Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Homemade Fruit Leathers

There is always so much fruit to preserve in the fall and one way I have stored it away for the winter is by making fruit leathers.  The process is actually easier than you would think since I use the skins and all (of course minus the larger seeds - raspberry and strawberry seeds are fine not to strain out).

Below I have documented my process using a dehydrator, but I have also laid out some additional instructions if you are going to dry them in an oven..

Fruit (if using pears or apples, you will need to remove the seeds)
(The batches I made this time were pear & cinnamon and berry pear)

Just some of the pears one neighbor blessed us with.

Place your fruit in a heavy bottom pot (add a little water if your fruit is not that juicy) and cook it down until most of the watery liquid has evaporated.

Add seasoning if desired (here I am adding some cinnamon to a cooked batch).

Let the mixture cool, then using a blender, puree the cooked fruit until it resembles the consistency of apple sauce.

Move your pureed fruit to the refrigerator and let it completely cool.

Next, place large scoops of the fruit puree on parchment sheets and place them in your dehydrator.  

At 120 degrees it will take anywhere from 12 to 16 hours for these to dry out, the timing will mostly depend upon the thickness of the piles you make on the parchment.

Note:  If using an oven to dry your fruit leathers,still spread them on the parchment sheet, but then turn your oven onto its lowest setting and take care to check the leathers every couple of hours rotating them so they dry in an even manner.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Best Fresh Homemade Salsa

Over the years I have made a lot of salsa, and through trial and error I have mostly erred.  Needless to say, I was delighted that I took the time to actually write down all of the ingredients I put in my latest salsa attempt because this time it tasted absolutely delicious...and I wasn't the only one who thought that.

Here is the recipe I have now made three times, all to perfection:

  • 20 tomatoes (any variety), you can also mix in tomatillos up to 1/2 of the amount
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 Tablespoons SUCANAT
  • 2 teaspoons powdered garlic
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 Tablespoon dried cilantro leaves
  • 2 Tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 Tablespoons salt
  • 2 - 8 chopped hot peppers, use a more mild variety if you do not like you salsa hot and also remove their seeds.  If you want a hotter salsa use a hotter variety and leave some of the pepper seeds.

First cut the tomatoes in half and squeeze the seeds out of them.  If you are using tomatillos, just use them whole.

Place the seeded tomatoes into a food processor and pulse until well chopped. 

Then add the rest of the ingredients and then pulse the food processor until fully incorporated.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Master Gardener of Your Soul

Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted.” Matthew 15:13

With harvest season upon us and every last minute being devoted to getting food out of the ground, processed, and put into storage before the snowy winds start to blow, I think I looked at the above verse a bit different than I ever had before. In looking out at my gardens, which are filled with many things I have planted AND lots of things I did not (those weeds that sprung up later in the season when I had chosen to stop pulling them), I see this verse in a different light.

As a gardener, I take care in the spring to plant only the best seed. Those seeds then grow into various plants that yield good food – fruits and vegetables I feel good about feeding my family. But then there are the weeds that creep in, grow, and eventually produce fruit of their own kind – fruit that is not usually edible but rather mostly filled with more seeds that will eventually take over my gardens with non-productive plants. The only way to deal with the weeds at any stage of their development is to uproot them...and the same goes for spiritual weeds as it does for those weeds I deal with in my garden.

Jesus was talking about those spiritual weeds in Matthew 15:13. He was comparing the planting of words of truth to planting lies of deception. As every gardener knows, you can plant good seeds and clear your garden of all weeds, but still the weeds will find their way into your soil. The weeds then need to be pulled so they do not have time to grow up and choke out the plants you want to grow in that space. The Pharisees of Jesus' day were planting a lot of those spiritual weeds in the heart soil of those who sat and listened to them. But Jesus was speaking against what they were planting into the hearts of those they taught, because He knew their words were choking out the real truth about who God was and what His Word from the prophets of old meant.

Likewise, when it comes to our hearts we need to be very careful of the seeds we allow to grow there. Each time a seed is planted in us, we must be discerning gardeners. And, just as a gardener knows what his/her plants look like in comparison to weeds which grow in his/her area, so too must a disciple of Christ know the difference between a nugget of truth being planted in his/her heart or a lie being sown by Satan. Keeping a well maintained garden is hard work and a process which needs daily too does the proper gardening of our souls.

Keeping in God's Word on a daily basis, checking in with the Father from time to time throughout the day with intentional prayer, and being careful to remove all those things which creep into your life which are not of God, are all ways a Christian can maintain their own heart garden. I have to admit that sometimes the task is easy, especially when I have been very disciplined about weeding my heart on that consistent basis. But then there are those times that fatigue sets in, pain and sorrow make it difficult to deal with life, or busyness overtakes and the weeds then grow to a point they can seem overwhelming and almost too impossible to even tackle.

Thankfully, God the Father does not ask us to garden on our own nor does He expect us to be master gardeners. He is the master and we are just His apprentices. He tells us that He will step in where we cannot...He will pull the weeds out that were not planted by Him and we can rest in the lessons He has to teach us in the weeding process. That being said, the soil does get torn up and roots of good plants do become damaged as a result of that weeding, but we must remember when we allow our Father to do the necessary weeding in our lives the end result will be much better than dealing with a heart full of overgrown weeds.

Added to how God then works to weed our souls, we are also called to watch His work and learn just as an apprentice would keep close to the master/teacher. I am not sure where you may be in this on—going soul gardening process, but wherever you are, just know that the Father is not far from you and whatever He is doing in your life to help you through the process He knows what of His “good” plants He has planted within you and also what your soul garden will look like when He is finished...He is the Master Gardener and He has been since the day your soul was conceived in His heart.