Homemade Applesauce

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Autumn is my favorite time of year. Crisp nights burrowing under a fluffy comforter. Brilliant warm colors atop the trees with bright puddles of reds and oranges beneath them. And the smell of apples…at the orchard, in my mug of warm cider, on my stove, every-where!

There’s nothing that can compare with the taste of homemade apple sauce. That stuff you buy in the store is too sweet for me, and too smooth as well. I like my apple sauce with little lumps of apple-y goodness here and there.

Fresher, no preservatives, custom made to suit your own taste. How can you beat that? And it’s easy to make. Throw some peeled apples and water into a saucepan, put it on the stove over a medium to low flame, and wait for the magic to happen.

You can use the recipe at the following link to get started, then tweak it to your own tastes!

Homemade Applesauce

Happy autumn everyone. While your apple sauce is cooling, I recommend having a romp with your favorite person or pet in a huge pile of leaves!

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Republic Tavern

Republic Restaurant, Grand River Avenue, Detroit, MI, United States

At the Republic Tavern for dinner before the 2Cellos show at the Fox Theatre.

Food is great. Small plates. We ordered a bunch of things to share.

We had:
Duck Liver Mousse
Broccoli Fritter
Beef Brisket
House Meatballs
Bunnies and Biscuit
Roasted Pork Belly
Grilled Lamb

The Bunnies and Biscuit was by far the best, but everything was good.

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Price Tag Trickery–Reading Is Fundamental

When I was out on my own for the first time as a young adult, grocery shopping was simple for two reasons:

  1. I couldn’t afford much.
  2. Larger package sizes were always the best value.

Those days are long gone, and thankfully I can afford more than rice and potatoes now, but finding the best value has gotten much more complicated. The least expensive product on the shelf isn’t necessarily the largest generic item anymore.

It used to be that generic prices were so low in comparison to the name brands that even a manufacturer’s coupon couldn’t bring the name brand price down lower than the generic. Not so anymore, folks. Take those name brand coupons along just in case, and always compare the generics prices with the name brand prices. These days, a name brand product on sale might even be less expensive than the generic, even without a coupon.

canola1canola2Another thing we always used to count on was that larger package sizes were always cheaper. It’s not unusual now to find smaller sizes on sale for a price even lower than the larger product. The canola oil on the left is 48 ounces; the bottle on the right is 32 ounces. Go and figure. Why would anyone want to pay more for 33% less? But if you don’t take the time to read the shelf tags, that could be what happens to you.

Finally, beware of your recipes. If they are like mine, they are geared to common packaging sizes. One of my recipes recently called for a 15-ounce can of tomato sauce.

Tomato Sauce1Tomato Sauce2,

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While it may be environmentally more friendly to purchase one 15-ounce can for 85 cents, it’ll be easier on your wallet to buy two 8-ounce cans if you can get them for 40 cents each.

Now these examples don’t represent big savings, together they’re a savings of just 23 cents, but if you can save this much every week you’ll have saved nearly $12 in a year’s time. That’s a matinee movie with snacks! And who doesn’t like a free movie?

Food and the Space Time Continuum

Today I defied the space time continuum.  I took a hambone, some smoked sausage, and some stale bread from last year and combined it with some split peas, celery, onions, and bacon from this year.  Then I added a little loving attention, and voila, one timeless pot of Split Pea Soup with Kielbasa.

Split Pea Soup with Kielbasa

I know of another way to defy the space time continuum in the kitchen.  You ready for this?  Get grandma’s old cookbook out.  You know the one with her scribbles in the margins and notes to herself scattered throughout.  Find the recipes with stars or circles or notes about being someone’s favorites.  Then gather together in the kitchen, cook some food, and share memories.  Not only will the food taste better than fast-food carry out, but I’m willing to bet you’ll find everyone smiling and enjoying the time together!

