Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Oven Dried Strawberries

Last year I dried some apples in the oven and they turned out nice. I use dried fruit in granola and thought I would try some strawberries this time, as I had quite a few. I really need a dehydrator though- it took way too long in the oven.
I found a good article on dehydrating fruits and veggies. I cut the strawberries to about 1/4" think and laid them on parchment paper which I had directly on the oven rack. I set the oven to 170 degrees (because that's the lowest it will go) and stuck a wooden spoon in the door to hold it slightly open.
Some of the strawberries dried faster than others- it depended on how thick they were. But the were all done after about 5 hours. I ended up with enough for one batch of granola- so not really worth it for me, but I had to try. I did turn them over once so they could dry on both sides. It was a time consuming job.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Peanut Butter Granola

I have to try this one out on Jesse... he doesn't like oatmeal or granola, but he loves peanut butter, so we'll see how it goes. Anyway, I think this is good.

Peanut Butter Granola
4 1/2 c. rolled oats
1/2 c. creamy peanut butter
1/2 c. honey
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. additions

Heat the peanut butter and honey, so it's not so thick (microwave or heat over medium until warm). Mix in salt, vanilla and oats, coat thoroughly and then spread onto parchment paper lined baking sheet.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Allow to cool before adding dried fruit, or if you don't want chocolate to melt, etc.
I store this in the freezer if it's not eaten up right away.

Notice how this one browns more on top and on sides. I don't stir it while it's baking.

This variation has 1 c. Heath Toffee pieces added after it was cool.

This one I added:
1/2 c. Heath bar toffee pieces
1/2 c. milk chocolate chips
While it was warm so the chocolate melted and it formed clumps of chocolate granola.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Breakfast "Cookie"

This is actually similar to Baked Oatmeal but easier to pick up and eat with your hands.

I've been trying to make alot of things for the freezer so when baby comes I won't have to cook much... and neither will Brian. :-) So I have quite a few different batches of this in the freezer now.

Breakfast "Cookie"
4 c. oats (rolled or quick)
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 TB. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2/3 c. milk
1 c. applesauce
2 eggs
1 tsp. vannilla
1 c. additions
Mix all together, bake in greased 9" x 13" baking dish at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes. Makes 12 square cookies.

Here's a few of my variations:

1 c. milk chocolate & peanut butter chips

1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 c. raisins
1/2 c. craisins

1 peach, chopped
1 plum chopped
a handful of strawberries, chopped
decrease milk to 1/2 c.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Fruit and Oatmeal Bars

I was trying to go for a Breakfast Cookie here- but this was so good, I think it qualifies more as "dessert". The one on the left is strawberry and the one on the right is cherry. I liked the cherry better- I think just the tartness of it.

Fruit and Oatmeal Bars
3/4 c. applesauce
3/4 c. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 c. whole wheat flour
1 1/2 c. rolled oats
1 c. jam or preserves (tart works best, if using a sweeter fruit, like strawberries, I would reduce the sugar to 1/2 c.)

Mix everything except the jam. Press half of the mixture into a greased 9" x 13" baking dish. Spread the jam on, try to not to get it completely to the edge, or the jam part will burn slightly. Sprinkle on the remaining mixture. (I ended up doing 2/3 of the mixture on the bottom and 1/3 on top)
Bake for 16-18 minutes in 400 degree oven.
Wait about 15 minutes and then cut into squares.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Jams & Jellies

The boys like to brag about my jams and jellies... It makes me feel so good when I hear "My mom makes the best crabapple jelly- you're going to love it!" :-) Last year Stephen wrote a poem about our crabapple tree "giving my family delicious jelly".

And here I've been thinking of cutting the darn tree down... It's just that it makes such a mess and I only am able to get about 1/2 of the crab apples up and juiced before they go bad and then it's so hot to boil them and strain the juice... uff-dah! Cost-wise it is nice- obviously, the juice is free so then with the cost of pectin and sugar-

Juice: free
Pectin: $2.38
Sugar: $.68
Yields 4 jars @ $.76/per jar

Generic grape jelly (the very cheapest) is somewhere around $1.30 now and I use the "less sugar" pectin, so there is 1/2 as much sugar as regular jelly. (6 c. juice/4 c. sugar vs. 6 c. juice/7 c. sugar)
Of course when I make strawberry or other jams that we don't grow the fruit for, it's a bit more money, but if you compare it to the store, it's so much cheaper! And if you've never made jams or jellies before, I would encourage you to try it- it's quite simple, and doesn't take all that long to do the cooking part- maybe 30 minutes from juice to jelly in jars. The instructions in the pectin box are quite easy.

