2014 Canning Season Recipes

2014 Canning Season - so far, we've made salsa, spaghetti sauce, pickles and pickled green beans, freezer green beans, and sandhill plum jelly!  Recipes included in the post! | RaisingArrows.netThis year, we were blessed with abundant produce that was free or nearly free to us.  We had a small garden and very generous landlords.

I’ve admitted in the past that I am not a gardener.  I like to blame it on my sensory issues – there is nothing about playing in the dirt that intrigues me.  However, I REALLY like having fresh produce that WE grew.  So fun!  This year, we grew peas, onions, tomatoes, green peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, corn, green beans, and there are cantaloupe on the vine as we speak.

As for our generous landlords – they are an older couple who plant WAY more than they could ever eat (as in 60 tomato plants!).  They have sent tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, and green beans our way in bucket-fulls!  And I am sure not going to waste it!

Tomatoes!

And then, to top it off, this has been a stellar year for the sandhill (or wild) plum!  These little beauties grow roadside and are usually free for the picking by whomever makes it there first!

sandhill plums

As promised last week in my Pregnancy Update, here are the recipes we’ve been using this canning season.

Sandhill Plum Jelly - Apparently, I’m one of the few sites out there with this recipe because this time of year, I get a lot of hits on this post.

2014 Canning Season - sandhill plum jelly, spaghetti sauce, pickled green beans, and more! | RaisingArrows.net

I mention in my plum jelly post how I was running my pulp through mesh with a spoon.  Well, thankfully, I found my sieve!  This isn’t the cleanest job in the world, but that tart jelly is oh so worth it!

Freezer Green Beans – Early on, we froze our green beans.  This is a nice, simple process that yields beautiful, bags full of bright green veggies!

1.  Wash your beans.
2.  Trim the stems off your beans and cut them in half.
3.  Blanch the beans in boiling water for 1 minute.
4.  Dunk in ice water for 1 minute.
5.  Pat dry (we used paper towels).
6.  Bag in “meal sized” freezer bags.  For our family, this means full 1 gallon bags, but that may be too much for your family.  Adjust accordingly.

Pickled Green Beans – As the season wore on, and the landlords had more and more and more green beans, my kids begged for pickled green beans instead of freezing them.  Now for some of you, the idea of pickled green beans seems pretty “out there”, but you really ought to try it!

You can use any pickle recipe, but this one is very similar to what we use for our pickled okra (when we have it) and has been a favorite for a very long time.  It includes dill, garlic and red pepper flakes, and ends up quite yummy.  By the way, if you ever want to hear my “angry okra” story, fell free to read all about it HERE.

Cucumber Pickles – We didn’t end up with very many cucumbers, so what we did end up with became pickles that went straight into our refrigerator.  When you do this, you really need to let them set in the refrigerator unopened for about a week (more would be ideal) to get the full flavor.  It was all we could do to wait a week, and they were gobbled up all in one setting!  The recipe we used came from Sheri Graham.

Salsa – When the tomatoes first started rolling in, we did up huge batches of our favorite salsa.

Fresh & Tasty Homemade Salsa - nothing like it! | RaisingArrows.net

This is a very chunky salsa with some surprising ingredients like balsamic vinegar and soy sauce!  The acid content in the salsa was plenty high enough to be able to water bath it (the only kind of canning I do), so we ended up doing about 3 gallons.

Later, we moved on to a less chunky salsa that we found HERE.  However, I don’t think either salsa is really going to be hot enough.  I need to put more heat in them next time.

Spaghetti Sauce – I had never canned spaghetti sauce, and frankly, we don’t use the stuff.  For years, we have simply used tomato sauce with spices in it.  That’s it.  However, I thought it would be nice to have some real homemade sauce for our italian meals, so I dug around for a recipe and came up with THIS ONE.

Canned spaghetti sauce

It was VERY tasty, but by the time we had done up a dozen quarts (plus the salsa we had already done), my kids (and myself) were sick of tomatoes.  I happened to mention on Facebook how we were all tired of peeling and seeding tomatoes, and my Facebook blew up with people chiming in saying they didn’t peel or de-seed their tomatoes and I shouldn’t either!  I was astounded.  I was under the impression this was a RULE.  So, when the landlords called and asked if I wanted yet another round of tomatoes, I exasperated my children by saying Yes…because I really wanted to try this little experiment!

Well, the truth is, I will be trying this little experiment later today.  HERE is the recipe I’m going to use. Now, I know the woman in the post freezes hers, but I will be adding some tomato paste (to thicken) and lemon juice (to up the acid content) and water bath them for 20 minutes.  I will also probably run them through the Vita-Mix…just in case people are pulling my leg about having the skins and seeds in there being ok.