And in the meantime, if you want to taste some of that Split-Pea Soup for yourself, you can find the recipe at:

 http://www.steffaniskitchen.com/wwc/recipepage.asp?vSelRecipeID=369

5 Great Uses for Old Bread

Bread products. At our house, we use them every week, but we never use as much as we buy. Hot dog buns are a great example. With the introduction of bun-sized hot dogs, we now have the same number of dogs as buns. That’s a good thing. It takes two weeks for my husband and me to consume a whole package of hot dogs, but it only takes one week for a package of hot dog buns to get stale. We also can’t eat a whole loaf of bread in a week. If you hate wasting food, like I hate wasting food, here’s some great uses for that old bread sitting on top of your refrigerator.

Dressing–It doesn’t have to be Thanksgiving to make dressing. You don’t even have to Bread Dryingbe eating turkey. Dressing is also great with pork chops, chicken, and ham.So the next time you have more bread products than you can consume, spread them out and let them dry. Then just bag them up until you have enough to make a batch of dressing. Your family will love you for it!

Bread Crumbs–You can also put the old bread through your food processor or blender. Don’t dry it out before you process it and you’ll have soft bread crumbs to use in things like meatloaves. Dry it out before processing and you’ll have dry bread crumbs to use for things like breaded pork chops. Leave them plain. Add some seasonings. You’ll love the money you save.

Croutons–Salads are only as good as the freshness of the ingredients you use. Why Croutonswould you serve your family lovely fresh greens, lush tomatoes, and crispy cucumber slices and then throw hard lumps of bread from a box on top? If you’ve never had homemade croutons before, you simply have to try them sometime. They’re like little pieces of seasoned toast, crisp on the outside, softer on the inside, and full of flavor. Melt some butter in a saute pan, add some seasonings, and then toss in your old bread cut up into cubes. Saute the bread cubes until they are golden brown. Your family will take a whole new interest in salads!

Bread Pudding–You can even make dessert out of old bread.  Bread pudding is kind of like a dessert equivalent of French toast. Combine gently stale bread with fruit, nuts, chocolate, your favorite liqueur and add a wonderfully eggy custard and you’ve got a warm and wonderful dessert that just begs for a dollop of whipped cream.

Bird Food–Last but never least, don’t forget our fine, feathered friends. Bread crumbled up into small pieces is fine to scatter outside for the birds.

Mourning Dove

Try these recipes that use old bread:

 

The Perfect Pork Loin:A Step-By-Step Guide

Bacon Wrapped Smoked Pork Loin

Bacon Wrapped Smoked Pork Loin

This weekend I decided to smoke a boneless pork loin roast–a cut of meat I’ve never prepared in the smoker. Usually pork loins are sliced into chops which can be grilled, baked or fried, or they can be left as roasts and prepared in an oven, crockpot or on the grill.

Pork loins are lower in fat than cuts from the shoulder, but they can still be prepared to  perfection in a smoker. Here’s how!

The night before you plan on smoking your pork loin, you will want to inject the roast with a marinade. This serves two purposes. It adds flavor and helps to keep the meat moist when smoking. Then slather the pork loin with a nice thick paste and rub it all over to help seal in all that marinade. I use a combination of barbecue sauce and mustard. Finally, pat the whole roast with a dry rub mixed with lots of brown sugar to form a nice gooey crust all over. Wrap the roast tightly in plastic and refrigerate it overnight.

On smoking day, you’re going to have to do some backwards math. Remember, smoking is a low and slow method of cooking, so it takes a bit more planning regarding time. You’re going to need between 3-1/2 and 4 hours total time, so make sure to get started early enough.

Soaking Wood ChipsAbout an hour before you want to begin smoking, put your wood chips in a bowl and cover them with water to give them plenty of soaking time. There are a number of different types of wood available, and the type of wood you use is up to you. Some people like to use mesquite with pork. My favorite is a mixture of hickory and cherry woods.

Then 30 minutes before smoking time, fire up your smoker and preheat it to 200 degrees, and pull the pork loin out of the fridge. Wrap one of the smoker racks with aluminum foil. This will help with cleanup later.

Marinated and Rubbed Pork LoinNow you’re ready to unveil the pork loin. After a night in the fridge wrapped up with all those wonderful flavors, your loin is going to look fantastic. Try to remember that it hasn’t been cooked. Sure it looks, good but it’s not tasty yet!

