HEalthy living



Posted by Kristi Kenyon on OP1er @ 1:32 PM

If you didn’t know, fall is delicious.  It’s full of fruits and vegetables we have waited all growing season to mature and develop for this time of the year.  Actually, many of the fall harvest crops store well to get us through the winter and usher us into the spring.

 Obviously, apples.  They are crisp delicious representations of God’s creation, available in all varieties of flavor, sweetness, texture, and for a variety of purposes.

 You may have heard the expression, ‘one bad apple spoils the whole basket.’ If an apple has a bruise or bad spot, do not store it with blemish free apples, as the ripening of a bruised apple will cause the others to spoil.

 Most of the nutrients in apples come from the skin.  Research shows apples are good for reducing cancer, especially lung cancer.  It is also very good for individuals with asthma.  The quercetin in the apple seems to help the asthmatic breathe better.  The more the apple is altered, the fewer nutrients are retained.  Apple juice has far less nutritional capacity than the raw apple.  Cooking the apple alters some of the nutrition.

 An apple offers a ‘good’ amount of daily fiber, but because of the way it digests in the body, there is a synergistic effect, making it a very good source of fiber.  It slows down the absorption of sugar when eaten whole but allows the sugar to enter the muscle tissue where it is needed for energy by miraculous chemical reactions in the digestive process.  You have likely heard ‘an apple a day keeps the doctor away.’  The apple is a wonderful addition to the diet.  Eaten with a little protein, it goes a long way in deterring appetite so it’s a great snack.  Eaten 15 minutes before a meal, it helps to decrease caloric intake at the next meal.

 For moms of little ones, if you need to move things along in the digestive track, apple juice has laxative powers.  If you need to hold things together, the pectin in applesauce has the ability to reduce diarrhea.

 Here’s a site that will give you a brief description of some of the apples available at the market, orchard, or farmer’s market:

Visit any website describing which apple is best for which purpose and you will find as many opinions as varieties.

 Our favorite apple is a rare variety grown primarily north of here.  It requires cool nights to bring it to its peak of perfection.  The Haralson variety is tart without being sour.  It’s perfect for baking, applesauce, pies, and eating fresh.  We have one in our back yard.  I dehydrate the wind falls that bruise.  I cut out the bruised area, slice and dehydrate the rest.  It doesn’t matter the size of the piece placed in the dehydrator.  The ones we pick are used to make apple sauce or apple pie or apple pie in a jar or apple crisp IF it makes it back to the house!

 Some apples have a mealy texture and some hold their shape well.  We have adapted our taste buds to consume the entire apple when we cook it (except for pie). I leave the peel on for dehydrated apples and in apple crisp and sauce.  That’s because I buy or grow organic.   I often bake apples.  It only takes a few minutes to prepare them and baking takes less time than a pie.  They are yummy without too much sweetness added.  Perhaps our love for them is nostalgic.  In our courting days, we would visit my great aunt in Omaha and take her to a restaurant near her home called the Dutch Apple.  They served a baked apple served with cinnamon ice cream.  Fond memories translate into a favorite fall dessert.

 Apple orchards have expanded their offerings from just fruits to a host of produce:  raw apples, cider, pies, and other treats.  Often, they import pumpkins and jams and jellies so your trip to the orchard can meet all your culinary hopes.  And, many have expanded to entertainment for children.  So, a trip to the orchard means different things for different people.  If you need to associate a positive experience with delicious food, make the trip and buy apples with your children in tow.  I don’t know the practices of most orchards in this area, but my assumption is they all spray with pesticides.  And, apples are one of the dirty dozen.  That means if you can buy organic it is the best option.  Aldi does carry an organic apple.  You will pay a little more for organic, but I’d rather pay a few cents more today than with poor health down the road. 

So, take a trip.  Have some fun.  Eat an (organic) apple.  Feel better and enjoy the fall. It’s delicious.


Posted by Kristi Kenyon on OA9er @ 9:26 AM

The last of our preservation techniques is canning. Canning doesn’t mean putting food in tin cans and sealing them somehow. Canning references putting fresh produce in specially manufactured glass jars with specific lids and heating the jar with its contents to a temperature that drives all the air out of the jar and creates a vacuum of sorts inside. 

Let’s discuss the equipment necessary for canning first. Instructions:  The most reliable source of information easily available is called the BALL BLUE BOOK OF CANNING.  It is available at Wal-Mart during canning season and some book stores may carry it.  Every Extension office will have bulletins specific to canning.  These are produced by Land Grant Colleges, resulting from years of research. 

 Jars come in many sizes and shapes.  Ball and Kerr are two brands of jars tempered to endure the pressure and heat necessary.  The come in 1 cup, 1.5 cup, pint, quart, half gallon dimensions.  Shapes vary depending upon the year and company.  Some jars are wider at the top.  These are called wide mouth jars.  Others are less wide and are called ‘regular’.  DO NOT USE MAYONNAISE JARS TO CAN.  Jars saved from the grocery store are not tempered for repeated use.  They easily break under pressure or elevated temperature. 

The lids generally come in two parts.  The ring is the part that screws onto the jar.  It is just the band with the threaded part matching the jar.  The center of the ring is empty.  The ‘flat’ is just that:  flat.  It is a flat metal piece with a rubber edge on the bottom, so the rubber adheres to the rim of the jar.  The flat fits inside the rim.  Once all the air is driven out of the jar in processing, the rubber ‘sticks’ to the jar.  The flat will also have a convex circle in the center.  When the jar is sealed, the convex circle inverts or becomes concave.  This is how we test jars for seal; more on that in a minute. 

