Leftovers

Orange You Glad I Didn’t Say “Banana”?

Knock knock…  Who’s there?

Banana.  Banana Who?

Knock knock…  Who’s there?

Banana.  BANANA WHO?

Knock knock…  WHO’S THERE?

Orange.  Orange who?

Orange you glad I didn’t say “banana”?

I’m sorry.  I have a 4-year-old and a 1-year-old.  This is my life, people.  And for two days, so was bananas.  My Dad dropped off an entire case of bananas the other day, and they were so ripe that I had to immediately address them, otherwise I was going to be reduced to making 10,000 loaves of banana bread.  Not that I don’t love banana bread as much as the next housewife…  I just don’t need a year’s supply of it.  After all, zucchini bread wants some attention too.

Anyway, I had a lot of bananas, so I got online and looked up as many recipes for bananas that intrigued me as I could.  I’m going to share just the recipes and pictures of the finished products because both you and me have lives outside of bananas, regardless of what the bananas want you to think.

Let’s begin:

Canning

Banana Butter 

This is really delicious and I plan on giving these as Christmas gifts!  I thought it was tasty on toast, and I think it would also be delicious in a peanut butter sandwich!  Here’s a link to the recipe and canning instructions:  Banana Butter Recipe

Dehydrating

Honey-glazed Banana Chips

These were really good!  And very easy to make.  Simply whisk up a glaze with 1/4 cup of honey and 1/4 cup of water.  Slice the bananas 1/4″ thick into the glaze, stir them around a bit and lift them out with a slotted spoon.  Place on trays and dry for 6-10 hours.  You could also sprinkle a little cinnamon into that glaze!

Banana Leather

Here’s the key ingredient to making fruit leather:  GREASE THE SHEET!  Sheesh.  That little tidbit was kind of hidden in my book of dehydrating recipes, and that kind of knowledge doesn’t come naturally to me, so this is what I got the FIRST time I made this:

Uh, yeah.  My fingernails hurt so bad by the time I finished peeling this off!  The SECOND time I made this, I used a dab of coconut oil and spread it around the Fruit Roll Sheet with a paper towel.  Then I pureed the bananas in a food processor until they were liquified, then spread it over the Fruit Roll Sheet.  It took about 8 hours to dry (until there are no longer any sticky parts).  Then it peeled right off!  I forgot to take a picture of that, but you can see it all rolled up and wrapped in plastic in the top picture.  (For the record, no one in my house was that excited about “banana leather”.  If I ever make it again, I think I’ll add a few other fruits to it.)

 

Freezing

Banana Smoothie Cubes

These are super easy to make.  Just slice bananas into about 1″ chunks, lay flat on a baking sheet, and pop the sheet into the freezer until the bananas are completely frozen.  Then transfer them to a freezer-safe bag or container and label them!

 

What to do with these?  Add them to any smoothie!  Start with frozen banana chunks in the blender with a little milk.  Add other fruits for a fruity smoothie, or some peanut butter for a good workout recovery smoothie, or some chocolate syrup, whipped cream and a cherry for a dessert!  Thanks to my sister-in-law, Erin, for that last one!  Yum!

Baking

Peanut Butter Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips

As it turns out, I made this last and then found myself wishing I’d made 10,000 loaves of it and that lifetime supply!  *Ding ding diiiiing!*  We have a winner, folks!  This was, hands down, the BEST banana bread…wait…the best BREAD I’ve ever eaten (or made) in my life.  I took it to a family get-together this week and it received rave reviews from everyone!  (Click on the link above for the recipe!)   I can’t believe I forgot to take a picture of this, but Linda’s pictures are better than mine could ever be anyway.

 

Well, there we have it.  Enough uses for a banana to fill your week!  (How many times did I write the word “banana”?  I’m tired of that word!)

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Categories: Canning, Dehydrating, Freezing, Fruit, Leftovers | Tags: , , , , , ,

Wedding Soup with Arugula

I was first introduced to Italian Wedding Soup at Sebastiano’s,  a delicious local restaurant in Toledo, Ohio.  It was a huge step toward “adventuresome eating” for me back then, in my picky days.  A step my stomach has oft thanked my brain for, if not my thighs.

I had to have easier access to this soup from then on.  My first attempt at Italian Wedding Soup failed pretty miserably.  Not only did my bland homemade meatballs cause my husband to put on his pretend “yummy!” face, but I also added beef broth where I should have added chicken.  Yeah, it was bad.  I tinkered with online recipes for awhile, coming close to Sebastiano’s delicious creation but gradually becoming weary of how time consuming it all was.

And then I struck gold.  Polish gold.  It all began one steamy August day, where our thoughts and actions were consumed with the task of painting our massive giant deck on our previous house.  We were preparing the house to sell it, and begged invited some good friends to come over and help us paint and simultaneously celebrate Ty’s birthday.  If our charm and good looks didn’t convince them to come do manual labor, then the out-of-this-world amazing kielbasa from Stanley’s did!  So we painted, cooked, laughed, and enjoyed each other.  It’s amazing what kielbasa can get people to do!

Stanley’s kielbasa from Toledo, Ohio, is hands-down, the best kielbasa ever. Don’t be intimidated by their location…it’s so worth it!

 

Fortunately, we over-purchased kielbasa.  I was faced with an unexpected challenge.  What to do with leftover kielbasa?  Has such a thing ever happened before?  Then it hit me:  Soup.  Wedding Soup.

