Archive for the ‘Snacks’ Category

PostHeaderIcon Pickled Onions

I planted onions in our small garden this year for the first time.  I was hoping to get nice large onions that I could chop up and freeze or use fresh in our meals, but that was not to be.  I do not know much about growing onions so it could just be my inexperience, but these these little onions in the picture below, would not get any bigger.  I read online that when the leaves fall to the ground and start turning brown they are ready to be harvested.  So instead of the nice large onions that I expected, I ended up with a couple of hand-fulls of small onions.  Well, that means only one thing.  Pickled onions!

When I googled “pickled onion recipe”, the first article that came up was this one from ezinearticles and it looked easy enough to try.  I mainly got a few ideas from there and then set out to try my own recipe.

I started by cleaning and trimming the onions.  I had to borrow the kids swimming goggles for this part (no really!)  One would think that such small onions would not be quite as strong as their larger cousins, but don’t be fooled, they are potent!

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Once they were cleaned, I boiled about 2 pints of water and added 8 tablespoons of salt to it.  Ezinearticles suggest that you use pickling salts or  something without a flowing agent in it.  I used my regular table salt and the results were fine.  I let the water cool and once it was room temperature, the onions were placed into a large glass bowl, covered with plastic wrap and topped with a ceramic plate to weigh the onions down.   There they stayed for 24 hours.  Then, they got a quick cold water rinse and placed into mason jars.

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Inside each jar I placed a bay leaf and a few coriander seeds, then topped it up with English malt vinegar.  In the process of making these I managed to drop a jar and lost all of my malt vinegar,  I had to us a concoction of red-wine vinegar and white vinegar in one of the jars.

I had watched a Youtube video on how to make a quick pickled onion and they put the onions in the refrigerator for three days and it was apparently done.  I figured that I would try this and put the red-wine pickles in the fridge.  Today, the kids and I tried them and they were very close to what I would call a pickled onion.  The center was still a little “raw” or untouched by the vinegar, but a few more days and it will be done.  It was also very tasty.

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The two malt vinegar jars will stay out of the fridge for about a month before I will open them.  I am looking forward to trying them.

James will be home later and will get to taste the red-wine pickles so I will post again to say what he thought.

PostHeaderIcon Crunchy Granola Recipe

I found a great little cookbook at the library called More-with-Less Cookbook by Doris Janzen Longacre.  Simple recipes made with only the most basic ingredients, right up my alley.  There are about 15 recipes marked that I want to try before the book has to be returned to the library.  Today, I started making their Crunchy Granola recipe, only to find that I did not have half the ingredients and I had no desire to run to the store.   So, as always, I improvised and came up with my own granola.  The method for this recipe is different to the one that I have made in the past and honestly much easier.

Here is the recipe that I used today:

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Ingredients:

2 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup chopped almonds
1/2 cup coconut
1/2 cup crushed all bran cereal (put it in a bag, let the air out and then rush gently with your hands)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

In a sauce pan heat the following to a boil:
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup oil
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence

Once the honey mixture has boiled, pour it over the dry ingredients and mix well.
Spread onto a cookie sheet  and bake for about 20-30min at 325 ‘F.  You do not want it t brown too much, so keep an eye on it.
Allow to cool, then break into chunks and store in airtight container.

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This recipe makes about 4-5 cups of Granola, but can easily be doubled.  I like to eat mine with homemade yogurt, but the kids eat it plain or with milk in the mornings.

PostHeaderIcon Hard cheese

I have been staring at the cheese in the fridge for such a long time!  Today I decided that it was time to see what was happening inside it.  It was very dry and hard on the outside, but when I pushed the top of it, it still had a lot of movement.  I know from reading that the cheese needs to stand for months to get really hard and I just do not have the patience for that this time around.  So I opened it and here is what I found.

