Abundant Berries: a Recipe for Black Raspberry & Blueberry Pie

The berries in my backyard are abundant . . . and so are the Japanese beetles. The upper leaves of my cherry tree were eaten, just the skeleton of leaf veins left. We have the Japanese beetle bagger up and I am still picking them off foliage. So pretty but so destructive!

Japanese Beetle

I have even been up on a ladder, shaking the branches of the tree. The beetles fall like rain. It no longer bothers me when they fall on my clothes (or down my shirt). I pick them off and put them in my bowl of soapy water. My husband watches with amusement. He is content to manage the beetle bagger. (Last year we saw the amazing results of the beetle bagger.

As I walked through the yard today I realized that I have been obsessed with getting rid of the beetles. The garden needs my nurture—watering, fertilizing. I can’t just focus on the pests.

Life is the same way. It is easy to get so distracted by the bad things happening that we can forget to nurture the good.

The joy in my yard comes from the beautiful berries. The red currant bushes are laden with strings of bright red currants. The black raspberries are ripening and I am making pies with them. The combination of black raspberries and blueberries makes a nice pie. Here is my recipe:

Prepare the pastry.

Add ¼ tsp. salt to 1 + ½ cup flour. Cut in ½ cup of butter using a pastry blender. The mixture should resemble coarse crumbs. Add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to ½ cup of cold water.   Gradually drizzle  the  water over the flour mixture, mixing it in with a fork.  Add just enough water for the dough to hold together. Do not over mix the dough. I like to place the dough in the refrigerator, letting it rest, while I put the filling together.

For the filling:
2 cups black raspberries
2 + ½ cups blueberries
½ cup sugar
¼ cup tapioca granules or tapioca flour

Combine the berries, sugar and tapioca.

Then take out the dough and divide it in half. Roll out one piece to line a 9” pie plate. Roll out the other piece to make a pie cover. I like to fold the dough for the top crust in half twice, and then make some decorative slits—it is like the way you make cuts on folded paper for paper snowflakes.

Place the filling in the prepared pie dish. Lay the top cover on the pie and seal the edges. Brush with water and sprinkle a little sugar on top. Bake at 350° for about 1 hour. The pastry should be golden and the filling bubbling.

Black Raspberry-Blueberry Pie

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The Health Benefits of Dates and a Muffin Recipe

Dates have some surprising health benefits for expectant mothers.

Women often receive a prescription for iron during pregnancy.  During pregnancy a woman’s blood volume increases by 50% and the red blood cells increase by 30%. Red blood cells contain hemoglobin that carries oxygen; iron is a component of hemoglobin.

Iron is a vital mineral during pregnancy. A low hemoglobin level is associated with fatigue and is a risk factor during childbirth.

I looked up iron-rich foods in my nutrition almanac and found this list:

Organ meats and meats, eggs, fish and poultry

Blackstrap molasses

Cherry juice

Green leafy vegetables

Dried fruits [including dates]

 

A research study, published in March of this year, looked to see if eating dates in the last trimester of pregnancy had an impact on a woman’s     labor, childbirth experience. The study demonstrated that women who consumed dates had less of a need for medication to augment their labor.

Here is a muffin recipe that has iron-rich ingredients, including dates. Brown rice flour or a gluten-free blend works fine.

Date Muffins

Ingredients:

1 + ½ cup flour
½ cup almond meal
2 + ½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
½ cup pitted and chopped dates
¼ cup melted butter
¼ cup honey
3 Tblsp. unsulfured dark molasses
2 eggs
½ cup almond milk (or other milk of choice)

Preheat oven to 350°

Combine flour, almond meal, baking powder and salt. Stir the chopped dates into flour mixture until well combined.

Mix together the melted butter, molasses, honey, lightly beaten eggs and milk.

Then mix the liquid ingredients into the dry. The batter will be a little lumpy. Fill the muffin cups—I had enough batter for 14 regular size muffins.

