Friday, September 16, 2011

Soaked Pumpkin Spice Muffins

Before I start in on the recipe, I have to make something clear here: these are not the prettiest muffins to look at. They're sort of a dingy brown, nondescript colour. But the flavour? Out of this world. 

I'm trying to jump more on the soaked grains bandwagon, not just because they are good for you but also because I'm finding they just taste better. Soft, moist, slightly acidic... YUM.

Inspiration came from this recipe on Kitchen Stewardship for soaked pumpkin muffins, but I had to change it around due to the ingredients I had on hand. I had to change it a lot. I'm running low on butter so I used olive oil.It doesn't taste olive-y at all, it's great, but melted butter would probably give it an even better flavour. I might try that next time. Melted coconut oil would be great too but that stuff is expensive so I tend to hoard it! I didn't want to use sugar (when do I ever?) and thought that the ever-so-slight maple flavour from some real maple syrup would be perfect with the pumpkin. I was right.

After I pulled these pumpkin muffins out of the oven yesterday morning I knew I had hit on a great discovery. These are incredibly soft and moist, sweet and flavourful... I can't praise them enough. And today even though they're a day old they remain just as moist and soft as they were yesterday.

Soaked Pumpkin Muffins

The night before, in a bowl combine:

1 2/3 cups whole grain flour (I used a mix of spelt and kamut because it's what I had but anything would be fine)
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup pumpkin puree
2/3 cup olive oil

Cover and leave in a warm place overnight. In the morning, add:

2 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup maple syrup (I'm guessing because I just poured a bunch in)
1/4 tsp stevia extract
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
pinch nutmeg
pinch cloves
pinch ginger

Spoon into greased muffin tins (I got 15 out of this) and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

You can play around with the spices depending on what you like. You could use more or less of anything, but be generous. These are Pumpkin Spice Muffins, you want to taste the spice! Allspice would be nice too, or you could go the lazy route and just dump in some pre-mixed pumpkin pie spice. Nothing wrong with that!

These were great warm, but I actually liked them even better once they had cooled to room temperature. I've eaten way too many of them already, spread with some homemade cultured butter (recipe coming soon!). They make for a super yummy breakfast with a cup of coffee, a great afternoon snack, or a delicious after dinner treat with a cup of Earl Grey. Hope you try them, let me know if you do!

Growing Home

Monday, September 12, 2011

Canning Tomatoes

I decided to do a post chronicling my adventures in canning tomatoes. This was my first attempt and my first year doing it. It was work, but it's worth it to avoid all the BPA that leaches into store-bought canned tomatoes.

Please don't take anything I say seriously, because I'm sure I didn't do half of what you're supposed to do to can safely. I didn't add any lemon juice (you're supposed to), I processed in a boiling water bath (the internet tells me I should have used a pressure canner) and I used my oven to sterilize my jars (another no-no).

However in my internet explorings as I tried to decide how I was going to go about it I ran across one woman who has been canning tomatoes for decades, and she just brings them to a boil, pours them into clean jars and puts the lid on. I figured if she hasn't died yet, then probably I don't need to be as extreme as some other people!

Here's how I did it:

Tomatoes! They're so cheap right now. These were $1.50 a pound. I wish I could say they were organic, but they're not. They are local though, so that must count for something! Rinse 'em in the sink.

Use a sharp knife to cut an "x" in the bottom. This makes it easier to peel. I've done it with and without and this is easier and only takes a second to do.

Now cut the cores out!

While you're prepping the tomatoes put a pot of water on the stove to boil. Mine is covered in spots because I never bother to thoroughly clean the outside of the pot (hey it never touches the food right?). 

Get a bowl of ice water ready. This isn't ice water. This is cold water with four measly little ice cubes floating in it, but I only have one ice cube tray and it was almost empty. I made two batches of tomato sauce on two separate days and the second time I made it I skipped the ice altogether and just refilled the bowl with really cold tap water in between tomatoes and that worked just fine.

Plunge a few tomatoes at a time into the boiling water. Most places say 30 seconds is long enough, but I always go for a full minute. They're going to be cooked soon anyway so who cares if you cook them a little bit now. 

Cute picture of what Eli was doing while I was working. I thought, I should stop him and take the tea away from him, but he's not hurting anything and it's keeping him distracted. Then he smashed my tea canister and I deeply regretted that decision. 

Back to the tomatoes: remove from the boiling water and put them into the "ice" water. My ice melted completely the first tomatoes I put in.  You'll get a rhythm going after a bit. Three tomatoes into boiling water. Set timer for one minute. Pull tomatoes out of ice water, peel, throw them into a bowl. Take tomatoes out of boiling water and put into cold water. Repeat. 

The peels will slide right off. All you have to do is get over how totally gross it feels. And looks.

 Peeled tomatoes!

Toss a few at a time into the blender. Unless you don't mind chunky tomatoes, in which case you can just give 'em a rough chop or even toss them into the pot whole. I hate chunky tomatoes. It makes me want to vomit, so I blend them really well. Now you can cut each tomato in half and scoop or squeeze out the juice and seeds, but I'm lazy and don't care if there are seeds in it. As long as there are no chunks, I'm good. 

