Learning to Can, Part 2

This post is part of a series on teaching myself home canning. I decided to do this series in part because the reflection that’s part of learning is really interesting to me, and because I think it’s amazing the things we can teach ourselves when we’re dedicated to it!

Learning to Can, Part 2

So I shared a little while ago that my interest in home canning was connected to both health and a class.

I got this book and started taking notes. But as I tend to do, I got partway through the reading and just started doing it myself.

If you’re interested in home canning, I highly recommend that you don’t go that route because you can screw things up in a dangerous way. I realized that once I’d already kind of started doing things and had to go back to my original plan.

I picked up what’s called a water bath canner at a hardware store. I recommend getting the kit because a) it’s cheaper and b) it’s – legit – everything you need.

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It turns out that home canning is super easy. Basically you fill up a bunch of jars with natural foods that you’ve made, boil them and then wait until you hear them seal. That’s it.

The tricky part is cooking large volumes and knowing the correct duration to process them for (“process” here means heat in the water bath canner). This is why a book is helpful.

I learned how to make Bread and Butter Pickles for my first round of canning!

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Y’all – they were not hard at all. You just chop cucumbers and onions, mix them in a bowl with pickling salt and cover them in ice for a few hours. Then, you mix up some vinegar and spices, bring it to a boil, add the cucumber/onion mix and voila! Pickles!

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I’ll keep you posted on what other kinds of things I test out. This summer I’m hoping to make a red spaghetti sauce, a jam and some apple butter.

D’s brother-in-law has a garden growing, so I want to learn how to preserve things like onions, carrots and green beans.

Seriously though, if you have a little garden, this is totally worth learning. I think I spent about $40 on the canning supplies, and jars are about $9 for 12 jars. But think – that’s 12 jars of homemade, organic goodness. Totally worth it, if you ask me.

What kinds of summer projects did you have? Did any of them turn out to be easier than you thought they’d be? How about harder? What were you most surprised to learn about yourself when you took the project on?

A. Rose (1)

Quick Fix Friday: Trading Spaces

This post is part of my Quick Fix Friday Series. The Quick Fix Friday Series is comprised of cheap and simple tricks to make your life easier. I started this series because I often feel like I have no time to make a change in my apartment, and I wanted to remind myself that it’s true. I also have realized that while there is a plethora of information about quick fixes when you own a house, that isn’t necessarily true when you live in an apartment. Each of these tasks takes under five minutes.

QFF_ Trading Spaces

You might remember my little galley kitchen from my Apartment Tour post.

It looks something like this:

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When you’re a renter, there’s not much you can do about 70’s faux-wood cabIinets with cream counter tops, so you just have to appreciate your kitchen for its’ deep sink, massive storage (relative to the size of the space) and random potato drawer that makes you smile.

I took this photo on a day when things were kind of just how they are – not when I was just done cooking, but not when I had just finished cleaning – because I want this to be an honest space.

So, what’s not lovely is what happens when D comes in and all the things in his hands go on the counter in front of the microwave, which means the microwave can’t be used without moving all those things. I usually don’t notice until I’m in the middle of cooking something and my hands are full. Then, I get frustrated.

So I went through a thousand ideas: should D have a backpack? should I chill out? should I ask him to put things somewhere else? does that fit with my ideas of organic organizing? What about a shelf in the front hall? Do I even need a microwave? The questions kept coming.

Then, one day, I just decided to move the microwave and man-oh-man was it the right decision!

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This may not look like much, especially since there are still items on the counter, but f’rill – it’s a HUGE change. Now there’s space on the counter for dinner dishes that need to be washed; there’s still space on the right side of the sink to prep foods; and, best of all, D’s stack of items is no longer in front of the thing I need.

So just a little reminder that sometimes the best solution is the simplest.

What kinds of things have you switched around that made a big impact?

Thirty Minute Dinner: Stir Fry

This post is part of my 30 Minute Meal Series. The 30 Minute Meal Series is comprised of recipes that either take 30 minutes or less of hands-on time. I started this series because I believe that good food doesn’t have to take forever, but what should be forever is the impact that sharing this food with others and your body has on your life.

30 Minute Stir Fry

This meal was born out of boredom: I was tired of the food I was eating. I wanted veggies, but I didn’t want them raw. I pretty much always want rice. I needed something warm because it was week 4,098,204,495 of snow in the tundra I live in. So, I decided that I could probably make stir fry even though I had no idea how to do it.

