Apple Picking

Family Fun with a Purposebag of apples

I love being outside and eating fresh fruit.

apples on the tree

This fun family activity combined those two!  We went apple picking at Fifer Orchards.  It is really important to me to educate J on food and using fresh ingredients.  We’ve made several lifestyle changes to try and get our health in order.  If you would like to read more about that, check out this post.  The book that inspired us the most is called The Daniel Plan.  If you would like to learn more about your health, nutrition and otherwise, I strongly encourage you to check it out!


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picking apples

 

 

The trees were full of beautiful apples!  We were so glad that we decided to get the larger bag.

 

 

 

J got to pick the apples straight off of the tree.  Now, that’s staying connected to your food!  There was even a little tractor ride involved.  A tractor pulling a trailer escorted us to the rows of apple trees and then picked us up when we finished picking.

Apple Uses

bag of apples

 

 

But, what exactly do you do with a 1/2 bushel of apples?  Eat them raw, apple pie, apple crumb cake, apple crisp, applesauce, etc.  There are so many possibilities!

 

The first step is washing all those apples!  Washing produce is so important.  Even when purchasing organic, you never know if the neighboring farmer uses pesticides or if crop dusters flying over spill some of the harmful chemicals onto the produce.  Fifer Orchards is not organic, but the worker told us that they try to limit the chemicals that they use.

washing apples

 

We love to fill the sink with water and add about a cup of white vinegar.

It is amazing to see the film come off of the produce in the sink!  You can rinse or just let air dry.  I have done both and cannot tell a difference either way.

 

Juicing

We love using our juicer to make fresh pressed juice.  If you’d like to check out the one that we use and love, click here.  It is an investment, but when you juice often, it is so worth it!  This juicer is a cold-press which does not heat up, damaging beneficial enzymes.

Slice and core the apples, then dump into the juicer.  Fresh pressed juice and dry apple pulp to feed the deer in the woods.

 

fresh juice

We lost track of how many apples we juiced, but guessed around 40 or so.  Here’s the first 1/2 gallon jug.  The color is different from store bought apple juice, but I have found that is usually the case.  Store bought juices often have many other ingredients added to make them sweeter and “prettier.”  This juice tastes great and we know exactly what’s in it!  Read even more about juicing in this post.

 

 

Here’s the next batch of juice jugs:

more juice

We had some pineapple juice left over from our last juicing, and I found this recipe for Hot Apple Cider that I wanted to try.  The jug in the middle has pineapple juice and apple juice.

Hot Apple Cider Recipe:

6 cups Apple cider or juice (we used juice)

2 cups pineapple juice

Clove Vitality* 5 drops

Cinnamon Bark Vitality* 5 drops

Tangerine Vitality* 5 drops

Directions: Put all ingredients into a 3 qt pot and heat on medium heat until hot, stirring occasionally.  Serve warm!

We used our large Hydroflask jug to keep it warm.  It was delicious!

*New to essential oils?  Learn more about them in this post.  The Vitality line is specifically for internal use.  We love our Young Living products!

Juicing

juicing watermelon

Why We Choose to Juice Fruits

My daughter has an allergy where she cannot consume raw apples or pears.  This made it incredibly difficult to find store bought juice.  Almost all juices have apple or pear juice as a filler because those fruits are pretty cheap.  Also, we have been trying to get healthier and know exactly what we are putting in our bodies.  So, juicing was an easy decision.  You have the upfront cost of purchasing another appliance, but we believe it has been well worth the cost.

freshly peeled oranges

The hardest part is going to be finding a juicer.  There are SOOO many different kinds and brands.  After researching, we decided to go with one that is a cold press because heat can take away vital enzymes and nutrients.  Other juicers have a blade that spins around to separate the juice, and the blade is what produces heat energy.  The cold-press technology basically squeezes the juice out of the fruit by pressing and grinding.  The brand that we have is SKG.  There are only a few parts to take apart and cleaning it is very easy.  Usually, we just throw it all in the dishwasher.  To view the juicer that we use and love, click here.


