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Monday, August 16, 2010

Follow the trail of CRUMBS

If you are like me you save every scrap or end of bread or bread product, not to mention that great bread in the clearance aisle!
Of course there is always the obvious of keeping these scraps in a bag in the freezer and when you've accumulated enough, use them for bread stuffings. But, you can squeeze the eagle beyond that!

I had a bag of soft pretzels in the freezer that were really too old to retain the freshness that is necessary for a good soft pretzel. So, I whirled them around in my food processor to make crumbs. Sometimes I season these crumbs with dried herbs from my garden not only for the aforementioned bread stuffing, but for toppings and coatings. Today I did something different.

How about pancakes and/or cookies!

For breakfast this morning I made thesepancakes!


I placed approximately 1 1/2 cups of bread crumbs (that I'd ground up in my food processor) in a bowl. Add 2 eggs (you could also use 4 egg whites or 1/2 cup egg substitute), along with 1/2 cups milk, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 tsp vanilla and a few shakes of cinnamon.



Mix the ingredients together (forgot to take a picture of this!) and cook in a pan just as you would any pancake batter!












Eat with butter, syrup, jam.....any way you would normally enjoy your pancakes. You would never even know they were made with leftover bread crumbs (or in my case a leftover soft pretzel!)

Makes about 8 to 12 pancakes depending upon the size you make them.

BUT....that's not the end of the bread crumb trail!!!
There are COOKIES!!!



This afternoon I made COOKIES with more bread crumbs!








Crumb Cookies

2 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup coconut
1 cup bread crumbs (or soft pretzel or rolls, etc.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Stir together sugar, coconut and crumbs.










Stir well. Drop onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 10 to 15 minutes just until they start to brown.
These are somewhat similar to a coconut macaroon.

Happy (crumb) trails!













































Friday, July 30, 2010

Watermelon Rind - Part THREE!



TODAY I made Watermelon Rind JAM!







My sister was here from Seattle this week. And we had. . . watermelon! Now, I couldn't possibly just toss the rind on the compost pile, could I? Not if I'm to continue squeezing the eagle! So, here you have it. Watermelon Rind - Part 3! I PROMISE this is the FINAL installment for our watermelon rind "lessons".












As in past posts, you'll need to remove the rind from the watermelon and peel the outer green skin from it. I use a vegetable peeler. This time you don't have to be quite as careful in making sure all the red part of the rind is removed. It won't matter if a bit of that gets in the jam.










Cut the rind into chunks and process in your food processer until the chuncks resemble that of crushed pineapple. Place the "processed" rind in a large jar and cover with water to which you've added 1 cup of salt. Let stand overnight.











The next morning, drain off the water and add fresh water, placing the rind and water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil and let boil for approximately 10 minutes. Drain and set aside while preparing the syrup.










Combine in a large pot 3 cups vinegar, 2 cups strained red cherry juice (optional), 12 cups sugar, 12 cinnamon sticks, 3 tbsp. whole cloves. If you wish, you may tie the cinnamon and cloves in a cheesecloth bag. I don't mind the cloves in the jam, nor do I mind pulling the cinnamon sticks out and I think the flavor infuses better to keep them in the jam. Bring to a boil and simmer this mixture for ten minutes.











Finally combine and hot syrup with the drained watermelon rind and cook until the syrup thickens and is transparent. Put in sterilized pint jars, with at least one cinnamon stick in each jar. Screw on the flats and rings and process in boiling water bath to seal.




This is great with a bit of cream cheese on a cracker and then topped with some watermelon jam!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

So, go ahead and eat another watermelon!












So, you've already made the pickles and you still have a watermelon craving? Go ahead, eat another watermelon. Even if you don't want to make any more pickles, you can still use the rind!





Watermelon rind tastes great in your traditional stir fry!








Cut and peel the rind as shown in the "pickle post".




Now cut the rind into small pieces (about 1 inch long by 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick).


Go ahead and prepare the stir fry in your usual manner adding the melon rind as one of the "veggies". Since it may take longer to cook than some of your other veggies, you may want to give it a head start.


That's all there is to it! A new "vegetable" for your old stir fry recipe....and best of all....nothing to throw away from the melon except a small green peel!
NOTE: The stir fry picture is NOT the stir fry I made with my melon rind. Of course I FORGOT to take a photo when I made it!

