whee!

Do You Have A Plan For Your Fresh Produce?

July 16, 2012 - Written by Diana

Fresh produce  can go bad quickly, so one of my weekend chores is to go through the fridge and decide what needs to be taken care of right now.  I try to plan ahead and keep up with the preserving through canning, freezing and dehydrating so that everything is used and also so we have seasonal ingredients all year.

Canning – last night I canned 5  jars of jam that my daughter made for my husband.  Salsa is our big thing, and when the tomatoes come in we will be full on salsa canning, but right now I just did a small batch of jam.

Freezing – green beans were blanched and they have been put into bags with the air sucked out and frozen.  I also had a bunch of green peppers starting to wrinkle.  While these aren’t too pretty in the salad, they will be great for cooking with, but I don’t want them to go bad, so I will freeze them as well.

Dehydrating – Green peppers are also terrific dehydrated, but they shrink a lot.  A very big amount of peppers will give you a very small amount of dehydrated pepper, but they are so tasty. Tomatoes with spots or holes will be cleaned, sliced and placed into the dehydrator as well.  My son loves to crumble dried tomatoes into soups, stews and sauces.  It adds a lot of flavor without adding any liquid.I do the same with Kale.  I’m not a fan of kale chips, but they crumble nicely into soups – and my son added them to the mac and cheese too.  Though I’m not a fan of Kale chips, Zucchini and Crookneck squash make great salsa chips.  Instead of high calorie, high cholesterol chips, we’re using zucchini and squash to dip into our salsa.  I dehydrated mushrooms that were starting to dry out, then I ground them down to a powder and sealed them in a jar to use in sauces and gravies.

I have some peaches I need to take care of because they have some bruises.  I still have plenty of canned peaches from last year, but I like to freeze peaches too or dehydrate them.  My daughter crumbles them over yogurt and granola.  The frozen fruit make great quick desserts.  Pour into a glass dish and heat up with granola over  and top with ice cream. I didn’t do any of those though, I used the peaches and blackberries along with mint and white wine to make a nice fruit salad.  Preserving is good, but using fresh when you can is better.

I do try to use up as I go along as well.  We’ve had green beans with potatoes this week, zucchini and tomatoes were sliced into salads – as well as into the eggs. Using fresh is my first choice, but if you have more than you’ll use, figure something out so you aren’t wasting money and resources. I still end up with all the bits, and ends going into the composter.  Yellowing and spotty can happen, but if you have a plan, you can stay on top of it.  And you can always give some away to your neighbor.

How do you keep up with the produce in your fridge?

 

PS – Excuse my not so pretty labels. I use painters tape and as you can see, didn’t bother with scissors, just rip.

How to Make Kale Flakes (or What To Do With Those Kale Chips).

October 5, 2011 - Written by Diana

Snack Chips with lower cholesterol.

We love our home made salsa, but with salsa comes chips. Not the baked chips, those good all natural chips that were fried in some good oil without any artificial ingredients are our favorite type of chip.  However, even with all that good stuff, it’s not good for your cholesterol.  I thought I knew how to solve this problem, Kale Chips.  It’s all the rage, everyone’s doing it.  It would be great for us and solve the snacking problem, where we crave a treat, but want something better than those baked cardboard chips.

 

How to make Kale Chips.

Baked Kale Chips

 

I bought the kale, and stripped out the middle stem.  The leaves were rinsed and then spun dry.  I read a bunch of food blogs, and other sites.  Some bloggers say not to salt before baking because it would steam not bake.  Linette said to dehydrate – though she used yeast and garlic and I wanted to see what it tasted like first. Almost all said toss the kale with olive oil, a single layer on a baking pan.

 

What I tried.

Dehydrated Kale Chips

 

I did it both ways – though I always wiped the water off the kale before drying.  I also tore the leaves up smaller and tossed lightly with some olive oil.  One batch I placed a single layer on a cookie sheet and baked in the oven on a low heat.

The other batch was placed in the dehydrator.

I did sprinkle with salt after they came out of the oven and dehydrator.

 

The results.

The baked kale was really dry.  It wasn’t fantastic, but rather bland and tasteless.  Both chips stuck in our throats because they were dry.  The dehydrated kale had a much prettier color and had a little more texture.  The yeast suggestion might actually make it more flavorful.  I might have done something wrong, but it just didn’t satisfy our snack longings.

 

What I did next.

