Three Fun and Easy Date Ideas

One of the hardest things about being in a long-term relationship is keeping the magic alive. Sometimes, keeping things interesting can be tricky or difficult. If you’re ready to re-ignite the passion in your relationship, it’s time to start dating again. Did you know that many couples choose to go on regular, scheduled dates together? This can be an incredible way to spend time together. If you have kids, busy work schedules, or a hectic lifestyle, finding the time to go out alone together can be tricky, but it’s not impossible. If you’re ready to start dating your partner again, there are three fun, easy dates you can take them on.

Go to dinner
Why not keep things simple and go eat seafood in Plano TX? You can your partner can enjoy a delicious meal while sharing stories and chatting with one another. Although going to dinner might seem like a simple date idea, the truth is that this is an affordable, relaxing way to spend time together. Chances are that going to dinner will bring back memories of when you first started dating, so why not try it out?

Go play a game together
If you and your partner enjoy gaming, you might try playing board games together. You can do this at home, of course, but there are also gaming cafes in many cities that offer tables and board games for visitors to play and enjoy. Why not visit a nearby gaming place where you and your partner can try out a new game?

Go to an event
Do you and your partner enjoy listening to music? What about seeing performances? If you’re looking for a fun date idea, you should consider going to an event together. You could visit a music event at a nearby lounge or something much larger, such as a music concert. Some couples enjoy going to plays or operas together. The options are endless, so when you’re ready to consider going on a date with your partner, an event just might be the way to go.

5 Handy BBQ Safety Tips

bbq

BBQ season is coming and fire safety should be a priority when it comes to handling open flames. Below are a few tips for safe grill use this summer.

Never Start a Charcoal Grill With Gasoline

The fumes from gasoline are highly flammable. You should only use the correct starting fluid for charcoal grills. The use of gasoline can cause clothing, hair and the surroundings to catch fire. Your home can go up in flames in a matter of minutes. It may take more time than you like to use standard lighting fluid, but it is better to be cautious and safe than risk your life and property.

Keep the Grill Away From Building Overhangs or Portico

The flame in BBQ grills can flare up, release sparks and build tremendous amounts of heat. It is unwise to place them under a portico, or the an overhang of your eaves. Heat and sparks can set your home on fire. The fire can get out of control, since it is being initiated well above your head.

Avoid Wearing Loose Clothing While Grilling

Aprons, loose sleeves and baggy shirts are a bad idea to wear while grilling. You can inadvertently get them too close to the flames and catch your clothing on fire. Stop, drop and roll works, but who wants to spend the afternoon nursing unnecessary burns? Play it safe and wear grill-friendly clothing.

Keep Fire Extinguishers, Kitty Litter and Baking Soda Handy to Snuff Fires

If a gas grill flame gets out of control, turn the gas feed to the “off” position. Keep kitty litter, baking soda and a fire extinguisher handy at all times. Kitty litter and baking soda work great for smaller grease fires and the fire extinguisher will help for more serious incidences.

Never Use a Grill Indoors

No matter how bad the weather gets, never be tempted to grill indoors. There are deadly fumes that can build up and you can easily set the entire house on fire. Grill outside, or not at all. Keep a portable rescue ladder handy for occupants to vacate the home if a fire breaks out and forces an evacuation. They can be easily stored under beds and in closets. They attach to the window sill and allow for a fast and easy escape.

Contact fire safety experts like Resqladder to find affordable fire escape ladders for homes.

How Can I Make My Restaurant More Successful?

If you want 2017 to be the year that your restaurant attains unprecedented levels of success, now is the time to implement business-building strategies. Below you’ll find three techniques that can help make your restaurant increasingly successful in the coming months:

1. Buy New Equipment.

Updating your restaurant equipment is a wonderful way to ensure that your restaurant continues to move forward. This step is immensely important because using old, outdated equipment can detract from the aesthetic appeal of your restaurant. It can also increase the likelihood of accidents in the workplace setting. On the other hand, utilizing new equipment will empower you to expedite your daily operations and enhance the visual appeal of your work space. If you’re in need of new wolf stove parts, you can obtain them from organizations like www.o-reps.com.