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Getting the most from your Watermelon

There are so many summertime fruits I love. Watermelon included. But even when I eat my melons I like to do a bit of squeezing the eagle. Once you've consumed the melon, SAVE those rinds! They make GREAT pickles (which I'm going to show you today). While I've not yet tried it I hear they also work great for use in stir fry cutting them up and using them like any other vegetable!

But, first let's make some pickles! If you are not cutting up the melon all at once, you can store the rind in a plastic bag or container in the refrigerator until you are ready to work with it. It's best not to store it more than 2 or 3 days though.

Make sure all the pink flesh is removed from the rind. Then, using a vegetable peeler, cut the dark green rind away from the firm white flesh. You are left with a piece of all white flesh.















Cut this peeled white flesh into one inch cubes (should make about 4 quarts) and cover with cold water. Add 3 tablespoons salt and let stand overnight.

In the morning, drain, rinse with fresh water and drain again. Cover again with fresh water and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat until the cubes are JUST BARELY tender. Don't overcook!

Now, combine 3 1/2 cups vinegar (I use white vinegar) with 1/2 cup water. Add 6 cups sugar, 6 sticks whole cinnamon (I like to break mine into a few pieces although I'd not yet broken them up when I took this photo), and 1 1/2 tablespoons of whole cloves. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.








Pour the syrup mixture over the rind cube and let stand for 24 hours. Drain off the syrup and bring to a boil once again. Then pour it over the cubes once again. Let stand 24 hours. After the wait period, bring all to boiling and simmer 5 minutes. Fill hot sterilized jars and seal. This will make about 7 to 8 pints of pickles.

Additionally I add a bit of food color to my pickles. I make some batches with red and some with green as it makes such a pretty presentation on your Christmas dinner table....not to mention it tastes yummy too!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Chickens: Scratching out Savings!

I love chicken. It's so versatile! There are so many things you can do with it from main dishes to casseroles to soups and stews and salads. And, it's so much cheaper to buy the bird whole and do it yourself! I check prices when I travel and most cities (particularly if you have a Walmart or Sam's Club), you can find them for the 85 cents a pound price that I currently pay.

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Cutting up the chicken is very easy. And with just a little practice it won't take long either. It usually takes me between 20 and 30 minutes to cut up, prepare parts I'm cooking, wrap parts to go into the freezer and clean up my mess! That's not a lot of time invested for the amount of savings you realize! I'm going to try to take you on a step-by-step of preparing the chicken. First lay the whole chicken with the back side down on the cutting board. Peel the skin away from the breasts and feel for the long breast bone. Now lay your knife close to the breast bone and cut alongside it.



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Working underneath, carefully cut the breast portion away from the underside until you are left with a nice whole breast. Note that I usually cut these in half lengthwise prior to cooking. It not only makes a much more managable portion size, but cuts the cooking time in half. I wait until they are partly frozen to do this as it makes a nice even cut that way.


Once you have the breasts taken out, wrap each one and put them in the freezer until they are frozen. For this step you will want to have on hand those waxy inner wrappers that come with cereal, snack crackers, etc. It's the ONLY thing I've found that won't stick to the chicken....regular wax paper, foils and all the rest (even when sprayed with cooking oil) tend to stick. A piece of inner cereal wrapper cut to fit the chicken never sticks!


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What you do next depends upon the parts you like to eat. For my family I keep the thighs and the wings.


So, next I hold the wing out and cut it off at the first joint. Then I cut off the wing tip. Finally cut the wing in two at that second joint giving me two little "drumettes" for wings appetizers.


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Now I'm ready for the thighs. I hold the chicken body in one hand and the leg in the other. Pull the leg/thigh portion back until the thigh bone pops out. Proceed to cut around that bone, removing the thigh/leg portion. Your family may prefer having the thigh/leg portion, or maybe they just like the legs. My family just likes the thighs. Thus, my next move is to remove the leg portion from the thigh. Apparently I forgot to take a picture of this step....what you see below is the thighs following my removal.


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Now I individually wrap the thighs and place them in the freezer as I did the breasts earlier.


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I place the drumettes (wing portions) into plastic bags. IF I want to freeze them individually, I lay them out on a cookie sheet, not touching one another. Then I put them in the freezer. When they are frozen solid I can bag them together.