Next you’re going wrap the pork loin with bacon. This will help to keep the roast moist and add another layer of flavor. And finally, insert a temperature Bacon Wrapped Pork Loinprobe into the loin from one end. The worst thing that you can do to a pork loin is to overcook it, so you want to make sure you have a way to monitor the temperature without repeatedly opening up the smoker to check. You don’t want to lose all that great smoke!

Fill the wood chip holder with your soaked chips. Add a mixture of apple juice and water to the water bowl and then slide the roast on the rack into the smoker and shut the door. A three-pound roast should take about 2-1/2 hours. Baste the roast with apple juice 2-3 time during the smoking process. Basting time is perfect to check on that temperature too.  Remember, you don’t want to overcook the roast.

When the internal temperature of the roast reaches 145 degrees you want to pull it out of the smoker. If the bacon is not as brown as you’d like it to be, whip out your handy dandy kitchen blow torch to pretty it up a bit. Then wrap the roast in foil and allow it to rest for 30-60 minutes before slicing.

Bacon Wrapped Smoked Pork Loin

This roast is delicious, beautiful, and certainly suitable to serve to company! You can find the full recipe at Steffani’s Kitchen.

Eating Out or Dining In

Have you ever wondered how much of a premium you pay when you go out for a steak dinner instead of cooking that steak at home?  Well I have, most recently this evening when my husband and I sat down to a couple of Delmonicos grilled to perfection.

We also had a lovely spinach salad with fresh strawberries, hard-boiled egg, and honey mustard dressing.  Baked sweet potato with butter and cinnamon sugar, and sauteed mushrooms.

Fortunately, I still had my grocery receipts so after dinner I sat down and calculated how much our steak dinner cost us.  Here’s what I found:
0.92  Spinach Salad with Strawberries, Egg, and Honey Mustard Dressing
10.41  2-12 ounce Delmonicos
2.14  Sauteed Mushrooms
0.68  Baked Sweet Potato with Butter and Cinnamon Sugar (big enough to share)
1.10  Pop (this is a high estimate–I just used the price of a 2-liter on sale)
That’s a total of $15.25.  That’s right!  $15.25 for a fantastic steak dinner for two!
So how much would we have had to spend if we had gone out for this meal?  Well I knew it was going to be more expensive, but I was surprised when I discovered how much more expensive.
That same meal at a national chain steakhouse like Texas Roadhouse would have cost us $49.56 including tax and tip.  That’s 325% more.  Granted someone else would have cooked the food and washed the dishes, but we would have sacrificed the relaxing, quiet ambiance at home for the overly-loud, peanut-shells-on-the-floor atmosphere at the roadhouse.
So now let’s aim for the ambiance and see what that meal would have cost us at a fine dining restaurant.  Are you ready for this?  At a finer restaurant, that meal would have cost us $77.59 or 509% more.
Wow!
So the next time your mouth is watering for a delicious steak dinner, think about heading out to the grocery instead of a restaurant.  You can always take those savings and buy a nice bottle of wine to enjoy with your meal!

Blueberries–The Thickerer Smoothie

Blueberries were on sale at the supermarket this week, so I brought some home to make smoothies.  Besides, blueberries have a low glycemic load and they’re chock full of antioxidants and phytochemicals.

I didn’t use anything unusual in the smoothies, just fruit, yogurt, vanilla and ice.  A few minutes after pouring the smoothies into glasses, we noticed that they seemed to be getting thicker.  And the longer they sat, the thickerer they got…freakishly thick…JELLO thick!  The straw that started out leaning on the side of the glass, was soon able to stand straight up the middle with no visible means of support.  It wasn’t long before our drinkable smoothies seemed more like a pudding or custard that you’d eat with a spoon.

My curiosity got the best of me, and I started googling around to get to the thick of the matter.  After looking around a bit, I discovered that apparently blueberries contain a lot of natural pectin.  For those of you who don’t make homemade jam, pectin is the gelling agent used when making jams and jellies.

As far as flavor goes, the blueberries tasted great in the smoothies, so don’t hesitate to try them.  But if you don’t like super-thick smoothies, don’t hesitate when you drink them either.

Find my Blueberry Banana Smoothie Recipe here:  http://www.steffaniskitchen.com/wwc/recipepage.asp?vSelRecipeID=681