Yummy blended tomatoes! Just kidding, this is actually disgusting. And the photo makes it look red but it's actually more of a pale pink. Seriously gross.

Now it's time to turn it into tomato sauce! Pour it into a pot and boil it down until it thickens slightly. I try to skim some of the foam off the top because I read that most of the impurities in food will rise to the top in the foam so it's better if you skim it. I also used a slotted spoon to scoop through it and get out any chunks that didn't get blended. Did I mention that I hate chunks of tomato in my food?

While that's simmering, get the jars ready! I washed them in soap and water and put them in the oven at 225 degrees for at least 10 minutes thanks to a tip from a friend (Thanks Holly!). This was a lot easier than getting out several more pots to boil everything, or running the entire dishwasher just for a few jars. I left them in the oven for about 20 minutes then turned the oven off but still left them in there until I needed them. You'll notice I've got five jars there. That was overly optimistic, this only filled three. I made a bigger batch another day.

Some stuff that is handy but not necessary (do you like my beautiful painted countertop? Joys of living in an apartment...). Well, I would almost say the jar funnel is necessary unless you have some serious talent when it comes to pouring stuff into jars. The rest of it is convenient sometimes but I just as often pull on a pair of oven mitts and just use that to pull the jars out. Then take them off and thoughtlessly grab the hot jar with my bare hands to move it closer to the pot. Every. Time.

I don't have a special canning pot with a rack inside, so I use a regular pot and I like to put a dishtowel in the bottom before I fill it with water. There's no special or fancy reason for this except that it keeps the jars from rattling on the bottom while it's boiling because that sound drives me CRAZY.

Put the jars into the pot and fill it up with water. This is wrong. The water is supposed to come up to at least an inch over the top of the jar, but as you can see my pot isn't big enough. I'm willing to take that risk but you probably shouldn't. Anyway bring this to a rapid boil, put the lid on and boil rapidly for 35 minutes. Then take the lid off, let it stand for five minutes, lift the jars out (this is where those jar lifting tongs come in very handy!) and put them somewhere they can be undisturbed. I put mine on top of the fridge. Then just leave them alone for 24 hours. You should hear the "pop" of the lids sealing fairly soon after you take them out. A couple of mine popped almost as soon as I took the lid off the pot. After they've sat for 24 hours test to make sure they're sealed by pushing on the lids. If it doesn't pop in and out, it's good to go. 
I plan on using these tomatoes anywhere I would normally use canned tomatoes - in soups, sauces, chili, etc. I saved money, avoided - at least for the most part because I think there is some in the plastic on the lids - the BPA, and feel good about doing something with my own hands.

Linking up to The Purposed Heart and these other blog hops...

Growing Home

Thursday, September 8, 2011

A Bicycle Built for Eli

My son has a bit of an obsession. Ok, a huge obsession.


Be it your traditional bicycle, a tricycle, a scooter, a four wheeler, a dirt bike, a motorcycle, a unicycle, or even a ride-on lawn mower they're all "Bike!" and they are all awe-inspiring for my almost-two-year-old. He's fascinated. Transfixed. He can think of nothing else. Well, except for the occasional car or truck. Those catch his attention sometimes, but is quickly usurped by the presence of a bike, real or imaginary.

Luckily for him, we live above a gas station. Several times a day during the summer, there's usually a motorcycle or an ATV parked outside where he can stand at the window and stare at it. Let me present as evidence this short clip of him doing just that.

See what I mean? He gets momentarily distracted by a truck going by, but the bike is the real focus here. Also sorry about the lack of pants. We're still potty training around here.

He's also trained himself to have incredibly sensitive hearing when it comes to motorcycles. He can hear one coming a mile away and will immediately perk up. "Bike!?" he'll say. I'll have to stop and listen since my hearing is not that selective, and nine times out of ten he's right. The other 10% of the time it's just a truck, which is pretty exciting too.

He also likes to play bike. At first he used his little ride on car that he's almost outgrown. Then the back of the couch, then Mommy or Daddy was his bike. Then - now brace yourself, this is kind of sad - the other day I noticed this.

That's the stand for his little piano, in case you were wondering. I didn't catch it on video but he was even making "vroom vroom" noises. Pathetic.

Originally I had thought that I would wait until next summer before getting him a bicycle of his own. Winter is fast approaching and he's still pretty small. But this obsession convinced me to get him one sooner.

That's why I am so excited about what is hiding under a blanket in the spare room. The anticipation is killing me.

His very own little running bicycle. As an added bonus, it was 50% off! Good thing, because these aren't cheap. They're regularly $60! I can tell you I was praising God as I was leaving Sportchek.

I'm not sure I can wait until Tuesday to give this to him. I cannot wait to see the look on his face when we wheel this out, and to hear his chirpy little voice say "Bike!"

