Monday, September 28, 2009

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Canned Cheese?!? That's gross, and cool, at the same time.

"Canned Cheese?!? That's gross, and cool, at the same time." - Calvin

How to do it. . .

1. Get wide mouth pint jars - be sure they're clean and dry - put them in the oven on a cookie sheet for 20 minutes at 200 degrees to sterilize them.

2. Boil lids and rings.

3. Grate any kind of cheese (cheese that gets better with age is best, like cheddar. Monterey Jack or Colby will work but won't last as long, so use the freshest date possible). Do not use pregrated cheese from the store (they coat it with something to keep it from molding quickly), buy a horn of cheese and grate it yourself. (44 lb block of cheese = 48 jars of cheese, or about 1 lb per pint jar).

4. Place grated cheese in jars - Pack it in well (you can press it down with a glass or bottle), and place in pan of water (3-4" deep). Water should be no higher than 2/3 to the top of jar. You don't really want water to get into the jars - it won't necessarily ruin it, but it's better without any.

5. Boil water and add more cheese as needed to fill jar to 1 inch from top (if you've pressed it down well, you shouldn't have to add any).

6. Melt cheese completely (15-20 minutes). With the flat of a butter knife, press the edges down, to move the center cheese out and get the entire jar melted. You don't really want to stir it, as that will allow air bubbles to enter - the idea is to get the air bubbles out, and get the entire jar evenly melted. Also, try not to get any cheese on the lip of the jar.

7. Remove canning jar from the pot and place the lid and ring on, then hand tighten.

8. Set aside until you have enough jars ready to place in steamer. (Add 2 T. vinegar to the water in your steamer, it will keep the calcification from the water off the jars.)

9. Place jars in steamer and steam for 40 minutes. "Do NOT shorten the time."

10. When you remove the jars from the steamer, turn them upside down on towel, and let them cool with the cheese touching the lid and the 1" gap at the bottom. This will make cheese removal easier when you are ready to use it!

11. Let cool and store at 75 degrees.

This is not a cheese sauce. It is like a lump of cheese. There is a slight texture difference, kind of grainy. It can be grated, eaten plain, or melted in recipes just like cheese from your refrigerator.

Cheddar has a shelf life of 3-5 years.

Thanks Roxy for the awesome class!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

More Once-A-Month Cooking!

Yesterday, I purchased, prepped, and froze meals for the next month. (I know it sounds intimidating, but it probably won't once you read the menus.) I usually try to do the prep work on the day I do my grocery shopping - I brown and freeze any ground beef, or saute, chop up, and freeze chicken breasts that will later go into recipes. That way, whether it's me, the hubby, or kids who cook, half the meal is already done to toss into a dish.

So, what can you whip up in 20 minutes or under if you've got the meat already frozen?

Taco salad
Hamburger helper
Gravy with Hamburger or Sausage
Stir Fry
Chicken Packets
Spanish Rice
Layered Enchiladas
Linguine Alfredo with chicken
Fried potatoes with Hamburger
and a bunch more I can't think of right now

Here are my menus for the next month, for your viewing pleasure, and for me to refer to (just in case the list on the front of the fridge mysteriously disappears):

9/13 - 9/19
M- bread pudding (frozen in aluminum lasagne pan) with buttermilk syrup (which would make dirt taste delicious)
T- "ham" salad sandwiches
W- corn dog muffins
Th- spaghetti
F- Mexican Rice Casserole (I also love Rice-A-Roni Spanish Rice, add precooked/frozen ground beef - gotta double it for my family)
Sat- stir fry chicken (bag o' frozen stir fry veggies, chicken is precooked, chopped and frozen, minute rice)

Sun- lasagne (all prepared and frozen in aluminum lasagne pan with directions to thaw and bake written on tinfoil cover)
M- biscuits and sausage gravy (sausage is cooked, and frozen in gladware. McCormick mix is delish if you don't do homemade.)
T- beanie weenie (I'm lovin' Bush's baked beans, toss in after frying some hotdog coins, add a little extra brown sugar)
W- chicken packets (chicken filling is cooked, chopped, doctored, and frozen in gladware)
Th- ravioli (frozen bag of premade stuff, add can of sauce and precooked frozen ground beef)
F- Rhodes dough pizzas (defrost loafs of Rhodes in the morning, quick homemade pizza that evening)
Sat- tostadas


Sun- chicken ranch pasta (crockpot in the morning, ready when you get home from church!)
M- hamburgers & fries (yes, I bought the premade, frozen patties and a bag o' fries to bake while I'm frying them)
T- ham sandwiches (mixed, filled, and frozen in tinfoil, just toss in the oven for 20 minutes)
W- Kielbasa and Potatoes (kielbasa chopped and frozen in gladware)
Th- enchiladas (frozen in aluminum lasagne pan, just add sauce and bake)
F- pancakes
Sat- soft tacos (hamburger cooked and frozen in gladware, tortillas soft fried, and frozen in a gallon bag)

