Lemon Pectin (citrus Pectin)

Having food allergies has taught me so much. It’s also led me to so many doors I otherwise would not have passed through. I never thought I’d be the type to WANT to make homemade pectin, because I didn’t much care for jam. Come to find out, what I didn’t care for was the pectin. It has corn syrup solids in it (called dextrose). No wonder I’d always thought jam was too sweet. I have made preserves, instead, for years, but my husband misses jam. And preserves are not easy! They require standing over a hot stove all day, usually in a hot month. They fog up my windows and the humidity lingers. And they just plain take forever. Still good, though. Just lots of work.

Interestingly, my daughter hated jam as much as I did, but when she tasted some without the added dextrose, she told me instead, “Well maybe I like jam… but only if you make it.” Someday, kid, you’re going to actually put two and two together. Hates marshmallows unless mom makes it… corn. Hates jam unless mom makes it… corn. Not a big candy fan… corn. Kid, you have a corn allergy, too!

I think she doesn’t want to put the pieces together yet. Especially because her other biological relation already ignores her other, clearly tested, and serious allergies. If she recognized this one, she’d have to starve for 2 days.

I’ve made apple pectin before, and if I had to pick just one method, I’d go with citrus from now on. It worked easier and I could see results faster. If you’ve got lots of green, unripe apples, though, you may want to look into the other pectin.

During canning season, I go through lots of lemons. That is one other thing that I have to do now because of allergies. Bottled lemon juice contains a sulfate. Sulfate-anything makes my mouth go numb and my throat swell up. Not a good combo. Plus, fresh lemons are so much better for you. I know that canning people usually say avoid lemons because you can’t guarantee the pH, but I’d rather not die from anaphylaxis . Some day, I might find a way to check the pH of my food and then find out what it’s supposed to be in canning, but I don’t know where to start; which always leaves me spinning in circles. I feel like Captain Jack Sparrow trying to find a certain chest when he doesn’t know what he wants. “Ah! A heading. Set sail in a… uh… a general… that way! direction.”

but I digress. Lemon pectin. Love it. Will never buy a box again. Easy-peasy.

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In order to help you understand, lets take a second and go over the parts of a citrus fruit. Biology lesson. Okay, these are not the terms you’d find in a biology textbook. But you would find them in old cookbooks.

partsoflemon

    • Zest: the oily coating on the outside of a lemon, lime, orange, or other citrus fruit. The part of the rind that has the color to it. Strong, potent flavor. Used in essential oils. It really only becomes zest after it’s been grated off of the lemon, but peel becomes so ambiguous and jumbled as part of the rind, that for my purposes, we’ll call it zest.
    • Pith: the white squishy part of a citrus fruit. Contains the most pectin. Pretty flavorless. Most often discarded (what a shame).
    • Fruit: the piece of a citrus most commonly used. Contains the juice and the pulp inside of membranes dividing the fruit into sections. Most often used for both consumption and juices.
    • Pips: the seeds. I don’t know why they’re not just called seeds, but pips sounds fun. Especially when you want both the pips and the pith.

It will be WAY easier on you to grate/peel the lemons first, before you do anything else. Seriously. And before you do THAT you will want to wash/scrub your fruit. You can’t be sure of how carefully that fruit was cared for or what is on the peels.

I took a regular peeler to my citrus, but you can get the colored skin off however you would like. I wish I had a channel knife zester (affiliate link. I have no proof that this is a good choice). There are so many uses for the zest. I, however, have not come up with enough ways yet. I’ve added the lemon zest to lemonade, before. That was great. I also want to learn how to candy them and such. My sister makes cleaners out of them. I haven’t tried that. I have dried them, but when I do dry them, they just sit there. Unused. Unloved. Wasted. I confess, this year, most of them ended up in my compost. Baby steps. Next year, I’ll try harnessing the lemony powers of goodness into something… good.

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anyway, after you’ve peeled the citrus (as you can see most of mine is lemons and limes. It was salsa season. Grapefruits work amazingly, too. So much pith, it only takes a few of them. Plus they have a milder flavor. probably because you get more pith and less oil residue), juice them and use the juice for whatever you had in mind. Or bottle it. I’ve seen recipes, but I haven’t tried it. You will need some lemon juice for your pectin, so it’s nice to have lemons in the bunch, no matter what other combination you have in mind.

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The more color you remove from the lemon, the better off you are. You can still see quite a bit of color on my citrus, but I’m not particularly worried about a lemon/lime taste in my jams.

After you’ve isolated the pith, throw in the pips (the seeds. They have tons of pectin, too). and add everything to a food processor. Chop, chop, chop.

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When you’re done, you’ll end up with something that looks like this:

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Now you have the base for your citrus pectin.

Measure out your pith into 8 ounce batches. Add 1/4 cup of lemon juice, and let it sit at room temperature for two hours. Then add about 2 cups of water and let it sit another hour. Transfer everything to a pot and rapidly bring it to a boil (stirring as needed). Once it boils, turn it to a simmer, and let it simmer for 15 minutes. Remove it from the heat and let it cool in the pan for about 20 minutes.