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fresh squeezed orange juiceBenefits of Juicing

I have done a lot of research into the food industry and have discovered information that is disturbing.  It started with reading The Daniel Plan and then watching a documentary on Netflix called Food, Inc.  The short version is that the consumer needs to be educated and wise to decide what is best for their family.  Tricky wording and optional labeling can leave even the well-educated consumer  guessing.  So, by juicing, you remove all of the guessing.  Purchase organic produce, straight from the farmer if you can, and there you have it.  You know exactly what is in your juice.

Other than piece of mind, juicing does have health benefits.  If you prefer to drink your vitamins and nutrients, or have a very active lifestyle and need something on-the-go, juicing is great.  I plan to use juicing as I do making smoothies – sneaking veggies in that my daughter doesn’t like to eat.  That way, she’s still getting the nutrients, but can’t even taste it!  There is no real scientific evidence right now to support juicing is better than eating the whole fruit or vegetable.  I believe that they can both be beneficial.  In our case, juicing was necessary to meet the needs of my daughter’s food allergy.  We have also noticed that the juice tastes better.  It’s like your body can taste the difference between pasteurized and fresh-pressed.  Amazing!

SKG juicer

For more information, check out these articles: The Healing Properties of Juicing and Juicing, How Healthy Is It?

The Juicer

juicing fruits

As you can see, there are two spouts at the bottom of the reservoir.  You cut your fruit up and place into the top.  The bottom part turns and separates the pulp from the juice.  This juicer comes with a cup to catch the juice, but you will need to grab a bowl or something to catch the dry pulp.  We use our Pampered Chef glass mixing bowl.  This batch got almost a gallon of juice from one little watermelon!

juicing fruits

 

It’s super easy to use!  We love juicing and have only tried a few fruits so far.  These pictures are from watermelon.  We have juiced pineapple, raspberries, oranges and lemons.  The pineapple is a household favorite and I use lemon juice in my water to raise my body’s pH level.

 

Benefits of Juicing Cold-Pressed

Although it may seem slower than other appliances, this juicer gets the job done and it is very quiet.  You get a lot of juice from fruit and have super dry pulp.  The dry pulp is full of fiber, so you will want to save it for something.  It is excellent for adding to smoothies.  If you’re into hunting, deer enjoy watermelon I hear, so that’s another option!  We have only tried using this juicer with fruits, but I have read that it works great with vegetables and even nuts if you want to make your own almond milk, etc.

I like to save the dried pulp to add to smoothies.  The pulp has lots of fiber and helps thicken smoothies nicely.

Just press into an ice cube tray, freeze, pop out and toss in a freezer bag.  Label with contents and date.  The next time you want to add a little something to your smoothie, toss a couple cubes in!

For more ideas on how to make food at home, check out my post here about pizza made from scratch, or here for homemade applesauce.

Living Simply – Are You Ready For It?

Less is More

I viewed a documentary called Minimalism, focusing on living simply in a world of I Gotta Have It Right Now.  Very inspiring and eye-opening with interviews of many people, including people with PhDs discussing the poor social state that many of us are in.  Less is more.  Why have we let the marketing industry brain wash us into thinking we must have __________ to be happy?  Thinking about people trampling  others at Black Friday sales makes me sick.  At the end of the documentary, one of the authors of the minimalist blog said, “Love people, use things, not the other way around.”  That is a mouthful!  As believers we are called to love others, but I’ve never thought of it like this before.  So, instead of “listening” to someone talking while you are using a smart phone, put down the phone and invest in that relationship!

The Love of Material Things

We are living in a current society where many people do not want for anything; they buy whatever they want whenever they want it.  Living simply isn’t even a thought.  You don’t have enough money?  That’s fine; there’s a credit card, or store card that you can charge.  This is SOOOOO unhealthy!  Instant gratification has spoiled so many of us.  I remember growing up and saving up my birthday AND Christmas money to buy things that I wanted.  Those wish lists that I created so my friends and family knew what I wanted……. that has all gone by the wayside.

