They’re Pancakes! They’re Shortcake! They’re Practically Paleo!

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Don’t shut down on me yet.  I know I said the “P” word!  And while paleo and gluten-free are certainly hot topics and very trendy today, I’m betting most of you are like me and when you hear those words (along with vegan or vegetarian) you think, “Uuuughh, groan, whine”.  I’m of the mindset that food is good, and I like to eat it.  I like to eat it ALL.

…Unless of course you *can’t* have something.  I had to give up dairy proteins in all forms for a few months for each of my girls when they were newborns because I was breastfeeding and they had colic so bad.  THEN I was grateful for all the dairy-free recipes I was able to dig up.  And one time I got a bug in me to purchase a vegetarian cookbook because I was convicted that my family was centering ALL our meals around animal proteins.  (That book proved to be more helpful in the SIDE DISH department than with the main course.  We are just too carnivore-ish ;))

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There’s plenty of solid reasons for trying new lifestyle changes, though.  I have one friend who discovered, once she went completely vegetarian for a month, that her body does not handle animal proteins well.  Now she serves meat, poultry and fish as a treat instead of daily rations.  I have another friend who co-wrote with her husband a really great post on going mostly paleo/primal.  I highly recommend reading Daniel’s notes on WHY they went that route and how it has benefited them.

I actually enjoy a dietary challenge from time to time.  I think it opens the doors of culinary creativity, and almost always introduces me to new foods that I would not have thought to try – or new ways to use foods that I wouldn’t have tried on my own.

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Right now my husband and I are nearly done with a detox/diet that we started at the end of March.  We’re at the end of a 3-week phase where we can’t have starches or sugar.  It has not been nearly as difficult as I thought it would be, largely due to several recipes I’ve tinkered with.   I’ve also enjoyed several of the recipes I’ve discovered so much that they are now a member of my recipe book.  I don’t think I’d want to make this a permanent lifestyle, but I can say that I’m going to continue to find and add grain-free foods to our regular menus.

This particular recipe is a keeper.  Now, honestly, nothing beats good old-fashioned buttermilk pancakes slathered with butter and maple syrup.  But these grain-free pancakes are delightfully versatile as a breakfast food, a mid-day snack, or dessert!!  I haven’t tried them with syrup yet since we can’t have sugar for another 4 days (but who’s counting?) but that’s no matter.  They are really good with strawberry puree and whipped cream!  (My daughter tried them with syrup and liked them.)  I say these are “practically” paleo because I do use dairy, which is not part of the traditional paleo diet.  You can sub out the yogurt for applesauce and the milk for almond or coconut milk like the original recipe calls for, if you are trying to stick with true paleo.  And omit the whipped cream, of course.  (The first time I made these I used applesauce, and I will say they are sweeter, but much more prone to crumbling.)

One more note:  I think they are actually better the next day.  The last batch I made, I made on Saturday night so we could eat them Sunday morning.  Just re-heat them for 30 seconds or so in the microwave or in the oven for a few minutes.

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Grain-free Pancakes/Strawberry Shortcake

(The original credit for this recipe)

Pancakes (makes about 8-10 small cakes):

  • 1 1/2 cups Almond Flour (almond flour is simply almonds pureed in the food processor!)
  • 1/2 cup Plain Greek Yogurt (I used Chobani 2%, but fat-free would work, too)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1/4 cup Milk (I used raw whole milk.  Skim, low-fat, or almond/coconut milk would also be good!)
  • 1/2 cup Shredded Coconut (optional, but delicious!)
  • Coconut Oil for greasing the griddle

Topping:

  • 1 cup Strawberries and/or other fruits (pureed in blender or food processor)
  • Whipped Cream

Directions:

Mix all ingredients in a bowl, except coconut oil.  Batter should be slightly runny.  If it’s still thick, add more milk until it resembles typical pancake batter.  Grease griddle or pan with oil.  Spoon batter onto hot griddle into 2-3″ rounds.  When sides begin to brown, flip pancakes.  Brown the other side, then serve warm!  Add pureed strawberries and whipped cream.  If strawberries aren’t super sweet, you may want to add a packet of stevia or a teaspoon of sugar while pureeing.  Typically they won’t need it, though.  Especially if they are in season!  Leftovers should keep in the fridge at least a week.

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Tell me if you try these!  I have a few more starch and sugar-free recipes that I will post here if anyone is interested.   I’ll be back to eating those things next week, but it never hurts to try new recipes, right?

Categories: Fruit, Grain-free, Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Mother’s Day Ideas

If you are my Mom or my Mom-in-Law STOP READING THIS!  Unless you want to to veto your gift.  Because I haven’t made it yet, but this is what I’m planning on making you.  Unless I change my mind and make something else.  Or buy you a plant like I do every year…

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For the rest of you looking for ideas, here’s a good one!  These are just inexpensive Terra cotta pots from the hardware store,  about $1 each, painted with inexpensive acrylic craft paints.  I made these little pots yesterday for a group of mom-friends.  I’m a table leader at my church’s mom’s group, MOMentum, and last night was our last meeting until fall.

