Gardening 101:Tomatoes

Growing food is a skill I would really like to have. If I could choose one thing to plant it would be tomatoes. Home grown tomatoes are so good,  pico de gallo, marinara, and BLT's are among my favorite foods. So after doing a little bit of research here's how to do it. I plan on doing this and will be sure to update this post with insights and results.


If you have space indoors you can start a seed on a sunny window during February to no later than April. I however intend to purchase a tomato plant (you should plan for 2 plants for each tomato member eating family member..more if you plan on canning) and planting in April.


Step 1: Cover the ground where you plan on planting for a few days to get it nice and warm. Purchase a tomatoes plant and begin the process of  transplanting it into your garden (containers work too-as pictured above). Good first-time growers’ varieties include Better Boy, Creole, Big Boy, Early Girl, Brandywine, Celebrity, Lemon Boy, or just about any cherry or grape tomato variety.

Plant several varieties

 Step 2: Place the plants in a sunny spot with at least 7 hours of direct sunlight. Warm sunshine will ensure the best taste.


Step 3: Prepare the garden bed by adding lots of compost (5 to 8 pounds per square foot) to the soil. Turn compost into the top 3 inches. Tomatoes need a growing medium rich in organic matter.You can use store-bought compost or composted manure available in the 40-pound bags. Apparently this is very inexpensive.

Step 4: Plant them deeply. About 75% in. It's even ok to bury some of the leaves. It all works out I've been assured.

Step 5: Give each plan about 1 gallon of warm water within 10 minutes of transplanting to avoid shock. (about 80 degree water)

Step 6: Space then 18 to 36 inches apart (less in warmer climates)

Step 7: Continue to water about 16 ounces of warm water per plant every day for the first 7 to 10 days after transplanting.

Step 8: Wait a week or two after transplanting,and then place a mulch of straw, dried grass, or pine needles to control weeds and keep the soil moist during dry weather. The mulch should be about an inch thick and surround at least a circle 12 inches in diameter around the stem. Pine needles are especially good for helping raise the acidity of the soil.

Step 9: Ensure that plants are receiving 1 to 3 inches of rain weekly. If not, give each plant about 2 gallons per plant per week, beginning 14 days after transplanting. The tomato plant should be watered 2 to 3 times weekly (so, water each plant with about .75 to 1 gallon each time ). In hot or dry weather you can water even more frequently with larger volumes.

Step 10: Consider using a tomato cage or a stake to support the tomato vine about 14 days after transplanting.

 Step 11: Choose whether to use chemical fertilizers. If the soil is enriched with organic matter Tomatoes can grow very well organically. If you do use chemical fertilizers, try using half the recommended concentration per gallon (using package directions), but fertilize twice as often, in order to avoid the stress caused by the feast-famine of the longer fertilization gaps.(watch out for over fertilization it can make plants more susceptible to disease and insects...usually the overuse of fertilizer causes more leaves than fruit.

Step 12: Shake your plants gently once or twice each week for about 5 seconds once flowering begins. Shaking the tomato plant increases fruit production by more evenly distributing pollen. Who knew!

Step 13: Watch for fruit to appear 45 to 90 days after transplanting. Tomato plants usually have small, green fruit to start. Wait until the fruit is of good size with a bright, deep coloring. This means that the fruit is ripe and ready to pick. Ripeness is usually determined by a slight softness. Be careful not to squeeze too hard and bruise the fruit. Also, be careful of allowing it to become overly ripe, which results in a very soft tomato.

Information and lots more found here

Then proceed to make these delicious recipes

Barley..it's what's for dinner

I have been uninspired by most of my recipes lately as  my son who has a  scary food allergy (nuts), was diagnosed with some super annoying new ones. We're trying some experimental diets (that include things that he has (justifiably) said taste like air. My plan is to add things back one by one to find his major triggers. Among the many things he "shouldn't" have are wheat. (any good gluten, flour, sugar, milk, cheese, sugar, grapes, banana, soy, garlic, chocolate free recipes are welcome--by the way)

Barley, like what contains gluten so this would be a no-no..we're trying it anyway though. Barley is a cereal grain with a pasta like consistency. It's a good source of fiber and it's good in soups and stews. This recipe looks delicious.
Basil Beef and Barley Soup

