Thursday, July 26, 2012

DIY Rotel Recipe

I posted in the spring about the huge garden we planted in the backyard.  Well, some plants didn't exactly make it (green beans, lettuce, sweet peppers!), and it looks like a huge weed patch, but boy, do we have tomatoes.  Almost every day we were getting "harvests", as I like to call it, of this size.

I had been giving a lot away and trying to eat my share of them, but we couldn't keep up.  I tried to think of things we like to eat with tomatoes and thought, hmmm, I sure do use a lot of Rotel.  It's easy, full of flavor, and doesn't add any fat to the recipe.  It's not that expensive, but I wanted so badly to make use of our tomato crop; however, I don't can.  So, I looked around for some tips and different recipes and came up with this one.  You can store it in the freezer and eat within the next 8 months.  Because I grew my own tomatoes and cilantro (and had everything else on hand in my pantry), 10 cans of Rotel cost me $1.25 to make-which I spent on fresh peppers.  That is $.12/can!

DIY Rotel

  • 1 gallon ripe tomatoes peeled and chopped 
  • 2 large Anaheim peppers, chopped 
  • 2 large Poblano peppers, chopped (or use all Anaheim)
  • 3 Large (or 5 small) fresh Jalapenos, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 Tablespoons minced garlic
  • Cilantro to taste (I food process and freeze from fresh, so it was about 3 tbsp)
  • Juice of one Lime
  • 1 Tablespoon onion powder (not pictures and totally optional)
  • First, you will need to peel your tomatoes.  Prepare a large pot with boiling water.  Cut a shallow "X" through the skin on one side of your tomatoes.  Place in boiling water for 30 seconds, followed by an ice water bath.  I boiled my tomatoes in shifts and just kept adding them to the ice water bowl.  Every once in a while, I added fresh ice.  Leave them in the water until they cool completely, about 5 minutes.

  • Next, peel all of the tomatoes.  It is super easy!  It peels right off.  I peeled and placed them back in the water so that they had a little cushion.  Once peeled, dice all the tomatoes and put into a large pot.

  • Next, dice all of your peppers.  I am usually one who will use a produce sack or lunch baggie as a barrier between my hands and the peppers so that I don't have to worry about the oils getting on my hands and then in my eyes.  BUT, since I had a lot of peppers to chop, my cheap self bought a bag of latex gloves for $1.  It looks like a lot of peppers, but don't worry.  It will cook down!
  • Place the peppers and the rest of your ingredients in the pot. Cook on medium for about 45 minutes.  It should reduce slightly.  Once done, cool completely.  Store in freezer safe containers in 1 1/2 cup increments and freeze!  Again, enjoy in any recipe that calls for Rotel for the next 8 months.  For more information about freezing tomatoes, I found this article.
 Use in any recipe that calls for Rotel and you will love it!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Chicken Bacon Ranch Wraps

For some reason I am far more organized concerning meal planning during the school year than during the summer.  I think I'm one of those people who work better under pressure.  This summer there have been many days when I have completely failed at making certain my husband had a healthy, balanced, home-cooked meal ready when he gets home.  Meh, he will forgive me.

This is a recipe that came to mind as I was cleaning my house yesterday (that is one thing I do not fail at during the summer!) and was organizing our "library" (books crammed into the shelving in the end table).  I had bought a "wraps" recipe book at Goodwill for $.25, mostly because it had great photography of the recipes.  Dumb, I know.  Now that I've gone through it, I can say I really would only eat 5% of the recipes, but it did give me a great idea for dinner!

You can use any cooked chicken you like, but I threw 4 chicken breasts with some water, garlic, onion powder, salt, and pepper in the crock pot for a few hours so that I didn't have to heat my house with the oven.  I like to buy whole bone-in breasts when they are super cheap and just peel off the skin and cook on the bone.  The chicken is always so much more tender than when I buy boneless skinless breasts and the whole breasts still have the tender attached.  Delicious.  Plus I can make stock with the leftover bones.  Booyah.

