Why I cook for my husband. Liturgy of Life. Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Why I cook for my husband

I’m a modern woman and I have the credentials to prove it.  When I crossed the stage in my cap and gown they tacked MD to the end of my name I gained quick entrance into the professional world. My parents’ dreams were fulfilled, I stood tall on the weary shoulders of the women who went before me, paving the way into workplaces that only a generation ago were inaccessible to those of us with a double X chromosome.  I am not be intimidated by men in suits, and in fact when I’m holding a syringe over them those men are often intimidated by me.  I would not need a man to support me, my earning potential far exceeds that of my clergy husband unless he decides to pursue a career in televangelism. For a spell I was even the breadwinner of our family and my husband stayed home with our daughter. Our decision was met with applause all around. We were just that progressive.

The raised eyebrows didn’t come until we decided to change roles. I, aching for time with my little girl, and he itching to re-enter life outside our home. After many concerned phone calls the message was clear, my progress as a contemporary woman had actually limited my options in the eyes of many. Returning to the ancient vocation of  homemaker could only be seen as a step back into the dark ages.

It turns out that the change was good for us, all of us. He was able to more fully live into his skills and abilities, my daughter and I loved being together and I was able to pursue interests that I had never had time for before (hence this blog).  Joining the rank of housewife I could now dedicate myself primarily to caring for the people dearest to me, which for the most part, meant cooking for my family.

Why I cook for my husband. Liturgy of Life. Thoughts on Barbara Kingsolver's Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

I spend several hours in the kitchen everyday though I don’t exactly love to cook.   What I do love is sitting down to a nourishing table, knowing where my food came from and what is in it, having some idea of how it is acting in my body and most of all, eating something that tastes really good.

Cooking is a never-ending quest to me. I relish in learning how to take basic ingredients and turn them into all sorts of variety. Milk becomes butter, cheese, yogurt or ice cream. Tomatoes become marinara, salsa, juice or salad.  It turns out that all of the mystery foods that I imagined could only be created in factories, i.e., cream of mushroom soup, mayonnaise, fruit snacks, are relatively easy to make, tastier, less expensive and probably healthier when I make them at home and it’s a constant puzzle to get each one figured out.

Sometimes when I throw together a quick dinner with leftover sourdough pizza topped with olives, sauteed onions and mushrooms next to a pile of salad greens along with marinated beets, fermented sauerkraut, homemade feta and a handful of strawberries, topped in balsamic and oil with a squeeze of lemon that came from  my neighbor’s tree I feel like I might loose my mind in deliciousness and every hour of work that went into having that meal in the fridge feels so worth it.

This year have I committed myself to preparing lunch and breakfast.  In the past I  felt like those meals were meant to be eaten on the go, no reason to dirty a plate, let alone a pan.  But the reality is three times a day we are hungry and we are going to eat.  If I don’t cook for my family, someone else will and that someone doesn’t care near as much about them as I do.  They won’t make sure that they get a serving of greens with each meal, they won’t add turmeric and ginger and garlic and oregano, all of which add flavor and medicinal value, they will be glad to feed my family with the lowest quality, lowest price ingredients tolerable and pocket our money without a second thought.  So nowadays I cook and I love on the people I cook for in a way that no one else can.

This isn’t meant as a criticism of you if cooking isn’t your thing or if life just really does not allow you to cook as much as you would like, none of us have mastered this, we are all a work in progress. This also isn’t meant to insult those families where men have chosen to stay at home or are the primary chef in the family, you guys are awesome and I love the example you are setting.  What this is meant to be is an affirmation of all those millions of women who spend their days in front of fires and stoves stirring pots and flattening tortillas. It is a plea to recognize that an empowered woman does not have to wear high-heels or a pant suit, we can don our dusty aprons and still demand to be taken seriously.

I cook for my husband because I am a modern woman and I love to feed my family.

 

This post was inspired by my current read, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.by Barbara Kingsolver as part of the Liturgy of Life Reading Group series. We would love for you to join us.

 

For more from Liturgy of Life you can subscribe here for monthly emails, like me on facebook, or join our facebook discussion group. Thanks for reading friends I look forward to connecting with you.

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Low Sugar Spiced Peach Jam Also Known as a Little Taste of Heaven

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I’m a little late in posting this though in Texas peach season goes through September. I had mine stored in the freezer and the week of our move I decided that better get them into a more transportable form.  So in the midst of packing boxes I made up three batches of peach jam.

 

This really is not hard and it is a good jam to start with if you have never done it before.  First I’ll go through some of the basics of canning in general. Once you get the process down the details of the recipe are nothing.

Introduction to Canning

 

I know there are a million “intro to canning,” tutorials out there and I figured I would throw mine in the mix.

The general idea is:

You sterilize the jars by either boiling them or running them through a hot dishwasher (on sterilize mode). Then add food that has also been sterilized by boiling and seal them with a special two piece lid. Then boil the entire jar again to fully sterilize them. The rest is just details.

 

So for any canning project you will need:

 

Jars– reusuable so stock up now and then as you use them you can start caning something else. This recipe makes about 6 of the 8 oz jars.