Ingredients

  • 1  lb.  boneless sirloin steak
  • 1/4  cup  all-purpose flour
  • 1  Tbsp.  dried basil, crushed
  • 1  Tbsp.  vegetable oil
  • 1  cup  quick-cooking barley
  • 1  14.5-oz. can  diced tomatoes with basil, garlic, and oregano
  • 1  cup  packaged peeled fresh baby carrots, bias sliced
  • 1  cup  lower-sodium beef broth
  •     Small fresh basil leaves (optional)

Directions

1. Cut steak into 1/2-inch pieces. In shallow dish combine flour, basil, 1/2 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. black pepper; add meat and toss to coat.
2. In 4-to 5-quart Dutch oven, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add meat; cook until browned on all sides. Stir in any remaining flour mixture. Stir in barley, tomatoes (do not drain), carrots, beef broth and 3 cups water. Bring to a boiling; reduce heat. Cover and simmer 10 minutes.
3. Ladle into bowls and top with fresh basil. Makes 4 servings.

Storing Barley:


Hulled Barley- should be kept away from light, heat, and moisture, it will stay fresh for several months. It should be stored, refrigerated, in an airtight container. 

Pearled barley- can be kept at room temperature for a longer time since most of the oils which could go rancid have already been removed. 

Barley should be tightly sealed, either in a tightly covered jar or in a sealable plastic bag. If you purchase in bulk, transfer the barley to a tightly sealed storage container when you get home. If you purchased pre-packaged barley, transfer after you first open the package. 

In warm weather, store barley in the refrigerator; freeze for longer storage. 

Storing info found here.

Yummy Pasta Carbonara

This is easy and delicious. My kids LOVE this dish.

Pasta Carbonara (adapted from Nordstrom Cookbook)

Ingredients:
1 T. Kosher salt, plus salt to taste
1 pound of Pasta ( I use farfalle)
1/2 pound high-quality, thick-cut bacon, coarsely chopped
1 yellow onion chopped
1/2 pound button mushrooms, stems trimmed and sliced 1/4 inch thick (I have ommitted these no big deal)
2 cups heavy (whipping) cream
1/4 cup (1 ounce) crumbled blue cheese
3/4 cup (3 ounces) freshly grated Parmesan cheese, preferably parmigiano-reggiano
1 cup frozen peas, thawed
2 large egg yolks
Freshly ground black pepper


Cook your pasta (al dente)and while it's cooking
Sautee bacon, until most of the fat has been rendered and the bacon is crisp (6-8 minutes)
Drain all but 3 tablespoons of the bacon fat
Add the onion and mushrooms and cook stirring constantly until the onion is soft (about 4 minutes)
Add the cream, bring to a simmer, and cook until the sauce begins to thicken (about 4 minutes)
Add the blue cheese and half of the parmesan cheese and stir to combine
Add the peas, stir, and then remove from the heat.
Place egg yolks in the center of the sauce and stir in rapidly, not allowing the egg yolk to cook before combining with the sauce


Toss sauce with pasta and season with salt and pepper to taste...add remaining cheese to individual plates as garnish. 



This is seriously delicious. Enjoy!



Valentine's Day Ideas

There are some great Valentines ideas out in blogland..allow me to round some up for you.

Kids Classroom Valentines Ideas (Last year we (copied of course) bought big bright bouncy balls and put them in clear cellophane.. i printed cards that said have a Ball this Valentine's day. I cut them the same width as the bag and stapled them on (as in the idea below) They were a hit!)


This idea and more found here

Valentines Craft Ideas

The two above are my favorites..Courtesy of this lovely blog.
Valentine's Recipes
What a sweet idea for Valentine's breakfast. Go here for details.


Maybe the prettiest Valentine's Cookies I've ever seen. Check them out here.

Stay tuned for a fabulous Valentine's dinner recipe. And while you're at it---write little love notes each day to the ones you love starting today.

Back to Basics: How to Roast a Chicken


Once I learned to do this, I never. Ever, bought another Costco chicken again--and i hold Costco chicken in high regard. This is truly the yummiest recipe I've found--and wanna know a secret. I don't even use carrots, or fennel..it's foolproof.