2. Take Your Advertising Efforts Online.

Another strategy you can use to ensure that your restaurant becomes increasingly successful is advertising online. While many restaurant business owners have tapped into the power of traditional marketing modalities like brochures and signage, not all of them understand that advertising online can be equally advantageous. This is the case for numerous reasons, including that there may be some members of your target audience who have not been exposed to your brand through your offline marketing endeavors. Another great benefit of advertising online is that it provides you with a way to remain in constant, immediate contact with prospective customers and current clients. Some of the digital advertising services a marketing firm might use to build your restaurant online include responsive web design, content marketing, and social media optimization.

3. Enhance Your Hiring Process.

One final strategy you can implement to keep your restaurant growing is enhancing your hiring process. This course of action will help ensure that you have the most qualified, internally motivated, assertive people working for you. There are many ways that you can enhance your hiring process. One of them is by having a trusted individual sit with you as you conduct your interviews. This step will help ensure that you can gain a second opinion regarding the likelihood of a candidate being a good fit for your company.

Start Moving Your Restaurant Business Forward Immediately!

There are numerous techniques you can deploy to make your restaurant more successful in 2017. Three of them include buying new equipment, taking your advertising efforts online, and enhancing your hiring process. Start implementing these business optimization techniques now so your restaurant can remain on the road to growth!

The Importance of Storing Food at the Correct Temperature

Storing food at the incorrect temperature not only causes it to spoil faster, but it can also result in food poisoning. For caterers, restaurants and commercial kitchens, storing food properly is essential, as salmonella and other bacteria can quickly form undetected, posing a huge threat to guests.

Storing Food

Image Credit

Food poisoning is most commonly caused by bacteria from perishables that have not been stored, handled or cooked correctly. One of the biggest issues with food that has turned toxic is that it can still look, taste and smell as if it was fresh, yet the consequences can be dire, and in some severe cases even fatal.

Entering the Temperature Danger Zone

High-risk food should always be stored at 5 degrees Celsius or above 60 degrees, as anything in between is considered to be the danger zone. In the so-called danger zone bacteria multiplies at its fastest and can often go undetected.

Commercial kitchens need to keep close tabs on all high-risk food and make sure that they adhere to temperature guidelines at all times. In doing so they will also reduce waste, and considering that there is so much hunger in the world, this wastage should be minimised as much as possible. By staying out of the danger zone, less food will be thrown away in the long run.

Understanding High-Risk Food

High-risk foods are those that bacteria will grow on quickly, and they include raw and cooked chicken, meat and fish and dairy products. Foods that have any of these ingredients in them are all considered high-risk and should be treated with the utmost care. Cooked foods such as pasta and rice can also be high-risk, as can prepared salads, pizzas, sandwiches and other perishable ready meals.

Commercial refrigeration is essential in any establishment that serves food to the public, and a company such as Fridge Freezer Direct Ltd can be relied upon to provide you with the perfect solutions for storing foods at their ideal temperature. High-risk food can then be stored properly and the worry of waste, poisoning and other negative factors is hugely reduced.

Monitoring Your Food

Commercial kitchens need to pay careful attention not only to temperature but also to the way they store their food and what the labelling says. In the UK confusion over labelling is one of the contributing factors that leads to food being thrown away, and for a catering kitchen it’s essential that food is well labelled.

Food that has been frozen and thawed should never be refrozen, and raw food should be stored completely separately to cooked food. If you clearly label containers in your kitchen, there will be no room for confusion and food can be stored safely. This is especially important if food is bought in bulk and then repackaged, and your kitchen manager should know what temperature perishables need to be stored at in order for them to remain uncontaminated.

By keeping food at the correct temperature, maintaining the cold chain and adhering to correct packaging, labelling and storing guidelines, you can avoid a number of issues and you’ll also reduce waste and save money.

ALERT! Pie Crust Update!

Pie Crust Update!