I understood the basics enough – I know veggies have to cook longer than rice does. And I know you add soy sauce. Everything else in this meal is flexible, and based almost entirely out of what’s in my house already – feel free to make the changes you need to make!

img_4689First, I set some rice to boil. This whole meal only takes five minutes more than it takes to make rice. Caveat: I keep chopped onion and carrots in my fridge all the time and have a garlic press. If you don’t do/have those things (a) I recommend them and (b) you have to also account for chopping garlic and onions in your process.
If you want to do what I actually did next the first time I made this for this post, you should then dump out the rice because your boyfriend decided to take you to a steakhouse instead. Then, start over again the next day. #eyeroll #itwasworthit

If you need to chop onions, carrots and/or garlic, you should do that now. I use about a quarter of an onion, one and a half large carrots (five-ish baby carrots) and five cloves of garlic but everyone’s pallet and tummy is different – just do what’s right for you!

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Then, put some oil in the biggest pan you have and heat it up on medium. So far as I can tell, it doesn’t actually matter what oil you use (it’ll change the flavor some, but get creative!). After a few seconds, add the chopped onion and give it a little stir.

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While the onions are cooking, chop your protein into cubes or strips. It doesn’t matter which one. Just try to remember the last stir fry you ate and which it had and copy that.

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Add the garlic and the carrots. If you don’t have carrots, don’t sweat it! We’re gonna add some frozen mixed vegetables soon, which also usually have carrots. Stir them around a little – maybe about 2-3 minutes. You just want to soften the carrots a little.

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But first! Add your protein. You can see I kind of pushed the veggies to one side. I like to be sure that the meat got cooked on all sides before continuing and it’s just easier this way. You don’t have to do that – you’ll be cooking meat for nearly 25 minutes so it’s very unlikely that it won’t be cooked through. Once it’s cooked on all sides (if you’re using tofu or another plant-based protein don’t worry about it), move on to the next step!

This time, I happened to have sugar snap peas and water chestnuts (D asked that we try them next time we made stir fry) in my house so I added those. Stir them around for about 1-2 minutes or as long as it takes you to get frozen mixed veggies out of your freezer and some kind of nut out of your pantry.

I use about half a small bag of mixed veggies because I have the carrots and water chestnuts. If you don’t, or you just really like veggies, add more! Just about anything goes with this stir fry. I also usually add either a very small amount of ghost pepper or Hot Shot at this point. We like spice in this house, but you definitely don’t have to do that.
This time, I used sunflower seeds because I had them. I’ve used cashews, pecans and almonds before. I don’t recommend the pecans. They were a little too pecan-y and threw the texture off, but you do you!
Check on your rice – how’s it looking? Can you hear it bubbling still? You want the rice to be a little wet still, so that you don’t dry it out too much when you cook it. Turn it off before it’s all the way done.

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Add your rice! Just dump the whole thing on your veggies and give it a good stir! Then, add some soy sauce. I add about three long shakes of the bottle – it’s probably about a quarter cup. Depending on how much salt you like/eat, do more or less.

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This part gets tricky. I move all the veggies to one side like I did for the meat and add some eggs. This makes a lot of stir fry and I usually take it for lunch for a few days, so I add four eggs. I actually push the pan so that the eggs are the main thing getting the heat, then add salt and pepper.

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I just scramble them like you would if you were making scrambled eggs. It’s totally okay if some of the veggies or rice get in with the eggs – it’s all going to mix together eventually anyway. But I try to keep the eggs separate for a while, so I know they’re getting cooked all the way.

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Then stir it all in! I don’t scramble the eggs all the way. I actually just get them close, so they’re still a little runny. I keep stirring for about three more minutes so the eggs have time to cook and then, voila!

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Stir Fry!

Here’s the quick and dirty version:

Tools You Need
Small pot for rice
Giant Pan
Spatula/Big Spoon

Food You Need
Onion – about 1/3
Garlic – however much you like, I use 4-5 cloves
Oil – any kind
Protein
Frozen Veggies (or not frozen; whatever you like)
Rice – 1 cup uncooked (you’ll need to cook it)
Soy Sauce – about a quarter cup
Seed/Nut – if you want
Spice – any kind of heat you like

Steps:
1. Start cooking rice. Chop onions and garlic.
2. Heat oil in a pan. Add onion and hard veggies (ex. carrots). Stir frequently. Chop protein into strips or cubes.
3. Add protein. Stir frequently.
4.  Once protein is cooked, add frozen (or not frozen) veggies. Stir frequently. Add heat, if you want it.
5. When rice is most of the way done, add rice to pan. Stir.
6. After a few minutes, push mixture to one side. Add four eggs. Scramble
7. Mix it all together.
8. Eat!

What’s in your favorite stir fry? Have you ever made it before? How did this recipe work out for you?

Planner Inspiration

I basically live my life in my amazing planner.

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This system of putting to do lists over the top of the actual dates isn’t 100% the greatest. It’s been fine this summer, as I’m not taking classes, because I end up using a smaller sticky note and just have one. But the above photo is what my planner pretty much always looked like. #nothelpful

So, I’ve been thinking about making my own. Is that crazypants?

