Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Drying Herbs

I'm sure you all have been waiting with baited breath for the second installment of how to grow and dry your own herbs....

Clockwise from top left - Oregano, Basil, Sage, Purple Basil, Parsley and Thyme.

 Last time we talked about how to harvest and dry your herbsThe process is so easy - the 'air' does most of the work for you.

Once your herbs are nice and dry, it's time to get the herbs ready for their containers.
Now, I will be the first to admit that dried herbs aren't all that pretty.


Even though they aren't all that attractive at this point, they are full of concentrated flavors that will help you create delicious food.

I bought inexpensive glass jars at IKEA for a $1 each in which to store my dried herbs.


Now it is time to get the dried leaves off, without the stems.


I found the easiest way to do this was to simply press the leaves between my fingers.  They came off easily, without too many stems falling in.


The few stems that fell in, were easy to pick out.  I then used my fingers to grind up my herbs to the desired size...


All there is to do at this point is to pour the herbs into my glass jars...

Jars of Oregano, Thyme and Oregano

My homegrown dried herbs are ready to use right away.  They also make great gifts.

Dried herbs should be stored in a dark, dry place (pantry or cupboard) and taste best when used within 6 months.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Getting Ready for Halloween



HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

Okay, I'm not quite ready yet for Halloween.

I did remember to put on my skeleton earrings this morning, but that is all I have managed to get done so far.

This evening, we are having our family's annual Halloween celebration at our house for the first time.

Usually, we have it at Double S Farms, where my mother, sister and her family live.  But this year, we all decided to have it at our house because our neighborhood has better trick-or-treating :-)

Last night, I made homemade marshmallows for the first time.  I used the recipe from the 'Barefoot Contessa' that I found on the Food Network online.

I'll stick lollipop sticks into the marshmallows and then dip them in chocolate and then in orange candy melts.

I also made the tops for my 'Melted Witch' cupcakes.  I used green candy melts, Oreo cookies, Hersey Kisses, pretzels and yellow Starburst candy. I can't wait to show you how they turned out.

Of course, we will also have homemade chili from my mother, chips and homemade salsa (I used the Pioneer Woman's Restaurant Salsa recipe - it's delicious).

My two youngest kids are getting ready to dressing up tonight.  Kai will be the 'Brawny' paper towel guy.  All we needed to buy was a red flannel shirt, workman boots and a package of paper towels.

Gracie will be a butterfly princess and she is very excited to have me curl her hair and put make-up on her.

Well, I had better get going.  I still need to bake cupcakes, make salsa, pick up the house....

I hope you all have a fun and happy Halloween!

I'll share photos of our celebration with you soon.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Homemade Applesauce

Nothing can beat the taste of apples freshly picked from the tree.  When I moved to the desert, I was surprised that apple trees could grow here.  I came to find out that most fruit trees not only can grow in our climate, but thrive.

Because apples are harvested in June where I live, my mother undertook the daunting task of teaching me how to make applesauce a couple of years ago.  





There are many recipes for applesauce available online - sweetened, unsweetened, with cinnamon, chunky, etc.  A good reference guide for canning any type of fruit can be found at this link.  

We made the applesauce at my mother's house from freshly picked apples - although you can make them from apples from the grocery store too.

We got started by first cutting the apples into chunks.  You may notice that we did not peel the apples....we just removed the stem and end from each apple before we cut them up into chunks.


We added water and then cooked them until they were soft.


Then it was time to put them through the food mill.  *I have always wanted a food mill and had so much fun using my mother's.  I really need to get one :-)


Besides being very easy to use, the food mill kept all the apple peels and cores out of the pureed apples that fell into the bowl.  Peeling apples is not a favorite activity of mine, so it was so nice to skip this part.


In the foreground, you can see an old fashioned device which also worked well.  I am not sure what it is called, but it did work!

While we were working, my two nephews came home from playing at the park.  They are always so much fun to play with.  Their new favorite books are my sister's cupcake cookbooks.  They spend lots of time looking at all of the pictures and deciding which ones they are going to make.