Bake at 350° for 18 to 20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Date Muffins

You can find the study about the effect of date consumption on labor here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28286995

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Healthy Potato Salad with a Finnish Twist

Today I am making some potato salad for dinner. I read an interesting article that listed the health benefits available in potatoes and rice which are cooked and then cooled. According to the article: The process of cooking and then cooling potatoes and rice leads to the formation of resistant starch, a type of dietary fiber. The article goes on to state the benefits of resistant starch to colon health. You can read the article here.

So I am reposting a recipe that I have shared before–a Finnish recipe.

6 medium size yukon gold potatoes

2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon vinegar

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1 apple (I like pink lady for this recipe)

1 large dill pickle

2 Tablespoons of chopped chives

1 garlic clove, peeled and diced (optional)

1/3 cup whole milk yogurt

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

Steam the potatoes until tender. Immediately peel them—the skin will slip off with a little effort. (I use a fork to stabilize the potato and a knife to gently remove the skin.) Chop the hot potatoes coarsely. Mix the olive oil and vinegar and add it to the potatoes. Mix. Then add the mayonnaise. Mix. A southern chef taught me this process of working with the potatoes while they are still hot to preserve the creamy quality of the potatoes.

Then refrigerate the potatoes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Peel and chop the apple, dice the dill pickle and garlic clove. Add the apple, pickle, garlic and chives to the potatoes and mix.

Make sure the potatoes have cooled down before adding the yogurt. When it is cool add the yogurt, salt and pepper.

If you make the salad a day ahead the flavors have a chance to meld together.

Enjoy!!

Healthy potato Salad with a Finnish Twist

Potatoes have these nutrients: Vitamin C, Vitamin B-1, Niacin, Potassium and Iron.

The Michigan Potato Industry Commission has these tips for storing potatoes:

  • Handle gently. Bumps and bruises can lead to rot.
  • Store at a temperature between 40 to 50 degrees. Storing in the refrigerator may be too cool, causing the potato starch to turn to sugar. (I don’t really have room in my refrigerator for a bag of potatoes.)
  • Store in a dark dry place. It is a little challenging to store potatoes in the summer! Any ideas?

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Spiced Cranberry Sauce for Thanksgiving

Perhaps it was ten years ago when I came across an unusual cranberry sauce recipe in the newspaper. I tweaked it a little bit, and my family loved it. It is sweet and tart with a nice burst of flavor from the spices. It has become a requested item for Thanksgiving dinner. I’ve shared this recipe before, but feel it is worth repeating.

Spiced Cranberry Sauce

Here is the recipe:

1 lemon
12 ounces fresh cranberries
½ cup crystalized ginger, finely diced
1/3 cup finely chopped onion
1 clove of garlic, minced *optional
3/4 cup honey
½ cup sugar
½ tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. dry mustard
½ tsp. salt
a pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

Grate the zest from the lemon. Peel off the white pith and discard it. Cut the lemon in half, remove the seeds and then dice. Place cranberries, lemon zest, diced lemon and the rest of the ingredients in a stainless steel pot. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce the heat and simmer until the cranberries burst and the sauce has thickened. Taste test and add a little more sugar if desired. Serve at room temperature.

Thanks for visiting! Have a blessed Thanksgiving.

Turkey Greeting Card courtesy of FreeVintageArt.com

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Healthy Homemade Applesauce

Apples, fresh from the orchard, are one of the blessings in September. I enjoy making applesauce for the grandchildren. Each year I get a little more efficient.

Healthy Homemade Applesauce

Two appliances have simplified the process of making applesauce for me: a crock pot and a victorio strainer. What is a victorio strainer? For a complete description of this wonderful tool, click here.

I have access to unsprayed wild apples on the old family farm.   The     apples are not so great for eating fresh, but they make a good applesauce. I sort them and cut out the bad parts. Then I simply cut them in four pieces, leaving the skin on, leaving the core intact.   (If I am using   apples that have been sprayed I do remove the skin.)

