Make Your Own Noodles

There is nothing as satisfying as a homemade meal and nothing as personally satisfying as making something from scratch that you normally purchase.  Making pasta or noodles is a great way to branch out into homemade food and a great skill to add to your old-fashioned skills bank.

Its not difficult to make pasta but it can be time consuming until you learn how to do it well.

noodles

You can use all-purpose flour for pasta or for a heartier noodle, use whole wheat.  Whole wheat noodles are great in hearty soups.

Remember that the thinner you can roll your dough, the better your noodles will be when you cook them. You can dry your noodles and store them in airtight containers or in the freezer for use later.

Noodle Ingredients:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour – or use whole wheat or other whole grain
1 pinch salt
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon butter

In a large bowl, stir together the flour and salt. Add the beaten egg, milk, and butter. Knead dough until smooth, about 5 minutes. Let rest in a covered bowl for 10 minutes. If you have a Kitchen Aid or other electric machine with a dough hook, you can definitely use that to knead this dough.

Take the dough out of the bowl and cut it into manageable chunks.

On a floured surface, roll out one chunk of dough at a time  to 1/8 or 1/4 inch thickness.
Flour each sheet of rolled dough generously. Roll up each sheet and using a thin, sharp knife, slice off 1/2 inch portions.
Unroll the cut portions into long noodles. Cut the noodles into the length you desire.
Allow the noodles to air dry on the counter top for about 15 minutes before using them. Some people hang the noodles, but I only hang them to dry if they are very long.

If you have a pasta roller, as I do, use it! It can roll that pasta out paper thin if you like.

Dry the noodles completely and store in the freezer in plastic bags for later use.

One of my favorite way of drying and storing noodles is to make “nests” out of the wet, fresh noodles. I let the nests dry and then store them either in jars or plastic bags for use later. You can also use a food dehydrator to dry your noodles. Dry them at 115*F  until completely dry, then store as described above.

Homeschool Lunches

If you are a homeschooling Mom, you already know how hard it can be to prepare a good lunch every day of the school week for a group of hungry children and still be able to get your housework done and assist the children in their own work….and get supper ready!

This is our 23rd year of homeschooling and just as with curriculum choices, what to prepare and serve for lunch can sometimes be a matter of trial and error. My goal is to help you along with some of the poor choices and good choices I have made over the years and give you ideas for lunches.

noodle_soup

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hot Lunch vs. Cold Lunch

While some people always insist on a hot lunch, I think we can find a balance here. There are some days when a cold lunch is just as nice and just as filling. The weather has a lot to do with what we eat. Cold days call for soups and stews, warm breads and muffins. Days when we are rushed for time and have errands to run may be good days for a quick, cold lunch or a lunch that can be packed and taken along.

You can also introduce Tea Time into your afternoon. As a homeschooler, you have that luxury of teaching your children how to slow down and read aloud while enjoying good food, tea and the company of others. Tea Time is a good time to offer snacks.

Here are some quick ideas for making lunch time more manageable for your homeschool:

Plan Ahead – Make up your menu at least a week ahead of time. Factor in leftovers and meals for which you can cook once, eat twice. Plan on cooking for lunch and supper at the same time, often.

Set aside Lunch Food – Don’t let your family or yourself pilfer the lunch food during the week. That way you will have what you need come lunch time.

Choose Food that Helps Children Concentrate – Avoid foods that are high in artificial/hydrogenated fats and processed sugars. Choose whole grains, lean meats, fish and vegetables, fruits and beans. Even a pizza can be a healthy choice if you make it with a whole grain crust and lean meat.

Schedule lunch for the same time every day. This helps children get into some good habits. Washing hands, cleaning up their work area and helping prepare lunch are all great ways to teach your children how to do things for themselves. Having lunch at the same time every day also teaches your children to wait and to have patience.

I usually plan on three hot meals per school week and two cold meals. Here are some lunch ideas for you to start with:
Hot Meal Ideas:

Whole wheat tortillas with cheese and/or refried beans – Check out my recipe for soft flat bread.  Its very easy to make and great with refried beans.

Chicken and Corn chowder with crackers – This is easier than it sounds. Use pre-cooked chicken, (or use sausage), chicken broth to cover, bring to a simmer, add 1 can of creamed corn and 1 can of drained kernel corn. Once its hot add some cream or milk to the thickness you like. Taste and season with black pepper and salt. Check out my homemade cracker recipe, its delicious.

