Friday, September 30, 2011

Freezing Tomatoes

Freezing tomatoes is very simple. I freeze them a little at a time as I pick them from the garden. Eventually, I finally have enough to make soup, pasta sauce, or salsa.

First, wash the tomato and then cut the stem out.

Place in a freezer bag and freeze. Add more tomatoes to your bag as they ripen. When you are ready to use them, rinse them in cold water and the skin will slip right off. You can them chop and cook or process as desired. A quick and almost effortless way to preserve your garden bounty.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Tuna Noodle Supreme

We love the Creamy Broccoli Tuna Helper around here. I wanted to come up with a similar "from scratch" recipe that could be healthier for us. Here is what I came up with. It is simple and almost as quick as the boxed mix. The leftovers freeze well so double the batch if you'd like and save one casserole for another day.

Drop the dried peppers and onions in the water you will boil the pasta in. Add the pasta when the water begins to boil. Cook until tender.

Meanwhile, mix the sauce ingredients together.

Mix the frozen broccoli, noodles and sauce mix together in a glass bowl or casserole dish. Microwave until heated through. Enjoy!

Tuna Noodle Supreme

2 cups small shell pasta
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
¼ cup dehydrated green peppers
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2–3 Tbsp dried, minced onion
2 cups frozen, chopped broccoli
2 cups plain yogurt
1 (5 oz) can tuna, drained
½ cup mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook noodles, dehydrated green peppers, and dried, minced onion in boiling water until noodles are tender. Drain. Meanwhile, stir all remaining ingredients together in a large glass bowl or casserole dish. Mix noodles with the sauce, cover and heat in the microwave until warmed through.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Debt is a form of bondage

