How to Turn Apple Pie Scraps Into Applesauce

Recently we bought a big box of apple seconds and (despite the munchkins eating apples at breakneck speed) had lots of apples to turn into apple pie filling.

As I peeled and cored the apples, the pile of scraps kept growing. Rather than tossing them in the trash, why not turn them into applesauce?

First, soak the apples in vinegar water or fruit cleaner and rinse well.


As you peel and core the apples, just dump the peels (and cores, if you want!) into a crock pot.

Maybe I’m not as good a peeler as you, but my apple peelings still had a decent bit of flesh on them (and this way I didn’t feel guilty about that fact!)

Cook the peels for a few hours, stirring occasionally. When the apple scraps are nice and soft, transfer to a strainer/colander.

Strain the sauce from the scraps and cool. Sprinkle with cinnamon (or make Eppli Cakka) and enjoy!

Do you use your apple peels? If so, what’s your favorite use? 

Linked up at Frugal Friday and Works for Me Wednesday 

 

Why Cook Your Own Beans?

Besides the fact that they taste good, beans are promoted for two main reasons: cost and health.

Beans are one of the cheapest sources of protein. “Eat more beans” makes it onto many lists of money-saving tactics. If the point is to save, it makes sense to save as much as possible, right? Canned beans easily cost double the amount of dried.

There’s another reason I find more compelling: health. Beans are a wonderful source of protein and fiber and all that. But as we all know, beans can be difficult to digest.

They are difficult to digest because they contain a significant amount of phytic acid. Phytic acid is a good thing for the plant. It protects the kernel and prevents it from loosing nutrients like zinc, calcium and iron until planting time. However, our bodies need those nutrients, and in order to use them we have to break down the phytic acid.

Cooking breaks phytic acid down a little, but to get the most nutrition (and have it be as easy on the digestive tract as possible) you need to soak your beans.

photo by marina nisi

Save yourself some time and cook up a big pot and freeze in smaller amounts. We love homemade bean dip and chili and Mexican foods, so try to always have soaked, cooked beans in the freezer to pull out.

How to soak your beans:

What you’ll need:

  • A big pot
  • Water
  • Beans
  • Lemon juice or vinegar (one of many uses for vinegar!)
  • Time for them to soak
  1. The night before you need them, rinse your beans really well. Even “triple washed” beans occasionally have a clump of dirt.
  2. Add beans to pot or crock pot and cover with lots of water. Add a couple tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice.
  3. Let soak 12-24 hours.
  4. Drain, rinse and add more water.
  5. Bring to a boil and simmer until almost tender (anywhere from 1-8 hours, depending on the bean type and whether you’re using a crockpot)
  6. When nearly tender, add salt. (Why wait? Adding salt at the beginning makes the skins tough. Waiting ’til they’re completely cooked doesn’t let the flavor penetrate.) and finish cooking.

I usually use some for dinner and freeze the rest in glass jars or Tupperware. It doesn’t take much effort, but soaking and cooking beans saves time and adds nutrition (or at least makes what is already there more usable!)

Linked up at Frugal Friday

Recipe: Sausage Stuffed Squash

Squash (or zucchini) picked fresh from the garden then stuffed and baked makes one of our favorite simple summer dinners.

Sausage_Stuffed_Squash

Sausage Stuffed Squash

Ingredients: (serves 4)

2 large or 8 small zucchini or squash
2 large eggs
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1+ cup homemade bread crumbs
1/4-1/2 pound sausage, fried and drained
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup mozzarella or Parmesan cheese

Boil the zucchini for 5-10 minutes or until almost tender. Remove from water and cool slightly.

Once cool enough to handle, gently cut off the top and with a spoon remove the insides, leaving just a small rim.

Blend or mash the pulp and add the eggs, cheese, bread crumbs, sausage and seasonings. If the mixture is soupy add up to half a cup more bread crumbs. Spoon into zucchini.

Place in a greased 9X13 pan and bake at 350 for 2o minutes or until tender. Top with cheese and bake five minutes more. Makes 4 servings. Enjoy!

A Summer of Smoothies

It is hot outside (not that you didn’t know that) and ice cream sounds good pretty much all the time.

The waste line and pocket book protest.

A daily smoothie satisfies the desire for something cold and is a nourishing, delicious and inexpensive alternative.

Part of the beauty of smoothies is the fact that there are at least a million variations. Let creativity take full reign!

To ensure that they make a nourishing and sustaining snack, include an  item from each of the first four groups:

  • A protein base: milk or homemade yogurt are delicious
  • Healthy fat: cream or melted coconut oil, etc. (not only does it add richness, but quells the “I’m hungry” cries for more than ten minutes.)
  • Fruits: frozen bananas, strawberries, blueberries, etc.
  • Veggies: Smoothies are a great way to camouflage spinach, cucumber, cooked broccoli, other vegetables or even powdered vitamins!
  • Sweetener: Juice concentrate or honey
  • Flavoring: Vanilla, almond, lemon etc. Add a pinch of salt on really hot days to replace what is lost from sweating.
  • Ice: lots of it!

My favorite is a simple yogurt berry smoothie, but for a fun “guess the flavor” treat blend ice, fresh cucumbers, lemon/lime juice and sweetener. Not quite as nourishing, but so yummy! Few people guess that it is really a cucumber shake.

What do you add to your smoothie?

photo by Tanja Sund

Hearty Baked Beans Recipe

I hope you have had a wonderful extended weekend! After a restful couple days at home, we spent Memorial Day at a barbecue with good friends.

