Tag Archives: cooking

  • 4 Time-Saving Tips in the Kitchen

    Busy mum cooking at homeOur lives can sometimes get in the way of our food (which is a real shame, considering how good food is). Moms especially can have a dickens of a time getting everything done in a day – wrangling kids and school and soccer games, cleaning up, just keeping a family active, safe and on time, many while holding a job – and yet, more times than not, they manage to have a good, hot dinner on the table every night. How do they do it!? I’m sure there’s magic involved, to be honest.

    In honor of such crazy-busy moms, I would like offer one of the best Mother’s Day gifts around – more time. And that starts by spending less of it in the kitchen. So moms of the world…Here’s my gift to you.

    Sara Elliott, one of the good people at How Stuff Works, came up with some time-saving tips in the kitchen, from which I borrow in order to help maximize your time in the kitchen, allowing you to spend more of it with with your adorable children. Or cat. Or to watch NASCAR… okay, let’s leave MY mom out of this.

     

    Step 1: Get Organized

    Making the stew base...If you’re not organized, now’s the time to do it. By not having a game plan, you can waste precious minutes trying to figure out where your mixer is, which cupboard you keep the sugar in, or “Wait…Do I even have sugar!?” (unfortunately, that last one happens to me all the time).

    Also look at your counter tops. Are they cluttered? If so, de-clutter! Sara Elliott describes how quickly you can lose that precious counter space:

    “Appliance creep starts innocently enough with the addition of a toaster and then slowly grows to include the food processor, mini mixer, can opener, toaster oven, and on and on. Before long you're trying to cook in a postage stamp-sized space only large enough for an eggcup.”

    Find homes for those wandering appliances. Counter space is prime real estate, and it’s all yours. Don’t let that homeless toaster and blender tell you otherwise! Take it from someone who has about three feet of counter space (if that) – that stuff is a hot commodity! Make it yours.

    And, now that your counters are de-cluttered, fill them back up with all your ingredients, mixing bowls, and measuring cups! Having everything out before you need it will help you stay organized, help you remember what you need, and realize if you’re missing something.

     

    Step 2: Stock Up

    Sack of sugarTo refer back to my sugar example in the previous step, if you know you use an ingredient a lot, make sure you always have some on hand. After the fourth or fifth time of going to the store half-way through making cookies or banana bread (my two most favorite things to make), I have since wised up and now always have lots and lots of sugar and chocolate chips. In fact, every time I go shopping, I get an extra bag of chocolate chips – just in case. Sara believes that “if you have a regular inventory and rotate it efficiently, you'll be able to save time and the stress of last minute shopping.” I wholeheartedly agree.

     

    Step 3: Pre-Prepared Meals

    Chicken Teriyaki Freeze-Dried Chicken Teriyaki

    Sometimes you just don’t have time to make food from scratch, and that’s OK. That’s why we have microwaves! Some days it’s all you can do to open the freezer, nuke a meal, and eat your no-longer frozen dinner. Some of them are even pretty decent.

    But have you tasted freeze-dried food? That stuff is good! Don’t just take my word for it. Sara agrees! She says that “updated preservation methods like freeze drying have made prepackaged meals something to look forward to.” See? Freeze-dried food is the fast-food of the future. The best part is, all

    Freeze-Dried Chicken Teriyaki Prepared Freeze-Dried Chicken Teriyaki Prepared

    you do is add hot water, wait about 10 minutes, and voila! Bon appétit! There are all kinds of freeze-dried meals out there, from Mountain House to our own Emergency Essentials line of food.

    Think about it. You want Beef Stroganoff without all the work? Done. What about Chicken Teriyaki? Also done. Oh, and let’s not forget about dessert. How about some Raspberry Crumble? Triple done! There are so many freeze-dried options that will save you tons of time, and also taste great. Another perk is that our freeze-dried food will store for up to 25 years, so you can save it until you really need it!

     

    Step 4: Cook in Bulk

    SPAGHETTI!!!“If you want to save money as well as time in the kitchen, try consolidating your efforts by cooking large batches of food and freezing what you don't use right away.”

    By doubling (or tripling) your recipe, you can take the same amount of time creating one delicious dish as it takes to make a huge batch of it. And, by freezing the leftovers (assuming you don’t have any teenaged boys and actually have leftovers), you will already have a good meal prepared for another day! Bonus!

     

    So there you have it, four wonderful tips to save you time in the kitchen. Now with all that extra time you have, why don’t you sit down and treat yourself to a thrilling episode of Sherlock. Or take a nap. You deserve it!

     

    Do you have other tips for saving time in the kitchen? Let us know so we can be even more time efficient!