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The outside was very hard, then there is a layer of cheese that is almost the texture of Gouda or a soft Cheddar and the middle is not as soft as a Brie or Camembert, but not as hard as a Gouda.  If I had a layer of wax on the outside, the hard crust would not have formed and I would be able to leave the cheese longer to become harder in the middle, but I liked the way it turned out. I liked the softness of the middle and I would make this again especially for that softness. This is a keeper!  James and the girls both liked the cheese as well.  I slice it thin to eat on my salads, the girls like it on crackers with oysters or salsa and James eats it straight up!  It looks like it is time to make some more cheese.

PostHeaderIcon Banana (cheat) Rusks

This is such a cheat recipe, I cannot call this a real rusk, but it is close to the real thing and much easier to make.
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For those who do not know what a rusk is, it is much like an Italian Biscotti, sweet, but not as sweet as a cookie and baked a second time to make it dry and crunchy.  Growing up we ate rusks either for breakfast with a cup of tea or coffee or as an after dinner snack.

Making rusks take time and I do not have too much of that.  So by making this recipe I get two items in one go.  What I normally do is make the below banana bread recipe, but I double it (you can use any banana bread recipe that you prefer).  Then, one loaf gets eaten fresh and the second one is made into my cheat rusks.
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Banana Bread

Ingredients:
½ stick (4-5 TBSP) butter
2 eggs
2-3 ripe bananas, mashed
2/3 cup sugar
1 1/3 cup flour
¾ TSP salt
½ TSP baking soda
¼ TSP baking powder
½ TSP cinnamon (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350.
Combine wet ingredients in a bowl, mix well.  Add the dry ingredients.  Pour the dough into greased loaf pan or muffin tins.  Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
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The Rusks
Slice the banana bread into 1 inch thick slices and cut the slices in half.  Place them in the dehydrator over night and you have rusks!  Alternatively you can bake them at 200′F or as low as your oven will go and allow it to dry out for about 5-7 hours.
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There is no better way to eat rusks, but to dunk them.  You have to dunk rusks, I am sure there is a law somewhere about that!

I sometimes melt chocolate and dip half the rusk into the chocolate, then let it cool and set.  I love the flavor of banana and chocolate together.  Of course if you go this route it would be legal to eat the rusks without dunking them.

PostHeaderIcon The biltong is ready

BiltongReady

Here are two pictures of the finished biltong.  The kids devoured half of it while I was slicing it.  James has had his share and Gigi (the dog) has been begging all day long!

Here is the original entry of how I made the biltong.

Sliced

Excuse me while I sneak outside and eat another handful before someone else beats me to it.

PostHeaderIcon Making Biltong

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What is Biltong?  Well, basically it is dried strips of meat somewhat similar to American Jerky.  The word Biltong comes from the Dutch words “bil” meaning buttock and “tong” meaning strips.  What makes Biltong so different from Jerky is the spice that is used, although everyone that makes their own biltong has their own variation of biltong spice the primary ingredient is coarsely ground coriander seeds.  The 3 main meats used for biltong in South Africa are ostrich, springbok and beef.

About 5 years ago my sister-in-law gave my husband a biltong maker as a birthday gift. My mom and dad have been bringing out the spices every time that they visit us in the US. We have been running low for some time now and even though my mom is coming out again next month I thought it was time to find recipes and make the spice myself. After looking at a few traditional recipes online, and clearing our local Earthfare out of their Coriander seeds, I think we are on the right track to making something that may just be close to what we are used to. The biltong has been in the maker for 2 full days now and it sure does smell like the real thing! About another week before we can taste it, so only time will tell.

I remember when I was a little girl, my grandfather used to make biltong. His biltong maker was basically a cardboard box with a light bulb in it and the one that they sell online at the Biltongmaker.com (the one we have) is a basic plastic box with a light bulb inside.  Not much has changed in the almost 30 years from when my Grandfather made his.

Here is the spice recipe that I came up with and the steps taken so far. I do not recommend that you use this recipe until you hear back from me, at this stage it is still untested.  Only in a week or so will I have a good idea if this worked!

Spice

Biltong Spice:
2 tablespoons course salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup coarsely chopped coriander
1/2 teaspoon crushed black pepper

Mix the above together and you have your biltong spice.
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Making the biltong:
Cut the meat along the grain into thin strips about 1 inch by 2 inch strips will do. I normally use between 1 and 2 pounds of London broil since it is not that expensive and my grocery store often has it on sale for “Buy one get one free”.  Next time I head out to our farmers market, I will get ostrich meat to give it a try.