No barbecue is complete without baked beans but they used to be the one item I’d skip. Then I tasted Joshua’s Grandma’s recipe. I could eat these for dinner by themselves!

Hearty Baked Beans

1/4 pound hamburger
1/2 cup onion, diced
1/4 pound bacon

1 can butter beans
1 can (2 cups) kidney beans
2 cans (4 cups) pork and beans/pinto beans

2 T barbecue sauce
2 T ketchup
1 T mustard
1/4 cup sugar or honey
1 1/2 T molasses
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp salt

(If you have time) Soak pinto and kidney beans in water and 2 T vinegar overnight to break down the phytic acid. In the morning, drain water and rinse. Fill with fresh water and cook, unsalted, until nearly tender. Add salt and finish cooking.

Brown hamburger and onions; drain fat. Brown bacon, drain fat (and save them for frying eggs!) and crumble.

Combine all ingredients in a crockpot and cook on low for 3-4 hours or bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Makes 8-10 servings. Enjoy!

Almond Crunch Cookies

Freshly baked cookies and a cup of hot (or iced) tea spell hospitality to me.

My dad is from a small country called the Faroe Islands. In my grandma’s little village everyone knows everyone and you just expect a friend to pop in for tea as she walks home from the library or heads to the grocery store.

Living as most of us do in fast-paced America, “dropping in just to say hi” isn’t a daily occurrence. But that’s no reason to be unprepared when it does happen.

Freezing cookie dough makes it so easy. Not all recipes work well frozen, but many do.

My mother-in-law introduced these cookies to me a while back and they are my new absolute favorite…and freeze wonderfully.

Texas Almond Crunch Cookies

Makes 4-6 dozen cookies. Enough to enjoy right now with plenty of dough to freeze for fresh cookies!

Ingredients: 

1 c. sugar
1 c. powdered sugar
1 c. butter, softened
1 c. oil (1/2 olive; 1/2 canola)
2 eggs
1 tsp almond flavoring
3 cups white flour
1 1/2 cups wheat flour
3/4 tsp b. soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cream of tartar
2 cups coarsely chopped almonds

Instructions: 

  1. Combine sugars and butter.
  2. Add remaining wet ingredients and mix well.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine dry ingredients
  4. Add to wet and mix well.
  5. If necessary cover and refrigerate for an hour, then shape into balls and roll in sugar (optional).
  6. Place on cookie sheet.
  7. Criss cross tops with fork.
  8. Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes or until edges are faintly golden.
  9. Cool for a minute on pan before removing to cooling rack.

Bake what you want for the moment and then roll the remaining dough in wax paper and stick it in the freezer.

When a friend stops by or your husband needs some cookies and coffee, just pull out the dough. Slice it up, thaw slightly, roll it in the sugar and bake. Yum!

part of the Ultimate Recipe Swap over at Life as Mom

Healthy Snack Crackers

Crunchy salty snack foods overcome my self-restraint easier than anything (except chocolate, of course). Munching on one of these crackers is guilt free.

Healthy, cheap, easy to make and incredibly versatile, they are perfect topped with cheese or dip, used as a side or for teething crackers.

The trick is to roll them out so thin they make “Wheat Thins” look thick.

Crispy Snack Crackers

3 cups whole grain flour (I use mostly wheat and add in rice or flax)
¼ cup butter or coconut oil
1 cup water
1 T vinegar or whey (optional)
Salt
Sesame seeds, flax seeds, herbs, sugar, etc. (i.e. whatever sounds good)

Cut the oil or butter into the flour mixture

(Optional) to break down the phytic acid in the grain, add 1 Tbsp of whey or vinegar (and decrease the water by a Tbsp) then mix well and let sit, covered tightly, for several hours. If you don’t want to soak, just mix in the water and omit the vinegar.

If necessary, lightly flour the counter. Roll out the dough to about ½ inch thick. Sprinkle with salt. Continue rolling until it is paper thin. Sprinkle with more salt. Add seeds or any other toppings you desire.

Prick with a fork. Cut into squares.

Transfer to a lightly greased pan and bake at 350 for about 10 minutes, or until lightly golden and crispy.

Store in a glass jar.

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Muffins

Muffin season may be slowly winding down with the rising temperatures, but a chill breeze this morning called for muffins.

Based on Better Homes and Gardens pumpkin bread recipe, numerous tweaks have left this recipe practically unrelated. Healthy, but still very yummy!

Everything tastes better “mini sized”—at least in my daughter’s opinion. If you have kids a mini muffin pan is a worth-while investment. Not only are mini muffins much easier (and more fun) to eat, but you eliminate the “half-eaten-muffin-syndrome”.

Not only do we make mini muffins, but every time I make anything in the kitchen, my little helper wants to bake some in her little bread pan. What better way to encourage her to want to help?

This recipe makes enough for 18 regular muffins or 24 mini muffins and a mini loaf.

½ cup coconut oil
½ cup honey
2 eggs
1 cup pumpkin or sweet potato (Either works great. I generally do half and half)
1 ¾ cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
Dash of nutmeg
½ cup water

Combine oil and honey. Add eggs and pumpkin or sweet potato; mix well. Mix dry ingredients together. Alternate adding dry ingredients and water.

Spoon into well greased pans. If desired, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar.

Bake at 350 for 8-15 minutes (depending on size) or until the center of muffin is no longer sticky.

They freeze wonderfully.

part of Tasty Tuesday and Tempt my Tummy Tuesday

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

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