This verse came to mind with fresh understanding:

If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! ~ Matthew 7:11

Now that Cory and I are parents, there is new light shed on this verse. I do know how to give good gifts to my child. I know what he wants, what his passions and desires are, where his interest lies. It's bikes for now, in a few months it will probably be something else, but it's so much fun to be able to give him something that he wants so much. Cory commented when I brought the bike inside and we were hiding it that it really is more blessed to give than to receive. I've always known that verse, but secretly deep down I still really liked receiving. Now I understand how exciting it is to bless someone else, especially when that someone is your sweet little boy who you love with all your heart. 

We're having friends over for lunch after church on Sunday and having a little "party" for Eli. I think we'll bring out the bike then, and let him go riding at the school playground with the bigger boys in the afternoon. I can't wait!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Baked Soaked Oatmeal

Since you asked me for my Baked Soaked Oatmeal recipe, Holly, this is for you!

Topped with fresh local blueberries and cream... yum!

Soaking oatmeal before cooking is a great way to neutralize phytic acid - an enzyme inhibitor present in most grains - and boost the nutritional value of your breakfast. Plus it just tastes better!

Baked Soaked Oatmeal

The night before, or up to 24 hours before (depending on how good at planning ahead you are), in an 8x8 dish stir together:

2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 cup water

In the morning, add and stir together:

2 eggs
1/2 cup melted butter
1/3 cup honey or maple syrup
pinch of salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup "add ins" - fresh or dried fruit, coconut, almonds, chopped apples, even chocolate chips if you so fancy. Or just leave this out entirely. 

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes. It comes out with a soft, almost bread pudding-like texture. Serve it up warm and treat it like you would oatmeal. Drizzle some maple syrup, pour on the cream, add raisins or berries and enjoy.

Growing Home

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Star Struck

I'll be posting soon about all my efforts to store up food this fall since things are now in season and so cheap. I'm hoping to save us some money (and keep BPA lined cans out of my cupboard!) over the winter by doing this now, but my days of late have been spent cooking, canning and processing so that's why the lack of posts!

For right now though I wanted to post briefly about our trip to PEI last weekend.

Blurry pic of my husband, my son... and Joshua Harris!

A confession: I've grown up in Nova Scotia, lived in New Brunswick for the past three years, and had never been to Prince Edward Island. I know, that's kind of embarrassing.

So when we found out that Grace Baptist Church in Charlottetown was hosting a Bible Conference and that they had gotten Joshua Harris to come speak, we were beyond excited. We packed up the two kids and drove the 4 hours to the island.

 Every time we stop Eli begs to be allowed to "drive" the car.

Even though Cory and I had very different upbringings, we were both influenced by Joshua Harris' books and teaching in our teen years. For Cory, his book I Kissed Dating Goodbye was the first Christian book he ever read (other than the Bible!) after becoming a Christian at 17. It had a huge impact on him, not just the perspective on dating and purity in relationships, but also just the idea of putting God foremost in your life and making your relationship with him your highest priority. I was taught to make my relationship with Christ central to my life from the time I was born, but it was a relatively new concept for Cory, written in a way that was clear and applicable to him. Turning his focus from girls to God was a huge help to his Christian walk and I'm very thankful for that, since I'm the beneficiary of this life change!

 We found a playground.

I too read I Kissed Dating Goodbye as a teenager, but I was younger when I read it, around 13 or 14 I think. It impacted me too, but the video series we did as a youth group, watching Josh speak and teach on the subject of dating and relationships, is what I remember most. His second book, Boy Meets Girl, was part of my homeschool curriculum one year and I really enjoyed it. Even though I did have a boyfriend all through highschool, my heart and my attitude about the purpose of dating was always in the right place, even if I was sometimes somewhat misguided. I knew why I was in a relationship (to pursue the possibility of marriage) and would never have considered dating someone who didn't meet the criteria.

 Stuck halfway down the slide.

After we were married, Cory and I both read Stop Dating the Church, which has since been rewritten and renamed Why Church Matters. Even though we were both already thoroughly convinced of the importance of the established church as the bride of Christ, it was a great reminder of why we believe that, and pointed out ways in which we don't always live out that belief.

 He LOVED this thing. I wasn't sure these were even legal anymore, I hadn't seen one since I was 5 or 6.

All this is just to say that... we were excited to go hear him speak, in person! And he did not disappoint. We were only able to attend two of the five sessions because of Cory's work and having to get back to our own church for Sunday, but they were two of the best messages I've ever heard. Convicting, interesting, and thoroughly Biblical. It was great to meet fellow Christians from PEI and beyond who had gathered to see him speak, and it was very cool just to be able to shake his hand and say hello, something neither of us ever thought we would get to do - especially here in the Maritimes! Since the sessions were just in the evening we were able to spend the day on Saturday exploring the island.

Enjoying one of the beautiful beaches in the National Park.

I apologize for these grainy, blurry cell phone pictures from the weekend. We did pack the camera, but it was in the suitcase and we kept forgetting to take it out!

 Water was lovely and warm.

All four of us had a wonderful time. PEI was amazingly beautiful, just like I've always been told. I'm looking forward to going back someday... maybe when the kids are older and don't require so many naps and diaper changes!