Saturday, December 29, 2012

Seasoning recipes

I know that I’ve referenced making my own seasoning mixesand I think that I’ve posted most of them. Just in case I haven’t, and for more convenience, here are the threeseasoning recipes that I use the most: 

Taco seasoning*:

1 tablespoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon paprika
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Original recipe: Taco Seasoning I at 

Italian dressing:

1 tablespoon garlic salt
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 ½ teaspoons white sugar
2 tablespoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried parsley
¼ teaspoon celery salt
2 teaspoons salt

To prepare dressing, whisk together ¼ cup white vinegar, 2/3cup canola oil, 2 tablespoons water, and 2 tablespoons of the mix.

Recipe adapted from: Italian Dressing Mix at 

Ranch dressing:

1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon dill weed
¾ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon seasoned salt
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder
1/8 teaspoon dried thyme

Combine with buttermilk for dressing or sour cream and serveas dip.

Recipe adapted from: Dry Ranch Style Seasoning for Dip orDressing at 

I add the ingredients into a mason jar and just give it agood shake.  If you prefer a much finerpowder just give it a spin in the Magic Bullet for a couple of seconds.  I usually quadruple the recipe and keep onhand.  The serving size (i.e. equivalenceto the store envelopes) is about 2 tablespoons.  

*I cut back significantly on the black pepper and crushedred pepper for the taco seasoning, but that’s a personal preference.  

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Thursday, December 27, 2012

HFCS strikes again!

I had no idea how much cooking from scratch has impacted mytaste buds.  Tis the season for partiesand catering and I was amazed that I could tell immediately the boxed/cannedprepared food compared to the made from scratch offerings.  This is the first time that I’ve been able tonotice a difference.  Now that I cantaste the difference, I can also endorse made from scratch is yummier by alandslide.

I decided to give myself a break Christmas morning and buypremade cinnamon rolls.  I splurged andthe giant Pillsbury with Cinnabon icing and let dreams of a snuggly Christmasmorning with my family and an easy, tasty breakfast consume my thoughts.  It wasn’t until Christmas morning that Irealized that I should have probably read the label before purchasing.  Sure enough, there it was – high fructosecorn syrup.  Are you serious,Pillsbury?  And Cinnabon, for thatmatter? 

I know that it’s my fault for not looking thoroughly at theingredients list, but I felt deceived.  Ireally can’t buy anything premade and trust it to be safe for my family toconsume.  Why is this ingredient allowedin our food?  Why isn’t someone outlawingit?  I can’t believe how much HFCS myfamily ate before I became aware of its dangers.  I feel like it’s in everything.  I can’t help but feel for the people outthere that just don’t know, that listen to those commercials and truly believethat it’s ok.

Merry Christmas, HFCS!  Unfortunately for you, you won’t becelebrating another in my house.  Doesanyone have an amazing cinnamon roll recipe?
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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

So long, good buddy!

It’s a sad day in the West home.  We are saying good bye to a dear friend.  That’s right, our Magic Bullet is no longer with us.  This morning, after many attempts at my breakfast smoothie and having to hold it just so, it still did not produce the blended goodness that we’ve come to expect.

It had a good life.  It produced food for two little baby boys, numerous smoothies for me, and countless milkshakes for Jason, not to mention the various other jobs it performed.  We are definitely buying a replacement in the near future.

Not that I’m not mourning the loss of our beloved blender, but I can’t help but wonder if there is a better personal blender out there…any suggestions?
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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Smoothies :)

I know that a lot of these recipes and tips sound super easyand basic, but if you’re anything like me, it’s just never occurred to you tomake your own.  I’m constantly amazed atthe food that I can make so easily in my own kitchen that I pay a premium forat our grocery store.  Lots of times Ifeel like smacking myself on the forehead and wondering why I haven’t thoughtof doing these things sooner.  But I didn’t.  In case you haven’t yet, I decided to sharesome of my findings and processes.