Then send it through a jelly bag or a few layers of cheese cloth (sorry, I lost my picture of this part of the process). If you squeeze the bag you will definitely get more pectin out of it (and I often find that it’s the pectin that will congeal the best), but your jellies will be cloudy. I don’t know why people care, but some do.

Test your pectin. To do this, I like to scoop out a spoonful and chill it in the fridge, so it cools faster than the rest of my pectin. Sources say you can’t test it when it’s warm (though I have gotten citrus pectin to set up even when warm. Never apple pectin, though), and then add a splash (my grandma’s terms) of rubbing alcohol over it. If it sets into a semi-solid blob that you can get onto a fork, you’re set. If not, reduce it down a little bit more (I’ve never had to do that with citrus, but I have had to do it with the apple pectin. Now you know why I prefer citrus pectin).

To Store:

Either bottle (which I’ve never done) or freeze your pectin. To freeze, measure into an ice cube tray. I know that each of my cubes will be about 1 1/2 Tbs. When solid, remove from trays and add to a freezer bag (they’re still kind of sticky when frozen. That’s not a bad thing. That’s pectin that works). It should store for 6 months to a year.

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My sources tell me that to bottle it, re-heat the pectin until just below a boil, fill sterilized jars with 1/2″ headspace, and then process for 15 minutes, depending on your altitude. I haven’t tried it. It seems a waste of cooking time to bottle pectin.

To Use:

Here’s where it gets tricky. With a box of pectin, it tells you exactly how much sugar to use, how much fruit to use, and how much pectin to add. With homemade pectin, it’s all a bunch of variables. Your pectin is different based on each individual fruit. I would definitely use a box pectin a few times until you know what you’re looking for (although, really, sometimes they vary, too. I’ve got some syrup downstairs in my fruit room that was supposed to be jelly. I also have some really soft-set jams. Both from store-bought pectin).

The most important bit is to add the pectin before you boil your fruit (I think store-bought pectin is added after). You’re going to need a whole lot more pectin than you add from a box, too. A good place to start is 3 tablespoons (for me, that’s 2 pectin cubes) per cup of fruit. You may still need to add some fresh lemon juice as you’re making pectin, but with this recipe, you get a head start because it’s already in the pectin. You could need up to a whole cup of pectin.  You will need to keep track of how much pectin to add because a good rule of thumb is equal parts pectin and sugar (more sugar, to taste). It all depends on how hard of a set you have. To test your fruit to desired thickness, freeze a plate in advance, and when you’re ready to test your jam/jelly, take a spoonful and drop it onto the plate. You need to be able to run something through it and it takes a while to re-fill the space. This is a soft set. If you want a really firm jelly, you will want to let it set on the plate, and then touch it. If it wrinkles, it’s good.  I’m impatient. I don’t want to wait for it to cool, because then the jelly in the pan is cooked much beyond the jelly I tested on the plate, so I usually keep track of how thick it is and how long it takes to lose its shape.

 

If all of this is just too much work for you, you can just throw a few pips, or a mixture of chopped pith and pips into a cheesecloth pouch and add it to your boiling jams/jellies. I like something I wont have to fish out, though. And I like to adjust the amounts as needed. both are harder with throwing in a bag. You get much less control.

Citrus Pectin
Recipe Type: canning
Author: Keira @ Searchforseven.com
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 1 batch
Making pectin from citrus peels. Easy Peasy.
Ingredients
  • 8 ounces chopped pith/pits from citrus fruit
  • 1/4 c lemon juice
  • 2 cups water, any temperature
Instructions
  1. Measure out your pith into 8 ounce batches.
  2. Add 1/4 cup of lemon juice, and let it sit at room temperature for two hours.
  3. Add 2 cups of water and let it sit another hour.
  4. Transfer everything to a pot and rapidly bring it to a boil (stirring as needed). Once it boils, turn it to a simmer, and let it simmer for 15 minutes.
  5. Remove it from the heat and let it cool in the pan for about 20 minutes.
  6. Send it through a jelly bag or a few layers of cheese cloth
  7. Can multiply recipe.

 

It’s been a while

[warning]This is a fertility post. Possible triggers (though I don’t really think there are that many. I think you’ll be more excited by the outcome, but there is some sad things. There’s also much more that you might identify with than be triggered by). ALSO, there is semi-grownup content in this post. Nothing graphic (I’m not that kind of person), but if you’re too young to be talking about fertility, skip to the next article.[/warning]

It’s been a while. I don’t apologize for my absence. I needed it. We had another miscarriage and I just needed more time to heal. Didn’t want to write about it. Didn’t want to write anything else that wasn’t about it. Didn’t want to sit down at a computer. When you sit down at a computer, somehow you inevitably end up on Facebook with everyone announcing babies (seriously, is it just me or is the only thing Facebook is good for anymore is baby/wedding announcements made easy (and inappropriately so)). That and the occasional forwarded status that you’ve already seen 20 times and didn’t care the first time. I do get on Facebook to check information on corn allergies, and to learn more info from Norwex consultants, but otherwise, it only brings heartache. At least I’ve tweaked my Pinterest feed. When I see baby stuff now, it’s usually from a kindred spirit who posts infertility articles. Don’t know her, personally, but wish I did. I’d hug her and we could cry together and be mad as the fires Down South together.

