Putting up Green Beans for Winter

This was originally posted in 2008. This is evident in the fact that Justus and Elias are only 8 and 6 in the picture below. They are now 14 and 12. Time flies - and little boys become teenagers. The green bean freezer method is still the same, however. Since we have been harvesting many the past few weeks, I thought it would be fun to re-post this tutorial. :)

How to Freeze Fresh Green Beans

After posting about how I put up corn for winter, many of you asked about green beans.  I just happen to be in the middle of crazy green bean season.  So…here you go!!

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After picking our beans, I usually get my boys on “bean snapping duty” right away.  (They never complain about this job.  I think it’s because they are given permission to “break things”….what do you think?)  They snap off the ends and put the green beans into a colander.  As soon as the colander is full I wash the beans to try to get as much “garden” (my nice way of saying bugs and dirt) off.

It is my understanding that in order to maintain as much green bean nutrition as possible, it is best to only snap the ends off the bean…not to snap the bean into pieces.  It makes sense that if you snap the green bean into three pieces, when you cook the bean, more of the nutrients will be washed away in the water.  But if it’s a whole bean…more of the nutrients stay inside the bean.  (And you can have “My green bean is longer than your green bean” competitions while you eat dinner.)

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After washing the green beans, I then put them into a pot of boiling water.  This blanching process stops their aging process.  (No, you can not blanche people in order to stop their aging process.)

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After about two minutes in the boiling water, the green beans are a brighter green…and they go back into the colander where they are given a cold, cold shower.  This process stops the cooking process that the blanching part started.

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After the green beans are cooled from the cold water shower, I then spread them out onto a dry towel.  I use another towel to pat over the top of them to help dry them off more.  If your beans are too wet when you put them into a freezer bag, you’ll have ice form around your beans.  (You don’t want ice to form around your beans.)

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And then, I put my beans into a gallon freezer bag and label it.  And into the freezer it goes. I know some people prefer to can their green beans.  I don’t can them for two reasons:

1.  Freezing them maintains more of the green bean’s nutrition.
2.  I’m incredibly afraid of my pressure cooker.  (When I got my mom’s pressure cooker, it didn’t have a manual with it.  I have no idea how to use it properly.)  I do not need to cause an explosion in my kitchen.

So there you go!  As I begin to can and freeze my tomatoes and fruit for the winter, I’ll be sure to show you those processes too!  (Yeah, because those don’t require a pressure cooker, just a hot water bath…and I’m not so afraid of those.)

A Very Manly Menu Plan

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Bacon Cheeseburger Casserole (recipe in Healthy Make-Ahead Meals and Snacks eBook)

For the first time in a couple of months, the six of us are all been home together again!  All four of the boys are now home from camp.  We’ve enjoyed some catch up time and heard lots of stories of adventures from the boys being away.  We’re doing tons of loads of laundry and getting caught up on work we are behind on.  I can’t tell you how nice it is to have all of us back under one roof, even if it is just for a couple of days.

So what does this week hold?  Well, since this is the summer of crazy, you can bet it holds more excitement.  I’m heading out tomorrow for a traditional “Sister Symposium.”  (More on that for Gratituesday.)  Then the two younger boys will be heading to Kansas to spend several days with grandparents.  Left at home will be Matt and our two oldest boys.

Since Asa and Justus have been at camps for weeks and weeks this summer, they’ll likely be spending quite a bit of time this week catching up on sleep.  They’ll work with Matt on some house and garden projects.  And what will they eat?

Well, I’m guessing they’d be just as happy as can be if I simply left them several pounds of bacon and some steak.  :)  For the most part, they’ll be fending for them selves.  But I did have the chance to do some freezer cooking in preparation for my being away.  Here are some food choices I left for them:

Breakfasts:

Eggs, bacon, hashbrowns, sausage, homemade instant oatmeal, and plenty of fresh and frozen fruit for sides and smoothies

Lunches and Dinners:

Sandwiches, Meat and Cheese Burritos, Bacon Cheeseburger Casserole (recipe in Healthy Make-Ahead Meals and Snacks eBook), Tuna Salad or Tuna Casserole (they can easily make either one on their own), Spicy Avocado Dip, and plenty of fruits, veggies, and salad fixings.