10/4- 10/10

Sun- quiche (frozen pie crusts; bacon, onions, etc. frozen - no thawing required, but I precook my crust about 5 minutes before adding eggy mixture and filling)
M- fried potatoes with bacon & onions (bacon is chopped, cooked, and frozen with onions - just chop potatoes, saute them til tender, and toss in meat)
T- Easy Crustless Quiche (precooked sausage, add green chile and onion)
W- penne pasta lasagne (I had a bunch of lasagne filling left, so I cooked up some penne, tossed it in the cheesy filling, put it in a baking dish, and poured on the rest of the can of sauce. Can't be too bad, right?)
Th - baked potatoes with hamburger gravy
F - homemade Mac & Cheese
Sat - Time to Go Shopping and Cook Again. I'm going out to eat.

Everything for these meals is either in the pantry, fridge, or freezer. I like to package and freeze parts together, so they don't accidentally get eaten before their time. (For example, if you were having french bread pizzas, you could wrap your container of homemade meat sauce, bag of mozarella, package of pepperoni, and loaf of french bread together in saran wrap, before you stick it in the freezer. Get the package out the night before, defrost in the fridge, and you're all set to whip it up in about 15 minutes!)

By the way, I spent about an hour at Walmart, after I made up a list of meals in the parking lot. I spent about $200 (and that included milk, bread, cereal and some other necessities, but not a bunch of snacks or anything). My goal is to spend about $1 per meal, per person. The prep work (cooking the meat - hamburger and chicken, assembling lasagne, ham sandwiches, enchiladas, and making filling for chicken packets, etc.) took about three hours. (And just in case you're wondering, I figure I spend about $400 per month on food for 7 people (5 adult/teen, 2 picky littles. Also, I do have a separate full-sized freezer, but I think I could probably keep all the prepared stuff in the kitchen freezer, as long as I didn't have a bunch of other junk in there.) Another tip: I keep a list of the stuff I have prepped in the freezer, on the front of the freezer, so we don't forget to use it.

I also did laundry while I was doing my cooking. I didn't fold, just moved loads through the washer/dryer to the couch. By Saturday night we were ready for our "Laundry Party!" (which makes little kids beg to be allowed to come, and big kids groan). At our "Laundry Party!" we turn on fun music, and everyone sits in special spot of their choosing (just like Christmas morning!), while I throw laundry off the pile at the owner, and they fold their stuff. Each of the big kids usually has to do their own and a small sibling, while little kids fold dishtowels, and little things. I do mine and DH does his own. Whoever isn't busy (because all their laundry is still on their floor) gets to do towels, sheets, or whatever I throw at them.

(Here's BittE and her new babydoll, Spamela)

Have a productive week! (And if you're all inspired to go for it, try starting with just a week or two.)

Got any good tips for me? I'd love to hear what works for you! Thanks!

Oh, By the way, I don't do the cooking most nights. The kids (16, 13, 11) are still doing it. They just go by the chore chart as to when their cooking day is, then they make the meal on the menu calendar. Yup, life is good.

Monday, September 7, 2009

no big events to report

Now that posting has become a weekly event for me, I somehow feel that it should be an event, not just random nonsense about my everyday life.

Too bad.

Today I hit the super sale at Saver's for the National Holiday! 50% off of fabulous used crap! Can't beat that!

I scored one of my all time favorite thrift shop scavenger hunt items - A Dick & Jane 1950's era New Basic Reader ($1.50) ! LOVE them! It's so exciting to just stumble upon something that you actually collect, yet weren't really searching for.

I also got the coolest little travel iron, circa 1960, for my students at school ($2.50). (Since we are a functional program, they need to learn real-life skills, and ironing is one of those skills.) I plugged it in as soon as I got home, and it worked great! Plus, it is super heavy (for a 6" iron), has a tiny spritz bottle connected to it, and one of those old black/white cords that make it look very cool and antique-y.

Besides that, I found some Born shoes for DD for only $4.00, a brand new Spiderman backpack ($3) for Wolfman - which he'd been begging for, some name brand jeans for people who are growing faster than I can outfit them ($2-6), darling school shirts for the kiddos, and some like new shoes for the littles.

I'll say it again, there is nothing like getting a screamin' deal!

This evening we had a great picnic for FHE at the park with all the family! So fun for the kids to play and run wild, while we sit and chat. I love my family!

Happy Labor Day!

Oh yeah. Have I mentioned that I am taking the equivalent of four college courses this semester, in order to maintain my certification? Um, yeah. Meaningful posts (as well as blog hopping) may just be a thing of the past for awhile. Wish me luck.
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