Food Archive

I’m alive!

Posted April 20, 2019 By Ruth

Really!  Just very brain dead.

The co-worker who had medical issues is back to work, however he shouldn’t be.  I’m not entirely sure if he didn’t explain his job very well to the doctor, if the doctor didn’t believe him, or if the doctor is an idiot.  To be fair, I’ve found that when you tell your doctor that you work at “big box store with orange aprons” they hear “I’m a cashier” no matter what you say afterwards.  I now tell my doctors that I work in a warehouse.  It’s a much more accurate description of what my job entails when it comes to physical demands.  So yah.  At any rate, I’m still working his job, hopefully only for another week, but I’m not holding my breath.  I’ve now found that the management’s apathy in regards to the folks on the sales floor is totally beaten out by their apathy towards the folks working in the receiving department.

At home I’ve been experimenting with sourdough bread again.

As much as I like a good homemade sourdough I’ve struggled with it in the past.  Struggled to keep it alive, struggled to use it, gotten frustrated by the discard-feed cycle.

This time around I armed myself with King Arthur Flour’s list of recipes for discarded sourdough.  Reminded myself that even if I didn’t want to do a true sourdough bread I could always add a scoop or so to my regular bread recipe.  And made a very interesting discovery about keeping it alive.  Every sourdough recipe out there says that once you get past the initial buildup you can use white flour to feed your sourdough.  And this is technically correct, you can.  However, feeding your sourdough starter with whole wheat results in the happiest sourdough starter EVER.  Wow.  So my sourdough starter is whole wheat.  It was an accident, I ran out of white flour and somehow forgot to buy more at the store, so shrugged and fed it with whole wheat, and wow!

isn’t that pretty?  That is a true sourdough bread, no added commercial yeast.  Specifically its KA’s No Knead Sourdough.  This particular loaf will be going with me to the family Easter party tomorrow.  Yum.

On the subject of spring: FB reminded me that on this date last year I got snow, so I’m delighted by the green grass I’ve got today.  In addition the Bluebirds are definitely nesting, though as of yesterday afternoon there were no eggs yet.  And I’m back to trapping House Sparrows.

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Home Made Hot Sauce

Posted January 28, 2019 By Ruth

As my supply of home grown hot peppers has grown so has the things that I’ve made out of them.  Husband likes Franks Red Hot sauce, so I’ve played around with home made versions of it using the home grown peppers, usually whatever peppers I have, which makes for a fair bit of variation in flavor.  I’m not interested in playing around with the fermented sauces, but the home grown red ripe peppers make for some nice flavors anyway.

This past summer of course I grew Cayennes, so this year I did up actual Cayenne based hot sauce for him.

A note on making hot sauces.  There are alot of recipes out there that make me cringe.  And alot of home hot sauce makers who have no understanding of what makes things safely shelf stable.  The good news for those folks is that botulism is rare.  The bad news for those folks is that if they get unlucky some day they’re going to end up either dead or crippled for life.  Before you decide to follow some random hot sauce recipe you found online please make sure you understand how acidity protects you from botulism, and how to tell if your sauce is acidic enough.  I can do that whole rant if need be, and if you all reading this actually want it, but I won’t in this post.

This recipe is a modification of the hot pepper jelly recipe that I use and that I know is plenty acidic and thus safe to play with.

If you have pets, or if any of the humans in the house aren’t a fan of hot things, turn on the vent fan before you start doing anything.  Also, I highly recommend gloves for handling the peppers, and even if you wear gloves do yourself a favor and wash your hands with LOTS of Dawn dish soap BEFORE using the bathroom or touching your face.

1 pound of red ripe Cayenne peppers

2 cups of white vinegar

1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt

1 teaspoon of garlic powder

rough chop the peppers and add to sauce pan with the vinegar.  Heat up, and then puree with the stick blender.  Puree to your choice of texture, commercial sauces are often mashed through a fine strainer after pureeing to remove the seeds and larger bits, I don’t bother, but if you prefer a smoother sauce you’ll want to do this.  Add salt and garlic powder.  Simmer down to the consistency you want.  Bring to a rolling boil.  Pour into hot 1/2 pint jars and water bath for 10 minutes.  This made up 3 jars worth of sauce.  It also smells absolutely wonderful, even to me who doesn’t care for hot things.