The first batch was good…REALLY good.  I made it with spinach, because it was all I had, and because I didn’t know better.

The second batch was epic.  I made it with arugula this time, and ever since then it has earned it’s place in my freezer as a go-to meal for chilly nights.  Or steamy August nights, if the taste buds demand it.

The best part is, you won’t believe how easy this soup is.  However, since we’re borrowing the main ingredient from Poland, I don’t think we can truly call it “Italian Wedding Soup”.  (Can we call it “Chelsea’s Wedding Soup?  🙂 )  But since I insist that you use Acini de Pepe noodles, you can’t really call it “Polish Wedding Soup” either.  So let’s call it what it is, a beautifully blended mix of history, ethnicity, and love from the kitchen.

American Wedding Soup

What you will need:

  • 1 quart chicken stock or broth
  • 2 cups arugula (more if you like it peppery…more is better)
  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 2lbs uncooked kielbasa
  • 1 cup uncooked Acini de Pepe (or orzo, if you can’t find the AdP)
  • chopped carrots and celery – optional
  • 1tsp chicken base – also optional, but I always use it.
  • fresh Parmesan – not really optional.  You’ll want it.

Directions:

Fill a large stock pot (4-6 quart size) with your chicken stock.  Place the onion, carrots, celery and uncooked kielbasa in the broth and bring to a boil.

When the kielbasa start to float (around 15 minutes), pull them out, reduce broth to a simmer, and slice them into 1/2 chunks on a cutting board. Meanwhile, in a separate pan, bring 4 cups of water to a boil and cook pasta al dente.  (7 minutes)

It’s okay if there’s still some pink, it’s going to finish cooking in the pot.  Return to broth.  Tear arugula in halves or quarters and add to broth, bringing broth back to a low boil.

When the arugula is no longer bright green and looks somewhat wilted, add drained pasta.  Boil for 3 more minutes or so, check some of the kielbasa chunks to make sure they are cooked through.  Taste test: if it’s still slightly bland, add some chicken base until it reaches the appropriate level of saltiness.  Then serve!  Top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese for an added Wow!

It may not be authentic, but it’s authentically good.

Man, that was cheesy.  Good thing I like cheese!

Someone make me stop!

P.S. You can freeze this soup nicely, even with the noodles in it, although admittedly it’s always better to add the noodles fresh.

P.P.S. If you’ve never been to Sebastiano’s, then you haven’t lived.  There isn’t a bad thing on the menu!

Categories: Freezing, Leftovers, Soup | Tags: , , , , ,

Freedom Frappe

Move over, McDonalds.  You have lost your diabolical hold on me!  Free!  Free!  Thank God Almighty I’m free at last!

And thank you, Pinterest, for turning me on to this idea, although I’m adding something crucial to the original recipe…chocolate!  There might be other chocolate recipes out there, but the one I saw awhile ago just used regular white almond milk and isn’t nearly as palatable as with chocolate milk.

You’ve all had one of McDonald’s Frappes, right?  If not, do yourself a huge favor and NEVER EVER try one.  But since I already know you’ve had one and loved it, then I think I’ll be hearing songs sung in my honor and other praises of glory now that I’m about to help you free yourself from Mcd’s clutches.  Not only will this save some money, but it’s also a huge calorie-saver!  Dark Chocolate Almond Milk only has 120 calories and 3 grams of fat per cup.  For fellow Weight-Watcher dropouts, that’s only 2 points per 8 oz…as opposed to McDonald’s 8 points for a small (12 oz) plain Frappe!  Yowsa!  Not to mention all the questionable ingredients in their frappes, which the above link will take you to the list of.

Freedom Frappe (prepare ice cubes in advance!)

What you will need:

  • Coffee Ice Cubes (see below)
  • Dark Chocolate Almond Milk or regular chocolate milk
  • A blender

Directions:

First things first, you need to make the coffee ice cubes!  It’s taken me awhile to actually procure leftover coffee for this project, because such a thing rarely exists in our house.  In fact, I actually brewed an entire pot of coffee AFTER we already drank our customary morning pot just so I could let it cool and freeze it.

The pictures are pretty self-explanatory, but just in case you’re still confused, pour your lukewarm or cold coffee into an empty ice cube tray and freeze.

If you don’t have an ice-maker and actually NEED all your ice cube trays, simply transfer the frozen cubes to a freezer baggie or container and reclaim your tray.

Now for the fun part!  Grab your coffee cubes and almond milk.

(I realize my coffee is unfrozen in this picture.  Sometimes my brain processes events out of order.)

I discovered almond milk after my second daughter was born.  Both my girls were sensitive to dairy as newborns, and as a breastfeeding mama that meant I had to eliminate all the dairy from my diet.  I won’t go into the trials and tribulations regarding eliminating my favorite food group, but instead mention that I was very happy to find that the dark chocolate almond milk is almost as delicious as real chocolate milk.  You could also use real chocolate milk in this recipe if the thought of almond milk is too hippy for you, but I like the flavor variants the almond milk provides.

Add 8 ounces (1 cup) of milk to the blender.

Add some coffee cubes.  I think 5 is a good amount, it keeps it very chocolatey but doesn’t mask any of the coffee flavor.  You might like more or less than that.

Blend.

Serve, drink, and think of me fondly.

 

Categories: Leftovers

Bacon Jerky, Bacon Bits, Smug Satisfaction

Your mouth just watered, didn’t it?