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They were such a great group of women, and I just loved hanging out with them twice a month!  So I painted them each a little pot and they turned out so cute that I thought they would make cute Mother’s Day gifts!  It took me about 2 hrs to paint 10 pots, and it was so much fun to do!

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I got a few ideas off Pinterest, and some were just inspired by the way I felt yesterday.  (Which, fortunately, was pretty happy 😉 )  For my friends I added a perennial, a packet of giant sunflowers (I’ve always wanted to grow those!) and some gummy worms for funsies 🙂

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I thought making these in a few different sizes would be nice too.  I’d like to try using my alkyd paints on a few and paint scenes or flowers or something, too!  A high-gloss finish coat would really class them up, too.  What do you think?

 

Categories: Crafts, Journal | Tags: , , , , ,

Yet Another Plug for Kale Chips. Worth It!

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Check me out!  I made one of those fancy pictures-with-words button thingies!  It took way longer than it needed to, but I couldn’t decide on the font I wanted to use, and then I REALLY couldn’t decide on the COLOR of the font I wanted to use.  I’m still not super content with it, but eventually you just have to say to yourself, “Chelsea, it’s a picture.  Going on a blog.  You have children who want lunch.”

My new camera took this shot!  Cool, huh?  I'm still amazed by some of the stuff this thing can do all on it's own!

My new camera took this shot! Cool, huh? I’m still amazed by some of the stuff this thing can do all on it’s own!

Anyway, I know, I know.  KALE.  Sigh.  It’s all the rage.  Everyone is talking about it.  I’m supposed to rise above the commonplace recipes of the world and post about canning salmon and other interesting things that people aren’t going to find all over Pinterest.  But darn it, kale is good!  And this is totally relevant because I’m using my dehydrator instead of an oven like everyone else…  heh heh!

Actually, the first 10 times I made kale chips (which, by the way, is the only way I’ve ever eaten kale…) I used my oven.  I followed a few suggestions I found online at various degrees of temperature for various amounts of time.  The results were always the same:  One third of the chips were still soggy, one third were burned to a crisp, and the remaining third was edible and addicting.  So finally my husband actually suggested the dehydrator to me!

Folk, we have a winner!  THIS is the best way to make kale chips.  If you don’t have a dehydrator, it’s time to invest in one.  Go on craigslist and get a used one.  You’ll use it for lots of things, but for now you’ll be running it all week making kale chips!  These are just as good as everyone says they are – unlike the crunchy chickpea scam!  (Anyone else disillusioned by those?)

Dehydrated Kale Chips

What you will need:

There’s lots of variations to make these, but the best that I’ve found is salt & vinegar.  You can use regular vinegar, cider vinegar, or leftover sherry vinegar from your preserved garlic experiment!

  • 1 bunch kale
  • 2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/4 Cup Vinegar
  • 1 tsp fine salt or 2 tsp coarse salt

Directions:

Tear leaves away from stems, wash and pat dry with paper towels.  In a gallon-sized resealable bag, add kale, oil , vinegar and half the salt.  Press air out of the bag, and massage the liquids into the leaves.  No need to be gentle!  These leaves are tough!

Tear leaves away from stems, wash and pat dry with paper towels. In a gallon-sized resealable bag, add kale, oil , vinegar and half the salt. Press air out of the bag, and massage the liquids into the leaves. No need to be gentle! These leaves are tough!

Spread the kale onto two trays, sprinkle with remaining salt.

Spread the kale onto two trays, sprinkle with remaining salt. Set dehydrator to Fruits/Vegetables (135*F), turn on.

After about an hour, they should be done!  They should be perfectly crispy, no sogginess at all.  Enjoy!

After about an hour, they should be done! They should be perfectly crispy, no sogginess at all. Enjoy!

And here's the top picture without the text mussing up our view.

And here’s the top picture without the text mussing up our view.

Categories: Dehydrating, Vegetables | Tags: , , , ,

Homemade Ketchup and an Update You Didn’t Ask For

Remember me?

It’s been awhile…  4 months, to be more specific.  I haven’t forgotten you!  Just got caught up in life!  I have a few new adventures – one being that my husband, after nearly 3 years of being unemployed, got a job!  He actually went into my family’s business and is LOVING it!  I’m so happy for him, because he’s spent most of his career being relatively unsatisfied.  Now he’s running a school catering business and putting his super annoy… incredible efficiency skills to good use!  Another bit of news is that I have a “job” too!  I started babysitting these two darling girls who are sisters, just 11 months and 20 months old.  (Crazy people!  My girls are three YEARS apart and I thought that was kinda fast!!)  It’s a really good fit, having four girls running around during the day, and it makes me chuckle a little to think that with cleaning my parent’s house every other week and babysitting full time during the week, I’m actually getting PAID to be a stay-at-home Mom!  Ha!