No man is truly free who is in financial bondage. ‘Think what you do when you run in debt,' said Benjamin Franklin, 'you give another power over your liberty.'
~~~~ President Ezra T. Benson

Friday, September 23, 2011

Pumpkin Waffle Mix

We have a new favorite mix - inspired by the change in the weather and our family's love of anything pumpkin. I created this recipe the other morning and we loved them! Even reheated this morning from the freezer, they were great. I will be making a few mixes of these to keep in the pantry with my other muffin and waffle mixes.

In our waffle iron, it took 4 minutes to have them come out nice and golden. I used frozen pumpkin which doesn't have as orange of a color as the canned pumpkin so yours my be more of a pumpkin color. When cooking them, allow them to cool on a wire rack, this helps the bottom ones not get soggy. I cooked up a bunch when my older daughter was ready for breakfast. She leaves an hour ahead of my younger boys. I just left them cooling on the counter.

When my boys were ready to eat, we just warmed them in the toaster - delicious!

I bagged up the 4 that were left to freeze for my husband to eat for breakfast another day. He leaves way early for work and usually takes breakfast with him. He popped them in the toaster this morning and shared with me how much he loved them - he agreed I should keep mixes for them in the pantry. 

Give them a try - they just may become a new family favorite for you too.

Pumpkin Waffle Mix

For the mix, place the following dry ingredients in a ziplock bag.
2 cups whole wheat flour (I used hard white wheat flour)
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
4 1/2 Tbsp dry milk powder
Use a sharpie pen to write the wet ingredients on the bag so you can quickly add them when you are ready to make.
1 1/2 cups water
1 egg
1/4 cup oil
3/4 cup canned or frozen pumpkin

To make: Pour your mix into a bowl and add the wet ingredients. Mix until all lumps are gone. I used a wire whisk to help it go faster. Cook in a heated waffle iron that you have greased well. You may need to add a little more water depending on how thick your pumpkin is. This made about 10 waffle squares. With the whole wheat flour they are very filling so this was enough for my crew.


Variations: I haven't actually tried any of these yet (I didn't want to wait to share the recipe though since it is so good!) but from experience with other recipes these should all work.

Think about the consistency of canned pumpkin, anything with that consistency will work fine in this recipe.
Mashed sweet potato
Mashed butternut, acorn, hubbard, or banana squash
Mashed bananas

Just substitute it straight across for the pumpkin or do 1/2 and 1/2 if you want to. They will all taste great!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Creamy Italian Chicken

This is one of the meals I make that everyone seems to love! If they only knew how simple it is. Below you will find the recipe and instructions for making this using precooked chicken. Here I will take you through the steps if you are using frozen raw chicken.

I like to use the flash frozen chicken breasts for this if I don't have precooked chicken. They are always thinner and cook more quickly. Put 3-4 frozen chicken breasts in your crockpot.

Sprinkle one packet of Italian salad dressing mix over the chicken. I keep some of these packets in my pantry all the time so I can make this dish whenever.

Cover the crockpot and cook on high for 2-3 hours - until the chicken is almost cooked.

Whisk together the chicken soup, plain yogurt, and dehydrated celery, if desired.

Pour over the chicken and cook an additional hour. Uncover the final 30 minutes to allow the sauce to thicken a little if you'd like. Serve over cooked rice or egg noodles.

Creamy Italian Chicken
1–2 lbs chicken, cooked and cubed
1 pkg dry Italian Salad dressing mix
2 cans cream of chicken soup
1 ½ cups plain yogurt
1/3 cup dehydrated celery
Cooked rice or pasta

Mix soup, yogurt, salad dressing packet and celery together. Place chicken in a casserole dish or crockpot. You can also heat this in a pan on the stove or in the microwave. Cover chicken with soup mixture and heat through, stirring occasionally. On the stove top or in the microwave it takes 10 minutes or less. In the oven, cover with foil and bake at 325° F for 30–45 minutes. In the crockpot, cook on low for 3–4 hours or on high for 1–2 hours. Stir a few times while it is heating in the crockpot to prevent it from getting overdone on the sides and bottom. Serve over rice or pasta. This casserole freezes well. Thaw and then bake as above.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Chunky Cinnamon Applesauce

Apple season isn't over for us until I have made some of this delicious chunky applesauce. It is so yummy straight from the bottle! We love to serve it over waffles for breakfast. It is also delicious served warm with a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream for dessert. I love having a couple dozen of these bottles in my storage every year.

Begin by peeling your apples. Be sure to use an apple variety that will hold its shape after cooking. Some varieties are really only good for making sauce once they are cooked. My dad has red and golden delicious trees so I usually make this chunky sauce out of the apples we pick at his house. But many other varieties would work also.

Core and chop your apples.

Put the chopped apples in a pan of water. You want to keep the apples covered with water so they don't turn brown.

Drop a few vitamin C tablets in the water and let them dissolve. This also helps in keeping the apples from turning brown. You could use Fruit Fresh instead, but it is a lot more expensive and it never hurts to have extra vitamin C in our diet.

Once your pot is full, turn on high and bring to a boil. Cook until the apples are soft.

Drain, but reserve the juice so you can add some back if needed.

You'll add cinnamon, vanilla, and sugar to taste. I usually add about 1 tsp vanilla to a large pot and about the same amount of cinnamon. I then add sugar and taste.

Mix everything together with a potato masher. Mash some of the apples, but leave it chunky.

Here's my finished pot. I didn't add any juice back to this batch. The consistency was just right. Save the juice and let it cool down. My kids love to drink it.

Ladle into jars. Each pot only does 3-4 quarts. I store my bottles in the fridge and work on this project over a few days time until I have enough to fill my cooker.

Process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes. Adjust for altitude if necessary.

Chunky Applesauce

Vitamin C