Ah, pie! Who doesn’t love pie? Custard pie, pumpkin pie, berry pie, meringue pie, ‘mater pie… and any good – or merely beloved – pie chef has his or her favorite crust ‘secrets’ that draw the oohs and ash from their intended pie-audience.

Now, there are different sorts of pie crusts for different sorts of pies. There’s the kind of solidly “bready” pie crusts one wants to use for pot pies and quiches and such. There are “sweet” pie crusts of graham cracker crumbs and butter, with a little brown sugar mixed in, that are scrumptious with pumpkin and other smooth spice-heavy pies. There are much more substantial bready (with additions like oatmeal), sweetened crust-like stuff you dollop on top of those hard-won blackberries and raspberries in mid-summer for cobblers.

Then there are the super-flaky, very light and subtle crusts that can be used for any type of pie, but are best for specialty items like tomato pie and some berry/fruit pies. I admit my luck with butter crusts has not been very good. They often turn out hard and chewy rather than light and flaky. Don’t know if that’s because I work it too much, or something else. But I don’t even bother trying anymore, just go with the crust recipes that work reliably rather than on a hit-or-miss basis.

To that end I have a very good crust recipe from Debrah Madison’s 1997 tome, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone that I use for ‘mater pie and light quiches. It doesn’t sound like it would be the flakiest crust ever, but it invariably turns out that way. It’s difficult to work with, being made with vegetable oil (for lightness I use safflower) instead of butter or margarine. This gives the dough an oily texture that doesn’t lend itself to easy working. But if you roll it out between sheets of waxed paper, it gets nice and thin and is easily peeled out into a pie tin or onto a pie filling. Not something you’d want to use for stuffed anythings, as those do far better with real bread crusts like for pizza.

Pie Crust Made with Oil

• 1.5 cups flour
• 1/4 cup wheat bran
• 1/4 tsp. salt
• 1/2 cup safflower oil
• 2 tbsp. milk, soy milk or water

Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix oil and milk/water together in a separate bowl, add to the dry ingredients. Mix until the dough sticks together. Shape into a flat disk and roll between sheets of waxed paper to 1/4 inch thickness. Pull off one sheet of waxed paper, and invert over pie tin. carefully pull back the waxed paper to leave the crust in place. Work into the tin carefully, press-patching rips as you go. Trim. This is one 9″ deep pie’s worth of crust, double recipe for a two-crust pie.

Doesn’t take long, and this crust is surprisingly praise-worthy. Given, of course, my notorious failures in All Things Baked notwithstanding. This recipe is one that fails much less often than others I’ve tried, and the family likes it better than any purchased frozen pie crusts other than graham.

But there’s a recent Big Update that I’m anxious to try – Food Hacks reports that using vodka instead of water (or, in the above case milk) makes those extra crispy/flaky pie crusts even better! Which dedicated foodies will nod along with just as I did, while of course figuring the Thanksgiving pie quotient and wondering if Tuaca would work as well, but with more oomph…

According to Food Hackers

Swapping ice cold vodka for water in pie crust recipes ensures a flakier crust. The liquid makes the dough more pliable to work with, and then evaporates while baking, giving you a lighter result than water.

That makes sense. Tuaca has vanilla and citrus and other spices in it, so when its alcohol content evaporates during baking, it should leave a flaky crust with a lot of flavor. Perfect for pumpkin or sweet potato pies!

I’m with the Food Hacker – cooking or baking with alcoholic content is definitely a good recipe for awesome. The family and guests won’t get high off the goodies, but the cook sure might! Given the amount of hard work that goes into a major feast for mass numbers of people, that can only be a good thing…

At any rate, come this holiday season as I’m busy producing as many pies of all varieties as anybody could ever want to eat, I’ll report back on how well the use of vodka and/or some other alcoholic specialty turns out – in order of best to worst. If I can get past my hangover in time, that is… ;o)

Corporate Food & Human Backlash

Honey Laundering

The current collapse of the world financial system has revealed some structural problems in our national economy that have flourished over a period of decades as corporate interests bought politicians and lobbyists to craft legislation to remove legal roadblocks to mass theft and market manipulation. And despite some changes in the D.C. political landscape, our government remains apparently helpless to do anything about corporate malfeasance on any level. With all the bad economic news dominating the public consciousness, some issues in the food supply sector are having a difficult time being properly correlated and attended to despite the serious level of danger they present to public health.