Not essential, but very helpful, is a canning funnel. The funnel has a much wider opening at the end (just smaller than a normal jar) and allows food to be place in the jar with less mess.  The funnel sits inside the opening of the jar and has wide sides so you can slip a piece of fruit into the jar easily. A jar lifter is a special tool, similar to tongs.  The jar lifter fits under the threaded part of the jar, below where the ring will connect.  It has rubber on the part that touches the jar.  The handles separate and then draw closer together to secure the jar.  It is then used to submerge or elevate the jar into the hot water of the kettle used for canning.  This is a tool to keep you from getting burned from the hot jar and hot water.

 The hot water bath requires a canner.  This is often a large blue enamel-speckled container.  It normally holds 7-8 jars.  It is about 20 quart capacity if one fills it with water.  The canner has a wire rack inside it that separates the 7 or 8 jars so they do not move.  

The other method of preservation is called pressure canning.  This is used for low acid foods, like green beans, peas, meats, soups.  These foods need to be heated to a higher temperature for a longer time to safely preserve them.  The pressure canner is a thicker container with a lid and a rubber gasket.  The lid is put on the container and twisted to lock it in place.  There is a gauge on top of the lid which registers the pressure reached inside.  The instructions for canning these kinds of food will indicate how many minutes at a particular pressure the food needs to be safely preserved.  Pressure canners are expensive purchased new.  They need to be checked regularly (every year or two) to be certain they retain accuracy.  Iowa State University Extension has information on where and how to accomplish this.  Every county in Iowa has an Extension office.  The one for Polk County is in Altoona, north of the race track. 

The first method we will discuss, used for high acid foods or fruits, is called the hot water bath method. Fruits and tomatoes are examples of the kinds of foods preserved in this way.  Jams and pickles can also be done this method. 

The fruit is processed in the manner you prefer.  Skins are removed from peaches and tomatoes.  The jars are to be sterilized, as are the flats.  They are boiled in water.  Then, the fruit is put in the empty, hot, jar, normally using a canning funnel so keep the rim as clean as possible.  A rubber spatula is used to pack food into the jar as tightly as possible.  Syrups are added to fruit.  This is usually a sugar water mixture cooked so the sugar dissolves.  Seasonings are added to the syrup if desired.  Tomatoes may have boiling water added to fill in the gaps.  Land Grant colleges which research proper techniques for food safety have recommended lemon juice be added to tomatoes to assure the acidity for preservation is reached.  Salt may also be added. 

 Always leave what is called ‘head space’.  Normally, this is ½-1 inch between the top of the jar and the top of the food.  As the jar is processed in the hot water bath or pressure canner, the food will cook and bubble up in the jar.  If insufficient head space is left, the contents of the jar can spill out, leaving a residue of food on the rubber part of the flat, disallowing a seal.  

Once the jar is full, the air bubbles removed with the spatula, the rim is wiped with a sterile cloth, the hot flat is placed on top and the ring secures it.  The hot jar, full of deliciousness is placed in a kettle of hot water.   Each jar size and ingredient size will need to be processed for a particular time.

 Pressure canning uses the same preparation of food.  The only difference is the container used for processing, the time, the pressure, and the time required for the canner to cool enough to remove the lid. 

 Once the food has processed the given amount of time, the jar lifter is used to remove the jar from the canner.  It should be set on a T towel, out of drafts, and so the jars do not touch one another.  I leave the rings on the lids for 24 hours after they have come out of the canner. 

 I mentioned earlier the flat has a convex center.  If you push on the center of the flat when it is first put on the jar, it will have the ability to be pressed in a bit and then spring back.  During the canning process, air escapes the jar and the seal is formed.  As the air escapes, the lid depresses and makes a clicking or popping noise.  The test for whether the lid is sealed is to touch the center of the lid.  If it is concave or depressed, it is sealed.  If it isn’t, it hasn’t sealed and it is not safe to store on the shelf.  There are several reasons it may not have sealed.

 After twenty-four hours of sitting, the jar is ready to be stored.  I remove the ring, wipe the threads and jar with a clean cloth to remove any debris.  I use a sharpie to label the lid with the contents, the month and year it was preserved.  I store my canned foods in a cool, dry, and dark area. 

 Canning is work.  But at the end of fall, when I look into my larder, I know my family will be well fed in the coming winter months.  Blizzards do not send me into a frenzy because I know my cupboard isn’t bare. 

 Canning is not for the faint of heart.  It often needs to be accomplished in the heat of the summer.  When food is at its prime, preservation is essential.  Don’t bother trying to preserve food that is beyond its best flavor and quality.  The work isn’t worth the end product.  Use the best ingredients at the peak of ripeness, the greatest economy, and the reward is well worth it. 

 There is no greater reward for the domestic diva, the master gardener, the individual looking for challenge than to have grown, preserved, and are able to feed one’s family from the fruit of labor.  I recommend it!


Posted by Kristi Kenyon on OA10er @ 10:25 AM

I may have lied to you last week.  It was unintentional.  I’m here to set the record straight.  I told you freezing may be one of the easiest methods of preservation.  After I sent those words for publication, I had second thoughts.  Doubts.  Conviction.  

