Preserving Fall Foods (& Link Up)

Preserving food has always held a fun fascination for me. Maybe it’s because the “Little House on the Prairie” was my favorite read-a-loud series as a child.

Rose and Will love the series as much as I do. And are just as excited about preserving food. “Is this for winter?” Will repeatedly asks.

Dried apples are probably the kids’ favorite. Rose loves arranging them on the dehydrator as I cut them and Will asked at least a dozen times if he could have “just one more.”

Applesauce has long been a family fall tradition. I have many fond memories of a house filled with apples that we turned into sauce.

Avocados are a new one for me. But, when they’re on sale for 20 cents at Aldi, it’s almost impossible to not want to store them. Just mash the avocado, mix in some lemon or lime juice, and freeze. Thaw for guacamole dip year round.

Pumpkin. The word pretty much means “fall.” I love the look and smell and taste. After I cut up the pumpkin, Rose carefully sorted out every last seed so she could make pumpkin seeds “for the winter.” (I’m afraid they didn’t last nearly that long!)

What about you? Do you like preserving food? 

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Feminine Adventures

Now it’s your turn! Jenn and I would love to have you join us for our weekly Thrifty Thursday Blog Hop! Posts about living frugally, thrifty tips and tricks, money-saving DIY projects and gardening, frugal recipes, and encouraging posts on financial stewardship are all welcome. Link up to either of our blogs–your post will be displayed in both places.We’d be very grateful if you’d share only thrifty-themed posts. (Read full guidelines here.)



Vanilla Depression Cake Recipe

Have you ever “needed” to make a cake and found yourself in a bind because you’re missing eggs, butter, and/or milk? If so, this Depression-Era vanilla cake recipe is for you!

All of these ingredients were hard to come by during the Great Depression, so savvy cooks made do with what they had and came up with this delicious cake base.

Maybe it’s inconsistent to make whole wheat tortillas and eat homemade yogurt sweetened with raw honey…and then turn around and make a white cake (with white flour and white sugar.) This recipe won’t win me any healthy mom brownie-points.

Part of a homemaker’s job though is to find the balance of health, taste and cost that works in her kitchen.

Need cake, but don't have eggs, milk, or butter? This Great Depression inspired cake saves the day!

Depression cupcakes with fresh strawberry frosting

Rose turned five last week and requested white cupcakes with strawberry frosting.

I thought I had all the ingredients for birthday cupcakes, but when the time came to make them, I realized the eggs were used up for quiche and we were almost out of butter. Whoops!

There wasn’t time to run to the store. I searched for an egg-free, butter-free white cake recipe, but couldn’t find one.

Then I remembered this chocolate depression cake, named because it uses no eggs, milk, or butter—all of which were hard to come by during the depression.

I tweaked the recipe and this eggless, butterless white cake turned out surprisingly well.

Vanilla Depression Cake Recipe

Makes one 9×9 pan or 12-18 cupcakes

Ingredients

  •  1 2/3 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp vinegar
  • 1 tsp vanilla or almond flavoring
  • 6 T oil
  • 1/2 cup yogurt, optional (It really increases the moistness and flavor of the cake! See how to make your own yogurt here. It’s a huge money saver!)

Instructions

  1. Mix together dry ingredients
  2. Combine wet ingredients and add to dry. Mix well.
  3. Pour into a 9×9 pan (or 12-18 lined muffin tins.)
  4. Bake at 350 for 30 (or around 12-15 minutes for the cupcakes) or until a toothpick inserted near the middle comes out clean.
  5. Top with icing of your choice, if desired. (I added frozen strawberries to homemade buttercream frosting.)

Need cake, but don't have eggs, milk, or butter? Let this Great-Depression inspired recipe come to the rescue!

Enjoy Vanilla Depression Cake

So there. I’ve completely ruined any delusions you had of me as a super healthy mom. Oh well. My daughter loved the cupcakes!

If you need cake in a hurry and don’t have eggs, milk, or butter, let this vanilla depression cake save the day.

11 Healthy Snacks for Busy Days

When it comes to preparing healthy foods, snacks food rank among the most challenging for me. I don’t mind spending time in the kitchen to fry eggs for breakfast or make a healthy dinner, but snacks should be fast, right?