Once I’m through the last of the tomatoes and the sandhill plums, we will be finished until apple season…which also looks like a bumper crop.  We buy seconds at a local orchard and turn them into all sorts of yummy treats!  We’ll be freezing slices for pie, making applesauce to can, making apple butter (probably in the crock pot), and maybe even some apple pie filling!

Until then, the rest of the tomatoes on the vine will be picked green and fried.

How We Feed Our Family of 9 with 2 pounds of Hamburger

How We Feed Our Family of 9 with 2 pounds of Hamburger + Unstuffed Cabbage Roll recipe | RaisingArrows.netWhen I wrote about my bulk taco seasoning recipe, I mentioned we only use 2 pounds of ground beef for our family of 9, and that I only started using the second pound about 2 children ago.  Several of you were shocked and wanted to know how this was possible, so I thought I’d write a little bit more about how we manage this.

First of all, THIS is what 2 pounds of ground beef/hamburger looks like (plus some onions from our garden…more on that in a moment):

How We Feed Our Family of 9 with 2 Pounds of Hamburger + Unstuffed Cabbage Roll recipe | RaisingArrows.net

The skillet is a 15″ cast iron skillet from Lodge.  As the meat cooks, we season it and often throw in onions and/or peppers to add flavor.  From here, the possibilities are endless!

Let’s say you are doing something with a Mexican flair…
Add tomatoes, beans, rice, and some type of sauce (tomato sauce is the most often used one here).

Italian?
More garden veggies, noodles, and sauce.

Sandwich meat?
Oatmeal, veggies, beans, lentils, and yes…sauce!

And don’t forget CHEESE!  We use a lot of cheese, sour cream, and veggies to add to our meat to create a heartier meal.

You can easily double the amount of pasta or rice you put into a dish and still keep the ground beef amounts the same.  Casseroles and stove-top meals (like the Unstuffed Cabbage Roll recipe below) are the easiest to stretch.  We rarely do something like meatloaf or a meat by itself (unless we are cooking up steaks, pork chops, or homemade brats).  Meatloaf can be bulked up with oats or rice, but not many in my family are fans of meatloaf, so I don’t even bother.

We often make quesadillas for a quick lunch (<—take a look at that post – it’s from when I was pregnant with Baby #7 and there’s a sonogram picture!)  We will start with the 2 pounds of hamburger meat, but when that runs out, we finish off with cheese-only quesadillas.  And again, we encourage the kids to add sour cream, lettuce, and salsa to bulk up calories.

Another thing we do is set out bowls of “sides” that add an element of fun to the meal.  It is not uncommon for there to be pickles, black olives, or a bowl of cut up cucumbers on the table to serve as finger foods to supplement the meal.  Sometimes I serve a traditional side (mainly for the evening meal when Daddy is home), but usually for lunch, the main dish is supplemented only by the extra finger foods.

And in case you are wondering, yes, I do serve snacks.  Around 3 o’clock is snack time and it helps to carry everyone through to suppertime.

Now let me give you a real life example from a meal we had a couple of nights ago…

Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls | RaisingArrows.net

I set out to make the Trim Healthy Mama Stuffed Cabbage Rolls from the book, but realized too late they were supposed to be in the crock pot for 7-9 hours!  (Please tell me I’m not the only one who does stuff like this!)  So, I went with an unstuffed version from a recipe online.  Of course, there’s no way an online recipe is going to contain the right amounts for our family (unless of course, it’s from my own stash of Large Family Recipes), so I set out to tweak it.

The first thing I noticed was that it had 1.5 – 2 pounds of meat listed to serve 5-6 people; however, the cabbage was supposed to be a small head with the addition of only one small can of tomato sauce.  That’s where I grabbed my bulk.  The cabbage I used was large, and I used 2 cans of sauce, but could have used more if I wanted a soupier mixture (which works really well when putting it over something like rice or noodles!).  I could have added other veggies too like zucchini, yellow squash, eggplant or peppers.

Because this was going to be a THM-friendly dish, I had my son cook a large pot of rice as a side for the children.  If you aren’t watching your carb intake, then cook the rice and add it right into the dish itself.  You could even turn this into a soup by adding more tomato sauce and some water or broth.

And that was our meal.  Everyone tanked up and there was only a tiny bit of leftovers that Baby Creed will eat for lunch tomorrow.