I think there is something easier.  We are going to talk about it in a minute.  First, I want to apologize.  My training as a home economist put freezing and 2 methods of canning foremost in my head as preservation methods and it was the after thought that made me realize there is something much easier and perhaps more doable for each of you.  Today, I’ll address two other things.  You might even be surprised.  We have already mentioned one week ago. 

Fermentation-wait…don’t jump to any conclusions.  We are not going to discuss fermentation of fruits for the purpose of developing beverages.  No, we are going to discuss fermentation for the purposes of preserving food for later use. 

Sandor Katz, in the first chapter of his excellent book, THE ART OF FERMENTATION, says, 

‘Fermentation is the transformation of food by various bacteria, fungi, and the enzymes they produce.  People harness this transformative power in order to produce alcohol, to preserve food, and to make it more digestible, less toxic, and/or more delicious.’ 

Fermentation describes anaerobic metabolism, producing energy without oxygen.

I’m not going to burden you with the science of fermentation.  I will discuss the how and the simplicity of it. 

Two simple examples come to mind: pickles and sauerkraut.  I make both of these each year and it could not be easier.  Let’s look at sauerkraut first.  This is not the packed-in-vinegar stuff you dump from a can.  This is the real deal, sweet, tangy, saliva producing, satisfying stuff you want on a bratwurst. 

I take a cabbage (from my garden, from the farmer’s market, from the organic grocery or the supermarket). First, I wash the cabbage.  Then, I remove a few of the outer leaves and set them aside.  I remove the core and slice the rest of the vegetable in 1/8 inch slices.  I put it in a large impact-worthy container.  I take my meat tenderizer and pound the dickens out of it:  about 10 min., if my muscles can last that long.  This breaks down the cell structure and releases moisture.  I add salt while I am pounding.  I never use the salt with the little girl and her umbrella.  I use a product called REAL salt as it doesn’t have aluminum or other anti-caking ingredients (I buy it in bulk and it doesn’t cake, much).  I add caraway seed to my sauerkraut because I’ve read it helps with digestion and I like the flavor.  

Once the cabbage is pretty damaged from the pounding, I pack it into a wide mouthed jar.  Our ancestors used crocks for this purpose.  I pack the jar pretty well, pressing on the cabbage with a utensil. I leave about 1 inch of space between the top of the jar and the level of the cabbage.  Then, I add filtered water if I need, (there is some liquid from the pounding that should go into the jar and rise as you press down) so the cabbage has liquid all the way to the top of it. I lay a reserved cabbage leaf over the top of the cabbage and press down again.  All the vegetable should be submerged.

 I put a plastic lid on the jar and let it sit on the countertop at room temperature for 3-5 days.  If you have left an insufficient amount of space at the top (called ‘head room’) it may bubble up, out and over.  You might see bubbles in your jar.  This means things are working well.  After 3 days, you can begin to taste.  Once the sauerkraut reaches the flavor you like, you can refrigerate it or if you have a cool place in your basement, store it there.  Our forefathers used a root cellar that would have been about 40*.

 There are many variations of sauerkraut.  Kimchi is similar, with a few more ingredients, including some hot peppers that give a real zing.  Gingered carrots are identical to sauerkraut in preparation except the carrots are grated rather than sliced.  They are pounded, salted, combined with grated ginger (not the powdered ingredient from the spice aisle).  

Eating a tablespoon or two of fermented vegetables does wonderful things for your body.  It enhances the diet with wonderful sweet-salty-sour combinations.  It offers millions of probiotics to your digestive system, replenishing the gut and assisting it in being more efficient as a food digestor.  Fermentation of foods actually pre-digests food.  The process of fermentation begins the breakdown of the food so the body can extract the nutrients it offers in a usable form. 

My other ‘easy fermentation’ notion is pickles.  I use small cucumbers, wash them well, put them in a wide mouthed jar with salt, wild grape leaves (to keep them crisp) flavorings like garlic cloves or dill, cover with water and a grape leaf on the top to keep them submerged.  Voila, in about 5 days, pickles which explode with flavor, crunch, and deliciousness.  

The second ‘easiest’ form of preservation requires equipment:  Dehydration.  Generations before me, screens were used to hold slender filaments of fruits, placed in hot and dry environments till all the moisture had evaporated from the produce and only a shriveled fragment remained.  If grapes were left to dry, they became raisins; if plums were laid on the screens, prunes resulted.  Dehydration is possible today with long, slow drying times.  I have a food dehydrator to use for fruits or vegetables.

 The ideas are endless for dehydrating.  Dried fruit is an efficient method for preserving if storage space is limited.  It must be understood the rehydrated product isn’t the same as the initial form.  Raisins, rehydrated will never be as plump as the grape.  I have dehydrated onions, peppers, and carrots for use in soups and stews. 

Dehydrators are inexpensive and come with accessories allowing one to make fruit leather, roll ups, and other creative treats.  

I use my dehydrator primarily to process apple sliced when the squirrels knock apples off the trees.  Those early apples aren’t quite naturally ripened but dehydrating concentrates the sugar, so it doesn’t matter.  We love dehydrated apples as a snack in the winter.  They are especially delicious when eaten with something salty. 

So, there you have it.  Preservation you can do at home with almost no equipment.  And my apologies for relying on my book learning before my ancestral heritage.  Give fermentation a try.  And, if you really want to learn, check out Sandor Katz’ book at the library for nearly 500 pages of expertise.   

