Snow Day Chili

Snow Day Chili

It is winter in Michigan at its finest right now!  Huz is on snow day # 3 this week due to the frigid cold, and blowing winds.  The winds have been keeping our lovely dirt roads snow drifted shut, and at times we find ourselves praying the snow plows remember us.  Thankfully the food preservation work we do in the summer allows us to go for weeks without having to go to the grocery store this time of year.  Here is one of my favorites to make,  I like to call it “snow day chili” because for me this recipe requires no trip to the store due to all the ingredients being put up this summer.  It is so simple and flexible to make, plus it warms you up on cold snowy nights,  makes great left overs, and pairs nicely with a home-brew.  Also this recipe is gluten-free, just make sure any store bought product you use is marked as such on the label, if you use home canned stuff then you are good to go.  Let’s get to it!

Ingredients: (This batch size make about 12-14 cups)

  • 1 pound of ground beef
  • salt and pepper to taste ( I used about 1/2 tsp of each)
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 1 medium or large onion (whatever you got laying around) – chopped
  • 1 cup of dry kidney beans – will teach you how to re-hydrate below, these are way better than the store-bought canned stuff.  We grow our own dry beans but you can buy them in the store for super cheap.
  • 3 Quart Jars of home canned tomato sauce, See that post here, the store bought version would be something like  Hunts Tomato Sauce
  • 1 bag of frozen green peppers, See that post here, this is optional but we like the flavor it adds
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dehydrated Super Chili’s or the store bought version is called Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon Cumin – this gives it a nice savory chili flavor
  • 1 fresh jalapeno, optional – I happened to have this in the house so I chopped it up and threw it in, adds nice flavor and heat.

Directions:

Re-hydrating dry beans is super easy it just takes a bit of time, so around lunch time start this step, or the day before…then you have them ready when you need them.

  1. In a large pot dump your cup of dry kidney beans and fill with water until covering about a good inch above the beans.
  2. Turn on high heat and bring to a boil, once boiling turn off and place cover on and let them set for about an hour.  The idea is just get the beans to start absorbing the water.
  3. After an hour turn your burner on to low/simmer and stir every 15-20 minutes or when you think about it.
  4. Just keep cooking until they look soft, they might split a bit.  Once this happens try one are they soft all the way through?  If yes turn off, if not keep cooking…  NOTE: these will have more texture than the canned beans you get at the store.
  5. Once they are done to your liking turn them off, drain, and store until you make the chili.  See these steps below.

Chili 1

Then when it gets closer to dinner, brown your meat with the salt, pepper, crushed garlic, and chopped up onions.

Chili 2

Once your meat is cooked, dump your meat, beans, 3 quarts of tomatoes, peppers, 1/2 tsp cumin and 1/2 tsp of super chili’s into a large stock pot.  (NOTE add 1/4 tsp of super chili if you do not like much spice)

Chili 3

Then turn on to medium-high and cook until starting to boil a bit, remember to stir frequently, once boiling move heat to low and cook for a 20-30 minutes longer.  Then give it a try, what does it need to meet your taste palate?  Maybe more salt, more spice, etc.  Add as you see fit.  I ended up adding a bit more super chili’s since we like it spicy.  Below is the finished product!

chili 4 chili 5

Tips/Notes:

  • If you use the store-bought canned tomatoes you might need to cook it on low a bit longer to thicken your chili.  Our sauce is already cooked down to the perfect chili thickness
  • Serve with cheese on top if you wish
  • Pairs nicely with home-brews and french bread (skip this part gluten-free folks)
  • This makes awesome left-overs since the flavors have more time to meld.

Please let me know if you have any comments or questions!  Enjoy ~ Megan

Simple Granola Recipe (made with ingredients around the house)

Homemade yogurt is not complete without some crunchy granola.  Granola adds nice flavor, crunch, and extra protein for stay power to your yogurt.  The problem with homemade granola is it can get so darn complicated and expensive to make.  Thus, with the goal of making a quick & simple granola to add to my homemade yogurt I turned to the internet.  I found a simple recipe with ratios, this I could work & experiment with… On the first attempt I made a small batch and while it turned out flavor-wise  it was not very “granola-ie”.  I used the wrong oatmeal thinking quick oats would be just the same as whole old fashion – but they are not.  Also this first attempt was lacking the “clump factor” of granola.  For attempt two I got to thinking about clumping & the very complex granola recipe in my cookbook, which I have never made but seen made and it is indeed “clump-a-licious” granola.  So with that in mind I made it again, and added an egg.  The egg is the one item missing from the online recipe but found in my complicated cookbook recipe.  The egg, did the trick in helping the granola to hold together better.  My favorite part about this recipe is that it is ratio based and simple!  The recipe offers ratios and gives you the ability to twist, create, and design a healthy granola that fits into your unique food style.  Let’s get to it…

