Saturday, December 10, 2011

Split Pea Soup

Sense of Home Kitchen

Split Pea Soup
~From the Sense of Home Kitchen, adapted from Bon Appétit October 1991

1 pound dried green split peas, rinsed
1 pound fully cooked smoked sausage, sliced
2 quarts chicken stock
1 large onion, chopped
3 medium carrots, diced
3 large celery stalks, chopped
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
2 teaspoons dried lemon thyme
1 large bay leaf
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

Optional Garnish
Bottled hot sauce
Homemade Crème Fraîche or sour cream

Combine the first ten ingredients in a heavy-bottomed soup pot or dutch oven.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Cover and reduce heat to low and simmer until peas are tender, about 1 hour, stirring occasionally. Salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish with crème fraîche or sour cream and hot sauce to taste, serve hot.

Sense of Home Kitchen / Recipes / Soups                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Pumpkin Pie with Spiced Whipped Cream and Candied Pecans

Sense of Home Kitchen

Pumpkin Pie with Spiced Whipped Cream and Candied Pecans
~from the Sense of Home Kitchen, adapted from Bon Appétit, November 2003~

1 9-inch pie crust

2 cups pumpkin puree or 1 15-ounce can pure pumpkin
1 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
1/4 cup sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2 large eggs

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

Roll out dough to form a circle for a 9-inch pie pan.  Place in pan and flute edges.  Pierce crust with a fork in several places, pour in pie weights, and bake crust for approximately 15 minutes, until lightly browned.  Remove from oven and cool on rack.  Turn oven temperature down to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Whisk pumpkin, condensed milk, sour cream 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, vanilla, allspice, and nutmeg in a large bowl until blended.  Whisk in eggs.  Pour into crust, careful not to top the fluted edges.

Bake pie until filling is puffed around the sides and set in the center, about 55 minutes.  Cool on a rack.  Chill in the refrigerator.

Candied Pecans
1/2 cup whole pecans or pecan pieces
1/4 cup (packed) brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter

Place the pecan pieces, brown sugar, cinnamon and butter in a non-stick pan.  Turn the heat to medium-high and stir while the heat dissolves the sugar and thickens the sauce.  Let the sauce bubble while stirring for a minute or two and turn off the heat.  Candied pecans will harden as they cool.

Spiced Whipped Cream
3/4 cup chilled whipping cream
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Beat whipping cream, sugar and the 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon until peaks form.  Spoon over slices off the pie, decorate with candied pecans and enjoy.

Sense of Home Kitchen / Recipes / Desserts

Friday, November 18, 2011

Pork Chimichangas with Adobe Sauce

Sense of Home Kitchen

Pork Chimichangas with Adobe Sauce
~from the Sense of Home Kitchen~
Serves 4

Adobe Sauce
4 dried ancho chiles, stem removed and seeded
2 canned chipotle chiles in adobe sauce
2 cups pork stock
1 medium onion, about 1 cup, chopped
1/4 cup Merlot, or similar medium body wine
3 large garlic cloves
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano
Salt, to taste

In a dry heavy bottomed pot heated on high, toast the ancho chiles on each side for about about 10 to 15 seconds. Fill the pot with enough water to cover the chiles.  Leave the heat on until the water begins to boil and then turn off the heat and let the chiles soak until the are soft, about 30 minutes.  Once the chiles are hydrated, discard the soaking water and place the chiles in a blender.  Saute the chopped onion until it is tender and translucent.  Add the chipotle chiles, garlic, sauted onion, cumin, oregano, allspice, wine and pork stock to the ancho chiles in the blender and puree.  The sauce should be smooth and thick.  Pour the sauce back into the, now empty, heavy pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Simmer for approximately 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens and reduces by about half.  Add salt to taste.  Set aside.

