Archive for May, 2010

Green Beans is perhaps the most eaten vegetable in our family, and in many households for that matter.  Green beans are a wonderful low calorie food (44 calories per cup), and also loaded with nutrients.  Vitamins K, C and A, manganese, potassium, folate, iron, magnesium, thiamin, riboflavin, copper, calcium, phosphorus, protein, omega-3, niacin and also fiber are the health benefits to green beans.

To can green beans simply snap both ends from the beans, then snap the beans into 1 inch sections or leave whole if you desire.  Place in sink of cold water and wash.  While washing bring a kettle of water or tea kettle filled to boiling.  You can also start packing your pint or quart jars with the beans at this point as well.  Pour boiling water over the beans and if you desire you may add a 1/2 tsp of salt at this time.  Seal jars.  Place in canner and process 25 minutes for quarts and 20 minutes for pints at 10 lbs of pressure.  Enjoy!

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Did I mention I am not one to turn away food sources? Be it dented cans, cut open boxes, reduced price items on racks in back of stores, or produce past it’s prime but still edible, I will grab it up if I can use it and it’s at a price I can’t turn away from.  In fact quite a bit of my pantry and freezer are filled with these types of products, some left in original packaging, some switched to different packaging and others used to create something completely different.

These pickles were about to be thrown out due to them being not “shelf perfect” at a local store.  For $1.00 for the bag just to take them off their hands I walked out with a score of 32 large, near perfect, cucumbers. My first consideration was freezer pickles, but I really want to save my freezer space for other things and with the potential of hurricanes knocking power out, would rather have my canned good supply prepared, so I opted for Bread and Butter Pickles instead.

Making Bread and Butter pickles is a fairly easy process.  The only thing required is a bit of time and patience to not eat them to soon.  This is my recipe for them.

You will need:

7 cups of thinly sliced cucumbers, leave peel on.

1 large onion, sliced then slices sliced in half.

1/2 cup of green peppers, sliced

1/2 cup of sweet red peppers, sliced

2 tsp pickling salt

1 tsp celery seed

1 tbsp pickling spices

1 cup white vinegar

2 cups white sugar

Place pickles in bowl, in separate bowl combine rest of ingredients stirring well to distribute sugar.  Combine with pickles and stir well to coat.  Cover the large bowl and place in refrigerator, leave 24 hours but stir roughly every four to eight hours to distribute brine.

After 24 hours (or longer if you can wait), remove pickles from refrigerator. At this stage you can chose to either freeze them in freezer containers (not Ziploc baggies), or prepare them for canning. To can place in large canning pot (or sauce pot).  Heat on medium-high until the liquid is starting to boil.  You do not want to truly cook the cucumbers so at the point where the brine is hot, remove from heat.  Using a slotted spoon or ladle spoon the pickle mixture into the jars then using a regular ladle add the hot brine over top of them leaving head room and seal.

Hot water bath for 10-15 minutes, remove from bath and let sit to seal.

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Making homemade rolls does not need to be a stressful experience.  Rolls and breads are actually quite easy to do once you get the “feel” for it, literally.  You see the secret to true good bread and rolls come in the kneading process and is created when you have kneaded it to the point that you feel “pops” and “Squeaks” in the dough under your palm and fingers.  These might be audible as well, but relying on touch is a far better option to assure you get well raised and dense/light bread.

These are white rolls, the same “feel” technique applies to wheat, rye, multi-grain, sour dough and pretty much any bread requiring the kneading process.

You need:

5-6 cups all-purpose flour (or substitute 1-2 cups whole wheat removing 1-2 cups white)

2 tbsp dry yeast

2 tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp salt

2 cups warm water

Pour water in bowl, add yeast and stir in slightly to activate cultures.

Add 1 cup flour, sugar and salt to mixer bowl and turn on mixer (with dough hook attachment) to stir.  If not using a mixer, stir carefully to distribute evenly.  To this add the water and yeast and continue to beat slowly as you add additional flour one cup at a time.  Beat until the dough pulls from sides of bowl, or forms a solid lump if hand stirring.

Remove from bowl and place on floured area on table or counter, reserve flour as you will need to add more to get right texture of the dough.  Kneed the dough until it gets a slight “leathery” feel to it.  Place in large bowl sprayed with cooking oil to raise, spray top of the dough as well to avoid drying (or rub olive oil across top which is my method).  Cover with cloth diaper or non fuzzy towel and set in warm place to rise to double.  (In my case, warm place means my cars front seat.)

Once doubled, bring back to floured table or counter top.  Remove from bowl and sprinkle with a slight dusting of flour, kneed.  This is where you will be looking for that “squeak”.  Knead, knead, and knead again adding dusting of flour if needed until the dough seems to squeak under your palm.  At this point it is ready for the final rise.  If making loafs, divide dough in two sections and form into circles.  Place the circles in greased cake pans or atop a greased pizza pan or cookie sheet.  If making rolls, divide the dough into 24 balls and place in greased cupcake tins.

Once more move to warm place to raise until doubled.

