Monday, September 13, 2010

9 Reasons to Can Your Own Food

A friend at posted a link to this article today, and I wanted to pass it along:


Most Excellent Beef Jerky

A good friend of mine over at gave me this recipe last year, and I have had excellent results with it. I've tweaked it a little for my own tastes (I like strong flavors and lots of spice), and I encourage others to make it to their own flavor. Here is a very good base from which to start, though.
I try to keep my sodium intake down, so I use the low-salt varieties of teriyaki  sauce and soy sauce.
Hint: Let your meat become slightly frozen before slicing, it helps maintain a consistent thickness. 

Homemade Beef Jerky

• 1/4 cup teriyaki sauce
• 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
• 1/4 cup balsamic vinaigrette
• 1/4 cup soy sauce
• 1/4 cup minced garlic
• 1/4 cup Franks Red Hot
• 1 teaspoon onion powder
• 2 teaspoons liquid smoke flavoring
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 3 drops hot sauce (such as Dave's Insanity Sauce ®), or to taste
• 1 pound top round steak/London broil, cut into 1/4 inch strips
• 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

1. Combine the teriyaki sauce, Worcestershire sauce, balsamic vinaigrette, garlic powder, onion powder, liquid smoke, salt, and hot sauce in a re-sealable plastic bag. Add the meat strips and coat evenly with the marinade. Seal and refrigerate 24 hours.
2. Preheat an oven to 175 degrees F (80 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a wire rack on top.
3. Remove the beef strips from the marinade and shake off excess marinade. Discard the remaining marinade. Place the meat strips onto the wire rack and sprinkle with black pepper. Bake in the preheated oven until firm and dry, at least 3 hours. Allow the jerky to cool completely before storing in a sealed container.

I have personally found that it takes a bit longer than 3 hours...sometimes up to six. Do make sure that your meat is dry before removing it. Don't try to raise the temperature, though, to speed up the process. You are drying the meat, not cooking it.
I like to sprinkle on some garlic salt along with the black pepper, just before placing the strips into the oven. It gives it just a little extra kick at the end.

Good luck, and I'd love to hear how it works out!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

My Favorite Homemade Salsa Recipe

I LOVE Salsa! Maybe because I'm from Tucson, or some inherited fluke, but I love good flavorful hot salsa. Not TOO hot, mind...I like to retain my sense of taste without feeling as if I've laid a hot poker on my tongue, and I also don't like to be crying and miserable when it's time to use the bathroom.
Just good flavor with a comfortable afterglow on my tongue. A good friend of mine gave me this recipe a few years ago, after having some salsa she'd made at a party. I've recreated it several times with consistent and delicious results.

Homemade Salsa

You will need 2 large cooking pots to divide these items into:

5 pounds fresh tomatoes
2 pounds onions, diced
1 pint jar Jalepenos
2-4 bulbs garlic, minced
1 tsp. salt
Cilantro (lots and lots)
1 Cup Apple Cider Vinegar
2 - 1oz.cans tomato paste

Start by rinsing fresh tomatoes, and blanching them for 60 seconds in boiling water, then putting them in a sink full of icy water. Peel off skins, then dice tomatoes. Add onions, jalapenos, garlic, salt, cilantro, vinegar and tomato paste (remember, divide all these between your two pots!!!!)
Bring to a slow boil, stirring occasionally. If canning, heat pint jars and lids. Add hot salsa to hot jars, fit lids and put in a boiling water bath for 15 minutes. Yields 12-15 pints.

Obviously, if you don't intend to can up a bunch, divide the recipe accordingly and refrigerate.

I'd love to hear from anyone who has tried this recipe to hear what you think!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Canning Your Own Tomato Sauce

Every year, I plant 24 or so tomato plants. I don't NEED 24 tomato plants...I could probably get by with 4. But I like canning, and I like tomatoes, so there you are. This morning, my son and I picked about 15 or 20 pounds of them, and having already made 15 pints of salsa, I thought I'd make some spaghetti sauce.