So, life is good!  I also invested in a new camera, and after my next two posts (which are already photographed by my old crappy camera)  you will start seeing some sharper pictures of the canning process.  I sure know how to keep you on pins and needles, eh Dear Reader?  🙂

A sneak peak of my new photographic capabilities!  This is my youngest daughter, Dagny.  Isn't she just the epitome of summer here?

A sneak peak of my new photographic capabilities! This is my youngest daughter, Dagny. Isn’t she just the epitome of summer memories here?

Anyway, I made some ketchup way back, even before Christmas.  I think I even alluded to it like a tease on my Facebook Page, but then never bothered to post it.  This ended up being a blessing in disguise though, because it gave my family time to actually consume the ketchup!  I still have a quart left, and I’ve learned a few valuable lessons:

1. Make this in small batches.  Unless you eat ketchup every single day with every single meal, you probably won’t consume an entire quart before it goes bad.

2. Do not store this in one of those cool retro red ketchup bottles or anything that doesn’t have a lid in the refrigerator, because if you do you will find yourself eating it and thinking it doesn’t taste quite right.  And then you will discover mold.  And then you will die of horror.

3. Do not put too much cayenne in the batch or your children will not eat it.  Wussies.

4. Whilst in the “reduction” phase of this recipe, a “low boil” is NOT the same as a “simmer”.  A low boil is more like reducing the heat from a high heat to a medium heat.  You want the sauce to boil down sometime while you’re still young, and if you turn the heat all the way down to simmer, you will die and be buried before it ever reaches the consistency you desire.  I’m actually writing from Heaven as we speak.  It’s amazing up here!  Say yes to Jesus!

5. Make this.  It’s really good and worth buying all the unfamiliar spices for!  The directions are all from The Ball Complete Book of Home Preservation, and they claim that the consistency will be thinner than commercial ketchup.  I think you can probably get pretty close to the right consistency depending on your patience in the reduction phase.  My batch turned out a little thinner than Heinz, but still held up nicely on a french fry.

Homemade Ketchup or Catsup for you weirdos out there 😉

Makes about 7 pint jars

What you will need:

  • 3 Tbsp celery seeds
  • 4 tsp whole cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks (4 inches each), broken into pieces
  • 1 1/2 tsp whole allspice
  • 3 cups cider vinegar
  • 24 lbs tomatoes, cored and quartered
  • 3 cups chopped onions
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup pickling or canning salt

Directions:

1. Tie celery seeds, cloves, cinnamon sticks and allspice in a corner of cheesecloth, creating a spice bag.

1. Tie celery seeds, cloves, cinnamon sticks and allspice in a corner of cheesecloth, creating a spice bag.

2. In a stainless steel saucepan, add vinegar and spice bag.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Remove from heat and let stand for 25 minutes.  Discard spice bag.

2. In a stainless steel saucepan, add vinegar and spice bag. Bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat and let stand for 25 minutes. Discard spice bag.

3. In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine tomatoes, onions and cayenne.  Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently.  Reduce heat and boil gently for 20 minutes.  Add infused vinegar and boil gently until vegetables are soft and mixture begins to thicken, about 30 minutes.  (I actually pureed and strained my tomatoes before adding the vinegar.  You can do it either way.)

3. In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine tomatoes, onions and cayenne. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and boil gently for 20 minutes. Add infused vinegar and boil gently until vegetables are soft and mixture begins to thicken, about 30 minutes. (I actually pureed and strained my tomatoes before adding the vinegar. You can do it either way.)

Using a food mill or a food processor and working in batches, puree mixture.  Transfer mixture to a mesh colander placed over a glass or stainless steel bowl, shaking and  banging the colander on the side of the bowl to force the liquids through.  Discard solids.

4. Using a food mill or a food processor and working in batches, puree mixture. Transfer mixture to a mesh colander placed over a glass or stainless steel bowl, shaking and banging the colander on the side of the bowl to force the liquids through. Discard solids.

 

5. Return liquid to saucepan.  Add sugar and salt.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, until volume is reduced by half and mixture is almost the consistency of commercial ketchup, about 45 minutes

6. Meanwhile, prepare jars and lids.  See Instructions for Boiling-Water Canning.

7. Ladle hot ketchup into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if necessary, by adding hot ketchup.  Wipe rim.  Center lid on jar.  Screw band down until resistence is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.

8. Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water.  Bring to a boil and process for 15 minutes. Remove canner lid.  Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.

I chose to can this into quarts, which I would not recommend.  Pints or half-pints make much more sense since there are no preservatives!  (Am I wearing a muumuu in the reflection?  That was SO 4 months ago! Tsk!)

I chose to can this into quarts, which I would not recommend. Pints or half-pints make much more sense since there are no preservatives! (Am I wearing a muumuu in the reflection? That was SO 4 months ago! Tsk!)