Graham crackers topped with peanut butter and chocolate chips or a tube of Pringles are yummy treats on occasion. On a daily basis I want to serve my kids snacks that curb their appetite as well as nurture their growing bodies.

These are some of my favorite healthy snacks. Each snack only takes a few minutes to prepare or can be made in large batches and stored for busy days.

  1. Fresh veggies dipped in hummus, vegetable dip or guacamole dip. To make it easier, wash, peel and cut up several portions of vegetables at a time. Spray carrots with a bit of water to keep crunchy and store veggies in airtight containers/bags in the fridge.
  2. (Non-microwave) Popcorn. Popped in coconut oil/butter and seasoned with sea salt and kelp, popcorn is one of my kid’s favorite snacks. We don’t have a microwave and pop our corn in a Stir Crazy, but you can also make it in a pot on the stove. 
  3. Nourishing Energy Bites. These tasty treats are packed with healthy ingredients and store great. Pull them out of the freezer for a quick snack.
  4. Fresh fruit
  5. Peanut butter with apples or celery. Want to get really adventurous? Make your own peanut butter!
  6. Homemade trail mix. Mix up nuts (preferably raw), raisins, craisins, coconut chips and/or dried banana chips and store in an airtight container for a quick snack.
  7. Deviled eggs

  1. Mini muffins. Make up a large batch of muffins for breakfast and freeze the rest. Thaw for a quick snack. (These Whole Wheat Applesauce Muffins and Whole Wheat Pumpkin (or Sweet Potato!) Muffins freeze incredibly well.)
  2. Nourishing Protein Bars. These bars are protein packed and so delicious. I think they’re as good as cookies, but made from healthy, whole foods. Will and I gobble them up!  (Joshua and Rose aren’t quite as big fans.)
  3. Homemade yogurt. Top with granola, make savory raita, freeze as popsicles or just eat plain.
  4. Crackers and cheese. (We love these homemade crackers, but homemade are bit too much work for busy days!)

What about you? What are your favorite healthy snacks? 

How to Make a Sourdough Starter

There are at least a million different ways to make a sourdough starter. It is worth making.

I wanted a starter that used just water and flour and didn’t force me to toss out gallons of extra starter in the process, so this is how I made mine.

How to Make a Sourdough Starter

Supplies needed:

  • Glass jar with a lid
  • Spoon (preferably not metal or plastic)
  • Flour
  • Filtered water

Day 1: Clean a glass jar. Add ½ cup flour and ½ cup water. Mix well. Set it on the counter. Cover lightly with cheesecloth if you want.

Day 2: Depending on how warm your home is, the starter may have started to lightly bubble and may have even formed a thin layer of liquid on top. The liquid is called hooch and is the alcohol from the fermenting grain (that will be baked out of the sourdough later). Just mix it back in.

Now, it’s time to feed the starter. Dump out half of the mix (unless you want to end up with cups and cups and cups of starter). Add ½ cup flour and ½ cup water. Mix well. Set on counter and cover if desired

Day 3: Repeat day 2

Days 4+: The starter is ready when bubbles pervade it within eight hours of a feeding and it has a nice, slightly sour scent. The warmth of your home makes a big difference in how quickly this happens. Keep feeding daily until it does.

Once you have an established starter it’s quite simple to care for. If you bake constantly leave it on the counter, use all but ½ a cup of the starter daily and add ½ cup each of water and flour and stir.

If you don’t want sourdough dominating the kitchen, give it a light feeding and store it in the fridge loosely covered to keep any unwanted fridge odors out. It will contentedly eat the flour you gave it for a week or two. If you still don’t need it after that time, take it out, dump half of the starter, give it a fresh feeding and put in back in the fridge.

Random tips and comments:

  • Contrary to what I first thought, the more sourdough starter you use in a recipe, the less sour flavor you get because it takes less time to rise. The longer the dough rises, the more the flavor permeates the dough.
  • Once you’re done with a jar, spoon or anything else that’s come into contact with the sourdough, wash it. The longer you wait, the more persistently the starter clings to the surface.
  • I’ve yet to find an authoritative consensus on where the wild yeast comes from. Many claim that it comes from the air, but others say that it must be present in the yeast since you can cover the starter with a lid and it still works. What do you think?