Saturday, my Dad offered me a piece of store-bought bacon jerky and changed my life.  Bacon, any time of the day?  Bacon you could eat without getting your hands (too) greasy?  Well, okay!

So I immediately went home and took some bacon out of the freezer.  Except I couldn’t wait a whole day for it to thaw, so I defrosted it in the microwave.  It was still partially frozen when I stuck it in the dehydrator…

This bacon came from an impulse buy at the IGA a few months ago.  It was like 14lbs for $10.00, or something ridiculous, and naturally, you get what you pay for.  This is terrible bacon.  I hate cooking it because it makes my house smell like some strange chemical, not delicious bacon.  As you can see from the above picture, it’s also really fatty, and looks more like ham than bacon.

Anyway, I though “Hey!  Maybe it will taste good like this!”  So I trimmed off all the excess fat, and diced all of the smaller pieces into bacon bits.

You’ll need a fruit leather tray for bacon bits, so they won’t fall through the grid.

Turn the dehydrator on the hottest setting, and check back in 2-3 hours!

I actually over-dried mine slightly.  I think they would have been a little chewier a half an hour prior to when I remembered them.

The bacon bits turned out really good though.

The Verdict

This is a total game changer!  I can’t believe I never thought to make bacon jerky before!  I’m definitely going to do this again soon with some GOOD bacon, because the underlying chemical taste was still present, unfortunately.  I recommend starting with good bacon, and not cheap discount boxed bacon that you have to sort into 1-lb increments.  Go figure.

I will say that I’m pretty pleased (aka, “smug”) to have made my own bacon bits.  What a money-saver!  I feel like I just freed myself a little from the grocery store.  (Never mind that I still have to get the bacon there…)

And both of my children loved it, so that’s a huge score to have a handy protein snack on hand for them.

Note: While I think it’s probably fine to leave the bacon jerky out on the counter in a baggie or jar since most bacon is cured with preservatives, I have been keeping mine in the refrigerator and it has not affected it’s quality or texture.

 

Categories: Beef, Dehydrating, Leftovers, Venison | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Sun-Dried Tomatoes Vs. Dehyrator-Dried Tomatoes

I stumbled upon a book a few weeks ago that immediately intrigued me.  The title alone drew me in:  Preserving Food Without Freezing or Canning: Traditional Techniques Using Salt, Oil, Sugar, Alcohol, Vinegar, Drying, Cold Storage, and Lactic Fermentation.  I mean, come on, any book that completely summarizes it’s contents within it’s own title has to be a quick, easy read, right?   As it turned out, most of the recipes in there were a little far-fetched even for me.  It is a pretty interesting book, and I do recommend borrowing a copy from your library.  It’s basically a cookbook with a collection of authors almost exclusively from charming French provinces.  While I can appreciate the nutrients saved by not subjecting foods to extreme heat or cold to preserve, most of the recipes were obscure enough (chestnuts in vinegar and a bucket?) that I simply couldn’t see myself actually consuming the products.  And who has time to put up food they won’t ever eat?  The different methods of preservation NOT involving the ones that are so common and available to us today (canning and freezing) are pretty cool though.  I mean, this is hard-core Prairie Mama stuff, and normally I’d be all over such adventures.  But as I said, I just cannot see my my family passing oil-packed cottage cheese that’s been stored in my basement around the table.  Ick.

There was one recipe I did immediately try, however.  Sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil.  Easy-peasy, right?

Sigh.

Nothing is ever easy-peasy for this Prairie-Mama-Wannabe.  I probably would have starved my 14 children if their existence depended soley on my food preservation skills.  (That and the fact that my husband wouldn’t shoot a deer if the darn thing was foaming at the mouth.)  Although at least we’d all be skinny…

I digress.  Let’s get to the point of the post, shall we?

Sun-Dried Tomatoes packed in oil

What you will need:

  • Small tomatoes, like cherry or grape tomatoes
  • Gauze or cheesecloth (or a old window screen, if you’re a hillbilly)
  • Coarse salt
  • Oil

Directions:

Wash your tomatoes and slice them in half the long way.  I was able to catch my daughter’s nap and prepare mine while watching repeat episodes of “The Nanny”.  I will subject you to Dagny’s perfect baby cuteness now:

Don’t you just want to pinch those sweet chubby thighs?

I placed my halves on one of my dehydrator trays, but any platter will work.  Next, sprinkle the halves liberally with the salt, cover with the cheesecloth and set in the sun.

Yeah, that’s a window screen you are seeing.  I didn’t have any cheesecloth and I live out in the middle of nowhere and wasn’t about to drive 30 minutes just to have a classier picture to post.

Not that I didn’t seriously consider it…

Ok, what really happened was that I assumed I had cheesecloth or at least something that would have worked and went ahead and cut up all the tomatoes and salted them before confirming that fallacy.

Can I get some props for creativity?  It actually worked to my advantage anyway because we had some pretty intense wind the days I had this outside, and I think it would have created a problem with anything lighter than my window screen.

Anyway, this is the tricky part of drying foods in the sun:  They actually need to BE IN THE SUN.  Not the dark, not the rain, and definitely not the hail.  Seems pretty common sense, but common sense and Chelsea Daniels have very little in, well, common.

The directions say to turn the tomatoes twice a day and to bring them in at night ‘lest the dew undo the day’s drying.

The first flip

You know what else completely undoes a day of drying?  A storm.  A big, country-style, tornado-looking storm, complete with hail.