I started searching the internet for ideas.

I know that I mostly use the weekly view to list meetings, appointments and assignment due dates.

I basically don’t use the monthly view for anything, but I do make use of it.

I like the idea of having a little weekly planning page like this one:

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And some kind of meal planning page would be good, especially for during the school year:

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Montly meal plan NO logo

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I also love this financial challenge spreadsheet:

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And any kind of goal setting is also amazing:

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Source

 

Phew. That’s a lot. What do you all think? Is it crazy to create my own planner?

A. Rose (1)

Exercise Confession

I feel uncertain about writing about my body, and certainly have a lot of thoughts about why that is.

I’ve never been skinny.

I’m 5’2″ and tend to fall into the “full figure” category (which is the smaller end of “plus size,” apparently. *shrug*).

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I’m sure some of my reluctance is because figuring out all these terms that exist for women’s bodies is basically a full-time job. But I’ve been thinking about it a lot, because I actually love my body, my shape, how I move.

When I had my gallbladder out, I had to closely examine my relationship with my body and taking care of it. Not talking about it hasn’t helped me.

When I was younger,  I was a cheerleader, played volleyball, ran all the time. I grew up playing outside and riding bikes. I like to be active; I like to move and go. But I’ve always worked at a desk and prefer to read a book when I’m done with the work day.

That’s really what happens: by the end of my day, I think about going to the gym or going outside for a run, but instead I’m so worn out that I don’t stick with it.

But I know that I’m not a healthy weight. And that is of the utmost importance to me. I could care less what the number is: I care completely about how my heart beats and how easy it is to breathe.

So I’m going back to what I know: yoga and walking/running. I’ve been doing this yoga routine for years, off and on. And I downloaded the Couch to 5K app because I’ve liked the pacing of it in the past.

I don’t have a weight goal. I don’t care what size my skirts are. I only care that I feel like me again. I think I’d like to talk about that regularly here.

Is this a scary conversation for anyone else? What do you do to get over the fear of talking about it?

Nine Months Later

I’ve been reading blogs since 2011, and started thinking about writing one in 2012. But what actually pushed me to commit, was reading Amy’s vulnerable, honest and hopeful post about her journey with Lyme Disease.

Even though she wrote it a few years ago, I only read it about nine months ago, when I learned that I was going to have my gallbladder out.

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This isn’t the same as having a chronic illness. This was a simple surgery with few incisions that lead to some changes in my body that I’m still trying to figure out. But the candor and truth that Amy spoke with made me realize how many people are probably facing a surgery like mine, or a new diet like mine.

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There’s a lot I didn’t understand about how my body works when I decided to have the surgery. Do you know what your gallbladder does? I didn’t get it and then I read this and a lot of things started clicking together for me.

I am still working on shifting my diet to less processed and more whole foods. It’s definitely complicated to find the time and brain space to make new things, and stay focused on how what I eat connects to any digestive distress I have. Some of the complications I’m encountering have to do with having both IBS and TMJ, which both limit what I can and can’t eat.

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Nine months later, I’m still learning, still growing, still working on understanding. My belly is usually still bloated by the end of the day, and I’m trying to get a handle on that first, since it’s the most uncomfortable thing.

And then I realize that that’s the most uncomfortable thing. Nine months ago, sitting was the most uncomfortable thing. Sitting and walking and breathing deeply all hurt. And here I am, uncomfortable with this one thing mainly. That’s amazing!

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There’s not a lot out there about what happens to your body after you have your gallbladder out. Maybe people don’t struggle as long as I do. Or maybe we’re all just uncomfortable posting pictures of our bloaty, scarred up post surgery bellies (y’all – it’s seriously making me super uncomfortable but I’m trying to just be honest about my body and what happened). I think I need to talk about it, so I’m going to keep doing it. I think more of us need to talk about our bodies regularly. Maybe it will help us love them more.

What do you think?

A. Rose (1)

& Cookies, July Part I

I’ve been an avid blog reader for the last six years and my favorite posts are always the personal, here’s-my-life-in-the-last-month-rounded-up kinds of things. I was thinking about this, and about my cousins son whose favorite time of the day is Cookie Time, where he, his mom and his grandma have milk and cookies. So I was thinking about the idea of having milk and cookies with people I like, but I stopped being able to drink milk around age 25, so here we are: & cookies.

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I got to start off this passed weekend with D’s parents and two nephews. They came over for tacos and stayed for laughs. Those two boys love hanging out with “Uncle D” and playing games, and they’re great little helpers in the kitchen!
No AC pro-tip: put a fan in the kitchen, for the love of all that is good.