One last thing:  we are the salt of the earth.  Salt preserves and makes all things flavorful.  


Posted by Kristi Kenyon on OP2er @ 2:48 PM

As promised, here are some suggestions on preserving food.  Perhaps the easiest method of food preservation is freezing.  It requires very little work.  Most of us have refrigerators with freezers along the side, on the top or bottom of the refrigerator unit.  

These sections for frozen food are fine for short term storage:  from a week or two to a month or so.  It’s not ideal for long term storage however.  And, for those of us who have only this as freezer space, rotation is the most important thing.  Freezer burn is particularly bad in these units because of the way they work:  there is a defrost section since most of us own ‘no frost’ units. 

So, though they are a convenience, I wouldn’t buy a half a beef and hope to store it in refrigerator freezer.  

My suggestions today will assume you have some kind of a free standing deep freeze:  compact freezer, upright, or chest.  The most important thing is temperature maintenance.  The freezer should keep foods at 0* F.  This insures the food is cold enough to not allow micro organisms to multiply.

 There are a few suggestions about packaging for freezing.  Do you buy meat on Styrofoam trays wrapped in cellophane? Though it appears to be ‘air tight’, the quality of the cellophane and Styrofoam are sub-par for maintaining quality. Repackage it before it goes into the freezer.  Recommended packaging for the freezer keeps the air out.  Air contact with the food ‘dehydrates’ or burns the product.  Freezer paper, freezer plastic storage bags, containers specifically for freezing are all good choices to optimize the quality of the product frozen.  Food saver devices vacuum out air and seal the item for longest durability. 

If you decide to purchase vegetables in abundance in season, while their prices are at the lowest, it is wise to research which vegetables freeze well and how freezing affects the item.  Frozen water melon or peppers are mushy after freezing because the water content is so high.  The cell structure is compromised with freezing, leaving it limp and not like the fresh version.  Vegetables like peas, broccoli, asparagus, corn, carrots, beans freeze well because the water content is less than the fiber content.  

These vegetables are blanched before freezing to stop the enzyme action developing ripeness.  Many stock pots come with a steamer unit for the bottoms.  These can be used by putting the vegetable or fruit in the basket and carefully submerging it into boiling water.  If freezing vegetables is something you will do often, the $20 investment into a blanching kettle may be worth it for you.  The vegetable is submerged in boiling water for a minute or two, drained and immediately plunged into ice water to stop the cooking.  There is usually a color change in the vegetables.  For example, the dull green of broccoli becomes a bright grass green. 

 Once the vegetable is thoroughly chilled, packaging it in appropriate material, and then putting it in the freezer finishes the process.  If you select plastic bags, be certain you choose FREEZER bags.  The plastic in these bags is made especially for freezing.  It seems to me to be thicker.  I lay bags on a flat pan and put them in my freezer so at least one side is flat and they stack or stand better for long term efficient use of space. Once the bag is solid, I remove the pan and stack or stand the bags. 

Some fruits can also be frozen.  Some, like peaches, have the skins removed before freezing.  Removing the skins is very easy using the same procedure as blanching while reducing the time the fruit is in the boiling water.  Tomatoes are also skinned this way.  A quick dip in boiling water, a plunge in ice water and the skins slip off the fruit.  Berries normally need a thorough washing, proper packaging and can be immediately frozen.  I freeze cherries like berries, though I pit them before freezing.

 I also freeze apples in many forms.  I peel, slice, dip in a fruit fresh or lemon juice solution to prevent browning, and freeze.  I sometimes make apple pies and freeze the ingredients in a bag.  I have put the freezer bag of apple slices, seasonings, and ingredients in a pie plate to assume the shape of a pie so it can be slipped out of the zip lock bag and directly into a pie shell.  (I also freeze pie shells, stacked with a piece of waxed paper between them.  Yes, I have a lot of pie pans.)  And, I make apple pie in a jar, but we won’t discuss canning in this article. Applesauce also freezes well.  

Whatever you are freezing, be certain to LABEL the container.  Many of the adhesive labels will dislodge from the containers.  The freezer bags have an area on which one can label the contents. Putting the contents of the package and the date help determine what needs to be used first.  Many of the freezer packaging units also have a label area on it that can be written on.  Sharpie markers seem to work well for labeling.

 Foods that don’t freeze well are those high in water content.  It is wise to evaluate the use of the food once it has come out of the freezer.  I might freeze peppers, diced and frozen in ice cubes as an addition for sauce or soups.  I would not freeze a pepper whole, expecting to make a stuffed pepper with it.  Cabbage doesn’t freeze well if its intended purpose is slaw.  It can freeze for soups and stews. 

Cooked eggs become rubbery after freezing.  Sour creams separate.  Dairy products can be frozen but will not respond in recipes in the same way as the regular ingredient.  

Rotation in a chest freezer is important.  I like to clean my freezer at least once a year.  I use freezer baskets and ‘milk carton’ baskets to help organize.  I try to rotate the merchandise to keep foods at the peak of flavor and texture and to reduce/eliminate freezer burn.  Labeling items helps.  I normally just put the month and year on it.  When I clean the freezer, I separate things that are oldest and move those items to the top part of the freezer so they are more visible and used faster. 

I make a map of the freezer so I can remember where I stored the rhubarb last May.  It might be buried under the strawberries of June or the beans and broccoli harvested in July.  Stacking boxes that allow cold air circulation makes locating items easier.  The milk carton containers have openings to serve as handles making them easier to lift and access what is on the bottom layer of the freezer. 