The food supply issues didn’t begin with the market manipulations on Wall Street and from there to exchanges all over the world. Though for many people the first alarms went off as the CDS fraud crashed the economy in 2008 and the financial players went looking for other markets to wreak havoc on. They seized on commodities – staple foods from the agricultural sector increasingly dominated by multinational corporations like Monsanto, ADM and Cargill. As a traceable beginning in 2008 to what this year became the “Arab Spring” movement across North Africa and spreading to the Middle East and southern Asia, food riots broke out in Egypt and Syria and portions of India as well as elsewhere when people could no longer afford to feed themselves and their families. Things have only gotten worse in the years since, and Americans are slowly waking up.

In 2011 a full quarter of the U.S. population are dependent on food stamps. As unemployment keeps on rising, the government strangely keeps slashing the food stamp budget to appease nutty Republican radicals who insist those hardest hit by the Great Recession are just “lazy” and undeserving of aid that might require corporations and billionaires to pay taxes. Why one of the political parties in our nation believes that Americans will quietly and without complaint starve to death in the streets in order to protect billionaires from paying as much of their income in taxes as their chauffeur does has never been explained by the financial sector’s pundits at the New York Times or Wall Street Journal. Major cognitive disconnect.

But serious food supply issues encompass much more than just market manipulation and governmental paralysis. Consider some of these issues while attempting to get a picture of how dire the overall situation is…

Honey Laundering: China’s at it again – Adulterating pet and human foods with melamine wasn’t bad enough – though one corporate scapegoat was executed by the Chinese government hoping to save its place as cheap ingredients supplier to the world – the latest food scam involves honey. Not just fake honey in those little bee-shaped plastic bottles, Chinese honey brokers are creating honey by mixing sugar water, malt sweeteners, corn/rice syrup, barley malt and a variety of unrefined sugars. Failure to police storage requirements has resulted in heavy metal contamination as well, primarily lead.

If you’ve been thinking about beekeeping for honey (and handy pollinators), this is the year to get busy on it. Extension services in many rural counties offer literature, evening classes, and instructions on building hives. Agents often know who in the area builds hives for sale, and aren’t shy of giving out that information. Many people who are trying hard to eat better and healthier are being taken in by the Chinese honey scam, and big food processors using that fake honey in their supposedly ‘natural’ food lines are risking their markets. Grow your own honey or buy locally from someone honest.

Time to re-engineer the meatpacking sector – Late July brought the second largest tainted meat recall so far, when Cargill’s meat packing division recalled ~36 million pounds of ground turkey products tainted with a multi-drug resistant strain of Salmonella. The biggest recall was in 2008, when a slaughterhouse in California recalled 143 million pounds of beef due to allowing downer cows into the mix. The dangers to public health from e.coli, salmonella, listeria and other bacteria, and from adulterants and contaminates are high, yet our government doesn’t give the Food and Drug Administration [FDA] the power to force food recalls. Companies have to do this voluntarily, and they don’t often volunteer until people start dying and CDC tracks the source down.

If your family eats meat, now is the time to seriously consider raising your own or contracting with a neighbor who raises meat animals. A side of beef from a calf pastured for a year, dressed whole chickens raised happily free range, maybe rabbit stew meat, a slab of locally smoked bacon and/or ham… buying from known sources or doing it yourself could easily save your family’s lives. The more that control of our commercial food supply gets concentrated into the greedy hands of a few, the more danger is present overall. Avoid it like the plague it truly is.

The Nation has a good article looking at How change is going to come in the food system despite united resistance of the big corporate players to cater to public demands for better, less adulterated and far less fattening foods. There is a lot of good information in this article’s analysis to arm yourself with when next you try arguing with a friend, relative or acquaintance about the importance of healthy food and the severe shortage of it in our commercial food supply.