Here’s my large family (with only 2# of ground beef) version of Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls:

Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls Recipe (stove top using a 15" skillet) | RaisingArrows.net

Unstuffed Cabbage Rolls

2 pounds ground beef
1 large onion, diced
2 cans diced tomatoes (or fresh)
2 cans (8 oz each) tomato sauce
1 cabbage, coarsely chopped
seasonings to taste

In a large skillet, brown ground beef with onion and season to taste with salt, pepper, garlic, or other favorite seasonings.  Add in the diced tomatoes and the tomato sauce and mix.  Next, add the chopped cabbage and rest a lid on top of the pile of cabbage to encourage it to steam and cook down.  (I promise, it WILL cook down and fit in your 15″ skillet.  If you don’t have a large skillet, transfer the meat to a large pot before adding the cabbage.)  Once the cabbage cooks down a bit, stir to mix the meat and sauce in with the cabbage.  Continue to cook down until cabbage is tender.

Now, it’s your turn!  How do you stretch your meat?  What sorts of things do you add for bulk and calories?  And don’t forget to mention how many you are feeding!

Homemade Taco Seasoning {in bulk}

Homemade Taco Seasoning {in bulk} | RaisingArrows.net

We eat a lot of Mexican food here.  It’s often an easy meal that requires few ingredients.  I’ve never been one for using those little packets of Taco Seasoning you buy in the store, but I do like to add some sort of seasoning to the ground beef we use to make our Mexican dishes.  This usually consists of chili powder and cumin, salt and pepper, but I was never satisfied with the taste (especially when the kids did the cooking/seasoning!).

I ran across a taco seasoning recipe on Pinterest that was just about right, but as always the portions were WAY too small.  I don’t want to mix up seasoning EVERY time I cook!

After a few tweaks, Ty has declared this DELICIOUS – so, here’s our adapted recipe in bulk form!

Homemade Taco Seasoning {in bulk} | RaisingArrows.net

Bulk Taco Seasoning
4 Tablespoons chili powder 

9 Tablespoons paprika 
3 Tablespoons cumin 
2 tablespoon onion powder 
2 tablespoon salt (we REALLY like RealSalt)
5 teaspoons garlic powder 
1/2 teaspoon cayenne or ground red pepper

Mix well and store in a sealed container.  I just use an old seasoning container with a “new” handwritten label.

I like to just shake it on the meat and eyeball it, but if you want to be super scientific, use about 4 tsp per 1 pound of ground beef.

Quick Note:  I try to only use 2 lbs of hamburger for our family of 9 no matter what the dish is, and I only made the transition from 1 lb to 2 lbs a couple of children ago.  This is just one way to save money when you are cooking for a large family.


Speaking of large families…

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Making Your Mealtimes More Leisurely

Leisurely MealsHaving kids sort of sucked the joy out of mealtime for me.  It meant no longer focusing on myself and my own food.  I now had the full time job of cutting up meat, cleaning up spills, and trying to have an adult conversation over the din of childish chatter.  The thought of having a leisurely meal was laughable, and rather discouraging to boot.

But several years ago, I was blessed to learn from another family what taking leisurely meals with a lot of little ones actually looked like.  It was like a ray of sunshine in my day!  I realized I really could have a wonderful mealtime with my family, but it would mean letting go of a few preconceived notions and a whole lot of anxiety.

A glimpse of Heaven…

When we sit down to fellowship over food with our family, we need to keep in mind that this is a foretaste of our fellowship in Heaven.  Things are not perfect here, but they can still give us an idea of what we can expect when we are truly Home.

Start the meal calmly…

It is so easy to start a meal with chaos.  It happens all the time here.  If we don’t all sit down together, take a deep breath, and thank the Lord for His provisions, we end up resembling pigs at a feed trough!  Don’t expect a meal to be leisurely if you don’t begin it that way.  And if it does begin in chaos, it is never too late (unless someone has left the table) to start over.  Have everyone put their forks down, take a deep breath, and begin anew.

Be aware of your surroundings…

Sometimes we forget to even look up from our food, let alone take the time to notice and engage the other people at the table.  When you eat with adults, conversation typically naturally flows, but it isn’t the norm at a table full of hungry little people and tired parents.  You have to make the effort to look up from your food and smile at everyone seated with you.  Start with the littlest one and work your way up.  Ask each child a question or simply smile at them.  This is the start to healthy dinner conversations.

Expect mishaps…

Because this is not a perfect world, we need to expect mishaps and be as prepared for them as we can be.  Have a towel handy for cleaning up spills, and try to take the attitude that the little mishaps in life are not something to dwell on and fuss over.  Remember, a word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver (Proverbs 25:11) – in other words, speaking calmly and kindly when mishaps occur is a thing of priceless beauty.  Don’t let your words be ugly over something as minor as spilled drinks, dropped forks, and the like.

