tomatoes were planted very late. But they soon caught up. Most of the plants tower over me, reaching six feet at least. Nearly everyone that sees my tomatoes wonder what I do to them. Really, nothing. They apparently like my soil conditions.

Give them space. I learned after a few years experience that tomatoes grow like they are on steroids in my garden. It may look like I'm wasting space, but I give them lots of room. I find airflow helps cut back disease and blight. Besides if you have tomato plants that grow this big, you just don't need as many.

Everyone has their own opinion on stakes and cages. I love a large metal cage. Attached to a heavy metal stake, these cages can support these huge plants. A smaller wooden stake just pulls out of the ground when the plant grows heavy and a wind blows.

Water well. Even if we do not face a summer like last year's drought, (and so far this summer is looking just like it) often there is at least a short dry spell. Supplying consistent water means better tomatoes and less dry rot. Spacing out the plants and mulching also help conserve moisture.

I love the Amish Paste tomato since it is thick and meaty like a Roma but much larger and easy to pick.

Other places I wrote about growing tomatoes are linked here.

 Planting tomatoes
My experience with several different Tomato varieties 
How to make a sturdy tomato cage


I haven't experienced a lot of pest problems. Sometimes a ground hog will take a bite out a low growing tomato. Last year the neighbor's peacocks took a daily stroll through our garden and a enjoyed succulent breakfast of tomatoes. We found a tomato horn worm on our plants last year but didn't destroy it because the parasite wasp had already found him.


My tomatoes are just beginning. We have had lots of hot weather but they seem to be taking their time. Since there is so few, I wash, remove the cores and place them in the freezer. Eventually my tomatoes will ripen faster and I'll get out my frozen supply and have the thickest tomato sauce painlessly!

We are not huge raw tomato eaters. A few on a sandwich, on eggs, pizza, and occasionally just sliced as a side dish are enjoyed but the majority are preserved for winter.

Some of our favorite tomato preserving recipes.

pizza sauce

tomato soup
barbecue sauce

sundried tomatoes
how to make tomato powder

peach salsa

Now I loved to hear from you. What is your favorite growing tip? How do you use tomatoes?

Monday, August 1, 2011

With a Little Help

If you know us in real life, you know that the past week didn't allow a lot of time for working on projects at home.

But we still made a little head way.

Back in June, we had a terrible storm one evening. The high winds blew over a tree in our pasture next to the fence. We knew the tree was slightly rotten. The tree's stump actually had three trees growing out of it. Two of them blew over that night.

One landed in our garden, smashing our compost bin and sweet potato row but only hitting one tomato plant.

The other landed on our garden shed but did no damage.

Ed didn't have time to deal with it. So he pushed the tree off the shed and out of the way of the lawn mower and it sat there ever since. He knew the third tree that shared the same stump should probably come down also.

Last week, at the Dutch Oven gathering, we were sitting around sweating in the blistering heat without the help of even the slightest breeze. I looked over at the garden just in time to see that third tree topple over and land softly on the garden shed.

Again there was no damage! And thankfully the children were not playing near by. Why it collapsed on a perfectly calm night is a mystery.

On Monday, Ed decided to make tree removal a priority. My dad and brother came over and in a short time, all the trees were cut and stacked. We will enjoy this locust wood for heat next winter.

The children's bean teepees had to come down because they were in line with the tree. The beans that were supposed to cover the poles have been enjoyed by the rabbits all summer. I've already planted twice and decided to give it up for the year.

On Saturday, a friend came and helped Ed lay the tile in the mud room. Such a small room only took a few hours, especially with the help of someone who has laid tile before.

If you haven't already noticed how many times I mention brothers, dad, friends, or neighbors - we have been extraordinarily blessed. There is no way this home addition project would be this far without the hours that others have shared with us.


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