Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Beef Stew

I know I have been sharing a lot of canning recipes lately, but it is that time of year! I have been watching the weekly grocery store ads to see what meats are on sale and then trying to combine those sale items with in season items to plan my canning projects. I have a couple of goals in mind with this plan one of which is lowering my overall food costs. The other goal is to have a pantry full of foods that that have the convenience of processed foods, but that are better for me.

I love soups and like to have several kinds on hand. I have even been known to occasionally eat soup even for breakfast. Beef stew is a favorite and when I got my pressure cooker last fall, this was one of the first recipes I looked for. This recipe came from the Ball Book.

Lots of vegetables to chop:

I ended up with a 21 jars of soup, mostly pints, and a few quarts. I have found that the pint jars are perfect for single servings and are perfect to grab for lunches (or breakfasts) while the quarts make a great quick dinner for the both of us. I will serve with some homemade bread for a hearty dinner.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Tomato Skins

Waste not, want not, right? When I made my wing sauce last week, I had this lovely bowl of tomato skins left over and decided to dehydrate them and make tomato powder.

Loaded up ready for the dehydrator:

After drying for several hours:

After they were thoroughly dried, I put them in a blender and pureed the dry skins. Here is the powder that I ended up with:

What to do with tomato powder? I plan to add it in my dough the next time I make pasta. I stirred in some when I made ranch dressing the other day, just for a little change. The next time I make pita bread I might try it out in there. 

I love the fact that I was able to use something that would have just been tossed in the compost bin and made something that I can use in my cooking.

Tomato skins are pretty lightweight and when I removed the trays from my dehydrator I found some dry skins that had blown off the trays! 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Grape Vines, Memories and my Weekly CSA Box

For the past two weeks in my CSA box I have received some concord grapes. There are many foods that just taste like summer to me. Ice cold watermelon takes me back to my grandparents front yard under the big tree, a perfectly ripe peach or nectarine reminds me of my Dad, pulling out his pocket knife cutting off pieces to share with me. I could go on and on describing the taste of summer and the memories that are tied to those foods.

 Nothing however takes me back to my childhood summers quicker than a perfectly ripe, perfectly purple, concord grape. 

My Great-Grandmother had a grape vine and grew these at her house. My Uncle parked his boat beside that vine and my sister and I spend hours playing in that boat every summer reaching over the side of the boat and eating grapes. The vine grew up and over a post for easier picking and my sister and I spent a lot of time playing under there too, eating grapes and enjoying the shade provided by the vine.

Even though the vine was at my Great Grandmother's house and I shared grapes with many family members, and watched my Mom make grape jelly with those grapes, that taste reminds me of my sister more than anyone else.

A couple of years ago, my sister had gotten a cutting off of the vine and planted it at her house. Last year she had a great crop and I was in town when they were ready to be picked. It was fun picking grapes with her and her son, picking grapes off a vine that dates back to our childhood and probably even before our lives even had even begun. I don't know when the vine was originally planted.

Do you have any food memories that say summer to you?

On to the CSA box! This week we received corn, tomatoes, mini peppers, squash, cucumbers, potatoes, some cilantro, an onion and more of those delicious grapes. We also got a watermelon that I forgot to include in the picture.

I have said it before, but I am so glad with my choice of CSA providers. I love the variety of foods and everything has been so tasty. One thing that I have especially enjoyed is that occasionally we get a bag with some things grouped together to make something specific. This week it was a "salsa" kit and we have everything in there to make a batch of salsa. I am a huge fan of cilantro and like lots of it in my salsa.

Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wing Sauce

Last week I found myself with quite a few tomatoes that needed to be used soon. I didn't have enough to make a batch of spaghetti sauce, so I thumbed through my Ball book looking for a recipe that called for a smaller amount of tomatoes. I found the recipe for  Chicken Wing Sauce, and it was perfect since I had all the ingredients, I had enough of the right size jars and I love chicken wings!

After simmering all the ingredients for a while, I transferred it to the blender to puree the mixture.

I always forget how hot something like this is when it goes in the blender and it splashes up and burns the palm of my hand! I was quickly reminded of why I almost always use the immersion blender and blend it in the pot. I  don't burn myself with it and there are fewer dishes to wash, and I am all about not washing  dishes.

After pureeing, it still had to cook down for another hour or so before I could can it.

The instructions in the recipe stated you could add more hot sauce if you wanted more heat. I left this one a little on the mild size since I can always add more hot sauce when I open the jars, leaving it a little milder makes it a little more versatile. 

Kip wanted to know if I was planning to make a lot of wings in the near future. Everyone else that knows how much I can always asks the same thing too--how do I use all of my canned goods? I try and can a lot of basics that I can use in different ways. There will be chicken wings in the future, but this also makes a great marinade for almost any meat. A tablespoon or so added into a salad dressing is a nice touch and it also makes a great Buffalo Chicken Dip.

For a quick dinner last night, I cooked some chicken breasts, added the wing sauce after the chicken was fully cooked and let it simmer in the sauce for a couple of minutes. I removed the sauce from the heat and sliced it pretty thin and laid it on a bed of lettuce with some blue cheese crumbles and served with bleu cheese dressing. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Garden Update

I thought I would give you a little update of my gardening attempts. We have been lucky enough to get a lot of  rain this summer so everything is  growing pretty lush.  The flip side of that though is that not a lot of my stuff has had enough sun to ripen very much. The pictures above and below show the raised bed that Kip built me for  my birthday and the fencing that my Dad added to act as a trellis for the beans and cucumbers. 

I have tomatoes in the front of the box and they are growing very well. Actually, I don't think I have ever had such big plants. I have had to re-stake these because the stakes that I had used for the past couple of years couldn't support the plants. They were just falling over almost as soon as I would stake them.  The new ones are much longer and I used some ties to anchor them better. 

These are a small cherry tomato and the first ones are just starting to ripen.

 My cucumber plants  are still blooming.  I love the little yellow  blossoms. 

A new cucumber, just starting to grow. It is a little less than an inch long here.

I love having my morning coffee sitting outside on the back patio looking out over my garden and yard. Even though we live in a neighborhood off of a main street, the backyard is still pretty peaceful. I love watching all the birds that visit, the bees and the butterflies too.  I can't name all the birds that come by, but I do recognize that I have several different kinds. After visiting with my grandparents a couple of weeks ago, and sitting on their porch watching all the birds that come to their bird feeders, I decided to set up an area in my yard too.  

Friday, August 16, 2013

CSA Basket

Good Morning! In my CSA share this week, I received some grapes, tomatoes, cucumbers, a couple of jalapeno peppers, potatoes, purple hull peas, a long yellow pepper, squash and some beautiful  corn. I am still very happy with the decision I made in changing CSAs. Everything has been so good and I love the variety of foods that I am getting. I am not overrun with any one particular vegetable and it is  easier to incorporate all the veggies into my meal plan without feeling like we are eating the same thing every day.

I have had a pretty busy summer! I thought once my job ended that I would be sitting home bored all day but that hasn't been the case at all. The timing really worked out for me and has  allowed me to get to all of the canning projects I have wanted to do. My shelves are getting stocked for the winter and that makes me really happy. 

Have a great weekend!