I have a huge bag of frozen berries sitting in my freezer.  I really want to make smoothies out of them, but I always find myself running late, short on time.  I’ve been trying to come up with an idea to make the smoothies ready to go and had some issues figuring out how to store everything so that it not only kept well, but didn’t lose that smoothie consistency.  I had an epiphany the other day.  The solution seems so simple that I’m a bit annoyed that it took me this long to come up with it.

Using my baby food containers (once again) I froze yogurt.  I really love having these ingredients in one ounce, premeasured cubes.  I took some cubes (my preference is three ounces of yogurt) and added fresh spinach (just make sure that it’s totally dry), fresh kale, avocado, frozen berries, and anything else that I like in a smoothie.  Store in a plastic bag or mason jar and freeze.  The night before I just dump one of the bags into my Magic Bullet, place in the refrigerator, and blend in the morning.  I’ve also separated the berries and added them frozen to make the smoothie a little more frosty.  Even better if you have some fresh ingredients ready to throw in at the last second.  We seem to always have some left over vegetables on hand that I can add.  Delicious smoothie in seconds.  It’s the perfect quick breakfast or easy snack. 
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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Evil little packets

My husband, Jason, is so addicted to those little packets.  You know the ones that you findat the grocery store?  Sometimes they’rea powder and sometimes they’re a sauce, but they are those evil little packetsmeant to spice up your meal.

Jason’s on board with the organic eating, but this is onehabit that I just can’t get him to break. I’ve at least gotten him to avoid HFCS, but sometimes he gets so excitedwhen a new one comes out that he totally forgets to check and has to buyit.  I’ve given up on the otheringredients that I have no idea how to pronounce or what they actually are.

I really don’t understand this addiction.  Everything that we’ve ever made from scratchis far superior to the processed packet. I’ve mentioned before that I keep quite a few of powdered seasoningmixes on hand.  He really has no reasonto buy these packets, yet I just can’t get him to stop.  Even tonight, after I came home, he ran intothe kitchen to grab that little packet of sauce and show me what he had foundtoday.  

I still can’t help but to cringe a little every time I seeone.  I usually try to grin and bear it(and not read the ingredients list).  Theybring him such joy.
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Monday, December 3, 2012

Homemade chicken stock

As I mentioned in my previous post, I am trying to make some simple everyday staples (at least in my household) from scratch. The first weekend I successfully made breadcrumbs. This week was supposed to be homemade pie crusts. I was looking forward to it, but the tried and true recipe suggested by a dear friend required a food processor. Since my cheap food processor quit on me, that will have to wait. Instead I decided to make my own chicken stock.

I ended up cooking three whole chickens (just baked them in the oven) for my freezer meals. After I carved them, I stuck anything remaining (including skin) with carrots, onions, celery, garlic, salt, and pepper. Actually, I just used the pot instead of my compost bin while I was chopping vegetables for some recipes. I just filled up the pot with enough water to cover everything and simmered about four hours. When it cooled down a bit, I strained the stock and refrigerated overnight. In the morning I was able to take a nice layer of fat off the top and was left with the delicious stock. 

About the straining…I don’t have a good strainer, so I just used our colander. It worked, but in the future I will definitely invest in a decent strainer to eliminate some of the pieces. For a first attempt it wasn’t terrible, but I would like it to be more of a clear stock that is sold commercially.

I used what I needed for my recipes and froze the remainder. Those baby food trays are coming in handy yet again! Now I have it premeasured in one ounce cubes and ready in the freezer. I did find that I needed to cut it with a bit of water for chicken noodle soup, but I was happy that I was able to stretch it even more.

I plan to start using my limp, not so fresh vegetables for vegetable stock. Although these would usually go in the compost, I still feel like I’m bringing new life to something that would normally just be disposed of. It’s so easy to throw into a big pot, add water, and simmer. 

Just like the breadcrumbs, the flavor is unbelievable compared to the prepackaged stock. Happy simmering!
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