The problem with reporting a loss is that everyone tries to send sympathy. But what I really want (at least after as many as I’ve had) is to just pick up the pieces and move on. I am done with hurting. It’s better to just let it go and look forward. But people try to help by bringing it up. Maybe to some it’s helpful, but to me, just let it go. Don’t make me keep having to live there. I’m not saying that you should pretend it never happened, but help me look forward instead. My ward was perfect about it! I’ve never felt so loved when I needed them and left to heal when I needed a break. They called and checked on me, they came and visited about everything and anything. They let me pick up the pieces when I was ready to move on. I’ve been so blessed to remember what a good ward is like. In all of those visits, I learned of a doctor that many of the women I associate with have turned to because they, like I, felt like all the other doctors in the area just ignored their pleas. In my opinion, the doctors in the area have enough healthy and easy babies to deliver, so they’re not so concerned for the woman who can’t have them, the woman who loses them, or any woman who has some other female-related problem. It is interesting to me that all these women gave the same doctor name! You would think that there would be options, choices. Apparently, there is not. Not if you actually want to be heard, anyway.

I met with the PA at the new clinic (I’ve already met with her twice, actually. And I have another appt with the main doc and the PA in about a week!) and I am SOOOO happy! I had collected all of my charts (from 5 other clinics where I’ve tried to be heard and wasn’t), all of my data and test results and on and on. We’re talking well over 300 papers. She went through all of them. Of that entire stack, she pulled out 2. She scanned the entire stack in, but felt that only 2 papers were relevant to actually have physical copies in my chart. Out of YEARS of paperwork, she only kept hard copies of 2! I think one was the most recent semen analysis and one was an x-ray of what my uterus looks like. Both give little to go off of, so maybe they’re just there to check off her list. (interesting note about my uterus, though: it’s crooked. It explains so much! Why my only child tried to make her own hole through my hip during birth, being the easiest to tell you. No one seems concerned, though, so it must not be a big deal.

After explaining a few things and answering a few of her questions, and after she looked through my charts, she looked me in the eye and as frankly as can be (I love people who tell it like it is! I’m so excited! Seriously. You wanna be my friend, talk truths to my ear. Don’t sugar coat it) she says, “Keira, you are an enigma. Your charts are all over the place. No one started from the beginning, and no one finished testing anything. We’re going to have to start from square one.” To me, she seemed to be saying that instead of any orchard masters going and picking an entire branch from a tree and moving to the next branch, they’d pick an apple here and an apple there. None of these doctors was in enough of a hurry or had enough forethought that they cleared the whole branch of apples to know that there was nothing wrong in that sector.

She was ticked that no one believed me about the Rh factor (I’m A-. In childbirth, especially in miscarriages, that’s a big deal. But all the docs just told me to stay home during my miscarriages. They argued that there wasn’t high enough HCG levels to warrant a RhoGam shot. Even when I did have high enough HCG levels, they still just told me to take it easy and my body would take care of itself). She was disgusted that no one had followed through on the blood-attacking-itself bit but just prescribing me aspirin and letting it go. She also was ticked that in “trying to find what was wrong with me,” they failed to keep up on the basic tests. Like yearly exams. I know I could have said something and pushed the issues, but I spent so much time (and money) there anyway, I wasn’t in a rush. Before I left her office, I’d had 13 vials of blood drawn and 2 more appointments scheduled.

The only problem was that one of those tests (the one that took 8 whole vials of blood) cost $3000! When I mentioned that I’d have insurance starting on the first of January, but that I would have to pay full price at the time, they said “Oh man! Well there’ll be such a difference in price, we’ll just throw away what we collected today and we’ll just recollect at your next appointment.”  What a loss! Is it silly that I almost would have rathered paying the $4000 (total) than throw away a piece of me? Anyway, because they’d just have to do the same draws in 2 weeks, they put me on a strict steak and iron pills diet. When I came back in to get my blood drawn again, the PA had decided to do another test, so there were even more vials this time (didn’t count. Kept my eyes focused on a little square sticker residue on the phlebotomy chair. The same person drew my blood each time, but the first time I hardly felt a thing, and the second time, she kept digging into my veins with each change of vials. I also took a much harder hit this time. I had to stop and take a break and grab a burrito before I could even think straight. I scarfed the entire thing down and then did NOT feel good! But I only knew I needed to eat! I probably shouldn’t have driven to the taco place. Anyway, the big test, the one that the PA is most anxious for, takes 2 weeks to get back to them, so I don’t expect to hear from them very soon. They said they’d call for all my other labs when they came in, but really it’s not going to make too much sense until all the labs are back together.