Categories: Canning, High-Acid, Journal, Tomatoes | Tags: , , , , , ,

Better Than “Better Than Bouillon” Chicken Base

Chicken Base!

Chicken Base!

It’s here!  I know you’ve been breathlessly waiting for this post!  Or not.  Pretend for me anyway?

Actually, I made this about a month ago.

But then I turned 30 and people threw me a party and gave me a beautiful brand-new road bike and I’ve been gazing longingly at it for a week straight now.  I even took it out for a spin, but the country winds and 20-degree chill encouraged me back home to my warm living room where I could resume gazing:)

Don't judge my outfit...I live in the country!  No one sees me unless I put pictures of myself on the Internet...oh, wait...

Don’t judge my outfit…I live in the country! No one sees me unless I put pictures of myself on the Internet…oh, wait…

Anyway, I mentioned on this podcast that I wanted to learn how to make my own chicken base.  Since then, hundreds of people (ok, one person) have asked me if I’ve made it yet, so I’m happy to report that I have!  And it’s pretty easy to do!

Disclaimer- sorry about the terrible pictures…  I lost my camera for about two weeks and had to use my iPod to take pictures.  Fortunately, my husband found my camera, and it turns out it was right where I left it.  In the last place I looked.  (All those childhood memories of Mom saying those things coming back to you yet?  I have more!)

 

 

 

 

Chicken Base

Read through the directions first!  You need to refrigerate the stock before adding all the veggies!

What you will need:  (Recipe can be doubled)

  • one whole chicken 
  • 2-3 sticks of celery, chopped
  • 1/2 – 1 whole onion (or onion salt if you forgot to buy onions…), chopped
  • 2-3 carrots, chopped
  • salt
  • pepper
  • garlic salt
  • turmeric
  • stick blender or food processor

Directions:

  1. Place rinsed whole chicken in large stockpot, cover with water so the water is about 1-2 inches above the top of the chicken.  Bring to a boil, then simmer for 45 minutes or until chicken is completely cooked. 
  2. Remove chicken to cutting board.  Allow to cool slightly, then remove all meat from bones, returning bones to stockpot.  If possible, snap some of the smaller bones in half so the bone marrow will cook into your stock!  I know it sounds gross, but it is very good for you! Reserve chicken meat, you will be adding some of it back in at the end.
  3. Boil the bones for another 30 minutes or until they are “clean” (nearly no meat left on them at all).  At this point, the easiest method for removing all the bones is to strain the broth into a new, smaller pot.
  4. Refrigerate stock overnight.  Once completely cooled, the fat will rise to the top and you can easily skim it off.  Return to stove, bring to a boil.
  5. Add celery, onions, carrots, salt and pepper to taste (like 1/2 tsp of each, you can add more later), turmeric to color.  (By color, I mean add it until your broth is a nice yellow color that looks attractive to you.  Or don’t add it at all if those things don’t matter to you.  Personally, a yellow broth tricks my brain into thinking it’s gourmet.  I know that’s weird, but who am I to argue with my brain?)
  6. Now the boring fun part.  Bring stock to a boil, then reduce heat so it is boiling gently, not too hard.  Now walk away and find something else to for an hour while your stock reduces.  This amount of time will depend heavily on your broth-to-vegetable ratio.  The more broth you have, the longer this will take to reduce, of course.  Once your stock has reduced to about half, add 1 cup of chicken meat back in.  Using a stick blender (also referred to as an immersion blender) or transferring your stock to a food processor, puree all ingredients.  If your base is still thin, continue to gently boil until it is reduced to the thickness you desire.  You could also add more chicken and puree that in, as that will also increase the consistency as well as the protein content!

Whisking in ClearJel

A couple of notes:

  • I added the vegetables after the bones were drained so you wouldn’t have to try to fish all the bones out amongst the veggies.  Since it needs to reduce anyway, there’s time for the veggies to cook down.
  • I added the chicken last after the first reduction because I believe overcooked chicken isn’t going to make this taste all that amazing.
  • You will probably need to add more salt at the end.  When you taste it, it should taste way too salty.  Keep in mind that you are adding this to water or broth to enhance the flavor of your soups!  (It’s also a sneaky way to get picky eaters to eat veggies and chicken!)
  • I looked everywhere on the Internet for chicken base recipes, and didn’t find anything very specific, so this is very unscientific, of course!  I did read somewhere that cooking the bones too long will also result in an undesirable taste, I have never stumbled upon that misfortune though.  But I thought I’d warn you.  Probably cooking them just until all the meat falls off is sufficient.
  • I was going for a very similar product to Better Than Bouillon, because that’s what I buy and like.  I could not get it to the exact consistency to BTB, so I tried adding ClearJel to some of it to experiment (because at that point I was still planning on canning it, and you can use ClearJel to can with, unlike cornstarch).  I do not recommend this to you because while it did thicken it to the consistency I wanted, it also deadened the taste substantially and I had to add a lot more salt than I would have preferred.  The rest of my base that I did not thicken with ClearJel, while thin, did not require as much added salt to achieve the taste my family likes.  The next time I make this, I will add more chicken, which will help it be closer to the BTB consistency I so desire.  The nice part about that is you can always add more and more chicken since it’s the last thing you do!  (I don’t know why I didn’t think of that when I was cooking it.  Hindsight. 20/20. ‘Nuff said.)
Base with ClearJel on the right - Just to show consistency differences