My guys do great figuring out food when I’m away.  I love it that they can all cook!  I’m pretty sure they’ll even keep up with dirty dishes.  :)

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Asa makes a great guacamole.  I grabbed some avocados at the store so he can whip some up.  Here’s the recipe!

Here’s to a great new week.  Hope your summer has been awesome so far!

Need Coconut Oil? Here’s a Great Price. (Plus, use this on bug bites!)

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I was so excited to find that the price on this great coconut oil is lower than ever (and it was already low before)!

You can get two 54 ounce jars of Nutiva Organic Coconut Oil for  as low as $32.68 if you purchase at least 4 other Amazon Prime subscribe and save items.  This is an incredible price!  This makes it only $0.30/ounce.

With these two big jars of coconut oil, you can make all kinds of healthy and yummy popcorn, chocolate chocolate chip muffins, chewy granola bars

We also have been putting this on chigger bites the boys got at camp.  It is amazing to heal those bites quickly!

This post contains affiliate links.

A Special Map to Send Your One Child Matters Sponsored Child

It’s been a while since I mentioned One Child Matters here.  Last week at camp, I was wearing my One Child Matters t-shirt.  This sparked several discussions throughout the day with other camp staff members about what One Child Matters does, who they are, and why we as a family are so excited to be a participant with the organization.  It was fun to share with others something we are so passionate about.  Oh that everyone would/could help meet the needs of a child in another country by becoming a sponsor.

This might seem a little silly, but based on an idea we had a few months ago when we were writing a letter to our little girl, Gladis – I put together a printable you are welcome to use for your sponsored child.  We used a map like the one below, colored in where we live, then colored in the area Gladis lives.  We prayed over this, then sent it in our letter to Gladis.  This is fun for many reasons, in particular because most children in these situations don’t have maps of their own to look at.

One Child Matters Map

If you’d like, print one of these maps to use in your next letter to your sponsored child:  Download One Child Matters Printable Map

Not sponsoring a child yet?  Can I encourage you to please look into this, pray about it, and go for it if you feel God’s leading?  One Child Matters is an awesome organization, and I’m so grateful and blessed to be working with them to spread the word about taking care of these precious children.

It’s Not Too Late To Start Making Vanilla For Christmas Gifts

Just wanted to pop in real quick to mention:

  1. Homemade Vanilla Extract makes a wonderful Christmas gift.
  2. If you start making it within the next couple of weeks, it will be just right by Christmas.
  3. You need to get your supplies now and get ready to brew your vanilla!

Read all the details about How to Make Vanilla Extract.  Order your vanilla beans using the exclusive Heavenly Homemaker discount Olive Nation gives us all.  They have the best quality vanilla beans I’ve found anywhere, and they are very reasonably priced.  Use the code home for 10% off plus free shipping!

How To Make Vanilla Extract

14 Oven-Free Breakfast Ideas for Summer

Have I ever mentioned that we don’t have central air conditioning in our home?  People think we’re crazy.  Well, yeah.  But there are a few important aspects to note about our variety of crazy - and about our lack of central air conditioning:

1.  Our house is over 100 years old and was built to stay cool back before air conditioning was invented.  We have high ceilings, which makes a significant difference.
2.  We have an attic fan that sucks hot air out and pulls cool air in.  (I believe I just told you that our attic fan sucks.)
3.  When a person is used to air conditioning, a person tends to think they need air conditioning.  When a person is not used to air conditioning, a person gets used to not having air conditioning.
4.  I freeze to death when I go to Wal-Mart and other places with air conditioning and freezer sections.  See #3 above.
5.  We have several window air conditioning units.  Remember this?  Ain’t she a beaut?  We haven’t even installed it this summer.  We haven’t been home long enough to care.  But we have that one, another for out guest room, and another for our boys room upstairs.  Window units work great for our needs.

