Cooking, Homemaking

Canning season has begun

It has begun- the season of food preservation.  Every year I grin as we plant our garden.  The sun is finally back, the soil is warm, and I look forward to those first, fresh shoots of green.  Then it hits.  Lots of green.  Lots of food.  Time to do something with it all.

Peas get blanched and go into the freezer today.  Snow peas are soon to follow.  The big project for the next two days though is bottling beef.  I found a tremendous mark-down on hamburger and roast this week, so into bottles it goes.  Once processed, it is fully-cooked and ready for whatever is on the menu.

Here is how it works:

Pack prepared canning jars to just under 1 inch from the rim with hamburger or beef chunks.  Add 1/2 tsp beef soup base to each quart (half that amount for pints).  Put sterilized lids and rings on, and process in a pressure canner  at 15 pounds pressure for 90 minutes (75 minutes for pints).    Remove when the pressure is down to zero.  Let cool and store in a cool, dark place.  (These are the required amounts for the Rocky Mountain region.  Check with your local extension service for correct poundage and cooking time for your area.)

What do you do with it?  LOTS!  Here are just a few ideas:

  • Stroganoff
  • Beef enchilladas
  • Stews/soups
  • Meat and gravy
  • Chili
  • Tacos
  • Spaghetti
  • Calzones
  • And one of our favorites.  Cook off beef/liquid.  Add sauted peppers and mushrooms.  Add provolone cheese.  Use all ingredients to fill rolled-out bread dough.  Roll and cut as if for cinnamon rolls.  Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.  YUM!

I love having meat already prepared for those days when I forgot to thaw something the night before.  (I also bottle boneless/skinless chicken using the same method.)  If I can put up proteins (next week I will bottle dried beans) before the craziest part of the food preservation season hits, I know that I have easy meals ready for those days when I want/need to spend minimal time cooking so that I can spend it in the garden, or putting other foods up for winter.

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Home and Family

Life’s little surprises

Last evening we had a bread baking class in our home.  Our new neighbor and her teen-aged daughter came over and we made bread, meal-in-one wraps, and cinnamon rolls together.  (Recipes for basic breads posted on 2/21/2013.)   Then we ate results of our labors in a shared meal.  While the cooking was fun and the food was seriously tasty,  my favorite bits were the unexpected moments.  Having a young woman really talk to me about life, school, and goals is something which hasn’t happened since my children grew up and left home.  Watching her mother’s face as she realized how much money she can save as she cooks from scratch was such fun; seeing how much her father enjoyed the food was even better.  (We’ll be cooking more together as school gets out for the summer.  I’m looking forward to that!)

Other unexpected events included our three-year-old grandson playing with their son, and keeping him busy.  Our five-year-old grandson who struggles with focus spending 40 minutes on a book of word finds;  I was blown away.  Even the 16 month-old twins were enjoying the meal and visiting.  It was surprisingly relaxing and we have a new family on the block who will be a tremendous boon to the neighborhood.  Who knows?  We may have just gained a baby-sitter, and willing hands for the garden.

The entire experience reminded me why we live in communities.  We are here to serve, share, and find joy in each other!  While I am not an extrovert by nature, I still feel gratitude when a sweet experience like this one happens.

May you have a great day filled with a pleasant surprise or two!

Cooking, Finances, Home and Family, Homemaking

Broth- a wonder food!

My house smells heavenly this morning.  There is beef broth simmering away in my Crock Pot. (It is being created from the trimmings of the beef we bottled yesterday.)  Broth is so simple to make, and has so many uses!  And all this from the bits and pieces that would otherwise be thrown out.

I use my Crock Pot when I make broth.  I can leave it on the counter overnight or when I am out and around during the day with no worries.  Broth needs time to develop flavor, so it will cook on low for 12-24 hours.  Once the flavor is well-developed, strain the broth off into a pitcher or large bowl, and chill it overnight in order for the fat to rise to the top and solidify.  When it is chilled, skim off the fat layer and use it, or bottle/freeze it for later.  I have dozens of bottles of various flavors in our food room just waiting for use.