Gently move to oven set at 400 degrees (F) and bake for 40-50 minutes or until golden brown in color.  Just before they begin to brown and while top is slightly stiff, brush them with melted butter gently, then shut door for final browning.  Remove and remove from pan immediately to a place to cool. If you do not remove them immediately you risk them gaining a moisture at the base which makes for soggy bread.

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What do you do when you find good prices on beef and soup bones ($2.00), and bagged carrots, onions and potatoes for under a dollar (.79) at a local farm market?  Why you make beef stew of course.  Now I’m sure there are plenty of elaborate recipes out there, or measured to the exact grain of salt recipes to be found.  I fear this is not one of them.  What I will give you however, is the basis for how I make my beef stew and as with all recipes, ask you to start with the basic ingredients and then insert flavorings (herbs/spices) to your personal taste.

Beef stew has several “Must Have” ingredients, these are: beef, beef bones, carrots, onion and potatoes. From here the rest becomes up for grabs if you want to add turnips, squash, summer squash, celery, parsnips, or other “hardy” vegetables.  For this particular stew I used beef, beef bones, carrots, celery and onion.

Warning!  This is not a quick recipe to make but well worth the time involved for results.

2 lbs of various “scrap” beef, cubed.  (You can use two round steaks also. The type of beef used doesn’t matter as you will tenderize it.)

3-4 medium beef bones with some meat scraps still left on them.

12 cups of water

2 tbsp olive oil

12 carrots, peeled and large sliced. (You want them about the size of your thumb from first knuckle to second in length.)

6 stalks celery, peeled and large sliced. (These you want to keep size of your thumb from cuticle to first knuckle in length)

1 large onion, sliced thick, then slices sliced in quarters.

6 large potatoes or 12 medium sized potatoes, dice into large chunks. (You can peel if you like, I myself leave the peeling on and scrub them well)

Morton’s Tenderizer  (Sold in bags in spice aisle)

1/2 cup flour

1/4 cup water

Browning (this is usually found in with the fake smoke and Worcestershire sauces.)


Bay Leaves



Salt & Pepper

Large kettle, canning kettle.

Hickory chips – optional (charcoal or propane also)

Remove beef from packaging and place on non breakable cutting board.  Plastic is best, wood will work, do NOT use glass.  Sprinkle and rub in meat tenderizer to both sides of the beef, beat with meat tenderizing mallet about five minutes on each side. Be sure to get every corner of the beef.  If you do not have a tenderizing mallet, you can use a piece of wax paper laid on top and your average home construction hammer with same effects (yes I’ve used this on more then one occasion), or rolling pin.  Place the meat in a large baggie and set in refrigerator overnight to allow for good penetration of the tenderizer and also to allow the meat to cure a bit longer.

*Secret* Store bought meats such as pork and beef actually improve in tenderness with age in refrigerator.  Next time you buy a roast, let it cure in refrigerator 2-3 days before cooking.

Next morning pour olive oil in bottom of kettle and heat until cold water flicked from fingers onto it sizzles.  Add the beef pieces and sear until brown.  Be careful to not overcook, you want them on the medium-well side, they will continue to cook as the stew does.  Remove beef from kettle and put in dish and set in refrigerator to keep.

Add water to kettle and beef bones, bring to a low boil and let cook for 1-2 hours to remove all meat from bones and to break up the bone marrow where the rich flavor lies.  Remove bones.  (At this point I pour the beef broth into my crock pot, but you can leave in kettle)  Add the meat you browned up and reduce heat to med-high.  Add chopped onion, carrots and celery at this point as well, add spices (I used 3 bay leaves, 1 tbsp oregano, 1 tbsp basil and 2 tbsp parsley) and let liquid reduce slightly (about 1/4 of original volume).  Once reduced and carrots and celery at a near tender state, insert potatoes.

Now here comes the fun part.  You can choose to just continue to let cook down until liquid is reduced by 1/2, or you can start up your outside charcoal or propane grill, put a pan of soaked hickory chips to smoking and transfer the entire kettle to sit in the smoke for 2-4 hours to give it a nice rich smoky flavor infusion.  I personally take the time to use the grill method as I love the flavor it offers to the stew.  I imagine you could use the fake smoke flavoring also, but I prefer the real stuff.

Once stew is reduced 1/2 in liquid content.  Place flour in glass and add water and a couple dashes of browning to give it a rich brown color.  Pour slowly into the stew stirring to keep from lumping. (The flour/water should look like pancake mix consistency).  Reduce to low heat and let simmer another hour to desired thickness.  Salt and pepper to taste at this time.

All that is left to do, ladle and serve.

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1.) Sloppy Wrappings – Air and moisture are our foods worst enemies.  They are the number one cause of all food spoilage that occurs.  To prevent this be sure that all lids and caps are secured on tightly, remove all air possible from resealable bags and avoid using plastic wraps and aluminum foil which can hold air due to leakage.

2.) Store in Proper Container Sizes – Containers should be nearly as large as the products you wish to store them in.  Containers larger than needed to store items leave space, and this space traps air and moisture which leads to spoilage and freezer burn.  Always use the smallest container possible to avoid this and transfer down in size as needed after amounts of food in container decrease.