All that to say:  I rarely turn our oven on during hot summer days.  We typically deal with lack of air conditioning just fine – but avoiding the oven makes this much more doable.  Baking muffins, quick breads, and egg casseroles is rarely an option.  Instead, we stick with stove-top meals, toaster oven choices, or smoothies.  Here are some of our favorite oven-free breakfasts, which of course can be made for lunch, snacks, or dinner too.  Breakfast for dinner always rocks.  Kind of like my attic fan sucks.  (Oh, stop it.)

14 Oven Free Breakfast Ideas For Summer

14 Oven-Free Breakfast Ideas for Summer

It’s always fun to throw in the occasional bacon or sausage too, if I have time.  Fresh fruit in the summer time is amazing.  All the delicious berries, nectarines, plums, peaches, melons available – incredible.  Yes indeed, summer time is my very favorite time of year – even without central air conditioning.  :)

What are your favorite oven-free breakfast ideas?

Think About Such Things

How easy it is to read scripture, love it, be fed by it, get a happy feeling from it, find God right there in it…then close the Book, walk away, and forget to live by the Truth we just read.

Don’t kick yourself over it.  We’re never going to “arrive.”  We’re human.  We are fighting an enemy who wants nothing more than to see us struggle.  He knows enough about us to know our weak points, and that’s exactly where he fires his arrows.

That’s why we eagerly read this read this…

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8-9

Great scripture, right?  It’s one of my favorites.  Indeed, we can read it, love it, be fed by it, get a happy feeling from it, find God right there in it, and commit to focus here.  But before we know it, we’re living like this:

Whatever is bothering you, whatever you’re worried about, whatever you have no control over, whatever makes you angry, whatever hurt your feelings, whatever made you sad, whatever may or may not happen, whatever is in the past that you can’t change…think about such things.  Whatever you’ve seen and tried that doesn’t work, keep doing it and remain in that rut of despair.  And overwhelming hopelessness will hold you in bondage.

Been there?  Me too.  It’s painful, pointless, and far too easy to remain in that ugly circle of anxious thoughts that serve only to keep us from peaceful rest in Christ.

It really is possible to re-train our thought life so that we drop-kick the negativity and worry.  We definitely don’t want to stay in this camp, right?  It is not fun here.  It’s cold, muddy, and it rains all the time.  There’s no joy in the prison of fear.  Bleh.  Get me out from under this dark cloud of self pity and bitterness.

And Jesus says, “Yes!  I’d be happy to.  In fact, I already did.  I’m right there with you, everywhere you go.  Turn your focus to Me.  I am love.  I am peace.  I am joy.”

Because of the strength we gain when we take our weaknesses to the cross, we’ve got this!  It takes the power of prayer.  We have to intentionally stop the negative, pointless thoughts that want to take over our minds, take them captive, and make them obedient to Christ.  (2 Corinthians 10:5)

Because of Jesus, we are living in victory!  Remembering this truth sets our hearts free to focus on all that is true, noble, right, lovely, pure, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy.

Think About Such Things

Want a daily reminder of these truths from scripture?
Download and print this if you like:  Think About Such Things

Transforming Your Kitchen With Great Deals on Cast Iron

You all know I love using Cast Iron in my kitchen.  Once you learn the benefit of ditching the Teflon, it’s easy to want to throw everything out and start over.  Cast iron is a great alternative to Teflon for non-stick cooking needs.  It’s pricier though, so setting your kitchen up with cast iron is a process.  Check out garage sales, look for sales, and slowly but surely, you can replace your kitchenware for healthier choices.

Here are some great deals I found to share that may help make the transition easier:

I have a big cast iron skillet like this one and use it all the time.  It’s great for scrambled and fried eggs, as well as for cooking meat.  I love it so much!  This Logic Mfg LCC3 10-1/4″, Pre-Seasoned, Cast Iron, Combination Deep Skillet & Shallow Skillet/Griddle With Lid is 47% off at Amazon right now, making it only $34.05.  (No guarantees on how long that price will last.)

lodge skillet with lid

I prefer my skillet with a lid, but having this Universal Housewares Pre-Seasoned Cast Iron 3 Piece Skillet Set is great too since it comes with a variety of sizes for different cooking needs.  This whole set is only $24.99 right now!

