Saturday, September 29, 2012

Candied Jalapeños, Pumpkin and a few other things

Our daughter came up today to see us and to do her laundry, so I needed to get out of the living room (we have limited seating). So first, I spent a little time in the kitchen making Cowboy Candy.  If you've never heard of it, it's candied jalapeños.  I ordered a canning pot, rack, and tools while I was in Colorado, and this was my first time to use it.  (I've made jelly and jam before, but this was the first "canning.")

I saw this recipe on SBCanning, and was intrigued.  I love spicy and sweet combined, so I'm looking forward to trying some of these. It's suggested that these are good on hamburgers, and on cream cheese atop crackers. We'll see!

Cowboy Candy
from SBCanning

1 lb. fresh jalapenos
⅔ cup cider vinegar
2 cups sugar
2 tablespoons mustard seed
¼ teaspoon tumeric
¼ teaspoon celery seed
1 tablespoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Slice jalapenos. Mix cider vinegar, sugar, tumeric, celery seed, garlic, and cayenne to boil. Reduce for 5 minutes to a simmer. Add jalapenos at the simmer for 5 minutes more. Load sterilized jars with jalapenos first and add liquid filling the jars leaving a 1/4 headspace. Process in a water bath for 15 minutes. Makes 2 pints (I made 4 half pints).

Next, I went down the mountain to pick up some things at Cost Plus (wine and beer), Trader Joe's, Vons, and the Ranch Market (I have to have their tortilla chips).   When I came back, T was sleeping in her father's recliner, and her father was finished with his painting on the deck and was watching the Ryder Cup (go USA!!!!).  So I went downstairs and grabbed the two pumpkins I bought yesterday at the pumpkin patch.  I was given a pretty good deal - they weren't open for business until today, but forgot to close the gate. The guy said he'd be glad to sell me some pumpkins as long as I had cash, so I got two white ones that are great for making pureé. The larger one would have been $10, and the smaller one $8, but he gave me both for $10.

I cooked these two ways.  One was done in the microwave and the other in my 2-tier vegetable steamer. To microwave:  Cut pumpkin in large chunks, scoop out the seeds and junk, and put in a bowl with about an inch of water. Cover the bowl loosely, and microwave on HIGH 20-25 minutes. Check after 15 and then just add 5 minutes at a time until the flesh is soft.

After the chunks have cooled enough to handle, scrape the flesh in to a bowl.  Pureé in a blender in batches, and place in freezer bags.  I did two cups in each quart-sized bag so it's the equivalent of a can of pumpkin.

After setting aside two cups for pumpkin butter, I ended up with 7 bags of pureé.

While I was bagging the pureé, I started the pumpkin butter.  It takes about an hour to cook it down

Pumpkin Butter
by Kevin of Closet Cooking

2 cups pumpkin puree
1 cup brown sugar
½ cup apple cider
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon cloves

Simmer everything in a pot until most of the liquid has evaporated and the sauce has thickened.  Makes 2 cups.

This took about an hour, and after the first 10 minutes I had to use a spatter screen to keep it from splattering all over the stove. 

You can't can this for safety reasons, but you can store it in your fridge for a few weeks (if it lasts that long) or for 3-4 months in your freezer. The batch only makes about 2 cups, so we should be able to eat it up!

I also managed to freeze and bag a pound of strawberries and a big basket of raspberries.  I just rinse, hull and slice the strawberries, and do nothing with the raspberries. I spread both fruits on a large cookie sheet and flash freeze. Then when they're solid, I put them in ziploc bags and put them back in the freezer. They're now ready for smoothies and desserts.

Dinner was Kung Pao Pork - and I forgot the peanuts again!  It still tasted good, but I missed the peanuts.  My daughter had never had it, and she gobbled it up. She says she won't have to eat during work tonight (she works midnight to 8 am).

Friday, September 28, 2012

Oh, my aching feet!

Two and a half days' worth of standing in the kitchen will do it to ya.

We got back from Colorado on Wednesday, and spent much of the afternoon putting things away that we'd brought home from the trailer. I'd asked my daughter to turn the big freezer on last weekend, so it was ready to load.

Yesterday I went to Costco, where I spent $365 on meat and some things like maple syrup, pecans, mixed nuts, and some other staples. Then I went to the commissary at March Air Reserve Base, where I spent $328 on everything else. Those two trips started my feet and legs on their way to being really sore.

It took many trips to get everything into the house. Don just couldn't understand why I did it all at once; I tried to explain that I didn't want to make two trips. From there I had to start getting some of the meats packaged and prepared since I didn't have room for everything in the refrigerator.  At the end of the day yesterday, here's what I accomplished:

1) batch of Ruth's Best Chili Ever - made 2 full meals + a single meal for my daughter
2) batch of Mom's Spaghetti Sauce - we ate half of it for dinner and froze the rest for another meal
3) batch of Freezer Stash Meatballs - it made 5 meals' worth, which will be for things like meatball subs, teriyaki meatballs, Swedish meatballs with noodles, and so on.
4) 4 patties of ground beef for Taco Pockets
5) blanched and froze 1 pound of asparagus
6) blanched and froze 3 bags of green beans
7) 2 patties of ground beef for hamburgers
8) froze 1 lb. of skirt steak for Crockpot Beef Fajitas

By the time I was finished with the dinner dishes and the cleanup from the afternoon's work, I was exhausted and hurting. I watched a little baseball and TV ("Big Bang Theory" and "Person of Interest" had their season premiers) and then went to bed.

