5 Things I’m Putting in My Freezer This Summer

Fill Your Freezer

Here are 5 of my tried-and-true, favorite, freezable summer goodies! I hope your freezer is filling up with in-season deliciousness :)

1. Corn

The low-prep method: freeze the whole cob, still in the husk. When you’re ready to eat it, throw it on the grill with whatever else you’re grilling. It’s always been delicious for us! These Ziploc Bags are actually big enough to hold an entire cob. (Yes, that’s an Amazon link. Yes, I might get a teeny percentage if you buy them there. You can also get them at Kroger or Publix. :) )

The higher-prep method: Husk corn. Blanch cobs like this: cook for 3 minutes in boiling water, then plunge into ice water to cool. Using a sharp knife, cut kernels from cob, then use the back of the knife to scrape out the “milk” from the cob. Place into freezer bags in serving-size portions. For more information, see my previous post on freezing creamed corn.)

2. Whole tomatoes

I’ve been putting our tomatoes into the freezer as they ripen. When I have a bag full, I can peel them under warm running water (the skins of frozen tomatoes slip right off that way), then process them how I want to.

You can put whole tomatoes into veggie soup, make tomato soup, or blend them right into pizza sauce or marinara. I imagine they would even work for salsa, if you were planning on using canned tomatoes anyway.

3. Fruit

Strawberries, peaches, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, cherries, watermelon; you name it, it probably freezes well! Some fruits lose their color (peaches especially) when frozen, so look into a citric acid color preserver if that’s important to you. But if you’re just going to use them in smoothies or make them into jam later, then don’t worry about it.

  • Peaches tend to form rock-hard clumps when frozen, so don’t pack those bags too full–you’ll be able to break the clumps apart better if only a few pieces are stuck together.
  • Watermelon gives a lovely slushie-like texture to smoothies on a hot summer day.
  • You can make jam with frozen fruit just the same as with fresh. Save the jam party for a winter day and your stove will help to keep your house warm.
  • Frozen blueberries are fabulous in muffins, pancakes, and yogurt.
  • Put frozen fruit, a little water, and a little sugar in a saucepan. Simmer till the fruit breaks down and you have a delicious pancake topping!

4. Freezer pickles

These were a first for me last year. This cabbage slaw is delicious on sandwiches, but you can also use cucumbers for freezer dill pickles and freezer bread-and-butter pickles. You can substitute yellow squash (or zucchini, I’m sure) for the cucumber for some variety. The cucumbers soften in the freezer of course, but the flavor is great for adding to tuna or egg salad, tartar sauce, or anyplace you don’t mind a softer pickle.

Freezer Dill Pickles

Combine 3 1/2 cups thinly sliced cucumbers or yellow squash with 2 garlic cloves, also thinly sliced. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon pickling salt. Cover with water and set aside at least 3 hours. Drain, rinse, and drain again. Combine 1 cup white vinegar with 2 tablespoons sugar. Add cucumbers, 1 sprig fresh dill (or 1 tablespoon dried dill weed),  1 teaspoon dill seeds, and 1 bay leaf. Cover and freeze, leaving headspace appropriate for your jar.

5. Field peas

Purple hull peas are a specialty around these parts in the summer. You can put freshly shelled purple hull peas straight into the freezer. When you’re ready to cook, saute a little onion and garlic. Add peas, cover with water, and cook for around 1 hour, until they are as soft as you want them. They cook much faster than dried field peas and are deliciously fresh-tasting!

One-Handed Homemade Bread

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Someone, somewhere needs to write a cookbook called “The One-Handed Cookbook: Meals You Can Make with a Baby on Your Hip.” I’m convinced it would be a best-seller if the recipes actually worked. :)

Although this bread isn’t a whole meal, it’s the best way I’ve found to get homemade bread into the oven when there’s a baby in the house. Without fail, the baby  needs to be held at the time you remember to start the bread dough. And it’s awfully hard to put a screaming baby down for an entire 7-10 minutes while you measure, mix, and knead the dough. (Or it’s hard to rescue the crawler with dough on your hands. Or it’s hard to make the toddler wait to play a game for 7 full minutes. Et cetera.)

Enter the stretch-and-fold technique.

