Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Embellished Leftovers (#2 in Ground Beef Long Term Food Storage)

I'm always interested in creative ways to use up leftovers, but I'm even more interested
in ways to use up "planned overs."
My favorite "planned over" is brown rice.
I love to cook a decent amount and put some in the refrigerator
to use later in the week.
(On a side note -- the pressure cooker does a fabulous job of cooking
brown rice.  I simply put in 2 cups of rice, 2 1/2 cups of water, and a dash of
salt.  Cook on high pressure for 22 minutes. Let pressure drop for 10 and then
manually release.  This is the simple recipe that came
with my pressure cooker and I can honestly say it produces the
best textured brown rice I've ever made!)
Anyway, sorry about that
I'm also trying to make sure I rotate food stock.
Faced with leftover rice and the promise to work the ground beef
into our meal rotation for the next few weeks, I decided to try a
homemade version of hamburger helper.
The rules were simple.
I could only use what I had on hand in the house at that very moment.
Beef (1 1/3 cups) rehydrating in the pot
leftover brown rice (I only used 1/2 of this and the rest went back into the fridge)
two cups of steamed mixed veggies (freezer storage and store brand)
2/3 cup of Oriental flavored seasoning/water/thickener
(You could use any of your favorites or a seasoning packet.
In this case I happen to have seasoning packets I bought in bulk
quite some time ago that need using.)

Since all my ingredients were officially cooked, the plan was simple.
Drain the beef and while it drained heat a tiny bit of oil.
I don't own a wok, but my non stick frying pan works just fine.
Add beef, rice and veggies and lightly stir fry.
Basically I was just heating them through half way.
Then add the seasoning and finish heating thoroughly.

This yielded 4 adult sized servings with absolutely no problem.
Pickiest daughter loved it, grandson loved it, and daughter in law and I declared it
a hit.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Bars Recipe

Once again with food storage in mind I've turned to my arsenal of recipes
to find a recipe that uses the foods I keep on hand.
Several of the people in our household have a sweet tooth
and I have a love of baking.
This recipe lets us satisfy both urges.
(To show how food storage friendly this recipe is I'm marking the items
from my long term storage with LFS and the items I buy in bulk for short term
storage with STS.)
Peanut Butter Oatmeal Bars
1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar (LFS)
1 cup peanut butter (LFS)
1/2 cup butter softened (STS)
2 large eggs (STS)
1 tsp. vanilla (LFS)
2 cups old fashioned oats, uncooked (LFS)
1 cup all purpose flour (LFS)
1/2 tsp. baking soda (LFS)
1 cup of semi sweet chocolate chips (LFS)
(Let me say now that I actually have LFS versions of the butter and eggs
in my stock just to let you know that this could be made from all LFS items.)
Heat oven to 350 and grease a 9x13 pan.
Beat brown sugar, peanut butter, and margarine until creamy.
Add eggs and vanilla; beat well.
Combine oats, flour, and baking soda.
Mix well.
Stir into the sugar mixture.
Stir in the chocolate chips.
Pour into pan and bake 35 to 40 minutes
or just until center is set.
Cool completely on a wire rack.
Cut into bars.
Store tightly covered.


Sunday, August 31, 2014

Homemade Convenience Foods -- An Experiment

I grew up in a world where every meal was served with bread -- often biscuits or cornbread, but occasionally toast.  I'm sure it may  be a Southern thing, but it could also just be a farm family thing.  I do try to vary the breads I serve and learned to bake my own "yeasted" breads as an adult.  That was something my family didn't serve unless it was a store bought loaf.

Life's all about cycles and cycles is basically a fancy word for change.  Our household keeps changing -- more rapidly it seems than ever.  At present for meals we have two of us full time, three on weekends, five two days a week, and often an extra person on any given night of the week.  (On that note please send up positive thoughts and prayers for my sister, who was just laid off from work.)  It is so different than life used to be when I knew we'd have a minimum of four at the table every night and I had growing children so I didn't have to worry about a lot of leftovers.

One thing that hasn't changed in all of this is my desire to make my own whenever it is feasible for me to do so.  Rolls and loaves I can freeze or make one batch at a time.  They seem to heat up well. Cornbread is a quick bread and I just freeze leftovers for stuffing/dressing.  However biscuits are something that I don't care for cold.  They work fine in a cold bread pudding or as bread crumbs, but just to eat them cold isn't our favorite.  With the number of people being so up in the air so many days a week, I feel like we fluctuate between too many biscuits and not enough.  A batch is way too many if there is just two of us and if we have a night where there are seven of us then I need a batch and a half minimum.

I did check out the biscuits in the freezer aisle of the grocery store.  The idea is one that I thought would work well for our family.  With that in mind I decided to experiment with making our own and see how it went.

I started with a small batch of nine biscuits.  I cooked five for breakfast that day and froze four for two weeks.