Ingredients

  • 1 (5 to 6 pound) roasting chicken
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large bunch fresh thyme, plus 20 sprigs
  • 1 lemon, halved
  • 1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter, melted
  • 1 large yellow onion, thickly sliced
  • 4 carrots cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 1 bulb of fennel, tops removed, and cut into wedges
  • Olive oil

Directions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
Remove the chicken giblets. Rinse the chicken inside and out. Remove any excess fat and leftover pin feathers and pat the outside dry. Liberally salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Stuff the cavity with the bunch of thyme, both halves of lemon, and all the garlic. Brush the outside of the chicken with the butter and sprinkle again with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wing tips under the body of the chicken. Place the onions, carrots, and fennel in a roasting pan. Toss with salt, pepper, 20 sprigs of thyme, and olive oil. Spread around the bottom of the roasting pan and place the chicken on top.
Roast the chicken for 1 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh. Remove the chicken and vegetables to a platter and cover with aluminum foil for about 20 minutes. Slice the chicken onto a platter and serve it with the vegetables.


January, goals, and Food Storage for $5 a week


The beginning of the year is always a great time to re-evaluate, re-focus and make some goals.  Food storage is one of those goals that seems to always be a forgotten, ignored or even feared. I get it! it's  overwhelming.


Here's a useful schedule that some brilliant person put together.  With it, you should be able to accumulate food for two adults for a whole year -- in about a year spending $5/week.
 
Week 1 6 lbs salt
Week 2 5 cans cream of chicken soup
Week 3 20 lbs sugar
Week 4 8 cans tomato soup
Week 5 7 boxes macaroni & cheese
Week 6 50 lbs wheat
Week 7 10 lbs powdered milk
Week 8 8 cans tuna
Week 9 6 lbs macaroni
Week 10 50 lbs wheat
Week 11 6 lbs yeast
Week 12 20 lbs sugar
Week 13 5 cans cream of chicken soup
Week 14 1 bottle 500 multi-vitamins
Week 15 50 lbs wheat
Week 16 10 lbs powdered milk
Week 17 8 cans tomato soup
Week 18 20 lbs sugar
Week 19 5 cans cream of mushroom soup
Week 20 50 lbs wheat
Week 21 5 lbs honey
Week 22 7 boxes macaroni & cheese
Week 23 5 cans cream of mushroom soup
Week 24 20 lbs sugar
Week 25 50 lbs wheat
Week 26 20 lbs sugar
Week 27 10 lbs powdered milk
Week 28 20 lbs sugar
Week 29 5 lbs peanut butter
Week 30 8 cans tomato soup
Week 31 7 boxes macaroni & cheese
Week 32 50 lbs wheat
Week 33 10 lbs powdered milk
Week 34 8 cans tuna
Week 35 6 lbs macaroni
Week 36 50 lbs wheat
Week 37 6 lbs shortening
Week 38 20 lbs sugar
Week 39 5 cans cream of chicken soup
Week 40 1 bottle 500 multi-vitamins
Week 41 50 lbs wheat
Week 42 6 lbs salt
Week 43 8 cans tomato soup
Week 44 20 lbs sugar
Week 45 1 bottle 500 aspirin
Week 46 50 lbs wheat
Week 47 5 lbs honey
Week 48 8 cans tuna
Week 49 5 cans cream of mushroom soup
Week 50 20 lbs sugar
Week 51 50 lbs wheat
Week 52 8 cans tomato soup

Organizing Your Pantry


 Ina Garten’s pantry

Organizing a pantry can be a daunting task. I’ve broken it down into a few steps that are easy to follow and can be accomplished in a very short time. Of course as with all my tips, you can customize this to fit your needs.

If like me you love to organize, you might want to take this a step further and put all your food in clear airtight containers with labels on them. You may also want to use baskets to coral small items. The most important thing to remember is to group items by type and use.

Step 1: Clean out your pantry and throw away any expired items, and donate any items you NEVER use. We all have the occasional can of something we’ve never known what to do with. Do not clutter valuable space with things you do not need...sort items onto a counter or a table by group, breakfast items, school lunch items, canned, staples, baking, create as many categories as you need. 

