Blueberry Buckle Recipe–and processing produce tips!

This week- a few things I did today as I enjoyed my day off!

It’s blueberry season here in Wisconsin and I just happened to have got my hands on 3 pints of fresh berries. I froze some for smoothies, so now we have fresh strawberries and fresh blueberries for smoothies this winter.

My husband purchased a bunch of beets at the Farmer’s Market this past Friday so I processed them today. Total time was one hour- I put them in a pan of water –medium setting 1-1/4 of an hour and then turned them off. I then let the water come down from a boil to warm and ran cold water in the pan and slipped the skins right off. They were put into freezer bags and we will be eating July beets 5-6 different times this coming winter. I would pickle them (my favorite) but hubby doesn’t like pickled beets very much.



There’s a story behind the peppers. About 7 weeks ago our neighbor, who travels a lot, asked me to take over her pepper plant due to her not being around enough to water it. We were at our max limit for weight on the deck so we kept it downstairs by the front door. When I took it over it was about 1-1/2 feet tall, scrawny and dry. I re-potted it in Purple Cow potting soil and kept it out of direct sun until it recovered somewhat, and it and my poor juniper, that is recovering from sun scorch kept each other company at our front door. Thinking it would die I never did get a before picture but 7/ 7-1/2 weeks later it’s loaded with peppers of all sizes. I have grown peppers on our deck in containers–even now that I think of it, I’ve successfully grown cucumbers. But it was hard between bugs and wind and limited full sun areas, neither of them do well on our deck. But hey maybe I’ll start a garden by our front door? I just cut up and take out the seeds from the peppers and freeze the cut up slices for future pizza’s and stir fry’s right away. Our first harvest yielded 7 peppers, I took 3 and I gave my neighbor 4 and plan to split the bounty with her each week to her delight.

Here’s the promised recipe for the blueberry buckle

Sacrificing– a way (and means) to better health

Every winter both my husband and I get asked at least a dozen times why we don’t get colds or flu. We just don’t. This past winter was my 11th year of good health–no cold and no flu at all. Do I get sick? Well, I do have days where my allergies kick my butt. Currently, we live near an area filled with ragweed and I am deathly allergic to ragweed. For years I thought it was all the goldenrod growing around here, turns out goldenrod is innocent. In fact, ragweed is the big culprit and I guess purposely grows near goldenrod to confuse allergy sufferers. The plants look distinctly different, but you may not find much on the internet about goldenrod’s innocence. Believe me, if you see goldenrod, ragweed is close by and it’s the one causing you to suffer. I use a lot of cold compresses and drink warm teas to help with them. My husband takes Claritin, but still suffers allergy symptoms. The ragweed is out of control I tell you. There are also a lot of trees around this area and trees (birch & cottonwood) and grass gives me sinus headaches. I was diagnosed with facial migraines in 2004 which can be associated with sinus issues. I’ve probably had these for almost twenty years now.  So yes, I’m not a perfectly healthy person by any means. That said I do everything in my power to increase my odds to live a life of good health.

In 2003 I went through a pretty intense period in my life. I lost a job I really loved that put me on a path that I’m still on to this day. First off I quit drinking for the second time, and I stopped smoking after smoking for almost 25 years. I did both cold turkey within 6 months of one another. I also quit drinking soda pop. My only beverage was water– good water (Evian).

Around 2004 I began to experience some weird symptoms hot feet, urinary problems, sore muscles and extreme fatigue. I had always had back and muscle problems from working in healthcare and injuring both my back, shoulders, and neck numerous times. First I went to my physician who ran a bunch of tests, some for hormones and basically gave me a clean bill of health. Second I was referred to a urologist for my urinary issue. After eating a good amount of strawberries summer of 2004 I noticed I was urinating scant amounts of blood and having to urinate multiple times a day. When I told the urologist this he informed me what I had would go away on its own, not to worry, and dismissed me. Turns out after some investigation what I have is interstitial cystitis–ulcers on my bladder lining. There is no cure. So depending on what I eat and drink, my bladder will act up. Over the years I have had flares that last a week or two at a time but then subside. Everything I eat can affect this issue. There is a special diet to follow, but I do not follow it. I do however drink a lot of water and have found that the flares last fewer and fewer days each time.

As for my muscle problems and extreme fatigue and sore painful points on my body issue– It was finally discovered by a different doctor that I have Fibromyalgia and have had it for quite a long time. Maybe close to 35 years? Fibromyalgia has a whole host of symptoms and I’ve run the gamut on each and every one of them. At the time mine was discovered there weren’t any medications to be prescribed. I was told to rest more and eat a better diet and exercise regularly.  Again I felt modern medicine had dropped the ball.