In a large pot boil 3 cups of water, add 1 cup of white vinegar and 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce, remove from the heat.

Dip your meat strips into the hot water mixture for a few seconds, remove it and roll in the spice mixture. You want to coat the meat completely. Skewer the meat onto the skewers provided with the biltong maker, or use wood skewers if you have made your own biltong maker (or lost your skewers like me). Hang it in the biltong maker for about 5 days depending on the size of the pieces.
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Everyone likes their biltong differently. I prefer mine a little softer in the middle and James likes his dry. The kids will eat it pretty much anyway it comes as long as it is cut up into smaller pieces. That brings up another thing, how do you eat the biltong? There are two main ways to eat it. You can either cut it into thin strips and it looks much like Jerky or you can keep it in large strips and strip the meat off with your teeth. Hey, don’t laugh I am being serious!! I like the savage way myself. We bought a small food slicer to cut the biltong and it makes it much easier for the kids to enjoy it.

I will post again in a week or so with pictures of the sliced Biltong. This is a great way to preserve venison for those who hunt and the internet has a few sites that show you how to make your own biltong maker.

Update:
It has been 4 almost 5 days and as my sister-in-law predicted it is just about done.  The kids and I had one of the thin pieces today and it was great.  Dry enough for James and chewy enough for me.  Emily, my 5 year old, told me that it was better than the one the Biltong shop makes.  I have no idea what Biltong shop, but it could be the South African food shop that we have not been to in a year or two.

The biltong should be done by Thursday.  That means it was about 6 days of hanging in the biltong maker.  The spice turned out well.  It was tasty, but I still think the one that my folks bring from the butcher in South Africa is better.  I will have to experiment a little with my next batch to see what I can add to make it as good.

PostHeaderIcon Movie and appetizer night

Once a month we try to have a movie night with the kids. James sets up the projector and we watch old home movies (the kids love to see themselves on the screen) and a short or two . Tom and Jerry and The Pink Panther are movies that make James and I think of our childhood, we bring those out and have a real retro movie experience. Tonight we took the whole thing outside and watched along with a few friends on the lawn. The plan was to eat the appetizers while watching the movies, but of course the kids could not hold out until sunset so we ate earlier and waited for the sun to go down before starting the movies.
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The kids loved making the appetizers with me.  My plan was to make as much food on sticks as I could think of so they could help with the assembly.  Being a homeschool mom I had to bring in some learning as well.  They first sorted the little cocktail sticks into groups of colors and then assembled the fruit and veggies in a pattern onto a stick.  Such a nerd, I know!  The girls took great pride in doing it themselves and Emily was wonderful helping Alexia when she got confused.  This was a fun way to get the kids involved.  Emily told me that this was the best day ever!!  Poor child, she must be deprived if this was her best day.

Here is a picture of the food we made.  All very simple and fun to eat.

All

Marinated vegetables
Salad on a stick – Tomato, cucumber and cheese
Dad’s salad on a stick – Salami, cheese and olives
Kid friendly Ham and cheese roll ups – Tortilla roll up with cream cheese, ham, shredded cheese
Adult Ham and Cheese roll ups – The adult version has lettuce and horse radish
Cucumber rings with goats cheese, dill and smoked Salmon
Toasted baguette with chicken liver pate
Mock pizza – Toasted baguette with pasta sauce and salami
Olives
Fruit on a stick – Blue berries and strawberries with yogurt as a dip
Chocolate dipped strawberries

It was such a pleasure to spend the hour or so doing this with the kids, The food was healthy for the most part and everyone got to eat a little bit of what they like.  This was a great way to spend a hot summers night!