Over the last week we made: (R to L) Peach-raspberry: 1 batch, strawberry-rhubarb: 1 batch, apple: 1 batch, cherry: 1 batch, crabapple: 3 batches and strawberry: 2 batches.
I like to buy the Classico Spaghetti sauce and Adams Peanut Butter, because I can reuse the jars and lids- some of these jars I have had for 10 years and they still seal every time I make jam or jelly. On the green side- I don't have to throw away used jars and on the frugal side- I don't have to buy new lids all the time.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Pie Crust, Cherry Pie and Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie

These recipes are for 9" pies- the crust recipe is at the bottom of the post.

Last week when I was taking the boys to piano lessons some kids were selling bags of pie cherries. I got 6 qt bags for $5. I had to buy a pitter though- so asked Brian to buy one after work one day. They didn't have them at Alberton's, so I had him go to Linens 'n Things (since it was the only place I could think of that would have one for sure)... he got what they had- which was $12! But it's much nicer than the old ones I remember using and it had a "splatter guard", which worked ok. Around my work station was still messy with cherry splatter-- but certainly not as much as it would have been with the old cheap cherry pitter, so I was happy with it.
Out of all those cherries- we made 1 batch of jam and 3 pies. Next time I will reduce the amount of cherries in the pie, I think I could have made 4 pies out of it and it would have been just the right amount of cherries.
I baked one that night and froze the other two... I ran out of parchment paper, so those 2 are absolutely stuck in the pie plates until I bake them. Thankfully, my mom gave me 4 extra pie plates, so it will be ok if I leave one frozen until Thanksgiving. I don't know if we have enough self-control to save both of them for that long!

Homemade cherry pie is so much better than the canned cherry pie filling. Granted, I'll eat that and enjoy it-- but not as much as these. And Brian and Jesse who don't care for cherry pie, will gobble down a homemade one.

Cherry Pie Filling
3 c. pitted sour cherries (4 c. if you like alot of fruit)
1 1/4 cups white sugar
1/3 c. cornstarch
1 TB butter
1/4 tsp almond extract

Place the cherries, sugar, and cornstarch in a medium size non-aluminum saucepan. Allow the mixture to stand until the cherries are moistened with the sugar. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly. Lower the heat; simmer for 1 minute, or until the juices thicken and become translucent. Remove pan from heat, and stir in butter and almond extract. Pour the filling into the pie shell. Cover with top crust.
Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 45 to 55 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.

Since the oven was going to be on- I wanted to make good use of it and not just have it on for 1 pie. Plus, I had a friend helping me-- so I needed to make use of her too! (Thanks Laura!) We decided to mix up a strawberry-rhubarb pie as well. Too bad I didn't have enough rhubarb to freeze a couple of those for later!

Strawberry-Rhubarb Pie

1 1/3 c. sugar
1/3 c. flour
2 c. chopped rhubarb
2 c. chopped strawberries
1 1/2 TB butter

Mix sugar and flour, pour into strawberries and rhubarb and mix all together. Pour into pie crust, dot with butter and put on the top crust. Bake at 425 degrees for 40 to 50 min.

Because I baked both pies at the same time- I had the oven set for 425 degrees and baked the strawberry-rhubarb pie for about 20 minutes, then put in the cherry pie and turned the oven down to 375 degrees and baked for 45 minutes and then took them both out at once. They were both done perfectly and the edges of the crust weren't over-brown. (I didn't even wrap them in foil!)

Pie Crust
For 1 two-crusted pie (9") or 2 one-crust pie (9")
2 c. white flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. sugar
1/2 c. oil (olive oil works fine)
1/2 c. cold water
Mix thoroughly with fork and then knead with your hands. Split into 2 equal portions.

