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Roasting vegetables

August 28th, 2014

veggies

Roasting vegetables can be done on the grill or in the oven.   They are a special treat especially this time of year when the vegetables are coming fresh out of your garden!  The best roasted vegetables are soft and tender, browned and caramelized and full of flavor.  It is easy to roast the vegetables, but there are some tricks to making them come out delicious.  These tips are adapted from How to Cook Without a Book by Pam Anderson.

 

  1. Preheat the oven. Set the oven anywhere between 350°F to 450°F. The lower temperature will take longer to roast the vegetables.
  2. Cut the vegetables into even sized pieces. If you have smaller vegetables they can be roasted whole as long as they are similar in size to the other vegetables.
  3. Toss with oil. Oil will help the vegetables brown so toss them with 1-2 Tablespoons of olive or vegetable oil. It will also help to hold the spices or seasonings that you add.
  4. Don’t crowd the vegetables. The less the vegetables touch each other the more surface area on them will brown.
  5. Add a small amount of salt before you roast. Many restaurants add salt at the beginning of the roasting process and also at the end.
  6. Use the top third of your oven. This will help them to brown the best.
  7. Shake or turn the vegetables. In order for the vegetables to brown evenly move them around by using a spatula or shaking the pan, after they start turning brown.
  8. Roast them thoroughly. Your goal is to have the vegetables both brown and tender. If they start to get too dark, cover with foil until they are tender and take the foil off for the final 5 minutes. If they are tender but not as brown as you want move the pan to the upper part of the oven.
  9. Finish the vegetables. Add a final drizzle of olive oil and a little sprinkle of salt to finish off the vegetables. You could also add fresh pepper, lemon juice, minced herbs (parsley, thyme).
  10. Serve the vegetables warm. Any vegetables left should be cooled in a single layer so they don’t get soggy.

With these tips you will be offering your family and friends delicious roasted vegetables from home!

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Food Preparation, recipes

Why did my canning jar break?

August 14th, 2014

There is nothing more frustrating than taking the time to pick, prepare, and can something and open the canner to find broken jars and wasted food.  Here are the top 12 reasons your jar might break boiling water bath cannersinside the canner.

  1. Using old jars. Antique canning jars are attractive but perhaps not the best choice for a product that is very labor intensive to prepare.
  2. Nicks or small cracks in the jar. Always check for small nicks or hairline cracks before filling jars.
  3. Not releasing trapped air bubbles inside the jar.
  4. Using metal utensils to release trapped air—this can cause scratches or weak spots inside the jar.
  5. Overfilled jars.
  6. Fluctuating pressure inside a pressure canner. Watch the gauge or listen to the “jiggle” of the weight to maintain a constant pressure.
  7. Reducing pressure too quickly. Resist the impulse to run cold water over the pressure canner after the processing time is up. That is a quick and easy way to destroy all your hard work.
  8. Placing hot jars into a canner of cold water.
  9. Forgetting to add water to the pressure canner.
  10. Forgetting to put the rack into the bottom of the canner. Jars bouncing around during processing are at a high risk of breaking.
  11. Setting your hot, already processed jars into a draft to cool.
  12. Screwing the bands onto the jars too tightly. Remember, finger-tight only.

Following canning directions carefully will help you avoid jar breakage.

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Food Preparation, Food Preservation, Food Safety

Tip for Freezing Pie

August 7th, 2014

 

 

imageThere is nothing better than a fresh, homemade pie. Fresh fruit is so abundant this time of year; it is nice to preserve that fresh flavor. It is easier than you think to freeze a pie and enjoy it later.

Directions for freezing a two crust pie:

  1. Make your favorite pie recipe as usual but remember to add an extra tablespoon of flour or tapioca. If you use corn starch as a thickener, add an extra half tablespoon. This will prevent boil over while the pie is baking.
  2. Do not cut vent holes in the top crust. You will do that at the time you bake the pie.
  3. Freeze your completed pie in the pan. Package it for the freezer.

An unbaked pie will have more of a fresh-fruit flavor than a frozen, already baked pie. If you are using a very juicy fruit, you may want to cook, thicken and chill the filling before filling the pie crust.