Learn to be still…

This isn’t just for wiggly little boys, this is for wiggly mamas who jump up and head off to the next thing on her list after wolfing down the last bite on her plate.  Train yourself to stay seated after you are finished, or better yet, slow down your eating altogether.  Give your brain a moment to relax.  Put your fork down, take a deep breath, and wait.  You might even want to bring a book to the table that you can use as a read-aloud at the end of the meal to help everyone stay in their seats and learn to be still during mealtime.

Feast & fellowship…

We don’t often think of eating with our family as a time of feasting and fellowship, but it truly is!  It is a time to reconnect after everyone has been about their own business during the day.  It is a time for you to share and for you to listen as others share about their day.  It should be fun!  It should be a celebration!

That’s where my free gift to you comes in…

FREE 33 Family Dinner Games | RaisingArrows.net

Our family has compiled 33 Family Dinner Games that don’t require a ton of forethought and preparation.  You can print out the list and instructions, and keep it handy in your dining room.  These 33 Family Dinner Games are FREE to subscribers of Raising Arrows and will be delivered to your inbox shortly after signing up so you can begin to enjoy your family mealtime tonight!

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Each game spans multiple ages and encourages an open and festive atmosphere for your meals!

Now, go and give those babies a big hug and kiss, do the same with your husband, and welcome them all to family mealtime tonight!

(Already a Raising Arrows subscriber? You’ll find the 33 Family Dinner Games on the Subscriber Freebie page!)

Cinnamon Cream Pie

Last week, I shared our favorite whole wheat pie crust, and many of you asked what kind of pie was in the photo.  Well, that, my friends, was a yummy cinnamon cream pie!

Cinnamon Cream Pie | RaisingArrows.net

My husband has had a hankering for cinnamon lately.  Every morning he mixes up a huge bowl of Greek yogurt and cottage cheese and you guessed it – CINNAMON!

He’s been wanting me to make cinnamon cream pie for a while because of a strange coincidence.  Not too long ago, he was talking to a gentleman who asked where Ty and I were from originally.  No one has ever heard of Ty’s home town, but EVERYONE has heard of my home town (which is just bizarre considering it is barely a dot on the map).  When the man heard where I was from, he told Ty he had eaten the most amazing cinnamon cream pie while visiting there.

Apparently, my home town is KNOWN for its cinnamon cream pie; although, I never knew that growing up there.  But, kids don’t really pay a lot of attention to pie, I suppose.

I’ll tell you what, though – Cinnamon Cream Pie is AMAZING!  It’s this custardy, melt-in-your-mouth, pop of flavor that makes you want to just sit and enjoy every bite.  This is not a gobble-it-all-up kind of pie.  This is slow-down-and-savor-it sort of pie.

While I have yet to track down the recipe that made my home town famous, I do have one of my own that I’d like to share with you.  This is a one-crust pie, so if you are using my whole wheat pie crust recipe, you’ll need to double this recipe to fill both crusts.
{affiliate links included}

Cinnamon Cream Pie | RaisingArrows.net

Cinnamon Cream Pie

1 c. sugar (we use Organic Sugar)
1 1/2 Tbsp flour (we just used our Prairie Gold wheat flour)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
a pinch of salt
1 egg, beaten
2 Tbsp butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla (we use the REAL stuff we make ourselves!)
1 1/2 c. milk
1 unbaked pie crust (9-10″) – give our whole wheat crust a try!

Preheat the oven to 400°.  In a large bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt.  Add in the egg, butter, and vanilla.  Mix it well and then add in the milk.  Pour it all into your unbaked pie crust.  Pop it into the oven and bake at 400 for about 15 minutes, and then reduce the heat to 350° and bake another 45 minutes.  Don’t forget to cover the crust with an aluminum or silicone pie crust shield the last 15-20 minutes.  This will keep your crust from burning.

Typically, you serve cinnamon cream pie cooled, but thankfully, it sets up quickly, and you can dig into it without it cooling completely.  Warm cinnamon cream pie is divine and pairs quite nicely with a cup of coffee.

Mmmmmmmm!

Cinnamon Cream Pie | RaisingArrows.net

Perfect Flaky Whole Wheat Pie Crust

Pie doesn’t happen around here very often.  Most pies you slice in 8 pieces.  That’s not even one piece per family member!  However, many years ago, I received a recipe from Ty’s Granny (yes, the same Granny who gave us our whole wheat bread recipe and our Thanksgiving dressing recipe) for an unbelievably delicious and flaky pie crust.

