A YEAR'S WORTH OF MENUS

When I first announced that I wanted to plan out my menus for an entire year many thought me totally NUTS! My thought was you plan a menu every week, so why not collect all 52 menus and end up with your menus planned for the next year. The benefits of having a meal plan are numerous. These posts are about the menus I planned and how I did them.

Monday, February 29, 2016

BACK TO THE BASIC INGREDIENTS OF COOKING: Bouillons, Powders, Dairy and Labeling

I hope this series is helping some of you.  I’ll start this post by discussing labeling suggestions on how to and the importance of it.

I am currently am working on rebuilding many of my Master Mixes because I have some how let my made up ones get extremely low.  Of course there will be posts on doing that as well, be prepared for that series.

Labeling is probably one of the most important steps of food storage.  Not only what an item is, but when it was made, and how to use it.  Of course a label for any product may not need as much information on it as another. 

Examples of this are:

Italian Seasoning would only need the name and date made.

While homemade peanut butter slice and bake cookies would need the name, date, how thick to slice them,  cooking temperature and time.

Dry mixes like Quick Mix Master Mix would need an equivalent for what would be considered a packet of it, so 2 1/3 cups equals one packet/box.

It is very tempting to short cut on labeling or not do it at all, because you think you will remember the Brownie Mix is in the canning jar and the Chocolate Pudding and Pie Mix is in the recycled jar with the blue lid.  But will others know that?  Will you remember that six months from now?  They look smell and taste very similar.  Trust me, Chocolate Pudding and Pie Mix does NOT make good brownies.  Don’t ask me how I know.

What is the best way to do these labels? That is a personal decision.  I use three methods.
1.     Permanent Marker: When I am sealing the mix/cookies in Foodsaver or mylar bags I write directly on the bag, generally on the part I would cut off to open the bag so I can reuse the bag later.
2.     File Folder Labels: These are cheap and self adhesive.  I generally use these for temporary labeling for leftovers or what have you.  I do use a permanent marker to do the writing on the label.
3.     For my day to day mixes I recently purchased on a great sale the Brother PTouchlabeler.  Because these jars will be used over and over this more permanent label looks better as a canister label.  You can add picture coding if you like.
Whatever method you use please label clearly.

So let’s move on to the making your own cooking basics.  First up is bouillon and powders, yes bouillon those delightful little cubes, flakes, powders etc that you grab in a hurry when you don’t have time to make a good broth or stock, or the jar of cherished goodness in your freezer froze and burst leaving you nothing but glass shards or the zipper bag you froze in leaked out when you thawed it. 

One great advantage of making your homemade broth/stock into bouillon is STORAGE SPACE! None of us ever has enough storage space in our freezer for quarts and quarts of homemade stock.

The second advantage of homemade bouillons is you can cut down or eliminate salt and msg.  Not to mention some of the “other stuff” that is in some bouillons or canned broths.

Another advantage is there is no limit to the amount of flavors you can make beyond the basic beef, chicken/turkey, or vegetable bouillon you could have on hand pork/ham bouillon for beans, fish bouillon for chowders, any type of meat that has good bones you can roast and/or boil down can be turned into stock/broth and then turned into bouillon.  If you cook a lot of venison, then make venison bouillon.

Not to be left behind in the variety bouillon category homemade vegetablebouillon/powder is also limitless.  Turn the bounty of your garden, a great sale into vegetablebouillon/powder.  Any veggie or a combination of them will work.  It’s not all that hard to do.

Don’t forget you can do this with wild edibles you forage for too.

There are numerous recipes on the web for making the bouillons, but these are the simplest ones that I use and they don’t require me to purchase nutritional yeast or gelatin.  Less is more in my book, so I make bouillon powder with the fruits and vegetable instead of cubes for our home usage.

While you might not have a regular need for fruitbouillon powder you could make it just like the vegetable bouillon powder to add to smoothies, pies, cookies, cakes, sauces the list is endless.  You can also combine it with the veggies to make an even bigger variety for smoothies.

One of the great things about vegetable and fruit powders is you can often use the parts of the produce that you would normally discard.  The thick tough stalks of asparagus, broccoli, the peels of fruit and tomatoes (which is technically a fruit), over ripe produce, the thick veins of spinach, chard, and other greens.  Less waste and more nutritious food for your family. It is also a great way to sneak in fruits and vegetables your family won’t normally try.

Now on to dairy products.  You can replace a lot of cans, bottles, jars, etc with a single box or container of powdered milk, be it nonfat or whole milk (generally in the ethnic foods area of most major grocery stores).

Something I would like to mention here.  All the time I was growing up, right up to a few years ago I was taught that powdered/dry milk was always cheaper to use than buying milk by the gallon.  However, about 2009 we, meaning my husband and I, sat down with a calculator and discovered quite to our amazement that purchasing dried milk did not always save money, in fact in some instances, depending on the brand it was far more expensive to use if you were just reconstituting it to use as a liquid.  

Using it for making the other ingredients listed below it still came out cheaper for us to do. Plus it really helps with storage problems.

Of course you just reconstitute the milk per the package instructions and get your daily milk to drink, but around here that could get me in a whole lot of trouble.  My family can taste the difference, no matter how slight it is no matter how I try and hide it.  But in a pinch we have drank it very cold. 

I do cook with it a lot, in my master mixes, gravies, breads etc.  Those don’t bother my family at all.

Nor does it when I make these basics when cooking.

EvaporatedMilk: Use this recipe to replace evaporated milk in any recipe calling for it.

Sweetened Condensed Milk Non-cook:  Oh the luxury of it.  Simple to make, use it wherever you need the canned stuff. There are two different ways to make it SweetenedCondensed Milk Cooked, slowly heat it more and turn it into caramelly goodness.

Another milk item made with powdered milk that has two ways of making is buttermilk.  As in my post “A Single Quart of Buttermilk” shows I prefer using  live culture buttermilk version, but both work equally as well and you don’t always have starter buttermilk on hand.

Another every day dairy product that can be easily made with powdered milk is yogurt.  If you have read my previous post “It’s All Greek to Me” you already know I use whole liquid milk and my dehydrator to make multiple jars of yogurt at a time.  However, not everyone has a dehydrator, or they prefer a non-fat version of yogurt.  It that is you then you might prefer the powdered milk recipe for yogurt.

There are also various cheeses you can make using powdered milk, many require Rennet aka: Junket but some are super simple like Parmesan.  I’ll leave making other cheeses to a different post another time since they do involve rennet and other ingredients and today’s post is about simple powdered milk recipes.
One final item that you can easily make with powdered milk is sweetened whipped cream.
I hope you find some recipes that work for you in this post.  As always click on the hyper links to get the recipes and to view the other posts mentioned above.


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