Before I left the office after my first visit, I asked the PA if she thought it would be possible to get pregnant right away (SOOO sick of waiting), and she said “For all we know, yes! You could just be extremely deficient in Folic Acid. I’ve seen that happen.” Part of me knows I’ll be pretty ticked if all of this waiting has been because of something silly like a vitamin deficiency. But the other half of me would love for the solution to be that easy (although a folic acid would be less easy than it sounds, since I’ve been taking folic acid supplements for YEARS. It would have to be more of an absorption issue).

At my appt in a few weeks, I intend to talk to them about why I feel so much better on Clomid. I’ve taken a few cycles off now and I’m back to feeling instant rage. When I called my old clinic about it, they said, well it means you weren’t ovulating (in a no-duh way) and I didn’t bother mentioning that I’ve had positive ovulation charts and bloodwork the entire time. I asked what I could do when I wasn’t taking Clomid. She said, “Well, there aren’t very many options. You could take anti-depressants [I didn’t say I was depressed, lady. I said that I wasn’t angry. That clearly says there’s something wrong hormonally and an anti-depressant is like a silly bandaid when what I have is a cold. Honestly! We won’t even get me started on the whole medication overload issue. There is a time and a place. This isn’t one of them], or you could just wait. Because anything else is going to counteract your efforts to conceive. You  can’t take Clomid for more than a few cycles.” Somehow that answer only caused anger (couldn’t tell, right?). I don’t think she heard anything I was saying. She didn’t listen, didn’t try to understand, and only showed her ignorance on the issue. The real question is WHY does Clomid fix something? And WHAT does it fix? If I’m ovulating anyway, why is Clomid fixing anything? I have a feeling my question will go completely different with this new doctor. And I can’t wait to get started.

Why My Ring is a Pearl

[disclaim]This article was put on my old blog on January 16, 2011. I wanted to share with you because it is the anniversary of the day my husband and I got engaged. [/disclaim]

My ring is a pearl. There’s a reason behind it. Let me explain:

Jenny’s Pearl Necklace

by: Author Unknown, Source Unknown

Jenny was a bright-eyed, cheerful young girl. One day when she and her mother were checking out at the grocery store, Jenny saw a circle of glistening white plastic pearls in a pink foil box. They were priced at $2.50. She begged her mom to buy them, they were so beautiful!

Her mother looked back into the pleading blue eyes of her little girl and said.”If you really want them, I’ll think of some extra chores for you and you can save enough money to buy them yourself. Your birthday’s only a week away and you might get another dollar from Grandma.” Jenny saved up and at last she had enough money to buy the necklace.

Jenny loved her pearls. They made her feel grown up. She wore them everywhere–Sunday school, kindergarten, and all around the house. She treasured her pearls. But since they were just beads, eventually they got pretty worn down. Soon they were nothing but white beads on a worn string.

Jenny had a very loving daddy and every night when she was ready for bed, he would stop whatever he was doing and come upstairs to read her a story. One night when he finished the story, he asked Jenny, “Do you love me?”

“Oh yes, Daddy. You know that I love you.”

“Then may I have your pearls?”

“Oh, Daddy, not my pearls. These are my favorite, I love these pearls.”

“That’s okay, honey. Daddy loves you. Good night.” And he brushed her cheek with a kiss.

About a week later, after the story time, Jenny’s daddy asked again, “Do you love me?”

“Daddy, you know I love you.”

“Then will you give me your pearls?”

“Oh, Daddy, not my pearls. But you can have my baby doll. The brand new one I got for my birthday. She is so beautiful and you can have the yellow blanket that matches her sleeper, if you want. But I love my pearls. You cant have my pearls.”

“That’s okay, Honey. Sleep well. Daddy loves you.” And as always, he brushed her cheek with a gentle kiss.

This went on for quite a while, always with the same result, until one night as Jenny’s Daddy came to read her a story, Jenny was sitting on her bed. As he came close, he noticed her chin was trembling and one silent tear rolled down her cheek.

“What is it, Jenny? What’s the matter?”

Jenny didn’t say anything but lifted her little hand up to her daddy. When she opened it, there was her little pearl necklace. With a little quiver, she finally said, “Here, Daddy. It’s for you. I know you love me, and you wouldn’t ask for my pearls unless you needed them.”

With tears gathering in his own eyes, Jenny’s kind daddy reached out with one hand to take the prized necklace. He quietly left and when he came back, the other hand held a blue velvet case. He handed it to Jenny and told her, “Thank you for giving me your most prized possession. I know you even saved up for it all by yourself. Now, I have this for you also.”

As Jenny pried open the blue velvet box, so nice a thing itself she’d never known, the glistening white sheen of the rich genuine pearls struck her teary eyes.

Her daddy hugged her tight and said, “I needed to know you would take care of these. I needed to know you would keep these pearls nice. And now I know.”

I remember when I was trying to make things work out with my ex, I called my mom one night and I said, “mom, what if this is like that stupid pearl story? What if God’s just waiting to bless me when I’m ready to let go? But what if I don’t WANT to let go? I already know what this is like, and I am okay with fake pearls. I don’t want to let go.