That’s right.  I thought to take pictures of The Storm, but didn’t think to Bring In The Tomatoes.  Doh!

It’s okay, the next day was sunny and warm.  I was kind of starting from scratch again, but by the end of the day they were shriveling nicely.

At the start of Day 3, I left to go grocery shopping, remembered my tomatoes and texted my husband (at the store, not on the road 🙂 ) to please set them out in the sun for me.

At the start of Day 4, I remembered my tomatoes and realized they spent the night outside.  In the dew.  Oh, and the rain.  Of course.

Let’s just skip forward to the “done” part.  What should have taken 2, maybe 3 days of attentiveness took ME 7 days.  But sun-dry they did finally do, and NOW we get to the true easy-peasy-ness of this recipe.

Slap those time-sucking shells of what once ’twere tomatoes into a mason jar, fill it to within 3/8 inch headspace with olive oil, screw the lid on, set it in your pantry and stop wasting any more time on them!

Except I couldn’t quit thinking about them.  I was irritated that they had proved to be such a task for me, and I was irritated with myself for being irritated.  I decided to see if there was any true benefit to sun-drying them as opposed to sticking them in the dehydrator.  Do they taste better from the sun?  Sun tea does have a slight advantage over stove tea.  Suntans have a serious advantage over tanning bed tans.  Surely true sun-dried tomatoes have a magic in them that the dried bits from my dehydrator cannot match.

Of course I tested this theory:

Dehydrated Tomatoes

The brand name is kind of ironic, since I used these in the dehydrator…

What you will need:

  • Small tomatoes
  • A Dehydrator
  • Coarse salt (optional, but recommended)

Directions:

This truly is easy-peasy.  Slice up the tomatoes, lay them on the dehydrator tray, (I only used one tray because we just don’t consume many dried tomatoes) salt them, turn it on the “fruits and vegetables” setting, and in about 6 hours (depending on how packed your dehydrator is) you’ll have dried tomatoes!  Pack them in a glass jar with oil to 3/8″ headspace, seal them with a lid tightly, and store in a cool place.

The Verdict

If you aren’t as flighty as I am, sun-dried is the way to go.  The sun-dried tomatoes had a richer, fuller-bodied flavor than the dehydrated tomatoes.  I actually forgot to salt the dehydrated tomatoes (I said I was flighty!), too, and the salt on the sun-dried ones was really a nice touch.  If you are prone to forgetfulness like someone else I know, the good news is that the dehydrated tomatoes are still quite tasty, and absolutely worth it.  I was pleased to discover that I really liked the oil-packed tomatoes, and can envision myself wrapping them in basil leaves for a snack, or scattering them over a fresh salad.  I will be making these again, and I will most definitely be using my ditz-proof dehydrator!

Even Dagny wants to try one!

 

*Note* This recipe did not say how long these tomatoes will last.  Use your discretion and inspect the tomatoes for any spoilage before consuming.

Categories: Dehydrating, Fruit, High-Acid, Leftovers | Tags: , , , , , ,

Steak Bites

This isn’t necessarily “preserving” food, but using up leftovers rather than wasting them is related to food preservation, right?.

In our house, leftover steak is about as rare as leftover wine, but occasionally both those things happen.  (You know, once a decade or so).  More frequently, we have cuts of meat that aren’t super tender or perhaps were accidentally overcooked.  What to do with these bits?  You could make them into stew, where the rich, thick texture of the broth and the tenderness of the vegetables would probably mask the chewy-ness of the steak, OR you could make a meal that will encourage you to restrain from eating a whole steak just to be able to make steak bites!  I first stumbled upon this recipe when trying to learn how to cook cube steaks.  We started buying bulk beef when we moved out to the country 2 years ago, and among the cuts from the mixed quarter I was familiar with, were several I was not.  What’s a London Broil?  What’s an arm roast?  What’s a cube steak?  I think before getting this beef I must have imagined cows were only made into ground beef, ribeye, filets, porterhouses, and strip steaks.  My eyes have been opened to this amazing world of flavor and variety, and my keyboard is beginning to fade from searching for new recipes!

This one is a keeper.  I would also go as far to say that probably anything Ree, the Pioneer Woman comes up with is a keeper.  (In fact, just in the time it took me to find this link amongst all her delicious recipes I got sidetracked and planned out half of next week’s menu…) But this for sure is one of the most delicious meals to grace my kitchen, and is oh-so-easy to make!  For the full recipe using cube steaks, check out this blog.

This is my slightly modified version that I use for a quickie fix for leftover steak.

Steak Bites

What You Will Need:

  • Leftover steak, sliced thin against the grain
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Butter (Yes, I admit to using light butter.  Ree would probably kill me, but it’s a trade-off.  With real butter I can’t eat as many of these bites and still fit into my jeans.)

Directions:

You want about equal parts Worcestershire and butter, and enough of both of those things to make a decent amount of sauce to saute your steak pieces in.  You’ll have to eyeball it depending on how much steak you have.  First step: melt the butter in the pan.  Once it’s melted, toss your steak in there and add the Worcestershire.

(I had some raw steak that I threw in there first to cook it up before adding the leftover steak that was already cooked.  I also didn’t melt the butter first because I was too hungry impatient.  It still turned out awesome.)