Living simply doesn’t even make sense to so many people.  Who needs anything?  It makes me sick to think of the hundreds of dollars that I have spent on clothing!  Fashion that changes every month is too much to keep up with and not even worth the time or energy.  Many people are trapped in this state of keeping up with their neighbors, or showing up their family, or outranking their friends.  We can’t even enjoy our lives because we are working so much to pay for things that we don’t need and to live in houses that are too large.  For more information about clutter, click here.

simplify your life

Living Simply is a Process

We have slowly made small changes over the course of 2 years.  First, we slowed down our spending.  Just because Apple launches a new product, doesn’t mean that the old one stops working.  Why is it that we feel like we have to have everything the second we want it?  Three and four generations ago, people worked hard for everything that they had and I bet they were more grateful and lived happier lives.

The next step my family took was looking at some of our larger furniture and knick knacks.  Do we need all of these tables in our living room?  No.  Do these little figurines serve any purpose?  No.  Do we ever use that?  No.   Is it necessary to have 3 of one thing?  No. Having lawn sales was extremely helpful in getting rid of things we didn’t value and making some extra cash.  We are living simply and are actually happier with less stuff.

Learn more about de-cluttering here.

We are currently in the process of moving into a one bedroom apartment from our 3 bedroom home.  This is not something that will happen overnight, and it will not be easy to begin.  However, once you begin this process, it is SOOOO FREEING!  You feel free when you simplify and downsize.  It helps you focus on what really matters in your life.  I want to spend less time cleaning my house and more time with my family.

And don’t forget about your digital life.  Click here.

Ripple Effects

Not only are these habits and thoughts unhealthy for us and our families, they also affect our society.  I am a teacher, so I see the next generation on a daily basis.  Talk about struggle.  Talk about frustration.  I can see it in the kids and the adults.  It almost seems like we are speaking different languages.  So much time is spent on social media that face-to-face conversations, social etiquette and common courtesy are becoming nonexistent.

Communication is breaking down because people don’t have the life skills to function around other human beings!  It is so aggravating when you are talking to someone and they won’t put down their phone/tablet/whatever the newest gadget is!  Human beings are relational.  We are wired to function as collaborative groups, relying on each other and helping each other.  This love for material things has made us so selfish and introverted that we’ve lost something along the way that I think is detrimental to the species!  It is so encouraging to view other people snapping out of it and realizing that the best things in life aren’t things.

living simply

Make a Change Today!  Less IS More!

Be intentional.  Live Simply.  Enjoy life.  Love who you are, regardless of what you have or what you are wearing.  Evaluate how you are spending your time and money.  Are those things that you have in your closet really worth anything to you?  Could you get rid of some of your clutter to eliminate having to pay someone else to store your stuff?  Start small.  Tackle one room (or closet) at a time.  I like to give myself challenges.  Eliminate the need for one shelf in your closet, or fit everything into one box.  We just went through our Christmas decorations and have everything other than the tree fitting into one tote.

Don’t go to work just to make enough money to pay the bills, or to pay for the things that you don’t need.  Life is so much more than stuff!  Slow down and pause to smell the flowers in your garden.  Listen to the animals chattering in your backyard.  Spend time with your kids.  These are mood-boosting and “bucket” filling.  (If you haven’t checked out the book, Simplify, I strongly recommend it!)  These are the important things in life to focus on, not cleaning your 4 bathrooms in your huge home.  As the minimalist said on the documentary, “Love people and use things.”  How can you love someone today?

Read more here.

Playing Hand and Foot

Hand and Foot

Hand and Foot shuffling

This card game called “Hand and Foot” is really popular in Florida.  You work on teams and play cards to make books.  The game duration varies in length, so there is time for talking and snacking.  We have a lot of fun in big groups playing this game.  Apparently, there are different versions of this game, depending on where you play.  Here’s the version that the Schell family uses.

Hand and Foot Rules

  1. Use one more deck of cards than the number of people playing.  For example, if there are 4 people, you will need 5 decks.  We bought a multi-card pack at Sam’s Club.
  2. Card point value: 4-7s are worth 5 points each, 8-10 and Face cards (King, Queen, Jack) are worth 10 points each, Ace and 2s are worth 20 points each (2 is a wild card), Joker is another wild worth 50 points, Red 3s are negative 300 points, Black 3s are worth 0 points.
  3. There are four rounds, with specific points required to begin laying down cards.  Round 1: 50 points, Round 2: 90 points, Round 3: 120 points, Round 4: 150 points.
  4. A completed book is 7 cards.  Red books have no wilds and are worth 300 points at the end of the round; Black books have wild cards and are worth 100 points.  We usually play that you have two Red books and 3 Black books before you can end the round.
  5. Black books must have one less wild card than non-wild cards.