I also like to divide the freezer so the chicken, beef, pork, fish are stored in separate areas.  It is easier to send someone else to the freezer with some directions and I post the map above the freezer and in the kitchen.  

It is important to consider the cost of operating a freezer.  And, if the freezer ever fails, a large investment can be lost quickly.  Power outages, equipment failure can be expensive.  Should you experience a power failure, the food will stay completely frozen if the lid is not opened at all over a period of several days.  A freezer operates at optimum when it is at least 75% full.  Frozen food helps to keep its neighbor frozen longer with less demand on the motor.  This helps the cold items stay cold in the case of power outages. 

Freezing is an efficient and practical manner of preservation.   Meat can be purchased in bulk; fruits and vegetables bought at the peak of ripeness and at economical prices, it is a worthwhile investment. 


Posted by Kristi Kenyon on OP12er @ 12:48 PM

I knew it was coming.  Still, I wasn’t quite ready for so much all of a sudden.  The fall brings this dilemma for me but somehow, my imagination tells me I can handle it and when it overwhelms me, I wonder how that happened. 

Apples.  We have a wonderful apple tree.  It isn’t perfect.  It’s overgrown and needs a great pruning, but a decade ago, it got away from me and I’ve never caught up.  Despite my arboring failure, the tree still produces great fruit…almost too much, really. 

So, last week when I was in the garden weeding and picking tomatoes, I looked up to see a branch from the apple tree horizontally split and leaning on the roof of the garden shed for support.  Knowing storms were coming, I reported my findings to my trusty husband, realizing he would take care of the problem. 

 He did, but two bushel of apples came down with that small branch.  Now, I had nearly the same dilemma as the day I discovered a gallon of celery in my refrigerator.  I had to do something.  

Realizing my days were full of other tasks, I began to think of who might accept some bruised apples (from falling) and who might be able to come and take them off my hands.  So, I messaged a few people and found a few willing apple eaters.

 There were some takers and more have promised to come.  Now, though I’m faced with wanting to work on a sewing project but knowing I need to be peeling apples and doing something with them.  

I’ve already dehydrated a gallon of apples.  We have eaten baked apples.  Now, I need to think about preserving.  There is applesauce to be made.  I could peel and slice and make apple pie (I put the filling in a plastic bag, put the bag in a disposable or aluminum pie tin and freeze it.  The shape is perfect to put into a pie crust and bake when one is ready. )  I do make apple pie in a jar and preserve it, too.  

When we planted our little plot of land with berries and fruiting trees, we had a house full of hungry children.  They grew up and some moved on.  And, we don’t eat as much in our old age because we aren’t chasing those children during ball games or going to games or all the things younger folks do with their children at home.  So, now that everything is producing bumper crops, we look at one another and wonder what we were thinking. 

 Even if we weren’t thinking this at the time, I am certain God could see that he was going to give us more than we could use at least some years.  And, that abundance will be used to bless others.  So, if you need a blessing, please let me know because the blessing for me is not watching food go to waste and not having to deal with two bushel of apples that would take many a sleepless night to process.  So, you see, you are really blessing ME! 

Fall is a harvest time.  And, harvest usually means getting more than is used at the moment, which leads to preservation.  I’m going to touch on preservation in the next week or two.  So, take a look around you and see where the bounty is.  Take advantage of foods that are abundant (think less expensive in season) and think about how many ways you could enjoy them.  

Wedding Leftovers

Posted by Kristi Kenyon on OP1er @ 1:26 PM

I grew up on a farm.  We were ‘dirt poor’ as Iowa farmers say.  We didn’t know we were poor, really.  My mother kept us well fed with her big garden and frugal ways.  We always had clothes to wear and I was unaware if they were not the most recent fashion style.  I am not sure we worried about things like that a century ago. 

One advantage of growing up with very little is learning to make whatever one has to serve some purpose.  Waste not, want not, an adage from WWII which was instilled in me.  Even today, I live by that mantra.  I find a challenge in taking something little and making something nice from it. 

So, you will appreciate my dilemma when I had lots of leftover food from the big wedding.  I had a gallon of celery.  A gallon.  Of celery.  Celery doesn’t last for a long time and though I like it, a gallon is a LOT OF CELERY.  Determined not to waste this gallon of celery, I decided I would think of things to make with it. 

The first thing I thought of was ants on a log:  peanut butter spread on the valley of the celery, sprinkled with raisins for the children at church.  No, this won’t work.  The children aren’t there on Wed. night.  I needed another idea

The second thing that came to my mind was mire poix.  This is a French term used for the combination of celery, carrots, and onions sautéed for soups, some casseroles, and other dishes.  So, I set about preparing the ingredients for mire poix. 

I chopped the gallon of celery.  I chopped a pound of carrots (ok, I used the food processor…I am frugal AND efficient).  I put a lot of onions through the food processor, too.  And, then I cooked them altogether in my stock pot.  

Once they looked like the great beginnings for soup, I scooped a generous cup into small zip lock bags until I had just under a dozen containers of mire poix.  These will go into my freezer and when it is time to make soup this winter, much of the preparation work will be done. It’s like an emergency meal.  I always make stock from bones and freeze it.  With a little left over meat from some meal, I have ingredients for a meal ready to go.  Fast food, Mary Jo style. 

