I love family. I love learning. I love food. This is simply a collection of thoughts, memories, and recipes that are a piece of me!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Three Truths (I Wish I'd Known)

If I could go back in time 10 years, I don't know that I'd change much about my life now.  I just know I'd tell younger me a few things.  There are three truths I mull over almost daily recently.

1. Never call yourself fat or ugly in high school.  That's probably the best I'll ever look.
2. Always always go to college right out of high school.  It's so much harder once you're married with kids.
and 3...this is going to sound tright and silly, but time does pass, even if you don't want it to.

When my oldest was born, I remember waking up in the middle of the night and making that trudge from one side of our two bedroom apartment to the other.  Lights off, grab the bottle, mix the formula, grab the crying baby, change the diaper, rock and feed, lay baby in bed, sleep two hours, repeat.  It was one of the most difficult times of my life- I had to learn to care more about someone else than I did myself.  That was so scary and hard and awful.  I remember talking to my mom one day about it a few weeks after he was born, and she warned me that soon enough, he would be sleeping through the night.  Then eventually, he'd be eating by himself, then potty trained, then, before I could blink, he'd be starting school.  I had no idea.

Our son just turned 5 in June, and he is starting kindergarten soon.  We homeschool, so that makes the mommy transition a bit easier, I think, but just the thought of him being in....school....makes me a bit weepy.  I can't believe my mom was right...time did pass, and it seems like it only took the last 5 years a moment to fly by.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Grape Jelly

One of my favorite things in life is a good collection of jars.  I'm a bit obsessed, honestly, and I have no idea why.  I remember being very very young and my mom and grandma canning everything from jams and jellies to cinnamon apples (my personal favorite!) to tomatoes.  Of course, then I had no idea that we did this because we had a huge garden and apple trees and grape vines and in order for us to eat in the winter, it was a necessity.  (Those were my very favorite days of my life, but that's for another day...) Maybe my obsession with jars was born from that.  Maybe the nostalgia of it all is what draws me to have a cabinet full of these wonderful little canisters.  Whatever it is, I have always had a strong desire to learn how to can things.  Thankfully, my mom and grandma are still around and were able to teach me the basics a couple of years ago.  This recipe is my very favorite, and with only a few ingredients, it's super cheap to make SEVENTEEN jars of grape jelly that, if properly canned, are storable for up to a year.

What you'll need:
6 1/2 cups of sugar
2 1/2 cups of water
2 pouches of liquid pectin
2 1/4 cups of frozen concentrated grape juice (a little less than 2 cans)

You're going to also need a few specialized items for this if you want to be able to seal them.  If you're just storing it in the refrigerator (up to 6 weeks), you can skip most of this.

You will need a water bath pan (it will come with a metal thing that goes on the inside for the jars to sit it.  It's extremely important to not let the jars touch the bottom of the pan or each other.  They can easily bust!)
You'll also need a jar funnel and a pair of jar lifter tongs...and of course, clean jars and lids.

In addition, you're going to want some clean towels.

Before you ever start cooking the jelly, put the jars in the dishwasher and wash them.  The need to be hot, so watch it.  You also need to put the lid parts of the jars in a pan, cover them with hot water, and keep it hot over a very low flame. When it gets to the sanitize or drying part, start your cooking!

In a large pot, combine your sugar and water.  It's best to start out with the hottest water from the tap.  You want to bring this to a full rolling boil that you can't stir down, stirring it constantly, and you'll want it on the highest heat.  You want it to boil quickly.

As soon as it's been on a full rolling boil you can't stir down for a FULL MINUTE (this is very important!) remove it from the heat, and stir in the liquid pectin and thawed grape juice concentrate.  Stir it up!

This is where I tend to make a big mess.  Understand this is a process, and it's much easier, especially the first time, if you have someone to help.  I have a LOT of help!...this is where it all starts to really come together!

When the puppy dog eyes come out, the aprons go on...who could say no to letting this precious one help?!

Only joking...this stuff is HOT!

Using a ladle and your jar funnel, pour the jelly into your hot jars up to the bottom ring.  (I keep my jars in the dishwasher with the drying cycle going so they stay hot, and I get one out at a time.) With a damp, clean cloth, wipe around the rim of the jar.  If there is anything on there, it won't seal.  Use some tongs and grab one ring and one lid from the hot water.  Give them a quick dry and close your jar.  Repeat this process until each of your jars is full.

If you don't plan to store them without refrigeration, you can stop, sit back, and wait for it to cool and eat.  If you're like me and want to store these for up to a year, you're going to water bath them.

Pour the hot water from the pan where your lids were into the bottom of your water bath pot.  Lift up the metal basket so you can set your jars in.  Gently let them down into the water, then using hot tap water, completely cover them, adding water until it reaches about an inch over the lids.  Boil for 7 minutes, then pull them out using your jar lifters.  I got 17 half pint jars out of this recipe, so I had to do this process 3 times to get all the jars processed.  Once you pull them out, you'll start to hear that glorious POP! that means your jars have sealed and you can store them!  It may take up to 24 hours, however, for this pop to happen and for your jelly to cool enough to not be syrup...just trust me, it's totally worth the time, effort, and wait!

Add a bit of fabric between the lid and the ring (don't break that seal!) to add some preciousness...as though these jars needed any help with that.  Know that these little beauties also make wonderful gifts!  You can pair them with my yummy basic bread recipe for a delicious treat!

Friday, July 6, 2012

For years, I've said I longed to be a 1950s housewife.  I adore the dresses and the baking pies and breads and the idea of hanging my clothes on a clothesline to dry.  After the six episodes of Bones I watched today that were recorded on my DVR, and after my yelling at my 5 year old son for not leaving me alone long enough to rest, and after playing the "what does it say" game with my two year old, I realized something.  I'm so lazy.  That's why I don't live the life of a 1950s housewife- not because it's unattainable.

"What does a kitty cat say?"


"What does a puppy dog say?"

"Ruff ruff!"

What does....mommy say?"

"I'm tired!"


What is it that I think I'm so tired from?  This is sincerely ridiculous, but I'm going to admit that it still didn't really get to me.  It wasn't until I begrudgingly began to unload the dishwasher and realized that the dishes weren't properly cleaned that I had a bit of a epiphany.  I spent well over an hour on my computer googling why my dishwasher wasn't cleaning correctly.  I poured over link after link, product after product, before I finally came to this realization: In the time I spent trying to figure out how to fix it or what to buy that would fix it, I could have washed, rinsed, dried, and put away all the dishes that were dirty and had time to spare.  I spend more energy and money trying to find ways to be lazy.  It's sad really.

So I prayed a lot and cried a little.  And then I, for the first time I can genuinely recall, washed a kitchen full of dishes.  By hand.  And then I made a delicious dinner.  And then, as a family, we washed those dishes.  The wonder of drying cups and plates was almost too much for my 5 year old to handle.

I might not be a 1950s housewife just yet, but I'm closer than I was when I got out of bed this morning.