How to Play Hand and Foot

  1. Assemble teams.  We usually play with 2-3 people on each team.  There can be 2-3 teams.  You cannot sit next to the person(s) who is/are on your team.
  2. Shuffle the cards really well.
  3. Hand and Foot starting outMake two piles of cards face down.  Each player turns over a card(s) from anywhere in the stack of cards, revealing its value.  The highest value goes first. Hand and Foot
  4. Each player tries to grab 22 cards.  If you do, your team gets 100 points.  Make two piles of 11 cards each, face down.  Just for the record, while I was laying cards out to snap a picture for this post, I got 22!  Woot woot.  Too bad it didn’t count. Hand and Foot starting out
  5. Keep one pile as yours to play.  You may look at these cards – this is called your hand.
  6. Pass the other pile to the person on your left.  They may not look at these cards yet – this is their foot.
  7. Organize your cards by grouping like cards together. Hand and Foot starting out
  8. When it is your turn, draw two cards and discard one card.  Plays move clockwise. Make sure to discard Red 3s!  Hand and Foot main pile
  9. One person from each team needs to have enough cards to lay out based on the points above.  You must have 3 cards of a kind.  You cannot make a book of 3s or wilds.
  10. Once one person from your team has laid out cards, other players can lay down their cards.  They may play off of cards already laid out or start new books. Hand and Foot starting out
  11. When you play all the cards in your hand, you go into your foot.  This can all happen in the same turn, meaning you can play right into your foot.
  12. Once you have the correct number of books (see above), you can get rid of all of your cards, called “going out.”  The team who goes out receives 100 points. Hand and Foot laid out
  13. Count the points of your books first, then your cards that you played, making sure to take out any cards that count against each player.
  14. Record points of teams, then shuffle and repeat.

 Just try it!

I know there are a lot of rules and things to remember!  When I started playing Hand and Foot, I remember feeling so overwhelmed. As with anything, the more that you play, the easier it will get.  We have played this game for years and really enjoy it.  So, give it a try!

 

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Make Homemade Pizza for Dinner Tonight

Why Make Homemade Pizza?

Homemade pizza is a weekly tradition in my home.  Over two years ago, my family decided to get healthy for real, after reading The Daniel Plan.  Um, can we say #LifeChanging  ?!  Read more here.

I started researching the ingredients in most boxed/packaged foods and they are not good.  Most processed items purchased in stores do not contain food; they contain food-like ingredients.  Our bodies are amazing creations with lots of abilities and processes in place to pull nutrients out of food.  However, when you are fueling your body with food-like substances, the body does not know what to do with the food.  Plus, eating food-like substances is not getting you the nutrition that you get from eating FOOD.  It’s really not difficult to make food from scratch; it just takes time and planning.

Steps for Making Homemade Pizza

  1. Make the dough.  I love making dough in the bread machine, because I’m not a fan of the whole kneed thing.  Dump ingredients into bread machine and press start.  The one drawback is time here.  My machine takes 1.5 hours to make dough.  Early afternoons on Sundays, we start preparing for dinner.  Our favorite recipe is from Mom on TimeOut.  Find it here.     Homemade pizza starts with homemade dough
  2. Of course, I also love our Pampered Chef pizza stone.  You can let the dough set for a few minutes – I have left it in the fridge for 30 minutes – one hour.  Here recently, I have baked it right away and that works fine also.  So, either put it in the fridge for later, or jump to the next step.  Make sure you preheat your oven!  I do 400 degrees.

Rolling the dough

3. Roll out the dough.  I am definitely not an expert with this!  Each time, it comes out differently.  I roll it and pick it up and stretch it out.  Anything that works, right?!  With this recipe, I’ve not had to use flour because it doesn’t stick to the roller.  This is my least favorite (and most time consuming) part of the homemade pizza making process.