Kale Flakes

 

I wasn’t sure what to do with all of the kale chips.  I didn’t want to just throw it away, I thought about it a little bit and decided that while Kale Chips aren’t great, that kale flakes (the kale was falling apart) would be perfect to add to recipes.  I’ve tried the kale flakes in eggs and threw it into a pasta dish with tomato sauce.  It was delicious, really tasty and the perfect addition to those dishes.  I’ve frozen the rest of the chips and flakes and I plan to use it in more recipes.  If you like the dried spinach flakes that you buy from the store, this is very similar and would make a great substitute, or you can even use the same process to make spinach flakes (or chips if you like).

Freezing Paw Paw Pulp

October 2, 2011 - Written by Diana

Paw Paws are very short lived, within a few days they go to black and mush, plus the fruit flies find them.  I collected enough paw paws this year that I decided to freeze the pulp.  It’s a little tedious to separate the pulp from the seeds and skin, but worth it in the end.  Paw Paw fruit can be used as a replacement for oil in baking, or in salsas or sauces, or even in a recipe in place of another fruit.

  

First Slice the fruit in half width wise, or lengthwise. 

The first time I did this across the width, I scooped out the fruit and pulled the seeds out.  The seeds have a small membrane around them that the fruit sticks to.  In order to get the most fruit, peel the membrane off and throw in with the fruit.  I found though, that slicing the the length maybe not in half, but a quarter, will cut through the membrane leaving the tips of the seeds exposed.  You can pull the seeds out and scoop the fruit into a bowl.

Process all the fruit in a food processor.

Take all the fruit and place in a food processor and pulverize it.  This will make the pulp less fiberous and give it a smooth consistency.

Strain the pulp.

Using a mesh strainer – push the pulp through.  Any tough pieces of pulp, skin, membrane will stay in the strainer.

Scoop into ice cube tray.

Freeze then place paw paw cubes into a freezer bag for use another day.

 

Peach Canning Newbies

August 13, 2011 - Written by Diana

What ever possessed me to buy 5 pecks of peaches?  It might have been the price and also that I am on vacation, but this is my first foray into canning peaches – though I have frozen some before.  I told my in-laws and my mom that I was going to get my mom to can peaches with me this week.  My brother in law – said – your mom travels all this way to see you, and you are making her work?  I told him that my mother doesn’t like to be idle and I am always finding work for her to do.  She does not like to sit around.

We didn’t start as early as we would have liked this morning – we started the day by packing my daughter up into the station wagon and her boyfriend’s truck to go back to college.  She’s one of my best kitchen helpers so she will be missed.  Then we went to see Harry Potter, because weren’t allowed to go without my mom. If you know @DebNg then you know about how much the family enjoyed the series- book more so than movie.  Anyway, to get back on track, it was probably close to 3 or 4 before we started on the peaches.  My mom ran out, so my husband and I blanched, peeled and packed peaches by ourselves.My husband is great at pitching in on the projects.

Four of our jars have OYO honey vanilla bean vodka (by @Middle West Spirits) in it – substituted for brandy, another 5 have cinnamon syrup and another 5 have just the simple syrup.  5 pecks might not be enough – my daughter wants salsa, and I think about juice and sauce.  Have you made anything interesting with peaches?  They’re in season right now in Ohio.

We also have another batch of sauce brewing.  Are you canning yet?

 

Canning Season Has Started

August 7, 2011 - Written by Diana

Not wanting to waste tomatoes by letting them sit around, my husband and I decided to try and attack them. I think heating the house up with the oven to simmer the tomatoes down works against the air conditioning. Today I am taking a different approach. We cored and cut the tomatoes into quarters and are simmering it in the large electric roasting pan – the one I use to cook a turkey for Thanksgiving, or leg of lamb for easter. The tomatoes are breaking down quite nicely, though I will need to strain out the seeds and skin before finishing making the spaghetti sauce.

I should mention that half the tomatoes are from the garden and half from a farmer at the market. We’ve been buying bulk tomatoes from him for a couple of years now. He mentioned that he might have canners next weekend, for 15.00 a bushel, a really inexpensive price for tomatoes that are not perfect. I bought ten lbs from him yesterday, and they are thick meaty solid tomatoes, just lovely.

We have problems if we don’t process them soon after picking or buying. So I’ve made one batch of salsa and we’re simmering a batch of sauce in the roaster. My daughter filches sauce for her college home and I don’t mind, but it means I need more for more households. Canning season has started…

Make Your Cheese Last Longer with the FoodSaver FreshSaver

April 9, 2010 - Written by Diana

Cheese is a great snack, a good hors d’oeuvre for Easter or other family gatherings (like Mother’s Day), but you end up with partially eaten cheeses sitting around in the fridge going moldy.  I hate moldy cheese, but I love cheese.  The FoodSaver Freshsaver is a hand held, rechargeable vacuum seal device that will keep your cheese from getting moldy.  I swear, it’s wonderful for my cheese.  About the size of the palm of your hand, it stores in one of your kitchen drawers easily when not in use. I’ve had mine about 6 months and I love it.