So instead of just giving up and crawling into a hole, I decided to research and research and find ways to better health. There had to be something more than eating a better diet. My diet had improved, but I could still do more. I researched organic food, homegrown and local and once I’d read everything out there on the interwebs about it (not much out there in 2004) my husband and I started on a path to a changed lifestyle that has included on the way- eating organic, living a more sustainable, chemical free, low in sugar, low to no preservative life. Believe me when I tell you it hasn’t been easy. All throughout my blog, I have posted about how hard it was and still is to source organic food. We’ve spent a fortune, that by the way, we didn’t always have, to ensure once we started we didn’t have to stop just because sourcing it was inconvenient. Back in the day I called stores and had them send product down with their salesperson for me to pickup because the local grocery stores didn’t carry it. We’ve put a ton of miles on our only vehicle to drive to CSA pickups and Farmer’s markets in order to get good homegrown produce. We’ve even gone as far as buying a new refrigerator and freezer so that our produce stays fresher and so that I can preserve some for over winter. Most of the changes in our lifestyle were made when we had only one income, and I was going to school full-time.  Not easy to do. Here are some other things I changed in my life to keep the odds in my favor:

  • I stopped using store bought sanitary items and started purchasing Luna pads in 2004.  This is a great article  recently written that explains my logic. I love Luna pads and using them while still having a period in my 50’s is a blessing.
  • I stopped wearing all make-up in 2004. Even without make-up I’ve gone on interviews, traveled, and worked in upper management positions. I know this may be a step that most women cannot or will not take, but I truly believe no make-up is one of the reasons I have almost no wrinkles. I mean like I have 1-2 wrinkles and I’m almost 53. I use Oil of Olay on my face and wash my face with Dove soap and warm water. That’s it. People look genuinely shocked when I tell them I am in my 50’s. It isn’t genetics I promise you that. I owe it all to no make-up!
  • No eating out in almost 90% of the restaurants out there- I gave up Taco Bell, Taco John’s, Chinese take-out, Indian/Thai take-out, McDonald’s, Burger King, buffets, Applebees, Pizza Hut really everything except two places. We still stop at our favorite high-end place for every special occasion- home grown food, and Panera. We started this ban on no eating out in 2004, but it took until 2010 or so to stop altogether. We don’t miss it or crave it and we’re saving a lot of $.
  • We grocery shop on the outer aisles, for the most part, only entering the inner aisles for cereal and baking products. We don’t buy food kits, mixes or canned or jar sauces. We don’t buy toppings, or canned cheeses, or packaged processed food of any kind. I had to give up Mac and Cheese and Cheez Whiz and Lipton Noodle soup and so much more. My husband’s list is even longer, including most of the food we import from Holland. If the product has more than 5 ingredients we don’t buy it.
  • No chemicals- all of our cleaning supplies are homemade/natural- lemon, vinegar, and essential oils. No sprays or candles or plug-ins are allowed in our house. No laundry soaps that are scented or colored. No fabric softeners or other smelly floral or perfume smelling cleaners or detergents. None. I changed almost everything over to chemical free by 2010. We don’t use body sprays, or smelly lotions or chemical laden soaps. I buy Dove soap and we purchase homemade soaps from local homesteaders or our co-op.
  • Almost all our food comes from our local co-op, Whole Foods, or Woodman’s grocery.  At least 90% of what we buy goes directly into the refrigerator or freezer. We have two big shelving units in our house for baking goods-bulk. Other than that condiments and bulk rice and bulk pasta, peanut butter and honey are the only dry goods we have in our home. Pizza is homemade, cakes and pies are homemade, jam is homemade, sauces are homemade and we freeze a ton of fruits and vegetable for overwintering.
  • Last but never least we eat produce when its in season. When peaches are in season I eat a lot of peaches. Same with strawberries and pears and raspberries and melons. When tomatoes are a plenty I eat 1-2 tomatoes a day for weeks. Same with fresh lettuce, beans, and squash. Sweet corn doesn’t agree with me much anymore, unfortunately, it is hard to find Non-GMO and/or organic corn. I do eat a dozen or so pieces each summer for nostalgia sake. In fall we eat a lot of squash -acorn and zucchini and new potatoes and beets. Spring– kale, spinach, early carrots, and peas. We follow the simple guideline of eating according to the season’s harvest.

In 2008 when the swine flu was knocking everyone out around these parts I sat in a classroom surrounded by students each in a different phase of the swine flu. Even the instructor was sick as were members of his family. Eventually, the school closed for a few days to let people recover. I didn’t get sick.  Nothing. This kind of immunity really remains a mystery to me to this day. As does my ability to continue to hike, walk several miles while out on an excursion with my husband, even bike ride Wisconsin trails without issue. I work, I volunteer and do a lot of outside activities never calling into work, never getting what most people consider sick. My husband has gone almost twenty years at his work with no sick days. I know it’s not because we are genetically healthy people with strong immune systems. I can promise you very little about how healthy we are today is associated with our genetics.

I believe 100% it has to do with our lifestyle and while I know that some of the changes I’ve made or we’ve made are extreme they are worth every year we go without colds and flu, worth the fact we don’t have ER visits or stand in long lines at the pharmacy. We worry about everything going on with insurance — we pay about $1600 a year for the both of us (which is pretty good all things considered), yet we have rarely used our insurance. We have annual preventative care physicals, but short of that my husband saw a doctor for a minor issue 10 years ago and I had surgery on my feet- arthritis, ingrown nails and bone spurs twice after surgery. That’s been almost 3-4 years ago, otherwise for me nothing since 2004. It works for us this I know.   It goes without saying before making any changes to your lifestyle and diet please be sure to talk them over with your trusted family physician first.  Until next time- be well!