Base with ClearJel on the right – Just to show consistency differences

  • I ended up freezing my base into ice cube trays rather than canning it.  I still plan on canning it in the future, I just ran out of desire to spend any more time in the kitchen this particular day.  The ice cube tray method works perfectly though, and is just as convenient as canning it, I think.  To use it, I just add one or two cubes to my soups and they melt right in!  It’s pretty cool, actually, and I feel a little bit like a genius.  I can see the Pin now:  “One ice cube tray of chicken base equals 8 quarts of broth!”  Or whatever.  Pinterest is annoying.  And cool.  I’m annoyed by all the make-your-life-easier stuff on it and yet I’m wildly addicted to it.  I need a Pinners Anonymous Group or something.  PAG.
  • I’m in a weird mood today.
  • Your base may have turned out differently than mine.  You will have to play around with experimenting to find exactly what your taste buds like.  Start with one cube per quart, and if that isn’t flavorful enough, add another one.  I actually added up to 4 cubes to one soup I made where I had started with water!  If you start with broth, you’ll need less base.
About 2 cubes will flavor 1 quart of water (4 cups) for delicious Chicken Soup!

About 2 cubes will flavor 1 quart of water or broth (4 cups) for delicious Chicken Soup!

Categories: Freezing, Low-Acid, Poultry, Soup | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Apple Pie Filling in a Jar

Apple season is pretty much over, and applesauce is usually the most popular canning choice when faced with a case of apples, but I decided to switch it up this year.  Well, that and I still have a jar of applesauce left from last year.  My kids go through phases, and they are NOT in an applesauce phase right now.  So anyway, I thought this looked pretty fun!  It took me awhile to find the ClearJel, so I’m going to save you the trouble and tell you right now that you will probably have a hard time finding it in store, too.  Here’s a link to a good price on ClearJel on Amazon.  (Plus if you go through this link I get a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you!  Thanks!)

Why use ClearJel instead of cornstarch?  “ClearJel is a cooking starch that is acceptable for use in home canning.  Not all cooking starches are suitable for home canning, as reheating causes some to lose viscosity.  Making mixtures too thick can interfere with required heat penetration during heat processing.”  (Ball Complete Book of Home Preservation, p. 170)

Apple Pie Filling  Makes about 7 pint jars (or 3 quart jars, if you weren’t paying attention and accidentally filled quart jars instead of pint jars.)

What you will need:

  • 12 cups sliced peeled cored apples, treated to prevent browning (directions below!)
  • 2 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup ClearJel
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 1/4 cups cold water
  • 2 1/2 cups unsweetened apple juice
  • 1/2 bottled lemon juice

Directions:

1. Prepare canner, jars and lids.  For more information, click here

2. In a large pot of boiling water, working with 6 cups at a time, blanch apple slices for 1 minute.  Remove with a slotted spoon and keep warm in a covered bowl.

I actually poured a teapot of hot water over the apples instead

(I actually just heated a teapot and poured the water into a large bowl holding all the apple slices.  That seemed easier.)

3. In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine sugar, ClearJel, cinnamon, nutmeg, water and apple juice.

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Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, and cook until mixture thickens and begins to bubble.  Add lemon juice, return to a boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly.  Remove from heat.

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Drain apple slices and immediately fold into hot mixture.

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Before processing, heat, stirring, until apples are heated through.

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4. Ladle hot pie filling into hot jars, leaving 1 inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot filling.  Wipe rim.  Center lid on jar.  Screw band down until resistance is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.

5. Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water.  Bring to a boil and process for 25 minutes for pint jars and 35 for quarts.  Remove canner lid.  Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.

There you have it!  Not too hard, eh?  Now any time of the year you have a yen for apple pie or apple turnovers, all you have to do is buy make pie crusts and open your jar! 😉

PS.  Did you notice my new ladle??  It is so awesome; I am smitten!  It gets into every nook and cranny of the jar and has made my life just that much easier!  I got mine at Meijer, but here’s a link at Amazon if you want to check it out!

Categories: Canning, Fruit, High-Acid | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

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!)

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

Dried Minced Onions

I’m not really an “onion person”.  I mean, I’ll eat them if they’re cooked in butter and nicely concealed in whatever dish they’re a part of, or if they’re deep fried or of the bloomin’ variety… ok, maybe I am an onion person after all!  I just don’t really care to eat them raw.  I’m not a huge fan of cutting them up, either.  But onions do add a little somethin’ somethin’ to most dishes, and so they remain a staple in my kitchen.

