Monday, December 22, 2008

Canned Chicken



Canned chicken is a pantry staple in my kitchen. I can use it to make quick soup, salads, casseroles, stir-fry and tacos or spaghetti. I have found store bought canned chicken to be very dry and flavorless. By canning my own I can control the ingredients, seasonings and my stuff doesn't get recalled! I can the chickens I butcher and also chicken I buy at a good price from the market.

My canned chicken has chicken and my homemade broth. My broth is cooked overnight with chicken bones, carrots, celery, garlic, onion, parsley and any other veggie or herbs that I have on hand at the time. I strain it through a cheese cloth to get a nice clear broth.

The store bought stuff looks something like this: Cooked Chicken Meat, Mechanically Separated Chicken Meat, Cooked Chicken Skins, Chicken Stock, Water, Contains Less than 2% of: Salt, Modified Food Starch, Sodium Phosphates, Natural Flavoring.

The store bought stuff doesn't look THAT bad but I would like to know what is in natural flavoring and what does mechanically separated mean? Why food starch and are sodium phosphates good for me?

Tamales!


Tamales are a Christmas tradition down here in South Texas. You can buy them from the grocery store but they are not very good. Not once you have had homemade! People start placing their tamale orders as soon as there is a hint of cool weather coming. After years of looking for the perfect tamales I decided to try my hand at making them myself.

It isn't as hard has I thought it would be. It has become one of those family traditions that mark the approach of Christmas, family, cold fronts and good food!

I started asking around to find someone to teach me to make tamales but found that most people just didn't make them anymore. They ordered them or their grandmothers or aunts made them. Everyone said it was too much work. Too hard. So I did what I always do when I want to learn something, I googled it! I found this site and then used it as a guideline to come up with my own version. I am now making them for friends and family and have even received a few orders! This year I have made chicken, pork, beef, bean and I am trying a potato and bean (papas y frijoles) as a breakfast tamale.


Tamale making tips:
Keep a little bowl of water by your work space. If the masa is sticking where you don't want it to or isn't sticking where you want it to just dip your fingers or spreader in the water and pat the masa into place.


Keep a damp rag handy. You can use it to wipe your hands or wipe off your work surface if it starts to get a little messy.

Make your masa about the consistency of peanut butter. If it dries out add a little warm water or broth to it.

If your corn husk is really wide just tear part of it off. I save those scraps to line the bottom of the steamer and lay them over the top of the tamales before steaming.

MaSeCa brand masa is the brand of masa I prefer. I have tried a few others and the results were not as good. MaSeCa mixes up well and spreads nicer than the other brands.

The premade masa has an off smell and taste to me. I like being able to use the cooking broth from my meats and adjust the spices. If your masa doesn't taste good before it is a tamale it is probably not going to taste good after it is a tamale!

Don't let anyone tell you that you can't make tamales!

Bread Day

Once a week I make lots of bread. I started out making it just for our family and I would take an extra loaf to a friend now and then. Soon I had friends showing up on my doorstep on bread day asking if maybe I had an extra loaf to spare. Soon I had a small following of bread junkies that show up with money in hand hoping to snatch up any extra loaves I have. I enjoy baking and I like that people like my bread and a little extra money for the fun jar is kinda nice too!

I make a whole wheat bread and often add goodies to it depending on my mood. I have started trying to make a good sour sourdough and while I have the sour part down but my dough always turns into a big blob when I bake it. Tasty but not pretty!

I bought my bread pans from The Urban Homemaker. I love these pans.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Bread Baking Day

I usually make bread on Mondays. I get four loaves out of the recipe I use. With the Bosch Universal it is super easy. I can make up to 6 loaves at once but I only have 4 bread pans!
Here are my loaves, ready for the oven. They are rising nicely. It only takes about 45 minutes from the time I measure my ingredients to the time I put them in the oven. I bake them for about 45 minutes. So in less than two hours we have fresh bread!


Finished bread! They smell wonderful. One loaf is devoured right out of the oven and one loaf usually is taken to a friend or neighbor. The other two will be used for lunches or with dinner.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

DIY Instant Oatmeal


We love oatmeal and instant oatmeal is very convenient but it is also pricey and full of junk! Not to mention all the packaging that is wasted with those little packets (my kids would eat like 3 each morning). I started experimenting with making my own. I think it tastes much better and is certainly better for us.