Have you seen on your Facebook page an article about making 20 meals for $150 from one of the warehouse stores.  It’s a great idea to spend 2 hours making 20 meals.  I’d love to try doing that.  Having meals ready to go makes so much sense.  Whether you use a system like the one mentioned, or use leftovers and call them ‘planned overs’ because you PLAN to make enough to use the extra for another dish, or lunch, or to send with a spouse for lunch.  It’s a great way to multiply your money, your effort, and your sanity.  I’ll let you know if I try making 20 meals in 2 hours.  For now, the mire poix will be my start… 

The other abundant leftover we had from the wedding was a 2.5 gallon container of grapes.  When I first looked into the container and saw red grapes, I was pretty pleased.  Red grapes seems to last longer than the green ones.  Then, I had a sneaking suspicion that maybe there was more than red grapes in that container.  So, I dumped it into a colander and realized I had more green than red grapes.  The green grapes don’t last as long.  What to do? 

As an experiment, I put a few grapes in my food dehydrator.  I inadvertently let it run all night and when I checked in the morning, I had raisins.  Delicious raisins.  Better than store bought.  Yum.  So, the next day, I pulled the rest of the grapes off the stems and dehydrated them into raisins.  Raisins have a shelf life and it doesn’t need to be the shelf of the refrigerator.  

I was feeling so smug about my ability to use what I had to make something in the future.  (Actually, I was thrilled this food was not going to be wasted, but rather used in another form at a future time.)  It is a challenge to assess what is available in resources, whether they are in the refrigerator, on the shelf, or in a closet.  But honestly, I cannot take the credit.  I depend upon the voice of the Holy Spirit to direct my thoughts, so I give all the credit to Him.  The way I stretch what I have might differ from the way you do it, but let’s agree it’s a principle to live by.  It makes life so much easier.  

 I’d love to hear how you stretch your dollars or some project that uses what you have to make something new.  Or maybe, as the body of Christ, we can each give what we have and bless someone…I’ve heard some pretty amazing testimonies recently about how Lifehouse members have pulled together to change a life.  All for the glory of God, folks.

The Wedding

Posted by Kristi Kenyon on OP2er @ 2:02 PM

Today, I’m deviating a little to discuss the most recent ‘big’ news in our family: a new son (in law).  My youngest child was married a few weeks back and we welcome her husband with open arms.  He is a perfect fit in our family.  He fits the birth order perfectly, filling a 4 year gap between #3 and #4.  

But, mostly, I wanted to discuss what we learned in the planning and executing of the big event.  There are several items.  These really are about healthy living, because when we apply these principles, everything is better. 

LESS IS MORE.  Halle thought the wedding was planned once the dates were set, the place secured, the photographer engaged, and the food selected.  She didn’t want to be bothered with trivia like decorations.  Her idea was to pick herbs from my garden to decorate the tables.  Her premise was everything should symbolize life, beauty, and aesthetics.  Simple.  Cost effective.  Easy.  Fortunately, that decision was made before planting.  I planted a few extra herbs and we had more than enough of a variety of herbs for texture, scent, and color.  A win/win.  This frugal couple set a very low wedding budget to eliminate the unnecessary and focus on preparing themselves for life AFTER marriage.  Time well spent. 

KNOW AND OBSERVE LOVE LANGUAGES.  If you don’t know, there was a book written decades ago about how we give and receive love.  With every event like a wedding, there are bound to be communication gaffs.  We dealt with these by expressing the way we minister love to those around us and how we need to receive it.  

Case in point, the night before the wedding, my daughter approached me and said, “I have a fear about tomorrow.  I fear you will be running all over making sure everything is done and all the details are taken care of.” (The way I express love is service.  She was accurate in her perception.)  Then she expressed what she WANTED from me.  It was very different from what I would have given.  She wanted me to be in the bridal area, with her, listening to her friends chat with her as we waited for the ceremony to begin.  She needed encouragement from her mom.  Her love language is words of affirmation:  being encouraged that she made good choices in the dress selection, hair style, accessories, make up, etc.  

Each of us came away having our needs met.  I would excuse myself for brief moments to check on things and then immediately return to the area where she and her friends waited.  She thanked me later for ‘being there’.  I thanked her for expressing her need.  

LET THE HOLY SPIRIT GUIDE AND DIRECT. We didn’t have any major problems.  There is nothing we would change about the day.  Everything went smoothly because we tried to think through what might be needed and prepare in advance.  This required an ear toward the Holy Spirit.  There were things ahead of the wedding that could have created a stress if the Holy Spirit had not already prepared us.  Halle’s decision 2 weeks before the wedding to have a veil could have been a scramble.  But because of another child’s needs, most of the pieces to create a veil were in my basement.  A few YouTube tutorials and the purchase of one item gave all the essentials to make it.  The Lord prepared us for a need I would not have forecast. 

ENJOY THE MOMENT.  My brother in law was married a year ago and his mother turned to me in the middle of the reception and whispered, “I wish this would last forever.”  But like Cinderella’s story, the clock struck midnight and the party ended.  I made every effort I could to plan and be organized so the day of the event, I could just enjoy it.  The day was over before we knew it.  It was worth the effort to be prepared.  Sometimes in life, we cannot prepare for every possibility.  But our minds can be set on enjoying the moment rather than being in another place mentally. 

Events like a marriage can be wonderful or terrible.  Making right choices along the way, thinking before speaking, communicating well, having expectations discussed can make life easy or hard.  

