Category Archives: Cook It

Homemade Condiments

Homemade CondimentsA while ago I was sent a copy of the book Homemade Condiments by Jessica Harlan. This book is totally my kind of cookbook.  If I can make it instead of buy it, you know I will.  I only recently started making salad dressings and they were seriously lacking inspiration so this book has inspired me to step it up a notch.

The other night I made a Lime-Cumin Dressing that was fantastic.  It would be great paired with a Mexican meal or even on a wrap.  I drizzled it over some tossed spinach, red peppers, and cucumbers.  It went surprisingly well with the venison steak I grilled.

Homemade CondimentsI also made a honey mustard recipe that turned out great as well.  I put it on a ham sandwich and I’m pretty sure it would go really well as a dipping sauce too.

There’s also a chocolate almond Nutella type spread that I’ve got all the ingredients for.  It’s on the list to make as soon as the massive tray of brownies I made yesterday is gone.  I can only handle the temptation of so much chocolate at a time!  I’m definitely going to make some of the different ketchup recipes in here this summer as well.

IMG_5937I’ve also been given a chance to give away a copy of this book!  Want to win a copy?  Enter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: I received a copy of Homemade Condiments for free, opinions on this blog are my own!

Chokecherry Jelly

September 2013 276Just down the street from our house are three huge Chokecherry Trees.  No one seems to know that they are Chokecherries because apart from the birds, we’re the only one who picks them.  In fact every year we go out to pick we get several neighbours come over to ask us what we are picking.  Maybe this means eventually someone else will beat us to them but I don’t really mind if it means more people are becoming aware of the free food around them.

September 2013 232We were a few days late this year meaning the birds had cleared two of the three trees already.September 2013 227The kids got right in on the picking which made it go really fast.  We had a good 6 liters in about half an hour.
September 2013 226Two years ago Travis made wine out of the berries, this year I used it for Jelly.
I ended up making up the recipe as I went as I found only a couple recipes for Chokecherry Jelly specifically online and both of them had ridiculous amounts of sugar in them.

First thing I did was cook the berries to make a juice.

Chokecherry Juice:

3.5lbs of chokecherries

3 cups of water

Heat water and berries to boiling then simmer for about 15 minutes. Drain juice into a large bowl through a cheesecloth to catch all the berries.  Hang the berries in the cheesecloth for a few hours.  I gave the cloth a squeeze every time I walked by.  I’ve been told this makes for a more cloudy jelly but I was going for flavor not look.  Once you have all the juice strained out it’s time to make the jelly.September 2013 278

Chokecherry Jelly:

3.5 cups chokecherry juice

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

1 package pectin

4 cups white sugar

1 tsp butter

Stir together juices, pectin, sugar, and butter in a medium sized heavy pot.  Heat until boil.  Boil for one minute.  Skim off any foam.  Pour into sterilized half pin jars leaving 1/4 inch head space.  Process in a boiling water canner for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes, turn heat off, remove lid and let jars sit for 5 minutes.  Remove jars from canner and leave undisturbed for 24 hours.

September 2013 284 September 2013 279 September 2013 277 If you’re like me and you don’t want to wait the 24 hours to try your jelly just pull out a bit extra when you’re skimming off the foam!

 

 

Beet Pasta

IMG_3001We have a slightly ridiculous amounts of beets this year.  Last year was the first year we grew them and the entire family loved them so we grew three times as much this year.  Beets should keep well in cold storage so I’m looking forward to eating them most of the winter.

However, lots of beets means learning new ways of preparing them so last week I took a stab at making beet pasta.  It turned out great.  The dough was a really pretty color and the kids thought that was pretty awesome.  The only thing I was a little disappointed in was the color of the pasta after it had been cooked.  Most of the red came out in the water so we had very pale pink noodles.  Aside from that they were easy to make and not a whole lot more time consuming that making regular pasta.

Want to make your own beet pasta?  Here’s how I did it.

Recipe makes approximately 8 servings. This is a long process although not a ton of work. Start early!

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Peel and chop 1-2 beets.  Roast them in the oven at 350 degrees until soft.  Let cool.

If you store your eggs in the fridge, take 3 out to bring them to room temperature.

IMG_3014Blend until smooth in a blender. Try not to cringe at the color whirling around in your blender…

IMG_3016 IMG_3021Once your beets are blended, measure out half a cup of puree.  Save any leftovers for another meal, throw it in the freezer, or feed it to your baby if you have one!