And finally, the good news. The New York Times informs us that vegetable gardens are booming in a fallow economy. We homesteaders have of course known this all along – and have done more than our share to get more people digging and grow the local markets – but we should always welcome mainstream coverage that helps to spread awareness. Recent movement in many states to allow the use of food stamps at farmer’s markets and bulk purchases straight from farmers are helping more people to get more and better food than they could purchase in the grocery store.

Many localities are also sponsoring seed exchanges through the Lions or Ruritan, sometimes through local Chambers of Commerce, 4-H and FFA clubs at high schools. These have committees in charge of getting open-pollinated seeds from local gardeners and farmers, packaging them, and then distributing them free in the late winter and early spring to local residents planning their season’s garden crops. Local schools and civic clubs are offering gardening classes and contacts to suppliers of tool exchanges, equipment like chicken coops and bee hives, and farmers who sell chicks, calves, kids and kits to those wishing to raise their own meat animals. Local butchers are making a comeback, and in many states the Extension Service offers classes all the way up to Master Gardening certification. So get busy, and get your neighbors busy making best use of all these developing local alternatives to Big Ag and Big Food, Inc. We will be a much happier and healthier nation for it, and probably much smarter as a people for our awareness and direct involvement in this most important aspect of everybody’s lives.

“Food Junkie” Takes New Meaning

Food junkieWith the Thanksgiving feast now reduced to composted leftovers and the month-long year-end celebration of indulgence ahead of us, it should come as no big surprise to most that there’s a reason we humans have such a shortage of dietary willpower when it comes to all those sweets and goodies on the seasonal menu. Consider, for instance, chocolate.

Deep, rich dark or creamy light, chocolate is one of those indulgent ‘comfort food’ items humans find it very difficult to avoid. All chocolate derives from cocoa, which has recently been found to offer cardioprotective benefits – if the sugar in it doesn’t end up making us obese first, that is. The specific agent for protection of the heart from low oxygen levels is epicatechin, a flavonoid and antioxidant in cocoa. Epicatechin acts by binding to opioid receptors in our nervous system.

Opioid? As in opium? That’s right, opium. No wonder we often consider a fondness for chocolate to be akin to an addiction… it IS addictive! And the substance used to treat opium addictions – naloxone, which preemptively binds to opium receptors – has been shown to reduce cravings for chocolate.

It may be more surprising that many – or even most – of our most popular foods and additives also bind to opioid receptors, and some even stimulate our brains to release natural endorphins to stimulate a narcotic pleasure response. These ‘food opiates’ are found most heavily concentrated in wheat (5 separate gluten exorphins) and dairy products, but all three forms of sugar – glucose, sucrose and fructose – also act on opioid receptors and can elicit addictive behaviors. Even worse, we humans begin our addiction early in life – human breast milk, in fact, contains actual morphine!

Sayer Ji explains all this in an excellent article for Wake Up World, Do Hidden Opiates In Our Food Explain Food Addictions? Compiling a list of common foods found by researchers to contain substances that either bind to opioid receptors or stimulate the production of endogenous morphines, we find that meat and fish proteins are broken down by digestion into opioid substances, as does the albumin in rice. Spinach contains two opioid peptides, and the oil cafestrol in both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee contains potent morphine-like binders.

Do check Ji’s article and try to bear in mind the whys and wherefores of food cravings as we move into the craving-saturating holiday season. You never know, an understanding of how and why these cravings exist and seem so difficult to overcome by sheer willpower just might help make our January withdrawals a little easier to tolerate. Though shedding the extra pounds gained from early winter indulgences will still be as difficult as it’s ever been. Good luck with that, and good feasting to all the readers of Wise Living Journal!