Pork Chimichangas
8 small- to medium-sized tortillas, homemade or store-bought
1 tablespoon reserved pork fat
3 cups shredded pork
1 4.5 ounce can of chopped green chiles
1/2 cup adobe sauce (recipe above)
3 tablespoons fresh cilantro or 1 tablespoon dried
1 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
Dried cilantro to sprinkle
2 tomatoes, diced
2 avocados, diced
Sour Cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Mix shredded pork, green chiles, adobe sauce, and 3 tablespoons of cilantro in a medium-sized bowl.  Place a small amount of the adobe sauce in a 9 x 13 baking dish.  Heat a heavy skillet and place a small amount of pork fat on the hot pan.  Place tortilla on the skillet warming and lightly toasting on both sides.  Remove tortilla from skillet to a clean plate, place 1/3 cup of pork mixture in the center of the tortilla and fold one end in and both sides in, place filled tortilla in baking dish and continue filling flour tortillas until all 8 are filled and in the baking dish.  Sprinkle shredded cheese across the top of the filled tortillas and ladle adobe sauce around and across the top.  The sauce should not cover the tortillas completely, that way the tortillas can crisp in the oven.  Sprinkle with dried cilantro.  Place in the preheated oven and bake for approximately 15 minutes, until tortillas are crisp and lightly browned.

Serve with diced tomatoes, avocados, and a dollop of sour cream.

Sense of Home Kitchen / Recipes / Main Dishes / Pork

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Pumpkin Pancakes

Sense of Home Kitchen

Pumpkin Pancakes
~From the Sense of Home Kitchen~
Makes approximately 12 - 15 medium-sized pancakes

2 cups whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons wheat germ
2 teaspoons aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
3 eggs, beaten
1 3/4 cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoon honey

Stir together all the dry ingredients.  Then make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and place the pumpkin puree inside, add the eggs and yogurt and mix together with the dry ingredients careful not to over work the batter. Add the honey, stir, and put one ladle full onto a hot, lightly buttered griddle.  Cook until several bubbles form and pop on the first side and flip to the other side to finish cooking.  Serve hot with honey or maple syrup.

Sense of Home Kitchen / Recipes / Breakfast

Friday, November 4, 2011

The Frugal Kitchen and Home

Sense of Home Kitchen

We have always tried to live a simple, frugal life.  Thinking before purchasing, never spending more than we have saved for an item, always conscious of turning off lights and keeping the heat low and so forth, but we have never been more aware of living frugally than we are now.  In May we made the decision together that I would quit my well-paying, full-time job; step out of the rat race and live a slower, simpler, more purposeful life.  Best decision we ever made.  The decision was made in May, I gave notice at work the end of June and my last day was August 31st. We did not rush into the decision, it was a life changing decision to make, I had been at that job for 20 years and the decision needed to be made carefully.  We wanted to pay off our car and we had drain tile to install and wanted to save to pay off that bill as soon as the work was done, so those were two large bills that were paid for with my summer checks.  We are completely debt free and well prepared mentally and physically to keep our expenses low and me working only part time.  I now work part time managing my parents health food store and will continue to do so until they sell their business.  

In order to keep our life simple and less stressful we must live frugally and not be side tracked by the many gadgets and pretty things there are to purchase or by thinking we need to be going and doing all the time.  We actually prefer time spent at home and a home cooked meal, some people may not, but we have come to appreciate a quieter, home-based lifestyle. We now have just basic TV and cell phones (no land line), saving ourselves about $75 each month.  These simple changes really add up, there is a mindset that we "need" these items, but they are not at all necessary and are really a distraction.  We are not only saving money, but time as well.  I started thinking about how we could cut our budget even more, so that more of our income could go into savings for when the unexpected occurs.  We are not foolish enough to think that unexpected repair or medical bills will not occur from time to time.  I made a list of things we do to keep expenses low and hope to expand this list as time goes on.  No doubt there are many things I have forgotten to add to this list, I always seem to think of things shortly after I have published a post, but here is a start and perhaps I will add to it as more are remembered.  I also hope that if you have a way of living frugally you will share it in the comments so that we can learn from each other.

A local grocery store was recently bought out and they marked all their goods down, so we stocked up on the items we use regularly and a few splurge items for the occasional indulgence, such as chocolate and that coke my husband likes.  We have one freezer full of summer fruits and vegetables and one full of the fall butchering meat, just as we did last autumn, so after I add a few more items to our pantry, our pantry and freezers will supply us with the majority of our grocery needs over the next year.  Not going to the grocery store so often saves money on impulse buys and gas, not to mention wasted time.  Now for that list.