Potato soup – Boil some cut up potatoes til they are tender, add milk, salt to taste and then shredded or cubed cheese to taste.

Canned chili beans and brown rice, shredded cheese – Cook your rice and season it with salt and butter., Then to the cooked rice add 1 can of chili beans. Top each serving with shredded cheese, green onion, tomato, cilantro.

Crusty bread with vegetable soup

Whole wheat toast with peanut butter

Cinnamon Apple Toast - My children like this with a scrambled egg on the side. 

Whole wheat toast with baked beans spread on top

Homemade chicken nuggets with honey mustard or ranch dressing – Cut up chicken breasts into small, bite sized pieces. Put them in a bowl and cover with buttermilk. Let the chicken sit while you get everything else ready.  Heat some oil in a big, heavy pan. I use a cast iron dutch oven. Drain the chicken then dredge the pieces in flour. After they are all dredged with flour you can sprinkle them with salt. Fry the pieces in hot oil til they are dark golden brown. Drain on paper towels and while they are draining, if you want that Chick-filet taste, drizzle the fried pieces with a tiny amount of honey.

Cold Meal Ideas:

Apple slices and nut butter for dipping

Fruit and cheese, crackers

Raw vegetables and dip

Hummus and dippers

Homemade vegetable chips and sandwiches

 

A Few Mixes To Have On Hand

These mixes are easy to make and store.  I prefer to buy ingredients and make things like mixes myself instead of paying someone else to make them.

spicesTaco Seasoning
2 Tsp dried minced onion – more on this later
1 Tsp Sea Salt
½ Tsp arrowroot powder
½ Tsp Garlic powder – see below
½ Tsp ground cumin
1 Tsp Chili powder
½ Tsp ground red pepper
1/4 Tsp oregano dried

Store in dry place.
To make Taco Meat: Brown 1 # ground beef or turkey. Drain. Add ½ cup water, seasoning pkt. Simmer 10 minutes. Fills 8 – 10 tacos

Garam Masala
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Combine, store in an air-tight container

 

Pizza Sauce Seasoning

1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 to 2 teaspoons fennel seed, crushed
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

 Homemade Sloppy Joe Seasoning

Combine all of the ingredients in a small glass or plastic jar with a tight fitting lid. Label and store in your pantry shelf until needed.

2 tablespoons dried onion OR use 2 T Onion powder
2 T Paprika
1 tsp Garlic powder
1 tsp Chili powder (chipotle chili powder is good in this)
1 tsp dried Marjoram
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp Black pepper
1/4 tsp celery seed

This makes one recipe of sloppy joes using 1 pound of ground meat, so increase the amount you make, double, triple or even more, to store and use. If you make a ton of it, you’ll need to use 1/3 cup of mix per pound of ground meat.

 

 

Cooking Over A Fire

I have cooked over an open fire and in a fireplace for years and have learned a few things along the way.  Here are a few things that I think are very important.  Oh … you wonder why someone would want to cook over a fire instead of over an electric or gas oven? I do it because the food tastes better, it slows me down, its peaceful out side and because I just like it. You may not choose to cook over a fire on a daily basis, but if you go camping the know-how might come in handy.

First and foremost, you need the right equipment. Cast iron is the best choice for cooking over a fire. I have used other metals in a pinch but for durability and better cooking you need cast iron. There are several brands out there and you will get what you pay for. I recommend that you comb antique stores and flea markets to find heavy, old cast iron that has already been cured. These older, heavy pans are ideal for cooking over a fire. The heavier a pan, the more the heat will be distributed throughout the pan evenly. This is necessary for any kind of cooking but especially for open fire cooking where you are cooking over a few coals

Three things to remember when cooking on a fire:

1. If you place a pan directly on the hot coals, your food will likely burn.
2. If you hang your pan too far above the coals, it will not cook.
3. If you try to cook over a fire instead of a bed of coals, you will be frustrated. So what you need to work toward is a bed of hot coals, and a pan that is not too close nor too far away from the coals.

HOW close? Well, that depends on what you are cooking, and most of that knowledge will come with experience, however you can logically expect the coals to be hotter when you are closer to them.