Chicken Bacon Ranch Wraps

  • 4 Chicken Breasts
  • Bacon, cooked and chopped (amount is at your discretion.  I will confess I like to buy the precooked stuff because it's cheaper and we don't need a full pound)
  • Lettuce
  • Tomato- fresh from our garden!
  • Diced fresh jalapenos- fresh from our garden! (obviously can be left out)
  • Whole Wheat Tortillas
  • Green Onions
  • Ranch Dressing (you will want a trough of this stuff.  Seriously.  I put it in my wrap and dipped it!)
Once you have cooked and pulled the chicken, heated your tortillas, cooked your bacon, and diced up your lettuce, tomato, green onion, and jalapenos, pile into the tortilla and drizzle with the ranch dressing.
Our only regret was buying small tortillas!  Simple, yet something different you can do with chicken.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Friendship Bread-Recipe

I've come to grips with the fact that I am a very very very bad blogger.  As promised two weeks ago, here is the recipe for Friendship Bread.

In the last post, we talked about the starter.  Follow those directions in order to get to "Day 12".  As explained, separate the batter into 4 one-cup containers.  Save one as your ongoing starter.  This day, or "baking day" as my mom call it, is your new "Day 1".  Follow the same steps as before, skipping Day 1.  Repeat this on every "Baking Day".

Alright, you now have 3 containers that each have 1 cup of starter in them (unless you give one away to a friend like you are supposed to, which means you have 2 containers of starter, making 8 loaves).  Each of these 1-cup containers makes 4 small loaves of bread.  I like to make different flavors from each container, so I mix each container into a bread batter separately.  If you want 12 loaves of the same flavor, I suppose you could mix it all together, so long as you triple the recipe requirements.

The beginning part of the following ingredients is the same for all flavors:

Base Mix:
  • 1 cup starter
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract (or almond or lemon if you desire!)
For different flavors, mix the additional ingredients with the base mix.  We love chocolate the most, but you can be creative and play with the flavors. 

  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 pkg instant chocolate pudding 
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
 Mix all ingredients together except chocolate chips.  Pour into 4 small loaf pans.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes, pull out and top with desired amount of chocolate.  Bake for an additional 20 minutes.

When making other flavors, increase the flour amount to a full cup to account for the 1/4 cup cocoa you are omitting.  Other flavor combinations can include:
  • Vanilla pudding and cinnamon with raisins
  • Cheesecake pudding with fresh berries
  • Butterscotch pudding with butterscotch chips
  • Lemon pudding with poppy seeds (about 1/4 cup seeds.  VERY yum!)
  • 1 cup pumpkin, add cinnamon and keep chocolate chips
  • Add coconut
The possibilities are endless!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Friendship Bread- Starter

My mom has made Amish Friendship Bread for as long as I can remember-and everyone loves it.  We usually drop the whole Amish thing and just call it "Mom's Bread", or "Kathy's Bread".  We bring it to brunch and dish it for dessert.  It is so good.  If you aren't familiar with Amish Friendship Bread, it is a sweet, dessert-cake-bread that begins with an ongoing starter that ferments for 10 days until you mix in some final ingredients and bake a few loaves; however, you keep part of the batter off to the side as your next 10-day starter.  You repeat this every single time you bake- or every 10 days.  Yes, this means you have generations of yeast being grown and kept for several "cycles" of bread baking.  My mom has been making this for so long that her starter is from 2002.  Yes, folks, there are 10 year-old yeasties in our bread (although my husband claims this is impossible. I do think its still in there- or at least breading more- you never add a pinch more yeast after the first cycle and my mom hasn't added any since 2002, yet its there).  Weird?  Kinda.  Good?  Oh, yes.  I've got one of her starters now, so the yeast lives on!
Today's recipe is for the starter.  This means that this recipes is what you will start with, from scratch, and let ferment on your counter top for 12 days.  If you keep this particular starter going, each cycle after this one will be 10 days because you already have fermentation going and you do not start from scratch.  Tomorrow I will explain how to turn your starter into yummy bread and how you get ready for your next "cycle".