3.) Incorrect temperatures of Freezer/Refrigerator – Refrigerators should maintain a temperature of 40 degrees (F) or 4 degrees (C) or lower and freezers 0 degrees (F) or -18 degrees (C) or lower to prevent food loss.

4.) Remove Store Wrappers – Remove the original plastic wrap from all produce, meat, poultry and cold cuts upon bringing home and repackage in plastic Ziploc bags or containers of proper size.  These containers could contain holes and lose flaps unseen which can expose food to the air.

5.) Be Cool – Never refrigerate or freeze hot leftovers, always allow the food to cool before placing in refrigerator or freezer to avoid heating the dishes and items around it.  For larger pots like chili and soups, fill sink with ice and set the pot atop to cool then transfer to smaller containers.

6.) Fridge Door Don’t – The door states it’s for milk, juices and such items.  We all see it on television where the food is stored there, but don’t.  The door compartments are 3-5 degrees warmer then inside shelves of refrigerator.  Use these compartments to store mustard, relish, pickles, ketchup and other sauces.  Keep your milk, juices, eggs and dairy on shelves inside your refrigerator.

7) Repackage Bulk – For family and club sized packaged meats, poultry and other items.  Remove from original wrappings and repackage into serving size amounts in containers and baggies.  You want only as much as you can use in 4-5 days, freezing, canning or drying the rest for longer term storage.  Also cook raw packaged foods before freezing and repackaging.

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Dried fruit mix is so nutritious and delicious I can’t begin to praise it enough.  This particular bag is banana chips, strawberries and pineapple. To it I will add dried coconut and raisins yet.  While I packaged these in bulk freezer size bags that I pushed as much air from as possible.  I also have vacuum sealed them into individual size serving packages for quick grabbing snacks for the kids.

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Our dog decided to have puppies at my feet this morning while I was working on the blog and with making up some broccoli salad for lunch.  The picture shows the final count, poor chocolate is odd man out.

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Banana Chips, we all have eaten them and they cost a pretty penny to purchase in small bags at grocery stores.  With banana’s being such a rich source of so many essential vitamins and potassium they are a wonderful snacking alternative.  I purchase banana’s when on sale and slice them before placing in dehydrator.  I imagine you could add lemon juice to keep a more “fresh” look without the browning, myself I find it distorts the taste of the banana so I do not use it.  Besides the browning doesn’t bother me in place of knowing it’s fresh, healthy, natural and delicious.

To make banana chips simply peel and chop the banana into slices. Place slices in the food dehydrator at full vent for 1 day.  When finished they should have a brittle texture.  Be sure to grease your trays slightly with cooking spray or they will stick something fierce.

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I love pineapple, love might be to simple of a term for my obsession with the fruit.  I also love dried fruits, especially tropical mixes.  To satisfy this I dry my own pineapple.  Unfortunately I have not yet learned the skill of growing my own, and while the tops grow wonderful in the yard gardens and in pots in the house for greenery, I’ve not yet had one produce.  I imagine it is then a good thing that the farmers market down here this time of year swims in pineapple.  I was lucky enough to obtain several for fresh eating and putting up.  I did not can this batch, though I find canned fresh pineapple to be amazing and easy to do.  This time I dehydrated it into chunks to add to a trail mix.  The process is simple as well.

To dehydrate pineapple, cut the outside husk of the pineapple off leaving the flesh inside.  Slice the pineapple into round sections and cut the flesh away from the core. I do not attempt for fancy as I am going to just cut and dehydrate it anyways.  Place the pieces on a food dehydrator tray or several and dehydrate 1 1/2 days to 2 days at full vent.  If using oven method again heat oven to lowest setting, vent door with a wooden spoon or other object to keep it open and let dry until it reaches a leathery stage.  At this point just package in air tight container, Ziploc bag or vacuum seal.  Delicious!

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There are times when I just have to many strawberries to can them all into jam, freeze, make into strawberry pie filling, or just use fresh on table.  I know, how can one have to many strawberries you say, believe me it can happen.  Luckily, my children love dried strawberries.  Not only in a form of trail mix snack mix but also put in their hot and cold cereals.  I have also re-hydrated them and used them in cookies, muffins and cupcakes.  Dried strawberries are truly very versatile and well worth making to stock in your dried food section of pantry.

To dry strawberries.  Wash the berries well before de-stemming and slicing.  Place the slices on a food processor tray sprayed lightly with Pam to stop sticking, or on a wax paper lined cookie sheet if you are using the oven for dehydrating.  Dehydrate in food dehydrator for one day at full vent, if using oven set to lowest setting and stir occasionally to prevent sticking and searing. The end result should be with no visible moisture content.  I look for and like mine at a stage of a light brittle.

When dried, store in a air tight container, vacuum seal or Ziploc bag with all air pressed out. They might not be as brilliant red as that you see in cereals or on store shelves, but you know they are the real thing, the flavor is amazing and best, they aren’t loaded with chemicals and preservatives.

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