Step 2: Designate shelves. A small pantry usually has at least 4 shelves. I always leave the bottom (usually the floor) for heavy items like large containers filled with Flour, Sugar, Wheat flour, Rice, brown Sugar, Powdered Sugar, and large containers of oil and vinegar. It’s also good to have a large basket for paper products such as extra napkins and plasticware--basically things that children have no interest in. 

Shelf 1, working from the bottom up, is great for canned items-- a great way to store canned items is in hard plastic basket-like containers (usually found near Tupperware) that you can pull out to actually see what you have. I also put boxed items or anything used for dinner prep on this shelf.

Shelf 2 is good for baking items: cocoa powder, shortening, oatmeal, flax seed, granola, etc

Shelf 3, hopefully out of the reach of children, is great for cereals and snack items. I like using this shelf for animal crackers, cheese crackers, and other like items. 

The top shelf is great for lunch prep items. I store extra drinks, chips, and treats up there—Where my kids can’t see it or reach it.

A Few Tips:
Create a Master grocery list of items you usually buy and attach a pen to the door using Velcro, as you run out of items circle them on your list. If you want to take it a step further when you go shopping write down the aisle number of each item and then reorganize your list by aisle number. This saves so much time in the long run. You can even write prices next to each item for more detailed shopping. 

Keep pasta and dry goods in clear jars and containers. This will help you know what you have and will help prevent wasting money—too often we buy items we think we need and end up with multiples. 

Keep extra grocery bags contained on a hook on the door of your pantry as well as re-usable tote bags for when you go shopping. 

Keep a small basket filled with on the go snacks. I like to keep a few snack size zip lock bags with animal crackers, homemade trail mix, pretzels and cheerios ready to throw in my purse when I’m on the go—this also minimizes unplanned drive-thru stops which are expensive and usually unhealthy.

Test Kitchen-Pumpkin Bread



This is truly the most delicious pumpkin bread I’ve ever had. Everyone who tastes it wants the recipe. 
Best Pumpkin Bread
Wet Ingredients
1 can of Pumpkin (2 Cups)
3 C Sugar
1 C Oil
2/3 C Water
4 Eggs

Dry Ingredients
3 1/2 C Flour
2 tsp baking Soda
1 ½ tsp Salt
1 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Nutmeg
½ tsp ginger

Combine wet ingredients (that includes sugar) beat for 1 minute. Sift dry ingredients and add to wet combine and stir for 1 minute.
Grease and flour bottoms of 2 large loaf pans 
Bake at 350 for 65 minutes and bake another 10 minutes at 300
Cool for 5 minutes and enjoy!

Just for Fun-Homemade Playdough

Homemade playdough is one of those things people think is possibly a waste of time. Here's the deal though--It is super easy to make and has a great texture and doesn’t dry out as quickly as the store bought stuff. Not to mention it’s completely safe and non-toxic. But most importantly make this with your kids, I guarantee you they will think you are a genius.

On a side note--this also makes a great handmade gift. We store ours in small tupperware containers.

Homemade Playdough

Ingredients:
3 cups flour, sifted
1 1/2 cup salt
6 teaspoons cream of tartar
3 1/4 cup water
3 tablespoons oil
food coloring (I use the gel kind)

Whisk all the dry ingredients together in a large pot until no lumps remain.  Whisk in the wet ingredients (except for the food coloring) and stir until no lumps remain.  Cook on high for 3-4 minutes until a dough forms. (don't panic if it looks like a mess)

I shape it into a long tube like shape and cut it into several portions.
Add food coloring, kneading until uniform in color.  
Store in airtight containers (even ziplocks work)

Test Kitchen-Whole Wheat Muffins

I literally make this recipe weekly—I make it so often I’ve taped to my cupboard door. It’s absolutely delicious! sweet and savory at the same time—and can be whipped up very quickly—my son often asks for these after school. I guarantee you’ll love them. I got the recipe from a friend who makes it for her family—she suggests mini muffins since they’re the perfect portion for kids. You can add nuts, raisins, or anything you like to these. They would be great with walnuts, and are a great alternative to a dinner roll.