Cheese without the FreshSaver system:

Cheese with the FreshSaver system:

Lots of fresh cheeses mmmm.

All you do is position the device over the seal and suction out the air until there isn’t any more air to suck out.  It doesn’t work well on wet foods, so jello would not work, however, you can reseal the bag if you just need to take the cheese out and grate a little then put it back and suction it again.

Though the bags and the sealer are only rated for the refrigerator, I have used mine for meat in the freezer.  Again, it’s better to pre-freeze the meat a little first so it’s not so juicy.  The juicy will ruin the seal. My son used it for his breaded shrimp.  He’d take out only what he needed and suction the bag up again, then stick it into the freezer until the next time.  Sorry Handivac – I’m working with the FreshSaver now.  I don’t have to worry about the dead batteries for this.

By the way, the ziplock sous vide bags work great with the freshsaver also.

Disclosure:  I bought this, it wasn’t a paid review.  The recommendations are my own.

Freezer Peppers, Onions and Ginger

October 9, 2009 - Written by Diana

These are three things that I freeze to be used at a later time. I don’t like waste, so I can’t see throwing good food away (or into the compost) when it can be preserved for later use. The last weeks or so before the first big frost peppers seem to kick into over drive.  We pick the big and medium ones and hope that before a hard freeze comes along the plants will put in all of their energy into making those smaller peppers grow.  On one end of the road, and down the other there was a frost last week, we covered the peppers, tomatoes and other plants, but in the morning we had a thick fog and no frost.  We were lucky, but it was a warning to us that we needed to take some time and get the peppers ready for freezing before they froze on the vine – not a pretty sight. 

 

 

 

Freezing Broccoli

September 21, 2009 - Written by Diana

If you have an abundance of broccoli growing in your garden, or even if you buy too much and you don’t want it to go bad, you can freeze your broccoli to use at a later time.  The band went to a competition yesterday, and after we play our set, the band parents set up tables and feed the band.  One of our favorite sides for the kids is veggies and dip because it’s healthy and because they can eat it their fingers  and not have a mess.  There was an overload of broccoli this time and the band parents were giving it away.  I told my husband I would take it and we could freeze it, since I knew we wouldn’t eat it all before it went bad.  Freezing Broccoli is an easy process that can be done for other vegetables like carrots and cauliflower.

Steps to Freezing Broccoli.

 

September 18, 2009 009

Canning Tomato Sauce

September 9, 2009 - Written by Diana

My end of summer chores involve making different stuff with all of the tomatoes we have.  A long time ago (I’m aged) I bought a Victorio Strainer 200.  It was so worth what I paid for it and is still working perfectly fine, probably because there aren’t any electronic parts or electricity involved, just crank power.  There are many different versions of this useful gadget, all are good.  My sister has something she calls a Foley Mill – that one looks like more work, but I’m sure works fine.

Victorio strainer 200 First you clean and cut up the tomatoes so that they fit into the hopper.  Turn the crank, and push the tomatoes down with the plunger.  The tomato juice and pulp will come out of the side and the seeds and skin will come out the end. When we have enough skin and seed in the bowl we’ll put it through the hopper again, in order to squeeze as much pulp out as we can.

After the tomatoes have all gone through the strainer, either put the pulp and sauce into a pot and simmer down to half or put it into a big baking pan and simmer down to half in the oven.

Then the canning begins.  You can either put jars into water in a vat on the stove and heat them up that way, or as I do in the dishwasher.  I also clean the rings for the jars too.  In a much smaller pot, you heat up the lids in water.  

Place eight(?) jars on a rack in a boiling water bath, lower into the pot, cover with lid and simmer for about 10 minutes. Take the pot lid off for about 5 minutes, raise rack, remove jars and place on a towel to cool.  Don’t retighten the rims.

Tomato Sauce and Canning Tools

My recommendation for a good primer on canning is the Ball Blue Book.  I have other books on preserving and canning that I use and think are great, but for starting out, this is the best hands down. The tools I use for canning are in the picture.  This is a new kit that I bought.  I had some of the tools already, but the tongs and jar lifter were misplaced, and I never had a lid magnet before so I ordered this one.  I’m going to put this away with my other canning things so that it will be all together when I need it.  Otherwise family members use the different tools for their needs and they go missing.