Friday, October 28, 2011

A plug for Homemade Applesauce - and a bit of Zucchini Advice

I think the smell of cooking apples is the epitome of fall. I spent this week making applesauce - pretty easy and VERY yummy. (And a great, cheap first food for babies. My kids' first solid food experiences involved hefty amounts of instant oatmeal mixed with homemade applesauce.)
Apples are plentiful in the fall. Even if you don't own an apple tree, chances are you know someone who does, and is willing to share if you pick. Craigslist and the classifieds are also good places to look. Many people will offer apples for free to those who will come pick.
Applesauce can be made a variety of ways and with a variety of flavors. I keep it simple - no spices, maybe a bit of sugar if needed; it can always be spiced later.
Making applesauce doesn't require any major equipment at all - just peel, core, cook the apples, mash them and freeze.
I bottle my sauce. Since I make it in quantity, I use a Victorio strainer. It is an ingenious pioneer contraption. I quarter the apples, cook them, and them run them through the strainer, and the strainer pushes sauce through a sieve while sending the peels, seeds and stems out another side. I lucked out and found an ancient one at a second hand store for a couple of dollars. They can also be bought (see Amazon) for a bit of an investment (but worth it if you make a lot). No peeling or coring!
 Applesauce can then be spiced or sweetened if you choose, put in jars and processed in a water bath canner.
Some good instructions and pictures of the whole process can be found here.

And now for a zucchini tidbit: I learned the hard way that zucchini peels should not be frozen. If you want to grate and freeze zucchini for use in breads and soups all year, PEEL it first. Zucchini and yellow summer squash freeze well for year-round use. Just peel, grate, and freeze in ziploc bags of a cup or two. I left the peels on one year, and they NEVER soften. We had zucchini bread with horribly hard crunchy peels. I also tried it in quiche - and ruined the quiche. Of course, maybe I'm the only one who doesn't know this. I mentioned my experience once in a group of women, and got "the look" from all of them, which meant, "You're kidding that you didn't know that, right?"

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Perfect Fall Days and Perfect Pot Pie

Yesterday was a perfect day. I spent most of the day in the kitchen making apple pie and a delicious apple, onion, sausage, sweet potato pot pie. I turned on some good music, the kids helped me, and we had the day to cut, peel, mix, and savor the good smells. The weather was cool and gray - perfect for a cozy day of baking.
While homemade crusts and pies are pretty labor-intensive, and I don't feel like spending every day in the kitchen, it was invigorating to be relaxed and at home and domestic.
I am so glad I am able to be at home to experience days like yesterday. They make me happy to be alive, be a mom, and know how to cook from scratch. Plus, I got compliments from my husband and kids all evening. Should I get mercenary and mention that the whole wonderful day of baking cost around $5? Yay for homemaking! Yay for being a mom! Yay for ovens and rolling pins and fall days!
And here's the most delicious pot pie you will ever taste:
Turkey, Onion, and Apple Pot Pie
Recipe from Sunset Magazine

·                                 2  onions (1 lb. total)
·                                 2  Golden Delicious apples (1 lb. total)
·                                 1  or 2 yams (1 lb. total)
·                                 1  tablespoon  butter or margarine
·                                 1 1/2  pounds  ground turkey or turkey sausage patties
·                                 2  teaspoons  dried rubbed sage
·                                 1 1/3  cups  fat-skimmed chicken broth
·                                 2/3  cup  apple juice
·                                 3  tablespoons  cornstarch
·                                 Salt and pepper
·                                 1  tablespoon  whipping cream or beaten egg
·                                 pastry for a nine inch pie
Peel onions and thinly slice crosswise. Peel and core apples; thinly slice crosswise. Peel yams; cut in half lengthwise, then thinly slice crosswise. Melt butter in a 5- to 6-quart pan over high heat. Crumble turkey into pan; stir often until no longer pink, about 4 minutes.  Add onions, apples, yams, sage, and; cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Uncover, turn heat to high, and stir often until liquid is evaporated and onions begin to brown, about 5 minutes. In a small bowl, mix broth, juice, and cornstarch. Add to turkey mixture and stir until it boils and thickens. Remove from heat and add salt and pepper to taste. Let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally, 30 to 40 minutes. Spoon mixture into a shallow, round 1 1/2- to 2-quart casserole or a 10-inch pie pan that holds at least 6 cups.  On a lightly floured board, roll pastry  into a round about 2 inches wider than the diameter of the casserole or pie pan. Center pastry over filling; trim edges to overhang rim about 1 inch. Fold overhang under pastry flush with rim. Flute pastry firmly against casserole or pan rim and slash top decoratively. If desired, reroll pastry scraps, cut into decorative shapes, and lay on top of pie. Set pie on a foil-lined 12- by 15-inch baking sheet. Brush top with cream. Bake in a 375° regular or convection oven until pastry is well browned and filling is bubbling, 35 to 45 minutes. If crust rim darkens excessively before center browns, fold foil from sheet up to cover rim loosely. Spoon pastry and filling from casserole to serve. Yields 6-8 servings.