Whole Wheat Muffins
2 c. whole wheat flour
¼ tsp salt
1 tsp soda
Mix dry ingredients.
1 c. brown sugar
1 c. milk
1/3 c. butter, melted
1 egg
1 tsp. vanilla
Mix wet ingredients.  

Combine wet and dry ingredients and stir just until moistened. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Ten Tips for your fridge and freezer

1.. Group items into categories. Use one drawer for vegetables and one for Fruit. If you don’t keep fruit in the fridge use one drawer for salad ingredients and the other for other vegetables. 

2. Keep all sandwich making supplies in a large Tupperware container. When preparing sandwiches you’ll have all your deli meats and cheeses in one place.

3. Do not keep butter on the door. Instead place individual sticks of butter in a large freezer bags. Butter tends to take on the taste of other foods and keeps a lot longer in the freezer. 

4. Cut up fruits and vegetables when you buy them and keep them in containers or small Ziploc's for fast snacks. Celery, baby carrots, and grapes are especially popular in my home. 

5. If you have kids at home. Each morning prepare a sippy cup with water, milk or juice or all three on a shelf they can reach. This will give the little ones some independence as they will be able to easily help themselves, and it’ll save you from filling cups all day. This is also useful for adults--fill a sports cup with the amount of water you want to drink during the day and gain easy access and control over your daily H2O intake.

6. Portion out your meat after grocery shopping. Defrosting meat and re-freezing is not usually recommended. Keep the amount of chicken breasts, ground beef, fish or whatever you’re cooking in freezer Ziploc bags or wrap in freezer paper. Keep meats together in a freezer container. 

7. Once a month or so boil a whole or cut up chicken with skin, onions, garlic and salt and a few bouillon cubes. Remove chicken once removed and keep the chicken broth. Place cooled chicken broth (fat skimmed) in small freezer ziplock bags in one to two cup measurements. Place all your small baggies in a larger bag or in a freezer container. When cooking defrost the broth by leaving it out at room temperature or overnight in the fridge. Nothing beats homemade chicken broth. Shred your chicken and freeze for fast and easy meals.

8. Remember the fridge door is the warmest part of your freezer. Use if for Juices. Hot dogs, vegetables or even the butter. 

9. USE CONTAINERS AND LABELS! Sort things in groups and keep them in Tupperware. Keep all vegetables in a container in the freezer, all meats, all treats for the kids. Doing this also makes it easier to create a grocery list, you’ll know what you need with just a quick glance.

10. Clean spills as soon as they happen. Clean your fridge before grocery shopping and do a monthly date check on the stuff that collects in your doors. 

Ever wonder how long food lasts in the Freezer. Click here.

Homemade Cleaning Products Recipes


These Homemade cleaning products are Eco-friendly, pocket-friendly and very effective, all you need are spray bottles and a label maker and your ready to Green up your act.
General Cleaner
Add 2 T. baking Soda to 16 oz. warm water

Window Cleaner
Add 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar to 16 oz. warm water

Disinfectant Cleaner
Add 10-20 drops of tea tree oil to 16 oz. warm water

Floor Cleaner
To 16 oz of warm water add
1/2 teaspoon of liquid soap
1/2 teaspoon borax
Squeeze of lemon or splash of vinegar
Spray floor with solution and mop as usual

Linen Spray
Add 5 drops of your favorite scented oil to 8 oz water and use to freshen linens and curtains.

Look Here for 66 more all natural cleaning solutions

Test Kitchen-Strawberry Banana Smoothies


A very easy and very delicious Smoothie that is fool-proof. My kids LOVE this.

All measurements are Approximate in this recipe and can be adjusted according to taste

about 2 C. Frozen Strawberries
1-2 bananas
1 C of Milk
Orange Juice to taste
Mix in blender.
You may add artificial sweetener yogurt and/or protein powder
 

Short Term Food Storage TIPS


There are two types of food storage Long Term Food Storage which includes the staples, things that we’ll always use and we’ll always need like flour, sugar, oils, pasta—our software is especially designed to help you figure out your family’s needs and track what you have. 

