Saturday, December 11, 2010

#72 Homemade Granola

Breakfast time! I don't know of anyone who doesn't like cereal, and I can't think of a worse or more convenient breakfast than cold cereal. Granola is a great option, as it is nutritious, filling, and easy to make. And awesome with our homemade yogurt, by the way.
Here is my recipe:

4 C Rolled Oats

3/4 C Sliced Almonds

1/2 C Pecans (coarsely chopped)

1/2 C Flax Seed

1/3 C Sunflower Kernels

1/2 C Coconut

1/2 tsp Cinnamon

1/2 tsp Salt

In a medium saucepan combine:

1/4 C Honey

1/8 C Molasses

1/4 c Oil (coconut oil would be the best.)

2 tsp Vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Pour liquid over oat mixture and stir to coat. Spread granola on a cookie sheet and bake 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. Cool completely on a rack, stir in dried fruit if desired, and store in an air-tight container.

Pros: Easy, yummy, saves a lot of wasted packaging-- as convenient as cereal without all the additives and junk. You can make a large batch, as it stores very well.

Cons: The nuts and dried fruit can be expensive (but are optional!)

Monday, December 6, 2010

#71 Beat cooking blues with a big batch!

This post is hereby dedicated to Kim, the person who has made me not give up on this blog. Thanks for being a faithful follower!

You're tired, your family is hungry, and it's 30 minutes to dinner time. What do you do? Pull out a dinner from the freezer because you made extra last week! I'm really not a good planner when it comes to freezer meals, but since I do cook nearly every day, there are some meals that it's just as easy to make extra and freeze what we don't eat! There really is little extra time spent to double your ingredients. Then cooking time is about the same, also. Then when you need a meal, it's like getting served a fabulous meal with little to no effort. Currently I have in my freezer: borsht, perogies, chili, and stuffed pepper with polenta. This can certainly also apply to baked items, like muffins.

Pros: Save money (and waste) by avoiding fast food or unhealthy "convenience" meals. Use the same amount of electricity or gas as you would normally use to cook one meal (except for reheating.)

Cons: Requires freezer space and extra cookware. Also requires time to thaw-- so if it is a casserole of something, more time will be needed to warm it (try to plan ahead on a crazy day.) Not all meals freeze well.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

#70 Homemade Yogurt

This is a BIG one. Particularly since in my area they will not recycle yogurt containers. And yogurt is pretty expensive, considering what you get. Making your own takes some getting used to, but is certainly worth it. Here is a recipe that we started with, which now we have modified. But I'll leave the modifications up to you. Oh, and if you have a wonder box, it is much easier than using the oven. Then you don't have to wrap it, just warm it up and stick it in there!
Here is an approximate recipe:
3 c. water
1 1/2 c. dry milk
1/2 can evaporated milk
2 T. yogurt with live cultures
Optional: heavy whipping cream (helps it with creaminess)
Optional: honey or sugar (can also be added afterwards)
Blend together, put in stainless steel bowl or canning jars, and wrap with an old towel. Heat oven to 275, put the yogurt in the oven and turn it off. Check in 8 hours, and if it is not set, repeat the process. (This is where a wonder box is really useful as we don't ever have to repeat.) Be sure to save a little of your yogurt to start your next batch with!
Pros: No little plastic cups to dispose of, and very inexpensive to make. The taste is better, too, once you get used to it (much less sugar!)
Cons: Certainly it is not as convenient or as portable. It takes some practice to figure out what works to get it heated to the right temp.

Monday, May 10, 2010

#69 Homemade bread beats all!

I am one lucky lucky woman because I have a husband who will not eat store bought bread. Why does that make me lucky? Because he makes all the bread! And does a marvelous job at it. I can make bread in a pinch, but it never turns out as good as his. What's his secret? Practice, I suppose. He's been doing it for years, and never uses a recipe. So I'm not going to post a recipe. There are enough great bread recipes out there for you to find one. I just want to inspire you to try. We have a grinder that we use to fresh grind our wheat, groats, rye, millet, flax seed, and whatever else we want to put in the bread. It is sooooooo good. And what else is great about it? None of those annoying and unneccessary bread bags.
Once a week makes us three loaves. One for Sunday dinner usually, and two for the rest of the week (one or two go in the freezer.)
Pros: More nutritious, fresh, tastier, no preservatives, no plastic involved
Cons: homemade bread doesn't last as long as store-bought. It also takes time, effort, or a baking husband

Thursday, April 22, 2010

#68 Pop your popcorn

Happy Earth Day!! What kind of earth-friendly blogger would I be if I didn't post on Earth day? I am getting ready for a series of posts on how to green your cooking and kitchen. In most homes, most of the consumption and waste occurs in the kitchen. There are many things you can do to cut back on the waste.

So, I'm going to start with a very simple one, and one that I've actually practiced for my whole life (well, my dad did it when I was little.) That is, pop your own popcorn! Popcorn does not require a premade bag full of fat and salt and some nasty chemicals. It requires a pot with a lid, a few kernals of popcorn, some oil of your choice (I use olive oil,) and a bit of heat from the stove. Put just enough kernals to cover the bottom of the pot, and enough oil to barely coat the kernals. If I crank up my stove on high, it literally takes the same amount of time that it would take to pop a bag of microwave popcorn. When popped, put it in a bowl and sprinkle with salt, and there you have a good, healthy snack, with total control over what goes into it. Buying popcorn in bulk is best, as that will cost less than .10 per batch popped.
As a side note: Did you know that if you burn a bag of microwave popcorn in the same room as a bird, the bird will die from the fumes??
Pros: Healthier, cheaper, and a whole bunch less waste. You can make it the way you want, and add butter (if desired) instead of butter flavored chemicals. And no dead birds.
Cons: It takes a little practice to get the proportions right, and it doesn't have that movie-popcorn smell that is for some reason so appetizing (it's the chemicals that make it smell so good.)

Friday, April 9, 2010

#67 Use your local library

As a big lover of books and reading, one of my favorite places is our public library. What better way is there to get all the books you want at no charge? And then return them so they don't clutter up your house? Not that I don't like to own books, and my kids especially have quite a few. But the library is the greenest way I know to do a lot of reading. Then I can know after I've read a book if it's one that I potentially want to have a copy to keep.
Pros: Free, reuses books therefore less trees used to make new books. Many libraries also have great kid programs, and movies.
Cons: Fines for not returning things on time. High demand books are sometimes hard to come by.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

#66 the Wonder of the Wonder Box

What in the world is a wonder box? I asked the same question when it was announced we would be making them for a church activity. Okay, I'm always up for making adventurous new things. I just didn't realize how wonderful and useful the wonder box would be! I even ended up making 2 more for my sisters-in-law for Christmas. There is some great information and instructions here. Which is also where I got the pics (I'm feeling too lazy to go take pics of my own.)
You just have to heat whatever you're cooking through, then you can turn off the heat and stick it in the box. It will stay hot and continue cooking your food! Like I said, wonder-ful! The things I use it for most often are yogurt (a post about this coming soon) and rice. It can also be used to keep food cold-- like if you want to take ice cream to a picnic!
Pros: Decrease the amount of energy you use in cooking. Versatile, easy to make
Cons: Bulky to store, and the food you cook pretty much must be in liquid form. (So although I've heard there is a way you can bake bread in it, not sure how that would work.)