 

Lids-not reusuable for canning. You can still use them to keep food stored in the pantry or fridge but the seals themselves are only good for one use.

 

Bands– this is the round part that you use to tighten the lid to the jar. This part is reusuable.

 

A large pot of boiling water. Used to sanitize jars.

 

A smaller pot to simmer lids and bands. Don’t boil just simmer, making this one too hot can damage the seal.

 

Tongs– For a my first try we made do without any special equipment. Once I started doing this more often I bought the special canning tongs which fit nicely over the top of a jar (you can usually buy a starter canning kit for about 7 dollars that contains these and the next three items).

 

Wide Mouth Funnel– You can make do without this too, it is just a bit messier. I find that I use mine all the time now that I have one.

 

Lid Lifter– This is a little magnet on the end of a wooden or plastic rod. It is convenient to get the lids out of hot water though not necessary.

 

Plastic rod- To run along the edge of the jar to stir out any air bubbles. A butter knife works fine, though I’ve read that there is a risk of chipping or scratching the glass with metal.

 

Ladle

 

Several pot holders and clean dry towels.

 

A pot of boiling food. In this case pickles. (Note: you can use this method for anything acidic, pickles, tomatoes and jams etc. When it comes to canning beans and soups and other vegetables you need a pressure canner which cooks the cans at a hotter temperature)

 

Rack– I’ve never had this but you can use a rack or just put a trivet or towel in the bottom of your pan where you are boiling jars to prevent them from banging around too much.

 

Now that you have your equipment here are the basic steps of canning in a little more detail.

 

1. Boil clean jars. Put your jars in a pot of water and bring it to a boil. Let it boil for at least 10 minutes. You can add a splash of vinegar to the water to help prevent mineral deposits on the side of the jars ( I never do this but I should).

 

2. Place your jar lids and bands in a smaller pan of water.  Heat until just before boiling, you want to soften the rubber seals with hot water but you don’t want to heat them so much that the rubber edge becomes damaged or misshapen.

 

3. Once your jam is ready, remove one jar (it will be hot so use a good potholder).  Set it on a dry dish towel. If you have one, place a wide mouth funnel on the jar.

 

4. Scoop  jam into the jar until you are about a halfinch from filling it up.

 

5. Take a plastic rod and run it along the inside of the jar to stir out any air bubbles.

 

6. Wipe the rim of the jar clean to ensure a good seal.

 

7. Take a lid and place it on the jar. Then take a band and screw it on, tighten the lid but don’t make it too tight, just enough to get some resistance.

 

8. Once you have made up all of your jars put them back into your pot of boiling water (or if you used a dishwasher for the first part you need to start a pot of boiling water and put them in there). Boil for about 10 minutes, time will vary by recipe and altitude.

 

9. Remove and set on a dry towel and let cool at room temperature.

 

You should hear the lids popping as they seal. Check each lid, the top should be sucked down so you can’t press it down any further.

 

When you go to use your jars check again, make sure the lid is still depressed, the seal is good and tight, and there are no bubbles inside of the jar before you open it.

Let’s Get Set Up

 

I set up my jars boiling on the front left burner (usually the most time consuming part is just waiting for this big pot of water to come to a boil), and my pickles or jelly or whatever on the front right burner. My lids are on the back right burner and my work space is on the counter to the right covered in a clean dish towel.

 

In addition to sterilizing my jars by boiling them in water I dip anything that is going to contact my food, (like the wide mouth funnel) and make sure it is sterilized too.

 

If you are using a dishwasher you may run your jars through the “sterilize cycle” and keep them hot in there rather than boiling them for this first step.

 

On to the Peaches:

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You will need:

 

4 1/2 cups of finely chopped, or mashed (peeled )peaches. However mashed up they are now is how they will be in the jam so if you want a smooth jam you can run them through a food processor. If you are fine with chunks just mash with a fork.

 

2 Tbs of fresh lemon juice

 

3 cups of sugar (brown or white)

 

1 1/2 tsp. of ground cinnamon

 

1/4 tsp. of ground allspice

 

1 packet of low/no sugar pectin, which is equal to 3 Tbs if you have a container.

 

A note about pectin, normal pectin requires a higher sugar content, usually about 6-7 cups for a recipe of this size in order to gel.  Low sugar pectin works best with at least some sugar but but doesn’t require as much. Make sure you follow the directions on your pectin packet, they will vary by brand. Also never try to double or triple jam recipes, pectin can burn or not heat properly in bigger batches.

 

Directions:

 

1.  Boil jars and set lids in a pan of hot water.

 

2. Peel peaches or take frozen peaches out of the freezer. You can read more about blanching, peeling and freezing peaches here. To peel, all you do is make a X shaped slit in the skin and then drop them into boiling water for 30-60 seconds. Remove and place in ice water to cool and the skin should now peel easily.