USDA: Sequester Impacts

Sequester_ImpactsWe homesteaders are among the citizens who pay a good deal of attention to the programs and operations of both state and federal agricultural departments because they can directly affect us (for good or ill). We often make use of our state ag departments’ extension services for education in things like beekeeping, land use, community ag promotional programs, etc. And we keep track – often with some trepidation – of the various ways that the U.S. Department of Agriculture [USDA] can make or break our attempts to make our livings off the land and the work we put into it. Under this rubric come permissions and restrictions for selling our produce and other home-grown products to the public, to local and regional government programs, food banks, schools, etc., as well as all those expensive and tiring hoops we must jump through to obtain and keep certifications for organic labeling, etc.

We live on and off the land, and must keep ourselves abreast of the tricks of that trade. In this blog I have expressed some reservations about Tom Vilsack, who was appointed Secretary of Agriculture by President Obama some years ago, due to his corporate-friendly policies. Particularly in regards to Monsanto’s agri-chem and GMO activities, which are a considerable threat to organic producers. He has also been somewhat less than supportive of local producers being allowed to supply raw and processed foods to local schools and food banks, which we see as an important part of the ‘locavore’ – “Eat Local” movement. Buying and eating foods grown and processed close to home removes one of the most environmentally insidious government-subsidized cost-adds to our food supply – the costs of transporting foods grown in other states, regions and countries from farm to processor, and from processors to market. Almost all of it accomplished by the burning of fossil fuels.

The U.S. government has been operating for some months under what is known as “sequester,” one of those hostage threats Republicans in the U.S. Congress used to try and get their policies enacted despite being unable to win actual elections on the merits of their ideas. This seq uester has cut spending levels across the board fairly drastically, and crippled many government agencies and departments to the point where some of their most important jobs don’t get done. USDA is one of those crippled departments.

For example, the sequester has slashed government subsidies to school districts to help support their school breakfast and lunch programs. At the end of this month (October) schools will have to provide their own funding exclusively, though the government claims they will be reimbursed at some point. If the sequester is ever recinded, and now presuming those same Republican hostage-takers won’t keep the entire government shut down indefinitely while crashing the world’s economy by refusing to pay the bills for appropriations they’ve already allotted from the budget.

Concurrent drastic cuts and cut-offs to both the SNAP (Food Stamps) and WIC food programs are cutting deeply into the ability of families – many of them working full time but earning minimum wage – to put food on the table. With neither school feeding programs or food assistance from the government, a great many people will simply have to do without. We know that doing without food isn’t a particularly healthy way to live, but at least one party in our political system doesn’t think that’s a problem. I presume they and their families eat very well, thanks. We certainly pay them enough for that.

Both SNAP and WIC will run out of funds nationwide by mid-November. Just in time for the holidays! Funding for rental assistance has also been cut, and no new farm/business loans are being processed. Farmers who had previous loans through USDA and have sold this year’s crops can’t get the checks cashed because county offices for the Farm Service Agency are all closed. A freak autumn blizzard in the Dakotas killed thousands of cattle and horses, but the conservation arm of the USDA cannot help to get the dead livestock buried. This is obviously a serious issue for the immediate health and well-being of both rural dwellers and healthy livestock.

From here on, until and unless our government flunkies in Congress wake up and do their too well paid jobs, we are all on our own. Severe weather affecting farmers and ranchers will not be mitigated by the usual government emergency loans and/or mobilization of resources. Families going homeless and hungry through the winter will not be aided, nor will they or their pets or any farmer’s lost livestock get buried when they finally die. Hell, in another [not ag related] outrage of Congressional shananigans, the families of our soldiers dying in Afghanistan and elsewhere are no longer receiving the ‘death benefit’ they are entitled to, so not even our war dead are getting buried if the families don’t have cash on hand.

This situation is obviously untenable and cannot keep going for long, but I see no signs that the radical reactionaries in Congress are willing to do anything whatsoever that might save the nation from absolute ruin. If something doesn’t give very soon, by the time agricultural America gets started planning the spring crops there may be no national government at all and no help for anyone to access adequate food.

