When chatting with a friend the other day about what kinds of foods we ate, I had a realization.
It’s been at least 6 months (maybe almost a year?!) since I’ve purchased macaroni & cheese from a box!
I’ve been making it from scratch as a quick lunch for my kids. Before you brand me with an Extremist Suzy Homemaker stamp and shake your head, let me tell you: I make it an easy cheater’s way and it’s fast!
I even add in broccoli or frozen veggies sometimes to give me and my kiddos some extra nutrients. They’re fooled by cheese covered broccoli!Continue reading
Are you joining me in committing to a handmade Christmas this year? There’s no doubt that I love to bake and that I love to give food presents to my friends and neighbors. I’ve searched the web high and low and have come up with my favourite list of edible Christmas presents that would be perfect little gifts for neighbors, co-workers, friends and family this year! There are a couple of classic cookies and treats in this list, but there are also some wonderfully unexpected and creative ideas like the “Hot Cocoa Ornament”! I hope you enjoy browsing through these Christmas food present ideas and get some inspiration for your own gifts this holiday.
From a young age, my parents taught us how to tend a garden from seed to harvest, followed by the processing of all those vegetables and fruits to keep them through the winters. And at times, it seemed like a tedious and boring chore, but it gave me some life skills I can only hope to pass down to my children.
Even now with a family of my own, spring means planning our gardens and planting, and fall means harvest and canning and freezing. Our three girls have helped plant our gardens from the time they were old enough to be digging in the dirt, even if it meant that we have far too many carrots or squash planted then we know what to do with!
Last week, I passed on the family traditions by spending an afternoon canning some of our extra produce with them. It was an interesting adventure, outside of our normal baking mode, and we all had a day of making memories!
Before you jump in to canning or preserving, check your stove manual and find a preserves and canning book from the fifties if possible. On the stove note, ceramic stovetops require a flat bottom stainless steel pot for canning, as the long and high heats can cause your stovetop to crack if there is uneven heat distribution. This was my first year canning on a ceramic stovetop, so again, I have to thank my mom for having all the canning pots I needed to get the job done! As for a recipe book, really any good tested recipes will work (online I really like www.pickyourown.org). Company’s Coming also has a good starter book. The recipe books from the fifties through seventies have nothing but real ingredients, so it won’t call for a prepackaged pickling mix, or pectin, etc. (Harrowsmith was a good book).
Some basic rules for canning include making sure that everything (jars, lids, sealers) are all hot and sterilized. The dishwasher can help with sanitizing jars, but I prefer a simple boiling water bath for quick and easy. Also, anything with meat or vegetables that will not be pickled will require you to have a pressure canner, as they require higher heats and pressure to keep from spoiling. I recommend visiting the library and borrowing a few books on canning to figure out what you’ll get the most use out of before you buy anything.
Here are a couple of good basic recipes to start with (the second recipe for blueberry jam will be in Part Two of this series)!
Garlic Dill Pickles
You will need:
canning pot for boiling water bath
jar lifter tongs
medium pot for making vinegar mix
a half dozen 500ml (pint) canning jars with snap lids
clean washcloth to wipe jar tops
pickling vinegar (yes there is a difference, so make sure to look for the one that says for pickling)
a head of garlic
a bunch of dill
You will need to start by washing the cucumbers well in cold water, and remove the ends. Optionally, you can slice them in half or quarters or leave them whole.
Next, you will need to prepare all of your jars and lids. Everything must be hot and sterilized to prevent anything spoiling! Boiling water bath for the jars, and a hot water bath for the lids.
I don’t have a jar holder that’s small enough for my pots, so I improvised with Mason jar lids at the bottom of my pot to lift the jars off the bottom.
While those are sterilizing, make your vinegar mix. Mix 2.5L of pickling vinegar with 1 liter of water, 1/3 cup of pickling salt and just shy of ¼ cup of sugar. I also add a dash of mustard and celery seed as well as some red pepper flakes. Bring just to a boil and remove from heat.
Once your jars are sterilized, remove them and place on a towel on the counter. I use my kitchen table; however, I recommend a wooden chopping block or similar heat block, because the heat of the jars can create visible rings in your table. Add a few heads of dill and two‐three cloves of garlic in the bottom of every jar.
Next, stack in your cucumbers. My helper added some extra dill on top!
Now it’s time to pour in your brine, using your funnel to help prevent spills. Fill to within ½ inch of the top of the jar.
Gently, with a clean damp cloth, wipe the top of the jars to remove any spilt vinegar or residue. Place the sterilized metal lid on jars and screw metal bands on securely. Now it’s time for a boiling water bath to keep from spoiling. The shorter your boiling time is, the crisper they will be. Recommended time is 10 minutes.
When they are finished, remove the jars and place on a towel on the counter to cool. As each one cools down, you will hear the lovely pinging sound that means it has sealed! Allow to sit for at least one week, but ideally 4‐6 weeks before eating
This week, my oldest daughter and I swam through our greenhouse (I say “swam” because I’m the worst weeder in the entire world, most likely) and picked buckets and buckets of these little tomatoes! I was so proud of them, I geekily took dozens of photos and posted them on Facebook. I have to admit – I’m not the green thumb in our house. My dear Hubby is!
We simply can’t eat all of the tomatoes we’ve harvested and are still going to harvest, so I’ve found some great ways to preserve them so that we can enjoy them for most of the winter.
Freeze them. This is by far the easiest way to preserve little tomatoes. You can wash them and freeze them whole by laying them on a cookie sheet until they harden, and then transferring them to bags or jars. You can also crush the tomatoes or puree them first for sauces. You can then defrost these later and use them for soups/stews, roasts and breakfasts. Easy!
Slow roast them. This sounds absolutely delicious to me and it’s what I want to do with our larger tomatoes (I froze our small ones). You roast tomatoes with garlic and herbs and then you can freeze them. Here’s an amazing-looking recipe for slow roasted tomatoes for the freezer.