 

3. Mash up peaches as you like them.

 

4. Add lemon to peaches.

 

5. In a small bowel mix 1/4 cup of sugar with your pectin and then add  this to the fruit.

 

6. Heat fruit and pectin mixture.  You can use medium to high heat but stir often so nothing burns.

 

7. Once your fruit has reached a full rolling boil (a boil that can not be stirred away) add the reminder of your sugar and your spices.   Return for a full rolling boil.

 

8. Boil for one minute. Then remove from heat.

 

9. Scoop jam mixture into hot jars and seal lids.

 

10.  Once all the jars are finished return them to the pot of water and boil for an additional 10 minutes.

 

11. Remove jars and let them cool on the counter.

 

12. Once cool check the lids, they should all be depressed and not flexible when you push on them.  If one isn’t you can still use it but it needs to stay in the fridge not in the pantry.

 

13. Now enjoy delicious fresh peach flavor all year.

 

This recipe is reprinted from here

This is a link to the National Center for Food Canning and Preservation.

 

Here are some other articles you might like:

My Mother-In-Law’s Bread and Butter Pickles

Ten Steps to Picking and Freezing Spring Peaches

All Food is Divine Love Made Edible and Other Reasons Why I Cook

 

 

Liturgy of Life Quick Tip:
Use Butter to Test
Your Oil Temperature

 

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So I thought this was genius when I read it in How to Cook Everything (a must have cookbook, especially if you are starting out).

So I am usually doing too many things at once. I’ll put some oil in a pan and let it start to heat up, get busy with something else and then return to the pan not knowing if it has been heating for 10 seconds or 10 minutes.  An easy way to get an idea of the temperature is to put your oil in along with a dollop of butter.  As the oil heats up the butter will too and you can actually see the butter melting a cooking. It isn’t an exact science but gives you a visual to keep track of the temperature. Happy cooking.

All Food is Divine Love
Made Edible and
Other Reasons Why I Cook

 

honey

My mom is a good cook but growing up we gave her a heck of a time. We called her meatloaf Buffalo Brains and pretended the Tuna Noodle Casserole was made of  worms.   We complained about burnt edges on grilled cheese sandwiches and gagged on the peas and carrots.

When I got married I was incredibly  fearful  about being treated the same way by my own children one day.  This fear is what motivated me to learn to cook (I wish I was making this up, both the part about Buffalo Brains, and the part about fear of being made fun of by kids that didn’t even exist yet, being a motivating factor in my life). I took the task seriously, and though I was in the trenches of medical school I began developing meal plans and recipes and learning some cooking basics.

Overtime my love for cooking has evolved into something so very distant from its fearful beginnings.  Unfortunately,  I can only describe it if I go into a discussion about the creation of the world. So if you don’t mind, humor me for a moment.

Do you ever stop and think about the reality that everything we have is made out of the dirt? I mean really,  God created the earth, essentially dirt, water and light and out of these basic things everything is made. Not just food, but every material, structure, and body has its origins in the dirt.

And this dirt doesn’t just produce one or two types of plants but rather an abundance of options. Thousands of plants and animals which are turned into a diversity of foods, offering different aromas, flavors and textures.  Not only does our food satisfy our biology, our physical need to eat, but food reminds us of who we are. Our foods carry our traditions from generation to generation.  Our foods give us a sense of place as they change from region to region and  they mark our seasons as they change throughout the year.  Eating is one of the most pleasurable experiences in life and (unlike sex or even a hot bubble bath for example) we would absolutely die if we couldn’t have it.

We all know that when a baby is born, it needs to be fed. And in most cases a mother produces milk to feed her baby. The milk isn’t the mom, but it was made out of her, and though she is completely separate from it, you can’t actually take her out of it, you can’t say this part of the milk is mom and this part is the other stuff.  It all has her mark, it is uniquely hers. And when her baby drinks this milk he is satisfied, nutritionally, yes, but he is also comforted.  His experience of drinking his mother’s milk is part of his experience of her. He can’t separate his love of his mother from his love of his milk.

Okay so you are wondering where I am going, I know. So this is how God speaks through His creation. Every tree, every plant, every person has His mark. Not that He is each bite of food, He is separate from it,  but there is a reminder of Him there. It is His creation. And not only did He create the foods but He also allows the ability to collect it, buy it, and cook it. With every bite we are reminded of God’s goodness, His comfort, His rich blessing over us.  We remember that He cares that we are a people who have a history, who have a time and a place. And just like a baby, the reality is we rely on Him for every bite.

When you sit down at my table you may still get grilled cheese with burnt edges and meatloaf that looks like Buffalo Brains (I’ve never actually seen Buffalo Brains, I’m not sure how we came up with it, probably my brother). Our meals can be as chaotic and disaster prone as anyone’s. But when we  share a meal together we are communing with the Living God. His creation is ministering to us, it is feeding us, our bodies and our souls. And as we gather we are revitalized, physically and spiritually.  We walk away full, reminded of His mercy and blessing.

So now I cook for this, so that you will know that God loves you and that you will be reminded that He has you here for a reason and that you are not forgotten by Him.

I hope that I have made you hungry. I’d love to hear your thoughts.