I learned it from this free video series on Craftsy: Perfect Pizza at Home with Peter Reinhart. I’d read some of Reinhart’s bread books before, but the stretch-and-fold technique didn’t make sense to me until I saw him do it on the video. And may I just say that his pizza is hands-down *the* best homemade pizza ever! Between his crust recommendations, his sauce (using Tuttoroso tomatoes, via Cook’s Illustrated suggestion) and his suggestions to mix cheeses, our cravings for takeout pizza have diminished significantly. It’s that good. :)

So I adapted the pizza crust recipe to make regular bread dough. You start it in the mixer, do a stretch-and-fold 3 or 4 times, and then let it rise as usual. It always turns out moist and delicious!

I’ll give you the general idea with these photos, but if you really want to know what you’re doing, go watch the video course. It’s free (I don’t even get a commission!), and if you like pizza or are interested in baking bread, it’ll be well worth your time. It may even revolutionize your home bread-baking scene. :)

One-Handed Homemade Sandwich Bread

Add ingredients (see below) to stand mixer. Using the paddle attachment, stir just until all the flour is wet and all the water is absorbed.

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Let dough rest for one minute. Stir again, just until the dough looks kind of stretchy (or “shaggy” as he says in the videos). This will take approximately 15-20 seconds.

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Dump dough out onto an oiled cutting board. (Spread the oil out with your fingers, then use your fingers to scrape the dough out. It’s very wet, so oiled fingers will reduce sticking.)

Press the dough out into an approximate rectangle with wet or oiled fingers.

DSC_9102 Fold dough over on itself in thirds one direction, then in thirds the other direction. It should end up in a ball like this:

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Let rest for at least 5 minutes. (This lets some of the gluten relax and the flour hydrate a little bit more.)

With wet or oiled fingers again, press dough out into another rectangle. Fold in thirds again, just like you did before. This time the dough should start to resemble the “smooth and elastic” feeling you get after a few minutes of traditional kneading.

DSC_9105 Let dough rest for at least 5 more minutes. It has seemed to work just fine to wait significantly longer than 5 minutes. (Like if you have to go to the grocery store before lunch time madness ensues. Ahem. :) )

Perform your stretch and fold two more times, ideally. After the fourth time, your dough should seem very smooth and ready to rise, possibly with some air bubbles as pictured below.

DSC_9107 Yes, it’s taken longer than usual to achieve a smooth and elastic dough, but you only had to put in a few minutes of hands-on time!

You may now choose your own adventure: let the dough rise at room temperature or refrigerate it for maximum flavor development. I usually let it rise for 30 minutes to an hour, then punch it down, shape the loaves and let them rise, and then bake it. But it is definitely even more delicious if you have time to let it rise slowly in the refrigerator. :)

To summarize:

One-Handed Homemade Bread

Ingredients

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 scant tablespoon yeast
  • 1 scant tablespoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 6 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

Instructions

  1. Add all ingredients to mixer.
  2. Stir with paddle attachment (not dough hook) for 30 seconds to 1 minute until all flour is wet.
  3. Let dough sit 1-2 minutes.
  4. Stir again, 10-15 seconds, until dough looks slightly stretchy and shaggy. Not too wet, but not stiff and dry either.
  5. Oil a cutting board, and with oiled fingers, scrape dough out onto cutting board.
  6. Perform 4 stretch-and-folds at 5 minute intervals.
  7. Let dough rise on counter or in refrigerator before shaping and baking.
  8. Shape into two loaves, let rise until doubled, and bake at 375 for 22 minutes.
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 If you try it, I hope you love it as much as we do! :)

Starting Seeds in Milk Jugs

milk jug

Happy spring to everyone! Okay, it may not be officially spring yet, but don’t tell this weather–I don’t want it to leave!

I love starting my own seedlings. It’s cost-effective and it gives more options for varieties to try. There are countless ways to start your own, but my favorite way is to use milk jugs as mini-greenhouses to let the seeds get enough sunshine without being hurt by cold temperatures or rain.

Prepare

Wash the jug. Cut around the jug enough to be able to open it up, but leave a hinge of plastic so that you can close it back over the seeds. Poke holes in the bottom of the jug for drainage. You can also use vinegar bottles or even 2-liter soda bottles (although I hope you’re not drinking so much soda that you could start a whole garden in soda bottles! ;) ).

Plant

I have put seed-starting mix directly into the jug and that’s great for small seeds that you plan to transplant in a bunch. Flowers and herbs work well with this method.

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For plants like tomatoes and cucumbers where you’ll want to spread out individual plants in the garden, I’ve planted one or two seeds in a newspaper pot and filled the milk jugs with the pots.