The Frugal Kitchen and Home List

  • Buy ingredients, not prepared foods
  • Stock up during sales
  • Make dinner at home from scratch, not eating out or ordering in
  • Make simple homemade breakfast foods such as oatmeal, muesli, yogurt or granola 
  • Buy bulk, less packaging
  • Buy off brands
  • Live healthy and use home remedies to avoid Doctor visits
  • Preserve foods from the garden or farmers market
  • Make your own coffee or tea and take it in a well-insulated travel mug
  • Bring a sack lunch from home to work or while running errands
  • Use vinegar, baking soda, homemade cleaners and homemade deodorizers
  • Mend our clothes
  • Make homemade hand soap and antibacterial spray
  • Borrow books from the library rather than purchasing
  • Use hankies instead of tissues and cloth napkins instead of paper
  • Take care of possessions so they last longer
  • Dry clothes on the line as long as possible (it was below freezing when I hung them out this morning)
  • Buy second hand items
  • Trim bangs to lengthen time between haircuts
  • Use homemade dish cloths and scrubbers
  • Keep the thermostat at 62 now and 65 when it dips below zero outside this winter (and keep those wool socks handy)
  • Turn off unnecessary lights and unplug unnecessary appliances
  • A hankie and a pinkie rather than a Q-Tip (little things add up over time)
  • One part vinegar to one part water in a spritz bottle to clean eye glasses
  • Be generous (it will come back around when needed)

Sense of Home Kitchen / Homemade Living / A Homemade Life / Kitchen and Pantry

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Apple Raisin Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce

Sense of Home Kitchen

Apple Raisin Bread Pudding with Caramel Sauce
~From the Sense of Home Kitchen, adapted from Bon Appétit, November 2000~
Makes 6 servings

Bread Pudding
2 cups  half and half
2 cups lightly sweetened chunky applesauce (homemade, if available), excess liquid drained through a fine sieve
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
10 cups 1/2-inch cubes day old challah (egg bread)
1/2 cup golden raisins

Caramel Sauce
1 1/4 cups (packed) dark brown sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup whipping cream

For the bread pudding
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Whisk half and half, drained chunky applesauce, dark brown sugar, eggs, cinnamon, and vanilla extract in a large bowl until well blended.  Fold in bread cubes.  Stir in golden raisins.  Transfer mixture to an 11 x 7-inch glass or enamel covered stoneware baking dish.  Let stand 15 minutes.  Bake bread pudding until tester inserted into the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes.

For caramel sauce
Whisk brown sugar and butter in a heavy medium-sized sauce pan over medium heat until the butter melts.  Whisk in cream and stir until sugar dissolves and sauce is smooth, about 3 minutes.  Resist the temptation to stick a finger into this hot, yummy sauce until it has cooled.

Serve the bread pudding warm with the caramel sauce drizzled over the top.

Sense of Home Kitchen / Recipes / Desserts

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Pressure Canning Chicken Stock Or Is That Chicken Broth?

Sense of Home Kitchen

With this year's chickens in the freezer it is time to take out of the freezer any chickens left over from last fall.  Which makes this the time of year I pressure can chicken stock, or is that chicken broth?  Although they seem like the same thing, there is a difference between chicken stock and chicken broth.  Chicken stock has a richer flavor and when used to deglaze a pan it will bind the pan drippings, making it a good substitute for butter in sauces.  The reason for this is gelatin is released when bones are simmered for a long time.

Chicken stock is made by simmering chicken bones for several hours, approximately six to eight, to release the gelatin. The back and neck are good parts for this, as are the breast bones with little meat left on them.  Chicken broth on the other hand is made from the meat, as well as other parts.  For broth the bird is only simmered for approximately 3 hours.