Flip it around a bit until the steak is warm, (warm, not burnt to a crisp!  It’s ok if there’s still some pink!  Pink is good!) then enjoy!  These are great just as they are (even cold!) or are also great made into a sandwich on buttered toasted rolls.  If you’re an onion-lover, you could also caramelize some in the butter before adding the steak, too.

Go make it, then come back and rave!

Categories: Beef, Leftovers | Tags: , , , , , ,

Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup

Part of my quest in canning is to eliminate all commercially canned items from my pantry.  A big one, especially around any of the winter holidays is Campbell’s condensed cream soups.  I mean, who wants to just eat regular old vegetables when you can smother them in creamy goodness and bake every last nutrient out?  Okay, fine, I’ll eat vegetables the way God intended them for most of the year.  But when it’s a holiday, by golly I will make them taste good!  And yes, my birthday counts as a holiday.  So do Friday nights.

This is a pretty good recipe!  It doesn’t taste exactly like Campbell’s, but I would actually dare to say it is better.  It has a richer, more honest flavor.  I did add a little extra salt because we’re so used to Campbell’s, and I am still gradually weaning my family off of a high-sodium lifestyle. I got the recipe from Six Sister’s Stuff.  That link will take you to a delicious recipe, including how to make your own Hidden Valley Ranch spice packet!  I made that the same night as this cream of chicken soup, mixed it together and served it with chicken over rice.  It was pretty tasty, but I want to try their slow cooker recipe with pork chops next.

Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup                                                                            (Yields 3 cups of soup, which is equal to about 2 cans of Campbell’s Condensed Cream of Chicken.)

What you will need:

1 1/2 cups chicken broth*
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp parsley
1/8 tsp paprika
1 1/2 cups milk
3/4 cup flour (can use gluten free flour)

Directions:
1. In medium-sized saucepan, boil chicken broth, 1/2 cup of the milk, and the seasonings for a minute or two (longer if using fresh onions or garlic).
2. In a bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 cup of milk and flour. Add to boiling mixture and continue whisking briskly until mixture boils and thickens.
*This is especially flavorful if you make your own chicken stock!
I doubled this recipe, used some for dinner that night, refrigerated some more for another meal, and froze the rest!  It’s not recommended to can foods with dairy, unfortunately, because the fat in dairy could encapsulate any bacteria in the product, and even the heat from pressure canning isn’t high enough to permeate it.  That’s fine, just freeze it!  I agree it would be more convenient to be able to can it, but it probably isn’t worth the risk.
Categories: Freezing, Leftovers, Low-Acid, Poultry, Soup

Follow-up Verdict for Pickled Eggs!

If you missed the post on Pickled Eggs, you can read it here!

Well, let me just say I now understand the fierce debate surrounding pickled eggs.  Yowsa!  Are these babies good!  My big plan for today is go buy another 2 dozen eggs to get them marinating because we’re more than halfway through the THREE JARS of eggs in my fridge.  I can understand the urge to can them, because if 5 days in the fridge has made them as delicious as they are, then a month in the pantry invites an image of my husband crouching, Gollum-style in a corner clutching a jar of hot pickled eggs screeching “My Precious!” at us.

Here’s the breakdown:  Out of the three different recipes I made, I like the beet eggs the least.  I use “least” loosely, implying that in the event of a fire, I would still save them, but if they slipped out of my arms and crashed to the floor I would wipe a tear and keep running.  These eggs were fantastic on a salad, but require a little salt on the yolk when eating as is.

My husband likes the hot ones the best.  They are the most flavorful, and the yolk is permeated all the way through with delicious garlic and jalapeno essence.  I have actually put poor Ty on a ban from the eggs for a few days, or until we get new windows that open all the way.

True to form, I like the pickle juice eggs the best.  They taste just like pickles!  I highly recommend adding the garlic cloves to the brine, it really pumps up the flavor.  I do NOT recommend biting into one of the garlic cloves to see what pickled garlic tastes like, though.  Not unless you want to taste garlic the rest of the day, that is.  For the record, it just tastes like fresh garlic and not like roasted pickle garlic, which is what I think I was expecting.

My Dad loved all three equally, and sent me a text telling me so.  I still think it’s funny that my parents text now.

So there you have it.  If you were in doubt about making your own pickled eggs, or whether or not you should consider trying a pickled egg, you now have your verdict.  Go boil some eggs!

Categories: Eggs, Leftovers

Pickled Eggs

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter!  Our weekend was full of coloring eggs then taking turns hiding and hunting them over and over.  My oldest daughter got the biggest kick out of playing “hide-and-seek” with the eggs, and eventually I realized the eggs needed to go back into the refrigerator so we switched to plastic eggs.

We had about a dozen and a half eggs left over.  The remaining half-dozen were either devoted to deviled eggs or are still being steam-cleaned out of the carpet due to some tiny, unmonitored fingers.  (Lesson learned.  Babies should not be alone with eggs.)  I already knew I wanted to try making pickled eggs with my leftovers and scoured the Internet for good recipes.  I narrowed it down to three that I wanted to try.  I’ve only ever tried the kind pickled with beet juice – and love them – but I’m curious to try a few other kinds.  I actually ended up buying another dozen eggs so I could have enough to do experiments with!

One of the tidbits of information I learned whilst looking online for recipes, is that canning eggs is not recommended.  There’s mostly arguments against canning them (for fear of botulism), and one fairly determined man out there in favor of canning them who has posted in Canning’s defense on several site forums.  I included links below if you are interested in deciding for yourself what to do, but I am choosing to skirt around the issue myself and simply refrigerate them.  If they are as tasty as the recipe-creator’s claim to be, then I won’t have to worry about them lasting very long!