4 Cups flour, divided
2 cups warm water
1 pkg active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp if you use the jarred yeast in bulk)
2 cups milk, divided
2 cups sugar, divided

Day 1:  In glass, ceramic, or plastic bowl, mix 2 cups flour, warm water, and yeast.  Leave uncovered on kitchen counter.  Do not refrigerate.
Day 2, 3, 4:  Stir well with wooden spoon (rumor is you have to use a wooden spoon.  I'm not going to question.  I think plastic would work just fine, but no metal).  Still leave unrefrigerated.  We cover it with a loose fitting lid.

Day 5:  Stir and add 1 cup milk, 1 cup flour, and 1 cup sugar. 
Day 6, 7, 8:  Stir with wooden spoon.
Day 9: Stir and add 1 cup milk, I cup flour, and 1 cup sugar.
Day 10 and 11:  Stir well with wooden spoon.
Day 12:  Separate mixture into 4 containers, measuring 1 cup each.  Use one cup to bake your bread (recipe tomorrow!), keep one for yourself as a "starter" for your next batch, and cover and refrigerate the other 2 and give them away (after all- it is called friendship bread!).  If you don't have time to bake on day 12 (or day 10 after this starting cycle), you can refrigerate the batter until you are ready- my mom always says "It's so forgiving".

If you don't have any friends that want the starter, bake three of the one-cup containers, but always save one for your next round.  Once you do this, repeat the cycle- but this time you can bake on Day 10.  Also, don't be alarmed if you hear a "pop" in the middle of the night and find the lid popped off your container.  This is completely normal and the yeast just doing its thang.
Like I said, I will give you the actual bread recipe next time!  Go get a starter going!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Meat Grinder Love

I know, I claimed to be doing a series on family recipes.  I'm not done with that, I promise.  We just got back home to the Midwest from South Carolina (and I lost my phone in the Atlanta airport.  Boo) and I have been getting our lives back in order, doing 500 loads of laundry, and cleaning.  Not a whole lot of time to make great food.
I posted on facebook that I found this KitchenAid gem at a Goodwill in Charleston for $6.  They retail for $69!

I couldn't wait to get home and use it.  When we lived overseas, we went to an International School and for a few years my mom was our school nurse (best thing ever!).  She taught a healthy cooking class after school and she let me help a few times (no wonder I teach what I teach).  We ground our own chicken with skinless boneless breasts (by hand!) and made garlic chicken burgers.  They were so good that she started making them at home.  I don't really like the taste of ground turkey, and ground chicken is ridiculously expensive.  I finally tried out the attachment on my mixer and it was everything I imagined it would be.  I just had to share!

The directions said to cut up the meat into small chunks for best results.  I defrosted chicken breasts I had bought on sale for $1.29/lb and cubed them.

I attached the grinder to my KitchenAid and turned it on the lowest setting while grinding (note-your mixer is still going to turn, so, if you are like me and store all of your attachments inside, take them out of the bowl so that there is nothing inside).  Stick the chunks in, push them down with the wooden mallet it comes with.  Don't forget to have a bowl ready underneath your grinder!

And done!
If squishy meat sounds don't bother you, here is a video to show you just how easy this is:

I love that the top has a spaces for you to "load" food.  I could put all the meat up there at once and push a little through at a time.

When it cooks, it looks like cooked chicken breast in color:
We had taco salad with black beans and this amazing ranch dressing (Thanks, Susan!) and loved it.  I was able to make 2 lbs of ground meat for $1.29/lb.  Not only is it the healthiest ground meat you can make, but it is far cheaper than beef or pork.  I froze half of it for another time (and thanks to the idea from my friend Jenni-who has an awesome new blog btw, go check it out!- I stored it in an old pasta sauce jar).

If you have a KitchenAid, this attachment is worth every single penny.  It can do meats, vegetables, fruits- raw or cooked.  KitchenAid retails them for $69, but I found it online for $30.  Goodwill, you never fail me!

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