I use old fashioned oats, powdered milk, powdered whey protein (keeps my blood sugar stable), brown sugar, and real salt for the basic oatmeal. I then add all sorts of nutritional extras. I have some kids that don't like chunks of dried fruit in theirs but they all like the flavor fruit adds so I throw dried fruit, nuts or seeds and some of the oats into the blender and blend into a fine powder. The last batch I made I used pumpkin seeds, dried raspberries and dried apples. I also add spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, pumpkin or apple pie spice. Whatever sounds good. I used to package serving sized portions into reusable zip bags but that was too time consuming and the kids would forget and throw my bags away. Now I just mix it well in a big rubber made container. I just make sure the brown sugar is completely mixed in.

Too serve just scoop the desired amount into a bowl and pour boiling water over it. Stir and let set a bit to thicken up.

I make a HUGE batch but it really only lasts about 2 weeks.

Instant Oatmeal
32 servings

8 cups old fashioned oats
4 cups of oats; powdered in blender
3 cups dry milk powder
2 cups of brown sugar
4 tsp. salt


Optional Extras: ground flax, nuts, seeds, whey protein, cinnamon, dried fruit, oat or wheat bran.

Mix well and store in an airtight container. Scoop desired amount into bowl and pour boiling water over it. **Stir and let set a minute to thicken. We just eyeball the water amount. After you make it a few times you get your oatmeal groove and know just how much to use.

** if you use 100% old fashioned oats it might need a minute in the microwave to thicken it up. Sometimes I use quick oats for the whole oats and old fashioned oats for the pulverized oats.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Easy Potato Chowder

I love coming up with easy, cheap, hearty meals for my family. Lately I have been able to buy 20lbs of potatoes for about $5. They are usually $5.49 for a 5lb bag at my local grocery store but the small health food store has had them on special. I have been experimenting with potatoes for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

I started with about 6 slices of bacon chopped and cooked in my dutch oven. I used one potato per person (6 potatoes). Peeled and chopped an tossed in with the sizzling bacon. I also chopped half a large onion and minced some garlic. Saute all of it until the potatoes start to brown and the onion starts to soften.

I like to add a boost of nutrition whenever I can. I have baggies of steamed, pureed and frozen fruits and veggies so that I can easily add it to any meal. In this recipe I added pureed sweet potato and some dehydrated celery. I also used on jar of chicken broth. I added all of that to the potatoes and onions and then covered and turned the heat to low and let it simmer until the potatoes were cooked.

After the potatoes were cooked through I slowly stirred in 2 cups of milk. The milk I used was mixed from powdered milk but fresh or canned milk works just as well.

After the milk has been added and heated you can mash it a little to get a thicker soup. We like a creamy soup with some potato chunks. At this point you can season it to taste. Salt, pepper, Mrs. Dash and whatever else sounds tasty.









After the soup is done serve it with a crusty piece of bread and sprinkle the soup with Parmesan or any good cheese. Our total cost for this soup which served 6 hungry people (two of them teenage boys!) cost less than $2 for the entire pot!

Mango Jalapeno Jelly!

I had a request for a mango jalapeno jelly and this is what I came up with. It is very pretty. A light amber color with festive confetti like bits of red and green peppers. It has a bit more heat than some of my other jalapeno blends. I am not sure why. Different batches of peppers seem to have different amounts of spice. This is a bit thicker than my regular jalapeno jelly. I think the mangoes definitely add more body to the jelly. It is really more like a jam. I really like the slightly tropical taste the mangoes add. It would be wonderful brushed on grilled shrimp or salmon. I plan to use it on pork loin this week.
I will be making this one again!
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More Canning Adventures!

I have been wanting to try making chutney but none of the recipes I found were just what I wanted. I decided to take several recipes and tweak them to get what I was looking for. This is a Cranberry Apple Chutney. It has a little of this and a little of that and lots of apples and cranberries. It looked so pretty in the pan. Very festive! Chutney is a little more work than just your typical jelly. It requires a long cooking time because it does not use powdered pectin. I stirred and boiled and stirred and boiled for a couple hours it seems.