Healthy Homemade Applesauce

I fill up the crock pot with apple sections turn it on high for a couple hours. Them I turn it down to low, stir and mash the apples, continuing to cook until completely soft.

Healthy Homemade Applesauce

The soft, mashed apples are put through the victorio strainer,  which    removes the apple skin and seeds.  I have nicely pureed and strained    applesauce.

I add honey and Ceylon cinnamon to taste. (Ceylon cinnamon has a milder, sweeter flavor than cassia cinnamon, as well as increased health benefits.) The sauce is then ready to be canned.

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Thanks for visiting. Enjoy this season of harvest!

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Favorite Gluten-free Muffins (and they are easy to make!)

Why are so many people choosing to eat gluten-free? What is the problem with gluten? People with celiac disease experience a change in the intestinal lining as their body tries to digest gluten. Other people have a gluten sensitivity.

A number of theories suggest the reason for the increasing number of people experiencing a gluten sensitivity. Research studies show that children born by cesarean section have an increased rate of allergy.

Parents in Europe sought the advice of Dr. Wakefield (a gastroenterologist) when their children had changes in their digestion following the MMR vaccine.

Another theory is that the biotechnology involved in producing large crops may be changing the quality of wheat.

My family began pursuing a gluten-free diet when our twins (born by cesarean section) had food intolerances. Their problems increased after the MMR vaccine.

I have experimented with gluten-free baking over the years. These muffins are a favorite with the grandchildren.

½ C. melted butter
2 eggs beaten
1 C. almond milk or rice milk
1 Tblsp. lemon juice
1 + ½ C. gluten free flour
(A gluten free flour blend by Namaste Foods is available at Cosco)
½ C. sugar
½ C. almond meal (available at Trader Joe’s)
1 tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
1 C. raspberries or blueberries

Preheat the oven to 375° Grease the muffin cups—preparing for 16 muffins (eighteen if you stretch the batter for smaller muffins). I like to put the muffin tins in the oven about 5 minutes before I add the batter. This procedure (melted grease in hot muffin cups) seems to make it easy to remove the muffins after baking.

In a medium size bowl combine the melted butter, eggs and milk. Add the tablespoon of lemon juice.

In a large bowl combine the flour, almond meal, baking soda and salt. Mix well. Mix in the berries, coating them with the flour mixture. Fold the wet ingredients into the dry, stirring just to combine. Then spoon the batter into the hot muffin cups. Bake at 375° for 20 – 25 minutes.

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Pretty Green Globes: Gooseberries for Jam and Pie

gooseberries

Berries have always been valued in my family as a special treat. When I was a kid it was mainly strawberries, raspberries and blueberries. There are so many more.  I am developing an appreciation for gooseberries,     elderberries and currants.

The latter three grow well in my backyard. Gooseberries, elderberries and currants don’t seem to mind our clay soil—although I have worked at enriching it with peat and in the fall add a layer of dried grass or shredded leaves. These berry bushes don’t need much care, just need to be picked.

Gooseberries

The gooseberries are ripening. My two-year-old grandson was fascinated with the little green globe. He held one in his hand turning it around and gazing at the stripes with wonder. So much to wonder at in nature. God has created so much for us to enjoy!

Have you ever tasted a gooseberry? My grandson took a tentative little bite. It is rather sour but good for jam and pie.

Two cookbooks are helpful in providing directions for gooseberry jam: Cooking with Wild Berries and Fruits by Teresa Marrone and Stocking Up from Rodale Press. According to Teresa Marrone’s book, green gooseberries (not quite ripe) contain enough pectin to make a simple jam without added pectin.

