Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Powdered Buttermilk? Who knew!?

I love making new discoveries, though sometimes I wonder about my mother.  She apparently already knows about half of my discoveries and in my thirty-odd years hasn't thought to mention them.

So, this is a new discovery for me... but not my mom.

I can count the number of times I have made pancakes on one hand with a few fingers left over, mainly because the only recipe I will use is a buttermilk recipe and I never have buttermilk on hand.

tada!  Powdered buttermilk!

It's fantastic!  I so often shy away from recipes because they call for a cup of buttermilk, and I know that once I make them I'll have 3 cups left rotting in my fridge.  Yes, I can "whip up" something, or possibly freeze it, but really, that never happens.  I have likely thrown away gallons of the stuff.

My local bulk food store had it, and for $7 I have enough of the powder to make 3-4 GALLONS of buttermilk (not bad, since a litre is what...  $3?).  I can make only as much as I need, (1/4cup + 4c water) and now, pancakes are back on the table.

Mom: "Oh yeah, I used to use that for pancakes when you guys were little so I wouldn't have to buy buttermilk all the time"

Thanks mom.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Fresh Summer Salsa.

1-3.8L can of tomatoes
(pulsed in a food processor to make tomato chunks smaller)
2 large onions, diced
2 large green peppers, diced
6-7 jalapeno peppers chopped
(I left the seeds in, but you can remove them if you don't like much heat)
6 cloves garlic, minced
2-5.5oz cans tomato paste
1 1/2 cups white vinegar
1 cup loosely packed, finely chopped cilantro
1 tsp ground cumin

put everything in a large pot, and bring to a boil.

Once it has reduced to a salsa-like consistency, and all the vegetables are cooked and soft, ladle into prepared jars, affix lids and process in a hot water bath canner for 20 minutes.

I got about 8-9 500ml jars. 

Seafood Sauce

I'm not the biggest fan of seafood sauce, but since Husband could eat the stuff on packing peanuts, I decided to give it a shot.  As usual, I balked at the idea of using fresh summer tomatoes for something like this (I have yet to notice a difference between canned tomatoes, and cooked fresh ones, while there is a giant difference in eating them fresh) so, mine are still on the vine and I opted for picking up the Costco-sized can of tomatoes instead.

It's an easy recipe.

1-3.8L can tomatoes, pureed
zest and juice of 2 lemons
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup white vinegar
2 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp cayenne
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

Get all this into a pot and bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer to reduce by about half.

Once reduced, bring to a rolling boil, then remove from heat and quickly stir in

3 cups grated horseradish

I would like to take this opportunity to let you know that horseradish is an evil, evil thing. 

If you don't enjoy cutting onions, you're not going to enjoy grating the horseradish.  I had the benefit of a warning from my mom, so I used the food processor outside...  but even still, I made the mistake of inhaling after opening the top and almost swore loudly.

Once you stop crying, ladle the hot sauce into prepared jars, affix lids and process in a hot water canner for 15 minutes.

I got 11-250ml jars out of this recipe, and because I have horseradish growing wild on my property, the whole shebang cost me a grand total of about $7 (including new seals).  Even if I had to buy the horseradish, it would have been barely more than a dollar a jar.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

I Heart Husband.

Why am I not sleeping?  Everyone else is.  Husband and Girl haven't woken up yet this morning (it's nearly 10:00), and Boy seems to be down for his first nap of the day.  He woke up about an hour ago, ate, made silly noises for a while and is now sound asleep in his bouncy chair.  whee!  I should go back to bed, but realistically, I'd never sleep.  Instead I'm here blogging about nothing in particular, enjoying the peace and quiet. 

I really should go out and sit on my screen porch.  I say "on" because it has no walls or roof yet, so it can't really be "in", but I'm not complaining.  There has been a drop of death from the patio door for 2 years (since we ripped out the rotting, non-child-friendly deck with grand plans for a screen porch), so I'll take the beautiful plywood platform any day! 

I love Husband to bits, but seriously, I'm pretty sure I saw a hand plane out there while he was "putting the finishing touches" on the floor joists.  You know, the wood that is going to be covered in plywood, flooring, walls, and skirting... never to be seen again.   This is why we will never build a house.  Tenting through a winter is not appealing to me.  He builds to near perfection every time (I say "near" because perfect is impossible with lumber), which is great, but sometimes I just want to whack in a few nails and call it done.   I'm all for perfection when it matters, and hate to say it...  perfection is not necessary inside walls or under floors.  At least in my books.  Hey, don't get me wrong, it had better be level and plumb, but I remember a time when Husband measured up from the sill plate in the garage before drilling holes for the electrical wires to ensure they ran perfectly level and parallel around the room.  (This is the wires...  not the outlets).   I love you Honey.

Now, to be fair. Husband could tell you plenty of stories about my and my less-than-perfect renovation style, but luckily, he doesn't blog.

Friday, August 5, 2011

AAAH, the Pressure!

I've been googling pressure canners lately, because you know what?  If I had one, I could ALSO preserve meat.  Apparently my grandmother used to put whole chickens into jars...  I'm not quite that crazy, (she did it before she had a freezer...  back in the olden days) but the idea of canning my spaghetti sauce or stocks and soups seems like a pretty good idea.  Typically I make those things in giant batches already and store them in cheap gladware in the freezer.  As cheap as gladware is, it's about the same as buying jars, and really, jars last a heck of a lot longer.  I feel like I'm constantly throwing gladware away after only a few uses.  Yes, I know, I could buy Tupperware, or other stuff like that, but that's even MORE expensive and I'm not sure it would survive the frozen plummet from my freezer any better.  Plus, I'd need to spend a small fortune to get started considering just today I used 14 containers for spaghetti sauce.

