Monday, September 24, 2012

Salsa & Spaghetti Sauce-Recipes for Harvest

I live in Minnesota. Up here, anticipating Winter could be the cause for psychological counseling in a large percentage of the population if it weren't for Fall. The beautiful autumn colors, the comfortable weather, and the abundance of food from the recent harvest warm us to winter's coming.

We look forward to cooking hearty soups and stews using produce we, or our farmers, have just harvested. We anticipate the many recipes we can make with the apples, pumpkins and root vegetables. Many of us will find an orchard to visit just for the fun of it. We'll drive out into the woods, see how many different colors of trees we can spot. We'll pick apples, then buy apple doughnuts, caramel apples, apple cider and apple butter at the gift shop. It's a wonderful time of year.

And of course, we look ahead to a Thanksgiving feast with friends and family. We will thank God for another year of abundance, even if we had struggles in the past year. We see He brought us through again and we are thankful.

The joy of this anticipation makes winter's coming bearable. And it makes the work that goes along with this season enjoyable. This week I've been canning tomatoes and salsa.  I love the feeling of going down to the pantry to take out a jar of my own tomatoes, salsa or spaghetti sauce rather than writing it on my grocery list. Do you know how many cans of tomatoes an average family goes through in one winter? I don't either, but it must be a lot since we use them in almost every soup, stew and chili we make. You can save on your grocery budget and know you're feeding your family something healthy, without preservatives.

I have a great little book called, "The Busy Person's Guide to Preserving Food" by Janet Bachand Chadwick. I'd like to share a couple of Janet's recipes for preserving your tomato harvest. (Here's a trick if you don't garden: Go down to the local farmer's market and buy a case of tomatoes to can for your family's winter).

Kate's Fresh Salsa (from The Busy Person's Guide to Preserving Food)
2 large tomatoes, chopped seeded
1 medium Vidalie or sweet onion, chopped
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped green chilis
2 drops Tobasco sauce
salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Mix all ingredients in a medium-size bowl. Let stand for 30 minutes to blend flavors.

If you make the salsa ahead of time, leave out the chilies until just before serving.

(excerpted from Weekend! by Edith Stovel and Pamela Wakefield (Storey Publishing).

Jan's Spicy Spaghetti Sauce (from The Busy Person's Guide to Preserving Food)
10 Quarts tomato puree (approximately 30 pounds tomatoes)
4 large onions
1/3 dried sweet basil
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon pepper
3/4 cup honey or sugar (optional)
1 teaspoon dried marjoram
5 bay leaves
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons salt
1 1/2 tablespoons dried parsley

1. Puree tomatoes in a hand-cranked strainer. (My note: If you don't have a hand-cranked strainer, you can dip tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds, then into very cold water. This allows you to remove skin easily. Then chop or process tomatoes and continue with the recipe.) Chop onion finely. Put the vegetables with remaining ingredients in a large roaster. Stir well. Bring to a boil on top of the stove.

2. Cook, uncovered, in a 200 degree F oven for 10 hours. Do not stir.

3. One hour before cooking time is up, fill canner with hot tap water and preheat water and jars in canner. Prepare lids.

4. When cooking time is up, ladle the hot sauce into hot jars. Leave 1/2-inch headspace. Add 1/2 teaspoon citric acid or to each jar to ensure the safety of the sauce.

5. Put the filled jars in the preheated canner. Process: 35 minutes for pints and quarts, once water has returned to a boil.

6. Cool jars. Check seals. Label. Store.

Tip: Citric acid is added to seasoned tomato sauces to guarantee that the sauce is acidic enough to be canned safely in a boiling water bath. Citric acid is available from your drugstore and will not affect the flavor of the sauce. Instead of citric acid, you can use 2 tablespoons of bottled lemon juice per quart of sauce. 

[My note: A canner is a very large pot that goes on top of the stove. It has a rack in the bottom to hold the jars up a little. You fill it with water and bring the water to a boil. When your jars are filled and covered, you place them in the boiling water for 35 minutes, as it says above, then remove them to cool.  You can buy jars, lids, and rings to screw over the lids at most grocery stores and drug stores. Years ago I found a canning kit at Wal-Mart. It has a wide funnel perfect for canning jars, a magnet stick for lifting the lids from warm water (which makes them soft and ready to use. Be sure to pat them dry with paper towel.), a long flat knife-like plastic thing that you insert in the jar to release any bubbles before placing the lid on top, and a tool for grabbing the jars out of the boiling water. I'm sure these are still available. If you can't find such a kit, here's one I found from Kmart: (or google "Canning Kit").
Next week I'll give my own salsa recipe for canning. It's super easy! 