PostHeaderIcon Raw Marinated Vegetables

This is a recipe that I regularly make, it never tastes the same and that is half the fun. If I cook the vegetables, James will eat it as well.  If I leave it raw as I intend to do today, it becomes a snack for the kids and me to enjoy for the next few days. Although my 5 year old will pick all the herbs off it first. Here is what I did:
MarVegIng

Ingredients:
2 Carrots, Julienne (thin)
1 cup
Green beans, roughly chopped
2 Tomatoes
cut into thick rings, for large tomatoes cut the rings into quarters
1 cup
salad peppers roughly chopped
1/4 cabbage, roughly chopped
1/2 small cauliflower roughly chopped
1/2 small broccoli, roughly chopped

MarVegChop
Marinade:

Red wine vinegar, you can also use Apple cider vinegar or lemon juice
Garlic oil, or regular Olive oil
Fresh Thyme, Oregano and Basil, you can use any herbs that you like or dried Italian herbs work well
Salt to taste

Toss the chopped veggies together, then add equal amounts olive oil and either lemon juice or vinegar. The amount of oil and vinegar will depend on the veggies that you use. I use whatever I have in the fridge, unless I am having guests for dinner I will never go buy veggies especially for this recipe. Use what you have. Use enough oil and vinegar to just coat the veggies, you do not want to drench them in the marinade. Sprinkle with herbs and salt.  I store them in a plastic ziploc bag in the refrigerator over night and the next day I have a lovely snack or a side dish to go along with a meal.
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Grilled veggies:
If you plan to grill these veggies, do not use tomatoes and chop your other vegetables into larger chunks.   Grill in the oven at 400′F for about 30 minutes.  I cannot have grilled vegetable without at least one onion quartered. I love grilled onion in this marinade.

This is the most simple and very healthy side dish to make.  I tend to grill them in the winter and keep it raw during the hot summer months.

PostHeaderIcon Farmers Cheese Recipe

With the basic soft cheeses under my belt (well almost), I wanted to try something a little more challenging.  Farmer’s cheese is almost like a cottage cheese, but with the whey squeezed out of it.  It then becomes a more dense cheese that can be cut or crumbled into foods.  For us this was a great substitute for goats cheese that we normally buy at Trader Joe’s.  My kids and I love goats cheese, but the price tag can be high.  By making this cheese every other week the kids still have a cheese that they can put on their crackers, I crumble it on my salads and everyone is happy.  I have not made Ravioli for some time, but think I may try to put Farmer’s cheese in it next time.

The recipe that I followed comes from a book I have mentioned before.  The Home Creamery is a favorite of mine at the moment.  My sister happened to read here that I loved the book and for my Birthday she surprised me with a copy!  Thanks, Carla!

The biggest challenge was getting a cheese press and although one can technically make this cheese without the press, I wanted to have a pretty molded cheese.  So I had to make my own press.  The one I made was very basic and could most likely not be used for harder cheeses, although I did try that as well. Here is what I did:

Farmer’s Cheese Recipe

Ingredients
1 gallon whole (full cream milk)
1 cup plain yogurt
1/4 teaspoon liquid rennet
1/4 cup cool water (55′F-60′F)
1-2 teaspoons salt
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Heat the milk and yogurt in a large pot over low heat until it reaches a temperature of 95′F.

Dissolve the rennet in the water and stir it into the milk mixture for 30 seconds.  Remove the pot from the heat, cover and allow to rest for 30 minutes to 1 hour or until solid curds form.
Curds
Cut the curds into 1 inch pieces.  Heat them along with the whey stirring gently for the first 5 minutes and then every 5 minutes until the mixture reaches a temperature of 120′F.  This can take about 30 minutes.
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Line a strainer with double folded cheese cloth or with a butter muslin (smaller openings).  Let the whey drain for 1 hour or until it stops dripping.
Transfer the cheese to a bowl and add the salt, stirring well.
Line two small cheese molds or one large mold with cheese cloth (double layer) and spoon the curds into the molds.
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Fold the edges of the cheese cloth over the top and place a 2 pound weight on the top for about 4 hours in the refrigerator.
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This is my makeshift press.  I took a medium size bowl and put a smaller bowl on the inside you cannot see the little bowl.  The smaller bowl keeps the press out of whey.  Place a plastic container that has several small holes punched into it.  This allows the whey to run out freely.  Remember to punch holes in the bottom as well.  I then put a small plastic disk on the top of the folded cheese cloth (cut out of the lid of the plastic container) and place a weight on top.  Ideally you want about 2 pounds on the top.
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Remove the cheese from the mold and store for up to 1 week.
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Final

This is the final product.  The recipe makes about 1 pound of cheese.