At the end of the day, by exercising simple principles, we were able to relish the day, laugh at the officiant’s stories, celebrate, rejoice, and thank the Lord for the union He brought together.  It might have been different.  Making the right choices makes all the difference in relieving stress, enjoying life, and celebrating our dearest friends and relatives.  Now, if I knew what to do with all the extra lemonade in my refrigerator…


Posted by Kristi Kenyon on OA9er @ 9:38 AM

One of our favorite summer treats in the arena of fruit/vegetables is watermelon.  It is delicious if one knows how to select a melon that will satisfy the desire for juicy, sweet goodness.  How to select a watermelon is a little science and perhaps art.  But, if one knows what to look for, it helps improve the chances of getting one that has enough maturity to develop the sugars and melt in the mouth.  

Here are some guidelines that may help you select a melon that makes you hum: 

Find a melon that has a yellow area on the bottom.  Yellow indicates the melon was allowed to ripen in the field.  If the area is white or green, it was prematurely picked.

The opposite side of the fruit should be smooth and dull.  It should seem heavy for its size.  Some people use a thump test, believing it should sound hollow when thumped. 

Watermelon is not only delicious but also healthy and here is why: 

1. Watermelon Has More Lycopene Than Raw Tomatoes

Lycopene is a powerful carotenoid antioxidant that gives fruits and vegetables a pink or red color. It’s most often associated with tomatoes, but watermelon is actually a more concentrated source.

Compared to a large fresh tomato, one cup of watermelon has 1.5 times the lycopene (6 milligrams (mg) in watermelon compared to 4 mg in a tomato). 

 2. Watermelon Juice May Relieve Muscle Soreness

If you have a juicer, try juicing about one-third of a fresh watermelon and drinking its juice prior to your next workout. This contains a little over one gram of l-citrulline, an amino acid that seems to protect against muscle pain.

One study found that men who drank natural unpasteurized watermelon juice prior to their workouts had reduced muscle soreness 24 hours later compared to those who drank a placebo.4

You do need to be careful with drinking watermelon juice, though, as it contains a significant amount of fructose. It may be better to eat the entire fruit, or opt for these other tips to prevent muscle soreness.

 3. Watermelon Is a Fruit and a Vegetable

Remember how watermelon is related to cucumbers, pumpkin, and squash? That’s because it’s part vegetable and part fruit (it’s a sweet, seed-producing plant, after all).   The other clue that watermelon is both fruit and vegetable? The rind is entirely edible… 

4. You Can Eat Watermelon Rind and Seeds

Most people throw away the watermelon rind, but try putting it in a blender with some lime for a healthy, refreshing treat.   Not only does the rind contain plenty of health-promoting and blood-building chlorophyll, but the rind actually contains more of the amino acid citrulline than the pink flesh.  Citrulline is converted to arginine in your kidneys, and not only is this amino acid important for heart health and maintaining your immune system, but it has been researched to have potential therapeutic value in over 100 health conditions. 

While many people prefer seedless watermelon varieties, black watermelon seeds are edible and actually quite healthy. They contain iron, zinc, protein, and fiber. (In case you were wondering, seedless watermelons aren’t genetically modified, as they’re the result of hybridization. 

5. It’s Mostly Water

This might not be surprising, but it’s still a fun fact; watermelon is more than 91 percent water.  This means that eating watermelon with you on a hot summer day is a tasty way to help you stay hydrated and avoid dehydration (it’s not a substitute for drinking plenty of fresh water, however). 

6. Some Watermelon Are Yellow

The Yellow Crimson watermelon has yellow flesh with a sweeter, honey flavor than the more popular pink-fleshed Crimson Sweet. It’s likely that yellow watermelon offers its own unique set of nutritional benefits, but most research to date has focused on the pink-fleshed varieties. 

Store your watermelon in a cool area (50-60 degrees F) until it’s cut. Cut watermelon should be refrigerated (and be sure to wipe off your watermelon with a damp cloth prior to cutting it). Remember, try the rind blended with some lime juice rather than simply tossing it in the trash (choose an organic watermelon especially if you’ll be eating the rind). Or, try making watermelon pickles with the rind.

 Watermelon is a delicious treat in the summer.  Enjoy it in moderation while it is in season.


Posted by Kristi Kenyon on OP2er @ 2:03 PM

We have had such a mild summer this year.  It’s been refreshing to have windows open in the evening and enjoy cool, great sleeping temperatures.    Possibly, we will not endure the scorching heat coupled with oppressive humidity.  Still, summertime allows us to exert ourselves with outdoor activities, hard work, and more physical demands on our body. 

An important aspect of being outside and more active is hydration.  Here are some signs to indicate dehydration.  It’s important to hydrate before thirst arrives, as it is one of the first signs of impending issues.  See if any of these are noticeable in your life. 

This might seem to be obvious, but thirst is your body's way of signaling that you need to drink more fluids. Whenever you feel thirsty, your body is already on the first stage towards dehydration, so you need to drink up right away.  Remember that thirst is a basic survival instinct, so don't take it for granted. 

If you do not drink enough water, you might go for at least seven hours without urinating in your body's attempt to conserve water. Normally, you should be able to urinate at least five times a day.  Also, instead of the normal, amber-colored urine, your urine might be colored dark yellow because it is too concentrated with electrolytes and there is not much fluid contained in it. 