And then when he left, I realized just how worn and chipped those plastic beads were. And how much I would have been missing.

And now… Now I have my real pearl.

My Most Favorite New Year’s Eve Ever. :c)

[disclaim]This article was put on my old blog on January 16, 2011. I wanted to share with you because today is the anniversary of the day my husband and I got engaged. [/disclaim]

So the day before New Years Eve, Ranger calls me up and asks if I have plans for the day. I say no, I was sort of leaving that up to him. And he says good, we’re going to go play in the snow. And wont give me more information.

Later on, he slips that we’re going for a sleigh ride. I think it was on purpose because he knows I strongly dislike secrets. Or surprises. (I need time to prepare. I know, it’s kinda silly, but it’s true). The problem is, he’s still hiding something and I can tell. So I start wondering. Of course, it’s only natural. He slipped a few weeks earlier that he already had the ring (and that one probably WAS an accident, because I asked him while he was tired). I was afraid to hope, though. He’d tricked me once before. So I keep my cool and pretend I’m clueless, in case I’m wrong. Good plan, right?

The only information I can get out of him is that his brother and sister-in-law are coming with us. That’s cool. But it’s also another thing that makes me wonder. His brother and he are super close.

So the next day, we get all ready for the sleigh ride, get lost on the way, and finally make it there. The sleigh ride is great, except Ranger gets called in to work. Now how do you explain that you really need the day off because you are doing something “important” and you cant explain what’s so important, because its a secret and the girl who cant know is sitting right next to you? So he goes to work. Poor thing. But I’m probably wrong, right? And since he got called in to work, it probably wont happen today anyway…

So he takes me to his dad’s house to wait, and we wait. For a while his brother hangs around and visits, but eventually goes home. His dad asks him what his plans are for that evening, and he says “well, we’ll still do that thing, but otherwise, we dont know yet.” And I take note. Vague hints are good… right?

Great visit, but we’re both kind of distracted (probably about the same thing which neither one of us can talk about. Me for my pride in case I’m wrong, and he for the sake of his son… if I’m right, anyway). I get the feeling that his dad’s trying to keep the day special. So I start to hope again. Ranger said I could go home, if I wanted. But I actually really like his dad, and I knew I’d be twice as antsy at home. So I didn’t ask to be taken home.

Ranger FINALLY gets off work, and says we have dinner plans with his brother. Well, that explains the “thing”… But if there wasn’t some news, why would his brother be so vague? And now I can tell that everyone’s a little excited. And Ranger looks a little nervous, but honestly, that could have been rationalized away because he felt bad for having to work in the middle of our date. And his dad’s trying to help him. I notice they both seem to be having a conversation whenever I’m not around and it stops when I come back in the room.

Okay, something is DEFINITELY up. But I tell myself I’m still going to play clueless because it’d be sooo embarrassing if I’m wrong…

So we go out to eat, and we’re in a quiet booth off to the side, with no one else around us. “convenient,” I think. His sister answers for it though, even though I didn’t ask. Says she thought the people around were kind of gross and asked to be moved. So we get all the way through dinner… and dessert…  and I can see Ranger’s brother keep trying to catch Ranger’s eye.

And then I see that Ranger has a box in his hands. And I think to myself “okay, now I know what that is. But this is awkward…” So I pretend not to notice, and I cant make eye contact, I’m too nervous.

And so is he

And I hate awkward moments.

So I pretend to be super interested in what his sister-in-law has to say.

And I guess it was too much for Ranger, because he sort of drops the box in front of me, like “here, take it.” It was so cute because it was so awkward. I guess that’s fitting, because that’s how Ranger’s been all along. So awkward it’s cute. Maybe awkward isn’t the right word, nervous is better. Obvious about his intentions, but nervous.

Well of course I open it. And he gets on one knee. And says “will you marry me?”

And just like me, to make things more complicated in a nervous situation, I say, “that’s all you have to say? No name or anything?”

So he says “Keira, will you marry me?”

Charming. It’s a good thing he’s so cute when he’s nervous…

I asked him later. He was so nervous and he couldn’t remember my maiden name, (and I bet he didn’t know if he should use it or not, anyway) so he just said “Keira.”

Dec 31, 2010. The night I got engaged. Ranger doesn’t want his pic on the blog, so this is all you get. A big ol’ pic of me.

Well OBVIOUSLY I said yes.

Obviously.

And then Ranger’s brother says “Dad sent me a text as you were leaving, he said you were so nervous!” Like we couldn’t tell. And I loved every minute of it.

All that, and we didn’t even get a free dessert!

Questions: Which Reindeer is your favorite and why?