The Crust is Ready

4. Next comes the sauce.  I just pour some in the middle and spread evenly with a spoon.  How much you use depends on your sauce preference.  I enjoy more sauce!

Add sauce

5. Cheese is next.  I mean, what is pizza without the cheese?!  Now, dairy is not really good for your body, so I have tried to cut back on my family’s intake of dairy products.  The pizza dinner is really a treat.  We buy mozzarella in bulk and shred/slice it ourselves.  (Shredded cheese that you purchase in the store sometimes has not-so-great ingredients to keep the cheese from sticking together.  You know, like saw dust and other chemicals.  Yum-not!)  Shred and slice your own cheese.  Seriously, how has the food industry been allowed to get away with this nonsense?!  But, I digress.  Here’s what the cheese looks like: cheese

Happy with just Cheese?  Skip Step 6.

6. The final prep stage is the toppings.  Here’s where you can really get creative.  This is probably one of my favorite reasons to make homemade pizza in the first place.  My family loves Hawaiian pizza with pineapple and ham, sausage, veggies, banana peppers, etc.  The possibilities are endless!  I have even made one with ketchup and mustard instead of sauce, with ground beef.  Cheeseburger pizza.  For this baking session, I didn’t have any fun ingredients, so I just stuck with the staple, pepperoni.

slice it up

Yes, we slice our pepperoni also.  I try to prep as much as I can at home.  The less that the food company does, the better.

Choose your toppings on your homemade pizza

As you can see, hubby likes pepperoni more than the girls.  This is another perk!  You can completely customize the toppings to fit your family’s needs/wants.

7. Put on the bottom rack for 9 minutes.

img_3919 Bake that pizza

8. Spin pizza and put on the top rack for another 9 minutes.

homemade pizza almost done

Always Use Caution!

Confession: I forgot about how greasy pepperoni can be and put some a little too close to the edge of the stone.  Enough dripped over the side to make quite a mess in the oven.  Don’t make the same mistake!  Line the bottom with aluminum foil, or don’t go so close to the edge.  On a side note, this pizza had a slightly smoky flavor from the small fire I caused in the bottom of my oven.  It was not intended, but unexpectedly good.  I don’t think it’s worth the fire hazard, but I was glad that the pizza was not ruined!

Ready to eat

9. Optional: I like to make a crust oil to spice up the crust.  Olive oil, salt and spices.  I think this is Oregano.  If I don’t have any spices on hand, I will use my essential oils.  Read more about those here.  When the pizza is finished cooking (Again – learn from my mistake.  AFTER the pizza has cooked, not during!) brush the oily goodness on the crust. Experiment with different flavors and spices.  It will only enhance the homemade pizza experience.

crust topping

Here is the oily crust topping ready to go!

Compliment Your Homemade Pizza With…

I usually pair this meal with a nice, green, leafy salad topped with seeds and veggies.  For salad dressing, I enjoy mixing 2 parts olive oil with 1 part basaltic vinaigrette.  For an extra nutritional punch, I will cut sweet potatoes in half lengthwise and bake with sliced onions, sea salt and olive oil.  375 degrees until sweet potatoes are soft, usually 30 minutes.

Added Bonus

This is a great way to bring the family together to wrap up the weekend.  J is still a toddler, so she “helps” make dinner, but as she gets older, I will give her more responsibilities.  Education is key.  I want her to know where her food comes from and that it’s important to prepare as much as possible from scratch.  The detachment so many people have with food is alarming.  Here I go rambling again.  Enjoy the pizza!

Interested in another laborious but lovely recipe?  Click here to read about my homemade applesauce.

Homemade Applesauce

finished applesauce jars

Why homemade applesauce?

This is my first real experience making homemade applesauce…and going through the entire process…. yum!  Let’s talk about why you would want to start this process in the first place.   If you haven’t done any research about the food industry, let me just shorten it down for you.

S-U-G-A-R

Sugar is relatively cheap to use and is very addictive.  For the company who is trying to make a profit, that’s great news, however, for the consumer, it is NOT.  Sugar feeds cancer and makes your body crave more sugar.  Unfortunately, it is difficult to find products without sugar in the ingredients – be careful; there are tons of different names for sugar!