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This finished chutney doesn't look as bright and festive but it tastes wonderful! Sweet, tangy with just a little spice to it. My 5 taste testers gave it thumbs up. Even the pickiest tester that doesn't like 'stuff' in her food.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

I will lie down and sleep in peace!

Psalms 4:8
"I will lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. "




Dazzle (the little fluff) likes to curl up and sleep in Lavender's bowl. She has full confidence that Lavender will find her too adorable to eat.
Perhaps Lavender feels more like this:
Matthew 25:35
"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat..."

Seriously though, when I see Dazzle curl up in the FOOD bowl of a dog that weighs 50 pounds more than her it illustrates Psalms 4:8 for me. Maybe it will for you too!
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Jalepeno Jelly

Jalapeno jelly has become one of my most popular jellies. I started out just making it for my family but now I am making it for friends too. As the holidays approach I am scrambling to keep up with gift orders! I just sold 4 dozen jars at a craft fair and have orders for more. I am going to have to beef up my production.


So, what is a person to do with a pretty jar of Jalapeno Jelly? I think the most popular way to serve it is poured over cream cheese and served with good tortilla chips or crackers. I also use it on sandwiches like you would a chutney or relish. It makes a fabulous sauce for basting chicken, ham or pork. It is a wonderful dipping sauce for egg rolls. Just use anywhere you would use a sweet and sour sauce. How do YOU use jalapeno jelly?
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Monday, October 13, 2008

Dinner on a Dime...or 5 dimes!

I have been on a mission to see just how low I can go with my grocery budget. I have been working on creating meals that cost under $5 for all six of us. I have browsed the internet reading about depression era cooking and budget cooking.


You tube has a few clips from a lady named Clara. This is my version of her Poor Man's Meal.Posted by Picasa Here is my Bubba showing his appreciation for my culinary expertise! I am estimating that this meal cost about $2.50 for 6 big servings. That is under .50 per person. I added a handful of fresh green beans to my version and about 1/4 cup of italian dressing.
Here is Clara's version:

Friday, August 29, 2008

breakfast cookies

Here is my Kid's Breakfast Cookies recipe. I have one I make for
myself that is different. More mama friendly (high fiber, lower fat
and chocolate!).

This makes a HUGE batch and I do it in my Bosch. DO NOT try to double
it in your Bosch!! It makes a ton. If you want less then just half
it.

1 1/2 c butter
3 c peanut butter
2 1/2 c sucanat, brown sugar or granulated sweetener of choice or a
combo of sweeteners
3 c white flour **
3 c wheat flour
1/2 c ground flax seed
5 c rolled oats
2 TB baking soda
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1 TB cinnamon
2 big scoops of protein powder (optional. I like to use hemp protein)
6 eggs
2TB vanilla
1 c milk
1 c pumpkin, applesauce or pureed fruit or veggie of choice.
1 cup of mini-chocolate chips (yum!) optional

** I have used white flour or barley, rice, millet, or any other flour
I have on hand.

Cream all the wet stuff together. Add dry stuff and mix in. Drop on
cookie sheet and bake at 350 for about 15 min.

It is a huge batch and looks intimidating but it will be so worth it
to have these in the freezer ready for a quick breakfast or snack.
They are sometimes a bit dry so a big glass of milk or kefir and a
cookie go great together and fill you up! Store in freezer and pull
out and microwave for a few seconds and it is like having a fresh
baked breakfast cookie!