This morning, I started early - had one cup of coffee, then went to work. Today's completions:

1) made and froze 2 meals' worth of chicken fried steak
2) made and froze 2 meals' worth of Maui Grilled Chicken Sandwiches (recipe to come later)
3) made and froze 2 meals' worth of Pineapple Lemon Chicken (recipe to come later)
4) made and froze 2 meals' worth of Spiced Citrus Chicken (recipe to come later)
5) made and froze 2 meals' worth of Lemon Garlic Chicken (recipe to come later)
6) made and froze 2 meals' worth of Herb-Wine Chicken (recipe to come later)
7) made and froze Elegant Steak Dionne (recipe to come later)
8) froze 3 sirloin steaks
9) froze 7 double-thick pork chops (each one is a meal for Don and me)
10) made and froze 6 Barbecue Turkey Burgers (3 meals)
11) made and froze 4 marmalade patties for Turkey Burgers with Curry-Lime Mayo (2 meals)
12) made and froze 2 Spicy Asian Turkey Burgers (recipe to come later)
13) made and froze 5 sausage and egg biscuit sandwiches (actually, I made 8, but we ate 3 for breakfast) - I used Grands biscuits, Jimmy Dean sausage, eggs, and Velveeta sliced cheese.
14) froze leftover beef trimmings from the chicken fried steak to make a stir-fry
15) made a batch of Whole Wheat and Oat Baking Mix
16) blanched and froze 2 bags of Brussels sprouts
17) froze 8 packages of ground beef (3/4 lb. each) for other meals

I still have more to do - I might do some after dinner tonight. We're having rahmschnitzel and salzkartoffeln (pork schnitzel with a mushroom and cream sauce, and boiled new potatoes) and possibly a salad. I might just open a  can of peas - I haven't decided yet!

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Jumping into Freezer Meals

Hello from Lake City, Colorado. We've been in Colorado for 6 weeks now, and won't be heading home until the first of October. You can read about our fantastic trip on my travel blog, Wanderlust.

Before we left, I emptied out our big freezer in the basement, so when we get back, it'll need to be restocked. Since I plan on going back to subbing, as well as swimming and sewing, I've decided to try making freezer meals - where much of the prep is done all at once, and you pull out your meals or meal components and have an easier time to prepare the meal.

I thought I'd list the resources I'm using to plan this venture:


Don't Panic - Dinner's in the Freezer: Great Tasting Meals You Can Make Ahead

Don't Panic - More Dinner's in the Freezer: A Second Helping of Tasty Meals You Can Make Ahead

Frozen Assets: How to Cook for a Day and Eat for a Month

When you're looking at those books on Amazon or Barnes and Noble, you'll see quite a few others.  I just started with those three.  They're on my iPad now so I can access them easily.

Yahoo Groups

I re-joined (I was a member many years ago) the Frozen Assets Yahoo Group. I've noticed that the traffic is fairly slow these days - but joining gave me access again to the files and old messages. 

Friendly-Freezer  - similar to Frozen Assets.  It's also slowed down in recent months.

If you search on freezer meals or once a month cooking, you can find several more groups to try. I'm waiting on membership confirmation from FoodPreservationDryingCanningAndMore - it's a moderated group instead of open, so my application has to be approved.


There are quite a few blogs out there that either focus directly on freezer meals, or have freezer meals as one area.  Here are a few that I follow and have enjoyed reading:

Freezer Meals for Us - oodles and oodles of great recipes

Journey of a Home-Schooling, Transracial Foster Family

Once a Month Cooking | Freezer Cooking | Once a Month Mom


I found several ideas via Pinterest, and continue to follow the links to more sites.  There is a ton of information out there!


I've been going through my own cookbook, and have found many that I will be able to adapt to freezer cooking.  I'll be sharing those as often as I can.  I'll start with one that came to mind after Don and I passed a restaurant called "Southern Vittles" yesterday in Lake City.  Their specialty is chicken fried steak.  Well, I can do my own, thank you.  I like my gravy better than any I can get in a restaurant - I don't care for the heavy doses of pepper you get in restaurant gravies.

Chicken Fried Steak
for the freezer

Note:  this can be adapted to boneless, skinless chicken breasts or pork chops, too.  To make additional meals, just multiply the ingredients by the number of additional meals you'd like to make.

Cooking Day
1 cube steak for each person (my meals are all for 2 people, so I'll use two)
1 egg
1/4 cup milk
1 cup flour
1/2 t salt
1/4 t pepper
1/2 t paprika

Set up two shallow bowls.  In one, put eggs and milk, and mix with a fork or whisk. In the other, combine the flour, salt, pepper, and paprika.  Dredge a cube steak in the flour, then dip in the egg mixture to coat.  Dredge again in the flour.  Wrap individually in plastic wrap and place in freezer bags. Reserve about 1/4  cup of the flour in a small bag and add to the freezer bag with the steaks.

Serving Day
To cook:  Thaw cube steaks in refrigerator. Fry in hot oil until browned.  Set aside and keep warm. Drain off all but about 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the reserved flour, and stir while continuing to heat over medium heat. When flour/oil mixture is lightly browned, add 1 to 1 1/2 cups of milk, using a flat whisk to combine. Continue to cook and stir until gravy is thickened.  Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, if desired. Serve with steaks and mashed potatoes.