Directions for baking your frozen pie:

  1. Cut some vent holes in the top crust of the still frozen pie.
  2. Place pie onto a cookie sheet.
  3. Bake without thawing at 450° for 15-20 minutes.
  4. Reduce temperature to 375° and bake an additional 20-30 minutes or until the top crust has browned.

Enjoy

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Food Preparation, Food Preservation, recipes

Enjoy some pepper jelly

July 31st, 2014

1368801837438I’m beginning to harvest some of the peppers growing in my garden.  Now is a great time to make some pepper jelly.  It is really important to follow the directions in a tested recipe as the ingredients in this recipe are lower in acid than other jellies made of fruit.  My family really enjoys taking a jar of this jelly and pouring it over a brick of cream cheese.  This makes a really easy appetizer when served with crackers.  It also goes well with roast beef.

 

 

 

 

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Food Preparation, Food Preservation, recipes

Easy Recipe for Pickled Beets

July 28th, 2014

pickled beets

Pickled beets are another way to enjoy one of the lesser used vegetables. The process for making pickled beets is really pretty easy. Just remember that you want to leave one inch of stem and one inch of root on the whole beet when cooking them before beginning the pickling process. Leaving some stem and root intact prevents color loss in the beets; also called bleeding. After the beets have cooled, it will be an easy task to slip the skins off the beets.

Most pickled beets call for pickling spices. This is readily available at grocery stores, or you may choose to make your own. The Ball Blue Book contains an easy to follow recipe for pickling spice.

Follow this and any tested canning recipe exactly for best and safe results. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

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Food Preparation, Food Preservation, recipes

Preparing meals for the freezer

July 24th, 2014

freezing leftover

 

 

Do you struggle with what to make for dinner?  Families today have very busy schedules and often we don’t think about what’s for dinner until it is time to eat.  With a little planning you can have wonderful home cooked meals ready to take from the freezer, put in the oven and your family can be eating a in about an hour!

 

Here are a few helpful tips for preparing meals for the freezer.

  • Pre cook meats and place it in freezer bags for quick meals like tacos or maid rites.
  • If you are making casseroles freeze them before baking, especially when all of the ingredients are cooked.
  • Undercook starchy ingredients like potatoes, rice and pasta when using them in a meal for the freezer.
  • Freeze meals in portion sizes for the number of people in your family.  If you have leftover freeze individual size meals in freezer bags for quick lunches.
  • Freeze meals in the containers you plan to cook them in.  Glass containers work well.
  • Don’t freeze meals that include items that don’t freeze well such as boiled eggs, sour cream and mayonnaise.
  • Seasoning intensity can change during freezing so season lightly.  Cloves, pepper, garlic and celery become stronger upon freezing.  Remember you can always add more seasonings when reheating.
  • Make double batches and freeze one for later use.
  • Let your family help!  Many hands will make meal preparation go more quickly.  Assign tasks to family members according to their age.  You will help develop life-long skills and talents.
  • If you are baking your casserole before freezing, cool it quickly.  Also remember that shallow baking pans speed freezing and thawing of casseroles.
  • To thaw casseroles before reheating, allow the casserole to stand in the refrigerator overnight.  Then cook as directed in the recipe.  If it is not completely thawed you may need to add 15 to 30 minutes to the cooking time.
  • Fully cooked casseroles should not be thawed, but baked at 400°F for the time according to the recipe.
  • Use frozen casseroles within three months for best quality.  Be sure and label all of your meals with the cooking directions and the date that you put it in the freezer.

Planning ahead helps you to take control of your family dinners making meal time enjoyable for everyone!

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Food Preparation, Food Safety

Canning Methods

July 14th, 2014

 

Canning JarsOne of the questions we often hear when folks are canning is: What is the difference between Hot Pack and Raw Pack? Obviously, the main difference is that one style involves totally raw food while the other method uses partially cooked food. Both styles of pack have benefits; select the best pack for the situation.

Raw Pack is often used when canning vegetables in the pressure canner. This is an easy method; clean and slice the fruit or vegetable and pack tightly into the jar. Air is often trapped between pieces of raw food and this air can be difficult to eliminate. Trapped air can cause a loss of liquid during the canning process, floating fruit, or discoloration of the food after a few months of storage.

Hot Pack foods are heated to a boil followed by simmering for about 5 minutes. Precooking shrinks the foods, allowing you to fit more food inside the jar. Air is not trapped inside the food (so fruit will not float) or between the pieces of food, which can cause loss of liquid in the jars. Also, the best quality of some foods, like pears, is obtained by using a hot pack.