Recently, I happened upon a recipe on Pinterest that sparked my interest.  Remember when I made the condensed cream of chicken soup?  Well it’s good and all, and fairly easy to make, but anything frozen that has to be thawed isn’t really all that convenient for this meal-planning procrastinator.  And then the Heavens opened, a ray of light shone down on my computer screen, and angels began to sing!  Hallelujah!  Hallelujah!  An easier way!  (Is any this blasphemous?  Forgive me, Lord…I only meant to spread chuckles!)

What I’m saying is, I’m all over this idea.  Cream of “Something” soup MIX, that you can keep in your pantry and substitute canned condensed versions when called for in recipes.  It’s too cool.  WAY cooler than this post about dried onions. 🙂

I digress.  Anyway, this super cool Cream of Something mix called for dried minced onions.  I had no dried minced onions, but I did have a big bag of non-dried, non-minced, actual onions.  The synapses fired in my brain and I recalled a dehydrator that I own (well, technically I don’t OWN it, but since the owner seems to have forgotten it’s existence…), put two and two together and the rest is history.  Herstory.  Mystory.

I’ve had a lot of coffee today.

 
Dried Minced Onions

What you will need:

  • About 8 medium onions, yellow or white
  • a Dehydrator (you could do this in your oven if your oven will go low enough, 135 degrees)
  • a Food Processor
  • Goggles, face mask, contact lenses, a strong fan, willpower to live
  • some unfinished hobbies or small children to busy yourself with while these are drying

Directions:

  1. Peel onions and slice them into 1/4 inch slices.  This where the goggles et. al. would come in handy.  My kitchen got so unbearable with onion fumes that even my poor husband who was innocently trying to do dishes teared up.  It was bad.  We had to get a fan out, and I was practically sobbing by the time I finished slicing.
  2. Place the slices on the dehydrator trays and turn it on the fruit and vegetable setting, 135*!  You don’t need to separate the rings, unless you have the space to do so.  They might dry quicker if you separate them.
  3. I had to move the dehydrator from the kitchen out to the back porch because of how much it was stinking up the house!  After several hours the back porch started smelling like a burger joint, so that was kind of fun, but initially the fumes were just too strong to bear inside the house. 
  4. The dehydrating book says 8-10 hours for onions.  Well, after 10 hours I wanted to go to bed, and only a pieces were even close to being done.  I removed those pieces, turned the dehydrator down to the lowest setting (95*) and went to bed.  In the morning, they were in the same state as the night before.  So I turned it back up to 135* (fruits and vegetable setting), separated the rings, piling them on top of each other, and it still took about another 10 hours for them to be completely dried.  Phew!
  5. As pieces dried, I removed them from the dehydrator and set them in a bowl to wait for the others.  Once they were all dried, I broke out my food processor and chopped them up.

    When I minced these, it left a huge ridge in my food processor that completely freaked me out! I thought the onions had somehow scratched the bowl of my processor and I was so bummed out! Turns out it was just onion powder that caked up quickly on the sides. A little soaking in hot water; it washed out perfectly clean and all was good in my world again.

  6. After I minced the onions some of the pieces felt a little moist so I poured out the minced pieces on a fruit leather tray and returned the onions to the dehydrator for another half an hour. 
  7. Once they seemed completely dry, I put them in a jar, labeled it with the date and contents, and it’s ready to store or use in a recipe!  It yielded me about a half of a pint jar, so about 1 cup out of the 8 onions.  That was kind of disappointing.  (In the picture below I had already used some of the onions in the cream of something soup mix, which is why there is only 1/4 of the jar left!)

Cream of “Something” Soup! The recipe calls for 1/4 cup of whatever flavor bouillon granules you prefer (hence the “something”). I don’t like to use bouillon granules because I’m a “Better Than Bouillon” girl, (and that stuff has to be refrigerated) so I omitted that part and will use a teaspoon of BTB when I’m mixing it all up.

The Verdict

I paid about $1.50 for a cheap-o bottle of dried minced onions from Wal-mart.  I paid about $3.00 for a bag of organic onions, also from Wal-mart.  The whole bag of onions amounted to about double the bottle of dried onions, which means besides the organic factor, I didn’t really save much money by drying the onions myself.  So, counting the time it took to dry them (30+ hours…hello, electric bill!), the tears I spent slicing the onions, and the fact that I really didn’t save any money…  I highly doubt I will be making these again.  I will say that the flavor of MY dried onions is better, and they smell like French’s Fried Onions (but do NOT taste like them!  Bummer!) but I’m still a little unimpressed with this project.  I have better things to do with my time, like finish projects, or play with my kids, or eat bloomin’ onions. 😉

If you try this, let me know what YOU think!

Categories: Dehydrating, Vegetables | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

The Last of the Garden: Potatoes!

