Monday, November 3, 2014

The Gift of a Good Meal

It's not easy to stay motivated to cook three meals a day every day.  It definitely takes work.  It is work, although there isn't pay exchanged. What it adds in financial freedom, and personal enrichment to the family is beyond measure.

So, how do you not get burned out with the fact it is never ending?  Well, you do get burned out.  But in those times, you dig a little deeper and look a little harder to find inspiration for meals.

I know that I can give my family a gift of a good meal three times a day.  It can promote their good health, nourish them physically, and enrich their lives with this work.  I can do these small things every day, which upon reflection later in life, create a rich and hopefully happy home life.  That's what keeps me going, the promise that I can make their lives better each day with what I do.

The comfort of a cozy home, the warmth of a wood fire, the satisfaction of a good meal, and someone to share it with.  Who could ask for more?

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Using What's On Hand- Leftovers Soup

I am lone on the range today.  Don and my son Ryan are helping friends work cows again all day.  So the day stretches before me, and I can do with it as I will!
We had pasta for supper last night, with a bolognese sauce.  It made a lot of leftovers, so I needed a way to use up that sauce.  I could have just made ziti bake for the freezer, but then I still have to come up with something for dinner today, that will yield lunches for the week.

I am going to make a leftover soup.  I just cleaned out my fridge, but there is a lot of food to use still in the fresh food bins.  A bag of small multicolored sweet peppers, a head of cabbage, some turnip.

I have big amounts of carrots, celery on hand always.  I keep them in long green tupperware containers, stacked.  They last and last like that.  That along with my stash of potatoes, onions, and garlic in the pantry are the foundation of my meals.

I was wanting some version of hamburger soup.  The pasta sauce we made has lots of crushed tomatoes, hamburger and onions.  It's seasoned with garlic, basil and marjoram. I can go so many directions with it.  I could add the peppers, and v-8 juice, some rice and make stuffed pepper soup.  I can add cabbage and rice or barley, a little cayenne pepper, and make stuffed cabbage soup.  I could add taco seasoning, corn, kidney beans and v-8 for taco soup.

I think I'll go for a beef vegetable soup.
Leftover meat sauce (there is about two quarts left)
1 quart beef stock
1 T worcestershire sauce
1 huge turnip peeled and diced
1/2 head chopped cabbage
2 C diced sweet peppers
2 carrots peeled and diced
3 potatoes scrubbed and diced
1 pint/can green beans and their liquid
1 pint/can calico corn (corn with peppers and onions)
Bring it all to a boil, and reduce heat to simmer.  Cover and cook long and slow on the simmer burner, in a slow cooker, or in a 250*F oven.  Several hours.  When I cook soup with cabbage, I like to add a pinch of caraway seeds.  It's optional if you don't like the flavor.  We have some beautiful black rye bread that we will butter and enjoy with the soup.

I don't know when the guys will get done working cows, so this can be hot and waiting for them when they get home.


Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Condiment Graveyard

It was time finally.  I could put it off no longer.  The cleaning of the refrigerator happened today.  The petrified remains of mystery meals have been removed, and the condiments have been combined to create space.  I actually cleaned out a dozen jars of things, and half a dozen pyrex containers.
My fridge is always too full.  Besides the usual items most everyone has in their fridge, mine also has vet medicine, and insulin.  I buy yeast in bulk, and have weird things like wheat germ, and malted milk powder.
I am kind of addicted to condiments, and since I make my own, I have pint and quart jars of them.  They tend to take up a LOT of room.  Taco sauce, fire roasted salsa, barbecue sauce, chipotle peppers in adobo, jalapenos in escabeche, cowboy candy, pickles, mustards, jars of salad dressing, hot sauce, more hot sauce, and yet more hot sauce, sesame oil, and oyster sauce.
Then there's food in tubes.  cilantro in the tube, anchovy in the tube, tomato paste in the tube, lemongrass in the tube.
I found a large jar of balsamic ketchup I made last year.  My husband is a ketchup snob.  He uses the Heinz squeeze bottle, and won't use my homemade.  So, I took the almost empty Heinz bottle, and was planning to fill it with my homemade ketchup.  Ketchup is kind of thick, and the bottle neck is small.  Pouring out of the canning jar is impossible, so I tried using a funnel, which wouldn't run since the ketchup is thick.  Finally, I lost my temper and patience with the whole situation, and poured the whole jar of ketchup into a zip lock bag, cut the corner out, and squeezed it all into the bottle.  I kinda felt smart for a couple minutes over that hehe.
Hey, I think I might really be able to put the toothpaste back in the tube after all, if I had a 20 cc syringe, without a needle...