*I have actually have used the first cookbook and had some great results.

Okay, back to making applesauce....

Once the apples were pureed, we added sugar and lemon juice.  I like my applesauce sweetened.


Now back onto the stove for a few minutes to heat up.


It already looked so good, it was hard not to dip my spoon in and try some.

Next it was time to put it into jars, making sure that there weren't any air bubbles and then added the lids.


 The last step...


Finished!


**If you don't use a boiling water canner, you can definitely freeze your applesauce for up to a year.  I have done this and it tastes great!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

How Re-Grow Green Onions

First of all, let me begin by saying that I love green onions.

Scallions

I plant the seeds in my vegetable garden in fall and they are ready for me to harvest in May.

harvested_garlic
Freshly-harvested green onions on the right (Garlic is on the left).

I like to use them in my homemade salsa or sprinkled on top of any Mexican dish that I make - tacos, nachos, Mexican rice, etc.

What I don't like is having to buy them at the store when they aren't growing in my garden.  

BUT, I learned a great trick this year:

You can re-grow green onions by using the bottom part (the part you usually throw away).

Here is how you do it: 



1. Cut off the white base of your green onions (use the top green part for whatever delicious meal you are cooking ;-)




2. Place the bottom part of your green onions in a glass or jar and fill with water.  Take care NOT to cover the top of the onion with water.

3. Place in front of a sunny window and change the water every other day.


4. In only a week's time, you will see your green onion start to regrow.  The photo above was taken after 10 days.


You can see how the roots grew too.

5. Now simply slice of snip off the green tops for whatever you like to eat green onions on.

You can 're-use' a green onion 2 - 3 times.  After this point, they will start to lose their 'oniony' flavor.

So, I hope you use this helpful tip.  It will not only save you $ at the store, but who doesn't like more green onions? 

Friday, August 24, 2012

'TOP SECRET' Salad Dressing

Do you have a 'Top Secret' family recipe?  One that you have been sworn NEVER to reveal?

I do. 

But, before I reveal our 'Top Secret' family recipe (and risk the wrath of my family for revealing this secret recipe), I thought that you should know a little bit about the person who invented it....


The woman who created this recipe was Ruth Smith and she was my grandmother.

Now you may think that she was a fabulous cook because that is where most 'Top Secret' recipes come from, don't they?

Surprisingly, my grandmother wasn't what I would call a wonderful cook.  In all honesty, she just barely got by on a few standard recipes that she would cook whenever we would visit.
The fact that my grandmother wasn't a great cook makes it all the more interesting that she made a fabulous homemade salad dressing.

The only problem was that we never asked her how to make it and she had passed away over 10 years ago.

So a couple of years ago, I asked my mom if she could remember what ingredients grandma used in her salad dressing.

Thankfully, my mother was able to remember all the ingredients - just not the proportions.  So, I set to work to figure out the recipe and I was thrilled to finally get it!

Since then, it is all we use on our salads with a few different ingredients from time to time to change it up.

So, I am breaking all the family rules by sharing this with you (just kidding) - but seriously it is too good a recipe to keep to ourselves.

So here it is:

Grandma Smith's Vinaigrette 

Ingredients:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar (or Splenda)
1 pinch Salt
3 - 4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar or other fruit-flavored vinegar (my homemade peach vinegar is what I used this time).


I've also used Pomegranate White Balsamic vinegar too.

Directions:
In a small jar add the salt, sugar and apple cider vinegar.  Then add the oil and place the lid on the jar and shake until all ingredients are combined.


Pour over your salad and enjoy!



Here is our 'top secret' recipe in its entirety.

Grandma Smith's Vinaigrette                Click here for printable version

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar (or Splenda)
1 pinch salt
3 - 4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar or other fruit-flavored vinegar

Directions:

In a small jar add the salt, sugar and apple cider vinegar.  Then add the oil and place the lid on the jar and shake until all ingredients are combined.

Serve over your favorite salad!

**I hope you enjoy our 'Top Secret' salad dressing!  Grandma Smith would be thrilled to know that I'm sharing it with all of you :-)