Waste Not – Cheesy Goodness!

 

My family has been on  low/er carb diet for nearly 2 years now and cheese plays a huge role in our daily diet.  We use it as a binder and “breading” in place of grains, as a quick snack in the afternoons and as a necessary, beneficial fat that makes our brains happy!   We love everything from a fresh, marinated mozzarella to extra sharp cheddar and Petunia’s favorite, sweet, nutty Gruyere.  As a result,  I’m typically guilty of having 15 bags of partially used shredded cheese, a few hard cheese rinds and several blocks of opened imported cheddar shoved in the back of the cheese drawer at all times.  I’d be lying to you if I said any different.   To prevent waste, I’m always looking for new ways to use up those last little bits left in the packages and the following recipes have become my go-to recipes when my cheese drawer begins to get a bit fuller than usual.

Recipe 1- Authentic cheese sauce.  This is the real stuff, my friends.  Not Velveeta!  Now I know that you’re looking at the recipe and questioning the nutmeg: trust me.  A pinch of nutmeg takes this cheese sauce to another level.

  • 2 T butter
  • 2 T flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1.5 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/4 t mustard powder
  • pinch of nutmeg
  • salt and pepper to taste

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat; whisk flour, mustard powder and nutmeg into butter until smooth. Pour milk into flour/butter mixture and whisk to combine. Cook and stir until mixture thickens, about 3 minutes. Reduce heat, add shredded Cheddar and stir until cheese is melted, about 3 minutes more. Season with salt and pepper. 

Using this same method, substitute mozzarella cheese for the cheddar, omit the mustard powder and add garlic (to taste) for a very passable fettuccine sauce!

Recipe 2- Low Carb Cheese Sauce.  This is my go-to low carb cheesy fix!  It’s great on veggies, eggs, meat or anything else for that matter and is ready in just minutes!

  • 3 T cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1-1.5 cups of shredded cheese (any combination works!)
  • Salt, pepper, nutmeg and mustard powder to taste

Over low/med heat, combine the cream cheese and heavy cream, stirring frequently and using a whisk as the cream cheese begins to break up.  When the cream cheese and heavy cream are melted and smooth, add in the shredded cheese and whisk til smooth.  Season to taste and serve warm.

Like above, the use of mozzarella cheese and garlic makes a very good, low carb fettuccine sauce to top spaghetti squash, chicken, veggies or your choice of food!

 

Recipe 3 – Low Carb Cheese Nachos.  These are so simple, I’m almost embarrassed to share the “recipe” with you.  For this recipe you need shredded cheese and, well, that’s it.  Cheddar, pepper jack or any other favorite cheese will work well for nachos.   Heat your oven to 375 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Put 2T mounds of shredded cheese on the baking sheet, leaving room for the cheese to melt and expand.  Pop in the oven til the cheese it melted thoroughly and slightly crusty on the edges.  Let cool til firm and then use as a “nacho chip” with your favorite toppings.  Or you can use 1/4-1/2 cup mounds of cheese to make some pretty awesome taco shells/tortillas as well.  Following the same instructions, bake them til they’re bubbly and crisp, allow to cool slightly, then drape them over a rounded surface to form the “taco” shape.  My husband actually prefers these to the real thing now!

Recipe 4- Fathead Pizza Dough.  Friends, after being on a low carb diet for a while, finding this recipe was a total game changer.  If you roll the dough out thin and bake it til it’s really crunchy, you’ll end up with the best low-carb thin crust pizza you could ever imagine.  AND it’s just as good cold the next day!  I love making a Philly-style pizza, topped with shredded beef, sautéed onions, peppers and mushrooms and covered in gooey Provolone or Swiss cheese!  This is so good, I can’t even explain it to you!

  • 1 3/4 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 3/4 cups almond flour
  • 2 tbsp cream cheese
  • 1 egg
  • pinch of salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary/ garlic or other flavorings optional
  • your choice of toppings such as pepperoni, peppers, olives, shredded beef, mushrooms, herbs etc
  1. Mix the shredded/grated cheese and almond flour/meal in a microwaveable bowl. Add the cream cheese. Microwave on HIGH for 1 minute.
  2. Stir then microwave on HIGH for another 30 seconds.
  3. Add the egg, salt, rosemary and any other flavorings, mix gently.
  4. Place in between 2 pieces of baking parchment/paper and roll into a circular pizza shape (see photos above). Remove the top baking paper/parchment. If the mixture hardens and becomes difficult to work with, pop it back in the microwave for 10-20 seconds to soften again but not too long or you will cook the egg.
  5. Make fork holes all over the pizza base to ensure it cooks evenly.
  6. Slide the baking paper/parchment with the pizza base, on a baking tray (cookie tray) or pizza stone, and bake at 425F for 12-15 minutes, or until brown.
  7. To make the base really crispy and sturdy, flip the pizza over (onto baking paper/parchment) once the top has browned.
  8. Once cooked, remove from the oven and add all the toppings you like. Make sure any meat is already cooked as this time it goes back into the oven just to heat up the toppings and melt the cheese. Bake again at 425F for 5 minutes.

Don’t these simple recipes sound amazing?!  They’ve proven to be lifesavers more than once as we reduce the amount of grains in our diet and increase beneficial fats.  And as I said earlier, they’re great ways to use up those little bits of cheese here and there, reducing waste and saving money!  What are your go-to recipes when you have an abundance of cheese laying around?

Shared on the Simple Life Mom Homestead Blog Hop

Homemade Scents DIY

 

I found these recipes circulating on the internet and just had to share them with you!  Now that cooler temperatures are upon us and we’re firing up the woodstoves, a steamer pot full of rich, natural potpourri is a wonderful treat for the senses.  Scent is such a powerful connector, linking us to people, places and events and is a simple way to create a warm, inviting atmosphere in your home.  Now, if you don’t heat with wood, don’t fret!  You can always use a kettle on low heat on the back of the stove or an Aromatherapy Electric Simmering Pot.   I love these electric simmer pots because you can move them around from room to room without worrying about children and pets around an open flame—or forgetting that you had potpourri on the stove until it cooked dry, ignited and stunk for days.  Ahem.

What I really like about these recipes, aside from the fact they’re not putting toxic chemicals into the air in our home, is that you can make many of these out of kitchen scraps like citrus peel, frost-bitten herbs or fruits that have begun to go south.  AND if you’re really clever, which I know you are, you can make these shelf stable and use them as handmade gifts.  Simply dehydrate the apple and citrus slices, cranberries and herbs, toss them in a bag with the remainder of the ingredients and sprinkle with any extracts, spices or essential oils.  Seal them tightly in a pretty bag and give them as a gift with an electric simmering crock.  Can you think of a nicer gift for a teacher, bus driver, mail deliverer or secretary?

Here are some simple, non-toxic, handmade scented recipes for you!

CINNAMON APPLE:  1 sliced apple +  1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon + 1 tsp. maple or vanilla extract + 2 cups of water

MINTY CITRUS PINE:   1 sliced lime + 1 tsp. vanilla + 1 small branch of fresh pine needles + 1/4 cup fresh mint + 2 cinnamon sticks + 2 cups of water

WINTER CITRUS   2 sprigs rosemary + 1/2 of sliced lemon +  1/2 sliced grapefruit + 1 tsp. vanilla  + 2 cinnamon sticks + 2 cups of water

CRAN-ORANGE   1/2 cup fresh cranberries + 1 sliced orange + 1 tsp. whole cloves  +  2 cinnamon sticks + 1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg + 2 cups of water

MULLED ROSEMARY  3-5 cinnamon sticks + 1 sliced orange + 1-2 sprigs of rosemary +  1 cup fresh cranberries + 1 tbsp. cloves + 2 tbsp. nutmeg + 2 cups of water

SPICED VANILLA  4-6 cinnamon sticks +  1 tsp. vanilla extract +  rind of 1 orange + 2 tbsp. cloves + 3-5 bay leaves + 2 cups of water

But don’t stop with these recipes!  Create custom scents for your house using ingredients from your kitchen!  How about Viennese cinnamon using inexpensive coffee grounds, a few cinnamon sticks, and a dash of vanilla or maple extract to 2 cups of water?  Or chocolate mint using a few tablespoons of Dutch cocoa and a dash of peppermint extract?   Or candied citrus, with orange slices, vanilla extract and Dutch cocoa powder?  Personally, I love more savory combinations such as cranberry, rosemary and bay leaves.  But anything works so long as it’s pleasing to your senses!

So tell me, what are your tricks for making your home smell amazing during the long, closed-window seasons of fall and winter?

 

Posted to SimpleLifeMom Homestead Blog Hop

Waste Not – Soup Broth

Let’s continue in our “Waste Not” series with one of the simplest, most nutritious items you can possibly make in your kitchen…soup stock!  Homemade soup broth is the ultimate in resourcefulness, nutrition and flavor, if you ask my opinion…and when you read how incredibly easy it is to make it at home, well, you’ll never buy that bland boxed stuff again, I promise you.

Here are the some of the benefits of making your own:

  1. It’s free.  Consider the veggie peels, cores and tops that you throw away every time you cook.  Consider those beautiful meaty bones and the flavorful fat you remove from cuts of meat and toss in the trash.  That’s free nutrition, my friends.  They may not seem like much, but trust me, it adds up quickly if you make an effort to save it.
  2. It’s nutritious.  When you simmer those veggie peels, fats and bones for hours (or use an Instant Pot LUX60 V3 6 Qt 6-in-1 Muti-Use Programmable Pressure Cooker, Slow Cooker, Rice Cooker, Sauté, Steamer, and Warmer) you are leaching every possible bit of vitamins, minerals and beneficial fats that you can from what would be scrap.  In previous generations, simple soup broth was a home remedy for every kind of tummy trouble and weakness following an illness or childbirth.  And it’s an easy way to add a boost of nutrition to soups, stews, cooked grains.
  3. It’s delicious!  There is a huge difference between homemade broth and the stuff you buy in the boxes at Walmart.  In simple dishes like chicken soup, the taste difference is remarkable.  It adds a layer of flavor, creating that “old-fashioned” flavor that we recall so fondly from our grandmother’s cooking, a flavor that you simply cannot achieve with boxed broth or bouillon cubes.
  4. It’s easy.  While the simmering of the broth takes a good long while, the labor involved is pretty much nill.  I keep gallon-sized ziplock bags in the freezer ready to receive scraps and when that bag is full, I make broth.

 

Here’s how you do it!

To make a simple veggie broth, all you need is a good quantity of veggie scraps.  (Approximately 1-to-4 ratio is best; 1 cup of scraps to 4 cups of water.)  Carrot peels and tops, onion peels, celery leaves and stems, garlic peels, bell pepper cores and stems, the green tops from leeks, lettuce leaves, kale stems and herbs like parsley, bay leaves and chives.  Pretty much anything can go into broth, but you’ll want to avoid starchy veggies (potatoes) as they’ll make your broth cloudy and strong-flavored veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts) as they can be overpowering in the stock.  Following the 1-to-4 ratio, simmer the scraps, herbs and water for about an hour or til the veggies are absolutely limp.  Allow it to cool and then carefully pour the broth through a strainer into quart freezer bags and lay them in the freezer flat to freeze.

 

Quality meat/bone broth from scrap is just as simple, though it takes a bit longer.   I use the carcasses from roasted chickens or turkeys, or the bones from steaks, ribs and roasts to make broth.  (If you don’t use cuts of meat that result in a large quantity of bones, that’s okay!  Simply drizzle several pounds of chicken wings, beef knuckles, ox tails, ribs or any other inexpensive boney meat with olive oil and roast at 400 degrees til very brown, approximately 1 hour.)  Now, take those beautiful roasted bones and add them to your stock pot with onion peels and a couple “glugs” of apple cider and water to cover.  Simmer the bones for several hours.  You’ll notice that thinner bones like chicken wings will begin to be pliable and rubbery (that’s good!) and that much of the marrow will have cooked out of the beef bones (that’s good too!).  Don’t rush this step; the longer the broth cooks, the better the flavor and more nutritious it will be.  Alternately, you can pressure cook the broth in an Instant Pot for an hour or on a low setting in a crock pot for 12-18 hours.  When the broth has simmered for the appropriate amount of time, allow it to cool, pour through a strainer and freeze flat in quart-sized freezer bags.  You can also freeze the bits of meat that cook off the bones; they make great additions to soups!

To use:

When you’re ready to use your homemade stock, simply thaw it, season to taste with salt and pepper  and use it as you would commercially prepared stock.  Use it as a base for soups and stews, use it to replace water when cooking rice, barley or potatoes or simply season and enjoy it in a mug to sooth a head cold, queasy tummy or sore throat.  It’s also a delicious tea or coffee replacement when you need a mug of something warm but don’t want the caffeine.

BONUS!

As a total bonus, homemade veggie and bone broth can also be pressure canned to be made shelf-stable and ready in your pantry in a moment’s notice!  For the veggie broth, simply pour the finished broth into prepared Mason jars, leaving 1 inch of headspace and process at 10# of pressure for 20 minutes/pints or 25 minutes/quarts.  For the bone broth, you need to allow the broth to cool completely so that the fat congeals on the top.  Remove the congealed fat, heat the broth to a boil then pour into prepared Mason jars leaving 1 inch of head space.  Process at 10# of pressure for 20 minutes/pints or 25 minutes/quarts.  Gotta love those bonuses, my friends!