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Cornbread Stuffing with Apples and Pork Sausage, Braised Cabbage

I have some cornbread leftover, so this morning, I'll cube it, drizzle with melted butter, and toast it in a 350*F oven until it's golden brown.  I plan on using it for a casserole all in one for supper.
Sausage Stuffing with Apples
1 pound spicy pork sausage
1 onion
2 C diced celery
2 carrots peeled and shredded
2 large honeycrisp apples, peeled, cored and diced
chicken stock
1 tsp dried sage
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp Mrs. Dash
Brown the bulk sausage and onion, celery and shredded carrot in a skillet, then remove with a slotted spoon and add to the toasted cornbread.  Add the diced apples and enough hot chicken stock to moisten the cornbread without making it be soggy.  Add slowly and stir until it seems moist enough.  Add dried herbs and Mrs. Dash or salt and pepper.  Spoon gently into a greased baking dish, and cover with foil.  Bake at 350*F until steamy hot, about twenty minutes, then remove the foil, and let the top get golden brown.

I'll be serving this with braised red cabbage.  When you are picking a cabbage to buy, always look for one that's heavy for it's size.  Halve, and then quarter it, and remove the core, then shred fine.  I add a T of butter to my nonstick pan, and then add the cabbage and a tsp of whole mustard seed.  Add a pinch of red pepper flake, and a half tsp of dill weed.  Then a forth cup each of cider vinegar and brown sugar go in, and the remainder of the chicken stock quart used to moisten the cornbread.  You want about a cup of stock for a head of cabbage.  We don't want it to boil, just slowly braise.  Let it come to a boil, then turn down to medium low, and cover with the lid.  Serve with a spoonful of sour cream on top, or just a pat of butter.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Sunday Sunday Sunday...

Weekend breakfast rocks!  Sourdough waffles with hot syrup, black forest uncured bacon, and a fruit salad made from pummelo, oranges and pink lady apples.  Strong coffee chilled with chocolate milk in it.  I found a low sugar high protein chocolate milk, and oh my!  It's wonderful in iced coffee.
Sourdough Waffles
2 C baking mix
2 eggs
1 C sourdough starter
1 1/2 C buttermilk
1 T oil
Mix all ingredients and let sit fifteen minutes.  I mix it then plug in the waffle iron.  When it's finally hot and ready to start using it, the batter will be actively bubbling from the sourdough, and light and lovely.  You may need to thin the batter a little if it seems heavy.  I just use regular milk to do that.  When we are done, we'll freeze the leftover waffles for use later this week.
I cooked my bacon on a foil lined sheet pan this morning.  When it was crispy and done, I filled the sheet pan with slices of trimmed cauliflower and crimini mushrooms I seasoned with Mrs. Dash and drizzled with olive oil.  It will get used to make a creamy oven roasted cauliflower and mushroom soup for lunches this week.

Roasted Cauliflower and Mushroom Soup
1 onion diced
2 T olive oil
In a large skillet, saute' the onion in oil.  Add:
1 C bell pepper strips
1 C  diced celery
2 diced peeled carrots
1 minced clove garlic
pinch of red pepper flake
tsp dried parsley
1 quart turkey or chicken stock
Add the roasted vegetables (see above) to the soup, and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer twenty minutes.  In a large measuring cup, mix 2 C milk with 4 T cornstarch to make a slurry.  Add to simmering soup, and stir until thickened.  Finish with a pat of butter, and adjust seasoning.  Once this is cooled, I'll fill quart jars and store in the fridge.

We went to the grocery store early today, so I took the opportunity to prep that cauliflower and mushroom soup before putting all the produce away.  I also prepped the half boneless ham for sandwiches by slicing it thin, and used the end to dice for the freezer.  I'll use it for split pea soup, or to cook with black eyed peas one day.
I purchased a half turkey breast.  All the skin and bones go into my stockpot filled with water, along with some black peppercorns and a couple fresh bay leaves.  I'll have about seven or eight quarts of turkey stock to can when it's done.  I'll divide the breast, and slice thinly half of it for sandwiches.  The rest gets diced for turkey pot pie, or turkey tettrazini.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Bricker and his Cabbage Soup