There are a few things we can do. First and foremost, call and/or write your congressional representatives and let them know this obstructionism must stop. Now. Let all your friends and family know how important it is that our representatives face harsh pressure on these issues. Get involved with your county and state electoral organizations and help draft decent candidates to challenge die-hards in next year’s elections. Think hard about running yourself if you believe you can do a good job, everyone you know will be thankful.

Get together with your homesteading and farming neighbors and meet with your community aid organizations (like Lions, Kiwanis, 4-H, etc.) to expand community shares programs, community gardens and crop set-asides to go directly to local food distribution services and schools for feeding hungry people. Do as much fund-raising as you can – host events, give public presentations, lobby county and state governments as well as local businesses and corporations – to replace necessary funding for programs to help our communities.

If we go ahead and act as if the federal government is no longer in the business of serving the people, we can make concrete plans to serve each other. Then, when (and if) the dust in Washington settles, we may find ourselves much more committed to each other and much more capable of doing for ourselves. Which, in the end, may be the best lesson the political class in D.C. could ever be taught by ‘We The People’.

An Early July of Biblical Proportions

The first week of July here in the southern Appalachians has been positively diluvian. That means we’ve had so much rain – falling at the rate of 1-2 inches an hour spaced in waves throughout the day and night – that I’ve literally considered that I ought to build an ark. Worst day of all was the 4th of July, which brought more than 6 inches of rain, flooding streets and fields and swelling creeks to dangerous levels. Nearby towns cancelled parades, picnics and fireworks shows. Sun finally came out yesterday, but the creek’s still high.

fruitHowever, with the overdue appearance of old sol in the daytime sky, the fat, well-watered blackberry crop may finally ripen instead of simply mold itself into oblivion. Tomatoes and peppers may kick in at long last as well, you never know. But my issue right now has to do with one of my apple trees that managed to lose its footing in what has become a pure mud-bog. It’s a total loss after only 15 years of production, leaving me with just one producing apple tree. Must get a few new ones or we’ll never have home grown apples again.

One of the kids visiting for the holiday helped me salvage the unripe apples on that tree, hoping I could do something with them despite the fact that they’re three weeks to a month away from ripe. They’re filling three large baskets on the dining table right now, still waiting for me to figure out what I want to do with them.

Now, I could quarter them and cook them down in a big pot, then strain for pectin to use when making jams and compotes later when the peaches, pears, berries and grapes come in, but it seems a waste of my Final Harvest. I could use them for applesauce instead, but they’ll need a lot of sugar. Maybe I’ll make unsweetened sauce and save it in the ‘fridge until the blackberries are ripe, make some combo sauce (will need less sugar). Or I could peel and slice them for drying in my nifty solar dryer – which hasn’t seen service so far this year – then hope against hope that the sun may stay around long enough to do the job. They could be half-dried, then reconstituted in sugar water before drying again for snack bits and/or pie filling. But they’re small, would make very small dried tidbits.

So of course I went looking for crab apple and little green apple recipes, found some intriguing ones. Below are the most promising ones I’ve found. I’ve enough apples to try several methods of preservation, may save the drying for the rest of the crop that’s still growing. Will report on how they turned out, so stay tuned!


_____

Sweet Wine Poached Apples

1 pound little green apples
1 cup sweet red wine [like Riesling]
1/2 cup white sugar
Pinch of salt
1 orange, sliced crossways
1 bag of mulling spices
or
2 tsp. ground cinnamon or 1 broken cinnamon stick
1/2 tsp. ground cloves or 5 whole cloves
1 tsp. Carolina allspice
1/2 tsp. ginger

Wash apples, quarter with skin on and cut out the seeds. Combine the wine, sugar, spices and salt, Bring to a simmer while stirring constantly. When the sugar is completely dissolved, add the orange slices and apple quarters. Cover and turn heat to low. Simmer for 5 minutes or until the apples are tender, just before the skin starts separating.