Think that’s bad?  Here’s more:

Also, if there is a small enough amount of something, companies don’t have to list it as an ingredient – thanks a lot FDA!  So, knowing exactly what is in the applesauce (hello, apples!) is very appealing to me and my family.  If you’d like more information on foods and why I read the ingredients, click here.

The process of making applesauce – Part I – Preparation

  1. First, get jars – I prefer quart sized because my family of 3 loves applesauce and we go through quite a bit.
empty jars
Make sure you run the jars through the dishwasher beforehand.

2. Second, get apples and wash them.  I prefer Staymen apples, but got Golden Delicious and Jonagolds which were also good.

pretty little apples
I got seconds apples from a local orchard, TS Smiths.

3. Since you will be cooking these apples, make sure you cut them and remove any bad spots.

sliced apples
Quarter cut and core apples.

The process of making applesauce – Part II

4. Then, cook the cut apples.  This may take a long time, depending on the kinds of apples that you purchase.  Stir as needed.  Smells of homemade applesauce filling your home = bonus!

cooking apples
Add apple quarters to a large pot to cook. Add water if you want to also make apple juice.  Pick a cool day because the kitchen gets HOT.

5. Once apples have cooked and are soft, dump into a bowl to cool (if you’re making tons, you will need to refill the pot on the stove and keep cooking).  If you added water in Step 3, you will need to strain the juice out of the cooked apples now.

cooked apples
Cooked apples ready to run through the Victorian Strainer

6. Run cooked and slightly cooled apples through Victorian Strainer.  You will need something to catch the peels (we used a glass bowl inside of this steel one) and something else to catch the applesauce.

Victorian Strainer
This machine removes the peel and any part of the core that was missing in the cutting process.

The process of making applesauce – Part III – Packaging the Goodness

7. If you have help, have someone sterilizing lids while you are straining apples. Cover with water and bring to a boil on the stove.  Keep the lids in the hot water until you are ready to put on the filled jars.

lids
Sterilize lids on stove

8. Once your applesauce has no peels, fill up those jars!  Be careful not to make a mess!

yummy applesauce
Use a funnel to scoop applesauce into empty jars.

9. Now, take care to remove any residue from the very top of the jar where the lid will go.  It is super important that the lid seals in the next step, or all of your hard work is wasted when the applesauce goes bad.

wiping tops of jars
Use a wet paper towel to wipe the tops of the jars where the lid must seal.

10. Put the lids on!

Make sure you have this magnetic tool to grab the lids out of the hot water!
Make sure you have this magnetic tool to grab the lids out of the hot water!

11. Add the screw top (sorry, I forgot to snap that picture!) and tighten just with your hands.  No tools needed.

The process of making applesauce – Part IV – Preparing for Storage

12. The vibration of the water boiling can cause your jars to crack if they are sitting directly on the bottom of the pot.  They sell bottoms specifically designed to hold jars, or you can just use extra screw on tops.  Once water is boiling, time it for at least 10 minutes.  This seals the lids.

hot water bath
Put jars in pot with something on the bottom and fill 1 inch above lid with water.

13. Carefully remove jars and set on a towel with a little space in between jars.  If you are making lots, fill pot again, adding water if needed, and repeat.  Once finished, cover jars with towels to help them cool slowly.  Do not move jars for at least 24 hours!  This ensures the seal on the lids is not broken!

taking jars out of bath
Make sure you have this handy little tool to remove the jars from the hot water.  Not the best photo here!

14. Once your jars have set for 24 hours, you may move them into your cupboard or pantry.  You could even give them away.  Who wouldn’t want freshly made applesauce?!

finished jars
Yum!  This is about half of what I made.

Now that it’s finally over

I purchased 4 bags of seconds apples and was able to make 39 jars of applesauce and 3 jars of apple juice.  It takes a lot of work and is exhausting, but it is so worth it!  I would definitely recommend doing a lot of jars.  It would be too much of a pain for only a few jars.

Overall, making homemade applesauce is super tiring, but when I consider all of the benefits for my family combined with the fellowship of friends during the process, it’s a win-win.