No matter which pack you choose for your food, remember to always use boiling water, broth, or juice to fill the jars.

Happy canning.

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Food Preparation, Food Preservation, Food Safety

Pickling Carrots

July 10th, 2014

pickled carrotsSummer canning time is one of my favorite times of the year.  We get many calls from people learning to can or trying something new. It is fun to teach people proper canning methods. There are so many different options available to us with the recipes tested by the USDA, National Center for Home Food Preservation, Extension Resources, and the Ball Blue Books.

Pickled carrots are yet another way to serve a delicious and nutritious vegetable.  Carrots that are small, young, and tender produce a great canned product.  You may want to try pickling some of the first carrots you pull in the garden this summer.  The National Center for Home Food Preservation has this recipe available for Pickled Carrots.

Enjoy!

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Food Preparation, Food Preservation, Food Safety

Pickled Corn Relish

July 7th, 2014

pickled 3-bean saladCorn will soon be plentiful in both the farmers markets and our gardens.  We used to freeze a LOT of corn when our kids were young; now we tend to enjoy it fresh from the garden.  Sometimes it is fun to experiment with new recipes.  You may want to try this one for Pickled Corn Relish that our friends at the National Center for Home Food Preservation have included on their website. It has a nice combination of garden vegetables and a tangy flavor.  Enjoy making some this weekend.  Just remember that canning recipes are designed and tested to produce a safe product.  Do not alter the recipe in any way.

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Food Preparation, Food Preservation, recipes

Easy Rubs for Barbeque

July 3rd, 2014

 

A rub is a blend of seasonings that is ‘rubbed’ onto the surface of meat before it is cooked. Using a rub is an easy way to dress up beef steaks and burgers with all kinds of seasoning combinations. Seasoning can be fresh or dried or a mixture. Sometimes a small amount of oil is added to the seasonings to make a paste-type rub.

A rub adds flavor only; it does not help tenderize less tender beef cuts.

Simply cover the outside surface of the meat with the seasoning blend prior to grilling. Rubs can be applied just before grilling or, for convenience, a few hours in advance.  Just be certain to keep the beef refrigerated until grilling time. Flavors usually become more pronounced the longer the seasoning mixture is on the beef.

There is really no need for a recipe, as such, though we’ve included some in this information. You may use Italian seasoning, Mexican seasoning, or Cajun, as they are already mixed spices.  Experiment and try your combination. Suggestions follow below.

  • Citrus:  combine grated lemon, orange or lime      peel or a combination of these citrus flavors with minced garlic and cracked black pepper.
  • Pepper-garlic:  combine garlic powder, cracked black pepper and cayenne pepper
  • Italian:  combine fresh or dried oregano, basil and rosemary with minced Italian parsley and garlic.
  • Herb:  combine fresh or dried marjoram, thyme and basil.

 

RECIPES:

Lemon-Rosemary Rub

1 1/2 tsp. grated lemon peel                              1 tsp. rosemary leaves, crushed

1/4 tsp. salt                                                           1/4 tsp. dried thyme leaves

1/4 tsp. coarse ground black pepper                                2 large cloves garlic, crushed

Makes enough for 2 pounds beef

 

Southwestern Rub

1 1/2 tsp. chili powder                                         1 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. dried oregano leaves                             1/4 tsp. ground cumin

Shake together.  Makes enough to season 2 pounds of beef

 

Pepper-Herb Mix

2 Tbsp. dried basil leaves                                   1 Tbsp. lemon pepper

1 Tbsp. onion powder                                         1 Tbsp. dried savory leaves

1 1/2 tsp. rubbed sage

Shake to blend.   Makes 1/3 cup

 

Spicy Seasoning Mix

3 Tbsp. chili powder                                            2 tsp. ground coriander

2 tsp. ground cumin                                            1 1/2 tsp. garlic powder

3/4 tsp. dried oregano leaves                             1/2 tap. ground red pepper

Shake.  Makes 1/3 cup

 

Easy Greek-Style Rub

2 teaspoons garlic powder

2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves

½ teaspoon pepper

Combine all ingredients in small bowl.  Makes about 2 tablespoons

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Food Preparation, Holiday ideas, recipes