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Label

Make sure you label your jugs! But don’t just write on the jug with a permanent marker. The rain washed all my labels right off the jugs last year! This year I used masking tape and wrote on the tape. It’s working much better. :)

Protect

I usually put the jugs out on our deck. But last year a giant windstorm came up and blew all my milk jugs off the deck and I lost half my seedlings! That was not a good day. :)

This year I have some carboard boxes (these are citrus boxes; you could ask at your local grocery store for banana boxes and they’d work well too). If I think it’s likely to be windy or stormy, I put the milk jugs into the boxes. This gives them stability and keeps them from blowing around.

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Keep the lids from your jugs. If you get a hard rain storm before the seeds have sprouted, you’ll want to keep those raindrops from disturbing your soil and displacing the seeds. If you forget to keep the lids (or lose them), eggshells work marvelously as long as the wind isn’t too hard!

Water

I used a spray bottle to mist the seeds this year after planting. It worked really well and kept the soil evenly moist while not disturbing the seeds.

As your plants are growing, you can keep the lids closed for a greenhouse effect to warm the soil and plants or you can open them up to start hardening them off for transplanting into the garden.

Happy gardening, and if you have tips for starting seeds, I would love to hear them! I’m always open to trying new things and I love hearing from people who’ve tried different things :)

Dairy-Free Snow Cream

dairy-free

not sure what happened to my header words there–they weren’t overlapping when I saved the file!

We had one of our rare southern snows today! Snow is such a novelty down here that it’s hard to go about business as usual when the outdoors is white and there are puffy pieces of deliciousness floating down through the air :)

Last year I read about snow cream and was sad that all the “recipes” called for cream or milk. Then I thought, “Wait. There is absolutely no reason why this shouldn’t work with coconut milk. The only point of the milk is to give the snow a little creamy liquid to freeze.”

So we tried it:

  • pour a little coconut milk in a bowl
  • add sugar and vanilla
  • dump in several handfuls of clean snow
  • stir
  • eat!

And boy was it ever delicious. I’m not sure why it’s so fun to eat something that’s freezing cold when it’s below 32 degrees outside, but it was! I can’t compare this to the real thing (whatever that is when it refers to snow cream :) ), but it definitely got to a slushy consistency. It was creamy, sweet, and vanilla-y. It would have been even better in paper cone :)

I just wanted a recipe for dairy-free snow cream to exist out there on the internet. Fellow dairy-free people, be brave! Try things with coconut milk (or almond or rice or–if you must–soy milk). You’ll be surprised (and usually in a good way ;) )!

 

Allergy-Friendly Fried Rice

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Food allergies or intolerances? Take heart: you can still enjoy fried rice! This fried rice is amazing, and I like it even better than traditional fried rice. Just leave out the egg and soy sauce, make sure you use a good amount of onion, and your rice will be flavorful and delicious.

Start with a good drizzle of oil in a pan (olive oil is great, because the flavor is really tremendous with the onions and rice, but be careful not to let it start smoking in the pan). Heat it over medium-high heat.

Add some chopped raw onion (fairly large pieces), and cook for a few minutes till the outsides are browned but they are not mushy. There should still be some bite to the onion.

Stir in cold, cooked rice (yes, it works so much better than freshly-made rice). Heat through, stirring occasionally.

The onion flavors the oil, which coats the rice. So every bite has hot, onion-tasting rice with a light drizzle of oil on it. It’s delicious all by itself, but it also makes a great starting point for adding more flavor.

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To take it to the next level, add sesame. You can toast sesame seeds in the dry hot pan right at the beginning (before adding the oil), scoop them out, and then top your finished rice with the seeds. (This is beyond amazing. I had no idea sesame seeds had so much flavor. It’s my favorite way to eat rice now. :) ) You can also drizzle the finished dish with sesame oil.

Adding chopped avocado will boost both the nutrition and the sticking power of your dish–good fats keep you full, the creaminess really complements the rice, and the avocado flavor goes so well with onion (and sesame!).

One day I also had cucumbers, red onion, and dill to use up. So I made a quick cucumber salad and put it on top of the rice with the sesame seeds. It. Was. So. Good.

Quick Dilled Cucumber Salad

Ingredients

  • sliced cucumbers
  • sliced red onion
  • chopped fresh dill
  • rice vinegar
  • powdered sugar
  • salt
  • pepper

Instructions

  1. Pour a little vinegar in a bowl.
  2. Add maybe 1/2 teaspoon powdered sugar and a pinch of salt. Stir to dissolve.
  3. Add cucumbers, onion, and dill. Stir.
  4. Top with black pepper if desired.
  5. Serve over fried rice.
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How do you like your fried rice?