Make Your Own Starter (or Not!)

Making your own sourdough starter feels like conquering a new adventure. It’s fascinating and fun.

Update: I have a confession to make. I let my starter die. A friend gave me a new start and it’s amazing. My sourdough bread turns out moist, delicious, and just a wee bit tangy.

So if you’re up for the adventure, try making your own starter. Otherwise, buy or beg a starter and get baking!

Here are a few other sourdough starter “recipes”:

Sourdough: benefits, catching and care

How to make sourdough starter

Sourdough: a Healthy Adventure

Sourdough is an adventure in a jar. It’s a simple example of dominion in the kitchen. Water and flour get transformed into a bubbling colony of microscopic bacteria, oozing their tangy scent as they aid our digestion.

Even sourdough bread recipes are less of a science and more experimentation and adventure. Your starter controls how long it takes to raise, the flavor, how much flour to add and so on. Yet the added mystery is totally worth it because of how much healthier sourdough bread is.

I used to not like sourdough bread. The flavor was too pungent. But some foods are worth learning to like. As Brad Belschner pointed out, “Good taste, like good morals, is acquired and built. If something is obviously superior, then why shouldn’t we teach ourselves to enjoy it?”

The Health Benefits of Sourdough Bread

What makes sourdough worth acquiring a taste for?

Wheat was designed with phytic acid to preserve the kernel until it was ready to grow into a new plant. The phytic acid protects the kernel and prevents the nutrients from being consumed until the grain is planted. While this is great for the wheat, it causes problems for us. Not only are the nutrients carefully guarded, the phytic acid actually leeches nutrients from our bodies. Occasionally this can be a good thing, like if you wanted to detoxify your body of heavy metals, but usually the point is to obtain nutrients from our food!

The solutions to this problem include soaking the ground wheat in an acid like vinegar or buttermilk before baking, sprouting the grains, or making sourdough.

Sourdough is the simplest option and has been used for centuries. It wasn’t until the middle of the 1800s that commercial yeast even became readily available. Before that, you had to capture the yeast. Sourdough starters were treasured and even passed on for generations.

As the wild sourdough yeast spreads through the flour it eats the sugar and causes it to ferment and rise, while breaking down the protective phytic acid. Pretty cool, isn’t it?

Make Your Own Sourdough

Folks have been making sourdough for centuries—before they had ovens or running water. Making sourdough is simple. Yes, it takes longer than regular yeast bread to rise, but your patience is paid off in a better, healthier loaf of bread. So embrace the adventure and make your own sourdough bread!

Want to make your own starter? Here’s how. 

Want to purchase a starter? This one’s highly rated.

photo by Jana Koll

[Full disclosure: links to products in this post are my referral links.]

Western Burgers

Western Burger

Western Burgers: healthier, cheaper, tastier and almost even easier than running to get a Big Mac (at least once they’re in the freezer!)…

All you need is:

  • Dough (Any dough works, but I included the recipe my sis-in-law gave me ’cause it’s so yummy.)
  • Browned hamburger and onions (seasoned with whatever spices you wish)
  • Cheese

Dough:

Combine:
2 1/2 cups warm water
1/2 cup sugar (or other sweetener)
2 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup oil
3 cups flour
Combine, add and mix well:
2 T yeast
1 cup flour
Continue adding more flour (about 5-6 cups) until dough is soft and cleans the side of the bowl.

Western burger stepsOR make your favorite dough.

Let it rise ‘til doubled. Punch down and roll into fairly thin 8-10 inch squares.

Cut into four smaller squares. Scoop a spoonful of hamburger and cheese onto each square.

Fold over the edges. Place the edge side down on a lightly greased cookie sheet.

Repeat.

I generally make several meals worth and then shape the rest of the dough into mini-pizzas to pull out of the freezer for another quick meal.

Let rise ‘til slightly puffy, then place in a 350* oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until golden. Remove to a cooling rack and brush with butter.

They are delicious dipped in barbecue sauce, ketchup or miracle whip and freeze beautifully. When Joshua is at school during dinner time, we often eat them alone for a super simple meal but they go great with homemade fries, macaroni & cheese or salad.

part of Tasty Tuesday and Tempt my Tummy Tuesday