We used to work on the Orchard Ranch out of Tensleep, Wyoming.  When we were there, they had a handyman named Jim Bricker.  He was a big bear of a man, and as kind as can be.  Always with a twinkle in his eye and ready with his big booming laugh.  My boys loved him, and so did we.  He had a weiner dog female named Killer that was his constant companion.
Bricker lived on cabbage soup.  My friend Amanda reminded me about cabbage soup, and it made me think of Bricker.  Built like a brick house, and always healthy.  He was a bit windy to be around, so that might have contributed to his good health a bit.
Bricker Soup
1 onion diced
2 T minced garlic
2 T olive oil
big pinch of red pepper flake
whole head of chopped cabbage
bunch of fresh chopped spinach
1 diced zucchini
2 peeled and diced carrots
1/2 C diced celery
1 whole jug v-8
1 quart of diced tomatoes
1 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp dried thyme
In a large stockpot, brown the onion and garlic in oil with the red pepper flakes.  Add the rest of the vegetables and stir until they are opaque.  Add the juice, tomatoes and herbs.  Bring to a boil and salt and pepper to taste.  If you plan on eating, not canning, simmer until vegetables are soft, and serve.
This soup makes a ton, but if you live on it like Bricker did, it will go fast. I will just can this soup in the pressure canner. Yes you can pressure can cabbage.  It is a green, and processes for 75 minutes for pints, and ninety for quarts.  It is not usually recommended, as it gets strong tasting when canned, but like turnips, and collards, we like them the way they come out, and can them anyway.  I use fifteen pounds pressure, but you will need to check the pressure for your own elevation.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Canned Corn, Corn Syrup, Apple Cider, and Apple Juice

The more foods I make for our family rather than buy, the more I find that I can cheaply and easily make at home.  I canned corn yesterday.  I just canned it plain, and in water, no added salt.  I like canning corn.  It's easy and straight forward.  Shuck the corn, blanch it three minutes, cut it off the cob (my favorite part) and shove it in the jars.  When all the corn is shucked, blanched and in the jars, then pour boiling water over it and wipe the rim of the jars.  You have to vigorously stir it around with a chopstick to get the air bubbles out, and then you can add a hot lid and ring, and process it.  85 minutes for quarts.  From my four dozen ears, I got a thirteen quarts of corn, and a pint to add to the chili that was cooking in the crockpot.
I had done some pints of corn earlier with red and green sweet peppers, celery and vidalia onions.  I have about forty pints of this calico corn.  So we can have corn with our meals at least once a week for a year, and then some.
So today, I have all these cobs that are left from cutting the corn off.  I am going to make corn syrup with them.  The season of making candy is approaching, and homemade corn syrup will come in handy!  I will use my pressure canner as a pressure cooker and quickly make a bunch of stock from my cobs.  In my canner, I'll add the jar rack so the cobs don't scorch to the bottom of the pan.  I'll add a dozen or so cobs, whatever will fill the canner about half way.  I'll add water to cover the corn, and then put on the lid, and process this stock for twenty minutes at fifteen pounds of pressure.  Viola!  In half an hour, I'll have loads of corn stock.
Once the canner cools to room pressure, I'll take off the lid, and strain the stock through a cloth lined colander.  Now I can measure how much stock I have, and figure out how much sugar to use.  For each cup of stock, you will use half a cup of sugar.  So, for eight cups of stock, I'll use four cups of sugar.  I'll bring this to boil in my stockpot, and let it cook until it's thick and syrup-ey.  I'll put it into quart jars, and process in a boiling water bath for ten minutes.  Homemade corn syrup can be used in place of store bought syrup in candy making recipes.  It can get crystalized, like honey does, and will turn back into syrup if you place the jar in a saucepan with some water, and gently heat it.
Yesterday, Joel and I juiced about three bushels of tart Northern Spy apples.  We canned this apple cider in my big half gallon jars.  We drink a lot of spiced hot apple cider in the Wintertime.  I have an old glass percolator that we use for that purpose.  It not only tastes wonderful and warms you up when you are chilled, it makes our house smell like home!
I saved the pulp from the juicer, and will add water to cover that, and cook this to extract the apple juice from it.  Once it's simmered about twenty minutes or so, I'll strain it through a cloth lined colander, and bottle it in quart jars.  This apple juice processes for five minutes in a boiling water bath.
Once I'm through extracting the juice from this pulp, I'll feed the stuff that I strain out of the juice to the chickens.
This morning, I'm pulling out a fresh tablecloth, and scrubbing my apple sticky floor.  When my husband comes home from his trip to Montana today, we'll have a sit down supper with cloth napkins, and the good dishes.  I'll put out the jelly into a pretty glass bowl, and pull out some bread and butter pickles, and put them in a refrigerator glass square dish with a pickle serving fork.  I'll get out the glass pitcher, and fill it with tea and ice, and warm the rolls to put into a wicker basket with a cloth.  I already have these nice things, and they should be enjoyed!  It doesn't cost money to live a rich life.