Archive for June, 2009

PostHeaderIcon Homemade Bread Crumbs

This is an easy basic pantry item to make at no out of pocket expense.  I use the left over bread ends that no one wants to eat.  You can either keep the ends in a ziploc bag until you are ready to make a large batch or you can do it like me and make smaller batches more often.  I tend to like the smaller batches because I have a little food chopper that is easier to get out than my big one that I keep in the back of the pantry.

One of the biggest things I try to avoid in prepackaged foods is high fructose corn syrup and since many non organic breads sold in the stores have it listed as an ingredient, the chances are good their bread crumbs will as well.

There are two schools of thought for making bread crumbs, toasted or untoasted.  I like to toast mine first.  Here is what I do.

Bread Crumbs:
Bread ends (from home made bread or all natural store bought)
Cookie sheet
Food processor with metal blade

Break the slices of bread into smaller pieces.  Spread them onto your cookie sheet and put into the oven at 200 F for about 30 minutes.  I do not wait for the oven to preheat and some times if I have to run out of the house and the crumbs are not finished yet, I will turn the oven off and leave them inside.  There is no real science to this recipe, all you are doing is drying the bread.

Once the bread is toasted, let it cool (if you have more patients than I have) or just start tossing them into your chopper and chop until they are fine crumbs or as you prefer.  Store in an airtight container.

Flavoring bread crumbs:
I prefer not to flavor mine before storing, just because I use it in many different recipes. Italian bread crumbs are very popular so if that is your preference add in a teaspoon of dried Italian herbs before storing it.

Cost analysis:
This one did not cost anything, other than turning the oven on for 30 minutes. I have no idea how to figure that one out, if you do, let me know. I am sure there is something out there.

I use breadcrumbs for breading fish, chicken, in hamburgers, meat balls and who knows some sausage recipes call for fillers so I may use it in my next sausage recipe.

PostHeaderIcon Homemade yogurt recipe

I have been making yogurt every week for a few months now and loving it.  It is the easiest thing to do and everyone in my house will eat it or at least drink it in smoothies. The first time I made yogurt I used a crock pot recipe that has become very popular here in Charlotte on a Natural Living forum.  It is a simple recipe, but I have had mixed results.  The first time I used the crockpot recipe it was great, a little runny, but tasted well and I was ecstatic.  The second time I made it, it curdled and was a disaster. I decided to find a recipe that I could control a little better.  On the same forum someone mentioned a book called, The Home Creamery by Kathy Farrell-Kingsley.  I love this book and take it out of the library every month to try something new.  It really is time that I buy a copy to keep in the house since I use it for making cheese as well.

Below is the link to the crock pot recipe I referred to.  The nice thing about this is that you do not need a thermometer.  I just use my regular kitchen thermometer, but if you do not have one the crockpot recipe is a good alternative.

Crockpot yogurt Recipe

Yogurt Recipe

4 cups (1 quart) milk
¼ cup all natural yogurt (I normally use my own culture from the last batch, but ran out of yogurt this week so I had to buy more)
Clean mason or glass jars
Small to medium size cooler
Cheese cloth and strainer (optional)

In a large pot heat the 4 cups of milk to 185 F or until small bubbles start to form.  Do not let the milk boil.  Remove the pot from the heat and allow it to cool to between 105 and 115 F.  I normally pour the milk into another container so that it is not sitting in a hot pot and taking longer to cool.


A skin will form on the milk, either scoop if off or leave it and it will be mixed in at the next step.

Once the milk has cooled, pour in your yogurt culture and mix it well with a fork (do not beat).


Rinse the glass jars with boiled water and dry them.  Careful they will be hot!  I use any cleaned jar that I have, as long as it will fit into the cooler.

Pour the mixture into your jars.

Pour boiled water into two smaller jars and put it into the cooler along with you milk filled jars.  This will help keep the cooler at the right temperature.

Leave the cooler over night and the next morning you will have the best tasting homemade yogurt.

If you prefer a thicker yogurt, pour the yogurt into a strainer that has been lined with cheese cloth (most grocery stores have it in the kitchen isle).  Allow to stand at room temperature for 30 minutes or until it is the desired consistency.


Pour off the whey and discard or keep and use in bread recipes as substitute for milk.  I use mine in whey bread rolls that I will post the next time I make the recipe.


Store your yogurt in the fridge, I use the mason jars that I make it in.

You can use the yogurt in many things.  I have made, yogurt cheese, breakfast smoothies, ranch dressing, Tzatziki,  I use it as substitute for sour cream sometimes, and also in salad dressings.  My favorite sweet snack is a few tablespoons of yogurt topped with home made granola.  I also make smaller Yogurt Snack Cups to keep in the fridge until the kids need a snack.

Cost analysis:
Since milk was on sale this week the quart of yogurt (about 3/4 if you strain it like I do, I like mine very thick) cost me a whopping $0.82.  I would love to use organic milk and yogurt for this recipe, but my budget does not allow it, so I use the best products that I can find and if the organic is on sale, I will use it.

PostHeaderIcon My first attempt at making sausage

About a week ago I came across a web page about making sausage, I was intrigued and had to find out more. A few more google searches lead me to more recipes and many posts from people who have tried it and found it to be easier than expected. I found a recipe for a Bratwurst and since that is mostly what I tend to buy, I set off to buy the ingredients and to look for a meat grinder and stuffer.