Notes: I add a bottom crust as well. I also omit the caraway seeds. This pie is a little work, but SO worth it!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Best Family Memories

We had one of the best Family Nights ever last week. Monday evening we took the kids to a local trail to pick ripe wild berries for jamming. We divided into two teams - the Chokecherry team and the Rosehip team. After an hour of picking, we had a gallon of rosehips and over two gallons of chokecherries. The kids LOVED it. I think they would have picked for another hour if we had let them. I was in charge of the rosehip team, and ours were a little harder to find, but 4-year-old Ruth kept running up the trail ahead of us and shouting, "More rosehips!" whenever she found a new bush. I made jelly the next afternoon. When the kids got home from school, their first questions were, "Where is the jelly? May we try some? Of both kinds?"

We feel so blessed to live in a place where there is so much natural abundance. Living in Montana has given us a chance to take our children into nature and teach them about its bounties. We love hiking, and when we go, our favorite pastime is identifying the plants around us. A few weeks ago, while hiking a new trail, we discovered ripe wild currents. We emptied a water bottle and filled it with currents for jam.

As fall sets in, we have a shelf full of jelly for the coming year - chokecherry, rosehip, currant, huckleberry, and crabapple. The bonus - or maybe the ultimate blessing - is that we have children who appreciate nature, are familiar with it's usefulness, will preserve it, have learned valuable skills, and have made lifelong great family memories. And isn't that what it is really all about? Frugal living is ultimately the best way to live - for the earth, for our bank accounts, but mostly for our children.

A final note for the curious: Rosehip jelly doesn't taste like roses. It is fruity, unique, and one of our favorites!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Thank You, Couponer!

I'm not a "Couponer." Besides not having the time or eating the foods most couponers buy, I have a whole soapbox about it. That aside, I have to say Thank You to some secret couponer benefactress.

Last week I went to the Rosauer's sale. (Who can pass up milk for $1.79/gallon?) I got my quota of milk and was walking past the cereal - which was also ALL on sale for $1.79/box. We don't eat a lot of cold cereal, so I don't spend hundreds of dollars on this sale. However, as I walked past, I noticed coupons sticking out of the shelf - a whole stack. I noticed several stacks of coupons sticking out along the whole cereal aisle. I looked more closely and could see that some devoted and benevolent couponer must have spent hours cutting coupons and then stuffed them into the shelves for other sale shoppers. Score! The bottom line is, I got 5 boxes of cereal at $1.79 each, plus two more dollars off ($6.95 total), thanks to a great coupon.

So, I DO use coupons - when they are convenient, are for something I use, and don't cost me time. Thank you, thank you to the anonymous couponer!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Back again!

No, I'm not dead. Just spent the last semester editing a dissertation and helping my husband with job applications. The good news is, the cramming is over and he graduated! I'm now Mrs. Dr. Bowden.:) The other news is, the frugal living isn't over. Looking back, I don't know that is ever will be. There is so mach satisfaction in learning real cooking and preserving skills, and using them every day.

So the inspirational thought for the day is from C.S Lewis, "You find out the strength of the wind by trying to walk against it, not by lying down." Frugal living can be hard, but is so strengthening and rewarding - which goes with my other inspirational thought from Adelle Davis, "We are indeed much more than what we eat, but what we eat can nevertheless help us to be much more than what we are." My experience tells me that is so true. My family is so much more because of the way we have been privileged to live for the past several years. I will never regret this learning process.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Divinity Escapades

Divinity is a great Christmas candy - pretty easy to make and inexpensive as far as candy goes. I made some last week and the kids loved it. I should say that I am really not a candy chef - mostly because candy is a precise art and expensive enough that I can't afford to keep trying to perfect a failed recipe. On the other hand, my kids are pretty good at eating sugar - even if it doesn't look like the Better Homes and Gardens picture. Last week when I made divinity, I overcooked the sugar solution and ended up making suckers instead of divinity on the first try. I just added food coloring and some peppermint flavor to the sugar solution and poured it over popsicle sticks I put on a greased cookie sheet. The kids thought it was the best mistake in the world. I was able to save the egg whites for my second batch - which turned out OK. For a good divinity recipe and tips go to

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Fudge in a Bag

Christmas baking time is here! At a class I gave a few weeks ago in Billings, one of the participants mentioned that she made fudge in a bag with her kids. Not only was it a great Christmas tradition, it kept them occupied and quiet for Family Councils and Family Home Evening lessons. Since I want occupied and quiet kids at FHE, I was intrigued and looked up the recipe. It's very simple - and inexpensive!:) Here's the link Try it and give me some feedback. How did it work for your family?