Argument in favor of canning eggs – Summary: “we’ve been doing it for years, botulism is a risk for anything you can, why are eggs different?  There is only one case ever of someone dying from botulism of canned eggs, and he had it coming.”  (The first link is a different source than the second link)

Argument against canning eggs – Summary: “Eggs are too dense to can safely, you will die.”

I am being a little snarky regarding the issue, but truthfully, all the resources above have fairly valid points.  I, however, don’t consume enough pickled eggs to enter wholeheartedly into this fierce debate.  (Who knew so many people are that passionate about pickled eggs?)  Therefore, the top link will direct those of you interested in canning pickled eggs to a blog that will give you detailed directions in doing so.

These recipes are for refrigeration only.

If you don’t already have hard-boiled eggs, the first step you need to do is get some!

This picture is silly.  Of course you can probably visualize eggs in a pan on a stove.  But then you wouldn’t assume that since I clearly use brown eggs, that I *must* be an expert on all things natural and organic.  (Sigh, ok.  They aren’t organic.  But they also weren’t $4.99/dozen like the organic ones were!  I am so going to start raising chickens.)

Anyway, on to the interesting stuff:

My mother’s tried-and-true method for boiling fresh eggs is to put them in a pot, fill it with water, put the burner on high.  When the water begins to boil, set a timer for 9 minutes.  When the timer goes off, drain the hot water from the pan and rinse the eggs for a few minutes under cold water, then put them back in the fridge.

Once you have some hard-boiled eggs, you can make pickled eggs!  These three recipes are the ones I tried, and spent less than 30 minutes making all three kinds.  Also, as you will note from my pictures, you can get a plastic, reusable lid for your canning jars!  These are really cool, and can be used in the freezer as well.  (They obviously can NOT be used for canning though…don’t try it!)  You can also write on the top with a dry-erase marker.   I recommend using wide-mouth jars for pickling eggs for ease of reaching in to snag one, or any glass jar with a lid that seals tight.

Hot Pickled Eggs- recipe from the Kuntz Family Website



Ingredients:

1 dozen hard-boiled eggs
2 cups vinegar (5% acidity)
2 Tablespoons canning salt (non-iodized)
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon dill seed
1/4 teaspoon ground mustard
1 clove garlic – sliced thin
1 jalapeno – sliced thin

Directions:

Combine all ingredients except eggs and bring to a boil.  Boil 3-4 minutes and remove from heat.  Strain the pepper and garlic from the brine and place in the bottom of quart jar.

Pack peeled eggs on top of the pepper and garlic slices, stir the brine well and pour hot brine over the eggs until they are completely covered.  Place lid tightly on jar and shake.  Refrigerate 1-10 days before eating, occasionally shaking the jar to keep the brine from settling.

I cut that entire recipe in half and just used 6 eggs so I could store them in a pint jar.

Beet Pickled Eggs

Ingredients:

1 cup red beet juice (I actually needed two small jars of canned beets)
1½ cups cider vinegar
1 teaspoon brown sugar
a few canned whole tiny red beets (or several slices of beets can be used)                         1 dozen hard-boiled eggs

Directions:

Bring all the ingredients except the eggs to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.  Pack one dozen peeled, hard-cooked eggs into a quart-sized jar.  (I ended up with only 11 eggs because my pint-sized helped peeled an egg and immediately consumed it.  It turned out serendipitous though, because I don’t think the 12th egg would have fit in there anyway…) Pour the hot brine over the eggs in the jar, cover, and refrigerate immediately.

Note:  In classic Chelsea style, I learned belatedly that these are better packed loosely.  See the white part?  It would be prettier and better tasting if the entire eggs made contact with the brine.

Pickle Juice Eggs

(Or “Pickle Eggs”.  Or “Pickled Pickle Eggs”.  I thought of about 4 more…  I’ll stop before I make you close this tab!)

Ingredients:

Pickle juice                                                                                                                           3-4 garlic cloves                                                                                                                      1 dozen eggs (I only used a half dozen)

Directions:

I saw this one in a comment section on a forum, too.  I thought, “Hey…I LOVE pickles, I ALWAYS have leftover pickle juice!”  Another commenter said she uses her leftover pickle juice for pickling fresh veggies, too.  Someone else said they like to throw some garlic cloves in there, and since I am never one to turn down garlic, I did that also.  Someone else advised bringing your pickle juice to a boil to kill off any bacteria left from dirty hands that may have reached in to get pickles.  Guilty of this every single time I obtain a pickle (or 2, or 5), I agree.  SO, once you eat your last pickle, bring the juice to a boil for 3-4 minutes then pour over peeled eggs in a jar. (You can even reuse the pickle jar if you want!)  If you like blasting people with garlic breath as much as I do, add a few freshly peeled cloves to your jar, too!

Aren’t they pretty?

Another Note:  In an effort to pass on knowledge about healthy eating, I should warn you that I discovered while pickling that I’ve never read the label on my Vlasic pickle jar before.  Boo, hiss!  I’m sorry I did!  This isn’t the healthiest pickling option out there, unless you are using pickles with a healthier brine than Vlasic’s.  This one contains preservatives and food coloring.  I don’t know for sure, but perhaps pickles from the refrigerated section are a healthier choice.  (Do you see the size of my pickle jar?  This is going to have to be a weaning thing for me, giving up my Vlasic’s…)

Hotter Pickled Eggs 

Here’s a bonus recipe for you!  I didn’t make this one, but I saw it on a forum and thought it looked pretty good!  I didn’t have any sherry in the house and didn’t want to run to the liquor store.  Next time I come across a recipe that uses sherry, I’ll remember to make these eggs!