The other benefit to canning over freezing, is that I wouldn't have to thaw anything.  I could drag a jar of spaghetti sauce out of the cupboard, dump it in a pot, and as soon as it was warm and the noodles were cooked, I'd be done.  Plus, if someday Husband DOES decide to create a big vegetable garden, I'd be able to preserve our corn and beans without pickling them. 

I think I'm going to do it.  Husband was concerned about storing another big pot, but I assured him I could use the pressure canner as a hot water bath canner too, and get rid of the one I already have.  I'm really thoughtful like that. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

French Onion Risotto

2 med/large onions
1 Tbsp butter

Get a pan onto the stove on a medium heat.  The key to carmelizing onions is cooking them slowly,  so you don't want the pan too hot.  Melt the butter in the pan, cut up the onions and pop them in.  If I'm making carmelized onions for burgers or something like that, I'll use onion rings, or half rings, but for this, you'd want them closer to bite-sized, so I cut quarter rings.

Keep the onions moving, and if they start to brown too quickly (like mine did as I sat here typing out how to cook them as slowly as possible) turn down the heat.   I read a tip for housewives once...  if your husband is coming home and you haven't started dinner yet, just put some onions on the stove.  It'll smell up the house and he'll never know.  I'm not sure why that matters, I'd just tell Husband to make his own dinner if he was that concerned. I'm liberated.

pepper to taste
1 tsp hot mustard
1 tsp Worchestershire sauce

Once your onions are soft, brown and you're starting to wonder where all the onions went, they're done.  Add some pepper and a teaspoon of hot mustard and Worchestershire sauce for a bit of a kick and empty them into another dish to wait for a while.

glug of white wine
1 cup arborio rice
3-4 cups beef stock

Put the stock into a small saucepan and get it simmering on the stove, you don't want to add cold stock to the hot rice.  De-glaze the pan with a good sized slosh of white wine.  This gets all the tasty stuff off the bottom of the pan and into your rice.  The size of the glug depends completely on you (and how much you want to have left to drink).  

Add the rice, and stir it around until the wine is completely absorbed, then start adding your stock half a cup at a time, stirring in between until the liquid is absorbed.  Don't neglect the stirring, it's what makes risotto more than just good rice.  The starches come out and make a deliciously creamy sauce. 

Once you've use up more than half of your stock, add the onions back in, and start tasting, season as you need with salt and pepper (I needed to add a bunch, because I used homemade stock that had virtually no salt in it, storebought stocks tend to have much more, so taste, taste, taste!)

I ended up using about 3 1/2 cups of stock, but have extra on hand, you don't want to run out and have to start adding water.

This stuff is pretty much amazing to eat as is, but for extra special dinners, put it into a french onion soup bowl (or any other oven safe vessel)  top with grated cheese (swiss is traditional, but I find it a bit strong, so a mix of mozzarella and swiss is better for me), and broil until the cheese is bubbly.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

"Prepare Canner, Jars and Lids"

I realized recently that I've been writing "Prepare canner, jars and lids" on a lot of my posts, but I think I have yet to explain what that means, so in an effort to be helpful I'll make it easy (and then go back and link here from all my posts).  Basically this is a "Canning 101" type post, so I'll explain everything.

Preparing Canner:

The canner is the big pot that you get.  They're really cheap, likely because they're not made to put anything into but water (so please don't try cooking in one).  They come with a rack for jars that you lower into a hot water bath, and also a set of tongs to lift hot jars out of the water.

All you need to do to prepare the canner is put water into it (enough that you'll completely cover all the jars once you lower them in), and put it on the stove to come to a boil. 

I should also note...  the cheap canners you can buy at your local big box store can't be used on induction cooktops or any flat top surfaces.  I understand that for those types of cooktops you need to have a pot that has an entirely flat bottom, and a canner doesn't have that.  You can buy flat-bottomed canners, but they do cost more.  I knew there was some benefit to having a coil cooktop. 

Preparing Jars:

You need to sterilize and heat your jars.  Sterilize to kill bacteria, and heat them up so that when you pour hot stuff into them and stick them into boiling water that they won't break.  I do this in the dishwasher.  A regular cycle with a heated dry does the trick.  Just make sure you time it so you can use them hot (feel free to take them out before waiting for the dry cycle to finish, as long as they're reasonably dry.)

Preparing Lids:

I don't usually do anything with the rings, since they're on the outside of the seal, so other than making sure they are clean and not rusty, they just wait until they're needed.  The seals also need to be sterilized and warmed up (to soften the rubber part of the seal).  You can't do this in the dishwasher because it will degrade the rubber, so I do this in a small pot with water.  I bring it to a boil, and then turn off the heat, letting the seals sit in there to stay warm until they're needed.

A note on pressure canning. 

There is also a type of canning for "low acid foods" but I'm not really familiar with that personally (I have yet to need it, since I don't have a garden of veggies to store, or the cash to buy a pressure canner), but you can go here for more information on that.