I’ll note, if you don’t want to water bath it, and just want something for the fridge or freezer, this’ll keep for extended periods of time in the fridge just fine.

Mandarin Orange Jam

Posted January 27, 2019 By Ruth

I’ve been on a citrus kick lately.  But Husband isn’t a fan.  And I struggle to finish a package of oranges or the like before they start to go off.  The solution of course is to buy them individually, but that costs more.  Not to mention that my favorite citrus are seasonal.

In the meantime, I belong to a couple different canning/preserving groups on Facebook, and people were talking about doing marmalades, and mixed fruit jams and jellies.  So I had a thought.  Poked around at a couple orange jelly recipes, but wasn’t entirely enthused with what I was seeing.  So, armed with the knowledge that oranges are nicely acidic and so I can basically do whatever I want so long as I don’t add anything low acid, I went to the store for oranges.

8 large mandarin oranges

1 cup of commercial orange juice.

1 cup of sugar

1 teaspoon of vanilla

a splash of lemon juice

4 tablespoons of Ball’s low/no sugar pectin

Sliced the ends off of the oranges, deep enough that I saw flesh and not white skin.  Peeled them, and then used a sharp knife to slice off the white pith/skin.  Broke them open, sliced off the interior pith (that white pith can be bitter, you really want as much of it as physically possible removed).  Cut them into chunks, removed any particularly loose skin pieces but wasn’t OCD about it.  Used a potato masher to break up the chunks a bit.  Eyeballed the mass in the sauce pan, and added 1 cup of juice.  Next time I’ll just buy a couple more oranges instead, but it works for now.

Added the rest of the ingredients.  Brought to a strong boil for 1 minute per pectin instructions.  Jarred up (this made exactly six 1/2 pint jars), and water bath processed for 10 minutes.

I licked my stirring spoon while the mixture was heating and the vanilla came through nicely, but I can’t taste it at all in the finished jam.  In retrospect I should have added it at the end of the boil instead of before, and I might add a bit more too next time.  Also, store bought juice has always had a slightly odd undertaste to it, and that come through in the jam.  But otherwise I’m delighted with how this turned out.  Its a nice loose set jam, not overly sweet, and I totally ate the first jar with a spoon the next morning.

I’ll be buying a bunch more mandarin oranges this week so I can do a couple more batches!

Breakfast food

Posted January 12, 2019 By Ruth

Several years ago, before I got married (possibly even before we started dating?), I picked up a pair of these small cast iron pans.  They’re tiny, but perfect for single servings of a variety of things.

More recently I’ve used them for baking of smaller free form loaves of bread on occasion.  But otherwise they haven’t gotten much use since my husband joined the household.

Not to long ago, wanting something hearty for breakfast but not wanting to actually put alot of effort into it, I had an idea.

Two eggs scrambled up in a bowl, with a dash of onion powder, a sprinkle of pepper, and a hearty dash of garlic powder.  Add a pinch of grated asiago cheese, a dash of grated parmesan cheese, and a healthy handful of grated cheddar.  If I have them in the house I’ll frequently fine chop a small red potato into the mix too.

Get one of the little cast iron pans hot, slather with a thick slab of butter (even in a well seasoned pan the eggs will tend to stick a bit once you add this much cheese to the mix, use more butter), turn the burner down to just above low.  Pour in the egg mixture, it’ll do a good job at filling the little pan.  Let cook till the edges are solid.  Carefully flip, the liquid center will tend to pour out into the pan, thats fine.  Continue to cook till the bottom side is done to your taste (I tend to prefer a bit of browning, but some folks prefer their eggs less done, go with what works for you).  Place on a slice of homemade bread toast (though I have to say, it also goes REALLY well on commercially purchased Texas Toast, you may want to go light on the added seasonings if you’re going this route) with more grated cheddar.

It’s a very filling meal in a fairly short period of time.  I call it my “omlet thing”, to the amusement of my husband.  I forgot, again, to get a photo, so you’re going to have to do with my description.

Florida Datil Pepper Jelly

Posted November 11, 2018 By Ruth

I gave in and did a full sugar batch so that I could use liquid pectin.  Should have taken out more of the seeds, its HOT.  But didn’t it turn out pretty?