[disclaim]This post is an archival post. It was originally posted on my old blog in 2010. Occasionally I bring a post back from my old blog because … well because I’m conceited and like rereading what I wrote. I use them in place of times when I just don’t feel like blogging, but don’t want to let my blog go dormant.[/disclaim]

okay, lets see…

If I had to give personalities based on the names, this is what I’d come up with:

  • Dasher: Hasty and sporadic. He leaps before he thinks, is impulsive, and very driven. Although usually victorious,  such victory is often a near-miss, and a result of sheer determination not to give up. He often gets himself in situations he shouldn’t, nearly avoiding danger. He also makes a bold leader, and is very determined. Often called a wild card. (Personalities similar to Artemis Fowl and Wolverine)
  • Dancer: A dreamer. Fluid and elegant. No sharp edges or sporadic chaos. Likes things orderly, but isn’t controlled by the need for order. Often well-rounded and balanced.  She gets things done, and does them with flair, but doesn’t do them for selfish reasons or because she wants attention. She does them because she enjoys doing them or because they need done. She’s a firm believer in doing what’s right for the right reasons.
  • Prancer: a little egoistic (as opposed to egotistic), knows the world doesn’t revolve around him, but wishes it would. Doesn’t think he’s better than the world, but that’s because he’s never stopped to pay attention. Often showy and ostentatious, in a lovable sort of way. He knows how to charm the crowd. (think Tom Cruise)
  • Vixen: Saucy and sensual. If Vixen were a color, She’d be a bold, seductive red. She’s the type who was born to turn heads, in a classy sort of way. She’s strong and bold, confident in who she is. She’s also smart and a little manipulative. She knows how to get things done and she knows how to get others to do them for her. And think it was their idea. But she’s not too overpowering to the point where people get annoyed with her, she has a way of finding her way into your heart. (Personality similar to Angelina Jolie)
  • Comet: Stalwart. Doesn’t quit the task until its completed. Very methodical. Sometimes known to have a temper, but surprisingly able to keep his cool. Although he has his flaws, others often only see perfection. Often driven to do things because they’re right, for the good of all. (Think I Am Legend and Froto)
  • Cupid: Well, everything I can find for a personality fitting Cupid says a lot the same things as Vixen, but to me, that’s not Cupid. I’m torn to whether Cupid is bold or subtle, awkward or completely collected. To me, cupid is like pure love. If Cupid were a color, it’d be deep pink. Soft and comfortable, but whole and complete and subtly moving. Cupid is a friend to everyone. Cupid is loyal (this one can follow the Greek version of Cupid). He’s willing to do anything and overcomes great obstacles for the ones he loves. [Not sure if he’s more like Hercules (ironically, another mythological tale) or Alma the Younger (that fits the rebel turned good aspect that fits the Roman tales of Cupid)].
  • Donner: often called old-fashioned, Donner believes in old-world values and respect. He is a reindeer who likes complete order and is often driven to find it. Donner is a protector, but one with power. Think mafia lord or Thor the Norse god. But in a good way.
  • Blitzen: Quick and clever. Blitzen is smart, one you could classify as a genius. He has a short temper and sharp tongue, and is often an instigator. He’s a major player in revolution, which isn’t always a bad thing. He’s innovative and resourceful, and doesnt back down, even when the odds are stacked against him. Think Indiana Jones meets Marty McFly.
  • Rudolf: the underdog who let it get to his head, in my opinion. A little too famous.

I guess under these descriptions, I’m definitely leaning towards Comet being my favorite. With Dancer taking a close second.

This site also has a summary of what each character’s personality would be, but I didn’t follow too closely with what they said.

Questions: Do you believe in Santa Claus?

[disclaim]This post is an archival post. It was originally posted on my old blog in 2010. Occasionally I bring a post back from my old blog because … well because I’m conceited and like rereading what I wrote. I use them in place of times when I just don’t feel like blogging, but don’t want to let my blog go dormant.[/disclaim]

Now really, how am I supposed to answer that?

Truth is, yes. Sorta. Not in the naive “Santa is real, I know it, He’s gotta be, he gave me such-n-such, mommy tell them he’s real” sort of thing. But I believe that Santa’s spirit and influence have changed the world. I believe he keeps the spirit of giving alive. At least the REAL Santa does. Not the commercialized version of him. I believe that he motivates people to be a little more giving, a little more jolly, and a little more hopeful. I think he helps all of us set aside ourselves. He allows us to do things in his name that we may or may not have done or been willing to do in our own names.

And besides, “he” gave me an AWESOME table last year. And it SERIOUSLY made my Christmas. I cant explain how much it meant that someone thought of me. And gave me something I could not afford. Or even afford to dream about.

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This is one of my favorite ornaments from my tree. I got it as a gift in High school.

More Tidbits from the Fertility Front

On another fertility note…

[warning]First let me say that this one is way TMI… [/warning]

I can’t get over how much Clomid has helped me not be secretly plotting revenge because someone looked at me funny. Mostly, I keep the crazy in (because I could still tell it was crazy, even if it was a real emotion), but Ranger usually ends up hearing my flippant thoughts. I think he heard the few I had this time, too. Seriously, I’ve got to get better. But it has been way easier to be nice to the world. And my family. And myself.

On another note. WOW. Let me just say, Niagra Falls aint got nothin. That is all. (Told you… Way TMI).