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IMG_3017Put 3 cups of all purpose flour in a stand mixer and crack your three room temperature eggs in.

IMG_3022Use the dough hook to mix all the ingredients together.  Don’t have a stand mixer?  No problem, use your hands and your dough will most likely turn out even better than mine.

Continue to knead your dough.  Add flour until your dough is smooth and not sticky.  Depending on the size of your eggs you may need to add quite a bit more, or just a small amount.  If your dough is ever too dry you can add a bit of water.

Once your dough is looking smooth and elastic, remove it from the bowl and knead by hand for about five minutes.  Longer if you’re tough, shorter if you’re a weakling when it comes to kneading.  Like me.

IMG_3024Check out the color of that dough!

IMG_3026Cover your dough in plastic wrap and let it sit for at least half an hour.  Longer if you have time!

IMG_3028After the rest period split your dough in to four sections.  Keep one section out and cover the other three back up.

The rest of my instructions include using a pasta machine.  If you don’t have one you can hand roll and cut them.  I tried to find a good online tutorial for this but I didn’t have much luck.  It might be worth looking into however, I’ve done it before and it’s not very difficult.

IMG_3032Cut your small section in half and roll one piece through the thickest setting on your pasta machine.  Fold it in half and run it through again.  Continue to fold and run through until you get a nice uniform piece.  When you get a nice piece start rolling it through thinner settings until you get to the second smallest setting, or smallest, depending on your preference.

IMG_3033Cut your long piece in half.  This is totally optional, I do it because my pasta machine is terrible at cutting the noodles so the longer they are the more of a pain it is for me to separate them.

Dust with more flour and run it through your choice of noodle.  I always use my linguine cutter again because I have to separate all my noodles after they have been cut and that takes twice as long on the spaghetti cutter.

Repeat steps with all the dough.

This is also where I get help.  Lots of help.  Three kids fighting over who gets to help in fact!

IMG_3037 IMG_3034

IMG_3035The next step is optional.  I like to hang my noodles partly because I freeze half of them and partly because I find if they dry for a half hour or so they just come out a nicer texture.  You can however cut and boil your noodles right away.  If you don’t hang them, flour them liberally as you continue to cut the rest or you’ll get a big pile of noodles all stuck together.

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I use my laundry rack to dry my noodles.  And yes I wash it before and after!IMG_3042It looks like a lot of noodles but this is barely enough for two meals for my family.

Once your noodles have hung for a bit get a big pot of salted water boiling.  Add your noodles and cook for about 5-7 minutes.  I’ve never actually timed it I just keep sneaking noodles and trying them until they are ready.

Drain and serve any way you like!

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Beet Pasta

3 eggs, room temperature

3-4 cups all purpose flour

1/2 cup beet puree

Combine eggs, 3 cups of flour, and beet puree into a stand mixer.  Mix with the dough hook until well combined.  Continue to add flour until you get a smooth, elastic, and not sticky dough.  Let rest for at least half an hour.  Roll out and cut.  Boil in salted water for 5-7 minutes.

Making Baby Cereal

June 29, 2013 059

My littlest dude is eight months. Already.  This means that he’s been on solid food for a couple of months already.  I made a decision when I was still pregnant with him to try to completely avoid processed food and formula for him.  At first I thought it would be a little difficult when it came to baby cereal but it turns out it was extremely easy.  I mostly fed him oatmeal cereal at the start and then quickly switched to regular cooked oatmeal when I decided to do Baby Led Weaning with him.

 

June 29, 2013 054

It’s really easy to make baby oatmeal.  All you have to do is dump a couple of cups of instant oats in a blender or food processor and blend!  I then put it in a mason jar and stored it in the fridge.  When it came time to make Lachlan cereal I put a couple of spoon fulls in a bowl and poured boiling water over top, whisking as I poured.  It starts out looking like it will be really lumpy but once it cooks a bit and you whisk it with a fork it smooths out.June 29, 2013 055 June 29, 2013 058The only other baby cereal I made was rice cereal.  I bought heritage grain short rice and cooked up a pot of it.  Then I blended it and poured it into ice cube trays and froze them.  Then I just pulled out a cube or two whenever I needed one.  If you avoid using the microwave you have to remember to pull it out ahead of time to let it defrost then add a bit of boiling water to warm it up.

Have you made baby cereal before? How did you do it?

Granola, In Bulk.