Didn’t mean to disappear, ooops

Posted November 2, 2018 By Ruth

Just got busy.

And sick, cause god forbid I don’t come down with my regular fall respiratory infection.  I managed to avoid it last year by taking large quantities of Airborne (in the gummy chew form, the tablets taste nasty IMO).  I thought it might have been a fluke, but I stopped taking it after surgery, and of course I got sick a couple weeks ago.  Maybe I need to buy stock in Airborne.

Saw the podiatrist this week, he says that he doesn’t see the need to remove part of the toenail, and he couldn’t find a cause for the ingrown toenail problems.  He did trim back the corners of the nails of both big toes, and I have an appointment with him in two months to look things over.

I was hoping to do yellow hot pepper jelly this year with all the yellow hot peppers.  But all the low sugar pectins I can find are powders, and adding them changes the color of the jelly from yellow to golden brown.  Its not ugly, but its not yellow.  So now I need to decide if I want to try a full sugar batch, to be able to use a liquid pectin, or just live with it.

Husband has asked for jars of soup that he can take to work, that he doesn’t have to stick in the fridge, that he can just pop the top on and stick in the microwave.  He normally eats Campbells soups, but that requires a large bowl, and added water, and its not a simple work lunch like he wants.  Plus pre-packaged foods, extra salt, and all that.  My first experiment with a modified bean & bacon soup recipe turned out pretty decent, though it needs some modification for next time.  I’ll hopefully be jarring up a chicken soup this weekend, then he gets to experiment with adding pasta on the fly.

Now I need more pint jars…….

 

Baking Bread

Posted December 19, 2017 By Ruth

I prefer to make as much of the bread we eat as possible, but I tend to fail at that more than I like.  In the summer of course I don’t want to heat up the house, plus summer is our busy season so I’m often so tired from work that I don’t want to spend my spare time making bread.

I have a couple “go to” recipes that consistently produce a nice easy predictable bread, but sometimes I like to experiment.  Although I like the flavor of breads that require sitting overnight (or longer, such as sourdough) I don’t usually make them because they require me to plan ahead and I often don’t when it comes to bread making.  Our bread consumption varies a lot, some weeks we’ll eat two full sized loaves, others we’ll eat barely half a loaf.  Which makes it hard to predict when we’re going to need more bread.  It also means that I dislike making standard full sized loaves as they’ll sometimes go to waste.  I’ve played around with the “no knead keep it in the fridge for a week” recipes, and although they’re convenient, I’m not a huge fan of the bread they tend to produce.  I suppose if I really wanted I could really play with them to produce a bread I liked, but I haven’t wanted to put in the effort.

A couple weeks ago I was looking for something a bit different for bread, I had some left over potatoes and was leaning towards a potato bread, plus I’d managed to plan ahead for once and was considering one of my favorite over-night recipes.  Then I ran across THIS recipe.  Potatoes, overnight, perfect!

That recipe produces two almost picture perfect loaves of bread.  It’s also an extremely soft bread, which Husband likes.  The flavor is awesome.  I did not care for it, however, after freezing and thawing the 2nd loaf.  It was fine toasted, but the thawed bread had some texture issues.  However after removing the dough from the fridge I noticed that it was quite stiff, after removing enough dough for the first loaf I noticed that the remaining dough did not immediately sink.  Hmmm……

In the middle of all of this I’d also ordered for myself THIS bread pan (amazon affiliate link).  Just a bit wider than the usual “mini” loaf pan, but otherwise just about half the size of a normal loaf pan, I hoped it would fix my problem with having to stick to either “full sized loaves” or free-form loaf recipes.  Folks, this is my new favorite bread loaf pan.  The size is perfect, the slices are big enough to make a nice sized sandwich.  It’s lightweight, easy to clean and work with.  And best yet, it fits inside my Instant Pot, so I can use the “yogurt-low” setting to keep the dough warm for that 2nd rise.

I decided a trial was in order.  Note, all loaves were cooked in my new small loaf pan.  All dough was placed in the pan, and the pan set into my Instant Pot (1 cup of water in the bottom of the IP, then the IP trivit, then the pan of bread, cover the pot with saran wrap) to rise on the “yogurt-low” setting.  Unless otherwise noted they rose for 2hrs before cooking.