The second kind of food storage is Short Term Food Storage. Short term food storage includes items we use for meals we make on a regular basis.

Here’s an easy plan I found online (to be sourced later) to help you get started on a 3-month supply:
1. Clean out your pantry and get rid of (or donate) any items you don’t eat. Throw away expired items. 

2. Make a note of 10-30 meals you cook regularly for your family. List each meal and each ingredient. And calculate the cost of each meal. 

3. Next Bag your meals.
I like using Ziploc bags. Measure out your dry ingredients including pasta and even spices. If I were for example, bagging for spaghetti and meatballs. I would bag the spaghetti noodles in a large bag and then pre-mix my spices for the sauce in a small Ziploc and add it to the larger bag (or just put a jar of sauce in the bag) and I’d add another small Ziploc for spices for my meatballs. I would then add an address label to each bag specifying what needs to be added.
 
This also works really well for homemade pancake mix, and bread mixes. You can even put the dry ingredients in a canning jar. 

Each time you go grocery shopping. Get a few extra complete meals to bag. Soon you should have a good reserve of meals your family will actually eat. Remember to put dates on the ziploc and rotate regularly.


Another good option is to create a recipe binder with a section titled frequently made meals. Have all your bag meal recipes neatly typed out in this section.
At first this may seem like a lot of work, but if you spend an afternoon planning and organizing and then 1 or 2 hours each week bagging meals, eventually you will have automated cooking.

Great Pantry-Clearing Pasta Recipes Here

Test Kitchen-Bread Machine Wheat Bread

If like me, you like fresh homemade bread without preservatives and additives, you’ll love this bread. I’ve tried several Wheat bread recipes and this one is my favorite--I literally had to hunt down a friend for this recipe. The bread is soft but hearty and the taste is mildly sweet without the too bitter wheat taste.
1549102740_9dcc7cc2fc Place ingredients in the order given in bread machine.
1 1/2 Cups Water
2 T. Powdered Milk
2T. Shortening
2T. Honey
2T. Molasses
1 1/2 tsp. Salt
3 1/3 Cups Whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp yeast
secure baking pan. close lid. select: Whole Grain Setting (my machine burns bread in this setting I selected basic bread with light crust and it turned out perfect..)

When finished baking, cool on rack so the bottom doesn't get soggy. The outside will be slightly crisp. Enjoy with just about anything!

Test Kitchen-Refrigerator Rolls

Another bread recipe for this week—except this one is special. If you’ve ever wished you could make fresh rolls for dinner without having to do all the work and waiting for dough to rise this recipe is perfect. 

My Friend Summer made this recipe this week and they were really good. The recipe makes a ton of dough which you can then refrigerate to have on hand for fresh rolls, cinnamon rolls or even scones.It’s super easy too.

 Summer’s refrigerator Rolls and Cinnamon Rolls
DSC03928
1 Quart (1Pint/4C) Prepared Dry milk (make as directed on package)
OR
1 Quart (1Pint/4C) Scalded milk cooled to lukewarm
2 Packages of active dry yeast
10 Cups Flour (divided)
1 Cup Sugar
1 Tablespoon Salt
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
2 teaspoons Baking powder
1 Cup Oil (add oil last)
Mix milk.   Dissolve yeast into Milk.  Add 5 Cups of flour, Sugar, Salt, Baking Soda, and Baking Powder and mix, while mixing add oil.  Mix in 4 cups of flour and reserve 1 cup for after rise.  Cover and let rise in bowl and double (1 to 1 ½ hours). 
Punch down and add extra flour (the 1 cup reserved).

At this point you can store the dough in the refrigerator or use it. 

Knead (not too long) form rolls and grease pan.  Bake at 350 to 375 for 12 – 15 minutes.
An easy way to form rolls is to grab a piece of dough and form a rope and tie it into a knot.

Let the rolls rise for a little while before baking.

For Cinnamon Rolls
DSC03930
Roll 1/3 of the dough into rectangle, spread cinnamon spread and roll from long edge.  Bake on greased baking sheet.  Bake at 350 to 375 for 12 – 15 minutes.  Remove and add glaze.