One of the remedies for constipation is drinking lots of fluids every day. Therefore, if you lack fluids, it is possible that you might get constipated as well. In fact, simply eating lots of fiber but not drinking enough fluid will not help you move your bowels, since certain water-soluble fibers need to soak up water to increase their bulk and aid in elimination. 

It is natural to have dry mouth when you are thirsty. Because of the lack of saliva in your mouth, it is not easy to wash away some naturally occurring bacteria in your mouth. Without saliva, they start to proliferate, feeding on bits and pieces of food left in your mouth.  Bacterial buildup makes your breath smell stale, sort of like morning breath, except that it lasts the whole day through. 

If you have too little water in your body, it will seriously affect your metabolism and decrease your blood pressure. Circulation is impaired as your heart struggles to deliver oxygen and nutrients to the different parts of your body.  As a result, you will feel lethargic and easily fatigued, as if you don't have any energy to move your body. 

Having headache is your body's way of signaling that your brain and lungs are not getting enough water. Again, this is a result of not having enough fluids that your heart can pump to the different organs of the body.  Hence, it is common for you not just to have headaches but also become dizzy or worse, have fainting spells because of severe lack of water. 

One of the symptoms of the early stage dehydration is dry skin resulting from lack of fluids that can keep it moisturized. Your body produces less collagen which keeps the skin firm and elastic, so not drinking enough water can also lead to premature signs of aging, such as the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. 

Thirst can sometimes be disguised as hunger, so if you don't have enough fluids in your body, you are prone to cravings and hunger pangs. This leads you overeat, hence contributing to weight gain.

The next time that you have those sudden hunger pangs, try drinking a glass of water and your cravings will certainly melt away. 

Perhaps I’m reminded of hydration as 2 a day football practice begins.  We were constantly asking our boys if they were drinking enough during the football season.  Whether you or your family members play football, hydration is a serious health issue.  Many of us substitute soda (pop), tea, coffee, or other liquid beverages for water.  Lots of the substitutions pull water from the cells.  My guess is dehydration is a concern for all of us.  

Someone recently wondered how to increase water in his daily routine.  I’ve disciplined myself to being intentional about this.  I drink 2 cups of coffee in the morning and I do not count that as part of my water intake.  I drink  at least one glass of water (often, 2) every morning as soon as I rise.  I measure water into a Cambelback water container so I can keep track of how much I sip during the day.  And, I drink at least 2 glasses before bed each night.  Routines like this can assist us in maintaining hydration.  You will be able to find what works for you.  I recommend measuring till you ‘get it down’. 

In addition to the water we drink for hydration, let’s remember to drink from the source of ‘Living Water’ for our spiritual bodies.  We cannot survive without it.

Enjoy the summer by staying hydrated.  Everything will be more fun!


Heart Disease

Posted by Kristi Kenyon on OP1er @ 1:16 PM

For what seemed like years to me, I urged my husband to abandon some of the ‘junk’ food he loved.  He treated my comments like rain on a duck’s back.  I tried to explain the theories I had developed from years of research, reading, listening, watching specialists explain.  He wasn’t sure I knew a thing. 

Till one day, Dr. Michael Roizen from Ohio was being interviewed and succinctly explained the cholesterol issue.  My husband turned and looked at me in astonishment.  He said, “You have been telling me this for years but I didn’t’ really believe you.” 

Women will comprehend this phenomenon.  If a man tells her husband something, it is more believable from someone else than if SHE tells him.  I don’t know what the disconnect is, but my experiences convinces me there is one.  

Here’s some information you have heard from me before, only this time, it comes from a fellow, so it is believable, fellows. 

The discovery a few years ago that inflammation in the artery wall is the real cause of heart disease is slowly leading to a paradigm shift in how heart disease and other chronic ailments will be treated. 

Simply stated, without inflammation being present in the body, there is no way that cholesterol would accumulate in the wall of the blood vessel and cause heart disease and strokes.

 Inflammation is not complicated -- it is quite simply your body's natural defense to a foreign invader such as a bacteria, toxin or virus. The cycle of inflammation is perfect in how it protects your body from these bacterial and viral invaders. However, if we chronically expose the body to injury by toxins or foods the human body was never designed to process, a condition occurs called chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation is just as harmful as acute inflammation is beneficial. 

The injury and inflammation in our blood vessels is caused by the low fat diet recommended for years by mainstream medicine. 

What are the biggest culprits of chronic inflammation? Quite simply, they are the overload of simple, highly processed carbohydrates (sugar, flour and all the products made from them) and the excess consumption of omega-6 vegetable oils like soybean, corn and sunflower that are found in many processed foods. 

My husband and I were discussing healthy eating recently.  I was recounting a conversation I had with someone whose position was ‘healthy food is expensive’.  My response was  ‘pharmaceuticals and hospitalizations, disease and poor health are more expensive.’  

We have chosen to spend money on food to maintain good health.  We prefer to stay healthy because in our view, the costs of illness are more than visits to the doctor, pharmacy, and time off work.  The costs of illness are measured in the effects on people around you who depend upon your roles in their lives.  Good health means fewer trips to the doctor, visits to the ER, vacations in the hospital; Good health eliminates all those things.  It requires intentional choices:  buying good food, taking time to prepare it, and eating well.  Good health demands exercise or play to build the body.  

We cannot avoid the genetic pool from which we come.  We can however control choices we make to thrive.  This gives us the time, energy, and opportunity to minister to others the Good News.  Give it a shot and make the right choice.  We will all be glad you did. 

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