Monday Dec 11th I made up a batch of the overnight potato bread dough and stuck it in the fridge as per recipe instructions.

Dec 12th I made up a loaf following recipe instructions (it cooked for just about the same length of time as the full sized loaves) using 1/4 of the made up dough, resulting in a picture perfect loaf of bread.  I really should have gotten a picture it was that pretty.

Dec 13th, 24hrs after the recipe instructs you to do so, I made up a loaf, otherwise following the recipe instructions.  It was picture perfect again, no change.

Dec 15th, 72hrs after the recipe instructs you to do so, I made up a loaf, otherwise following the recipe instructions.  It rose just as nicely, but instead of puffing up big and tall it tended to sink down over the side of the pan a bit, the loaf has definite ears!  Otherwise just as tasty as the original, though the loaf may be a bit more dense and a hair less soft, not a bad thing.

Sunday Dec 17th we made french toast with our abundance of bread.  With bigger slices it might not have worked due to the softness of the bread, but with the small sized slices this bread made an absolutely awesome french toast bread.  WILL DO AGAIN.

Dec 18th, a full week after the recipe instructs you to do so, I  made up the 4th and final loaf from this batch of bread.  Remembering the ears from the last loaf I planned for this loaf to rise for less time, but the yeast was definitely getting tired by this point and it still ended up rising for the 2hrs before I thought it was far enough to go into the oven.  I did remember to get pictures of this one:

Not quite as high and pretty as the first ones, but still a pretty nice looking loaf of bread.  Texture was about like the 3rd loaf, a bit more dense and less soft than the original, but not in a bad way.

I’m calling success!

Post summer garden thoughts

Posted October 15, 2017 By Ruth

Last summer I massively over planted tomatoes.  I made SO MUCH sauce that I thought we’d never finish it all in a year.  I made ketchup.  I gave away tomatoes, sauce, and tomato puree.

Yesterday, in a quick freezer survey, I realized there are exactly TWO! jars of sauce left from last year.  Wow.  But then it did taste ever so much better than store bought, so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.  Heck, we hardly made pizza too, so most of it went into chili, and marinara, and the like.

I’ve got a pot on the stove right now simmering down most of this summer’s tomato harvest.  After the bounty that was last summer I deliberately under planted tomatoes this year, and then with the screwed up weather we didn’t get as many per plant as usual.  I figure I’ll get 5 or 6 jars of sauce from this years harvest if I’m lucky.

So I guess next summer I’m going to have to “over plant” tomatoes again.  Probably want to kill myself by the time I finish processing them all, but obviously the sauce is worth it.

We’ve still not had a real frost here, though all that’s left in the garden is onions, carrots and covered hot pepper plants.

The Oxheart carrot is getting added to my regular carrot cycle.

We never did get a ripe Green Nutmeg Melon, the one I picked when the vine was dying back smelled really good, but either wasn’t as close to ripe as I’d hoped or else they don’t taste like much.  I’ll have to decide if I want to try them again or not.

The White Leopard Melons are worth growing again.

I’m going to give up on the Melon Pear fruits, even cages the color change to ripe is still very subtle, and the couple I picked I wasn’t a fan of the flavor (but heck, I’m still not sure they were fully ripe).

The corn failed miserably, but I’m pretty sure that had more to do with a combination of things than anything specific.  I’ll try it again, but maybe not next summer.

I was discussing with Husband the possibility of trying a variety of hot peppers again, mostly for the heck of it.

Maybe just go really basic next year.  There’s a different variety of cucumber I want to try, but otherwise just do tomatoes, and hot peppers, and carrots, and a couple melons…..will have to see what catches my eye as I browse catalogs I think.

As I was putting down the plastic sheeting to smother the weeds it occurred to me that now that I have the soaker hoses for the garden watering there’s no reason I couldn’t leave the plastic in place next year and just cut holes to plant stuff in.  With the soaker hose run under it the plants would get plenty of water and the plastic would do wonders to help keep the weeds down.  Might have to try it.