How to Make a Fire For Cooking

A fire for warmth and a fire for cooking are two different things. For warmth you want that roaring crackling fire that fills up the fire box and continues to burn with medium sized flames.
For a cooking fire though you want to start with that roaring fire and really feed the fuel to the fire. This is going to make it roar and make the flames really big for a while. But the idea is to feed the fire as much wood as you think you will need coals to cook over. The flames will die down as the wood burns and the wood will become hot coals or embers. These coals are what you will cook over, not really the fire itself.

Remember that coals die out and have to be replaced with new coals. It’s better to have too many coals than not enough. So fuel up your fire to make it big at first and allow it to die down. I make my fire big and then move the coals over to the side of the burning fire. This way I can have coals being made constantly in the big fire while I am cooking on the cook fire.  If I know I will be cooking very large amounts of food I will build two separate fires and transfer coals to my cook fire in a small bucket as they are needed.

You can always fuel your fire while you are cooking but you need to be careful of two things. First, don’t refuel in such a way that the fire burns violently near your pans of food. It may burn your food or throw ashes and embers into it. Second, you must time yourself when you fuel the fire. It takes some time to make a coal, about 20-30 minutes. So start early making more coals when you are cooking.

Always, always use wood to cook over. Other fuels may cause fumes that are harmful. Use dry wood that has been aged if possible so that it will be completely dry.

After the fire has died down you will need to gather the coals up to cook over. This is where you need some of your cast iron tools like a shovel or spatula. Rake the coals together in a spot that you can reach. This is your cooking spot. You may have one to 4 cooking spots in most fireplaces. You can have as many as you like in a fire that is outside. Leave yourself plenty of room to move around and for the coals to reach all the pans.

Obviously you will have to replenish your hot coals from time to time as you are cooking. So, for example, if you are using a fireplace to cook in, choose another place to the side or rear of the fireplace to keep a fire going. I cook all along the front and one side of a fireplace, and allow the fire to burn in the left rear portion of the box. Whenever the coals burn out or loose some of their heat, scoop hot coals from the fire area to the cooking area. Some of the spent coals can be removed during cooking, but I usually wait until the cooking is over to do that because it stirs up ashes that can get in the food.

There are many, many items that you could purchase to use for cooking in your fireplace, but here are my favorites:

Spyders – These are three or four legged trivet-like things that hold your pans above the coals. They have a ring for the pan to sit in and an open bottom. They can be purchased in varying heights so that you can cook close to the coals or several inches away from them. Three different heights would be ideal, but two would do. The really tall ones are great for keeping food warm. Often a cast iron pan will have long legs cast onto the pan itself. Either one of these, the trivet-like contraption or the legged pan, can properly be called a spyder.

If you equip your fireplace with a trammel or hanging arm, you can buy all kinds of doo-dads to hang on it and hang your pots from. I like the one that adjusts from short to long so you can adjust how quickly your food is cooking without moving the pot off the fire. This is especially handy if your fireplace is small and you are cramped for room in there.

Utensils – Well, obviously you want long ones….but don’t get them any longer than what is comfortable for you to manage. My very longest ones are 18″. Also consider getting cast iron utensils instead of stainless or wooden ones. They just last longer. You need a spoon, a slotted spoon, a fork or three of various sizes, two spatulas, one short and one long, and that is all that is really essential. As you cook more and more you will find that there are other utensils that you would like to have. Choose very sturdy ones, for you will find that you use them for lifting Dutch Oven lids, pots and pans and other heavy items out of the fire. I finally got a utensil that is nothing more than a big hook to do just that!

You might want a spit to roast meat on, but I bind the meat up with cotton thread, season it and hang over slow coals for about 6-8 hours to roast. Works well, if you can stand the aroma for that long!
Another good way to roast meat like venison steaks, is to skewer the meat onto a large fork and prop the fork up in front of the fire, turning frequently til the meat is done.

There are reflector ovens made for the fireplace and they are really great…..once you learn how to use them properly, and that takes practice.
They can be used to cook meats, breads, cakes, cookies, or casseroles. They are relatively slow cooking, but they do the job very well, as soon as you learn how to keep the coals at an even temperature and how to pull the oven back from the fire when it becomes too hot.

There are also Dutch Ovens. I recommend one with a lid that has a lip on it so that you can put hot coals on top of it without them sliding off. The coals on the top of the lid helps the food to cook from both the top and bottom of the pan, much the way a conventional oven does. This is the best way to bake in the fireplace, besides the reflector oven.
You want Dutch Ovens that have LEGS. You will need at a minimum of three Dutch Ovens to cook a large meal. They can be used to cook cakes, cornbreads, puddings, soups, stews, roasts, on and on.
I find that I like to move my Dutch Oven around and reposition it with new coals every 5-15 minutes. It’s very easy to burn a cake or breads in a Dutch Oven!