I was a little late in harvesting my potatoes this year… I got busy trying to get into a new routine that included beginning homeschool for my preschooler!  I didn’t make it out to the garden for over a week, and in that time the potato vines went from “dying” to “dead”.  It wasn’t a big deal, the potatoes were fine for the most part, although they were beginning to get molested by some sort of bug or fungus.

Potatoes are fun to grow.  Have you ever tried growing them?  I didn’t grow nearly as many as I intended to this year.  I completely forgot to even plant sweet potatoes, and I wish I would have at least doubled the white and red potatoes that I planted.   They are so easy to grow, and require absolutely no attention while they grow besides weeding.  As an added bonus, come harvest, you get to dig in the dirt and search for them!  It’s fun for all ages!

This is the first time I’ve ever “preserved” potatoes.  I know I could have stored them in the basement long term just in a brown paper bag, but for one, I didn’t have that many, and secondly I was a little concerned about some of the potatoes that looked like a bug got to them.  I wasn’t sure if they would store well or rot quickly.  Lastly, I actually purchase sliced canned potatoes (*gasp!*) because my husband makes the most delicious fried potatoes with them.  The canned kind cook up so much tastier than a fresh potato sliced does, too.  So anyway, it made sense to me to slice and can my potatoes instead of storing them in the basement and hoping they last, while still purchasing canned potatoes.  Right?  🙂
This was pretty easy to do…once you get all the potatoes peeled, that is.  But after you get through that, the rest is simple!

Sliced Canned Potatoes

What you will need:

  • Food Processor
  • Colander
  • Stainless Steel Stock Pot
  • Peeled white potatoes (I forgot to weigh mine!  The Ball Book says you’ll need 2-3 lbs per pint if CUBING them.  Eyeballing my pile, it looks like around 6-7lbs, and I got 3 quarts of slices out of that.  Don’t quote me on it though.)
  • Boiling Water

Directions:

  1. After you peel each potato, put it into a stainless steel pot filled with cold water to prevent browning.  Once all the potatoes are peeled, drain them into a colander, rinse them, and fill the pot back up with fresh cold water and put the potatoes back in the water.
  2. Using your food processor with the slicing attachment (or a sharp chef knife and careful fingers!), slice each of the potatoes, putting the slices immediately back into the water to keep them from browning.  Once you have sliced all the potatoes, put the full pot on the stove and begin to heat the water.
  3. Begin heating clean jars in your pressure canner on the stove, and lids in a separate pan.  Fill another pot with water and bring to a boil.  (I actually just used my teapot for easier pouring!)
  4. Heat the sliced potatoes until they are hot through.  You don’t need to boil them.  Just pull one slice out with a tongs and check if it’s hot.  Once they are hot, you are ready to fill the jars.  Drain the potatoes back into a colander, then fill the hot jars.
  5. Fill jars with boiling water to a 1-inch headspace.  Using a plastic tool, slide it between the potato slices and the jar, releasing air bubbles.  Adjust headspace if needed.
  6. Wipe rims and place lids on jars.  Tighten rings, and place back in the canner.
  7. Vent 10 minutes, set gauge to 10lbs psi, and let pressure build.  Once 10 or 11 lbs psi is achieved, process pints for 35 minutes and quarts for 40 minutes.
  8. Turn off heat and allow pressure to return to zero naturally.  Once it reaches zero, wait 2 more minutes, then remove gauge and canner lid.  Wait 10 minutes for jars to acclimate to your kitchen temperature, then remove jars to a towel on the counter.
  9. Let jars cool completely, clean lids, label and store up to 1 year!

    Don’t they look kind of neat stacked up in there?

Ty’s Delicious Fried Sliced Potatoes

There’s no specific recipe for these.  You basically just heat some oil and butter in a fry pan, add the potatoes, a little  red wine vinegar, lots of salt and pepper, and some more butter.  Fry them, stirring minimally, until they are brown and the outsides are crispy.  Serve them with a perfectly grilled medium-rare steak.  That is an order!  (I had a picture of these, but for some reason I can’t get it to upload.  Computers are weird when they’re selective.)

Categories: Canning, Low-Acid, Potatoes | Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Pickles: My First Love

Mrs. Wages dill pickles

I think in the future, looking back on this summer, I can probably call this “The Summer of Pickles”.  I’ve made three different kinds of pickles this summer, mostly out of experimentation, and with the ultimate goal of achieving my heart’s desire:  Vlasic, without the food coloring and preservatives.  I’ve always been a Vlasic girl, and unfortunately, it looks like I’m going to continue to be one.  I just cannot seem to nail down the right recipe!  I tried Mrs. Wages dill mix, and the flavor is great, but the crunch is non-existent.  I tried fermentation, and the crunch is decent and the flavor is unique and delicious, but it just isn’t Vlasic.  The best pickle I’ve made so far, in fact, is the recipe for “Old South” pickles on the back of Mrs. Wages pickling lime mix.  It’s basically a bread-and-butter pickle, but better.  I love them, but I can’t promise my heart to them exclusively.