So why do I call what I made chicken stock even though I used the whole bird?  Quite simply because of the length of time I simmered the bird.  Look at the gelatin in that cooled stock in the above photo.  When stock is refrigerated it will turn to a gel consistency, scrape the hardened fat off the top and you are left with a very flavorful and nutritious gelee that turns liquid when heated.  I like to use the whole chicken as well as celery tops, onion ends, mushroom stems, garlic, herbs, and even a few carrot ends.  For several months before making stock I save these ends while cooking and place them in a freezer bag in the deep freeze.  Then on the day I make stock I take the bag out of the freezer and place the vegetable pieces straight into the pot.

Making and pressure canning stock is really best done over the course of two days.  The first day the chicken or bones are covered with water, vegetable pieces are placed in the pot and slowly simmered for approximately six to eight hours.  Any chicken meat on the bones will be falling off and the carcass will easily fall apart.    I do this both in my crock pot and on my stove top since I always make several batches at the same time.  Once the stock is done and cooled enough to handle, strain it through a fine sieve, discard the vegetables and bones and save the pieces of meat.  I then place the meat in 2 cup measures, in freezer containers, this provides for a quick meal, such as soups, casseroles, or sandwiches later.  Then the stock is placed in the refrigerator overnight, uncovered.  The following day scrape the solid fat off the top of the stock, reheat the stock, prepare your jars and pressure can according to the directions that came with your canner.  Mine says to can at 11 pounds of pressure for 25 minutes for quart jars, however, yours may be different and if you are at a higher altitude you will need to adjust for that.

Sense of Home Kitchen / Homemade Living / Kitchen and Pantry

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Hollandaise Sauce

Sense of Home Kitchen

Hollandaise Sauce
~from the Sense of Home Kitchen, adapted from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything"~
Makes about 1 cup

The key to this recipe is to start with really fresh eggs that you trust, preferably eggs from a local farm.  This way you don't have to worry so much about how hot you are heating your eggs and if they are safe.  Try this sauce poured over a fried egg, Canadian bacon, tomato, open-faced sandwich.

3 egg yolks
6 tablespoons butter, softened
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

Put the egg yolks, 2 tablespoons water, and a pinch of salt in a small saucepan over very low heat.  Heat, whisking constantly,until light, foamy and slightly thickened, about 2 minutes.  In a separate pan, over low heat, or in the microwave, melt the butter; careful not to let it brown.  Combine the heated egg yolks, lemon juice, and paprika in the blender, and begin blending.  While the blender is running slowly drizzle in the butter, the mixture will continue to thicken.  Taste and add more paprika if desired.

Sense of Home Kitchen / Recipes / Sauces / Eggs / Breakfast 

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Slugs in the Kitchen Garden

Sense of Home Kitchen

With all the rain we have had this summer we have an unusually high number of slugs.  Thanks to our cold winters our slugs are small, nothing like they grow them in the Northwest, but they do a tremendous amount of damage to the produce.  They have eaten 1/3 of a good sized cucumber, the green bean leaves look more like lace than leaves, and it is a race to see who can get to the tomatoes first, which means I pick tomatoes before they are completely ripe, cheating us out of that extra flavor they get ripening on the vine.   To make sure we have enough produce to preserve for winter use I have had to become more aggressive in my efforts to rid the garden of slugs.  

I was recently at a local community harvest festival where there were booths set up for everything from gardening to canning to making cheese to dying wool.  I settled in at the gardening booth for a while asking various questions, but what I was really anxious to learn was how to control my growing slug population.  The horticulturist I spoke with said that slugs do not like to crawl across sand or gravel, this jogged my memory all the way back to a conversation I had with the man we hired to till our garden this spring.  He suggested we add a few bags of sand to the garden to make the soil more friable (we have lots of clay).  I had intended to wait until we tilled again to add the sand, but I figured now might be a better time if it discourages the slugs.  So off to Tractor Supply Company I headed and came home with two good sized bags of sand.  We just sprinkled it over the garden like we were sprinkling powdered sugar on a a cake.  Some fell on the tomato vines, the tomatoes, the beans, potatoes, cucumbers, strawberries and some on the soil itself.

This trick has worked amazingly well.  The slugs are now avoiding the areas of sand and when I do find them they are not looking as plump and healthy as they were before.  My next move was to use beer traps, I say let them die happy.  The beer traps also work very well, the slugs crawl into the beer and, some say, dry out from the beer.  Or perhaps they are just attracted to the smell and end up drowning in the beer.  Either way we have reduced the population considerably.