“The Greatest Wealth is Health”

Links :

Food preservatives that are bad for your health- article here

Candles and Sprays and clean air- article here

Dangers of eating Fast Food- article here

Hormonal disruptors in make-up- article here

Happy Fall!

Just hours before the first day of fall I kept busy baking up squash to freeze for over winter and peeling and slicing apples for applesauce. Ragweed has been kicking my butt these past few days, and I didn’t really feel like doing anything. Yet, these things needed to be done today and so they were. Three pounds of Macintosh apples yielded just a cup and a half of homemade applesauce. Thank goodness we bought more this past weekend, although those are slowly being eaten each day. I heart Macintosh apples.

I also had four squash to bake which made five packages of baked squash- five sides for a meal. The total cost of the squash and apples was $12.00 (roughly 2 dollars a side).

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I’ve managed to find several great pumpkin recipes I will be sharing this week or next as well as a recipe for Apple Fritter bread. I love fall for many reasons, but the food of fall is number one for me. I love pumpkin and apples and squash and warm cider. The post I promised with pantry essentials is almost done. Until next time ~Happy Fall~ ! Get outside if you can and enjoy the last bits of great weather if you live in an area that will see snow before long. Yes, I said it lol. Right now areas all over Wisconsin and Minnesota are flooding, stay safe if you’re out in it.

Fall food goodness

The last of the local zucchini is available this week, so I made sure to grate a bunch and freeze for pasta dishes this winter. Local apple orchards are announcing new varieties of apples every week. The first week we tried some new varieties and this week we bought Macintosh, Honey Crisp and Ginger Golds. Pears were plentiful too and ripened nicely next to our apples and bananas on the counter. A tomato plant I bought late at Bauer’s Market in La Crescent Mn. still producing. All total for a $9.00 plant, sold towards the end of planting season, it produced 17 tomatoes for me. To save seeds from tomatoes you cut the tomato in half and squeeze its pulp out into a small dish or container and cover for three days. The pulp ferments, allowing the covering that the seeds are encapsulated in to disintegrate. Each day you must stir the pulp and on day four rinse the pulpy seeds in a sieve careful not to allow seeds to sift through sieve (just the pulp) and then place on a piece of dry paper towel. As the seeds dry on the paper towel remove them from clumps to separate and allow to dry. You should store these dried seeds in a cool dry place, even the refrigerator- do not freeze them.  Coming up in future posts- seed saving, freezing vegetables, pumpkin recipes and pantry staples. Until then be well and always remember to eat good food!

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Freezing Roma Tomatoes for Sauce

I’ve found throughout time that Roma tomatoes are the best tomatoes to make pasta sauce out of. I didn’t always know that. During late summer and early fall Roma tomatoes are plentiful. Around here one can buy a bushel for just a few dollars. The first step is cutting a shallow x in the bottom of each tomato and placing several tomatoes at a time (don’t overfill pot) in boiling water to blanch for 4 minutes. Then with a slotted spoon remove tomatoes and place in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Once cooled remove skins and core and place in a freezer bag, date it and into the freezer they go. Every time you desire fresh pasta sauce you remove your tomatoes from the freezer and make your sauce and its like a fresh cup of summer in every serving. My favorite pasta sauce recipe is here .

Enjoy!

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Freezer Creamed Corn

sweet corn

Summer food is beginning to make its appearance around these parts of Wisconsin. Locally the first of the sweet corn became available as well as this year’s first strawberries. From this time throughout the summer, we will buy both and enjoy them as they only get sweeter as the summer sun shines upon them each day. We’ve enjoyed asparagus and rhubarb lately and I’ve frozen both for later on. With strawberries, we either buy them at the farmer’s market or my husband and I go pick them at a local u-pick field. I freeze some, eat some, and make refrigerator jam out of the rest. With sweet corn, because of my allergies, I must eat corn in moderation. Although I would just love to sit down, as I once did, and eat 10 ears of corn at one sitting (sigh). I am pleased to announce though that my wheat and corn intolerance has gotten much better since I began taking a daily probiotic. Since around last fall, I’ve actually been able to return to eating most food products containing both wheat and corn without issue. We picked up 10 ears to try and if they’re good (sometimes the really early stuff is not) I’ll go back for more. We eat it and make salads with it and freeze it. I make freezer creamed corn, that I learned how to make almost thirty years ago now, and we enjoy it all winter long.

Here’s the recipe-

20 c. raw corn
1 lb. butter
1 pt. half and half
Salt to taste
1 tbsp. sugar

Mix all ingredients. Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour. Cool, put in containers and freeze.

I also make a fresh cucumber, tomato and corn salad that goes great with shrimp. I use equal parts corn, chopped tomatoes and cucumbers mix them all together and drizzle a bit of Italian dressing over it. I also use this salad as the bed for my delicious grilled shrimp. Try it, you’ll love it.

By now my husband and I are a few days into our Door County stay, tossing the frisbee around, dipping our toes in the water and enjoying this view

door county lake view