11 November 2012

Meals in a Jar

I have really been digging into the canning. Since the burst of summer produce has faded, I'm focusing on canning meals. Since I work odd hours, I'm not always in the mood to cook dinner shortly after waking up. And it's an end to the chorus of “There's nothing to eat.”
I scored on Italian sausages marked down to $2/lb. The family was really loving this dish. It's just a short pasta (ie penne or the like) tossed with marinara and browned sausage. Top with buchemele and mozzarella. It is so good! But the honeymoon's over, so I decided to can the rest for when they will eat it again. Really, the whole meal isn't that difficult to make, but this way there's more room in the freezer and one less pan in the sink. It's versatile enough to use as a soup base as well.
Now, this recipe is just what I do. You can totally change the meat, add more herbs, less garlic, veggies, whatever your inner Italian likes. Just make sure you stick to the same processing time. For two quarts: Brown 1 lb sausage. Add 2-3 cloves of garlic and 1 tsp each of basil and oregano. Stir in 3 cups tomatoes. I use 1 large can of peeled crushed tomatoes and 1 regular can of diced, but go as chunky or smooth as you like. Simmer 20 minutes. Ladle into hot jars. Process quarts for 70 minutes; pints for 60 minutes. Again, do what suits you. This recipe is what my family will eat. If it was just me, I'd have peppers and onions and mushrooms and big ole chunks of tomatoes. But a mom's gotta do what a mom's gotta do.
Another fast meal is beef stew. I always snatch up cheap roast cuts when I am able. For stew, I cut the roast into chunks and heat with diced vegetables. Any vegetables will do really, but I generally stick with potatoes, onions, carrots, and tomatoes. Quarts are processed for 90 minutes; pints for 70 minutes. Rice, barley, and egg noodles are all good additions, or serve with cornbread. I like to thicken the broth a bit while reheating. Remember grains cannot be canned, which includes flour, so add these after canning.
I found this great recipe for sweet and sour chicken over on Creative Canning. I'm trying out several of her recipes and just really loving her blog.
This type of canning is super convenient. In many cases, all you have to do is heat and eat. It's so much cheaper than drive thru and exponentially better for you.

Kids & Guns: They Can Coexist

My son with his dad spotting
For my children, exposure to firearms is the norm. Both of their parents shoot. Many of our friends and family members have guns. And then there's the fact that their father is a gunsmith. That means that there are always a variety of firearms in the house
Once I learned how to properly handle a gun, I had no worries about my children doing the same. I don't want to sound like a pompous mom, but my kids are different. My son has always been an old man. He is very scientifically minded and immerses himself into tasks. My daughter is a budding perfectionist who also gets lost in whatever she is doing. I'm telling you this, because I don't believe that every child is capable of recreational shooting. Of course, it is up to the parents to decide this.
If you think your child is ready, begin with examining an unloaded gun together. Explain how a gun works while using correct terms for the different components. Obviously, the most important part of this is teaching them how to hold a gun without accidentally firing. The NRA's In Sights has a great video for kids on basic safety tips. A trip to the range is a great way to show them that all kinds of people shoot in a safe manner. Starting at a shorter 25yd distance with a large reactive target will help your child feel confident firing a weapon. Working on accuracy can come later.

If you think children aren't capable of shooting, check out Miko Andres, a 6-year-old competitive shooter.

Even if you are not a gun owner, your child may encounter one in childhood and most certainly in their lifetime. Wouldn't you rather a child know how to safely handle a firearm? It's certainly better than the alternative. One simply cannot rely on the “don't touch and tell an adult” rule. Kids do stupid things. They test boundaries. They are curious creatures.
My daughter safely holding her .22
As a child, I had one experience with firearms. Every fall, we took to a cabin in Allardt, Tennessee, which is a very rural area in the woods. One year, a neighbor hit a mountain lion with their truck. Scouts honor. Anyhoo, I found what I thought was a water gun on top of a tall dresser. As soon as I picked it up, my mother came around the corner and took it from me. I still don't know if it was loaded or if the safety was on. It doesn't matter anyways; one should always assume a firearm is locked and loaded. The point is I was plenty old enough to know better. My parents taught us to not touch and tell an adult. We never had guns in the house. The pistol belonged to another adult to defend against wild animals we might encounter. There were three younger children and four adults that weekend. That's a total of eight possible victims.
The pistol should have been in a holster. However, you can't depend on every single person to do the safe thing. Think about it like defensive driving. You can't assume every driver is safe and paying attention. You can only control your own driving habits and train yourself to navigate around others' carelessness and inexperience.
Emerson said, "Fear always springs from ignorance." Fear produces chaos, mistakes, accidents. If your child knows what a gun looks like, how it works, how to safely handle it if necessary, it could save lives.

Please check out these websites for gun safety tips: