Friday, February 24, 2012

Saving Milk and Dairy Products - February 24, 2012

Our CSA box comes with a half gallon of milk every other week.  We rarely drink that much milk unless we have house guests for breakfast or have a big baking project.  So, I am always looking for something to do with milk that is getting near its sell date.  For me, the greatest thing was to learn that milk can be frozen.  The thinner the milk (skim is best) the better it freezes.  Basically, when you pull it back out and defrost, it is as close as it was to going sour that day as the day you stuck it in the freezer.  We also like to make homemade corn bread and biscuits with buttermilk and for some reason, we can never find small containers of buttermilk.  So, now, I pour the left over buttermilk into ½ cup muffin tins and freeze just like in the vegetable broth recipe I included in January.  I pop these out and freeze in a zip lock bag and pull out just what I need for a recipe with buttermilk.

Unfortunately, I don’t always have time to think ahead and some milk, yogurt or sour cream gets lost in the back of the refrigerator and becomes a lost cause.  Here is a recent example of sour cream that has been lost for a while.  I gladly chunked it in the trash.  (OK, My decaying food is not very interesting, but check out Klaus Pichler's photography of food waste created to make a statement about the fact that one-third of food is wasted:

But, when milk, yogurt or cream first sours, you can use it in many great recipes just like sour cream.  In fact, you can dedicate a glass container in your refrigerator for this purpose.  When milk first sours, pour it in and allow to thicken for recipes.  Don’t leave it too long or it will get a bitter taste.  Here are two great examples of what I did with the soured yogurt in my refrigerator that hadn’t reached the stage of the sour cream above:

Basic Oatmeal Muffins

1 cup dry oatmeal
1 cup sour milk, cream or yogurt (or buttermilk)
1 egg
1/2 cup brown or white sugar (I use brown Splenda)
1/3 cup oil
1 1/4 cups flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 teaspoon baking powder

In a large bowl, combine the oatmeal and sour milk. Let it stand for a few minutes, for the oatmeal to absorb some of the sour milk. Add the egg, sugar and oil. Beat very well with a wire whisk or fork. Add the flour, baking soda, salt and baking powder. Mix again, just until dry particles are moistened. You can add ½ cup of any type dried fruit at this point.  I tried dried cranberries.  Spoon the batter into a dozen well oiled muffin cups. Bake at 400 degrees for about 20 minutes. Serve hot.

Emergency Biscuits

2 cups flour
1 T shortening
1 cup sour milk
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda

Sift the flour, salt, and soda together.  Drop the shortening in with a spoon.  Add the milk and stir lightly.  The dough should be soft.  Drop by spoonfuls into greased muffin-tins and bake in a hot oven about twenty minutes.

Friday, February 17, 2012

What to Do With Day Old Bread - February 17, 2012

My husband and I are not big bread eaters, but I seldom feel bad having extra bread because it makes the birds in our yard so happy.  There are all kinds of bread though and some is just too good to throw out to our feathered friends.  When we have good soft bread left over, I most often save it for bread crumbs because it doesn’t make good croutons.  I simply freeze extra bread as time goes on and then place the frozen bread pieces in a coffee grinder and grind into crumbs when needed.  You can then toast them at 350 degrees for 4-6 minutes.  Grinding bread in your coffee grinder can also be a great way to clean your coffee grinder.  The bread soaks up the odors of the coffee or spices that you ground earlier.  So, use your first piece of bread to clean out the grinder and toss, and then save the rest.

When I have good hard crust bread, however, I use the leftovers for croutons.  If I’m lucky, my friend Mary will reply to this blog and give her crouton secrets because her croutons are the very best.  But, here is the basic idea:


Day old hard crust hardy bread (don’t bother trying this with wimpy sandwich bread)
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Your favorite salt free spice mix – I like Penzey’s Sunny Paris 

Cut bread into ½ inch squares.  Place olive oil and spices in a bowl and mix.  Toss in bread and coat well.  Spread bread crumbs on cookie sheet and bake in oven at 300 degrees (about 30 minutes, stirring at least once).

You can store these croutons in an airtight container for at least a week and in the freezer even longer.

Bagel Crisps

Bagels are also great to use as croutons, but they are so dense, you can simply slice them and toast without adding olive oil if you choose.  I made these without oil and stored in the freezer from a selection of bagel flavors for fun salads.

And, one thing I promise about this blog is that this is not the last time I’ll talk about salads.  Salads are one of the easiest ways to use up small amounts of various items left in the refrigerator (especially during the summer with lots of fresh veggies).  I use left over green beans and potatoes to make Nicoise salad with olives and tuna.  I use left over garbanzos to make Greek salad with peppers and Feta.  What leftovers do you use to make great salads or salad throw ins?

Sunday, February 12, 2012

You Can Even Use Shrimp Shells – February 12, 2012

If you want to take making the best of what you have to the fullest, you can even take advantage of shrimp shells.  Many people know that boiling shrimp is especially delicious because you get the advantage of the shell flavors in your broth, but you can use that flavor to make shrimp stock for other recipes as well.  When I am cooking a recipe that calls for peeled shrimp, I usually put the peelings in a zip lock bag and wait until I have enough to make stock.  It’s as simple as this:

Shrimp Shell Stock

shrimp shells (from 2 lbs of shrimp)
2 onions, halved
2 halved lemons
8 bay leaves
1 bunch chopped parsley
1 tsp. each dried basil, thyme, tarragon and oregano (or to taste)
1 T. black peppercorns
2 tsp. salt
4 quarts water

Rinse shells and place in pot with remaining ingredients.  Bring to boil and simmer 10 minutes.  Raise heat to medium and cook a half hour.  Strain, cool and refrigerate up to 30 days or freeze for longer.

So, now what to do with that delicious shrimp stock.  How about some Thai Soup?

Thai Shrimp Soup

1-2 thinly sliced jalapeno peppers
6-8 quartered mushrooms
2 thinly sliced scallions
¼ c. lemon juice
1 T. fish sauce
¼ tsp. sugar
1 tsp. Serachi Thai hot sauce
2 c. shrimp broth
½ lb. raw peeled shrimp
1 c. dried Ramen or soba noodles

Mix together lemon juice, fish sauce, sugar and Serachi.  Place the shrimp stock over medium heat, and when it comes to the boil, put in the jalapenos and mushrooms. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until the mushrooms are soft, then add the hot-sauce mix, shrimp and noodles and boil just until the noodles soften and float to the top of the soup, taking care not to overcook. Garnish with the sliced green onions and serve.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Using the Whole Tangerine – February 4, 2012

On January 16, 2012, The Herald Tribune published a story called, “Battling Against Food Waste.”  The story shared that according to a 2010 U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization study, one-third of food (1.3 billion tons) is wasted each year.  According to a recent study by the Swedish Institute for Food and Biotechnology, the average person in Europe and North America, wastes 620 to 660 pounds of food each year. This is not an environmental issue we hear a lot about, but it is certainly one we can impact rather easily. 

This week, I had been making popsicles with new popsicle makers I received as a Christmas gift.  My husband loves tangerine, so I made delicious popsicles with fresh squeezed tangerines and a bit of Splenda.  But, the Herald Tribune article inspired me to think about using the tangerine rinds as well.  I found the recipe below for sugared orange rinds, but used tangerine rind instead.  After they cooled, I dipped half in chocolate to eat as candy.  The other half I froze to pull out and use as a garnish on cupcakes or ice cream. 

Sugared Orange (or Tangerine) Rind

Peel of 4 oranges or 6 tangerines cut in strips
3 cups sugar
1 cup water

Peel the rind off the fruit with a peeler or knife and cut into strips.  Place peels in a heavy saucepan and cover with cold water.  Bring water to boil then pour water off.  Do this three times total to soften the rinds and clean off any pesticides.  Put water and sugar in saucepan and bring to 230 degrees.  Add peel and reduce to simmer cooking 30-75 minutes until the peels are translucent.  Do not cook too high or the sugar water will crystallize.  Remove the rinds from the sugar-water and dry n racks.  You can roll the rinds in sugar at this time before cooling.  If you wish to dip in chocolate, wait until the rinds are fully cooled – 4 hours to two days.  Then, melt the chocolate and dip each rind in before lying on a cookie sheet and placing in the freezer until fully cooled.  You can keep the plain, sugared or chocolate covered rinds in the freezer until needed or store in air tight container to give as gifts.

Then, I found this great recipe for tangerine chess pie which I made and garnished with the sugared tangerine rind.  It was delicious.

Southern Living's Tangerine Chess Pie

1 refrigerated pie crust (or make your own)
1 ½ cups sugar
1 T. all-purpose flour
1 T. yellow cornmeal
¼ tsp. salt
¼ c. butter
2 tsp. tangerine or orange zest
1/3 c. fresh tangerine or orange juice
1 T. lemon juice
4 eggs, lightly beaten

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Prepare 9 inch pie crust and crimp edges.  Prick bottom and sides with a fork.  Bake 8 minutes.  Cool and reduce oven to 350 degrees.  Whisk together remaining ingredients, in order.  Pour into pie crust and bake at 350 degrees for 40 – 45 minutes until center is set (shielding edges of crust with Reynolds wrap after 20 minutes to avoid burning.)  Cool one hour and garnish with sugared rind bits, tangerine slices and/or whipped cream.