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Here is another picture of the two presses that I have made.  I used a clean nail that I heated and punched holes into two plastic containers.  Some people use tin cans to do the same, but I have heard that the tin cans can leave a stain on the cheese (plus it’s easier to puncture plastic than tin)
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So the next step in cheese making would be to make a hard cheese.  I looked online at recipes and for Gouda and Cheddar the basic ingredients seemed much the same as the Farmer’s cheese.  The biggest difference would be the hard cheese press.  I figured since I already had the Farmer’s cheese, I would keep half for the kids and me to eat and use the other half to see if I can make a hard cheese.  So here is the hard cheese press that I tried out.  In reality for hard cheese you need a press that can press up to 40 pounds.  My little homemade contraption cannot do that, but I figured I would do it anyway and see what happens.  Turns out I have a nice solid piece of cheese and right now it is maturing in the fridge wrapped in its own bandages.  I will take a picture of it in a few weeks and will either toss it due to excessive mold growth or it might surprise me and look like a hard cheese.  Hey, its worth a try right?

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James Skyped me today while he was at work and told me that he no longer knows what is edible, fermenting or growing in the fridge and he now finds himself checking this site every morning to see what is safe to eat.  I suppose I would be scared as well if I saw this thing in the fridge and had no idea what it was.  Along with my fermenting Kombuthca in the pantry and my sour dough pet in the fridge, he is feeling somewhat overwhelmed by living foods.

PostHeaderIcon Still learning to make cheese

I am very new to cheese making, but I enjoy learning about it and experimenting.  The first cheese I made was the most basic recipe that you can find.  I found the recipe in a book called 365 Foods Kids Love To Eat.  It is a book of fun, nutritious recipes for kids.  The recipe makes a soft spreadable cheese and is the easiest intro to cheese making.

Basic Homemade Cheese Recipe

Ingredients:
1 quart (1 liter) milk
1 lemon
Strainer
Cheese cloth (available at most grocery stores in the US)

Heat the milk in a saucepan until just before it boils, do not let it boil or rise up.  Remove from the heat and add the juice of 1 lemon, the milk will now start to separate into curds (solids) and whey (clear liquid).
Pour the mixture through a strainer and let the whey run off.
Empty the curds into a piece of double layered cheese cloth and fold the edges up to form a tight ball.  Twist the ball and squeeze the remaining moisture out.  Hang the ball with string above a bowl in the refrigerator for a few hours.  Salt to taste.
Spread on bread or crackers.

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Once I successfully made the above recipe I was intrigued and started reading recipes for other soft cheeses.  Another recipe that is also very easy is yogurt cheese in fact this one is even easier to make.

Yogurt cheese

4 cups homemade yogurt or commercial yogurt
1 teaspoon salt
Strainer
Cheese cloth
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Line a strainer with a double layer of cheese cloth.  Spoon the yogurt into the cheese cloth and let it strain for about 30 min to 1 hour at room temperature.

Tie the edges together to form a firm ball and let the yogurt drain (hanging) overnight in the refrigerator.  You can leave it for a few days if you prefer, the longer the yogurt sits the firmer the cheese.
Transfer the cheese to a bowl and stir in the salt.  Cover and keep in the fridge for up to 1 week (probably longer).

The last batch of yogurt cheese I made I divided into two portions.  The first I salted and the second I added a teaspoon of honey.  I much prefer the salted one, the kids and I ate if on crackers.  The honey went slowly since I did not know what to do with it.  We ate some of it on toast, but we much preferred the salty one.

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Today I made Farmers cheese, for Farmers cheese you need a cheese press and since I could not find one locally and did not want to buy one online (still being a novice, I do not want to spend a fortune) I had to make one.  I have used it twice now and it works well.  Pictures and instruction will be up tomorrow.

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