Tonight when picking tomatoes I noticed that there are a few frogs in the garden helping us reduce our slug population as well.  With the combination of these methods to reduce or discourage slugs, I have seen much larger fruit and vegetable yields.  I now have 25 quarts of whole tomatoes canned and enough tomatoes to make and can salsa for the winter, I would not want to go all winter without my homemade salsa.  I also hope to make and can several jars of tomato soup this fall.

Sense of Home Kitchen / Homemade Living / In the Garden

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Creaming the Corn While Cutting It Off the Cob

Sense of Home Kitchen

By "creaming the corn" I don't mean that awful stuff you buy in a can.  No, I mean the natural cream that comes from fresh corn.  This simple process makes the corn taste so incredibly sweet and creamy, plus it involves no cooking before freezing so it is quick and super simple.  Start with fresh, ripe corn on the cob.

Slice down the cob about 2/3 to 3/4 of the way through each kernel, leaving some behind to go back to scrap off.

Then draw your knife up the cob scrapping out all the creamy goodness.

The end result will be some kernels that are nearly whole and some creamy bits of corn that are wonderfully sweet.

Package your "creamed corn", as my mother used to call it, in freezer containers.  I put in approximately 2 cups of corn in each container, that is the right amount for a meal for my husband and I, with maybe a little left over for another day.  If I have company I just grab two or three containers to defrost.

Sense of Home Kitchen / Homemade Living / Kitchen and Pantry 

Monday, August 29, 2011

Cucumber, Tomato and Feta Salad

Sense of Home Kitchen

Cucumber, Tomato and Feta Salad
~From the Sense of Home Kitchen~
This salad was born out of an excess of cucumbers and tomatoes coming out of our garden last year.  It is the salad we have been eating nearly every evening for the last two weeks and we are still not tired of it.  I prefer the cucumber peel be left on, for some reason these had been peeled, I can't remember why.  No specific measurements are needed, the ratio of tomatoes and cucumbers are up to you or your supply.  I use red onion, green onion, chives, or herbs, whatever I have available in my garden, for added flavor.

Cucumber, washed and diced
Tomato, washed and diced
Red onion, slivered or green onion, chives or herbs, minced
Oil and vinegar for a dressing (or Italian Dressing)
Feta, crumbled over the salad

Mix and serve.

Sense of Home Kitchen / Recipes / Salads

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Butchering Chickens

Sense of Home Kitchen

We spent our afternoon butchering chickens with friends.  Early this summer friends of ours said they were planning to buy some chicks to raise for food and asked if we would like them to raise some for us as well, of course we said yes.  Part of the deal was our willingness to help them butcher.  My husband grew up butchering chickens in the fall with his family.  I had no chicken experience, but I did help butcher turkeys on two occasions.  I have no objection to eating meat, but I do have an objection to the way much of the meat available for purchase is raised.  Feedlots and the close quarters chickens are raised in turns my stomach, so we buy our beef from my husbands family, chickens from friends or local family farms, and pork from a local family farm.  I feel fine about eating meat when I know the animals have been treated well, I have seen how they were raised, and I know they are healthy, quality meat.

These chickens were fed grains and seeds, and allowed to roam freely eating all the bugs they wished.  I would have liked to have borrowed them to eat the slugs in my garden, but that is a post for another day.  The killing was swift, one quick motion, and we then moved on to gutting and pulling feathers.  These birds are an excellent size, they said they watched closely so that the chickens were not over fed, causing their legs to give out under their weight, this happens on large chicken farms where they are over fed and do not get exercise.

Not all the chickens were butchered today.  Our friends let their children each chose a chicken to keep, so three birds were spared.  They said they are not sure how these birds will fare over the winter, but they will keep them around as pets and perhaps they will even begin to lay eggs, time will tell.  The children helped some with the butchering, played with the live chickens and also played with the discarded chicken feet, they are rural children.

This is Princess, one of the chickens whose life was spared.

These are some of the family's laying hens.  We went home with a dozen of their eggs today.  I am looking forward to the many meals all the chickens have provided us, both the laying hens and the meat birds.  