The first step is to cook the gooseberries with a little water (2 or 3 Tablespoons of water per cup of berries). Bring the berries to a boil and then simmer for approximately 10 minutes. Mash the berries with a potato masher.   Next add the sugar (or honey) gradually—approximately ½ cup to ¾ cup per cup of berries. I tend to taste the mixture several times as I continue to add the sweetener. A combination of sugar & honey works also. I like a tart jam. When the sugar is well mixed in, bring the mixture to a boil and boil for 5 minutes. When I am using honey as a sweetener I add additional pectin–homemade pectin–in the last minute of cooking. (BTW – If you add a pat of butter to the boiling fruit, it won’t spit at you.)

The final step is to ladle into sterile jars and process in a hot water bath. I process half-pint jars for 10 minutes. Gooseberry jam has an interesting color and rich flavor.

gooseberry jam

 

Gooseberries are good in pie also. I freeze some of the gooseberries for apple/gooseberry pies. Click here for a recipe.

Marrone, Teresa, Cooking with Wild Berries and Fruits, Cambridge, MN: Adventure Publications, Inc. 2009 p. 70

Stoner, Carol, editor, Stocking Up, Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press.

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TUESDAY MORNING BIBLE STUDY and Apricot Bread

 

Tuesday Morning Bible Study

For more than 20 years I have participated in Precept Bible studies.    I started with the women of Faith Community Church, and have continued for many years  with women at      Village Church of Barrington. We meet every Tuesday morning, September through May. We have become friends through our time together, reading the Bible and discussing it, sharing prayer requests.

Currently we are studying the three covenants that God made: with Abraham, with Moses (Israel), and the New Covenant. Today our topic was the covenant with Moses (Israel) or the law. After God rescued the people of Israel from slavery in Egypt, he made a covenant with them and gave them the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 19 & 20)

No one is able to keep the law. We all fall short. The purpose of the Law was to show them (and us) our sin and need for a Savior.

For by the works of the law no human being will be        justified in his sight, since through the law comes the knowledge of sin. Romans 3:20

After the Ten Commandments were given on tablets of stone, Moses was given very specific instructions for a tabernacle.   (Exodus,     chapters 25 – 31) The tabernacle was a sanctuary for God. It was also designed to point to Jesus.

For the law was given by Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.   John 1: 17

When my husband and I toured Israel we visited a model of the tabernacle, built to the specifications in the Bible. Here we are in the outer court.

Biblical Tabernacle
The Outer Court of the Tabernacle

Just inside the gate (entering the outer court of the tabernacle) is an altar. The altar is for sacrifice and symbolizes the sacrifice that Jesus became for us as he offered himself on the cross in payment for our sins.

Beyond the altar is a bonze basin for washing. The basin symbolizes the cleansing we receive by the Word of God.

Biblical Tabernacle
The Bronze Basin in the Outer Court

Inside the tent the first room, called the Holy Place, contains a table with bread (Jesus, the bread of Life), a lampstand (Jesus is the light of the world) and an altar of incense (Jesus continually intercedes in prayer for believers).

The Altar of Incense in front of the Veil
The Altar of Incense in front of the Veil

A thick veil stands before the inner room that holds the Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat. The Ark contains symbols of God’s faithfulness: Aaron’s rod that budded, manna and the tablets of stone. The mercy seat is the throne of God.

Biblical Tabernacle
Ark of the Covenant and the Mercy Seat

Behind the second curtain was a second section called the Most Holy Place, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, in which was a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron’s staff that budded, and the tablets of the covenant. Above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Hebrews 9: 3-5

The veil enclosing this room was torn when Jesus was crucified giving us access to God. We can approach God with our prayers.

God has reached out to us and has told his plan of salvation through his word. He has given us symbols that illustrate his plan.  The Old Testament of the Bible points to the New Testament. The longer I study the Bible, the more I see God’s love.

After our discussion we have coffee and treats.   Today I made an    apricot bread to share. It was enjoyed–here is the recipe:

1 + ¼ C. dried apricots
½ cup reserved water (from simmering apricots)
½ cup honey
¼ cup coconut oil (melted)
2 large eggs
½ tsp. baking soda
2 + ¾ C. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup coconut (I prefer unsweetened)

Preheat oven to 350°. Butter and flour a 9” x 5” x 3” loaf pan.