Basic broth

Place bones, fat, skin, or any part of the meat you don’t intend to eat in to a Crock Pot.  Add onion, celery, carrots, bay leaves, peppercorns, and turnips (if the meat is beef) to the crock.  Fill with water.  Turn the Crock Pot on low and let it cook.  (You can use the peels, leaves, or trimmed ends from any of the vegetables for broth.  Just ensure they are clean, and throw them in.)  I have made broth from chicken, turkey, beef, ham, and fish.  You can also make it from vegetables.

If you find you don’t have adequate trimmings to fill your Crock Pot one-third full, freeze them.  When you have gathered enough for a batch, thaw them and you’re in business!

We add broth to grains such as rice and cracked wheat when we cook it for dinner.  (We used ham broth last week when we made pinto beans and rice for dinner.  There was no meat, but it tasted like there was! Yummy!)  You can use it for gravies, sauces, soups, or risotto.  I also use it for braising meat.  It is inexpensive to make, and is so versatile.

My husband has a rice/vermicelli side dish recipe that is fantastic and uses whichever broth goes with the meat you are serving.  This recipe feeds 8-10 people.  Feel free to cut it in half.

1/2 stick butter

2 cups vermicelli, broken into 1/2 inch pieces

3 cups rice

2 quarts broth

2-3 teaspoons soup base

Melt butter in 4-6 stock pot, or large pan.  Add rice and brown until very light brown.  Add vermicelli and continue browning until pasta is a toasted.  In a separate pan, combine broth and soup base until heated.  Add enough broth to cover the rice/vermicelli mixture to the stock pot when browning is completed and boil until liquid can no longer be seen (a glass lid is perfect for this if you have one).  Take off heat, and allow the grains to continue to absorb the remaining liquid-about 20 minutes.  Serve hot.

Cooking, Homemaking

Recipes using dehydrated foods

Recipes for
Dehydrated Ingredients

These recipes are some of our family’s favorites using dehydrated ingredients.    None are particularly difficult or time consuming.  All of them rate high on the “yummy” scale, as well as being easy on the budget!  As you begin making them, just remember to assemble your ingredients before you begin, making sure to rehydrate, soften, and grind (flours) as needed!  Enjoy!

Carrot Cake

2 c. sugar

1 1/4 c. vegetable oil

4 eggs (I use dried.  1/2 c. powered eggs and 1 c. water, beaten well)

1 c. whole wheat flour

1c. all purpose flour

2 1/4 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

2 tsp. cinnamon

3 cups dry carrots, rehydrated (if using cubed carrots, pulse into smaller pieces before rehydration)

1 c. nuts (optional)

In large mixing bowl, mix together sugar, oil, and beaten eggs.  Combine flour, soda, salt and cinnamon in a separate bowl.  Stir dried ingredients into wet ones, then fold in rehydrated carrots and nuts.  Bake in a 350 degree oven for 40-45 minutes.  It is done when the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan.  Cool completely.  This can be topped with a dusting of powdered sugar, or cream cheese frosting.

Cream cheese frosting

1/2 c. butter (1 stick), room temperature

5 tsp. cream cheese

1 1/4 tsp. vanilla

2 1/2 c. powdered sugar

Cream first 3 ingredients together.  Add powdered sugar gradually and whip until smooth.  Makes enough for a 9×13 cake.

 

Potato Pearl Casserole

1 c. potato pearls

2 c. water, hot

1/3 c. sour cream, room temperature

1/4 tsp. onion salt, scant

2 oz. cream cheese, room temperature

3 tbsp. parmesan cheese

Salt and Pepper

Combine potato pearls and water.  Add other ingredients, mixing well.  Spoon into a 9×9 buttered casserole and top with grated cheese, if desired.  Place in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes (just to heat through).  Serve warm.