Saturday Husband decided he was in the mood for chili.  WAY too late to get dried beans going on the stove top and no canned beans in the house.

Well, we have the Instant Pot pressure cooker for a reason, right?

With a little bit of digging we settled on THIS recipe as our cooking instructions.  Downside, it does mean getting a 2nd pan dirty to brown the meat, but then so does regular chili.  Upside, the meat isn’t cooked to mush by an hour in the pressure cooker.  We also used a quart jar of home-made tomato sauce instead of canned tomatoes (I could have pulled fresh from the garden, but I’d JUST gone through and harvested all the ripe ones and froze most of them).  Seasonings we used were chili powder, cumin, garlic, smoked paprika, salt, pepper, and home-made hot pepper powder.

Start the beans in the IP, start cutting up your pepper, and onion, and browning the meat.  We timed it just about perfectly, as everything was ready to go barely a couple minutes before the IP beeped done.

Add the additional water, scoop in meat/vegi mixture, carefully pour tomato sauce on top (it needs to be on top of everything, not under everything, tomato sauce is too thick, and if it sits on the bottom of the pot it will scorch and the IP won’t come to pressure).  Close the IP back up, set it for another 30 minutes, and walk away.  It took a bit longer to come to pressure the 2nd time, but not horribly so.

When it was done gave it a quick stir and decided the consistency was just about right.  We had to add a bit more seasoning, but that’s typical for pressure cooker cooking, and easily done.

Chili from dried beans in less than 2hrs (and no after affects from undercooked kidney beans!).  Perfect!

General and garden update

Posted July 30, 2017 By Ruth

Its been an oddly busy week for me this week.  I say oddly because I didn’t actually work that many hours, but what I did was frustration filled, plus some stuff here at home, and well, time…..

This past Friday was Inventory day at work.  We’ve known this is coming for a several weeks of course, and as seems par for the course prepping for inventory always finds all sorts of problems.  What really needed to happen was back in February, when the run-up for summer really hit, was to tell everyone that Inventory was this year and so be extra careful making sure those pallets are tagged right…..but of course no one plans that far ahead (and I’m not sure that some folks would bother even if the rest of us did).  And of course there’s limits to how much work you can put into inventory prepping the sales shelves in advance, as customers alone will mess things up.  Course, with our freight crew we don’t need the customers to mess things up.

Monday I worked a 4.5hr shift.  Other than helping customers the only thing I did Monday was to get the first 3 bays of cleaning chemicals inventory ready.  This includes a fair bit of rack diving into cruddy, nasty and dirty areas to pull out stock that’s been pushed hither and yon.

Tuesday I worked a 4hr shift.  My plan was to do basic straightening on those first 3 bays, and start inventory prep on the 4th.  Instead I discovered that freight had unpacked boxes of stock the night before.  Why is this a bad thing?  Because they find the spot where the stock goes and just shove.  There were bottles EVERYWHERE.  This is an ongoing problem that has been complained about all over the store, and it hasn’t changed.  But that close to inventory……I went and found the manager on duty, and informed him that he should be glad my shift didn’t over lap with freight that day, because if it did he’d be writing me up before the end of the day.  Maybe I got through to him just how much of an issue it was this time.  I hope so.  Cause I really was that pissed.  I had to almost completely redo those three bays.

Thursday I worked a full day, and thankfully freight either didn’t unpack any freight, or they actually listened to management this time.  Either way I’ll take it.  Well, they didn’t unpack any freight in cleaning chemicals at any rate.  About two hours into my day that same manager came by and asked me to do BEAR tags in outside garden (BEAR tags are basically inventory tags for pallets that are in the overheads, I have no idea what the abbreviation stands for).  I asked him why, I KNOW my dept supervisory spent all day Monday tagging and verifying tags in outside garden……Wednesday night we received a Pavestone truck, and someone had put the pallets in the overheads without tags.  Yup.

I did actually manage to get most of the cleaning chemicals ready for inventory by the time I left Thursday.  I didn’t have to work Friday, here’s hoping things went smoothly.