Monday, August 22, 2011

Pressure Canning Tomatoes

Sense of Home Kitchen

I always pressure can my tomatoes, I realize not everyone does and it may not always be necessary. Heirloom tomatoes have more acidity and if you're not sure how much acid your tomatoes have, two tablespoons of lemon juice in the quart will supply the acid needed.  However, I choose to pressure can for a couple of reasons.  First, I use a variety of tomatoes, some heirloom, some not, all have varying degrees of acidity.  Second, pressure canning is so much quicker and puts far less steam into the air.  According to the instructions that came with my pressure canner, if you want to use the water bath method you have to boil the jars of tomatoes for 85 minutes.  We are trying to save electricity by not using our air conditioning accept on the unbearably hot and humid days, adding that much moisture and heat to our house would likely cause us to turn on the air conditioner.  When pressure canning there is only a little moisture added to the air at the beginning and they only need to be kept under pressure for 25 minutes.

I used to think pressure canning was a scary process, it's not.  Just follow the manufacture's instructions carefully and the process goes very smoothly.  You start by placing the freshly washed ripe tomatoes in boiling water for one minute, then plunging them in icy water to cool them so they do not continue to cook.  Take the tomatoes out of the cool water, peel off their skins, core them and place them into prepared jars.  "Prepared jars" means they have been washed in hot soapy water, filled with boiling water and let sit full of the hot water until just before tomatoes are placed in them.

Fill the jar with whole or cut tomatoes and press down to fill all the space with tomatoes and the juice that squeezes out of the tomatoes.  The directions that came with my pressure canner said to add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to a quart or 1 tablespoon to a pint of tomatoes, whether you are pressure canning or processing in a water bath, not sure why it would be necessary if you are pressure canning, but there you are.  Fill the jars with tomatoes and the directed lemon juice, leaving 1/2-inch headspace, work out the air bubbles with a nonmetallic spatula.  Then wipe the sealing edge clean with a damp cloth and place a new lid (that has been prepared by placing it in simmering water for approximately one minute) on top and screw on a clean band.  Let the jars sit until you have enough jars to fill the canner or until you have used all your tomatoes, such as was the case above with my measly four quarts.

Once all the jars are ready, place them in the pressure canner, pour the amount of boiling water into the canner that the manufacture instructs (for my maximum 7 quart canner, 3 quarts of boiling water is required), add two tablespoons of white vinegar to keep the jars from getting a white film on them, hold the lid toward the light and look through the vent pipe to make sure it is open, and then secure the lid to the pot.  At this point you raise the temperature quite high until a free flow of steam comes out.  After 10 minutes with a steady flow of steam, place the pressure regulator on the vent pipe and watch the pressure gauge.  These are the instructions for my pressure canner, be sure to follow the specific instructions for your canner.

Once the pressure gauge reaches the number of pounds your manufacturer indicates (mine calls for 11 pounds for whole tomatoes) set your timer for the required amount of time (my manufacturer calls for 25 minutes), back off on the heat a little.  Then just watch the pressure gauge closely and increase or decrease your heat as needed to keep the gauge at the required number of pounds.  Don't panic if you see it rise above the number, just turn the heat down slightly and you will see the gauge stop rising and slowly fall.  You don't need to sit and stare at the the gauge, just keep looking back at it while you go about your work.  I use this time to clean up the kitchen and 25 minutes is about the right amount of time to wash the dishes and wipe down the counters, while still keeping a close eye on the gauge.  After the required amount of time under pressure turn off the heat and allow the pressure to drop on its own accord, do not try to cool it down quickly.  The pressure is completely reduced when the air vent / cover lock and overpressure plug have dropped and no steam escapes when the pressure regulator is tilted.  Attempting to speed the cooling of the canner may cause jar breakage or it may force liquid out of the jars.  Again, follow strictly the directions that come with your pressure canner, the directions I mention are just to give you a general idea of what is involved.