Ingredients: 

  • 2 cups oats – the one picky ingredient in the whole recipe, use whole old fashioned oats if you can, also get gluten free oats, if you need it to be gluten free
  • 1 cup any mix of chopped nuts and/or seeds, whatever sounds delectable to you.  I use all almonds.
  • 1/2 cup mix of dried fruit (chopped roughly, if large) **Optional** I omit this because dried fruit in yogurt does not appeal to us.
  • 1/4 cup oil – I use extra virgin olive oil, but melted butter could work also
  • 1/4 cup syrupy sweetener or mix thereof (honey, maple syrup, etc.)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon – **optional** you can also add other spices which sound good to you.

Directions:

First we are going to slightly toast our oats and nuts.  Turn you oven on to 350.  Measure out your oats and nuts and dump into a 12×15 bar pan or 9×13 cake pan. Mix with your hand and spread out so the the bottom of the pan is covered.  Once oven is up to temperature, place pan in oven and bake for about 9 or 10 minutes.   Check every 3 minutes and give it a little stir, this ensures an even “roastyness” & “brownness”.  Check out pic’s of this below.

granola 1

Meanwhile, measure out a 1/4 cup of honey or whatever syrup sticky thing you want to use and 1/4 cup of oil into a small sauce pan.  Turn on a low heat stir occasionally and get it bubbling.  Then turn off and wait for your roasted oats and nuts to finish in the oven.

granola 2

Once your oats and nuts are done roasting in oven remove and dump into a metal bowl.  Be careful they will be hot and keep your oven on.  At this point add your cinnamon or other spices if you desire, mix.  Then add egg, and oil/honey mixture and stir.  Once incorporated, take a second to spray the pan you used for the roasting with a bit of non-stick stuff, then spread the mixture back out on to your greased pan and return to oven.

granola 3

Once in the oven for the second time, set timer for 10 minutes.  Once it rings open the oven check on progress, maybe give a quick stir so it cooks evenly and then cook it up to 5 more minutes.  I prefer mine a bit darker to bring out the “roastyness” and “goldenness” so I cook mine the full 15 minutes but you can pull it out at any time.  Really flexible…  Once out of oven remove from pan to wax paper or to a metal bowl if adding dried fruit.  This is the point you add your dried fruit if you want it, just stir it in.  I usually omit because we do not like it in our yogurt.   NOTE:  sometimes this is a bit soft while warm, but as it cools it does harden; and leave as intact as possible to help form those nice clumps.

granola 4

Once cool, store in an airtight container and enjoy plain as a quick snack on the go or coupled with some delish homemade yogurt and strawberry freezer jam – yum.

granola 5 granola 6

Notes/Tips:

My favorite part about the recipe… taste it once cool then make some tasting notes and adjust for next time until you have it just how you and/or your family like it:

  1. Too salty, not enough salt – maybe next time add some.
  2. Too sweet/not sweet enough?  Maybe next time go a bit higher on the honey or use a different sweeter.
  3. Is there an over powering flavor?  Maybe tone it down for next time.
  4. How was the cinnamon?  Too weak or too strong, adjust how you see fit.

Please let me know if you have any comments or questions!  Enjoy~ Megan

***PS:  Check out what we have been up to in our new addition canning kitchen.  Walls are up,  stove cabinet built, and stove is installed.  Next step is to get the hood vent installed.  We are so excited to use this range this summer…. Enjoy!

stove 1 stove 2

Easy Homemade Yogurt

I love making yogurt in my dehydrator… it is so easy, so fresh, and those live and active cultures are oh so good for your gut – seriously people!  I get excited just thinking about those healthy cultures chillin in my gut!!!  This fall after going through quite a bit of store-bought plain yogurt  for breakfast I decided it’s time to create, and eliminate another processed food from Huz’s and my diet.  So a quick call to Mom (who makes it occasionally) coupled with a quick “how to” Google search got me started.  Now Huz and I are hooked on the good stuff!  Again I cannot stress how much better this stuff is for you over the commercial brands.  It has so much more flavor, so much less packaging waste, it is gluten free, and the best part of all… (seriously)…(wait for it)… it has TRUE probiotics – 100% gut approved!  Let’s get to it…