Other Pots and Pans – Well, just get cast iron and make sure that they all have LEGS on them! You want the coals to be able to get up under the pans to cook the food, this way you don’t have to sit the pan ON the coals and risk burning. If your pans don’t have legs, just make sure that you have something for them to sit on like a spyder or cast iron tripod. Make sure they have handles, or bales, too. The idea is to cook safely on the fire. With a lid on your pan, you can lift it, move your pan and generally be in control of the pan while it is hot.

You will need a safe place to sit hot pans coming off the fire, lots of dish towels and all of the usual fireplace accoutrements like a shovel, ash bucket, bucket of water for emergencies, poker, large flat rocks for heating and using to keep food warm and towels or cloths to protect your hands while you lift and move around hot pans. You will also need a large pan or tray to place your utensils on while you are using them to keep them clean.

One last thing I have learned about cooking over a fire. When I am pushed for time and I have hungry people to cook for I have to use higher heat and therefore more grease in my cooking. However, if you are not pressed for time and you can relax a bit, you can cook with lower temperature coals and use less grease. This may not seem important now, but as you cook on the fire more and more you will catch yourself adding more grease to whatever you are cooking because the temperature is too high.

You are going to have to grease the pans a lot more than you are probably used to doing anyway with conventional cooking, especially considering our low fat ways these days. But as you become more experienced, you can cut back on the grease considerably.

One last thing about cooking over a fire. Take your time when you cook over a fire. Make sure your hair is out of the way and that your clothing is not going to drag in the coals. And don’t cook with little ones all around you.

You Can Make Homemade Cranberry Sauce

This sauce is amazing. Its good with turkey and its good on grilled panini sandwiches. Easy to make, keeps well in the frig for weeks.

cranberry-sauce

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 cups fresh or frozen cranberries

1 cup red wine and/or pure cranberry juice

2 large oranges, juiced and zested

1/2 cup maple syrup (more to taste)

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

salt and pepper to taste

Yields approximately 3 cups. Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to medium low and let simmer for 10 to 15 minutes or until most of the cranberries have popped. Serve hot or chilled.

Re-hydrating Your Dehydrated Food

While I am on break, here is an article from my friend, Vickilynn Haycraft over at Real Food Living about how to re-hydrate your homemade dehydrated foods. Great info!

From Dehydrated To Dinner

corn

Homemade Hamburger Helper: Different Varieties and In Bulk

 Hamburger Helper is so stinkin’ convenient. If only it wasn’t so unhealthy. Its chock full of sugar, salt, preservatives and other junk but it sure tastes good and its filling. So I started making my own hamburger helper years ago. My children really like it.

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If you make Hamburger Helper you know that you use milk.  I use powdered milk because I can make up the seasoning mix and have it on hand and just have to add water.

Here are a few recipes for the Seasoning Packs you’ll need to make my homemade Hamburger Helper. Feel free to modify for your family.  The original Hamburger Helper has a lot of sugar in it. I prefer to have a more healthy dish so I have left out the sugar, you could add a bit of sugar in if your palate demands it.

Make up the Seasoning Mix and store it in a glass jar in a cool place. Be sure to label it and it wouldn’t hurt to keep the instructions for making the dish with the seasoning.

The first one is the classic Hamburger Cheesy Mac.

First make your Seasoning Mix.

This amount will make 4 different meals of Cheesy Mac.  For each recipe you’ll shake the jar well to combine and distribute the seasonings and use  one half cup of the mix for each recipe of Cheesy Mac.

1 – 1/4 cup instant powdered milk
5 Tablespoons cornstarch
3 Tablespoon plus 1 tsp. paprika
1 – 1/2  Tablespoon  onion powder
1 – 1/2  Tablespoons garlic powder
1 – 1/2  Tablespoons  salt
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
 

You will need for each recipe of this dish:
Remember that the seasoning mix makes 4 recipes of this dish

1 pound ground meat
3 1/3 cups hot water
1 1/2 cups elbow macaroni, uncooked
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

To prepare:

Brown the ground meat in a large skillet or pot.  Add one half cup of seasoning mix.

Add the water and the uncooked macaroni.  Stir well and allow to simmer on low heat for  15-20 minutes.

