Monday, October 31, 2011

Orange You Glad for Oranges!!!

I have been up to my elbows in oranges today.  Last week, I went to the ASL Club Halloween party.  One of the activities was orange carving, we ended up with a lot of oranges that were about to go to waste. So I took them home with me.
I made many different orange-y things!

I juiced a lot of oranges, by hand, while watching TV.  I got over 2 quarts of juice.
With the juice, I made a double batch of muffins.
I used a recipe from Family Circle Magazine.

Orange Muffins 
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon grated orange zest
I added cranberries to half and chocolate chips to the other half.
The only thing I changed was the oil, I don't keep vegetable oil,
so I used my coconut oil instead.
I looked at the piles of orange peel, thought it was a waste. 
I found a few uses for orange peels online, so I cleaned my peels and set them aside.
One of the things I found was candied orange peels.
I figured I would give it a try.  It was a fairly simple process.
I followed the process, boil in water, simmer in syrup, roll in sugar, allow to dry.
These are slightly bitter, slightly sweet, and gummy.
They are quite good!

This is orange simple syrup, the syrup the peels simmer in.
I will use it to sweeten my herbal tea.
The peels were dried for later uses, they will be ground up,
for bath salts and for later use in cooking.
Some of the peels before drying went into olive oil with some anise.
In a couple weeks this should be delicious flavorful oil.

Homemade Breakfast Sandwiches

I love breakfast foods, but I don't eat breakfast often.  I prefer sleep to breakfast ;)  This breakfast was something to try out an idea from Pinterest. Baking eggs in muffin cups for breakfast sandwiches, the post says they are easy to freeze for quick defrost, but I have not done that yet.
The eggs cooked quickly and deliciously.
(Quicky pop and fresh biscuits)
 The easiest way to cook bacon is on the silpat in the oven, the second best way is in my Cuisinart Griddler.  (I hate spending money on bacon, expensive fat, instead I buy bacon bits and pieces and freeze in bags.)
The final product! YUMMY!!!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Freezing Foods, My latest obsession!

I think I may have talked about freezing food when I posted about budgeting and coupons before.  I have done a lot more freezing since then that I wanted to share.

CHICKEN - I eat a lot of chicken, I like that you can flavor it easily and it is used in lots of ethnic cooking. It is honestly much cheaper than beef, and that is the biggest reason I use it a lot.  I recently bought roughly 9 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breast.  The following are the three ways I prepared and froze my chicken.
Breasts - I usually wrap my breasts individually then bag them for freezing.  I have been thinking of how much waste this creates.  So this time I cut the chicken into my portioned sizes, and placed them on my Silpat to freeze for a bit, then I just placed them in two bags.  The pre-bagging freezing prevents major sticking to each other in the freezer.  I defrost these by dropping in a bowl of hot water for a few minutes, the 4 oz portions thaw quickly.
Chopped - Some of the chicken I chopped into bite size chunks. These I sauteed and portioned into freezer bags.  These I will use when I am throwing together something healthy, but don;t have a lot of time, salad, pasta, curry.
Restaurant Shredded -I just started freezing the cooked shredded chicken and it is AWESOME!  For this batch I threw some chicken in the crock pot on low with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and a few bay leaves, then covered with water.  The next morning I woke up to a delicious smell.  The first time I did this I took the chicken out and attacked it with two forks, this time I used a post from Pinterest.  I took the piping hot chicken and put all 5 large breasts in the bowl of the Kitchen Aid, added the paddle attachment, and turned it on medium-low for 10 seconds.  This is not an exaggeration, in 10 seconds my chicken was shredded, a little over-shredded to be truthful, should have gone slower.  But this is what it looked like.
I have frozen some of this in my muffin tray, with a touch of water.  It is great for quick easy portions for lunch.  I have thawed and mixed up a lunch serving of chicken salad, BBQ chicken, and buffalo chicken.  This is also easy to add to a fast soup.  LOVE IT!!!

Herbs - Cilantro sometimes goes bad in my fridge.  It shouldn't because I love it in lots of dishes, but sometimes I buy too much or forget I have it.  I have made cilantro cubes!  Cilantro chopped or pureed with a bit of water or olive oil, then frozen.  I have dropped this in beans as they cook up for refried beans, thaw and drop in the blender in salsas, or add to a curry for a bright finish.  This would be great for fresh basil in your winter pasta sauces, or for freezing pesto.
Lemons - Freeze your lemons after squeezing for zest later, just toss in the microwave for a few seconds and zest away! Also can add to sauces, especially a braise, so good subtle citrus!
Tomatillos - Do you use tomatillos?!  I love these little guys!  But I don't always use them fast enough, or need that much salsa.  So I have started peeling and washing these gems when I get home, toss them in a bag in the freezer.  I pull them out as I need them, defrost in the microwave, and toss in the blender with a couple cilantro cubes, add a half can of diced tomatoes and chiles, and you have a fast easy homemade salsa!
Coconut Milk - I love to make Indian inspired dishes, but cooking for one, I do not need a whole can of coconut milk.  I normally can get three uses out of a can, one in the pan, and two in bags in the freezer.
Canned Beans - Same as above, but I usually do half a can in a bag.  A warning is that beans lose some texture in the freezer, so I tend to use the frozen ones in soups or to make re fried beans.
Tomatoes - Toss diced tomatoes in a freezer bag for soups or pasta.  I also love this method for tomato paste, when frozen flat in bags, I just pull out and toss in warm pasta sauce and it thickens it right up.
Broth/Stock -  A tip for homemade broth and stock, after cooking chicken in a crock pot you can add a mirepoix mix to the broth and cook it a few more hours.  Strain out everything for stock, or puree the veggies to make a gravy.  I then pour this in muffin trays and freeze (you could use ice cube trays).  Less waste and easy to add to homemade soups.

Lastly, I am trying to do some premade smoothie mixes, I will update how it goes.

I hope some of this was helpful!

Mini Chicken Pot Pies

Laurie has been very busy this semester, and struggling to eat decent food when she is just too tired to cook when she gets home.  We go the idea to make Mini Chicken Pot Pies.  So one Saturday morning we mixed up a quick batch of Easy Flaky Pie Crust (This really was easy.  Flour, oil, milk, salt. Not sure I would use it for an actual pie, but it was fast and easy for our purpose.)  On the stove we made up a gravy packet using broth, added frozen peas and carrots, then some shredded chicken.
Cutting circles out with a bowl, we pressed them into the muffin pan, filled the cup, and just folded over the top to make a lazy top crust. 

Obviously we didn't make enough to fill the whole pan.
 Then into the oven at 425' until golden brown.
Pull them out, let them cool.

 Once they were completely cooled, we placed them into freezer bags. and tossed them into the freezer.  Laurie defrosted two at a time, and had quick, homemade, healthy, portion controlled dinner.  I am so glad we tried this!

Monday, October 3, 2011

NOT Cooking.... But crafty and homemade chalkboard!

So... I have recently become addicted to Pinterest.  I love that I can stack my recipes, crafts, and thoughts, etc. Aaaaanywaaaaayyyyy..... I found a recipe for chalkboard paint.  So I gathered products and mixed the recipe, one cup of paint and two tablespoons of non-sanded grout.

Isn't it cool?! and oh so easy!!!