    Posted In: Emergency Cooking, Food Storage, Insight, Planning Tagged With: kitchen tips, cooking, save time

  • 15 Food Storage Hacks to Make Cooking Easier

    |2 COMMENT(S)

    15 Food Storage Hacks to Make Cooking Easier

    You may think of food storage as buckets of wheat and beans that are useless in your everyday cooking.

    Not so, my friends. Here are 15 food storage hacks to make your cooking easier and more awesome on a daily basis:

    1. Dehydrated onion flakes = no chopping onions = no tears. Win.

    2. Freeze-dried fruit crushed into powder in a blender makes an awesome addition to frosting and filling for cakes, cookies, and other treats.

    3. Powdered milk is fantastic for baking and everyday use (especially when you unexpectedly run out and your kids are about to stage a mutiny).

    4. Powdered milk is also great for those who use milk infrequently. No sense in letting half of the container go bad—just mix up the amount you want on an as-needed basis. Also, powdered milk has come a long way since your childhood days of “scorched-tasting” milk. Don’t be afraid.

    5. Use the powder or leftover pieces of your favorite freeze-dried fruits or spices to create delicious compound butters to spread on bread and other treats.

    6. Instead of chopping up garlic, Minced Garlic is a super convenient product to store. It will cut your prep time in half, and you can use it in your favorite meals. (And, bonus, your hands won’t smell like garlic.)

    7. Freeze-dried veggies are an easy way to have seasonal vegetables at any time of year. Add them to soups and casseroles without having to chop, slice, or dice.

    8. Add Peanut Butter Powder to smoothies. You’ll get all the flavor with much less fat.

    9. Use Butter Powder to make spreadable butter in a hurry.

    10. If you get home late or forgot to plan dinner, you can use Taco Mix (TVP) to make tacos in a flash!

    11. Freeze-dried fruit is perfect in smoothies. You can also use Freeze-dried fruits to make apple-peach or strawberry-banana bread.

    12. Looking for a great after school snack for the kids? FD fruits are healthy and taste so good, the kids won’t miss candy (well . . . )

    13. Use Freeze-dried meats as toppings for homemade pizza.

    14. Got a “Helper” meal or pre-packaged meal that requires meat? You can use freeze-dried meats as substitutes in your favorite pre-packaged dishes.

    15. Wheat berries don’t just have to be used for flour. You can use wheat berries as a meat extender or a substitute for meat in meals. Check out our post, “All about Wheat” to find out how.

    How do you use food storage to make cooking easier?

    -Angela, Dawn, and Urban Girl

     

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: emergency cooking, cooking, food storage

  • Cheese Making 101: A Basic Guide

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    Cheese Making 101: A Basic Guide

    Whether you’re a cheese connoisseur or just like to throw it in with your lasagna, homemade cheese will give you a delicious (not to mention inexpensive!) blend of flavors—exactly the way you want. And believe it or not, making your own homemade cheese is actually easier than you might think, it just takes some practice. Learn some of the basics of cheese making and how it can change the way you look at cheese.

     

    Why should I make my own cheese?

    By making your own cheese, you’re actually getting a lot more than just better taste. Check out five benefits to making your own cheese.

    1. No artificial ingredients. Commercially sold cheese tends to have added food coloring, growth hormones, pesticides, or GMO-heavy ingredients, according to Cultures for Health and FineCooking.com. When you make your own cheese, everything you put into it is completely natural, making it a healthier addition to your meals. And it never hurts to know exactly what you are putting into the food that you’ll be putting into your body.

    2. It’s inexpensive. Making your own cheese is a great way to try all the exotic varieties of cheese without breaking the bank. The only supplies you need are a heavy-bottomed pot, kitchen thermometer, cheesecloth, and some cultures (but we’ll get into that later).

     3. Fast and Easy. Once you learn how to make cheese, it’s a process that becomes fast and easy, no matter what type of cheese you decide to try. The basic process is the same for most cheeses, so no matter what you want to make, you’ll already have the basics down.

    4. Children love it. Most kids love cheese, and letting them be a part of making it is a great activity. It’s also a fun way to teach them about science and chemistry as you use bacteria, enzymes, and naturally formed acids to solidify and preserve milk protein, and fat.

    5. It’s delicious. Do I really need to say any more? No matter what flavor of cheese you choose to make, it’ll make a tasty addition to your meals and snacks.

     

    Basic Supplies

    Making cheese requires some basic supplies to help you get the best possible results. Make sure you have the following equipment and ingredients on hand before you start.