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For pancakes, crepes, and hashbrowns, I love the Lodge LPGI3 Pro Grid Cast Iron Grill/Griddle.  ($39.99 – down from $75.00)

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Have you made the switch to cast iron yet?  (P.S.  Cast iron is great for non-stick, but I really love stainless steel cooking pots too.)

This post contains affiliate links.

Gratituesday: Dusting Off the School Books

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With all the craziness of our summer, I’ve had very little time to get our upcoming school year organized.  The good news?  This will be our 13th year of homeschooling.  (Whoa.)  I hardly had to order any books at all.  (Praise God for money we didn’t have to spend this year!)  Once I could finally block out several hours of time, I buried myself in our school room, unpacked all the books, and found everything I needed for the year.  (Along with way too much dust.)

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We have been digging deep in World History and the Eastern Hemisphere the past few years, as well as learning about missionaries who have served all over the world.  So this year?  We’ll be hitting American History pretty hard.  I’m super excited.  But let me just pause right here to say:

This year, we will have two boys in high school.  Two.  And Asa, our oldest?  He’s going to be a senior.  A senior.  I don’t know how we got here so quickly.  But I do know that it has been one very enjoyable ride.  Never let anyone tell you that it’s too difficult to homeschool all the way through high school.  (You should see all the resources available now.)  These years learning, growing, and memory making with our boys have been invaluable and precious.

So Asa, our high school senior (if I keep saying it, will reality set in?) has worked hard and all but completed all of his high school requirements for graduation.  He already began taking some college classes last year.  This year he will be taking one more class per semester at our local college and several online classes through a community college.  This will get many of his gen-eds out of the way, while saving lots of money, and racking up quite a few college credits.  He’ll also be taking Spanish 4 at home with Rosetta Stone software, doing some ACT prep, and continuing to develop his skills with videography and movie creation.

Justus will be a freshman.  He’ll be finishing the last few CDs in Teaching Textbooks Algebra 1, then start Algebra 2.  He’ll study Physical Science with Apologia and continue with his Spanish lessons (Rosetta Stone rocks).  He’ll work through several English/Grammar/Analogies books, do lots of reading, study American History, and do a smattering of electives like music, P.E., and creative arts.  He’s going to start taking guitar lessons in the fall, which he is very excited about!

Elias will be a 7th grader.  Along with American history studies, he’s doing Pre-Algebra with Teaching Textbooks, Spanish with Rosetta Stone, Wordly Wise, grammar, reading and writing assignments, and a variety of science books from our big stash.  He is interested in taking drum lessons – if we can find him a teacher.  And some drums.

Malachi will be a 4th grader.  He’s really taking off with chapter books now, so his shelf (along with his brothers’ shelves) are full of great reading material that enhances our study of American History.  We’ll be going through Grammar Ace with him, as well as having him work through MCP Phonics at his level.  He’ll be journal writing, learning cursive with Getty-Dubay, working through a stack of science books, and doing Teaching Textbooks 4 for math.  He’s also going to work through my Learn to Cook book so that he can learn more basic cooking skills.  We’ve got him all set up to start piano lessons this fall too.  He can’t wait!

Sonlight has been our main curriculum of choice through the years – and I continue to use many of the books they recommend.  Learning through literature is awesome!  Instead of pulling all the books they recommend at every single grade level, I’ve found that it is simple to use their book recommendations and combine grade levels while we study history, geography, and science.  This saves my sanity, and gives us wonderful times of learning all together.  All the subjects will be revisited through the years anyway, so what the younger kids don’t catch the first time around, they’ll catch it when we study it in later grades.  This works great for us.

So there you have it.  The books are finally organized, and I can head out of town again knowing school will be ready for us to start when I get back.  Two weeks until we kick off our school year!  I praise God for this wonderful opportunity to study and learn with my kids.

What are you focusing on right now?  Where is your gratitude focus?  I’d love for you to leave a comment sharing what you’re thankful for this Gratituesday!