This is my second Clomid cycle, and I’m pulling out all the stops. Raspberry tea, vitamins, Evening Primrose oil, Clomid, and taking care of myself with sleep and healthful food (most of those happen every month, but I’ve added some vitamins and the tea). At least, if I can ever remember to drink my tea. I seem to find it 2 hours later. Cold. It’s not good cold. Ranger is taking the Fertilaid (Seriously, swear by it! I don’t think Ranger wants me touting that story, but I will tell you, it’s a blessing)

I confess that I’m super nervous. If we throw all our cards on the table, what do we do if it doesn’t work? Ranger assures me that we’ll never be able to throw all our cards on the table, but I really don’t know what we can afford to try next. The rest of the options are expensive. But one of my doctors (the ‘big guy on campus’ dr. I like the ‘underling’ better) is trying to tell me that no matter what, it’s going to be expensive. One of my blood tests came back positive for a rare blood autoimmune disease. He’s convinced that that is my problem. But more and more lately, I’m not so sure. From my research, I need both tests to be positive two times in a row, 12 weeks apart. I’ve only had one test show up positive, and I’ve never been retested. I can’t figure out why he’d tell me it was this autoimmune disease if he’s never ordered the second test. I intend to talk to the dr I trust, and run my feelings by him.

One thing is for sure, if I continue to stress about it, I’m going to hurt our chances. Luckily, we’ve got some fun things planned over the next month. I bet that will help.

Guess I Needed it?

[warning]This is a fertility post. It could be considered a trigger to some (though, not really. I trigger to fertility posts regulary, and this one is a good news one), and way too much information for others. If you don’t want to read it, I won’t be offended. [/warning]

I don’t feel miserable. And that’s not normal!

I’d better explain. The short story is… My cycle started today.

The long story makes a whole lot more sense. For the past 3 years, when my cycle starts, I’m a physical and emotional wreck. I never bleed very heavily (I warned you about the TMI) but I cramp so much that I can only handle curling up in a blanket all day and wishing my uterus didn’t hate me so much.

And then you add the emotional side. I’m so frustrated and sad and mad, all because I’m not pregnant. Yet again, I have to wait a month. I wonder to myself if I can handle it. I have to reaffirm my testimony. I have to remind myself not to hate my body. Every. Month. I spend the day fighting back tears.

I’ve always wondered how much of that emotion was hormonal. Today, I’ve come to the conclusion that most of it was. And apparently whatever hormone it was doesn’t mess with Clomid. I know we’re only supposed to take clomid for 3-month stints, but I like this. I think I’m going to have to tell my doc something’s working. Even if it’s not what was intended.

Today, I organized my computer, helped move a fireplace (it’s not in yet , but we’re closer), made apple butter and 5 kinds of fruit leather, washed a ton of dishes I just unpacked (my nice set), hung picture frames, took empty boxes downstairs, showered (yes, that’s a big deal), and made a pre-planned, pre-marinaded dinner. I had time to marinade! I had sanity! That doesn’t happen on day one.

I was still a little testy, but at least I could make myself shake it off and start over. I even had the mental clarity to follow love and logic when my 9-year-old forgot she wasn’t 14 (seriously! Drama! Over making her bed! No one told me the drama started at 9! I wish 8 had lasted longer). Normally, it’s all I can do to not raise my voice or dish it back. She has no idea who she’s messing with! Her mother was the queen of sass. Just ask her grandmother. And no, that’s not something I’m overly proud of.

I think of today, and I’m filled with gratitude. I forgot what this felt like. I have no idea what the Clomid fixed, but I like the change.

Tomato Paste from skins

In case you haven’t noticed, I hate wasting any part of my fruits and veggies. Every time I process my produce and there is something left over, my mind asks, “what can I do with this? There has to be some use for it.” And, surprisingly, there usually is! With tomatoes, I was left with tomato skins. So I googled it, and found this recipe. I’m glad I found it, because I bottle about 200 lbs of tomatoes in a given year. From just 25 lbs, I got about 22 quarter-pints of tomato paste. I could have had more, but by the time I got to the last batch of bottled tomatoes, the first batch of skins went bad. Note to self: Do the sauce as the skins become available. They don’t last long in the fridge.

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Isn’t this perfect sauce? I could have boiled it down a little further into a thick paste, but I left it as sauce. It’s a thick sauce, though.

It is important to wash all the pesticides and bacteria off of your fruit and veggies, especially if you intend to use the skins! There are a few different ways to wash them, so you can pick what works best for you.

Then blanch your tomatoes by sinking into their pot of boiling water (I let the skins pop. It cooks the tomatoes a little longer, but I like how much easier it is) and then sinking them into cold ice-water.

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Do whatever you planned with the tomatoes. I make salsa, stewed tomatoes, and just plain bottled tomatoes. When I fill the bottles, I go in sets of 7 to fill my canner, then  I throw any extra tomatoes that don’t fit in the right amount of jars into the pot. It’ll take a little longer to boil out the liquid in the tomatoes, but it is a good use for the extra tomatoes.

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I know, it doesn’t look like much, yet, but place all the skins and the extra tomatoes into a pot and turn the stove to medium (avoid any high setting. Burning tomato is not the best way to spend your evening).