Cinnamon Spread:
8 Tablespoons (cube) soft butter
1 Cup Sugar
6 – 8 teaspoons Cinnamon

Glaze:
2 Cups Powdered Sugar
¼ Cup Hot Milk
½ teaspoon Vanilla
Dash of salt
Whip it good! and seriously go share some with your neighbors.

Canning your own peach pie filling AKA YUM!

Canning fresh fruit, when they're plentiful and cheap is a great idea--especially for these dreary winter days.
These directions are easy and take you step by step through the canning process—don’t be afraid if you’re a beginner. This peach pie filling recipe is delicious.

Other Delicious Recipes for canning..
Cherry Pie Filling
Canned Pizza Sauce

Tote Bag Tutorial

Making your own tote bags is not necessarily directly linked to food storage—but I've found, for the most part, that if you’re the type of person who prepares for emergencies, plans for the future and tries to live as well as possible in the present you too are concerned with waste and the environment—reusable tote bags are a simple way to make a difference.

This Tote bag tutorial is super easy, it shows the step-by-step process with pictures and the end result is always fantastic. I’ve made more of these than I can count—in fact they’re useful for just about anything…groceries, the library, or perfect activity bags for the car..just fill one with crayons, play-dough (if you dare), coloring books, and snacks.

School Lunch Ideas

Around these parts, our kids have only been back to school one week and I’m already out of ideas for school lunches.

Some great ideas I think I’ll try:

Tuna Apple Raising Salad
Family Fun’s great ideas
Amazing Mom’s Ideas

Of course I always add fresh fruit and sometimes even a little a note. What’s your best lunch Idea? Do share.

Test Kitchen-Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Cookies


This recipe is from Martha Stewart and it is my absolute favorite. Around here we love them as afterschool snacks.

Ingredients

Makes 24
  • 1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick-cooking)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together oats, flour, raisins, baking soda, and salt; set aside. Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugars until light and fluffy, scraping down bowl as necessary. Add egg and vanilla; beat until combined. Gradually add oat mixture; beat just until combined.
  2. Drop dough by rounded tablespoonfuls, 2 inches apart, onto two baking sheets. Bake until cookies are golden brown but still soft, 12 to 16 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Cool 5 minutes on sheets; transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

Test Kitchen-White Wheat Bread


Winter is here! and with it comes more time inside, more warm delicious food, and more homemade bread. This week I decided to once and for all find the best white wheat bread recipe and this one is my pick. 

Notice this recipe calls for Bread flour—the difference between bread flour and all-purpose flour is basically this: bread flour is a high-gluten flour made with hard wheat flour that has really small amounts of additives (malted barley flour, vitamin C (also known as Ascorbic Acid) or potassium bromate (although you should try to avoid flours that have potassium bromate)) that helps the yeast work and helps increase the elasticity of the gluten. High gluten forms air pockets that make bread rise high and light so, in essence, the extra gluten provides more loftiness and chewiness, Maybe more than you wanted to know.

I have not tried substituting with all purpose flour in this recipe and I don’t plan to. The results were fantastic.

White Wheat Bread— from Toastmaster (bread machine)
1 ½ c. warm water
2 Tbs. oil
2 tsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. salt
4 Tbs. sugar
2 Tbs. dry milk
3 c. bread flour
1 c. whole wheat flour
2 tsp. active dry yeast
Mix all together. Let raise 1 hr. Divide into loaf pans, cover, and let raise another 45 min. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
Tips--
**This is a bread machine recipe, however, the bread doesn't turn out as good in the machine. If you choose to use the machine put it on the dough setting, and once that is complete divide the loaves and put in loaf pans, cover and let raise for the 45 minutes and then bake it in the oven. After removing from the oven brush some butter on the top and cool on a rack so bread gets a crispy crust. 

**If you have a mixer like a KitchenAid or other brand, I mix all together except for the flours in the bowl. Let the yeast activate for 10 minutes or so and then mix in the flours. Knead  it for about 3 minutes before letting it rise the first time. 


**I usually grease my bowl with shortening or pam before adding the bread dough. Then I put it in a warmed oven (start to preheat your oven, but turn it off after 1 minute or less of preheating) covered with a towel to let it raise.**If you double the recipe it makes 3 LARGE loaves.