Ingredients:

  • 1 or 2 or 3 quarts of Whole Milk – whole is best, the thinner the milk the runnier the yogurt, so don’t go below 2% but really whole is the best.
  • 1/4 or  1/2  cup plain yogurt – either from a plain yogurt you buy at the store or reusing from the last batch. (See tips below for using a culture starter pack)
  • A dehydrator, yogurt maker, or some way to keep your yogurt at a constant temp of about 110-115 degrees for 6-12 hours.  For this blog I will be using my dehydrator.
  • A thermometer, I just use my candy thermometer, but any quick read one should do the trick.

Directions:

Measure out the amount of milk you want to make into yogurt dump into a large sauce pan and turn on the heat to low/medium-low, I usually make 2 or 3 quarts worth.  The time I made this batch Huz was home for Thanksgiving break so I made a 3 quart batch.  Picture below.

Yogurt 1

While this is slowly coming up to 185 degrees and you are stirring occasionally, I wash and sanitize my jars.  Due to our love of beer brewing we have Star-San in the house, an acid based sanitizer that I spray my jars with.  If you do not have this, just make sure you give your jars a good wash and rinse well in hot water (that is all my Mom ever did).  Then turn them over to dry until ready to use.  Here is a picture of my station all set up.

Yogurt 4

Over the low heat, bring the temperature of the milk up to 185 degrees.  You will start to see the milk get a bit foamy as it reaches this point.  Once it reaches 185 (or right around there) remove from heat and cool back down to 115 degrees.   If you want to move the process along an ice bath works nicely.  See my ice bath below, just be-careful not to get any water in there.  You are working with bacteria and you do not want to introduce other bacteria friends to your yogurt makin’ party.

Yogurt 2

Once the temperature is down to 115, remove from ice bath.  Add your starter, the plain yogurt you saved from your last batch or you got from the store.  See below a picture of my starter about to go in, then I gently whisk it around.  No need to beat it to death, just introduce those yummy live cultures and they will do the rest while cooking.

Yogurt 3

Once the starter is gently mixed into your milk, pour into jars.

Yogurt 5

Once you have filled your jars, place them in your dehydrator,  yogurt maker,  cooler, or however you intent to keep them warm.  Keep them at about 115 degrees for 6-12 hours.  I usually cook them about 10 hours.  The longer they cook, the tangier the yogurt, this also depends on the strain of bacteria you use and how many times you have used it.   See below for a few shots of  the dehydrator cooking away.  Side note:  I keep a thermometer in mine as my dehydrator tends to run a bit hot.

Yogurt 6

10 hours later – DONE!  You can do this over night, or start it in the morning and cook all day.  It is easy, and oh so good for you!

Yogurt 7

Yogurt 9

Eating Tips:

  • This will keep an easy 2 or 3 weeks in your fridge, maybe even longer, it usually does not last that long here.
  • Delicious mixed honey, or homemade jam ( strawberry, peach, cherry, elderberry, peach/raspberry or any other kind you have in your freezer we have tried them all).
  • Even goes great with cranberry sauce.
  • Remember those frozen blueberries we froze earlier this year, toss those in with a bowl.  It is delicious, or use canned peaches, or fresh fruit.  YUM
  • For the extra crunch add some homemade granola (my next post)!

Other Tips/Notes/Nutritional Facts:

  • Only reuse a batch about 3 or 4 times, then refresh with a fresh strand of starter either from a plain yogurt from the store or from a culture packet from a home-brew supply store…
  • Below is one culture we have been using from Siciliano’s, it has more bacteria cultures in it than the commercial brands, thus better for your gut!
  1. SWEET CULTURE INCLUDES: Lactose, Dry milk powder, (ST) Streptococcus thermophilus, (LB) Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus, (LA) Lactobacillus acidophilus, (LBL) Lactobacillus lactis, Bifidobacterium lactis, autolyzed yeast
  • Lastly here are the nutritional facts using whole milk  (thanks to my sister in law for this ability now on my blog)!  This is estimated off of 1 cup of yogurt – thus 1 quart would serve 4 people.  I just wish this would show all those live active cultures, they are so good for you!

Yogurt 8

Please let me know if you have any comments or questions!  Enjoy ~ Megan