Saturday I didn’t have to work at my job.  But it was Open Farm Day in my county.  My county is fairly agricultural, with a large number of small locally owned farms of various types.  Those farms can sign up to be part of the Open Farm Day program, where they basically (for this one day) invite the public to come and visit, see the farm, and buy things right there on location.  This is the 4th year that I helped man a table at the local buffalo farm.  I’ve been one of their customers since they first started selling meat, and so when they needed someone who could help explain how to cook buffalo meat, and flavors, and what not they asked if I’d be willing to help.  Paid for course, though the actual pay varies between cash and meat (which isn’t exactly a hardship!).  Buffalo meat is extremely popular here.  They can’t keep enough animals to keep up with demand.  In addition for Open Farm Day they sell buffalo burgers, and pulled BBQed buffalo brisket (along with local sweet corn and salt potatoes*).  Folks coming out for this event have quickly figured out that the buffalo farm is THE place to hit for lunch, and every year we sell out of food.  I help with the actual selling of the raw, frozen, meat.  Which means spending my day digging meat cuts out of the freezers and repeating myself over and over as to how to cook buffalo meat (its very like beef in many ways, but cooks alot like venison).  Its not especially physically demanding, but I’m always completely blasted by the end of the day.

This morning (Sunday) I hurt more than I ought to.  I guess digging stuff out of freezers is just enough different than my normal work to screw with me.  Oh well.

Our makeshift drainpipe is working well.  Though thankfully the worst of the insane monsoon season seems to have passed.

And with the passing of the crazy rains my garden is finally taking off.

Three nice big purple carrots.  I forget which variety these are off the top of my head (I grow 7 or 8 varieties of carrots, of which 3 are purple).   I’ve picked enough carrots at this point to clear space to plant more, so I put down seed for one of the sweet baby varieties which are quick growing.  Edit: they’re either Cosmic Purple Carrots or Purple Dragon Carrots.  I THINK they’re Cosmics, but it looks like I forgot to record which order I planted them in this year and Cosmics and Dragons look enough alike……

 

 

Baby Honeydew melon

 

Biker Billy Jalapenos

 

Bill Bean Tomatoes, starting to ripen!

 

Chocolate Habaneros

 

2nd planting of lettuce just starting to sprout.

 

Lima Beans (and weeds……)

 

Green Nutmeg melons.  I still haven’t seen any set fruit, but the vines look awesome considering that they were a hugely late start.  Cross fingers for fruit!

 

Sunflowers

 

Black Pearl Peppers.  Even if you don’t care for hot peppers these would be a striking ornamental planting for an annual bed!

 

The insanity that is my Black Plum Tomatoes!  The quick and dirty stacking of tomato cages didn’t work this year.  Oh well.

 

This is the mixed potato and corn bed (and weeds, can’t forget the weeds!).  SOMETHING, bunny sized, as apparently been nesting in it.  Yay.  At least they aren’t munching.

 

Snow Leopard melon, there’s at least a couple more good sized fruit coming along too.

Sugar Baby Watermelon

 

Speaking of munching…..SOMETHING (I’m thinking deer) keep trying to eat my Blazing Star flower stalks.  Apparently they’re not very tasty though, as I keep finding the severed heads next to the stalks.

 

One day’s harvest, my first two Black Gypsy tomatoes, more carrots, a couple Hungarian Hot Wax peppers, and some Black Plum tomatoes.

The bunnies are horrid this year.  I thought I had trouble keeping the new growth un-munched last year.  This year though, OMG.  Plus the damn things are basically LIVING in the garden, even when they aren’t munching!  Thankfully the damage has been minimal, due to weekly applications of Plantskydd.  But jeeeze!

My cantaloupe vines haven’t set fruit yet either, which is unusual for them, but those tires are some of the worst for weeds, and the vines aren’t as big as usual, I’m thinking the weeds are choking them out a bit.  Oh well.

 

*Salt Potatoes are an extremely regional food.  Although they’ve been featured on a couple cooking shows, 9 times out of 10 when I find someone in other parts of the country who knows what salt potatoes are it’s because they have close family from the Central-Upstate NY state area.  The modern version of salt potatoes are sold prepackaged at the grocery store as 1lb of salt and 4lbs of small potatoes (about the size of baby potatoes, but not sold that way).  And no, they do not taste nearly as salty as everyone expects them to.  They’re extremely tasty though!