Wonderfully Flaky Whole Wheat Pie Crust | RaisingArrows.net

It was an oil crust that required you to roll it out between sheets of floured waxed paper.  It was so good, our landlord at the time would bring me rhubarb from his garden with the express purpose of making it into pie with that crust.

As we’ve switched to a whole foods, unrefined diet over the years, that pie crust plagued me.  Nothing could top it.  I tried every recipe on the internet for whole wheat pie crust.  Most flopped.  A few succeeded with results that were never as good as Granny’s pie crust.  There just wasn’t any substitute for the flaky, melt-in-your-mouth-ness of that recipe.

Wonderfully Flaky Whole Wheat Pie Crust | RaisingArrows.net

What never occurred to me in all those years was to take Granny’s recipe and substitute out the oil and flour for healthy versions of the same thing!  I was trying to reinvent the wheel!

The original recipe called for:

2 c. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
3/4 c. vegetable oil
1/4 c. water

I substituted whole wheat pastry flour (which I had purchased to try during my whole wheat pie crust search) for the all-purpose flour.  {affiliate links included}  You can purchase whole wheat pastry flour from places like Azure or even on Amazon.  It is a very fine grind.  If you are grinding your own wheat berries, you might be able to get a fine enough grind, but regular whole wheat flour isn’t going to net you the results you are hoping for when it comes to pie.  {Remember, I’ve already tried all the recipes – the flops were most often the ones that did NOT use whole wheat pastry flour.}  You can try this recipe using regular whole wheat flour, but be aware of this little tidbit of information.

I also substituted coconut oil for the vegetable oil.  Sometimes people don’t like the sweetness of coconut oil, but pie is one place where coconut oil shines!  We buy our coconut oil from Azure in gallon pails.

We also prefer to use either celtic sea salt or RealSalt.  There is a big difference in how these taste as opposed to your run-of-the-mill salt from a regular grocery store.  I never thought I would say this, but I am willing to pay more for these salts because they are that worth it to me.

Now, to the recipe…

Wonderfully Flaky Whole Wheat Pie Crust (uses coconut oil & whole wheat pastry flour) | RaisingArrows.netThis is a 2 crust recipe.  You roll it between waxed paper because it is impossible to handle otherwise due to the oil content.  But, don’t be intimidated!  This pie is forgiving – especially in one crust pies where you can patch anything that doesn’t look quite right.  I will often choose to make a lattice for my 2 crust pies because that tends to come out better, but 1 crust pies are more large family friendly because you end up with 16 pieces as opposed to 8.

Flaky Whole Wheat Pie Crust

2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp salt
3/4 c. coconut oil
1/4 c. water

Stir together flour and salt in a medium mixing bowl.  Meanwhile, melt 3/4 c. coconut oil and pour into a 1 cup liquid measuring cup.  Add 1/4 c. water to the measuring cup, giving you a total of 1 cup of liquid.

Make a well in the flour mixture.  While stirring the oil and water together, pour the liquids into the well and then mix the dough thoroughly until you have a nice ball of pastry dough to work with.  Divide dough in half.

Lay out a sheet of waxed paper and flour it.  Put half the dough on the waxed paper and flour the top of the dough.  Place a second sheet of waxed paper on top and roll the dough out into a circle that fits your pie pan.

Peel the top layer of waxed paper off very carefully.  Lay your pie pan upside down in the center of the dough, slip one hand under the bottom layer of waxed paper and flip the entire thing over so the pie pan is right side up with the dough inside and the bottom layer of waxed paper now on top.  DO NOT press the dough into the pan here – let it be a bit loose because your waxed paper will come off easier if there aren’t many creases in the dough.

Carefully pull the top layer of waxed paper off the dough.  Gently press the dough into the pie pan and flute the edges of the dough, removing any excess dough and adding it back in with the other half of dough still sitting in the bowl.

Add the contents of your pie and roll out the second layer of dough to make the top (either 1 piece or cut into lattice work) or to make another pie.

This crust typically bakes at 425° for 35-55 minutes, but follow your pie filling recipe for exact temp and time.  Remember to cover your pie crust in the last half of baking with either aluminum foil strips or a pie shield to keep your crust from burning.  Pie shields are MUCH easier to handle, and come in either silicone or aluminum.

Now, it is time to enjoy that flaky goodness!

Flaky Whole Wheat Pie Crust - kid approved! | RaisingArrows.net

This crust received rave reviews from my crew!  They gobbled it up lickety-split.  I don’t know why I didn’t think to try this sooner.  I don’t know why I thought I had to come up with an entirely new recipe.  The perfect whole foods pie crust was right under my nose all along!  Thanks, Granny!