Monday, October 25, 2010

Fruit Leather, Applesauce and Assembly Lines

Strawberry apple fruit leather sounded delicious to the 17 year old.  "Maybe we should make some as incentive"  she chimed.  Applesauce is a great base to any flavor of fruit leather one chooses to make.  As the end of apple season nears we are scrambling to bottle as much as we can.  The process is simple.  Wash and quarter the apples leaving the seeds and skins.  Cut out any bruised or worm eaten parts.  Boil until apples are soft (15-20 minutes).  We have a Victorian Juicer that extracts the applesauce and spits out the skin and seeds.  The apples we are using require no extra sugar but one can add cinnamon and/or sugar to taste.  Applesauce can be made without a juicer by mashing the apples or pushing them through a strainer.  Do what works.

The key to success in canning fruits and vegetables is setting up the assembly line.  Create enough steps to give each capable child a job.   Some responsibilities can be doubled up, some eliminated, what matters is that the job is done and everyone feels a part of a successful operation.  For the applesauce we all picked together in the orchard.  Someone sorted nice apples from worm eaten apples.  Another washed apples filling bowls of clean apples for others to quarter.  The Quartered apples were dumped in the boiling water by Mom and 20 minutes later the cooked apples were removed from the boiling water with a slotted spoon.  We reused the water for the next batch.  Another child turned the auger and punched the soft fruit through the machine.  (If the manpower is short or one parent is canning, these two jobs can be combined.)  Jars can be washed, lids boiled and the canner tended.  

We mixed 1/3 cup strawberry jello with 2 cups applesauce, spread it on a fruit leather round and turned on the dehydrator.  When I was a child we put the fruit sauces on a cookie sheet and put them in the oven at 100 degrees for 6 hours or spread the fruit sauces on clean plastic in the hot sun.  Some delicious combinations with the applesauce include pineapple, fresh strawberries, peaches, apricots, cherries and plumbs.  The goal is to find fruit for free by growing it or asking to harvest unwanted produce.

Teamwork and a sense of responsibility to the community in this case the family are built by canning food together.  There is a tremendous feeling of accomplishment to eat the from labors of the team.  Besides it is just good.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sunday Dinner

The hustle and bustle of preparing for Sunday dinner rivaled the Christmas Season in our home today.  Orders were given to put the butter on a plate, retrieve the baked potatoes from the oven, slice the pork roast, and place the green salad on the dinner table.  A teen age daughter was making peanut butter cookies, and the 13 year old son wanted dinner rolls.  He would have to make them if he wanted them.  So above the din I was giving directions for a simple batch of rolls (the same recipe as bread with a little more sugar and white flour)  He complained, It's too much work."  At that, I pointedly asked, "Did you say it was too much work?  Get the mixing bowl."   He proceeded to make the rolls.

"4 cups warm water" in the direction of the Dinner rolls.
"Now stir the apples for apple crisp," to the little help next to me.
"3 TBS yeast and 1/2 cup sugar" again over my shoulder to the first time bread maker.
"Could someone put the sour cream in a decorative bowl - not the 5 pound carton," called to the person who set the table.
"8 cups of flour and use the one cup measuring cup.  The four cup measuring cup won't fit in the canister."
"1 TBS salt and 1/3 cup oil or butter if the rolls are to be deluxe," concluded the roll recipe.

"Now sprinkle cinnamon on the apples and top them with this crisp topping mixture and into the oven.  You're finished making apple crisp."

Crisp Topping:  1 cup flour, 1 cup oats, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup butter cut into the dry ingredients until it is the size of green  peas.  I like to make a large batch (4X) and put it in a gallon size bag in the freezer to make Crisp dishes quickly and easily.

Finally the rolls were mixed and I formed a cookie sheet of quick little buns that raised while we ate.  The dinner rolls were a great snack 1- 1/2 hours after dinner had been cleared. Undaunted, we sat together, we ate together and laughed and cried a little as we talked about the future husbands and wives of each of the children.   The feeling of excitement, anticipation and family at Christmas Dinner isn't much better than a Sunday Dinner together.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Dinner Tables and Budgeting

Originating in Government accounting the budget outlined the "balance sheet of the actual income and expenditure of the past year, and an estimate of the income and expenditure for the coming year."  Another definition referred to the "amount of money needed or available for a given purpose."  The Family Dinner Table is where we budget more than just money.  We budget components or our family relationships.  We evaluate our spiritual,  mental and emotional ties.  We see where we are lacking and budget to meet that need.  We budget our time.  We budget our energies.  We budget our resources.