I did some hardcore grocery shopping: 3 stores, 2 hours, 1 month worth of food, including cat food (not including weekly perishable purchases): under $140! I’ve talked quite a bit about grocery shopping here and here. But I don’t know that I’ve really given an overview of how I’ve managed to bring my grocery bill down as far as it is. Maybe I’ll do that sometime soon; would that be interesting to you?

The other piece is that I got this Tide Ultra and successfully got D’s work pants (read: jeans that are coated in layers of motor oil) clean after just one wash! I can’t even believe it. It was like the laundry version of Christmas!

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I went Downtown with my adorable, amazing bestie this week. She’s basically the greatest mom of three. When she isn’t working, she’s doing things for others. It felt really good to facilitate a little mini-vacay for her. How happy she is in the picture above: that’s how much she smiled the rest of the time.

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These are the incredible skills of my cat, the Pirate King, who has been waking me up by screaming non-stop every morning. Ugh. Do you know cats that do that? What causes it? He gets fed in the evening, including treats. Maybe he just wants snuggles?

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And, of course, I had to include some 4th of July fun! My sister and I spent too long in the pool, followed by D and I spending too long in the pool, followed by more pool. Wanna know the key to a Florida girls heart? It’s swimming.

I should probably say some stuff about sunscreen and not letting yourself get melanoma buuuuut….

 

Have a great weekend, folks!

A. Rose (1)

Learning to Can, Part 1

This post is part of a series on teaching myself how to do home canning. I decided to do this series in part because the reflection that’s part of learning is really interesting to me, and because I think it’s amazing the things we can teach ourselves when we’re dedicated to it!

Learning to Can, Part 1

For one of my classes this semester, we have to do a Self-Directed Learning Project. We got to pick any topic and we don’t have to be successful at it, which may seem strange. The idea is that by attempting to teach ourselves we’ll understand the limits of ourselves and the limits of this method of teaching.

Not being successful at something isn’t a process I enjoy. Sometimes I wish that weren’t true, but like most things with identity, you can turn it down, you can’t turn it off.

I spent a long time going back and forth between two topics: quilting and canning. Obviously, I live in the 1800’s….

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My mother is a quilter and I always admire the beautiful works of art she creates by sewing. But, with all the recent health issues I’ve had with my tummy, I thought canning would be a more beneficial way to go. This way, I can control what goes into the container, and save some money at the same time.

So, I bought this book:

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Y’all. It’s amazing. I had absolutely no idea that canning required such a wide knowledge base. I’m keeping pretty detailed notes on what this learning process is like, and am excited to share this with all of you.

I set a timeline and some goals for myself, which include an increased knowledge of the health and safety of food preservation. The more that I’m learning about this, the more I am really excited to take control of another area of my diet that laziness has allowed me to throw to the wayside.

Every day, I feel like I get a little bit closer to feeling like I have my pre-no-gallbladder life back.

A. Rose (1)

Non-Dairy Smoothie!

I wrote a little about some of my tummy struggles a little while ago, around the time I had my gallbladder removed. Since then, I’ve been on the yogurt struggle bus.

Honestly, I’ve probably been on it forever and I’m just paying more attention now.

My standard breakfast, since I was 22, has been yogurt, fruit and granola.

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Lately, I’m less interested in chewing. haha. Sometimes that happens though, yah know? I don’t really have the time to sit down and eat breakfast, not even while I’m working. So, I’ve been rocking the smoothie! It’s been pretty great, actually. but I found that the dairy in the yogurt was still really bugging me. I found a great non-dairy yogurt and thought I’d share my little, non-specific, super simple recipe with you!

Please forgive my 5:45am lighting in my window-less kitchen. 🙂

Non-Dairy Smoothie

You could totally change up the ingredients in this; and ice would make it more … granulated? icey? smoothie-y?

I start by putting the frozen mixed berries in.

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I use about… that many. It’s two shakes of the bag, usually, depending on how hungry I am. Then I add in a broken up banana and about 1/2 a cup of oatmeal.

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This oatmeal is not cooked – it’s just straight up dried oatmeal. Then I add about 1/4 cup of flax seed.

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over which I pour about a cup of the star of today’s show: Good Karma Dairy-Free Probiotic Drinkable Yogurt (the strawberry kind) and about 1/4 cup of Chocolate Almond Milk. You could probably do not chocolate, buuuuut… I’d rather have the chocolate. #letsbereal

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It looks really gross until you start blending it up:

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I love this color! And the taste is super delicious!

I usually make a little too much, so I store the extra in a mason jar for the next day, that way I don’t have to make breakfast every morning:

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That’s it! Easy-peasy lemon-squeezy!

This is, by far, my favorite breakfast. I have a 30 minute commute to work, so being able to drink my breakfast is a great time saver. And since I’ve switched to this non-dairy yogurt, I’ve had absolutely no troubles!

I’m really excited to try other combos as simple as this one. What are your favorite smoothies made out of?

A. Rose (1)