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Love Your Enemy

Our world is full of so much fear and anger. We need to pray for peace and let's pray for opportunities to show love to those who are different, those we disagree with, those we may fear. That's what Jesus would do. Remember our fight is NOT against flesh and blood, it is spiritual.

Our enemy rages against us these days. He may be able to turn public opinion against us. We may even suffer serious persecution as believers in the West. But let's recognize WHO our enemy is. It is not the people, but the spirit behind the actions of people. It is Satan, himself.

Jesus said to love the people. Let's take some time this week to consider what it means to love those who hate us. Our heart must really love . . . even our thoughts. We can only do this with the power of Jesus' love in our own lives.

Remember too, that Jesus already defeated Satan. He has already won the victory. Battles may rage on, but the outcome of the war is finished. We fight in prayer and we fight from victory.

The only way to win battles over rage, hate and fear is with love. Love confuses and conquers hate.

Lord, give us opportunities to love our neighbor.

"But I say unto you, Love your enemies, 
bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, 
and pray for them who despitefully use you, and persecute you."
~Jesus, Matthew 5:44

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Bounty of Ginger

I found a big tray full of fresh ginger at the Farmer's Market last week. I usually don't use that much ginger, but I know how good it is so I couldn't resist. Now I need to use it. I'd hate for it to dry up before I can make good use of it.

Ginger is a wonderful natural medicine. It's the best thing for digestion and upset stomach. It works well as a tea for stomach issues. And it's so soothing! Ginger is also an anti-inflammatory. It's great for joints.

It's also a great flavor to add to savory or sweet dishes.

I cut a few thick slices to put in some chicken vegetable soup. It tasted great.

With cold season approaching, keep in mind that you can boil a few slices in water as a soothing, healing tea with a tablespoon of honey.

Ginger is wonderful in Chinese and Indian food as well as most Fall/Thanksgiving recipes. Ginger can enhance any of your standby dessert recipes that call for spices.

Help me use up my ginger stash. Tell me how you like to use ginger.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Starving or Feeding the Flesh?

So often my focus is on how to feed the flesh. I believe it's important to take care of the physical body in order to live and work for God with energy and vitality while we're here. We are to be good stewards of the physical body we've been given just as we are to be good stewards of our spirit. And I confess, I'm one to look for comfort, whether comfort food, a comfy place to sit with a soft blanket, or a comfortable schedule with lots of down time.

I've been thinking about the flesh recently in the bad sense of the word--that part of us that is pulled by the world. It's the part that wants only comfort, it wants its own way in everything. Like a toddler demanding his or her own way and stomping a foot. Can't you just see those arms crossed in the front and a pouty lower lip sticking out?

What if the parents allow that toddler his own way? What would happen if she got everything she wanted? We call that being spoiled, and spoiled is a good word for it because it means bad or rotten. If an apple is spoiled, it's not good to eat. We throw it away. If a child is spoiled he grows up angry and resentful, unhappy because he always expects to get his way out of life. This person may end up in jail or just miserable as an adult. She will always be looking to feed her flesh.

In our nation, the god of sex has a stronghold and is gaining power every day. Now even our political parties are defined by it. More people may vote this year based on their fleshly sexual desires, or their belief about sex than on any other issue. Whether abortion or same sex marriage, the issue comes down to wanting our own way with our flesh.

The church is no different. We want our own way. We're comfortable and spoiled. We need to ask ourselves, "Where is my allegiance?"

If my allegiance is to Christ, then I deny the desires of my flesh that conflict with His will. I don't redefine His will so that it fits my desires. This is our sacrifice. Christ sacrificed it all for us, now it's our turn. So today, I'm suggesting starving the flesh by denying its sinful pleasures. Make it suffer. Let it weaken and die to this world, that you might live to Christ according to the Scriptures. It won't always be easy, but neither was the path Jesus chose for us.