I needed something cheap and small. As I have mentioned before my house is not very big and although I LOVE kitchen gadgets, I have little space for them. A kitchen Aid with a sausage stuffer attachment sounded like a great idea, but at about $400 there was no way! A little more research brought me back to the old fashioned hand crank meat grinder. It brought back memories of my grandmother in South Africa who had one and used it for everything from making, cookies, crackers, ground meat, tomato sauce, about anything that you can think of and then some.

We have a great old fashioned hardware store about 20 minutes from our house, they sell anything from spring chicks to lady bugs, canning equipment and then the usual manly hardware items.  Renfrow’s paid off and 40 min later I was home with a meat grinder under my arm and an adorable little salad dressing canteen from the next door Habitat for Humanity restore.  As a side note, next week I plan to make dressings so that will come in very handy, especially at the lovely price of $2.00.

Search for ingredients:
Now I needed the ingredients.  Since I no longer remember the website that I got the recipe from, I cannot link it, but will post the recipe here.

Bratwurst Recipe
1 pound ground pork
1 pound ground beef
3 teaspoons celery seed
3 teaspoons caraway seed
1 1/2 milk powder
1 egg
3 teaspoons onion powder
Salt and pepper
1/2 teaspoon lemon peel
1 1/2 tablespoons dried parsley
4 1/2 tablespoons water

Combine ingredients, let it stand for 1 hour and stuff into the casings.

I thought it would be hard to find the casings, but a local butcher sold it to me for about $2.50 for a 5 foot piece and I found out that any grocery store will most likely sell it as well.
I bought a 5 pound pork butt roast and since it has a good fat contents and all the things I have read suggested that the fat was very important for keeping the sausage moist.  One of our local grocery stores happen to have it on sale for $0.99/lb.  I got 2 pounds of 80/20 fat ratio ground beef and had to purchase caraway and celery seeds since I did not have that in the house.

The process of grinding the pork was a colossal endeavor.  My poor husband spent about an hour cranking that grinder trying to turn the chunks of meat into ground pork.  I commend him for his patients and am surprised that he is not suffering from muscle pains this morning.  As it turns out we had not turned the grinder’s front   tight enough so the meat was pushing back up the grinder instead of out the front.  We only realized this after the pork was completely ground and I cleaned it out to start grinding the beef (the beef had to be ground again to make it even more fine).

The stuffing part was much easier and in fact a great rewarding experience.  It was a pleasure to see the sausage actually look like something that we would eat.

Above are a few pics of the sausage that we made.  I made the sausage before planning to do this blog, so there are not many pictures and I did not keep much of the info and planning that led me here.  In the future I plan to make a cost analysis of the recipe as well as more resources for further reading.

The verdict:
I loved making sausage, James was excited about doing it as well so that made it more fun to have someone to share it with.  It was a great to see the final product, but the recipe was a let down.  The sausage tasted like sausage, but was a little dry.  Fortunately we ate it with a lovely tomato sauce and it masked the dryness somewhat.  The kids and I gobbled it up, but James was not impressed with the flavor of celery seed and caraway seed.  To me it tasted less like a Bratwurst and more like an Italian sausage and I know he does not like the flavors in Italian sausages.  I plan to make a simpler breakfast sausage or maybe an English Bangers next time to cater for James’ taste.  As soon as the kids and I have finished the remaining (now frozen) sausages I will be making more.

PostHeaderIcon Why back to basics ?

In my dream world I would have a few acres of land to plant fruit and vegetables, raise chicken and goats and make much of our food myself. Throw in a horse or two and my kids are on board. It will take a good cable connection and maybe a few flashy city lights or at least a city large enough within driving distance to convince my husband. Since none of the above is likely to happen in the next few years and our homeowner’s association is not going to let me keep all my livestock, I am forced to fill this need elsewhere.

So tucked here in my suburban 1500 sq ft home, what I am able to do is make as much of our food from basic ingredients as possible.  By that I mean to start only with food and ingredients that are in their most basic form.  As my husband assists me with finding pretty WordPress Themes, I bet he has no idea what he is in for.  If there is anyone that needs convincing it is him.  My two and five year old girls will pretty much eat anything from goats cheese to chicken livers, but James has his culinary limits.  He, however, indulges me for the most part and will try anything once, but is quick to add that he would not eat it a second time if he had the choice.  So with three very different critics I plan to slowly add as much raw, natural and basic foods to our diet as possible.

Since moving to the US, about nine years ago, from South Africa where both James and I were born, we have become more slack in our eating habits.  Convenience foods have crept into our daily meals and the list of ingredients in most of them are shocking.  Once the girls were born I became more diligent in what we ate, but then time was our culinary enemy and it is so much easier to pick up a little drinkable yogurt filled with high Fructose Corn syrup than to make it myself.  Not even mentioning the pretty little Dora or Disney Princess bottle that they come in, how can I possible beat that?  So I am not going to try to beat Dora or Disney Princesses (excuse the use of metaphor for bad food choices).  Instead, I will limit those bad choices to 15-20 % of our food intake, or at least that is what I will aim for.

An easy approach would be to buy all organic foods, but we all know the prices of organics these days.  Hopefully one day they will become cheaper, but for now there is no way I can afford to eat all organic.  So my answer to that problem is to use the best and cheapest ingredients that I can find and make the convenience foods myself.

Join me as I choose new foods to make, old foods to toss out and try new lifestyles and nutritional philosophies that may or may not work for our little family.  Along the way I plan to post daily and include our family favorites as well as new recipes that you can try with us.


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