Ingredients:

3 cups apple cider vinegar
2 cups water
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
1 tsp seasoned salt
4 Tbsp tobasco sauce
1 small can hot peppers
1 medium yellow onion, sliced thin
1 can sliced beets
1/4 cup dry sherry
2 or 3 bay leaves
2 dozen hard boiled eggs, shelled

Directions:

Combine all ingredients in a large glass jar and let sit for 3-4 days refrigerated before serving.  (These directions did not say to boil the ingredients first, but I’m guessing she omitted it by accident.)

Verdict

I actually don’t have a verdict yet.  All these recipes say to let the eggs “marinate” for several days before eating them.  I just made these yesterday, so I haven’t tried any yet.  (Well, ok, I confess I did pull one of the beet eggs out to “test” it.  It was pretty good, but I am going to wait another day or two before trying another one.)  I will let you know which recipe I like best in a few days!

Happy pickling!

****UPDATE********  We have a verdict!  Click HERE!

Categories: Eggs, Leftovers

Beef Jerky

The first post!  I have to admit, it’s a little intimidating, starting a blog.  I chewed off most of my nails just trying to come up with a snazzy name for my blog, and then discovered I only had one nail left to work on while I wrote my About page!  Fortunately, I have a very good, very underpaid editor at my disposal.  (Thanks, Erin!)

But one thing I did not need to lose nails over was my first post.  First of all, there’s no doubt in my mind that beef jerky is one of the best inventions out there.  Secondly, and not quite as important, I’m still waiting for my super cool new pressure canner to arrive;)

So let’s dive in!  I’ve decided to do a comparison between using a dehydrator and using an oven.  I happened to have free access to a dehydrator (aka, stole it from my Mom…) and I’ve been making jerky and dried fruits for years in it, so had never thought to use my oven.  But my sister-in-law, blogger, homesteader, and podcast-extraordinaire, asked me in our interview if there was any way her listeners could get started preserving foods now, even if they don’t own canners or dehydrators. Well, I’m a gadget-girl, a marketers dream-come-true, but I do have an admiration for the back-to-basics and I love to learn all the ways of doing things.  So I figured, while I am learning new things, why not be a guinea pig?  Let’s see what the difference is between a dehydrator and an oven:

Dehydrating Beef Jerky Using a Dehydrator

What you will need:

  • A Dehydrator, I have my Mom’s 20-year-old American Harvest Snackmaster, and it works like it was purchased yesterday.  
  • A Jerky Gun or children to use as slave labor. (or you can always roll out the strips yourself, I suppose.  But that goes against my lazy Gadget-Girl grain.)
  • Spices, either homemade or store-bought.  I like this all-in-one spice pack from Nesco.  (Note:  See What I Learned below)                                            
  • Ground Beef, Turkey, or Venison.  GROUND BEEF?  I can hear you protesting already.  But truly, ground meat makes the most delicious and tender jerky!  Trust me, and more importantly, try it!  If you don’t like it, send it to me.  I can fit 2 lbs at a time in my 4-tray dehydrator.  So, about 1/2 lb per tray.  If you have more trays, you can use more beef.  (Or less trays, less beef.  You get the picture.)

(I know you know what a lump of ground beef looks like.  I don’t know why I felt the need to include a picture)

Directions:

Mix the spice pack and cure into the ground beef.  If you’re like me, you’ll have a 4-year-old hovering over your shoulder asking to help, and when you offer to let her mash her fingers in there, she’ll stare at you like you’re insane so you’ll end up being the only one in the kitchen with dirty hands.  Once the spices and cure are all mixed in, you’re ready to load your gun!

Aww, even the beef is excited to become jerky!

You can fit about 1/4 lb into the gun at a time, or you can be smart and invest in a bigger gun which claims to hold a whole lb of ground meat.  I wasn’t smart enough to get the big gun, and I let my daughter help, so it took about 4 times as longer than needed to prep the trays with strips                                                  .

She did have fun though…

And how many 4-year-olds can say they’ve made beef jerky?  Anyway, my gun came with two attachments.  One makes the strips flat, and the other makes them into little ropes.  Each works perfectly well, so it’s really a matter of preference.  I will say that the long attachment is better for saving space on the trays.  You can fit more of the rope-style pieces on a tray than you can with the flat pieces.  My husband likes his jerky spicy, and I prefer the “original” blend, so I use the flat attachment for my jerky, and the long attachment for his.  (Gee, Freud would have a field day with that, wouldn’t he?)

Once your trays are loaded, set your dehydrator to the “meat” setting.  On mine it’s the highest setting, at 145 degrees.

Now we wait.  Let me tell you, women: if you are trying to entice a man, invite him over when you’re making beef jerky.  He will walk into your house and propose right then and there, it smells that good!  My husband practically renews his vows every time I make it.

Back to the jerky.  Depending on how full your trays are and the humidity, it takes about 4-8 hours for the jerky to dry.  Every 1-2 hours, turn off the dehydrator, blot the pieces of jerky with a paper towel to soak up the grease, and flip them.