Once the macaroni is tender and all the water is absorbed, add the shredded cheese, stir.

Taste for salt and pepper.

 

Next up is Beef Stroganoff.  If you can get sour cream powder, its good in this mix and you’d use 2 - 1/2 cups of it in the big batch of mix, but since most people can’t, I decided to build this recipe using fresh sour cream added at the last minute of cooking.

Seasoning Mix
Remember, this makes 4 different recipes of the Beef Stroganoff dish

1 – 1/4 cup instant powdered milk
5 TBS cornstarch
10 tsp. garlic powder
10 tsp. onion powder
10 tsp. parsley
10 tsp. salt
5 tsp. pepper

  You will also need:  
Remember that the seasoning mix makes 4 recipes of this dish

1 pound ground meat
2 cups hot water
1 1/2 cups small egg noodles
1 cup sour cream

To Prepare:

Brown the ground meat in a large skillet or pot. Add one half cup of seasoning mix.

Add the water and the uncooked noodles.  Stir well and allow to simmer on low for  15-20 minutes. Add hot water if needed throughout cooking.

Once the noodles are tender and all the water is absorbed, remove from heat and stir in sour cream.

Taste for salt and pepper.

 

The last one is for a Rice Hamburger Dish. Instead of pasta, it uses rice. I cook my rice before hand. In fact, I cook whatever rice I am going to use in my menus during the week and refrigerate it. But for this meal, you can just put the rice on to cook while you are cooking the hamburger and preparing the other ingredients.

I guess this is sort of a Jambalaya type dish. Its as spicy as you want it to be, just add more pepper or seasoning like Tony Chachere’s . This Seasoning Mix Recipe will make 4 different dishes of Rice Hamburger.

1 – 1/4 cup instant powdered milk
5 Tablespoons TBS cornstarch
1\4 cup diced, dried sweet bell peppers (optional)

Spices and Herbs:
1- 1\2 Tablespoons Paprika
1 Tablespoon Chili powder
2 teaspoons cayenne
2 teaspoons oregano
2 teaspoons thyme
5 teaspoons onion powder
5 teaspoons garlic powder
5 teaspoons salt

OR, instead of the spices and herbs above, you can use 1\2 cup of Tony Chachere’s Cajun Seasoning, or Zatarain’s

You will also need:
1 pound ground meat
3 1\2 cups hot water
1 cup shredded cheese
1 small can of stewed tomatoes (about 8 ounces)

Put 1 cup rice and 2 cups water on to cook. While that is simmering, brown the ground beef in a large skillet or pot. When the beef is done, drain it and place it back over the heat.

Add 1\2 cup of the seasoning mix to the beef, add the hot water and tomatoes then stir. Lower heat to a simmer.
Stir in the cooked rice. Cover and let sit for 5-10 minutes to thicken.
When heated through and thick, add the shredded cheese. Cover and let sit again another 5 minutes. Serve.

My Onions Wear Panty Hose

Sometimes they wear them all winter.  onions 1 words

Here’s how to store onions in panty hose. Storing them in hose allows for air circulation and keeps the onions from touching each other. When you store onions where they can touch each other, its easy for them to start getting soft, then rot.

You can use panty hose, just cut off the legs, or you can use knee highs which is what I used this time.

Another way to store onions is to braid their stalks together and hang them. These onions didn’t have long, sturdy stalks so I opted to store them in hose. Onions can also be stored in flat boxes in cool areas after they have dried completely. 

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First, be sure you are using onions that have a thoroughly dried stalk. If the stalk is green let it dry some more before storing them. I had several onions that had both dried and green stalks on them. I used them to make minced, dehydrated onions. Only the onions that had completely dried stalks were stored in hose. After you harvest your onions, allow them to air dry for several weeks before storing them in this or any other way.

 

onions 3

 

 

 

 

 

Next, rub off excess soil and dry onion skin. Don’t peel off any paper, it is a protection for the onion. Trim off the roots but don’t cut into the onion itself. Trim off the dried stalk.

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se and tie a tight knot in the hose on top of the onion.  Drop another onion in and tie another knot. Most knee highs will hold 4 or 5 onions and leave you enough space for hanging the hose either on a nail or tie a piece of twine to the top and hang it that way.
Drop the first onion into the toe of the ho

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Hang the onions in a cool, airy, dry place. Every time you need an onion, just snip on off below the knot.