 

Peanut Butter Chews

1 c. powdered sugar

1 c. peanut butter

1 c. non-instant dry milk

1 c. honey or corn syrup

Mix sugar and milk powders together thoroughly. Add peanut butter and syrup to dry mixture.   Knead with your hand to combine.  Press into a cake pan and cut into bars, or roll into walnut size balls.  Optional- add nuts and/or dip in chocolate.

 

Sloppy Joes

1 lb. ground beef

1 1/2 cups cooked cracked wheat

1 tbsp. dried onions, rehydrated

1/4 c. green pepper, diced

1 can tomato soup

1 tsp. mustard

1/2 tsp. chili powder

Salt and pepper to taste

Saute beef, onions and green pepper in a large skillet.   Add the remaining ingredients and simmer 20-30 minutes, until desired to consistency.  Serve on toasted hamburger buns.

 

Oatmeal Cookies

3/4 c. white beans, mashed

1 c. brown sugar

1/2 c. sugar

1 egg

1 tsp. vanilla

3 c. oats

1/2 c. whole wheat flour

1/2 c. all purpose flour

1 tsp. salt

1/2 tsp. baking soda

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.   Beat mashed beans, sugars, egg , and vanilla until smooth and creamy.  Combine remaining ingredients in a separate bowl.  Add to bean and sugar mixture; mix well.  Drop onto greased cooked sheets and bake for 10 minutes.  Cool on cookie sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire rack and cool completely.

 

Rice and Apple Breakfast

1/3 c. apple juice

2 c. cooked rice

1 tbsp. honey

2 tbsp raisins

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1 handful dried apple slices, rehydrated (For best flavor, rehydrate them in the apple juice, heated.)

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan.  Cover and simmer 8-10 minutes over low heat.  Serve plain, or with milk.

 

Apple crisp

2 c. rehydrated apple slices

1 tbsp. lemon juice

2 tbsp. rehydrating liquid

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Combine and spread in a greased, 8 inch pan.

Topping:

3/4 c. brown sugar, firmly packed

1/2 c. whole wheat flour

1/4 c. rolled oats

1/3 c. butter or margarine

1 tsp. cinnamon

Combine and sprinkle over apple mixture.

Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 20 minutes or until golden brown.  Serve warm or cold.  Good with cream or ice cream on top.

 

Cooking, Homemaking

Baking bread is cathartic!

There is something about the feel of bread dough in my hands that is soothing, and centers me.  And what can beat the smell of freshly baked bread in the kitchen?

After years of experimenting, I have finally found a recipe that seems pretty “idiot proof,” which means I can make it even on my less-than-stellar days!   A foolproof way to check the loaves after baking is to insert an instant-read thermometer in the heel.  If it reaches 185 degrees, the bread is done!

Becca’s Basic Bread

Combine:

2 1/4 Cups Potato Water or 2 1/4 cups Water and 1/3 cup Potato Pearls

3 Tbs. Yeast

1/2 Cup Honey or Sugar

1/3 Cup Oil

3 Tbs. Gluten flour

2 Tbs.  Dough Enhancer

3 cups Whole Wheat or Whole Grain flour.

Let sponge for 3-5 minutes. Then add:

1 Tbs. Salt

2-4 cups flour.  (Whole grain or All-purpose)

Knead for 4-6 minutes.  Let rise.  Form into loaves.  Let rise again until double.

Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until done.  This recipe can also be used for any recipe calling for basic bread dough.

 

Sweet Dough

Combine:

2 Cups Very warm water

1 Cup evaporated milk

2 tsp. salt

1/8 Cup sugar or honey

1/4 Cup oil

1 tbsp. instant yeast

1 Cup flour

Allow to sponge for about 5 minutes.  Then add: 5-6 Cups flour.

Use this recipe for sweet breads such as cinnamon rolls, monkey bread, etc.  .  Bake most sweet breads at 325 degrees for 20-25 minutes.