(My husband's favorite fast food biscuit is sausage, egg and cheese.
This is my version -- tastier and less costly.)
For the four I froze (on a cooking sheet and then stored in a bag)
I sat them out in a pan while the oven preheated.
I went with 400 F and about 20 minutes.
While the biscuits were done they weren't quite as browned on top
as I like so I did broil them for a minute or two.

(Bacon, egg and cheese)

The experiment was a success,
so my next step was to make a batch for the freezer.
I ended up with a total of 18 biscuits.
4 cups of flour (either self rising or all purpose with leavenings/salt added)
1 cup of fat (can be lard, shortening, coconut oil, or softened butter or a combo of these)
1 1/2 cups of milk (I use powdered milk with no problems.)

Cut in your fat.

Mix well, but don't over mix. You want your dough to be soft, but workable.

Pat out on a floured surface and cut your biscuits.

18 biscuits -- freeze like this for about 2 hours.
Transfer to a freezer safe container or bag.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Some Yummies from our Kitchen

cheese rolls
cinnamon nut rolls

pepperoni pizza

veggie pizza

CORD soup
(clean out refrigerator day)
brownies with walnuts and mint chocolate chips
chocolate cake to celebrate the first day of school

Chocolate chip pancakes

Friday, August 29, 2014

Oats -- A Great Long Term and Short Term Storage Item

In keeping with yesterday's post, the second thing I am working on learning to incorporate into our meal plan more frequently is oats.  Amusingly enough only two of the three of us eat oats as cereal, but fortunately there are a lot of other uses for it.  Over the next few weeks I thought I'd share some of my favorite ways to use them in meals.
We'll start with this great Cheesy Oatmeal Bread.
This bread works equally well hand mixing, mixing in a mixer, or in a bread machine.
If you are using a bread machine follow your machines directions on the order of adding ingredients.
I actually make mine into rolls and I get about 14,
however it makes a great loaf bread, too.
1 1/3 cups of buttermilk, room temperature
(I substitute milk and lemon juice/vinegar)
3/4 cup of shredded cheddar cheese, room temperature
2 3/4 cups of bread flour
1 cup of uncooked oats (quick or old fashioned work equally well)
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsps. salt
2 1/4 tsps. of yeast
Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl.
Stir in cheese.
Add buttermilk and stir well.
Knead and let rise in a warm place.
Punch down, shape and place in greased pan.
Let second rise for about 45 minutes.
Bake in a moderate oven.
(I use 400 for the rolls.)

Now for the bread machine, which I prefer to do when my hands on time is limited.
Simply put it all in there, set it either on dough if you are making rolls, or if you are making
a loaf make sure your settings are on white bread and light crust.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Ground Beef and Long Term Food Storage

We try to employ the pantry principle in our home
for both short term storage and long term storage.
One of the things I'm trying to turn over a new leaf on
is incorporating more of our long term storage into our meals,
for purposes of both rotation and familiarity.
Since this is one my list of things I want to work on I've
decided to share what I do here as a record of what works for us and what doesn't.
I'm recording what I make and the amount right on top of the #10 can.
Each 2/3 cup serving has 270 calories, 21 grams of fat and 19 grams of protein.
The ingredients are beef, flavoring and salt.

This is two servings, which was more than enough for tacos for the three of us.
Directions for rehydrating are super simple.
Bring 1 cup of water (per 2/3 cup of beef you'll be cooking)
to boil.  Remove from heat and add dry beef.
Stir gently and cover.
Let stand about 10 minutes.
Drain excess water and use in any recipe requiring cooked beef.

After rehydrating my beef, I added 2 tbsp. of my homemade taco seasoning
and a tiny of the liquid to a pan.
I heated it until the sauce was thickened.

Daughter wanted just beef and cheese in hers.
The tacos were great and this is a definite keeper for using this beef.
Next week I'll try to share a new way to use it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Getting Ready for Cooler Weather

At the end of last week I went through and did an inventory of what I thought I'd need to do to get the house ready for fall.  My list isn't really long, but the projects are of the larger variety.  In no particular order I would like to:

  1. add an area rug to the living room
  2. make a quilt for my bed
  3. make winter drapes for the living room
  4. make winter drapes for my room

I've actually been looking for an area rug since we moved here and I've had no luck.  I've seen a few that were okay, but not perfect and given the high cost of r
ugs I refuse to settle for something I am not in love with. 

With that in mind and my budget in mind, I've decided to crochet my own.  Not only do I love to crochet, but I love my crocheted area rugs that I currently use.  Since I'm not interested in spending a fortune on something I'm not in love with, I've decided to go with a scrappy country feel because I do know that I like that look.  It also allows me to use up fabrics I already have in my stash.  I know this is going to be a month or more project so I've decided I should probably get started.

This is as far as I've made it.  Ironically I find preparing the strips to be far more time consuming than the actual crocheting.