I hope you’ll try your hand at making homemade soup broth.  As I’ve shown you, it’s simple, nutritious, delicious and FREE!  Don’t throw those scraps away!  Reap every bit of nutrition you can out of the food you paid good money for—-Ma Ingalls would approve!!  Til next time, my friends!

 

Posted to the Simple Life Mom Homestead Blog Hop

 

Waste Not – Bread Pudding

If there’s one quality that is common to our Greatest Generation and the amazing generations that preceded it, that quality would have to be resourcefulness.  In their homes, gardens and kitchens, our grandmothers were able to work what was nothing short of miracles, especially during wartime, rationing and depression.  Their collective resolve that nothing would go to waste meant that their families were able to survive and thrive when others didn’t fare so well.  They side-to-middling-ed their sheets, wallpapered their homes with newspapers and sewed underpants from flour sacks.  And in the culinary realm, they used everything, from snout to tail, as they say, in an effort to waste not.  Leftover bits of meat were added to limp veggies to create filling soups, stews and casseroles.  Leftover potatoes were turned into tatty cakes.  Veggie peels, bones and cheese rinds were simmered into luscious broths.  Food was a finite resource and as a result, every effort was made to be sure that resource wasn’t wasted.  So following in that vein, today is the first in a series I’m calling “Waste Not!”….all about reducing the amount of good food that goes directly into the garbage.  Today, let’s talk about bread….and specifically, bread pudding!

A history of bread pudding-

The long and short of it is that bread pudding was created to make use of stale bread.  Cooks from numerous cultures throughout history have put together stale bread, eggs, milk and savory or sweet spices to avoid throwing out food (and money!) that they simply could not afford to waste.  What we know as bread pudding today is far more elaborate than what our grannies made, using artisan breads, expensive cheeses, nuts or spices, but the concept remains the same:  to nourish family with comforting food and avoid waste at every turn.  As food waste is still an issue in many homes, recipes like bread pudding are a simple way to use our resources wisely, reduce waste and provide a nutritious dish that will be loved by all.  Save those stale rolls and dry bread in a ziplock bag in the freezer and when you’ve amassed enough, bake up a dish of authentic southern bread pudding!

  Classic New Orleans Bread Pudding with a Bourbon Sauce:

 Ingredients:

  • 1 teaspoon unsalted butter
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup Bourbon
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 8 slices day-old French bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (about 4 cups)

  • Ingredients for Kentucky Bourbon Sauce

  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 6 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons bourbon

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350ºF and grease a 6-cup (9 1/4 by 5 1/4 by 2 3/4-inch) loaf pan with the butter.

BREAD PUDDING: Whisk the eggs, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and bourbon together in a large mixing bowl until very smooth. Add the half-and-half and mix well. Add the bread  and let the mixture sit for 2 hours, stirring occasionally. Pour mixture into the prepared pan. Bake until the pudding is set in the center, about 55 minutes. Let cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.

KENTUCKY BOURBON SAUCE: Heat the cream, half-and-half, vanilla and sugar in a saucepan over high heat, whisking, for 3 minutes. Dissolve the cornstarch in the bourbon. When bubbles form around the edges of the cream, whisk in the bourbon mixture. As the cream boils up, remove the pot from the heat and continue whisking vigorously until thoroughly blended and slightly thickened. Place over low heat and simmer for 1 minute. (This is not a thick cream sauce; it’s meant to be fairly thin.)

Yield: 2 cups

To serve, cut the pudding into 1-inch thick slices. Lay each slice in the center of a serving plate. Spoon some of the Bourbon Sauce over the pudding and top with whipped cream or ice cream.

(Recipe courtesy of Emeril LaGasse)

N.O. Bread Pudding with Kentucky Bourbon Sauce

Isn’t that simple and delicious!?  There is simply nothing as soothing and delicious on a cool fall evening than a big dish of bread pudding….and this recipes allows almost infinite flexibility in terms of adding flavors.  As long as the egg-milk-bread ratio stays the same, feel free to add dried fruit, nuts, use artisan breads and favorite liquors, top with stewed fruit. Use what you have on hand to make something your family will enjoy!  I hope you try it and I hope you LOVE it!  Til next time!

http://simplelifemom.com/2017/10/17/homestead-blog-hop-157/

Homestead Blog Hop 157