Place the apricots in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Let them stand in the hot water for an additional 20 minutes and then drain off the water, reserving ½ cup. Chop the apricots.

Add the reserved water, melted coconut oil, honey and eggs to a large bowl. Mix well with a whisk. Then add the apricots and baking soda. Mix. Add flour, baking powder, salt and coconut. Mix well. The batter will be thick (biscuit dough consistency). If it is too dry, add a tablespoon of water at a time.

Spread batter into the prepared pan. Bake at 350° for 45 to 50 minutes. The bread should be golden brown and when a knife or toothpick is inserted, it should come out clean. Cool on a rack; then turn out of the pan and slice.

Apricot Bread_5318

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Sunshine Muffins: Gluten Free

Last weekend I added some apricots to cornmeal muffins.  I enjoy    creating muffin recipes, a healthy treat for the grandchildren. Muffins are so easy to make.  These muffins were moist and tasty–they were a hit on Easter Sunday. Here is the recipe.

First prepare the apricots. Simmer one cup of dried apricots in a cup of water for about 10 minutes to soften them. Then drain the liquid.

Sunshine Muffins

Melt ¾ cup of butter and allow it to cool.

Preheat the oven at 375˚ F.

Prepare the muffin tins. (The recipe makes 20 to 24 muffins depending on size.) I like to grease my heavy iron muffin pan. I place the pan in the oven about 5 minutes before I am going to add the batter, preheating the pan.

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl:

1 + ½ cup yellow corn meal
1 cup gluten free flour (or unbleached flour if no gluten sensitivity)
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt

Gluten free flour from Costco
Gluten free flour from Costco

Add the remaining ingredients to a blender:

1 cup softened apricots
¾ cup melted and cooled butter
1 medium carrot, cut into pieces
1 cup rice milk
2 eggs
¼ cup honey

Gluten free muffins

Blend until smooth.

Gluten free muffins

Then add this mixture to the dry ingredients, stirring until combined.

Glen free muffins

Place about ¼ cup of batter in each muffin cup.

Bake at 375˚ for 22 to 24 minutes.   The edges of the muffin will be    beginning to brown. Let stand for 5 minutes and then remove muffins and place on a cooling rack.

Cornmeal muffins with apricot and carrot

Enjoy!!

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Skillet Corn Bread: A Side Dish for Chili or Soup

On these cold winter days, a bowl of chili is appealing, especially when it is paired with a nice corn bread. Here is a recipe for corn bread with sweet onions that is baked in a skillet—and is gluten free. (If gluten is not a concern you can replace the brown rice flour and arrowroot powder with 1 cup unbleached white flour.)

Ingredients:

1 + ½   Tablespoon coconut oil
3 Tablespoons melted butter
1 large sweet onion (you will use half)
1 C. yellow cornmeal
7/8 C. brown rice flour
2 Tablespoons arrowroot powder
½ tsp. salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 eggs
1 cup coconut milk (or rice milk)
2 Tablespoons honey

Melt the coconut oil in a heavy 9” skillet. Slice approximately one half of the onion into thin crescents. Make a single layer of onions on the bottom of the skillet. Drizzle a couple teaspoons of butter over the onions.
Skillet Cornbrea_5120
Place the skillet in a cold oven and turn the temperature to 400° F.

Mix the cornmeal, flour, arrowroot, salt and baking powder in a large bowl. In a medium bowl mix the eggs, remaining butter, milk and honey.

When the oven temperature reaches 400° F and the onions are beginning to brown, remove the skillet from the oven.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until just mixed. Pour the batter into the skillet and bake at 400° for 20 – 25 minutes, until the edges are brown. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, and then turn out onto a plate.

Skillet Corn Bread

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