May 25, 2013 011

 

I’ve posted about Granola before but I’ve changed up my recipe a bit and make it in much larger batches now.  We’ve switched over completely to Granola and Oatmeal for breakfasts which means we don’t buy any cereal at all anymore.  This means I’m making much larger batches as we go through so much more.  My kids eat 2-3 bowls a morning. Ouch.  Help me once they are teenagers.

May 25, 2013 010

 

My favorite thing about this recipe is how versatile it is. I change the dry ingredients up based on what I have in my pantry and what happens to sound good as I’m making it.  As long as I keep the dry ingredients to wet ingredients ratio about the same it always turns out.

 

May 25, 2013 014

Bulk Granola

16 cups quick oats
3-4 cups ground flax
1 cup oat bran
2-3 cups sliced almonds or other nuts
1 cup canola oil
1 cup maple syrup
1 cup honey
4 tsp. vanilla

Directions:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees
Mix together all your dry ingredients in a large bowl.
In a saucepan heat up your oil, syrup, honey, and vanilla until it just starts to boil.
Pour your wet ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir until fully combined, breaking up any clumps as you go.
Spread granola over cookie sheets, no more than 1/2 inch thick and bake for 13-15 minutes or until golden brown.
Let cool then remove from pan and store in an airtight container.

 

 

 

Sparkly Jello Playdough!

 

 

Playdough has become a good friend of mine.  My kids will play with it for up to 2 hours some days and it gives me a chance to feed my little dude and get a few other things done while they are happily entertained.

I’ve always made my own playdough but my old recipe used a lot of cream of tartar which is really expensive so I didn’t make it all that often.  I while ago I started seeing Jello Playdough around the web and it used less cream of tartar so I thought I would give it a try.  I love the playdough and the Jello makes it smell nice and gives it a really great smooth texture.  To make things even more fun for the kids I’ve added sparkles.

Here’s my recipe!

Sparkly Jello Playdough

1 1/4 cup flour
1 pkg of jello
2 tbsp salt
2 tbsp cream of tartar
2 tbsp canola oil
1 cup warm water
2 tbsp (more or less) of sparkles

Wisk together the flour, jello, salt, and cream of tartar in a sauce pan.  Add in water and oil and wisk until smooth over medium low heat.  Add in the sparkles while the playdough is still more or less liquid.  Cook, stirring constantly until the dough forms together.  It will still be slightly sticky still.

Spoon dough onto a floured counter and once it is cool enough to handle knead in more flour until the dough is no longer sticky.  If you’re kids are messy (like mine!) you may want to add in enough flour to make it a bit more firm so it doesn’t stick to their clothes or anything else.

Store in a sealed container or ziploc bag in the fridge!

Flour Tortillas – A Recipe

Most of you know I’m always on the hunt for making the kinds of food you always assume just can’t be done.  A while ago I knew I had to try making my own flour tortillas after I actually looked at the ingredients listing on a package I bought.  What I didn’t expect was just how much better homemade tortillas really are.  There’s no comparison and every time I feel as though they are just too much work to make I remember how good they really are and it’s always worth it.

Tortillas aren’t hard to make at all, just time consuming.  You’ve got to make the dough, then seperate it into balls, roll those out nice and flat and somewhat round, then fry them.  It just takes time so taco night has gone from being one of those last minute throw together meals to something I actually have to plan ahead.

I’ve also started making my own taco spice.  Have you done that? So easy, so quick, and so much cheaper than buying taco mix from the grocery store.  Then there is also the bonus of you knowing exactly what is in your tacos.

In case I’ve actually now convinced you to give making your own tortillas a try, here’s my recipe.

Flour Tortillas

2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 cup canola oil
1 tsp salt
2/3 cup warm water

Mix together flour and salt in a stand mixer using the dough hook.  Slowly pour in water and oil and knead until a soft dough forms.  Knead with your hands for another couple of minutes then split the dough into 8 equal pieces.  Roll those pieces into balls and place them under plastic wrap.

Heat a cast iron fry pan to medium heat.  Don’t add any oil to the pan.  Roll out one ball of dough until you have a thin somewhat round tortilla.  Transfer to the fry pan and cook until one side is just starting to brown and bubble.  Flip it over and cook for another 20 seconds or so, again until that side is just starting to brown and bubble as well.

Transfer the cooked tortilla to a plate lined with a tea towel.  Place another plate, upside down, on top of the tortilla forming a lid.  You don’t want the tortillas to get soggy but you do want them to stay moist.