Fill a large pan half full with water. Dissolve 3–4 vitamin C tablets into the water (or use Fruit Fresh to keep apples a light color.) Peel and chop your apples. (Choose a good cooking variety that will hold its shape when cooked. My parents have red and golden delicious trees so I usually use these varieties.) Add to the water. Make sure your apples stay covered with water. Bring to a boil. Simmer a few minutes until apples are tender. Remove from heat and drain most of the liquid off into another pan. I reserve the liquid to use with another batch of apples or to add a little back to my batch to get the right consistency. Mash warm apples just a bit with a potato masher. Add a little juice back in with apples, if needed to obtain the desired consistency. Sweeten to taste with sugar and cinnamon and just a touch of vanilla. Ladle into warm jars and process quarts for 20 minutes. Adjust time for elevation as needed.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Annual Applesauce Making Day

Applesauce is a family affair every year. My parents have apple trees so those of us who live close get together to pick and process the apples. The pictures that follow share just a glimpse of what went on here a couple of Saturdays ago. I think I am still recovering from being so exhausted!

Here my mom is washing the apples and cutting them in half.

We then put them in our steam juicers. This is the step that takes the longest so we pool all our equipment together. We've also learned to cook on our camp stoves to keep the heat outside. You can cook your apples covered with water until they are soft, but this waters down the juice. Using a steam juicer keeps the juice pure and more flavorful. We add a certain amount of juice back into the sauce, but never all of it.

Sarah and Emma are putting the cooked apples through the strainer which spits the peels and seeds out one side and the sauce comes out free on them.

Ben is scooping the sauce into the jars. We add sugar to taste and pour enough juice back in to make it the consistency we like. The kids all look forward to this day. They all like to help a little, but they mostly like knowing they get to spend the entire day with cousins.

Here's another shot of Sarah and Emma. This was Emma's first year to help.

We rotated and took turns manning the different stations.

For some of the sauce, we used kool-aid powder to flavor and color it. All the kids love it! Once we have a dozen jars full, the processing begins.

By the time our 12 hour day was done, we had processed 19 dozen jars - that equals 228 quarts! It was a new family record!

Monday, September 12, 2011

Generators and Fuel Storage

I started posting a comment in response to Jessica's questions on the Defrosting Freezer post here and decided the topic merited a post of its own. My camera is MIA right now or else I would have posted a few photos of what we have.

Generators - We went for the large potable Troy Built one that we could get locally. We waited until we had a 10% off coupon for the store and used it to save us some money. We researched sizes and capacities and decided if we really did have a big power outage we would be grateful to have a generator that could handle more items. We could run our freezer, fridge, and even our microwave off our generator at the same time.

Fuel Storage - We have a couple of 5 gallon gas cans that we keep in the garage along the outside wall as far from the house as we can. It would be better if we had a shed, but we don't yet have that at this house. We also never let our gas tanks in our vehicles get below half full so we could siphon the gas out if needed. This is really the safest bet for longer term storage. It is constantly being rotated and is always available.

To keep a freezer cold, keep the door shut and then run a generator 1 hour in every 4 hours. The frozen food in the freezer will last quite some time without even running the generator especially in the winter months when we are more apt to have a longer power outage due to a severe winter storm. I can't remember for sure how long 1 gallon of gas is supposed to keep a generator going. It seems like it is either 3 or 5 hours. If it is 3 hours then 5 gallons of gas will give me 15 hours of usage which will actually allow me to do the one hour on, 3 hours off cycle for 60 hours. So 10 gallons would give me 120 hours. With our gas cans and our vehicles we have more than 30 gallons so we could last quite some time.

Hope this helps -

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Defrosting the Freezer

Once a year, every summer, I learn just what I have stored in our big freezer. I have a pretty good idea since I am constantly rotating items, but when it comes time to defrost the freezer, I find everything that may be hiding. This summer the ice had built up quite a bit since my kids left the freezer open a couple of times after getting popsicles out. Thankfully, I do end up in my freezer a few times a day so it didn't go very long before being discovered.

The first big task requires turning the freezer off and then emptying it out.

We filled our coolers first, and then filled every laundry basket.

As the ice begins to soften, I've learned to scrape at it a bit with a spatula.

My kids love making snowballs in the summer and my neighbors get a kick out of watching their snowball fight in 90+ degree weather. (I've learned you have to make work fun!)

To speed up the process a bit, I pour hot water over the built up ice.

We are making good progress!

After clearing out all the ice, I dry it well with a towel.

Then we restock the shelves! Order has returned to our little part of the universe! From start to finish, it took us just over an hour. The other great thing is that I only had to throw 2 items away because they had gotten lost in the corners and were too old and freezer burned.

A full freezer allows me to sleep better at night because I know our family will be taken care of for quite a while. Hopefully, these pictures inspire you to stock up and count your freezer as part of your food storage. (We do have a generator and fuel to help us get through a longer power outage.)

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Flavored Applesauce Fruit Rolls

Here's a fruit roll variety you can make any time of year.

Just choose any flavor of kool-aid or jello and mix it with applesauce.

Sweeten the mixture with honey or corn syrup. Using sugar will make the fruit roll brittle.

Here is the applesauce with the kool-aid powder sprinkled over the top. Depending on how much applesauce you are using, you may not need the whole packet of drink mix.

Pour in honey to taste.

Spray fruit roll trays with oil.

Spread the applesauce mixture out as evenly and thinly as possible.

Dry for 7-8 hours at 130 degrees.

When it is done, it will not feel sticky.

Peel it up and place on plastic wrap.

Roll up to store.

Place rolls in a ziplock bag or air tight container and store for 1 year or more if you can hide them from the kids that long.

For more detailed instructions check out my post on making apricot fruit rolls here.