To roll out:
Get your hand wet and spread the water on the counter. Top it with a sheet of wax or parchment paper*. Place one "ball" of dough onto the middle of the paper and put another sheet of paper over it. Roll with a rolling pin in all directions to make a circle of dough. You can hold your pie plate over the top to get an idea of the size you need to make it. You want the dough to hang off the edge of the pie plate a bit.
When it's big enough, take the top paper off and set aside, slid your hand under the bottom paper and center the dough on the inside of your pie plate. Set it on the counter and press the dough into the corners of the pie plate while pulling the paper away from the dough.
You can trim it before or after you have your filling in and the top crust on. Don't make a decorative edge until you have both crusts on though, unless you are making a 1-crust pie. Here are some good directions on making a decorative edge. And if you don't want to put in much work- just pinch the top and bottom crusts together a bit and call it good-- taste the same! :-)
*Wax paper and parchment paper:
Wax paper will stick to a wet counter and stay in place, but parchment paper is easier to peel away from the dough.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Rhubarb Sauce

Rhubarb... one of the delights of summer!

This is good over pancakes- or ice cream... yum!

Rhubarb Sauce
2 c. chopped rhubarb
1 c. water
1/2 c. sugar
2 TB corn starch

Put rhubarb in saucepan, mix water, sugar and cornstarch thoroughly and then pour over rhubarb. Heat over med to med/high heat, stirring often until rhubarb no longer holds it's shape and sauce goes from white to semi-clear.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Homemade Laundry Soap

Ok, so this is a different type of cooking. :-) I've been looking into different soap options lately. We started going "No 'Poo" about 5 months ago and followed the advise from that article. So Brian and I just use baking soda to wash and then a vinegar/water rinse when we shampoo. We have both been happy with it, and it takes about the same amount of time to wash our hair.
I didn't have the boys use the baking soda, I thought it might be a little more difficult for them, so I found a Shampoo Bar for them. I got the Rosemary one, because I know lavender gives me a head ache. Rosemary is ok- I think the boys are finally getting used to it. I haven't found anything I like for Naomi yet- there are some good children's shampoos, but so far, what I found is not tear-less. So I'm still looking into that.
When I was ordering their shampoo bar I noticed the same gal had laundry soap. I like this for 2 reasons-- 1) it's much cheaper and 2) it doesn't have chemicals in it. I looked around online and found a few different variations to laundry soap recipes, but since I've never done it before I thought it might be good to try it before I invest in a large amount of laundry soap making supplies. So I bought her Laundry Soap Kit. Everything comes measured out and with easy instructions. I've been using it for a couple weeks now and the clothes come out nice. I'm not big into smells, so to me- they smell more like nothing-- well, I guess clean, because they don't stink! :-)
It was $4.25 + s/h but it made 2 gallons of soap. It says to use 1/2 c. in each load, but I have a HE front loading washer, so I've been using 1/4 c. and put a little vinegar in the "fabric softener" area and I think it's going to take me quite a while to get through 2 gallons! I have it in a bucket right now, but as soon as I find my funnel (boys...) I have 2 gallon milk jugs to keep it in.
BTW- when I took the picture before I started I had my big stock pot out- but I didn't need a big pot after all, just a saucepan.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Rice Blender Pancakes

I got the basic of this recipe from Hillbilly Housewife's Rice Pancakes, but I will say that mashing the rice with a fork- was not working for me. So here's what I did:

Rice Blender Pancakes
1 1/2 c. leftover cooked brown rice
2 c. Sour milk (2 c. milk + 2 tsp. lemon juice)
2 c white flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 tsp. baking soda

Put rice, milk and eggs in blender for a few minutes, until rice is no longer in a "rice" shape. Mix in dry ingredients and fry like normal pancakes: about 1/4 c. on hot griddle, flip after bubbles form on top and a couple have popped. Cook on other side until browned.

These were dense pancakes-- which I really like. I don't like my pancakes to soak up the syrup- and they didn't! Brian and Naomi weren't too excited about there texture- and though Brian eats anything, Naomi refused them after 2 bites. Oh well- The boys and I polished them off.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Crock Pot Pork Shoulder

Hot days... I don't want to turn on the stove at all. We end up eating alot of sandwiches, but this time we had a crock pot meal- Which I love coming home to the smell of something cooking... and especially when I don't have to do anything more to it!

Crock Pot Pork Shoulder
4 lb. pork shoulder roast (any roast would do)
1/4 larger onion, sliced
8 small/med potatoes cut into quarters
Handful of baby carrots, or the equivalent of larger carrots, cut.

Layer in the crock pot- roast first, onions on it and potatoes and carrots around and over, however they will fit. Turn the crock pot on high for 1 hour then down to low and cook for 8 hours.
I don't think that pork needs salt, but if you use beef or venison, etc, then I would shake some salt over the roast before the onion.
I take it all out and put it on a platter for the table.


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