Remove apples and pack loosely in half pint jars. Strain leftover wine and add this to the jars to 1/2 inch from top. Cap, cool, then refrigerate or freeze. Should keep at least a week in the ‘fridge, several months in the freezer. Serve as appetizers on bamboo skewers or long toothpicks.
_____

Green Apple/Tomato Chutney

1/2 pound unripe apples
1/2 pound green tomatoes
1 3/4 cup brown sugar
2 onions
4 tsp. turmeric
2 tsp. pickling spices
2 cups plus 2 tbsp. cider vinegar
2 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. small diced ginger root

Wash apples and tomatoes. Peel and core, dice apples and tomatoes into small cubes. Bring vinegar, sugar, salt and spices into a heavy saucepan and heat on medium while stirring until it comes to a simmer. Add chopped onions, ginger and green tomatoes. Reduce heat to low, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon to prevent sticking. Simmer for about 30 minutes. Add apple cubes, continue to cook ~10 minutes. Mixture will be reduced and thick.

Cool on stove, then ladle into jars, cap tightly. Keeps about 6 months on the shelf, longer in the fridge.
_____

Blackberry and Green Apple Jelly

1.5 pounds green apples, quartered
1 cup fresh blackberries
4 cups water
3 cups white sugar
1 tsp. pickling spices (optional)

Place apples and blackberries in a heavy saucepan (do not use aluminum), cover with water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium and let simmer for 10-15 minutes until pulp is soft. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve, then filter through cheesecloth or coffee filter paper. You want 4 cups of juice, add water if there’s less than that. Compost the pulp and seeds.

Return juice to clean saucepan and bring to a simmer, cook for 10 minutes. Skim off any foam that comes to the top using a wooden spoon. Stir in the sugar until completely dissolved. Continue to cook until the liquid reaches thread stage [220ºF or 110ºC,].

Pour jelly into sterile half pint jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Cap and process 10 minutes in water bath or cool and seal with wax.

Bayer & Monsanto Killing Bees

The numbers are in, and they add up to devastating.

bees Bee Informed Partnership this month released its preliminary report on honey bee colony losses in the US for 2013-2014. The partnership, along with the Apiary Inspectors of America [AIA] and the USDA have been surveying beekeepers for 8 years in an attempt to get a handle on how many of the nation’s bee colonies are succumbing to what has been a mysterious mass die-off called “Colony Collapse Disorder” [CCD]. Last winter 23.2% of managed honey bee colonies died. That’s lower than the previous year’s estimate of 30.5%, but it does confirm that harm is still being done to these important pollinators. Loss estimate for the 12-month period between April 1, 2012 and March 30, 2013 was 45.2%. The bees are still dying, and now we know why.

Dozens of peer-reviewed scientific studies have been published over the past decade linking CCD to pesticide use, and honey bees aren’t the only victims. More specifically, the culprit is a group of insecticides called neonicotinoids. Rather than being sprayed just on the surface of plants, neonics are absorbed and spread through the entire plant, including pollen and nectar. They persist in the environment and can accumulate quickly. This has led to contamination of surface water, groundwater and soil, endangering species inhabiting those ecosystems.

Neonic pesticides are manufactured and marketed primarily by Bayer Crop Science and Monsanto. The Natural Resources Defense Council [NRDC] sued the Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] after it failed to release Bayer’s underlying studies on the safety of its neonicotinoids. EPA approval for neonics hinged on the claim that amounts in pollen and nectar were non-lethal to bees, but studies have shown that even at low doses the pesticides have effects that impair bees’ learning and memory. The EU has banned neonics, but EPA is not considering doing so in the US. 30-50% losses annually is unsustainable, and about a quarter of the food Americans eat relies on bee pollination.

In March of 2012 the Canter for Food Safety [CFS] joined with 25 prominent beekeepers to file an Emergency Petition to the EPA asking for suspension on the use of certain neonicotinoids. When that brought no action, CFS and a coalition of 4 beekeepers and 5 environmental and consumer groups filed a formal lawsuit against EPA for failure to protect pollinators as well as seeking suspension.

Check out the Sierra Club’s Pollinator Protection Campaign to see how you can help convince Congress and the administration that bees are more valuable than Bayer’s or Monsanto’s profit margins.