    Ingredients:

    Fresh Milk: The fresher the milk, the better. The best flavor of cheese comes from unpasteurized milk (although you’ll want to let it cure for 2-4 months if you’re worried about pathogens in it); however, you can also use pasteurized milk, whole milk, or skim milk. Using anything other than unpasteurized milk may require you to add extra ingredients (such as more Calcium Chloride in pasteurized milk to help it coagulate). Remember, the fresher and fattier the milk, the richer and better the taste. Note: Ultra-pasteurized milk is not recommended to make cheese because it has difficulty coagulating. It can, however, work for making yogurt.

    Cultures: Cultures are the bacteria or chemicals you add to acidify your milk and help the curing process. There are two types of cultures: Thermophilic and Mesophilic. The one you need will depend on the cheese you make. Thermophilic cultures are used for cheeses that are scalded to high temperatures. Mesophilic cultures are for those that don’t heat beyond 102° F.

    A lot of cultures are considered “mixed cultures” where there are multiple strains of bacteria included. The mix of the culture can change quickly due to temperature and storage conditions so it can be harder to know exactly what the mix of those cultures is. You can also use pure cultures (where there’s only one strain of bacteria present, making it easier to know exactly what bacteria is in the culture) from cheese-making supply houses.

    Rennet: Rennet is the enzyme that causes acidified milk to gel together and to form a “clean break”. A clean break is when the coagulated milk holds itself together when you probe the mixture with a table knife or finger. In order to get a clean break, the milk must be undisturbed during its gelling process. You can use rennet liquid, powder, or tablets.

     

    Equipment:

    Heavy Stainless Steel Pot with Lid: It’s important to use a pot with a heavy bottom to help disperse the heat evenly without scorching the milk. You can also use a heavy enameled pot. Just make sure you don’t use an aluminum one which will react with the acidifiers (bacteria or inorganic chemicals that produce or become acids to help with the curing) used in the process.

    Measuring Cups: Have a variety of measuring cups and spoons on hand. Accurate measurements will help your cheese turn out better.

    Thermometer: While cooking and cooling your cheese, it’s important to keep an accurate temperature reading. The texture of your cheese depends on it and can change with a sudden shift in temperature, even by one degree.

    Large Whisk: This helps to mix the rennet and starter. Rennet is the enzyme that causes acidified milk to gel together. The starter is the bacteria or acidifiers you add to your milk so that the rennet will work and the curds will form.

    “Cheese Cloth”: Use a type of “cheese cloth” or white cotton fabric (such as a handkerchief or a non-terry sterilized dish towel) to drain the liquid whey proteins from the solid curds. If possible, avoid using what is sold at supermarkets as “cheese cloth”. Typically, this fabric is too flimsy and the open-weave material will let your curd slip through. If you do choose to use the supermarket’s cheese cloth, layer a few pieces at different angles to minimize curd loss.  

    Cheese Press:  This tool is used to apply pressure to fresh curds, exposing the milk protein and allowing the loose curds to bond with each other to form solid cheese. The cheese press is required if you plan on making a hard cheese (Parmesan, Romano, Cojita, aged Gouda, etc.). You can purchase a press from a cheese-making supply house, or make your own if you’re only making a pound or two.

    Wax: Waxing the outside of your cheese prevents it from molding or spoiling while it ages. Make sure to use a wax that will resist cracking (unlike Paraffin) so that your cheese doesn’t spoil or grow mold through the wax’s weak spots. Check out how to wax your cheese here.

     

    Basic Process

    Before beginning, prepare your kitchen by scrubbing your counters, stove, and sink thoroughly. Each type of cheese requires the growth of specific bacteria in the mixture of basic ingredients. Any unwanted bacteria that get into the mixture can ruin your batch of cheese.

    The process for each type of cheese (soft, semi-soft, hard, extra-hard) is fairly similar, with slight variations to make each cheese different. For example, the process for making Cheddar cheese and Colby cheese starts out the same, but the Colby cheese has an extra step where more water is added, giving you a moister cheese in the end.

    Learn more about cultures from CheeseMaking.com.

    Learn more about Rennet from CheeseMaking.com.

    Learn more about cheese-making and get more recipes at the sites below:

     

    Sources:

    http://www.culturesforhealth.com/reasons-to-make-your-own-cheese

    http://www.finecooking.com/item/48505/top-5-benefits-of-home-cheese-making

    http://www.cheesemakingrecipe.com/

    http://biology.clc.uc.edu/fankhauser/Cheese/Cheese_course/Cheese_course.htm

    http://www.cheesemaking.com/store/pg/240-FAQ-Cheesemaking-and-Ripening.html

    http://science.howstuffworks.com/innovation/edible-innovations/food-preservation7.htm

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acidifier

    http://www.leeners.com/cheese/how-to/cheese-making-cheese-press.shtml

    Posted In: Uncategorized Tagged With: cooking, food, food storage

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