Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Stale, soggy chips and crackers? No longer!!

So how often do you reach into the pantry and find the kids have left a package of cracker opened up and they have now become stale and soggy instead of the nice crispness you love? Here is a quick tip on how to save those crackers and even potato and corn chips. Spread them out on a cookie sheet in a single layer and put them into a 400 degree oven for about 5 minutes. The heat will dry them out and crisp them up. The oil in the corn chips and potato chips will actually start to refry them slightly, like taco shells when you heat them up before eating. Keep an eye on them to be sure they don't burn.

Soup thickener

So you are making a nice beef stew for dinner and want to thicken up the gravy/broth. How do you do this? Perhaps you or a guest has a gluten allergy. How do you get the correct consistency? This is where your pantry comes into play. you could use the old reliable roux to thicken, but if you already have diced potatoes in the stew, they could get all crushed up when stirring in the roux. Pull out a box or jar of mashed potato flakes and add them to the stew. Allow to rehydrate and slowly stir them into the stew.  When the flakes rehydrate they are absorbing the water, expanding and thickening the stew, just like a roux does. I would not do this until the last 10 minutes before you serve the stew, cooking for the 10 minutes to fully rehydrate and cook down the flavor. Remember to adjust your seasoning after adding the potatoes as the stew will usually require additional salt.

Take note that there are a lot of instant mashed potato products out there that have a bunch of garbage in the ingredient list. Please read the list and find one that has the least amount of added ingredients. I have found some that have only dehydrated potatoes and perhaps vitamin c as a preservative.

Read more about roux for those times where the stirring won't mess up your stew. Click here.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Salsa- Cheap, Easy, Fresh and (oh-so) Good

My family LOVES salsa. My kids eat it as a snack with some chips. They'll eat it with quesadillas, tacos, nachos, fajitas and anything else they can imagine. Have you ever priced it? Usually a 12 oz. jar of a popular brand runs for around $2.50. That 12 ounce jar would last about a day in my house so keeping the kids in salsa could be a pretty expensive proposition. Once you get it figured out, it is actually quite easy to make, which is what I did. Now I make it by the gallon, yes literally, the gallon. Usually, if we are lucky, this gallon will keep the horde at bay for about a week. I figure the cost for a gallon of homemade salsa is about $4. That's a pretty good savings for me.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Quick Tip- Buttermilk


QUICK TIP- What do you do if you have a recipe that calls for buttermilk and you do not have any in the fridge? In a pinch you can stir in 1 tablespoon of white vinegar to 1 cup whole milk and let stand for a few minutes. Make sure you stir well into the milk. The vinegar will clod the milk and add the characteristic twang and acidity that buttermilk has. Although you will be without the effects of the bacteria culture that is used to make buttermilk, you will still have that flavor and acidity that is needed for baking items with buttermilk.

Monday, January 21, 2013


QUICK TIP- So what do you do with the mustard and ketchup that is left in the bottle when you get to the end of it? I usually turn the bottle over and let it drain into the next bottle I just opened so what remains in the old bottle simply pours out. With mustard this is a bit more difficult than ketchup. The mustard is a lot thicker than ketchup and you will just not get the last of it out no matter how hard you shake the bottle. Here is my method for getting out the very last of that mustard and stretching those pennies a bit farther. Take a tablespoon or two of white vinegar and pour into the old mustard bottle. Recap and shake vigorously. Put a funnel into the new bottle and pour the vinegar/mustard mix from the old bottle into the new one. Recap the new bottle and shake vigorously again to mix the vinegar mix into the fresh mustard. That's how to get every last bit out of that bottle.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Save those greens!!

I recently was reading through a food magazine and one of the hot items for this winter was greens. The author went into depth about several common ones and not so common ones. One that was left out of the article that got me thinking, was my lowly radishes that I have growing in my garden. I planted an heirloom variety of radish that produces a long tubular radish with very large leafy greens. Being the cheapo I am, I decided to give them a try. I chopped them up and put them in our salad and they were palatable, although a bit tough and hairy, but I got used to them. Now sauteed with some butter and garlic like you would spinach, THAT is where they shined. Wash them well, chop them up a bit and quickly saute them in a hot pan and you will likely not tell the difference between them and spinach. If you have a garden, the best part is they are free and be a lot more nutritious than the store bought spinach.
Additional types of greens to consider for this type of treatment would be beet greens, swiss chard greens and if you are very adventurous you may try broccoli and cauliflower, although I haven't yet.