Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Basic Vegetable Soup

This is a recipe that has evolved over the last couple of months. There is always a great flexibility in vegetable soups, so feel free to personalize this to the tastes of your family. My husband really likes carrots in soups, and likes a little less potato, so we've tailored this to his preferences.

8 cups water
2 Tbs chicken base
4 medium carrots, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
3 small or medium potatoes, chopped into bite size cubes
1/2 onion, diced
1/2 can green beans (can substitute 7 oz frozen, thawed)
1/2 can peas (can substitute 7 oz frozen, thawed)

In 5 qt stock pot, add 8 cups water and 2 Tbs chicken base.
Add vegetables in following order: carrots, celery, potatoes, and onion.
Cover with lid, and bring soup to boil, then turn down to a low simmer. Let simmer for 45 minutes.
Add green beans and peas, and let cook for an additional 10 minutes.
Serve; salt and pepper to taste.

Yields appx. 10 cups.

Cook's notes: I tend to add the vegetables as I'm cutting them. For time purposes, the most important thing is to get the water heating first, then start the rest of your preparations.
I love using chicken base in my soups. I feel that with bouillion cubes you are always trying to do a balancing act with the salt. I purchase the chicken base from Sam's for about $3.50. Generally, you use 1 tsp for each cup of water that is used. This is such an inexpensive alternative to buying chicken broth! Especially since each container (remember... $3.50) will make about 76 cups of broth. I also appreciate that it is a paste rather than a powder. I don't particularly like the powders because they sometimes make the broth slightly granular.

Sour Milk?!??

So I know that I've mentioned using sour milk in some posts, and it probably doesn't sound good at all. Well, if you've ever had any of our homemade batter breads or anything batter based that calls for milk... then you've had it. When my husband and I were first married, he introduced me to this concept which I nearly dismissed upon hearing. I just couldn't wrap my mind around the idea that I wouldn't get some type of awful food poisoning from this. Hesitantly, I tried my first pancake... and it was actually tasty! Now we use it in pancakes & waffles, batter breads, and muffins. In all of these recipes you can use regular milk, buttermilk, yogurt, or sour milk. Of course with each you have a slightly different flavor, and to be honest, the sour milk hands down tastes best.
If there isn't much milk left that is going bad, typically I will transfer it to a quart jar so that it will not take up much space in the fridge (do be sure to label the jar so no one takes a swig of what's being cultured in the jar). If you leave it on the counter for a while, then it will sour faster. The longest I will typically leave it out at a time is about 6 hours. When you go to use your sour milk, if there are chunks (eww right ? :) then I will use an electric hand blender to break them up, otherwise you will get a burst of sour in your final baked good... which really doesn't taste good.
So... next time you notice that the milk taste is altering... go ahead and use it.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Banana Oatmeal Pancakes

Here is the double of the original recipe:
  • 3 cups all purpose flour (we used wheat and it tasted so good!)
  • 2/3 cup wheat germ
  • 2/3 cup quick cooking oats (I used just regular oats)
  • 2 T. baking powder
  • 1/8-1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon (the original recipe would have you add more, just go with what your family likes on this one)
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups milk (sour milk worked wonderfully too... if it's got clumps in the milk, make sure to break up the clumps with an electric blender first)
  • 2 ripe banana, peeled and mashed
  • 6 T. Maple syrup (a little over 1/3 C if you're not into measuring out syrup... yeah... that would be me!)
  • 2 T. canola oil, plus more for skillet

In a large bowl, stir flour, wheat germ, oats, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.

In a bowl, lightly beat the eggs. Add milk, mashed banana, maple syrup, and 2 T canola oil and whisk thoroughly.

Pour milk mixture over flour mixture and stir until combined.

Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Lightly grease with canola oil. Pour ¼ cup (we do 1/3 cup) batter per pancake. Flip with spatula when tops bubble and edges look slightly dry. Cook until the other side is golden brown, about 2 minutes per side. Use a cookie cutter to press out pancakes in any shape your kids like.

Cook's notes: I LOVE to make pancakes in larger batches than what the original recipe would make. A lot of this has to do with saving time in the long run. Honestly, I hate to make pancakes and waffles because they take so long, and typically make a bit of a mess. BUT- when I do have time to make them... I'd rather have a lot leftover.
But what do I DO with the leftover?? The best thing to do is to freeze them so it's a quick fix on the mornings you're wanting pancakes, minus the effort.
This is what works best for us in our home: I place the pancakes that we will not be eating on cooling racks, since this prevents them from getting soggy and flattened. Once they have completely cooled (usually by the end of breakfast), I go ahead and lay them out in a gallon size freezer bag (typically 8 pancakes will fit comfortably in one bag; be sure to get as much air out as possible). I then go ahead and freeze these. So... when you want warm pancakes, just go ahead and thaw them in the microwave. For 2 pancakes, I usually do 30 seconds on high on each side (basically... you just want to make sure that they no longer feel frozen in the middle). Then toast them on your toaster's medium setting (just necessary to crisp it up a little).
This is such a great alternative to buying pancakes in the freezer section because A) it costs so much less! B)
it's much more filling and C) you know exactly what's going into your family's body.
Please take note that you can freeze and reheat waffles in the same way, you just may need to adjust the microwave times down a bit.

This recipe yields about 15 pancakes.

I got the original recipe from Healthy Food Ideas for Super Healthy Kids. If you haven't been to this site before, I think it's definitely worth checking out.
Comments (not to a specific recipe), questions, submissions?
Please send them to alittletasteofhome@gmail.com

Also, please feel free to send me the info about your favorite cookbooks.