It is a novel idea that as our society becomes increasingly affluent, money ceases to be the chief budgeting catalyst.  Very often it is time, or energy that is limiting our lifestyle choices.  If for extended periods our energies are the only constraint, our health will begin to fail.  If money is the only reason we don't do something, then when money is plentiful is the activity approved without constraint.  Let us make more budget controls in our lives.  Let the Family Dinner Table be a chief budgeting tool.  If any activity will interfere with the family dinner hour, it is overextending our family budget.  The goal is to balanced budget sheet.   At dinner we can see each other face to face, perceive body language, hear with our hearts and serve with our hands.  In a literal sense we pass the salt, serve the food, refill drink glasses and learn to see and perceive needs of our loved ones gathered around the table.  We can learn of schedules, appointments, and opportunities for each member of our family.  For example if a child wants to have friends over to play, we discuss as a family the time constraints, the mode of transportation, the proposed length of visit, the planned activities, the food required, and the benefit to friendships versus the expenditure on family relationships.  We can budget our time and resources to meet appropriate needs.

Dinner tables can work magic in adhering to a budget far beyond money.  We need to set a budget on the amount of time we socialize, the amount of time we use  electronic media, the degree to which we use any good thing.  Children need to see parents use constraints not because they have to but because it is the right thing to do.  Do we only stop spending money when there is no money to spend?  Is the only time we stop yelling at each other when there is no one with whom to yell?  Is the only reason to cook at home when we cannot travel to a restaurant?  Do we buy on sale whether the items are needed or not?  Constraining ourselves to prioritize family dinner hour because it is the right thing to do will balance the budget in a multitude of areas.  Our families are our priorities.  Our children are our greatest treasure.  Our marriages were created to protect families.  Let us do the right thing and protect our children, our marriages and our families.  Let us govern our homes wisely.  Lets eat together.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Making Pizza

Thanks for the encouragement. Please forgive the delay.  Integrating into three school districts, two falls sports and four children in Susuki violin along with the usual piano times six children, laundry and grocery shopping for ten makes posting difficult but I am aware each day and sending mental encouragement.  I hope that mothers and fathers who feel overwhelmed by schedules, inadequate because of low self esteem, or simply at a loss because of lack of knowledge will make family dinners a priority.  There is no compensation for the unity that comes as we feed each other socially, emotionally and physically.

Last months we made Pizza.  I assigned the 8 year old to make the dough, the ten year old volunteered for the sauce and the six year old relished the pleasure of preparing the crumb topping for the apple crisp.  The results were astounding.  The food was wonderful but the compliments that flew and the glowing eyes that spoke "I did this!" and the sheer pleasure of squishing the butter and the sugar and flour together made the experience priceless.  We price compared a 12 inch pizza on sale for $3.30 (I've also seen them for $2.25 at the discount stores) with a homemade version.  Our homemade pizza with  1 cup of real cheese per pizza cost about $2.30.  Our homemade meal  was well worth the effort to watch the growth in our family.

Pizza Dough ( out of  Betty Crocker's Cookbook 1978)

1 package dry yeast ( 1 TBSP)
1 cup warm water (Baby bottle warm - slightly warm on the wrist)
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
2 TBSP vegetable oil
2 1/2 cups flour  ( can be white or wheat or mixed)

Pour water into bowl, Add yeast, sugar, flour, salt and oil.  Mix.  That is all.  We let it sit while we grease a stone, an old glass turntable from a microwave, or a cookie sheet.  Then we roll it to desired thickness of crust - thin or thick.  It raises a little as it bakes.  Crispier crusts are made in hotter ovens (425 degrees F) on stones or glass.  Bake for 12-18 minutes depending on toppings.

Tomato Sauce in the next post-