The finished product will be beautiful jars of tomatoes preserved for future sauces, chili, stews, you name it, it will be good.  Don't let a pressure canner intimidate you, they are really a simple and safe way to can.  I spent approximately $50 on my pressure canner, it holds up to 7 quarts at a time and throughout the years I have canned whole tomatoes, tomato sauce, marinara sauce, tomato soup, chicken broth, chicken soup, and green beans.  Most vegetables require pressure canning, or pickling if you want to stick with the water bath method.  I have had canned corn, but I prefer it frozen. For fruits, pickles, and jams I use the water bath method.  Plus the recipe I use for salsa has vinegar in it and specifically says not to pressure can, but to use the water bath method, so I do.  Getting comfortable with a pressure canner opens up the possibilities for more local products canned and on your pantry shelves for later use.

I had better be comfortable with my pressure canner I have a lot more tomatoes ripening in the garden,  those 4 quarts were just the beginning.  When we had all those high temperature and high humidity days in July the tomatoes really took off, some of the plants are 5 feet tall and loaded with tomatoes.

Sense of Home Kitchen / Homemade Living / Kitchen and Pantry

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Lemon Raspberry Muffins

Sense of Home Kitchen

Lemon Raspberry Muffins
~From the Sense of Home Kitchen~
Makes 12 muffins

1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 tablespoon lemon zest
2 cups fresh raspberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Prepare muffin tins, greasing well with butter and dusting with flour, or line with muffin papers. 

In a medium-sized bowl, sift together flours, baking powder, baking soda and salt, set aside.  In a large bowl cream together butter and sugar, mix in eggs, then lemon juice and zest.  Gradually mix in the flour mixture, stirring until just combined.  Fold in raspberries.  Spoon muffin mixture into prepared muffin pans and bake for approximately 20 minutes.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Garden Produce

There has been much written about eating local, I have written on the subject myself.  This has proved much easier to do in the summer when the garden is producing so well.  Lately we have been eating from our backyard; the berries, cucumbers, tomatoes, green beans, and peas have been producing abundantly. This afternoon I was able to spend much of my time out in our gardens.  The temperature finally cooled down, we have had temps in the 90s with humidity to match, or close.  The gardens have become a jungle of growth, making up for lost time with the very cool June we had.  I always think I am leaving enough space between the plants in the spring and about this time of year I am struggling to get between plants well enough to pick the produce.

These bamboo poles have worked very well, holding the weight as the plant grows and produces fruit.  As I was weeding, adding more lattice to the shed for the grape vine to cling to, dead heading flowers, and picking produce, I was also grazing.  That's right, lunch directly from the backyard.  I ate blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, peas, and green beans, not necessarily in that order.  From plant to mouth, fruits and vegetables at their peak, which means they were at the peak of their nutritional value, as well as their flavor.  The green beans and peas have been particularly sweet this year, likely due to all the rain we have received.

I have only watered the garden once this summer, rain has provided all the water the garden needs, and then some.  I pulled some small onions this afternoon because they were sitting in an area that was consistently water logged and I was afraid they would start to rot.  Hopefully the other row of onions will be able to stay in the soil long enough for some serious growth.  The raspberries have been producing like gang-busters, we have eaten them fresh, frozen them for winter baking and smoothies, and I have baked with them.  I made raspberry muffins late this afternoon for Sunday morning breakfast, the recipe will follow later this week (if I have time).

We have been eating much of the green beans fresh and raw, they are so good there is no need to cook them and destroy vitamins.  I have also blanched and frozen a few pints for winter meals, this afternoon I added another pint to the freezer.  Food preservation has not moved into high gear yet, the corn is not ripe yet and we have only had enough ripe tomatoes to eat fresh, with the exception of cherry tomatoes that I roasted and froze, more on that later too.  Once the majority of the tomatoes on those 20+ plants start to ripen I will have my hands full with canning.  I should have a little more time to tackle that project then since that will be closer to September and I will be "retiring" from the library at the end of August and working part time managing my parents health food store.

This was our dinner; fresh vegetables picked or pulled from the garden and placed on homemade pizza dough.  As you can see, we do not eat completely local, the cheese on the pizza and the olive oil in the pizza crust are not local, but this time of year much of what we eat comes right from our backyard.  That saves us money, it tastes better, and it is better for us and our environment.