They’ll start turning dark and will shrivel a little.  Once you start suspecting they’re done, tear one in half.  If the inside is still wet, “glistening” or pink, they’re not done.  If the inside is the same color as the outside, take a big bite and pat yourself on the back.  They’re done!  Now pull all the pieces off, wrap them in a few paper towels and let them sit on the counter while you do the dishes and clean your trays.  After 30 minutes or so, they’re ready for storage.  You can leave them out on the counter in a container or Ziploc bag if you know you’re going to inhale them (or are having a football party or something), or you can keep them in the fridge if you want them to last a little longer.  I keep mine in the fridge and they taste just fine cold.

Learn from my mistake:

The first time I made jerky, I used ground turkey.  It turned out delicious!  I did not realize, however, that the gun disassembles as much as it does.  I thought, “Wow, this thing is really hard to clean” and went about my merry way.  The next time I made jerky, I made venison jerky that we never got to try because I discovered, after wondering what that smell was the whole time, rancid turkey trapped behind the plastic thing.  Duh!  The white tube unscrews!  So don’t be a Chelsea.  Unscrew the white thing and WASH THOROUGHLY.  Otherwise you will have to waste venison jerky, and that will make you cry.

Dehydrating Beef Jerky in an Oven

What you will need:

  • An oven…
  • 2 spice packs, or this recipe:
    1/3 c. soy sauce
    1 clove garlic, crushed
    1/8 tsp. salt
    1/8 tsp. pepper
    1 1/2 tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2lbs ground beef

Directions:

I’m going to do a test here.  I’m going to use one of my spice packs for 1 lb of the beef, and the recipe above for the other lb.  At the end I’ll let you know my verdict on which spices make the best jerky (Nesco’s premade pack, or homemade spices), and which method of drying makes the best jerky (a dehydrator or an oven). 

You’re pretty much going to follow the same steps as above, substituting dehydrator racks with oven racks.  I wrapped my oven racks in aluminum foil to give the jerky some security.  They were afraid of falling between the racks to certain doom.

One con I noticed right away with the oven method is that it offers me less space.  I was going to do my usual “flat for original spices, long for the test spices”, but discovered immediately that I didn’t have enough room.  So I used the long attachment on my gun for both flavors, but made the last bit into a “T” for “test” and a “C” for “control”, or the original spices.                                                        

It was kind of funny, because my husband, came in and laughed when he saw the T and the C because he thought they were for “Ty” and “Chelsea”.

The directions from this recipe say to “Dry in 150 degree oven with the door ajar for 4 to 8 hours”.  My oven will only go as low as 170 degrees (it’s a very small electric oven).  I let it bake for about a half an hour with the door ajar, but when I stuck my hand in there to test a theory, discovered that it was rather cold.  Plus one of my cats was making me nervous… 

I decided to play it safe and closed my oven completely.  I checked it every hour, turning the pieces and blotting with a paper towel like you would with a dehydrator. It needed it!  The foil on the racks collected a lot of the grease.  I also rotated the racks every hour  because I do have an electric oven and I know from experience (mostly bad experiences) that it cooks unevenly.  It took about 6 hours at 170 degrees for the jerky to dry.  The same amount of beef took about 4 hours in the dehydrator at only 145 degrees.                     

Again, when you break open a piece and it’s no longer moist inside, it’s done.  Layer the pieces in paper towels and set them out for a little while so the grease will absorb.  I had to hide mine in the microwave because of all the furry thieves in my house.

What I Learned:

My spice packs I’ve used for years will kill you.  I never thought to look at the ingredients at the beginning of this post, because that’s something I started doing recently and I’m not totally in the habit yet.  But while searching the internet for a good recipe for ground beef jerky (there’s a lot of recipes for marinades for sliced beef jerky, not a whole lot for ground beef), it occurred to me that I never read those ingredients.  Sure enough, the spice pack is laced with MSG and nitrites, which according to a friend of mine who reads all that stuff, will kill you.

The Verdict:

Well, I can’t think of any pros to using the oven.  If you don’t own a dehydrator and an oven is your only choice, then at least you can still make jerky.  But a dehydrator is definitely a good investment if you plan to do a lot of dehydrating. The oven took 2 hours longer, had less space, and while the jerky tastes fine, it is not as savory.  (I do not deny the fact that the extra work I put into using the oven may be tainting my opinion of oven jerky…) A dehydrator takes all the mystery out of dehydrating, too.  You prepare the food, put it on the trays, turn it on, check back every now and then.  With the oven, I think laying foil on the racks may have added to the time it took to dry the jerky, and it was kind of a pain to have to switch the racks every hour.  So my official recommendation is to go scour your mother’s basements and steal her unused dehydrator.

The Taste-Test Verdict:

Truthfully, the jerky with the Spice Pack of Death tasted a little better.  Perhaps because I’m more used to it, but also perhaps because it also turned out a lovely shade of red whereas the homemade spiced jerky just looks like commercial jerky.  (You can kind of tell from the above picture) I think the next time I make jerky, I’ll play around with that homemade recipe some more and add paprika, onion powder and maybe a little curry too.  Ty really likes the homemade spiced jerky, though, so I would definitely recommend trying it over buying the spice packs!

Well that is all for today!  In the time it took me to make 4 lbs of beef jerky we’ve already consumed 1 1/2 lbs of it, and I cannot stress enough on how delicious it is!

Categories: Beef, Dehydrating, Leftovers | Tags: , , , , ,

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