I’m not going to give up.  I shall pursue my quest for a Vlasic copycat.  And when I master it, you will be the first to know!

In the meantime, here are some tips for pickling cucumbers.  I actually have not followed ALL these tips yet, which hopefully is why my pickles haven’t been super crunchy.  The problem is that I’m growing my own pickling cucumbers, and I only get 2-3 ready at the same time, and I don’t really feel like putting all that effort into 2-3 pickles!  I’ve decided NOT to grow my own pickling cucumbers next year, and instead order them in bulk from my local produce market owner.  He told me that I can order them by size, which will be nice because then they will all be around the same size and ready for pickling at the same time!

Cucumber Tips:

  • Use the cucumbers the day of or up to 24 hours of picking them (for the best crunch.  You can certainly use them after that, but they won’t be as crunchy.)
  • Do not wash the cucumbers until you are ready to use them!  They start to deteriorate much quicker once washed.
  • When making dill pickles, select pickles that are no longer than 6 inches.
  • Cut 1/16 inch off each end of the cucumber.  The blossom end contain enzymes that can cause soft pickles.
  • Use only pickling cucumbers, the pickling brine will not be able to penetrate the wax coating on other cucumbers.

Brine Tips:

  • Use only stainless steel or glass equipment.  Other materials can react with the acid and alter the taste and color of the pickles.  Especially do not use wooden spoons, they will absorb the flavor!  (And, as a former Cutco salesgirl, I feel inclined to urge you to pitch all your wooden spoons and cutting boards.  They are nasty and unsanitary!  That is all.)
  • Always use high-quality commercial white distilled or cider vinegar with 5% acidity unless other types are specified in the recipe.
  • Use Pickling Salt instead of table or iodized salt, and use the correct amount called for in the recipe.
  • Use only new dried spices, if using.  Spices that have been on the shelf for over a year will not produce the best result.
  • You need soft water to make pickles.  If you only have hard water, you can soften your water by doing this: Bring hard water to a boil in a large stainless steel saucepan and boil for 15 minutes.  Remove from heat, cover and let stand for 24 hours.  Skim off any scum that has formed on the surface and carefully decant or ladle into another container, without disturbing the sediment that collects at the bottom.

(All tips were taken from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving)

Old South on the Left, Refrigerator Pickles in the middle (How cool is that jar? I found 3 of those at a garage sale this summer!), and Mrs. Wages Dill mix on the right.

Here are a few recipes for you to experiment with:

I made the dill pickles with Mrs. Wages dill mix, which is pretty simple to do.  I added Pickle Crisp, and can tell you that if you are a) not using pickling cucumbers, or b) not using freshly picked cucumbers, that even with the Pickle Crisp, you will NOT get crisp pickles.

Adding Pickle Crisp to my dills

Rather than write out a whole post on it, I will just direct you to the wonderful blog post I found for the refrigerator pickles.  Recipe for fermentation-style refrigerator pickles

Doesn’t this jar look like something from the ’70s? I’m slightly concerned it actually might be, since I purchased it from a teeny tiny grocery store in a teeny tiny town. The mix YOU will be buying comes in 2012 packing;)

Old South Cucumber Lime Pickles

What you will need:

7 lbs cucumbers (sliced crosswise)

1 cup Mrs. Wages Pickling Lime

2 gallons water

8 cups white distilled vinegar, 5% acidity

8 cups sugar

1 Tbsp pickling salt

2 tsp mixed pickling spices

Directions:

  1. Soak clean cucumbers in water and lime mixture in crockery or enamel ware for 2 hours or overnight.  Do not use aluminum ware.  (I used my two biggest crockpots)
  2. Remove sliced cucumbers from lime water.  Discard lime water. Rinse 3 times in fresh cold water. Soak 3 hours in fresh ice water.
  3. Combine vinegar, sugar, salt and mixed pickling spices in a large pot. Bring to a low boil, stirring until sugar dissolves.  Remove syrup from heat and add sliced cucumbers.  Soak 5-6 hours or overnight.
  4. Boil the slices in the syrup 35 minutes.  Fill sterilized jars with hot slices.  Pour hot syrup over the slices, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Cap each jar when filled.
  5. Process pints 10 minutes, quarts 15 minutes in a boiling water bath canner.
  6. Test jars for airtight seals according to manufacturer’s instructions.

(Recipe taken directly off the jar of Mrs. Wages Pickling Lime!)

The Old South pickles are pretty good!   It is a labor-intensive recipe, but I really like them and think it is worth the effort.  I will be making them again next year.

I’m still getting cucumbers out in my garden, so when I get around to it, here is  The next pickle recipe I’m going to try!

Wish me luck!  And good luck with your own!

Categories: Canning, Fermentation, High-Acid, Pickles | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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