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Mutant Chickens

Last spring I decided to try my hand at raising chickens for meat. I did a lot of reading and talked to other chicken owners about it. After a year of wondering if I could do it I finally took the plunge. Not a little plunge either! I ordered 20 day old Cornish X Broilers. They were suppose to be ready for the frying pan in just 6 short weeks! I also ordered 15 assorted bantam chicks and then the hatchery threw in an extra free chick to show their appreciation for my order. The day arrived and we received a call from the post office that they had a package for us. I was surprised at how many little chicks they were able to fit into a shoebox sized package! Boy where they noisy. The first thing we noticed was how much bigger the broilers were compared to the bantams. The next thing we noticed was that they really like to eat. Nothing else seems to matter to them. Just eating. Right away they were bigger, smellier, noisier. As they got bigger they started to have bald bellies which I guess is part of the convenience, easier to pluck. So we have these mutant, stinky, partially bald chicks that are suppose to be dinner. For two weeks we had these little monsters in our garage until we felt they were able to survive outdoors with shelter and a heat lamp. Silly me, I felt bad having them cooped up so I let them out twice a day to scratch around and get fresh grass. I also felt bad keeping them in relative darkness most the day so I gave them light! Well, after six weeks I did not have big fat broilers ready for the BBQ, I had very lean broilers that needed to gain weight! When it was all said and done these mutants weren't ready for butchering until they were about 16 weeks. I swore I would never do mutant chickens again. I would choose an heirloom breed that was a good meat bird. It would take about the same amount of time as my lucky broilers took. Now that I am down to the last few frozen birds I am rethinking the whole broiler thing. Maybe if I did it right this time, no free ranging, no bright lights, just 6 weeks of sitting around eating and getting fat. Or maybe not, the fam has let me know that I do not have their vote on this issue!


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Isn't this the most precious ear? I love these little ears. This is the ear that laid against the crook of my elbow as my darling nuzzled my breast as a baby. These are the ears that begged to hear "We're Going on a Bear Hunt" just one more time. This little ear has been red and feverish, bring tears to my sweet. It has been full of sand, evidence of a delightful day at the beach. This little ear belongs to the Sunshine of my world. When clouds darken my day, this little ear sprawls across my lap and I rub that sweet little lobe and she whispers to me "I will rub your ear mama, it will make you feel better."
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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Little Eggs

Bubba and the Feather Footed
I am so excited! My bantams have started laying. Their eggs are just too cute. I am not sure who is laying. I can't even remember what kind of bantams I have. I know the silkies and I know I ordered partridge cochins, americanas I think and beyond that I can't remember! When I ordered 25 weeks ago I picked out alternates in case my first choice wasn't available. Then they packed all 43 of my chicks in one box! The broilers came with green dye on their heads. The others were not marked and to make matters worse they sent some free 'rare breeds' but didn't say which ones or what breeds.






The green one is the bantam egg

The bantam eggs are green. I think it is the bird we call Road Runner but I can't remember what she is. She is super fast though and likes to roost in my ficus tree if I don't put her in the coop at night. Who knows, there might be eggs up their in the old dove nest. The bantams were out the last two days so tomorrow we will have an egg hunt and make sure they aren't hiding them in the bushes like our big girls used to do.




Hidden Treasures

We have been getting eggs from our girls for over a year now and I still get excited when I go out and find eggs in the nest each day. It is a little blessing everyday.

Monday, July 28, 2008

eggs


We are in full swing egg production! I would say we are getting about a dozen eggs a day. The little green eggs are from our bantams and they are so cute. They make a bite sized fried egg and are super cute for making pickled eggs.



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Silkies and a BBQ

Well, they aren't much to look at. Two silkies are about enough to feed 4 people on a diet! If I were planning a meal around bantams and everyone was going to be eating at home I think 4 birds would be good. There are 6 of us and two of us are teenage boys!



The brining was a hit. The meat was very flavorful and not tough or stringy at all. The darkness of the meat didn't seem to change the taste. I was expecting the stronger taste of thigh meat or something similar to dove. The bones were black. Coal black. Very strange.

Posted by PicasaSince we were going to have the BBQ going I made an apple cobbler and set it out on the grill to cook while we ate. I did it the same way as I did the blackberry cobbler. 12 coals on top and 12 underneath. It took about 30 minutes. It was very easy. I cheated on the crust because I used a homemade gourmet mix. I think it was Texas Cobbler. For the apple filling I just sliced up some apples and cooked them in a skillet with some brown sugar, coconut oil and cinnamon. A pinch of salt and a splash of lemon juice and a few minutes to let the sugar get syrupy was all it took. We had left cobbler so we will have it with a dollop of plain yogurt for breakfast. Yum!

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