While the parts are freezing I put the "leftover" chickens in a large roaster and cover them with water. While they are cooking I can go do something else. When they come out of the oven I lift them out of the broth with a slotted spoon and let them cool. I pour the broth into a container and put into the refrigerator and let it cool. By the next morning all the fat has risen to the top and solidified. I can scoop all the fat off and bag and freeze the remaining fat-free broth!


Now I pick the "good meat" off the chicken and save that for another use....let's see....chicken supreme, chicken croquettes, chicken salad, chicken curry, chicken corn or rice soups, chicken pot pie - the possibilities are endless - ANY recipe that uses cooked chicken works! I sometimes "work it up" immediately and sometimes freeze that chicken for later.

When the chicken parts in the freezer are solid enough that they can be bagged, I bag them and mark them.


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ANOTHER FRUGAL TIP for BAGGING. Those FREEZER bags are somewhat pricey! And, I hate washing out bags. So, I bag my chicken FIRST in any old bags (such as the old bread wrappers you see here). THEN I put them in the freezer bags. That will allow you to re-use the freezer bags later without a lot of washing out AND the chicken is double protected too!

I just prepared 4 chickens for a total cost of $18.00. I figured this will make approximately 18 meals total between the breasts, thighs, wings and additional meat (not to mention the things I plan to make with the broth!). That comes out to about $1.00 per meal.....and THAT is totally squeezing the eagle if you ask me!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Cook Once Eat Twice or More

I was a firm believer in the Cook Once Eat Twice or More when all three of my children still lived at home. I still subscribe to that philosophy - just on a much smaller scale.

There was a time when I would set aside two days of the month dedicated to cooking for an entire month. I would plan 30 days of meals and set about cooking them all, labeling, and then freezing them. How nice it is to just pull dinner from the freezer! And I still do that!

I've heard arguments on the Cook Once Eat Twice (also known as Once A Month Cooking, Once A Week Cooking, Freezer Cooking and others). The biggest thing I hear is this: "I don't have enough pans to put that many meals in!" Well, neither do I! Which is what this post is all about! Each time I make a meal I create TWO. In this photo you see a basic Pizza Casserole. On the right is the one we are eating tonight. On the left is the one that will go into the freezer for a later time.
Normally I use a large plastic bag. I save all sorts of bags (yes. . . I am one of those that re-uses bread bags!). Here I used a smaller bag thinking it would work better for the photo. After I thought about it, it probably was a worse choice as it makes it more difficult for you to understand - but stay with me here!

Get out TWO pans (one for tonight...one for later). In one of the pans, place a plastic bag in the bottom in such a way that you can fold the sides of the bag up and tie when finished. If you prefer, heavy plastic wrap also works, but I've found in my experience that it doesn't work QUITE as well. Now, fill both pans. Pop one in the oven and take one to the freezer.

Once it's frozen, take it out of the freezer (note: no worries that the cheese has curled...it will flatten when I thaw it). Now remove the entire frozen "cube" from the pan picking it up by the plastic bag. The pan remains CLEAN and can be put away.

The frozen casserole can be bagged or wrapped and labeled with the name of the dish, baking instructions and the date.




When you bring it out of the freezer to use, simply peel off the plastic wrapping. It peels right off! and place the frozen casserole in the pan originally used to mold it. Bake it in that pan.

Using this technique you really only need TWO pans to store dozens of ready-to-cook meals in your freezer.

No more wondering "What's for dinner" tonight. Just look in your freezer and pull one out!
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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Butter But Better





I always make my own butter! Well, ALMOST! If you love the taste of real butter, but hate the way it spreads right out of the refrigerator (I should say the way it doesn't spread) and hate the calories as well, then today's tip is for YOU!

Start with a pound of regular butter from the store. I like to let it sit out on the counter for an hour to soften a bit first.




Now, cut it up into random pieces and place in your food processor. Add approximately one cup of oil (canola, olive, vegetable - your choice). Process it all until it is smooth.

Pour into individual containers and store in the refrigerator. Everyone who has ever tried this thinks it really is 100% REAL butter (and it IS - just modified!). Some have thought it to be "that expensive whipped butter".



The bonus is that is spreads right from the refrigerator with the real butter taste, but using the oil makes it at least a LITTLE less on the calories AND a little less expensive as well!

I even use it successfully to do all my baking.