Repeat for the remaining tortillas and fill them up with whatever you want!

*Note: for my family of 6 (5 who actually eat dinner) I double the recipe and have a few tortillas left over for the next day.  The kids love them rolled up with cream cheese or peanut butter.

Freezing Spinach

A few months ago I found out that you could buy spinach frozen in little cubes which I thought was brilliant.  That led to me thinking “I could do that!”  Thankfully we’ve had an abundance of spinach this spring so I’ve had to resort to freezing some a couple times already.  It’s really easy, quick, and seriously so handy.

Unfortunately I didn’t take any step by step pictures when I froze some last but really it’s so simple you don’t need them.
Here’s what you do:
Wash your spinach.
Drain the water out well and puree it in a blender or food processor
Scoop it into ice cube trays, tamp them down a couple of times to get air bubbles out.
Freeze them!
Once the spinach is totally frozen pop them out and put them in a freezer safe container.
One or two cubes is seriously close to a huge bowl full of spinach so adding a couple of cubes to your dinner packs a lot of spinach punch.  I also add these to smoothies, 2-3 cubes doesn’t change the taste or texture at all and adds a lot of nutrients.

The salad greens in our cold frames are, in a word, flourishing.  We have more than enough spinach to eat every day and things like arugula, radishes, and carrots are all peeking their heads up, some with more bravery than others.
this cold frame was seeded just last month!
Among the spinach we had some open space which was quickly taken over by the fast growing chick weed.  Chick weed takes over just about everything so it had to come out but why just compost it?  Instead I turned it into chick weed pasta!  It was even better than I expected.

pasta all rolled out and ready to be cut

chick weed linguine!

Supper last night turned out to be a join affair, I made the noodles while Travis bbq’d then fried up some of his home made sausage.  Trav also made up a tasty alfredo sauce and added in some more chopped chick weed and some spinach.

It was good.  More than good.

I got the basic recipe for the noodles from Hunter Angler Gardener Cook.  He did a post a while back on Nettle Pasta so I just substituted the nettles for chick weed.  His nettle pasta recipe can be found here.

The only thing I will do differently next time is to at least double the amount of chick weed, or other greens than I used.  I want my noodles to be ridiculously green, just for fun.

Cultured Butter

I’ve been making my own butter for a couple of months now.  It’s cheaper and I know for a fact there’s not margarine or color added to it, which is a big bonus.
About a week ago I decided to try my hand at making Cultured Butter and I’m pretty sure I’ll never go back. Seriously, I could get fat off of this stuff!  It’s pretty easy to do, all you need is time.
I make a pretty big batch at a time, but you can definitely cut the recipe in half.
1 litre heavy cream (35% whipping cream) 
6 tbsp plain yoghurt
1 tsp salt (optional)

Pour your heavy cream into a bowl and add 6 tbsp of yogurt. Mix well.  Put a lid on it, or cover it with plastic wrap and place it in a warm spot for 12 hours.  I usually start it just before I go to bed and finish it up in the morning.

12 hours later it doesn’t really look any different but it smells a lot like yoghurt!

Pour the cultured cream into a stand mixer, and mix with a beater on med-high until you get thick cream.

Once the cream is really thick, switch to your paddle attachment.
At this point it’s a really good idea to wrap plastic wrap all the way around your bowl and arm of the stand mixture.  When the butter and milk start to separate it will really splash and slosh around.
I find that this whole process takes less than 5 minutes but it really varies on how fast you are beating the cream. When you notice that the milk and butter have totally separated, the milk will be slopping around and splashing a lot, then you’re ready to stop the mixer and strain the butter.

milk and butter separated
Scoop out all the butter and strain it.

Now you’re going to wash the butter.  Put it in a bowl and pour some cold water over it.  Drain the water and repeat until the water runs clean.

Put your butter on a non stick surface or some sort and knead it until you get all the liquid out.

Add 1 tsp of salt and knead it in until it’s well combined.  You can do more or less salt, or none at all depending on your taste.

 Put your butter into a glass or plastic container and store it in the fridge, a butter crock, or freeze it.  Save the milk for baking or pancakes or whatever!  It’s not true buttermilk but it works great as a substitute and because it’s been cultured it actually tastes a bit similar.

And there you have it! Cultured Butter and “Buttermilk” for less than the price of just store bought butter!