Homemade Garlic-Basil Tomato Sauce

This Morning's Tomato Harvest

  1. After rinsing the tomatoes and pulling the stems and various garden bugs off, blanch the tomatoes for about 60 seconds in boiling water, then dump into a sink full of icy water. After this, the skins should peel off nicely. Using a sharp knife, core and cut the tomatoes into quarters.
  2. Remove the seeds. You may do this by scooping them out with a spoon, squeezing them out, or pressing the pulp through a sieve
  3. In a large pot, saute 1/2 cup olive oil, 5 cloves of garlic, minced, 2 large onions, chopped fine, 1 tbsp. oregano, 2 Tbsp. Basil until onions are caramelized.
  4. Add tomato pulp mixture and heat until gently boiling. Stir occasionally to keep from sticking.
  5. Add 1 tbsp. of Sugar. Cook until sauce thickens and volume is reduced by one half.
  6. Add 2 tbsp. lemon juice to each quart jar. Add hot tomato sauce to hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Adjust 2 piece caps and process for 40 minutes in a boiling water canner.
This recipe is terrific for spaghetti, lasagna or any recipe needing tomato sauce.
 The bonus of canning is that you get to enjoy summer's bounty all year, and save money on groceries in the long run.

Any other canners out there?

Friday, July 30, 2010

Let's talk shampoo (or not) for starters.

So what so I start with? Well, the issue I've been dealing with most lately, and perhaps you've seen it yourself here and there...To Shampoo or Not to Shampoo.
I have kind of fine, straight brown hair. It's always hung there kind of limp. Even freshly washed, it's unstylable (is that a word? Spell correct says no), won't hold any shape and barely takes up room in a hair band. Even worse, I had been losing a lot of weight very quickly on Weight Watchers, and my hair began to fall out in wads! I fixed this be adding walnuts to my diet for natural fat, but that's a post for another time.
I had run across an article on baking soda hair care while Stumbling around the internet and became very interested in alternatives for cleaning my hair. Baking soda? The stuff I put in banana bread and chocolate ship cookies? The same stuff I put on my kid's bee stings? Ok!
Turns out that most shampoos contain Laureth or Lauryl Sulphate, a very harsh detergent. You can find it in car wash chemicals, soaps, toothpaste or almost anything that foams. It is an irritant, especially to people with sensitive skin, and has been found to cause a recurrance of canker sores in some people.
So, last February, I took the plunge...I threw out the $4 a bottle shampoo and cream rinse I'd been using for years. I took the baking soda out of my kitchen cabinet, put it in the bathroom and that was it!
It was easy to get started, but be warned! For about 3 weeks, I suffered some bad hair days. After 37 some odd years of daily stripping my follicles of all the naturally produced oils, the scalp was in oil production overdrive. My poor glands trying desperately to protect my hair against the daily detergents I was rinsing them with. Within a month, though, my body grew accustomed to the fact that I was being nice to it and leveled out on the oil production. In fact, there were only two days that I actually wore a scarf on my head to hide the fact that I looked like I had combed my hair with Crisco.

Baking Soda, Honey & Vinegar...all you need for hair care.

So, what to do, you ask?  Easy, and cheap, my friends. Baking soda, vinegar and honey. About $5 worth of ingredients, depending on your shopping habits.
One big secret for me is hot as you can stand. Then, in a small cup (Domino's Pizza donates regularly to Bathtub Cups in my house) I pour in about 2 tablespoons of baking soda. In another container (I use a small squeeze bottle) I mix a solution of 50% Apple Cider Vinegar, 50% water and a big heaping spoonful of honey. Shake it up well.
Once in the shower, I mix the baking soda with just enough water to make a thin paste, then pour this on my head. I then gently massage this into my scalp. Don't worry about getting it on all your hair, just concentrate on your scalp. When rinsed, it will go through all your hair. Don't be rough, massage gently, in small circles, getting all your scalp. It feels good!
Once done, then rinse thoroughly. Again, I use as water as hot as I can stand, I find I get better results. I usually wash with Burt's Bees soap at this point, because soap and vinegar don't get along. THEN, I use the vinegar mixture to rinse. I only do the last 6 inches of my hair (which is long), and not the scalp. The honey will make your hair flatter, but if I don't use it, my hair frizzes out. Baking soda is an alkali, and the vinegar balanced out the PH of my hair.
I then allow this to air dry.
So, since February of 2010, I have noticed my hair improve be leaps and bounds! It is thicker, has body, and holds a style very well. It stands up off my scalp under it's own power. More importantly, my lost hair has grown back thick and fluffy, and I no longer find half my hair in the drain. I can twist my hair in a knot in the back and it will hold without hairbands!
The one big texture difference I notice is in the shower while wet. My hair is no longer sleek and smooth, as it was when stripped of oils. I can detect a "coating" which I thought odd at first, but it's the natural sebum that my scalp creates to protect my hair. Excellent! When dry, however, my hair is soft and fluffy, and a joy for the first time in decades.
So here are the Before, During and After pictures, just for illustration of the point.

So, for those of you about to take the plunge, be brave! You'll never go back!