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When it starts to get all soupy-looking use a stick blender to puree the skins. I simmered the tomatoes about an hour and a half, then pureed them and let them simmer another hour.

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you see the good pulp forming? I’m sure it’s overkill, but after the second hour, I blended the tomatoes again, and let them cool slightly (just so I didn’t get burned. The tomatoes were still hot, but not boiling).

Here’s where I deviated from NW Edible. She works her tomatoes through a fine-mesh sieve. I have a fine screen
attachment to my Victorio. It saves a ton of work! I don’t know if you need the fine screen, but I didn’t want to risk it. I ran it through twice. I wanted as much of the tomatoey goodness as I could get. I actually got a ton the second time, too! In the end, I got a bowl full of little straw-like skin leftovers and a bunch of coarse seeds and beautiful tomato sauce in a clean stock-pot.

To season, the measurements all depend on how much sauce you get. my tomatoes were really sour, so I added a bit of honey, some powdered garlic, some onion powder, dried parsley and oregano, and a little salt. Dried seasonings don’t mess with the pH too much, but I wouldn’t want to mix in too much. The flavor will get stronger as it is processed. And you can add more flavor afterwards.

Make sure to get the pH right. This is best achieved with a bit of lemon juice or citric acid. I can’t use the citric acid, though I wish I could (it’s usually corn-derived), so it’s lemon in this house. Add the appropriate amount to each bottle. Also, word to the wise: once I used vinegar. DON’T do it. sure, you wont have to worry about botulism, but you also wont have to eat it. It’s nasty. Oh, and do just the right amount of lemon juice, too. My tomatoes were so acidic this year, adding the lemon juice made my whole body cringe. I’m probably not being safe, but I cut the amount in half. It was the only way I could stand to eat them! I’ve never had that problem before, though. Just with one farmer’s boxes of tomatoes from the local farmer’s market. It might just be the variety he grew.

 

Fruit leather recipes

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Apples, apples apples! I feel like I will never run out of apples. Thank heavens, though. I like apples. And so does my picky little miss. With having over 25 cups of applesauce still in my fridge after making apple butter, apple pie filling, apple sauce and apple juice, I decided that we were in dire need of fruit leather. Or at least my apples were in dire need of becoming fruit leather.

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We all enjoy fruit leather, as long as it’s done right, but I’ve never actually made it with apples before. I feel that was a major oversight on my part, because if you look at any store-bought fruit leather (not fruit rolls, though. They’re mostly corn or pectin), the main ingredient is apples. Knowing what I know about food science, I’d attribute that to a few wonderful characteristics from the apples themselves. apples make a softer, smoother fruit paste. They have natural pectin, so they can congeal without added ingredients. This also makes them stay softer when they’re dry.

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I tried a few different apple leather recipes this year, and I can tell you, I ate the left-overs with a spoon. So yummy. After scouring the web, I came up with 15 different recipes of my own creation, tweaking what I found online to fit my own needs/tastes.

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Some are a bit weird, but they’re worth a shot. Truth be told, I actually like the weird ones. I just can’t get my family to try them. They are an “acquired” taste, I suppose.

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We took a bunch of the leather on vacation with us, and didn’t come back with any leftovers. They made a convenient snack while waiting in line.

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I’ll post this here, though I’ll probably have to mention this in every recipe, as well. My dehydrator says to dry fruits at 135º. The internet says to make it 140º. Following either instruction will leave you with something rubbery and very undesirable. It dries the outside too quickly and leaves the centers still gooey and moisture-laden. Moisture means mold and spoilage. Bad news. I dried my leather between 115 and 125º, depending on the thickness. It actually took less time to dry at that temperature, because the dry was more thorough. It didn’t have to fight a hard crust to get to the moisture.

That brings up another point… Most ovens don’t go below 170°. I’ve never made fruit leather in an oven. I have heard it can be done, but I don’t know what happens to shelf-life. From what I can understand from the process, it will either shorten self-life greatly or it will give you a tough hart-to-chew product. The internet is full of how to dehydrate in an oven. Most say cook at 175º for 2-4 hours, checking after 1 hour. I think the oven is good in a pinch, but you really should consider a dehydrator if you like the idea of homemade fruit leather. It will give you safer results.

Fruit leather Recipes:

Classic Apple Fruit Leather (also known as plain)
Raspberry-Apple Fruit Leather
Pumpkin-Apple Fruit Leather
Lavender-Apple Fruit Leather
(I warned you there were weird flavors)
Whole-foods Green Apple Fruit Leather (The recipe looks weird, but try it. It’s one of our favorites)
Cinnamon Spice Fruit Leather
Spiced Blueberry Fruit Leather
Apple-maple Fruit Leather
Apple-Rhubarb Fruit Leather
Apple-Peach Fruit Leather
Cranberry-Apple Fruit Leather
Apple-Pear Fruit Leather
Apple-Almond Fruit Leather
Apple-Coconut Fruit Leather
(My personal favorite)
Apple Vanilla Fruit Leather